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Next-gen LaCrosse, Cascada convertible coming to Buick showrooms in 2016

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 6:03PM

Buick LaCrosse

Opel CascadaIt's difficult to overstate how significant the post-bankruptcy years have been for General Motors' Buick brand. Arguably the most improved American automaker, Buick has rounded out its range with an excellent compact in the Verano, a well-balanced midsizer in the Regal and a segment-busting mini-CUV, with the Encore.

Seeking to keep that momentum going, the next several years will see the brand address a trio of its most obvious issues. First and foremost will be a replacement for the aging LaCrosse, a vehicle whose only bit of attention since its 2009 debut was a very light refresh in 2013.

According to Automotive News, we should expect the next-generation LaCrosse to arrive late next year or early in 2016, as a 2016 model. AN expects big design changes, as Buick attempts to further the LaCrosse from its popular platform-mate, the Chevrolet Impala. The changes won't be so radical, though, as to do away with its front-drive architecture, as the latest version of the Epsilon platform will underpin the next LaCrosse. The 3.6-liter V6 is likely to carry on, although a smaller, budget-minded offering is also extremely likely (we'll eat our hat if it's not the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder from the Regal, Verano and Cadillac CTS et al.).

The other issue plaguing Buick's lineup is a lack of a midsize crossover. This is particularly damning for the brand as most of its showrooms are shared with GMC, which boasts its own midsizer in the form of the Terrain. With the upcoming Envision (see here for teasers), that problem should be addressed. Like the LaCrosse, the Envision will likely be a 2016 model. It will debut and launch in China early next year, while we can expect it to arrive stateside later next year, or even early in 2016. For American consumers, both a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and the aforementioned 2.0T could see action in the Envision.

Finally, while Buick can boast a pair of vehicles available with manual transmissions, it's still far from what we'd call a brand for fun driving experiences. Of course, one way of solving that problem is with a two-door convertible. Yes, it's extremely likely that the Euro-market Opel Cascada convertible will be sold in the US early in 2016. Whether it keeps the Cascada name is unclear (all in favor of Skylark, say "aye"). Regardless, adding a reasonably priced, relaxed, two-door droptop to the Buick range to fill the space left by the not-so-dearly departed Chrysler 200 Convertible seems like a no brainer.

What are you thoughts on these plans? Should Buick be addressing other needs? Would you consider a Buick convertible? Should the brand push even further to distinguish the LaCrosse from the Impala? Have your say in Comments.
Related Gallery2014 Buick LaCrosse
2014 Buick LaCrosse2014 Buick LaCrosse2014 Buick LaCrosse2014 Buick LaCrosse2014 Buick LaCrosse2014 Buick LaCrosse2014 Buick LaCrosse2014 Buick LaCrosse

Convertible owners more educated, well to do

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 5:27PM

2013 Ford Mustang Convertible

A new study from Experian Automotive seeks to quantify the traits that identify the convertible-loving droptop driver. Of course, after reading through the findings, this just kind of confirms a lot of things that have been kind of obvious about convertible owners for kind of a long time.

They're educated, wealthy and older than the average new car customers, with 50 percent holding a bachelor's degree, 19 percent reporting a household income in excess of $175,000 (11.7 percent cleared $1 million), and 72 percent were over the age of 45. Considering the traditionally higher cost of a convertible, and the fact that many are probably second or third cars, these factoids aren't exactly shocking. Even the most popular locations for convertibles aren't all that surprising. Los Angeles is number one, followed by New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta.

What is surprising, though, are the most popular vehicles during the study. We agree with four of the five entries – the Ford Mustang, Mazda MX-5, BMW 3 Series and the Chevrolet Corvette captured positions one, three, four and five, respectively. The number two position, though, is inexplicable. It's held by the Chrysler Sebring (we're thinking Experian is referring to the 200). So, if this study proves nothing else, it's evidence that age, education and money can't totally prevent bad decisions.

