Use Your Smartphone Instead of a Factory-Installed Nav System

Spark Android Auto

As a new-car reviewer, it’s my job to drive a new car pretty much every week. Sometimes it’s more than one a week. Over the course of a year, I can experience scores of different automotive navigation systems.

Some are good, some are horrible, and some are somewhere in between. Yet what I consistently find is that none are as easy to use as Google Maps on my iPhone. Until recently, the only advantage the factory-installed navigation systems had was the built-in screen.

But that’s all changing now. Some manufacturers are getting savvy and realizing that it’s better to offer infotainment systems that can work with your smartphone to provide navigation instead of selling you a more expensive navigation system.

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Costco Fulfills F1 Racing Dreams… For a Price

Costco F1 racing simulator

Costco: the land where dreams come true.

Assuming, of course, your dreams include 50-pound bags of sugar, gallons of mayonnaise and full access to all the toilet paper you’ll ever need.

Bulk discounts on household staples are enough to keep some people coming back every Saturday. Every once in a while, though, Costco surprises by offering something so over-the-top extravagant or absurd that it blows our little minds. That includes million-dollar diamonds, caskets stacked near the TVs, and now, F1 cars.

Kind of.

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Your Next Radio Station Change, Brought to You by Allstate?

Cadillac XTS CUE display

Inside my car is about the only place left where I can find complete solitude and turn off the outside world if choose. I can either play my Korn albums as loud as I want, listen to NPR if I choose or bask in the glory of silence and a pleasing exhaust note.

As Frank Costanza used to say, it’s my “Serenity now!”

Aside from the outdoor advertising along the roads I travel, when I’m in my car I can be completely free of ads from companies hungry for my money. Soon, though, even the sacred space inside our cars may be fertile ground for new advertising opportunities. One of those could be ads built right into the infotainment systems of new cars.

Want to turn up the air conditioning? Doing so could be brought to you by the good people at Jiffy Lube. Changing a radio station could come courtesy of Allstate.

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Cars Coming Soon: Vehicles Without Electronics?

iPad Mini in car

Imagine shopping for a new car. You pick out a model you like, open the door for a test drive, take a seat, start the engine and reach for the radio knob. Only there’s no radio knob. Or touch screen. Or navigation unit. In fact, there’s nothing to suggest this new car offers any kind of entertainment or technology other than the required driver input information.

What’s going on? Is this car a throwback to the days of basic transportation when no air conditioning or car stereo existed? Is it the result of the government trying to limit driver distraction? Or is the lack of technology actually a sign of some of the greatest in-car tech ever used?

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Fake Engine Sounds for Your 2012 BMW M5

2012 BMW M5

If it’s being faked, would you want to know, or are you better off blissfully unaware?

That’s a question that’s about to enter the automotive world, as a concerning predicament is beginning to take place in the world of luxury performance cars. On one hand, drivers expect an auditory cacophony of engine noise resonating in their chests as they accelerate. On the other hand, many luxury car buyers accept nothing less than a tomb-quiet cabin.

What’s the solution? BMW has one, and frankly, I don’t like it.

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The Car Talk Show’s Top 10 Lists

Car Talk guys

The Car Talk radio show with Tom and Ray Magliozzi is one of the things I miss by living in Mexico. I probably could get it on Internet radio, but I’m lazy. Of course there’s the website, which contains good advice, smart-ass commentary and a lot of blather, just like the show, naturally.

These guys started in Boston in 1977, so it’s no wonder their humor sometimes gets tiresome and repetitive. But, as I’m sure you know, they dispense good, sensible car advice, and they love lists. We’ll tell you about a few of these.

Some of their lists play off the obvious, like “Best Ways to Keep Your Car Running.” Wanna hear No. 1? It’s “Don’t Drive.”

What makes these lists worthwhile is that the boys always tell you something that is not obvious.

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Automotive Gifts for Father’s Day

To my wife and kids: Whatever you do this Father’s Day, don’t get me any of these items:

A tie. (I don’t like them and I don’t wear them.) Anything golf related. (Just because I’m a dad doesn’t mean I like golf. I don’t.) Tools. (If I need a tool, I’ll buy one. I don’t want a cheap novelty tool just so you can feel good about getting me something.)

If you want to impress me, make me happy and make me feel appreciated and loved, you should get me something listed below:

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Glass as a Speaker: The Car Audio Invention of the Century!

No more need for subwoofers?

Every once in a while I hear an idea that makes so much sense I slap my palm against my forehead and wonder why I didn’t think of it first.

Today that idea comes from Magna International, the Canadian auto parts supplier that attempted to acquire the Saturn brand from General Motors. While it didn’t succeed in that endeavor, the company just might change the way car audio works.

Magna has just launched a new technology that transforms your back window into a subwoofer. It’s such a crazy idea that it just might work…

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How To Test-Drive a Car Audio System

2011 Audi A8

Driving and music go together like the ocean and salt.

The humble in-car radio started it all, beginning as a luxurious novelty in the 1930s. Today there are people who treasure the pounding of thunderous bass in their cars so much they rank the performance of an audio system over the performance of the engine. Yup, people love their music!

Car salesmen especially love these audio aficionados. I’ve talked with some who judge how easy a sale will be by what the customer does immediately after starting the car for a test drive: If he or she turns the stereo on, the sound quality will sell (or not sell) the car. If the customer turns the stereo off, the salesman knows he will have to work harder to describe the car’s other features.

According to USA Today, Matt Kirsch is a “stereo on” kind of guy. Kirsch is an audio engineer with General Motors and has an intriguing playlist for testing audio setups, which you should check out if you’re an audiophile who likes to test-drive the tunes:

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Hands-Free and Brain-Free Driving


Back in January we spoke some unkind words about the Ford-Microsoft Sync venture. Namely, that super-connectivity (music, phone, media, driver directions, etc.) could only distract drivers from the most important – and hazardous – task at hand. What a stupid thing to say. Everyone loves it, and 80 percent of new Fords are ordered with Sync. Of course people want to be distracted from driving: It’s just too boring.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, recently took personal delivery from Alan Mulally, Ford CEO, of a new Fusion, all Synced out and with media coverage to boot. Steve was so excited that he reportedly exclaimed, “Hehehe! Hahaha! Beautiful, man!” and ran to greet Mulally and the press, assembled for the self-effacing sales pitch you’ll see and hear below.

Don’tcha just love Alan talking about “another node on the big Internet in the sky”? And, as he further said, “We all want to be connected.” Well, pretty soon we will likely have not just the “hands-free functionality” of Sync, but the functionality of hands-free driving—the next step on the road to mass distraction.

Okay, I’m jaundiced, but don’t you think Sync could contribute to driver distraction? Give us your thoughts.