AC Cars Shows New Cobra in Geneva; American Version to Follow

AC Cobra MkVI

In the old days—and I’m talking about 1960s old days—a friend of mine had an orange AC Ace, forerunner of the Cobra. Two liters and not a lot of power, yet when he pulled up in front of my house with his sexy blonde wife in the passenger seat, it created an indelible image.

I competed, of course, with a ’63 Alfa Giulietta Spyder (and a similar wife), but the British car had a certain raw edge, even then. Now AC, still alive after 110 years, shows off a new Cobra (above) that builds on what Carroll Shelby started in the 1960s with his very muscular sports cars.

The AC Cobra MkVI appears at Geneva and will bring joy to those who can’t forget the early Cobras, with their raw power, squirrely handling, and “forget about it” tops. Engine heat was fierce, and you battled with the elements directly in this car. But, God, they were a blast to drive.

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Bentley, Ferrari and Mazda Take to the Ice

Mazda MX-5 ice race

“Hey, did you hear a 20-year-old rookie won the Daytona 500!?”

The phone call came from a friend last week within minutes of Trevor Bayne’s unlikely victory. I couldn’t even pretend to be interested.

“Oh, was that today? I don’t really follow NASCAR.”

In fact, not being from Virginia or North Carolina, I don’t even like NASCAR racing, much less follow it. That’s not to say I don’t like any car racing – I do. I’m a fan of F1, and partly thanks to this massively cold winter, I’ve become a huge fan of ice racing.

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Nissan Esflow to Appear at Geneva: An EV Sports Car for the Rest of Us?

Nissan Esflow concept

The auto media is giving this beautiful and interesting car somewhat of a mixed response. The gist is some think it’s doubtful the Esflow will ever see production. Sports cars are not a growing market these days, but what about an EV 2-seater with Tesla Roadster performance at about a third of that price (projected to be in the $35K range)?

The Esflow could turn on ill-served sports-car fans everywhere (ill-served because most sports cars have become overpriced, too-heavy luxury pretenders). The Esflow, as we reported here, looks like the old Z-car brought up to date, and according to what we read, it was conceived in the same spirit of simplicity and light weight.

The car uses the Leaf drivetrain and trims something like 600 kg (about 1,300 pounds) off the Leaf‘s weight of 1,600 kg (about 3,500 lbs). The 47-53 front-rear weight distribution is nearly ideal. And the battery pack is placed low down, behind the seats for a low center of gravity. Two motors with a “theoretical” 150-mile range will provide 0-60 mph times of “less than 5.0 seconds.”

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Geneva’s Most Wanted: Chevy Cruze Hatchback or Maserati GranTurismo Convertible Sport?

2012 Chevrolet Cruze hatchback

As much as we’d like to, most of us won’t be able hop a plane to Geneva next week and check out the latest in international car debuts.

A trip to the Geneva Motor Show should definitely be on any car enthusiast’s bucket list, if not just for the one-of-a-kind concepts and world debuts, then for the chocolate, the Alps and a truly great massage.

If this isn’t your year, worry not. While we can’t bring you the Alps, we can showcase some of the best cars that will strut their stuff in Switzerland.

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Another 2.17 Million Cars Recalled by Toyota

Toyota RAV4

761,000 2006-2010 RAV4s are recalled

More bad news for the Big T: The floormat issues just won’t go away, and Toyota has initiated or expanded its recalls to cover 2.17 million more Lexus and Toyota vehicles.

Earlier this month, the company was absolved of blame by NHTSA, which declared it found no fault with Toyota’s electronic throttle systems causing unintended acceleration. But apparently the floormats in some cars can still entrap gas pedals.

This is a big blow to a company whose U.S. market share dropped from 17 percent in 2009 to 15.3 percent last year. Company profits also declined—39 percent—to $1.1 billion in the last financial quarter. At the same time, GM announced yesterday that it earned $4.7 billion in 2010, its first profitable year since 2004.

