LA Auto Show Delivers Fuel Efficiency and Raw Power

2014 Jaguar XFR-S

One in 10 new cars sold in the United States is registered in California.

That’s quite the statistic and justifies the importance of the Los Angeles Auto Show to automakers. With the unveilings officially under way in Southern California, it’s time to take a look at the most exciting, potentially game-changing vehicles that have debuted so far.

The show this year is an interesting representation of the different directions the car industry is getting pushed. Cars powered by gasoline, electricity and diesel are represented, along with plenty of raw performance cars that somehow manage to take decent fuel economy into account while shredding tires and blistering the pavement.

Read on for more.

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Cars Coming Soon: Buick Grand National and Jaguar X-Type Successors

Buick GNX rendering

The new Buick GNX?

Is it possible to mention the Buick Grand National without also mentioning Lord Vader, as made famous by Motor Trend in the mid-1980s? No, no it isn’t. So, I thought I’d get the reference out of the way so we can focus on the importance of some exciting news:

The Grand National, GNX and T-Type will reportedly come back into Buick’s stable after nearly three decades of absence.

If you’re like me, one of your first thoughts upon hearing this news is wondering if GM will simply offer a blacked-out Regal with the GNX nameplate, hope to attract some sentimental fans from the 1980s and call it good. However, this looks like the real deal, complete with a new RWD platform from the hot-selling Cadillac ATS and power that could reach, or even exceed, 400 hp.

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How Chevy and Apple Might Stop “Webbing”

Chevy MyLink Siri

Next to drinking and driving, texting while driving is the surest way to cause impairment in a driver’s ability to control a car and react to quickly changing traffic conditions.

Now that smart phones have infiltrated nearly every section of humanity (hey, I just got one, which is a sure sign everyone else in the world already did), they are wreaking havoc on the focus of drivers everywhere. With Facebook updates, NFL scores and email access just a thumb-swipe away, it’s easier and more tempting than ever to take eyes off the road and lose them in the all-too-familiar comfort of the retina display touchscreen.

USA Today report cites a study that recently polled 4,000 drivers aged 18 and up. The study discovered a truly alarming amount of people surf the web while driving, which apparently is now known as “webbing.” (No comment on the lameness of that new word!)

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Needed: Advice on a “Barn Find” Used Van

2000 Dodge Grand Caravan Sport

There’s a “barn find” sitting in my barn.

Sort of.

My barn is actually a pole building, but inside sits a 13-year-old vehicle with fewer than 40,000 miles on it. This is the type of treasure shoppers hope to find in the CarGurus used car listings. This car represents the epitome of used car finds. The find someone, somewhere, will excitedly tell their children about.

There’s only one thing keeping this barn find from being forever preserved in the coffee-table book of barn finds:

It’s a terrible car.

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The Ultimate $90,000 Christmas Gift

Kirkham 628

I wanted to wait until December before I even considered using the word “Christmas” in a blog post. At least I made it until after Thanksgiving! As I begin the annual ritual of scouring my favorite shopping websites for gift ideas, I believe I’ve found the ultimate response to the question, “So, what do you want for Christmas?”

Here’s what I want: the Ultimate Garage Package from Costco.

If Walmart sold a package with that name, you might think it would include some car-wash supplies, a storage cabinet and a set of cheap tools. This package, though, is a bit more special than that. Of course, for $90,000, it should be.

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Best Sports Cars for Winter Fun

2012 Audi TT RS

At yesterday’s Thanksgiving festivities, my sister-in-law discreetly pulled me aside saying she had a question. In a tone of voice just beyond a whisper, she said, “I really like the new Subaru BRZ. It must be all-wheel-drive, because it’s a Subaru, right?”

She looked hopefully at me, as though confirming her inquiry would result in a trip to the dealer for a Black Friday shopping extravaganza. Of course, I had to let her down gently.

“Well, actually, the BRZ was developed as a sports car project with Toyota and comes only in rear-wheel-drive….”