Of course, we wouldn't put too much faith in these findings. Our big issue is the perilously short time period that this data was gleaned from. Experian only looked at new vehicle registrations during the first quarter of 2014. Aside from the limited time to collect findings and watch trends develop, analyzing convertible buying trends during the single coldest winter in recent memory hardly seems prudent.

With that in mind, head below and take a look at Experian's findings, including analysis between convertible drivers and the average new-car customer.

News Source: Experian Automotive via TheDetroitBureau.com

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

The cars that won't live to see 2015 [w/video]

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 4:57PM

Acura TL

Every year in the fast-paced automotive industry brings new models, but it also spells the end for some that have been less successful. This year will be no exception.

Japan's automakers make up the bulk of the list of discontinued models for the 2015 model year: Acura is replacing the TL and TSX with the new TLX sedan, Honda is bidding farewell to the Fit EV as the new Fit hatchback takes its place, and Nissan is saying goodbye to both the Cube and Murano CrossCabriolet. Both the Nissan Maxima and Mazda2 exit stage left before their upcoming replacements arrive, while Toyota is terminating the RAV4 EV and FJ Cruiser as well as the Scion xD, and Lexus IS C and IS F that are being effectively replaced by the new RC. Meanwhile Infiniti is finally discontinuing the G37 that was already replaced by the newer Q50.

From our own domestic automakers, Cadillac discontinues the CTS-V sedan and wagon as the new CTS rolls in, Chevy is canceling the mild-hybrid Eco versions of the Malibu and Impala sedans, and Chrysler is killing off the 200 convertible as the new 200 sedan arrives.

German automakers are also well represented on the list, with BMW splitting the 1 Series coupe and convertible into the new 2 Series line, Mercedes reintegrates the CL-Class coupe into the S-Class family, and Volkswagen is finally killing off the Chrysler-made Routan. Elsewhere in Europe, the long-serving Gallardo is being replaced by the Huracán in the Lamborghini lineup, while Volvo ends production of the XC90 in advance of the new model's arrival.

It's a long list to wrap your head around, but our compatriots over at The Car Connection have summed it all up in the video below, and we've assembled the slideshow above with photos of each. The question is, which of these models will you miss the most? Share your thoughts in Comments.
Related GalleryDiscontinued for 2015
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News Source: The Car Connection

V6 engines will outpace V8s for the 2015 Ford F-150

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 4:26PM

2015 Ford F-150

How times have changed. Even five years ago, who would have thought the mighty V8 would be just another engine choice for buyers of the 2015 Ford F-150?

Ford is projecting about 28 percent of the next-generation trucks will have the 5.0-liter V8. That's nothing to sneeze at, but consider this: Ford figures its two EcoBoost truck engines – the new 2.7-liter V6 and the existing 3.5-liter V6 – will also each account for about 28 percent of the F-150's sales (56 percent total). That leaves only 15 percent of the pie for the 3.5-liter (non-EcoBoost) V6. The new F-150 goes on sale late this year.

Ford figures its two EcoBoost truck engines will each account for about 28 percent of the F-150's sales.

"In the truck business, it's historically been about the most horsepower, the most towing power and the most torque," Ford trucks marketing manager Doug Scott said.

Obviously those still matter, but Ford has significantly diversified the F-150's engine lineup in a bid to attract new customers and hedge against spikes in fuel prices. The move away from V8s began in earnest in the 2011 F-150, which received the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost with 365 hp and 420-lb-ft of torque to complement the traditional V8 model.

Adding the turbocharged EcoBoost three years ago was fraught with risks, as truck buyers are among the most loyal and resistant to change in the market. But it's paid off for Ford, and the EcoBoost model now makes up about 45 percent of the current F-150's sales.

With that in mind, Ford is adding another EcoBoost V6, the 2.7-liter engine, which will push out 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque, numbers that sound more akin to a traditional V8. With this engine, the truck can tow up to 8,500 pounds and will have a payload of 2,250 pounds. Ford envisions this model will be attractive to buyers who don't haul regularly, but still require some of the practical capabilities of a pickup.

"This is an engine that's really designed for that core customer," Scott said.

