Driving with Celebrities: The One Car They All Love

Sofia Vergara gets pulled over in her Range Rover

Who got pulled over in the Rover?

Spend an afternoon driving through LA’s shining suburb of excess, otherwise known as Beverly Hills, and you are sure to see a spattering of vehicles made by Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Maserati, and maybe even a Lamborghini here and there.

But the one car you’ll see the most, aside from the obligatory Toyota Prius and tourist-rented PT Cruiser convertible, is the Land Rover Range Rover.

This luxurious, masculine, off-road über-brute has found a home shuttling the A-list feminine elite. Everyone from itsy-bitsy bikini models to major sitcom stars are piloting their Rovers, and getting tickets from the cops, through the Hills.

Click past the break for the pics, which were gathered with help from the Celebrity Cars Blog.

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Reviewers’ Consensus on the 2011 Jetta

Well, the consensus is that the new Jetta isn’t the hot property it once was. The car now costs $1,770 less than the entry price of the 2010 model, which translates to $15,995. And Volkswagen’s idea was to make it a bit déclassé in order to compete better in the Civic and Corolla class.

The reviewers, almost to a person, were vocal that this was a bad change: They criticized the 2011’s plasticky, inferior interior; the manually adjustable seats (God forbid); the torsion-beam solid rear axle; and the rear drum brakes (on entry-level models). There’s a good catalog here of what they found wrong with the new car. Worst of all, VW put its old 2-liter, 5-cylinder, 115-hp engine in the base S trim.

Yeah, and guess what? A total of 14,130 Jetta sedans were sold in March 2011 (16,969 including the SportWagen), more than in any month in company history and a 96.9-percent increase over March 2010. Overall, the company saw a 15 percent sales increase over last year. And it is crowing about it.

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Cars Coming Soon->Will GM Save Saab Again?

Saab logo

How’s this for irony:

In 2009 General Motors nearly killed off Saab along with Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer. But in the first days of 2010, the General sold Saab to Spyker. Saab fanatics rejoiced. We were skeptical, even back then, about Saab’s long-term prosperity.

Today Spyker is in deep financial trouble with Saab and has one last-ditch plan to save the brand. The plan involves a sketchy Russian billionaire, the Swedish government and, wouldn’t you know it, rests on the approval of General Motors.

We should have Elton John write a song, because this is an incredible example of the Circle of Life in the auto world.

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Chrysler 300 SRT8, Rebirth of the Muscle Sedan

Chrysler 300 SRT8, front

It was just two years ago that Pontiac died and, along with it, the one chance we saw for a muscle sedan rebirth. The much-praised G8 (really a Holden) had a Corvette drivetrain and 415 hp in the GXP version, nearly beat out the BMW M5, and cost only $37,610!

Now Chrysler has stepped up to the plate to enter this market for M5 wannabes with no cash—or people who just like the so-called gangsta look and want a great-performing car. We’ll bet the company sells a bunch of its new 300 SRT8 sedans.

The beast looks mean and modern at the same time. The interior, which came in for some criticism, is revamped and adds luxury touches. A new Adaptive Damping Suspension should improve handling. And the 5-speed automatic has been upgraded with paddle shifters.

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Goodbye Spark Plugs, Hello Laser Ignition!

Spark plug

Almost two years ago we reported that Ford was working to develop a laser ignition system to replace traditional spark plugs.

At the time, we said that Ford would have the technology ready within two years, but the last we heard about it was in an August 2010 story that said laser ignition would show up in Ford vehicles “within the next few years.”

Perhaps Ford’s development process has been more resource-consuming than originally thought. Whatever the reason for the delay, Ford’s big moment of innovation is about to be overshadowed by a group in Japan, which will present its laser ignition research at a conference next month in Baltimore.

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Green Update–>Comparing the Audi Q5, VW Touareg, and Porsche Cayenne Hybrids

2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

You’ve got to be a little nutty to buy an expensive hybrid SUV. They cost more than comparably performing gas-powered versions; the mileage advantage isn’t always that great; and they are still generally trucks in disguise—with the exceptions here noted.

My thinking is that people will want well-performing hybrid SUVs for three basic reasons: to be seen as cutting-edge; because they need the driving flexibility and confidence a hybrid SUV gives; and because they believe in making an environmental contribution.

The latter reason is the only one that holds water. And, maybe, because one wants to encourage the new technology.

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Next Honda NSX May Not Be the Beast We Hoped

Here are two cars you never want to hear mentioned in the same sentence: Honda CR-Z and Honda/Acura NSX.

Not only has the comparison been made, the words have been credited to a Honda spokesman in reference to the long-rumored resurrection of the fabled NSX:

The car will be positioned as a high-performance counterpart to the two-seat Honda CR-Z sporty hybrid.

Oh holy blasphemy…

While at first we were giddy beyond belief at the possible return of the NSX, now we think we’d rather Honda stop now before it forever screws up the supercar’s legacy.

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Driver Distraction, One More Time

Distractions graph

On a recent trip to New York City, I had a typical cab ride with the driver yammering on his cell phone for most of the trip—and driving pretty well nonetheless. But his doing this irritated the hell out of me, and like most people, I was too polite (read, intimidated) to speak up and start a possible argument.

Despite lower national numbers for auto accidents and fewer deaths, the driver distraction issue isn’t going away. It’s just getting less attention because the prospects for passing laws banning hand-held cell phones in cars are dim. It would be just another issue for Republicans to label “more government control” and Congress to stall on.

And yet, a recent NHTSA study tells us that in Hartford, Conn., where there is a ban on using phones in cars, hand-held cell phone use dropped 56 percent, and texting while driving dropped 68 percent. Connecticut is also enacting tougher penalties. Nine states have banned cell-phone use while driving.

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Forbes: U.S. Carmakers Best at Being Worst

If you made a list of the seven worst new cars on the road, how many would be products of the U.S. Big Three?

If you’re Forbes Magazine, the answer is all seven.

That’s a pretty harsh assessment. It’s also an unfair one, considering at least four of the vehicles are scheduled to either end production or be replaced by all-new models. I’m not normally the guy who jumps to the defense of American automobile manufacturers, but this time they deserve a break.

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Three Hideous Concepts Shown in New York

Saab Phoenix concept

Unlike my compadre tgriffith, who drools over ludicrous supercars, I drool over grotesque concept cars. You know, the ones that are so ugly and weird that they can turn off a carmaker’s customers forever.

The ones whose designers confuse creativity with confusion, good taste with shock value, function with ornamentation. There weren’t that many bummers in the New York Show, but these three were outstanding, in my opinion.

We’ve talked about the Saab Phoenix (above) before, and we hate to keep punishing a company that’s on the ropes, but the Phoenix has more unnecessary styling gimmicks than a Christmas tree, and the whole is a lot less than the sum of the parts.

Mechanically, the Phoenix is an all-wheel-drive, BMW-powered hybrid and has all the infotainment junk you could want, plus a rear end that looks like an old Pontiac Firebird.

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