Build your own Camaro!


With all the hype about all-new muscle cars, I was excited to find an official “build your own” Camaro site this morning.

I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief as Chevy finally begins the process of getting Camaros into the hands of their waiting public! We even have some readers who have ordered their own Camaro, so they should be especially excited because this means delivery can’t be far away.  

Chevy expects about 65% of Camaro sales to be of the V6 variety. With more horsepower than many past V8s, a highway EPA rating of 29 mpg and a price starting under $23K, that will probably be true.

Still, when I configured mine I ended up with a $34,000 black SS with 426 horsepower and a 245-watt stereo system. I couldn’t help myself.

Build one for yourself here, and let us know what you ended up with! If you’ve already ordered one, how did you configure it?


Jgoods Leaves the Country


I’m taking a 10-day vacation south of the border to recover from the shock of tgriffith’s latest post on buying gas guzzlers. For shame, tg, for shame.

No, the real reason is that I’ve been called in to find appropriate vehicles to use in the war on drug dealers. Two in my orange and black colors are shown here. You are invited to submit others for consideration.

I’ll send in occasional posts over the next two weeks to keep you up to date on Mexican food, travel, people . . . and cars.

Keep those comments coming!


Will GM be able to drop dealers?


Part of GM’s restructuring plan calls for reducing their massive network of 6,200 dealers by 25 percent.

Few will argue the logic behind that thinking. The ones who will argue are the dealers in that unfortunate 25 percent, a group who will very likely make life even more difficult for GM.

In fact, it’s happening already. According to the Detroit Free Press, Alabama dealership Abercrombie Chevrolet is suing GM and GMAC, claiming a conspiracy by the two to break its franchise agreement “in an effort to shut down dealers and avoid paying franchise buyout fees.”

Franchise agreements, or dealer franchise laws, do things like restrict GM’s freedom to open new dealerships near existing ones. More importantly, they make it nearly impossible for an auto manufacturer to simply shut down a dealership. GM will have to get dealers to agree to close up shop, which will mean buying them out. Dropping brands and reducing the number dealers may very well cost more than it saves.

In my opinion, two things that are holding automakers back from success are union agreements and these dealer franchise laws. On some levels I feel sorry for GM, because the union says they can’t let people go, and the franchise laws say stores can’t be closed. What’s a company to do?

Abercrombie Chevrolet is accusing GM of wrongly withholding rebates, warranty claims, and other money due to the dealership while GMAC is demanding a bigger cash deposit “in an effort to drive them out of business.”

GM denies any wrongdoing. And according to the restructuring plan submitted to the government, GM expects to close 2,326 dealers by 2014.

If this lawsuit is any indication, it’s going to take billions of dollars and many more lawsuits before that will happen.

Do you think GM can succeed in closing so many dealerships?


Audi’s Up, BMW’s Down—Way Down

BMW Concept 5-series Gran Turismo

Latest earnings reports showed that Audi was the big winner in 2008, as we reported. It’s a bit of a shock to learn that BMW profits were down nearly 90% over the past year. Sales were down 37% in the U.S., a 28-year low.

Now why should this be so? The recession aside, I can think of at least two reasons: declining quality and dismal design. There has been an escalation in complaints recently about everything from electronics to transmissions and engine shut-downs. You can read the catalog here and here (regarding dealers, mostly). It’s really an appalling list.

As to design, the company recently introduced the Concept 5 Series Gran Turismo (photos, left) at Geneva. They called it “a new look at sporting luxury mobility” that “focuses on providing elegance, space, versatility and supreme comfort in one eye-catching design.” Well, what do you think? I think it’s a beast from any angle, as befits one of Chris Bangle’s last designs.

Taller and longer than the 5 Series on which it’s based, the GT is reportedly close to production—in which case, BMW’s downturn is likely to continue.

Come on, guys/gals, we know you love BMWs, but would you buy one of the company’s new GTs?


Challenger, Mustang or Camaro?


It hasn’t been since the early 1970s that car buyers had the choice between a new version of Detroit’s three most famous muscle cars.

While the availability of the 2009 Dodge Challenger, 2010 Chevy Camaro, and 2010 Ford Mustang might not have the greatest timing, few will argue the significance of having new models of all three at the same time. 

Here’s a brief look at what CarGurus has to say about about each:

2009 Challenger:

Muscle cars were never practical, and Dodge’s stylish, retro-classic Challenger fits that mold. The V6-powered SE trim attempts to break out by offering better mileage at a substantial power penalty, but the Hemi-powered R/T and SRT8 provide plenty of tire-smoking power at the expense of efficiency.

