2013 Volkswagen GTI Convertible Revealed

GTI Convertible, front

tgriffith and I have been really banging on a few cars lately. He went after Kia earlier today, and on Monday I had a bit of fun at the expense of the Range Rover Evoque Convertible.

So I’m happy to show you a sharp convertible, not focused on style-conscious poseurs, but on those who like performance in the open air. And it does have style, just not layered on in slabs like the RREC.

This is the first convertible GTI to be offered in the car’s history, and it seems that VW got things right, mostly. The same engine powers both convertible and hatchback versions—a 2-liter inline 4-cylinder with 210 hp and 206 lb-ft of torque. This is sufficient to get you to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds in the convertible (0.4 seconds more than in the hatch). Some will say that isn’t fast enough.

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What Would You Name This New Kia?

Kia KH concept

Remember the Kia GT concept?

It was a stunner of a car that signaled Kia’s entrance into the performance realm, along with a fresh design that placed Kia firmly in the good graces of mainstream car guys. Sleek looks on a 390-hp RWD sports coupe will tend to do that!

The thing is, after revealing such a cool concept, Kia’s next car should probably adhere, at least a little bit, to the expectations and design themes the concept presented. Coming out with a gelatinous blob won’t go far with car fans.

Yet, when I opened my Facebook page yesterday, a Kia-shaped blob is what stared back at me. A blob in need of a name.

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Green Update: Bill Ford Says Car Networks Are Coming

Bill Ford at Mobile World Congress

At a speech before the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Ford Motor Co.’s Executive Chairman Bill Ford (Henry’s great-grandson) made some notable remarks about how the future will need to accommodate 4 billion cars on the road by mid-century. (We already have about a billion.)

While people around the world keep buying cars at a rapid pace, traffic jams are endemic, seemingly endless and growing: 100 miles in Sao Paulo, for instance, lasting 2-3 hours a day. You heard about the one in China lasting 11 days? Elsewhere, “the cost of congestion to the economy in England through lost time will rise to around $35 billion (€26 billion) annually by 2025. In Germany, sustaining a town of 300,000 people is estimated to require 1,000 truck deliveries daily.”

So Bill Ford proposes collaboration between public and private transport, government and the telecommunications industry, to develop an interconnected network whereby cars, bicycles and pedestrians will be part of some giant integrated system to control their movements, especially in gridlocked cities. A business opportunity here? Oh yeah.

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Gas Crises? If You Have One of These Cars, Sell Now!

Though our friends in England, Germany and Australia won’t take pity, word has it that gas prices in Los Angeles are quickly approaching $5 per gallon. That may not have put a dent in many celebs’ plans to drive their supercars to the Academy Awards last weekend, but that price is a huge budget-killer for most of us. (And a reason for some companies to ramp up their free gas campaigns!)

With no immediate signs of a retreat in prices through summer, it’s probably time to re-think your decision to buy that Suburban you thought was a good idea in 2009. Yes, that’s the last time gas dropped below $2 per gallon. If you took the bait and bought a new car back then thinking we were safe from high fuel prices, guess again. You should consider placing your fuel-chugging ride in the CarGurus used listings and sell before prices really explode. Especially if you drive one of these:

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Range Rover Evoque Convertible: “World’s First Premium Convertible SUV”

Range Rover Evoque convertible

Yes, the press release indeed called it “the world’s first premium convertible SUV,” and that’s just what the world needs, right? A concept in name only (for Geneva), the Range Rover Evoque Convertible has been seen on a London street and appears headed for production.

Let’s get you the important information first:

Inside, the concept is packed with Evoque’s award winning technology including Terrain Response, surround cameras, Park Assist and class leading infotainment featuring an 8-inch dual view touch screen and a sound system from British audio experts, Meridian. The Evoque Convertible Concept features unique 21-inch Titan silver wheels and is finished in a new metallic Causeway Grey paint. The interior is in Lunar and Ivory with leather seats featuring sporty perforated panels and Ivory contrast stitching.