Ford's expansion of the F-150's lineup comes amid renewed competition from its traditional Detroit truck rivals. This year, Ram added an EcoDiesel model with 240 hp and 420 lb-ft, while General Motors will round out its 2015 truck portfolio with the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, which are slightly smaller than their fullsize, Silverado and Sierra brethren. The moves come as federal fuel economy rules are set to tighten, and consumers continue to be wary of gas-guzzling vehicles.

Ford's new engine lineup will be enhanced by the use of aluminum for the F-150's body, which will reduce weight and improve fuel economy. Depending on the engine and cab size, the F-150 will be anywhere from 625 pounds to more than 732 pounds lighter, compared with 2014 models.

Image Credit: Ford Motor Co.

Opel CEO talks new EV, will likely be fresh face for Chevy, too

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 3:58PM

Opel Ampera

The rumored demise of the Opel Ampera has been confirmed, but there's good news, too. Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann has been busy Tweeting information about the brand's next plug-in vehicle, admitting that the Ampera is on the way out but that plug-in vehicles are here to stay. His Tweets, in full, read:

After the eventual run-out of the current generation Ampera, we'll introduce a successor product in the electric vehicle segment. Our next electric vehicle will be part of our massive product offensive – with 27 new vehicles in the 2014-2018 time frame. We see eMobility as important part of the mobility of tomorrow and we will continue to drive down costs & deliver affordability.

As we learned earlier this week, the Ampera will not be refreshed when the current Chevy Volt is updated, most likely because of slow sales. Opel sold just 332 Amperas in the first five months of 2014. For now, General Motors is still building Amperas in Michigan for export to Europe.

So, what might this new EV mean for the General Motors plug-in fleet? Official spokespeople are being quiet, but we think it's safe to say the new EV Neumann is talking about is not simply a rebadged Chevy Spark EV. This is the first official word about an entirely new EV, and we expect it will come to both the Chevrolet and Opel brands.
Related GalleryOpel Ampera
Opel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel Ampera

News Source: Karl-Thomas Neumann via Twitter

Cellphone bans don't reduce accidents, research finds

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 3:29PM

October 27, 2008 - A driver talks on his cell phone while smoking a cigarette and driving eastbound

"It was pretty clear to us that there was no compelling evidence of a decrease in accidents" – Daniel Kaffine

Common sense says that talking on a cellphone while driving is not a particularly safe thing to do. But recent studies have found banning cellphone use while behind the wheel is not leading to a decrease in accidents.

The results are somewhat surprising and have left researchers and regulators scratching their heads, especially given that 13 states, the District of Columbia and several US territories have hand-held cellphone bans. Additionally, 44 states specifically outlaw texting while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The most recent study, published this summer in the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, analyzed California's cellphone ban for drivers in 2008. Researchers found the number of accidents only dropped from 66.7 per day to 65.2 per day statewide, a statistically minor decline. The results were mirrored in many of the state's major cities, including San Francisco, though Los Angeles did experience a slight decrease in accidents. Researchers looked at the six-month periods before and after the ban went into place on July 1, 2008.

"We went in there expecting to see something," Daniel Kaffine, one of the study's authors, told Autoblog. "[But] it was pretty clear to us that there was no compelling evidence of a decrease in accidents."

Though offsetting for safety advocates, Kaffine's research is in line with other findings. The Highway Loss Data Institute, the research arm of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, studied insurance claims rates in 2009 and 2010 studies, and found no link that bans helped decrease crashes.

Image Credit: Pawel Dwulit/Toronto Star via Getty, AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

Seinfeld laments AMC Gremlin with hilarious Jon Stewart

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 2:58PM

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Jon Stewart

A good comedian can rifle off a one-liner when put in the right situation. A great comedian, though, can fire off zingers in any situation. That much is obvious from the start of the latest episode of Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

The quips begin essentially from the start, with Seinfeld introducing today's featured car as a competitor to the Ford Pinto and Chevy Vega, a pair of cars he calls "horrible." The competitor, though, "was even more horrible." Yes, we're talking about the AMC Gremlin.

