Lexus Tests 641-hp, 4564-lb Performance LS Sedan

Too many cars still tend toward the obese, though we’ve seen the beginnings of a welcome trend to lightening in some smaller vehicles.

But Toyota Motorsport has certainly bucked that tendency with its Lexus LS TMG Edition, an overweight, overpowered monster caught testing at Germany’s Nürburgring. Lexus has wanted to be a performance player for years and now is reportedly preparing an LFA for the upcoming Le Mans.

A leaked spec sheet tells us that the LS TMG will do 0-62 mph in 4.2 seconds with a top speed (probably limited) of 199 mph. Is the engine a V8? A V10 derived from the LFA (which outputs 550 hp)? Speculation is rampant, but we don’t know.

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5 Ways to Save Money and Commute in Style

2012 Hyundai Veloster

Once upon time, buying a commuter car meant sacrificing any hope of an enjoyable driving experience. If you wanted something fun and good looking, you’d have to buy a secondary sports car for the weekends. Weekday commuter cars, at least in the U.S., were inexpensive, fuel efficient and reliable, but about as plain and boring as ordering vanilla ice cream in a parlor of 46 million flavors.

Our economy might be in a sinkhole, but that doesn’t mean people have forgotten about a fun driving experience. We just want it to come in under 20 grand or so while getting good miles per gallon and looking at least somewhat exciting. Like paying the price for vanilla but getting a nice cup of Ben & Jerry’s Schweddy Balls instead.

Keep reading for some of the most fun and good looking commuters available today!

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Watching Volkswagen’s Moves to Take Over the Auto World

Martin Winterkorn

There were sharp intakes of breath at GM and Toyota when VW announced, last week, that it would invest a record $86 billion over five years “to underpin its goal of becoming the world’s largest carmaker.”

That is a lot of jack, Jack, and $68 billion of it is going to plants, properties and equipment (over half of that in Germany), plus $15.6 billion to capitalized development. And, you can be sure, there will be more joint investment in China.

The company’s statement makes clear that its aims are international: to become “the world’s best automobile manufacturer in economic and ecological terms,” as Prof.-Dr.-CEO Martin Winterkorn put it in the press release. See the great man posing above.

“Ve are alzo going to rule ze vorldt!” No, he didn’t say that, but the key in terms of markets, as you can imagine, will be China. Plans are to expand the company’s 62 factories around the world to about 70; 11 of these will be in China—adding nearly $19 billion in new production joint ventures.

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Cars Coming Soon: Next Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon U.S.-Bound?

Now that the UAW and GM have come to a labor agreement, we can start to focus on bigger, more exciting news. Like cars coming soon.

If there’s a great thing about union negotiations, it’s that they often open a peephole into some planned new product due to the union and automaker discussing needs for workers and plant operations. In this case, General Motors negotiated with UAW brass to add 1,800 workers to a Missouri plant to build, get ready for this, a midsize pickup truck.

Could that mean a replacement for the cancelled Colorado/Canyon twins could indeed hit the U.S. market?

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J-Lo and FIAT? What Does It All Mean?

J. Lo FIAT commercial

FIAT is showing its great TwinAir (small, high-performance engine) and the Abarth version of the 500 at Frankfurt. We don’t get those in the U.S., but we do get the Jennifer Lopez commercial for the 500 Cabrio.

If you’ve had some rare disease and missed it, watch after the break. It’s good.

In the course of her driving the Cabrio through New York, swarms of men give chase like dogs in heat, jump on the car, and finally dance with her. All to promote her new song, “Papi”—and of course the Cabrio.

You’ll remember that the Chrysler-FIAT team used Dr. Dre and Eminem in earlier and very successful ads. This one is at least as good—not just because of J-Lo’s star power, but because it conveys the image of the 500 as a city car, transfers J-Lo’s sex appeal to the car via the chase, and tells a cute story, as all ads must.

That sounds kind of clinical, but watch it and you’ll see what I mean.