I could see her hopes deflate before my eyes, the visions of Northwest winters in a Subaru sports car fading from her mind. I tried to offer some hope, though, with a list of some other fun sports cars that would be suitable for one of our typical snow and ice-filled winters.

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Cars Coming Soon: Anyone Else Thankful for the 2013 SRT Viper?

2013 SRT Viper

While most people around the country are aptly spending the day being thankful for poultry and football, some of us prefer to count our blessings with real American ingenuity.

Or American/Italian, in some cases.

Today it might be worth taking a moment to be thankful for the Italian ownership and American craftsmen and women behind the 2013 SRT Viper. Without them, the return of the iconic American snake might never have happened.

Let’s pause and give thanks.

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How To Ruin a Camaro ZL1

813 Customs Camaro

This blog post could be finished with that one picture. Sometimes words just aren’t necessary to further explain an automotive atrocity.

As a natural-born writer, though, certain words simply erupt from my fingers when I look at this picture. Many of them unsuitable for a respectable blog.

First, I should note that I can appreciate a good car modification as well as anyone. I know a lot of time and money and skill goes into tearing down a vehicle and rebuilding it to exact specs specifically suited to an individual’s tastes. That’s partly why I’ve been in love with car culture so long: A vehicle can take on the persona of the person behind the wheel. And that’s pretty cool.

But this… this I just don’t get.

Perhaps the saddest part of this custom job is the donor was a Camaro ZL1. The GT500-killing 580-hp superbeast that reigns supreme as king of the muscle cars. Think the car you see above will turn a lap at Leguna Seca in 1:39.18 or blast to 60 in 3.8 seconds? Nope. So why not use a base V6 Camaro for this custom job when all performance is lost anyway? That’s where I get lost. Even more confusing, a turbocharger was added to the 6.2-liter V8, which I can’t imagine will ever get used.

The work was done by 813 Customs in Tampa and includes a gold vinyl wrap (at least it’s not actually gold-plated), 30-inch Forgiato wheels, a custom dash and a completely re-worked interior to handle at least 8 million speakers and three 23-inch TVs. I didn’t know one 23-inch TV would fit in a Camaro.

The 813 Customs Facebook page is littered with comments about the car, some even positive. For the few who see this work as an improvement on the ZL1, you’re in luck. The company has its creation up for sale.

The 813 Customs Camaro ZL1: Yes or no?


Used Chevrolet Camaro Used Ford GT500

Buy Used, Drive Cheap, Live Well

2005 Kia Sorento

2005 Kia Sorento

Nothing inspires like conversation.

A day or two after going through the ins and outs of the true value of electric cars, another interesting topic has come up: the value of a used SUV versus something new with better fuel economy.

In this case, a very dear friend owns a 2005 Kia Sorento with almost 100,000 miles on the clock. The car has been well maintained and taken journeys, on road and off, in nearly every remote wilderness corner of the northwest United States. Needless to say, the Sorento has served her well, but its meager fuel economy has her wondering if it’s time for a change.

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An Engine in a Suitcase, Or an Electric Car?

2013 Ford Fiesta

2013 Ford Fiesta

In my book, many interesting conversations can be had using the words “turbochargers” and “superchargers.”

In a conversation with a friend this weekend, though, my mention of the words were met with a blank stare. I guess not everyone is into cars or even terribly knowledgeable about what makes them tick.

Our talk began with a question. My friend asked, “What do you think of electric cars?”

Well, that’s quite the can o’ worms in my world, and talking through the answer took the better part of the next 30 minutes. We discussed everything from the environmental impact of battery manufacturing to electricity production to supporting infrastructure to the mechanics of how superchargers and turbochargers work in gas and diesel engines. Of course, my bottom-line answer to her question was this: Electrics have the right idea in saving fuel, I’m just not convinced of their execution. I’d prefer to go with an economical turbo gas or diesel vehicle.

Like maybe the 2014 Ford Fiesta, with a 1.0-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder.

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