Why the Gremlin, though? A car that is accepted as one of the single biggest four-wheeled abominations in the long, sad history of four-wheeled abominations? Well, it just happened to be the first car of guest Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show fame. With Stewart in tow, the one-liners really get going. Calling the Gremlin "contraception" for New Jersey's young men in the 1970s and a car for the "broke ignorant", the pair's tour around Manhattan in the dreadful hatchback is cut short by something a bit more suited to the tastes of CICGC fans.

Scroll down for the full video, and enjoy the latest episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

News Source: Crackle, SuperComedyMedia via YouTube

GM announces 6 recalls covering nearly 720k cars

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 2:30PM

General Motors Government Stock

General Motors has announced yet another sprawling recall campaign, with six separate elements covering 717,950 vehicles on US roads. At this point in 2014, it's starting to seem like there are more days with a GM recall than without. Perhaps most troubling about this latest volley, though, is that every vehicle is from the past few years, indicating that GM's quality woes may not be limited to pre-bankruptcy vehicles.

The largest element of this latest campaign covers 414,333 units, and includes the 2011 to 2012 Chevrolet Camaro, 2010 to 2012 Chevy Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX and the 2011 to 2012 Buick Regal and LaCrosse. Only vehicles with powered, height-adjustable seats are covered. In these particular cars and crossovers, the bolt that secures the height adjuster actuator may loosen of its own accord and in some cases fall out completely. If this happens, the seats will be able to move both up and down. GM claims the vehicles are safe to drive, provided drivers don't vertically adjust their seats. This particular issue has caused one crash and three injuries.

The largest element of this latest campaign covers 414,333 units, including the Chevrolet Camaro and Equinox, GMC Terrain, Cadillac SRX and the Buick Regal and LaCrosse.

Next up, the 2014 Chevrolet Caprice and SS, 2013 to 2014 Cadillac ATS, 2014 CTS and ELR, 2013 to 2014 Buick Encore and 2014 to 2015 GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado pickups (both light-duty and heavy duty models) are being recalled due to an "incomplete weld on the seat hook bracket assembly." 124,008 vehicles are affected by this problem, which is being blamed on a sudden loss of power to a laser welder at factories. Dealers will inspect the weld and replace the seat track if necessary. However, GM claims that less than one percent of welds will require track replacement. There have been no reported accidents or injuries for this issue.

The Buick Regal is getting pinged with a second recall, covering 2011 to 2013 models. It's joined by the 2013 Chevy Malibu, in an action that covers 120,426 vehicles. This is the least severe of the latest round of issues, though, as it has to do with the turn signal bulbs. These vehicles use a pair of bulbs in the signal array. Should both bulbs burn out, the driver is notified in the typical fashion (a rapidly flashing signal in the instrument cluster). If only one bulb burns out, though, there is no way of warning the driver. Unsurprisingly, this issue hasn't lead to any crashes, while the fix requires a simple reprogramming.

The 2014 Chevy Impala is also the subject of an action that's particular to models with belt-driven electric power steering. A bad electric ground to the power steering control module can lead to sudden loss or reduction in steering assistance. The car won't become uncontrollable, although owners will be forced to live with manual steering until a trip to the dealer can be arranged. GM is blaming paint that may have gotten behind a nut on a "power steering control module ground stud" for this problem. There are no crashes being blamed on this issue.

Korean-built Chevy Spark minicars from model years 2014 and 2015 are being recalled, in an action that covers some 1,900 units. In this particular case, GM is claiming the lower control arm bolt was not fastened to specs, which, in a worst-case scenario, could lead to a separation of the control arm from the steering knuckle. Dealers will take a look at both control arms to assure they've been tightened to specs.

Finally, 22 units from the new-for-2015 Chevy Tahoe, Suburban, GMC Yukon and Yukon Denali SUV range are being recalled due to poorly connected interior roof rails. An incorrect retaining nut is being blamed for the problem, which could puncture or tear the roof-mounted airbags, should they deploy. Of the 22 units in this action, eight are currently in dealer inventories.