It also can be had with a 150-hp 2.2-liter diesel or a 240-hp 2-liter gasoline engine.

Now, since we are all good amateur car marketers—or think we are—let’s pursue three different scenarios for buyers of this entirely frivolous machine.

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Did Infiniti Out-Ferrari Ferrari?

Infiniti Emerg-E concept

Images of the world’s two newest supercars began to circulate through the Internet this weekend, one being the 2013 Ferrari F620 GT and the other taking the form of an Infiniti Emerg-E concept.

The F620 GT will replace the glorious V12 front-engined, RWD 599 GTB. Questions have surrounded the car. Would it continue to use a V12 or succumb to modern trends and use fewer cylinders along with some form of forced induction? Would it be RWD or incorporate the FF’s innovative AWD system? Would it take styling cues from the controversial FF or be more fluid like the 458 Italia?

Many of those questions have been answered, but I’m left wondering if Infiniti built the better Ferrari.

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Return of the Flying Wedge: Bertone’s Nuccio Concept

2012 Bertone Nuccio concept

For as long as I can remember (far back into the dark ages of car production), Bertone has been king of the great Italian styling houses—yes, including Pininfarina. Now, in honor of Nuccio, the founder’s son, who ran the company after WWII and died in 1997, comes his namesake concept, to appear at the Geneva Motor Show next month.

It is an astonishing piece of work. Read here some thoughts about the car, which seems to be a modernized version of Bertone’s 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero concept (right). That car grandfathered the Lancia Stratos, one of the most successful rally cars ever.

A couple of years ago, the New Stratos emerged, powered by Ferrari with much less of a wedge shape. A small production run of 25 cars was contemplated, but Ferrari put the kibosh on that. So we missed out on one of the best-performing sports cars in years.

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Seventeen Cars That Defy Logic, Get 40 MPG

2012 Scion xD

“Only in politics do people root for bad news and they greet bad news so enthusiastically. You pay more, and they’re licking their chops.”

That awkwardly worded quote was said by President Obama yesterday, in a scathing speech decrying Republicans as rooting for bad news and promising a return to $2 gas if elected.

Of course, being the educated and intellectual group we all are, we know darn well that a new president can’t step into office, drill for new oil and lower gas prices to two bucks a gallon. We are aware of the immense complexities that go into gas prices and the hundreds of factors that lead to more-expensive gas. The one thing we can all do to demand lower prices is decrease our use of the stuff.

Not driving your F-250 to and from the grocery store to buy a six-pack is a good place to start. For those in the market for a new car, buying one that has been shown to get at least 40 mpg on the highway works, too.

Consumer Reports released a list of cars that hit 40 mpg or more in its highway testing. The list is impressive, because it features 17 fairly inexpensive cars officially rated below the magical 40-mpg mark that achieve it in real-world testing.

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Tesla’s PR Nightmare: the “Bricked” Roadsters

Tesla battery reminder

There are 2,200 Tesla Roadsters out there, and you can only wonder what their owners are thinking today.

Reports are circulating of five cars that have “bricked”—that is, their batteries have fully discharged and become inoperable. You can’t recharge them from that state, and the wheels lock up. Your car is a brick. Yes, you were a dummy to let it get to that point, but still….

Tesla will replace the dead batteries at a cost to owners of about $40,000, and the company has offered a very tepid response to the situation, which you can read here.

There is no provision in the warranty to cover the damage, though Tesla has buyers sign a disclosure statement warning them about zero warranty coverage for permitting a zero state of charge. It’s kind of a fine-print thing.

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Cars Coming Soon: Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse

Do you have trouble keeping straight the seemingly endless stream of Bugatti Veyron versions? The more we hear of the Veyron’s impending demise, the more we hear about the next special edition rolling off the line in Molsheim.

The first edition of the Veyron debuted for the 2005 model year. That is now known as the Veyron 16.4, or “base” version, if you can call anything with 16 cylinders, 1,001 hp and a starting price of $1.7 million “base.” Since 2005, the Veyron has been produced in versions of varying performance and differing stages of ugliness. Those are:

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