2010 Camaro:

A V6 and a V8 in two configurations power the upcoming Camaro, depending on transmission chosen. The V6 is a 3.6-liter engine, whose basic design has been employed in other GM models such as the Cadillac CTS, and produces 300 hp with either the six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The V8 is a 6.2-liter and gets a bit of a power boost when equipped with the manual over the automatic, 422 hp versus 400 even, respectively. Due to GM’s active fuel management cylinder deactivation, the V8 is estimated to be capable of up to 23 mpg on the highway – the V6 is capable of 26.

Additionally, the Camaro’s price point puts its top-tier version at just over $30,000, which places it squarely under that of its competitors, sadly in both price and performance.

2010 Mustang:

This is the best Mustang we’ve seen since the revision in 2004, with more power, an improved suspension and chassis, better quality, new styling, increased sound dampening, and more. You can get outfitted with a V8 GT for less than $28,000 or get a Premium V8 Convertible GT for $35,000. Sure, it’s not the same Mustang it was back in 1965 – it’s better.

Even as these tough economic times wreak havoc on the auto industry, I’m thrilled to see these three modern classics have a shot to duke it out.  While I’d certainly take any one of them, it’s the Mustang that has won my heart.

Which would you rather own: a new Camaro, Challenger, or Mustang?

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UPDATE: The EPA released today their mileage estimates on the 2010 Camaro, surprising everyone (GM included) with a 29 mpg highway rating for the V6 and 25 for the V8. Does that news change any of your preferences on these cars? 


Is it time to buy a gas-guzzler?


I’m surrounded, I’m outnumbered, and I’ve finally had enough. 

The people next door to me have a GMC Sierra and a Chevy Tahoe. Across the street from them are an ’07 Tahoe and a Ford F-250 Super Duty. The people across from my house have a GMC Envoy XL, a Chevy Silverado, and just added a Ford Expedition. (Yes, I live in soccer-mom suburbia.)

Needless to say, I’m feeling inadequate as I pull out of the garage in my comparably minuscule Suzuki SX4

When gas prices were over $4 a gallon, I was the one making fun of them and their outrageous fuel bills. While they were spending an easy hundred bucks per fill-up, I was driving out of the station for under 40.

The price of fuel isn’t that big a factor anymore, though, and I’m tempted to get something bigger. This morning I browsed through the CarGurus reviews of some bigger rigs and checked prices on some pre-owned vehicles in my area. Here’s what I found:

2002 Tahoe: $10K 2001 Sequoia: $10K 2005 Expedition: $14K 2003 Yukon: $11K 2003 Yukon XL Denali: $14K 2004 Volvo XC90: $14K

I know I could get one heck of a deal on any of these, and I’m pretty sure I’d be happy in one while making unnecessary road trips just to see how much I could pack into it.

I need your advice, though. I’ve read every comment that’s come through on our blog and I know there are a lot of smart car gurus out there. This CarGuru could use your advice.

Do you think it’s a good time to buy a bigger vehicle? Which one would you get? 


Volt Contenders

Volt production vehicle--maybe

Volt production vehicle--maybe

Auto task force members came to Detroit to drive the Volt mule earlier this week. According to today’s Washington Post, they found it promising but no panacea for GM’s ills. There has been so much hoopla over the car that the whole plug-in hybrid concept, I think, may have been oversold.

Volt is going to be big, heavy, expensive and, according to a Carnegie Mellon study, simply uncompetitive at the $40,000 it’s supposed to cost. GM is betting too much on this car, putting out to pasture a really good competitive small diesel they have been developing and sidetracking other power source developments.

There are quite a few contenders out there, and more are coming. We learned this week that a Norwegian firm has revived its Think City car, an all-electric EV, for possible production and sale in the U.S. The company has years of experience in EVs and was formerly owned by Ford.

The car looks good and, apparently, drives well. The video will give you details.

2010 Honda Insight

And let’s not forget: the Insight is coming. At half the presumed cost of the Volt, you could buy two of these babies and the operating cost per mile would still be less. Insight goes on sale in April. Smaller than the Prius, it will cost less, handle better and look (we think) better.

Another development announced this week may give a future boost to the hybrid concept. MIT scientists have

created a new technique that gives lithium-ion batteries a 100 fold increase in power density. These new batteries when moved from lab to factory could allow charging at 100 times the speed and release of 100 times the power of batteries in use today.