GM has summarized this latest recall in the press release below. Scroll down for a look.

Image Credit: Paul Sancya / AP, GM

Mercedes updated M-Class spotted stripping camo

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 2:00PM

Mercedes-Benz M-Class Spy Shots

Following a spate of images in early April, Mercedes has removed some of the camouflage on the facelifted M-Class SUV in preparation for its eventual debut, probably at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.

Gone is the swirly, psychedelic camo that featured so heavily on our last round of photos. In its place sits simple, unpatterned vinyl, which is limited to the front and rear of the mid-level luxury SUV. The vinyl looks to be hiding new headlights, which appear to borrow inspiration from the new S-Class and C-Class. Unlike the previous example we spotted, this new model has its taillights concealed, indicating there could be minor changes in store. The rear bumper is also slightly different, with more visible exhaust outlets, indicating that this could be the ML550 that we're seeing.

There remains a fair amount of camouflage over the front grille and lower intakes, through which we can spot a tweaked grille, which should, again, borrow inspiration from the brand's newer sedans.

We'll keep our eyes open for additional info and images of the facelifted Mercedes M-Class as its debut date continues to approach.

Image Credit: CarPix

Volkswagen says goodbye to Eos, Routan in 2015 updates

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 1:29PM

2015 Volkswagen Eos

Usually automakers announce changes to their lineup individually on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis, but sometimes it all comes at once – especially when the changes are ones we either expected or might not otherwise notice. That's the path Volkswagen has gone with changes to its US lineup for 2015.

The biggest change is what we already knew: that the new Golf arrives for the 2015 model year, bringing with it the new GTI, Golf R, e-Golf and Golf SportWagen (to replace the previous Jetta wagon). But there are some new details as well.

For starters, Volkswagen has finally confirmed that both the Eos and the Routan – both long rumored to be on their way out – will be exiting this year. The Eos hardtop convertible, pictured above, will linger for one last year, its Sport trim replaced by a new Final Edition with 18-inch wheels, two-tone leather interior and enhanced equipment.

Meanwhile the Routan, which hasn't actually been built in over a year, is finally dead, as VW confirms it has dropped the Chrysler-built minivan from its lineup for 2015 altogether. The German automaker has also confirmed that the Touareg is getting a facelift early in the new year, which we expect will closely follow the revisions revealed a few months ago ahead of the Beijing Motor Show.

Finally VW has announced an upgrade to its 2.0-liter TDI. Fitted to the Golf, Jetta, Passat and Beetle, the updated diesel gets 10 more horsepower with output now up to 150 hp and 236 pound-feet of torque. Scope out the full list of announcements in the press release below.
Related Gallery2015 Volkswagen Eos
2015 Volkswagen Eos2015 Volkswagen Eos2015 Volkswagen Eos2015 Volkswagen Eos2015 Volkswagen Eos2015 Volkswagen Eos

News Source: Volkswagen

Chicago red-light cameras under fire for unexplained ticket spikes [w/videos]

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 1:01PM

Red Light Cameras

Chicago may once have been known as the home of the mob in US with Al Capone running things, but for several years in the 2000s it looks like a completely legal racket may have made the city millions. A recent Chicago Tribune investigation has turned up some disturbing data about how the Windy City's network of red-light cameras used to be operated that may have given out thousands of bogus tickets.

Until 2013, Chicago had a contract with a company called Redflex Traffic Systems to operate its red-light cameras. If they caught someone running the light, the video was supposed to be reviewed twice, and if accurate, the driver received a $100 fine. Redflex and the city each took a portion of the money. However, their arrangement came to an abrupt end when it was eventually discovered that the company was bribing a city official. According to the Chicago Tribune, since 2003, the government netted around $500 million in revenue from the cams.

The new investigation found that drivers might have been getting the worst end of that deal. The Chicago Tribune examined four million red-light tickets going back to 2007. It found massive spikes in the numbers of infractions at several intersections that would last for short periods of time. In one extreme case, a camera that usually ticketed one person per day shot up to 56 per day.

