Green Update–>Mazda Makes News

Mazda Shinari concept

The recently revealed Shinari concept (above) embodies the new styling direction (called kodo) for Mazda. So say the company’s execs, one of whom also remarked, “We want to play in the same group as BMW and Audi.” (Well, yeah, who doesn’t?)

Kodo means “soul of motion,” but when kodo will move to production was not revealed. You can see suggestions of Fisker, Aston, and Jaguar, among other likely sources, but it’s quite a unique and beautiful, totally Japanese concept. The company insists that this will be the basis for next-generation Mazda cars.

So be it! The gaping wide-mouth grille is finished! Check out some Shinari closeups here.

Mazda is also touting its next-generation powertrains, called Sky. The gasoline engines, called Sky-G, have up to 20 percent better fuel economy and more low-end torque than the current powerplants—according to Autoweek.

Continue reading >>>

Reviews Coming in on New Jetta

The reviewers’ consensus seems to be that the 2011 Jetta is a pretty good bet to take on the competition—that is, Corollas and Civics—and maybe beat ’em. Most like its price, design, quality build, spaciousness, and cabin tech stuff.

They are not so hot on the low-end power plant (though most seem to have driven the one-step-up SEL version), bland styling, cheesy interior materials, and too-light steering. Autoblog questioned whether VW could overcome the durability/reliability perception that has plagued it.

But most who reviewed it feel that for the money (base price for the S is $15,995) the Jetta will be a winner. The SEL goes for $21,395 and adds 17-inch wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, a touchscreen navigation system, etc. It also has 170 hp, instead of 115, and 23 mpg city/33 mpg highway fuel economy.

Continue reading >>>

Next Nissan GT-R and Lotus Esprit Keep Us Dreaming

2002 Lotus Esprit: Will the next generation feature Lexus power?

My 8-year-old son and his best friend are convinced they have found the means to buy a Ferrari.

Apparently we have a motherload of “moon rocks” in our front yard. When properly crushed, these rocks turn into “moon dust” which, it turns out, is worth about $1 trillion per ounce. Lucky us, huh?

The boys have proudly announced that they will buy a brand-new Ferrari with the money. A 458 Italia, no less. (Yes, my son knows his cars – his other choice is the SSC Ultimate Aero. Like his dad, the boy likes speed.)

I have yet to crush their dreams about the actual worth of this so-called moon dust, because listening to their hopeful banter about owning a gleaming red supercar reminds me of my innocent childhood fantasies. Of course, any car guy knows those fantasies never really go away; they just get more realistic.

Luckily for us, whether we have the moon dust or not, Nissan and Lotus are providing plenty to fantasize about.

Continue reading >>>

Big Toyota Recall, While Corollas Conquer Afghanistan

2007 Corolla

Toyota just issued a recall for 1.33 million Corollas, Matrix hatchbacks, and Pontiac Vibes of the 2005-2008 model years (2007 Corolla above). The problem is in an engine control module that can cause stalls or failure to start.

NHTSA has reported six crashes and no deaths, and is stepping up its investigations into Corollas. Some 1.13 million of these cars are in the U.S.; 200,000 are in Canada. Toyota’s total recall numbers: 12.3 million since November 2009; 10.5 million in the U.S.

So, it’s another day, another recall for the beleaguered TMC. The last one was in July for steering defects (453,000 cars) and, as we said then, it’s hard to be sympathetic when a company puts this many unsafe cars on the road and stonewalls investigations.

However, an intrepid Washington Post reporter wrote yesterday that Afghanistan, that “museum of old cars,” is gobbling up old Corollas—which make up 90 percent (!) of passenger vehicles in Kabul, the capital. And if that ain’t good PR news for Toyota, we don’t know what is.

Continue reading >>>

This Pruck Is One Automotive Atrocity

Prius-Baja combo

I can think of many, many things that are better when combined. Chocolate and peanut butter. Metallica music and road trips. Boats and bikinis.

Some things, while just fine on their own, simply aren’t meant for one another. In that category I place ice cream and tuna fish, texting and driving, and now, Bajas and Priuses (Priusii?).

I don’t think any logical and somewhat rational person would never look at a Toyota Prius and a Subaru Baja sitting side by side and think, “Hmm…I wonder how those would look if they were combined…”

Well, lo and behold, when a Prius with a wrecked rear end and a Baja with a wrecked front end showed up at a parts company called Auto Be Yours in Indiana, destiny intervened, and the two became one… one really messed-up example of auto art gone atrociously awry. Oh, and this “Pruck,” as it is appropriately named, is available for you to purchase for around $25K.

Hurry, I’m sure it won’t last.