This rapid-charge technique would benefit hybrid vehicles rather more than EVs, according to battery experts. Unless GM can get its costs down, it looks more than ever like an uphill road for the Volt.

Will the Volt drag GM down or prop it up? Let us have your thoughts. —jgoods

Car Blog Showdown: Early-’60s Convertibles

1964 Shelby Cobra

1964 Shelby Cobra

Here’s our latest Car Blog Showdown. This week tgriffith and jgoods were each invited to select their favorite early-’60s convertible. Which is your favorite?

jgoods’ 5 reasons why the 1964 Shelby Cobra is his favorite early-’60s convertible

It actually did have a soft top (I’ve seen one in the flesh), but you wouldn’t want to use it. There’s no greater American sports car status symbol than this. It’s fast, drivable (the 289-cubic-inch version, not the 427, which is a lot more demanding), and gorgeous. 271 stock hp can get you to 60 mph in the mid-4-second range (the 427 will blow your pants off). The early Cobra foibles were mostly gone by ‘64.

tgriffith’s 3 reasons to avoid the 1964 Shelby Cobra:

Sometimes you just want to cruise in style, but the Cobra’s not a cruiser. Do you really want a car that looks like it should have a big wind-up handle on the back? jgoods says there’s “no greater American sports car status symbol” than this, but it’s only half American. The other half is British.

1962 Oldsmobile Starfire

tgriffith’s 5 reasons why the 1962 Oldsmobile Starfire is his favorite early ’60s convertible:

It’s a comfortable, classy cruiser with leather, power steering, and power seats. The Starfire is one of the finest designed American classics of the 1960s. Oldsmobile’s quality at this time was nearly unbeatable. The 394-cubic-inch Rocket engine provided plenty of power. Its chrome wrap-around trim provided a look like nothing else on the road.

jgoods’ 3 reasons to avoid the 1962 Oldsmobile Starfire:

It’s a very big hunk of iron. It looks like the fighter plane after which it was named, not a car. Try to find a good one.

What’s your favorite early-’60s convertible? Why?

Animals in Cars—for Fun and Profit

I’ve had some unkind things to say in the past about the Kia Soul, at least in the appearance department. But they have won my soul with their new giant hamster commercial. Apparently this takes off on an older series they did in the ‘90s. Anyhow, these critters are movin’ and shakin’ to the beat while their brothers go round and round in their wheels.

Putting animals in cars and having them do silly things has been a stock in trade for advertisers, going back at least to AMC’s Noah’s Ark commercial in 1967.

I saw one recently with two camels in a car with their heads out the windows, bleating.This wasn’t an ad; it was just funny.

A milestone in the genre was achieved a few years ago by a dealership (Suburban Car Group), and the series was called “Trunk Monkey.” Here’s one of them.

Enjoy, and Happy Friday!


Land Rover LRX: Round Two in British Ugliness Sweepstakes


tgriffith just showed us a photo of the Audi R8, and no one could deny that’s a gorgeous car, even if the Germans don’t win many design awards. But when it comes to SUVs, our British friends just don’t seem to get it. We just saw them produce a beastly monstrosity in the new Aston Martin Lagonda. Now here they come again with the new Range Rover LRX. Click on photo to get the full impact.

As I said about the Kia Soul Sport, this thing looks like someone stepped on it. What’s the deal about squashed-down rear quarters? Is that a new styling trend, or are they trying to sell us rear-view cameras because the vision’s so bad? Jalopnik says it may come in as a five-door and “carry a taller roof line.” One would hope so.

And all those front-end styling tricks, sculpted panels and flow lines. What happened to simple, form-and-function cars? Land Rover’s design director Gerry McGovern says, “This vehicle has its own unique personality. It’s very dramatic and its very youthful.”

This is really tiresome fluff, Gerry, especially when I read the votes of confidence some folks have expressed in your company via comments on that Jalopnik post:

As a previous owner of a Land Rover, what I appreciate most about them is that you often sell them with relatively low mileage for the year. This is often due to the fact that they spend more time on a lift, than on the road, but all in all it is still a benefit.


As a Range Rover owner and Land Rover enthusiast I can say I expect nothing from this concept. I saw the Stormer with all it’s amazingness, and it became that anesthesia on wheels that is the RR Sport.

Tell us about your Land Rover experiences. Are you friend or foe?


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