To make matters more confusing, the cameras would occasionally stop giving out tickets for a brief period before and after these spikes. According to the report, that could have indicated maintenance being done, but the city didn't have any record of it. In some cases, the yellow-light times would also decrease during the spikes by as much as a second, as well.

Chicagoans affected by the bad tickets may not be completely out of luck, though. As a result of the Tribune story, a group of city aldermen opened their own investigation. "We want to find out what went wrong, and we want to see refunds where the ticket was wrongly issued," said alderman Scott Waguespack to the paper.

Separately, at about the same time the report was published, a Chicago man filed a federal lawsuit against Redflex and its parent company that asks for $100 million in refunds to drivers, according to CBS News. The case has nothing to do with the ticket spikes; instead, the man claims that the company's alleged bribery makes its contract with the city fraudulent.

Scroll down to watch three videos from the Chicago Tribune explaining what happened and speaking to traffic experts.

News Source: Chicago Tribune - sub. req. [1], [2], CBS Local Chicago, Chicago Tribune via YouTube [1], [2], [3]

Image Credit: Mel Evans / AP Photo

Subaru WRX STI vs. Audi S3 in compact AWD dustup

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 12:33PM

Subaru WRX STI versus the Audi S3 Sedan

It's not every day that a Subaru and an Audi can be reasonably compared head-to-head; the two brands tend not to compete directly in their respective segments. However, the latest WRX STI and the S3 Sedan offer the perfect chance to find out if the working-class Scooby can beat its upper-crust competitor.

The UK's Auto Express gets behind the wheel of these two all-wheel drive performance sedans, or saloons as the Brits call them. Across the pond, both of them are rated at an identical 296 horsepower, but the Subaru edges out the Four Rings on torque. Like in the US, British buyers have to pay a little more to get the Audi, but it comes with a nicer interior and more brand cachet, if that means anything to you.

The video starts out with a fairly standard road test comparing the two of them back-to-back – all fairly subjective. But then Auto Express takes the trip to the drag strip, and the results there are much more conclusive. There's a definite winner when they cross the line, but you have to scroll down to see which of these turbocharged models with rallying heritage wins out.

News Source: Auto Express via YouTube

Image Credit: Subaru, Audi

2014 Nissan Juke Nismo RS

Jukiest Juke Packs Turbo Punch, Cheap Thrills

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 11:57AM

2014 Nissan Juke Nismo RS

As a point of love-it or hate-it styling, the Nissan Juke is king. As a weird, samurai-bullfrog-looking compact crossover with handling chops and a gutsy powertrain, it also has one of the bravest inclusions of a manual transmission in recent memory. It's funky, unmistakable, polarizing and actually pretty neat. Okay, so even though the back seats have a surprising amount of legroom, it's like sitting in a cave, and the sightlines out the back are challenging – every frog needs a few warts. But those matter less when the amphibian gets a big wet kiss from the Nismo princess.

Enter the 2014 Juke Nismo RS. The Jukiest Juke, with many new bits to make looking at, driving, and being inside it a more exciting experience, is the top of the heap for the model line, positioned above the regular Juke Nismo. I put one through its paces in Nissan's American homeland of Tennessee and came away with a few quick impressions.