Follow the jump for more pictures (and proof that the Pruck can hit the track!)

Continue reading >>>

How to Buy a Used Sports Car—and Avoid Pain of Purchase

Honda S2000

If you’re considering buying a used sports car, the most important thing I can tell you is to find a first-rate mechanic or a shop you trust to inspect the car. Sports cars are made to be driven, and sometimes they are driven hard.

It’s not that there are all kinds of lemons and beaters (call ‘em what you will) out there or people ready to scam you. It’s a matter of getting value received, reducing your risk, and making sure the car you buy is the car you think it is. Your mechanic should be your second, and most trusted, set of eyes and ears.

To clarify: By “sports cars” I’m not talking about Mustangs or Camaros. I mean cars like Miatas, Boxsters, and Corvettes—not muscle cars and not sporty cars. The Honda S2000 (above), for instance, is a serious sports car with a high-revving engine, but it still made Consumer Reports’ most reliable used cars list this year. If I were buying one, I’d have my mechanic check everything from timing belt to compression, plus the running gear.

Continue reading >>>

Cars Coming Soon->Hyundai Goes “24/7” While Italians Look to Add Some Spice

Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione

In the mood for some spicy Italian?

In another bold bid to increase its share of the American market, Korean carmaker Hyundai plans to introduce seven new or redesigned models in the next 24 months. After that, more surprises are in store, with new models planned for 2012 and 2013.

Hyundai certainly can’t be accused of being timid in recent years, and by the looks of things has no plans to ease up on its climb toward domination in the U.S. car market.

Things may become a bit dicier for the Koreans, though, especially considering the hefty dose of hot and spicy Italian offerings on the horizon.

All the details are after the jump!

Continue reading >>>

Volvo Can’t Decide What It Wants to Be—Safe or Naughty

2010 Volvo T6

Since 2008, Volvo has undertaken a noble effort called Vision 2020 that declares: “By 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo.” The company’s objective is to integrate “preventative and protective safety systems in the car,” while studying driver behavior and developing ways to protect pedestrians.

Computer World reported the story as “Building the Zero-Fatality Car,” a lengthy discussion of research into crash-test simulation, vehicle communications, and collision avoidance. A lot of money has gone and will be going into this stuff.

At the same time, the S80 T6 (above) is getting good reviews for real sportiness and the challenge it sets for BMW and Mercedes. One car marketing guy notes that Volvo is now, after decades of stressing safety, trying to establish its hot-performer image. We’ll show one of its “Naughty Level” commercials after the break.

Continue reading >>>

Chevrolet Has Highest Brand Loyalty Among Car Shoppers

Chevrolet logo

Historically popular and highly rated Asian brands fare poorly in CarGurus brand loyalty study, with Honda placing second to last.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Aug. 25, 2010 — CarGurus® (, a leading online automotive community, today announced the results of its online car shopping brand loyalty study. As part of this study, 1.7 million car searches were analyzed for consumers using CarGurus’ DealFinder online car shopping service. The consumer’s initial search was then compared to any subsequent searches for other cars to gauge the consumer’s propensity to consider brands other than their initial brand of choice.

Of people who searched for a Chevrolet vehicle, 70% would not consider any other brand during their car shopping experience. Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen shoppers showed equally brand loyal behavior with 69% and 67% of consumers respectively not considering any other brand. At the low end of brand loyalty, more than half of those who searched for Land Rover and Honda vehicles searched for cars from other brands. Surprisingly, none of the historically top-selling Asian brands like Toyota, Nissan, or Honda were in the top five manufacturers for brand loyalty.

Continue reading >>>

Will Volkswagens Become Baby Porsches?

Volkswagen Bluesport

VW's Bluesport concept: Just make it a Porsche and call it a day

The Volkswagen Group had quite a decision on its hands: Considering the company owns both Porsche and Audi, which should have the honor of designing future Volkswagen-branded sports cars?

According to The Truth About Cars (which translated from German site Automobilwoche), Porsche is not only the choice to engineer VW sports cars, but just may be in charge of designing the powertrain for all future VWs.

Autoblog explains it well:

The real coup, however, is in what Porsche plans to provide: a Modular Standard Platform that will place the engine directly over the front axle and fit both longitudinal and transverse engine arrangements. The MSB, as it’s called, will be put into use for the next Porsche Cayenne and Panamera as well as a future Bentley, and its flexibility could quickly see it spread throughout the Volkswagen portfolio of brands. Group CEO Martin Winterkorn called it an advantage that would put VW “years ahead of the competition.”

So Porsche could develop a basic platform for not only Volkswagen, but all of the VW Group’s brands. Is that really an advantage, as Winterkorn says?

Continue reading >>>