In the present dog-eat-dog car world, reputation for quality counts more than ever. GM’s is on the upswing; Toyota’s just took another hit.

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Cars Coming Soon->Aston Martin Virage and Jaguar XKR-S

Aston Martin Virage

Aston Martin Virage

As the old saying goes, if you do something well, keep doing it until people don’t like it anymore.

I’m pretty sure that’s an old saying. If it’s not, it should be. Regardless, no car company epitomizes the saying like Aston Martin, which builds some the most beautiful motor coaches in all the land.

The Vantage. The V12 Vantage. The Rapide. The DB9. The DBS. All are beautiful. All look pretty much the same. Hide the Rapide’s four doors, line all five models up, and many seasoned auto aficionados will misidentify them. The lone standout, naturally, is the $2 million One-77.

Now there’s a new Aston, built to slot between the DB9 and the DBS. Is it incredibly beautiful with sexy lines and curves in all the right places? Of course. Does it look just like any other Aston available today? You bet your britches it does.

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Canadian Car of the Year: Chevy Cruze

2011 Chevrolet Cruze

Now, come on, no stupid jokes about Canada, please, and no more comments about the Cobalt. Chevrolet—with much assistance from Daewoo and Opel—has finally made a very good compact car in the Cruze, now acknowledged Car of the Year at the Canadian International Auto Show by 70 Canadian car journalists.

How do we know it’s so good? We read the reviews, Jack, and hear the buzz on the street, plus the car is selling well in California and other coastal states. It’s all over Mexico, and GM needs to add dealerships in both San Francisco and Los Angeles to service demand.

We told you something about the Cruze and its EV version here, and we’re only sorry the hatchback still isn’t on tap for the U.S., though its importation is not impossible. Chevrolet has sold 500,000 Cruzes in over 70 countries.

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CarGurus Announces Profitability

Drive to Bring Price Transparency to Online Auto Marketplace Pays Off for Cambridge, MA-based Company

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., February 23, 2011 — CarGurus, a leading online automotive community, today reported that it had achieved four consecutive profitable quarters in 2010 with 230% revenue growth over 2009. With more than 3 million unique visitors a month, CarGurus has grown to become one of the leading online automotive research sites on the web.

Of particular note, CarGurus’ DealFinder ( shopping service has seen a 793% year over year increase in traffic. Using proprietary pricing models, CarGurus’ DealFinder uses live market data to analyze more than 2 million car listings a day and help consumers find the best car deals in their local markets. CarGurus’ DealFinder is the first and only online automotive shopping service to bring complete price transparency to the traditional online autos listings business. Much like Kayak and Zillow in the travel and real estate markets, CarGurus helps consumers quickly and easily search for the best deals in their local markets.

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Free Pimped-Out Navigator? I’d Take One Too, Kwame

2011 Lincoln Navigator

According to The Washington Post, Washington D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown has found himself on the wrong side of public perception over his choice of a taxpayer-provided vehicle: a fully loaded Lincoln Navigator L.

Evidently ordered on Brown’s request before his January 2 inauguration, the rig carries an incredible $1,900 per month lease payment. That’s pretty spendy for a government facing a $400 million shortfall.

But it gets even worse…

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Green Update–>Rankings and Rumblings

2011 Rolls-Royce Phantom

An Electric Phantom may be coming: See below.

You may not have heard of this outfit, but the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is one of those DC-based nonprofits that ranks things like cars for greenness. It ranks them not just for emissions and fuel economy, but figures out what it takes in environmental costs to build and power a car.

Last week ACEEE came out with its list of Greenest Vehicles, and to the surprise of many, the Nissan Leaf came in second, and the Chevrolet Volt finished 13th. The top car (for the eighth year in a row) was the Honda Civic GX, a CNG-powered car, sold only in California, New York, Utah, and Oklahoma.

The Volt did badly because of two factors: its excessive weight and its not-so-hot fuel economy running on gasoline. How or whether these ratings will influence buyers and sales remains unclear. The ratings game for green cars is getting so complicated that few know how to play.

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