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Volvo Going On All Fours: Cylinders, That Is

Volvo You concept

One of my early posts as a CarGuru was about the possibility of outlawing the V8 engine.

Naturally the post was met with outrage and ridicule. How dare I even suggest that V8 engines are mostly overkill and wasteful and only needed in commercial-grade trucks? That was even before the advent of Ford’s EcoBoost and other mass turbo technology that has further rendered most V8 engines obsolete.

Of course, if it were my decision, I would reserve the right to allow V8s in such cars as the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro. Some traditions you just don’t mess with!

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Green Update: The Real Cost of Gasoline

Weekly gas prices

With gas, you know what you’re buying, but you have no idea what you’re paying for.

And the fact that people are unaware of where their money goes has all kinds of implications—behavioral, economic and political.

A week ago, the L.A. Times ran a piece telling us that U.S. drivers are going to spend some $491 billion for gasoline this year. That in itself is an astonishing figure, and it’s the highest amount ever.

What astonished me more was this statement: “Fuel prices have been high this year because of expensive oil and increased exports of gasoline and diesel to other countries.” Yes, exports.

In just the last few months the U.S. has become a net exporter of refined fuels, according to Energy Department statistics. That’s a big change from as recently as May, when U.S. imports of refined fuels exceeded exports by 800,000 barrels a day. Most recently, exports have been running ahead of imports by 467,000 barrels a day, with much of the fuel going to Latin America and South America.

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BMW X6 Active Hybrid Already Cancelled

BMW X6 Active Hybrid

A hybrid vehicle should accomplish several goals:

Substantially increase fuel economy over comparable gas-powered models Offer a weight savings over comparably equipped models Cost slightly more than a comparable gas-powered model Offer quicker off-the-line performance due to the instant torque associated with batteries

In my humble opinion, I’d rather own a diesel or small gas engine to save money at the pump, but I acknowledge the passion many people have for hybrids and generally applaud their stellar fuel economy numbers.

The BMW X6 Active Hybrid has been an odd duck since its 2009 beginning, not meeting any of those criteria. If, for some reason, you’re in the market for one of the most confusing ute-wagon-hatch things ever produced by the Bavarians, act quick. The monstrosity has been cancelled, and soon you’ll find them only on the used market.

Here’s why it doesn’t make any sense:

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Ford Ad Seeks to Revive Anti-Bailout Fervor

Ford press conference

A new commercial (after the break) by Ford features Chris, an F-150 owner, who doesn’t talk about his truck. He says he bought it because he “wasn’t going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government. I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: win, lose, or draw.”

This ad, part of the company’s Drive One campaign, proposes that patriotism is never having to buy from a bailed-out company, like GM or Chrysler. The prospect of buying an Asian or German brand never comes up.

The scene is a phony press conference, and everything about the ad reads “cheap shot.” Especially when you realize that Ford, while it didn’t declare bankruptcy, came very close. In fact, in 2008 Senate hearings CEO Alan Mulally supported the bailout and made strong remarks about the solidarity of the auto industry.

The ad plays flagrant politics by reviving old controversies over the bailout. Though chauvinists will cheer it, let’s hope for a big backlash against ads like this, because the last thing the auto industry needs (or any of us needs) is to start inflaming political opinion and reopening old wounds.

Then we’ll have GM and Chrysler ads countering with man-on-the-street interviews talking about Ford’s outsourcing, in particular with the Fiesta, and in particular sending thousands of U.S. jobs around the globe.

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When Did Auto Workers Become Like NFL Players?

GM production workers

They’re big. They’re tough. They’re represented by a powerful union.

When things don’t go their way, the union threatens a strike that could derail the employer’s ability to continue operating.

They sign contracts.

They get hefty signing bonuses.

These descriptions fit both National Football League players and American auto workers. Their respective unions, the National Football League Players Association and the United Auto Workers, routinely negotiate big-money contracts that leave some people questioning whether or not the workers deserve so much cash.

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