Driving Notes
  • I don't care who knows it: I think this Nissan looks cool. The red highlights on the fascia, side skirts, mirrors and brakes pop. Styling changes advance the latent aggression already baked into the Juke. It looks meaner, more playful and confidently ridiculous. The bugeye headlights seem to work better with this front-end treatment and the always-on, low-mounted LED accents look great on the road. It goes without saying that this isn't a car for everyone.
  • One of the great crimes of the turbo direct-injected era is an incomprehensible crusade against turbo whoosh. It's delightfully present in the Nismo RS. This is a breathed-upon version of the standard 1.6-liter direct-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder. Most of the grunt comes through ECU tweaks, but there are upgraded connecting rods and a dual-mass flywheel for smoother revs. At 215 horsepower, It makes 27 hp over the standard Juke, and comes packed with 210 pound-feet of torque, a useful 33 lb-ft bonus over stock. (Of course, that's only if you opt for front-wheel drive – AWD models reduce these numbers to 211 hp and 184 lb-ft). Strapped to it is an upgraded six-speed manual with a beefier clutch and housing, plus lower gear ratios for first through third.
  • This is a powertrain that requires full driver engagement for maximum performance. Turbo lag is real here, so keep on the juice, pick the right gear, and this Juke RS will punch far above its weight. Fall short and you're stuck in no-boost-town, slowly pulling away from the stoplight. Do pay attention to drive mode though; Normal, Sport, and Eco have real effects on throttle response and steering effort. By the way, its EPA numbers are pegged at 25/31/27 miles per gallon, city/highway/combined.
  • My example was a front-wheel-drive, manual transmission model. This means it retains the torsion-beam axle of the standard Juke (all-wheel drive goes multi-link) and doesn't get the inside-wheel-braking torque vectoring system of the AWD Nismo RS. There are a raft of other goodies though: chassis bracing, stiffer springs, more aggressive dampers, a lower ride height, recalibrated electric power steering, 0.9-inch bigger brakes up front and an upgrade to vented discs from drums at the back. Just-right 18-inch wheels wearing 225-width ContiSportContact5 summer tires round out the chassis goodies.
  • On the road and around a corner, this little beasty is indistinguishable from a classic hot hatch. Expect gobs of torque steer if you're goofy with the throttle while twitching the steering wheel, but play it smart and the reward is prodigious cornering, snappy steering, predictable and progressive understeer limits and just a fun all-around character. The ride is much more our style too; the standard Juke can feel a touch too soft, this feels German – just enough road feel without punching you in the kidneys.
  • Nissan shows once again that it knows what it's doing when designing a sporting manual transmission. Quick, notchy, great gear spread. We could row through those gates all day.
  • For the Juke's interior, Nissan has given its Nismo team the good drugs. There is a stark difference when stepping from a base Juke into the Nismo RS. Rather than climbing into soft seats, you slide across rigid thigh bolsters and drop down into some of the most racecar-like Recaro chairs on the road right now. Nissan admits they eat up a healthy portion of the almost $7,000 premium over the base vehicle, but they're worth it. Along with the suede seats, the Nismo RS has faux suede on the wheel, gauge hood, rear seats and door panels. The gauges are red. It's neato.
  • The real-time digital torque gauge (and drive info in screen general) is placed down low on the center stack, well below the safe line of sight. It would be fun to see them dance around. A bit disappointing.
  • The most unfair part of our drive was being nowhere near a closed course or a racetrack. It feels like there's a lot more to learn here, but not on public streets.
A common practice on these kinds of drives is to play the pricing game. The Price is Right rules apply, he who gets closest without going over wins. With the 2014 Juke Nismo RS, almost everybody we spoke with went over. $30,000-32,000 was the price most pegged this little devil with, yet its base price is $26,120 and ours came in at $28,345 with options. That seems eye-watering when a basic Juke runs $19,170, but this is so different as to be barely recognizable. Against rivals like the Ford Fiesta ST (let alone larger, heavier cars like the Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI), the Nismo RS costs a bit more. However, it has the higher seating position many customers prefer, plus a lot more visual chutzpah. The RS is by no means a perfectly behaved performer, but it's a ton of fun, and that's what really counts.

Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 1.6L I4
Power:
215 HP / 210 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
Base Price:
$26,120
As-Tested Price:
$28,345

News Source: Copyright 2014 Ben Wojdyla / AOL

Odds of dying in a traffic accident depend on which state you reside in

Posted Jul 23rd 2014 11:29AM

Speeding car passing fatal traffic accident sign.

Motorists in Massachusetts and Washington DC can breathe easier on their afternoon commutes today. Their chances of dying in a traffic accident are the lowest in the nation. Drivers in West Virginia, South Carolina and North Dakota, on the other hand, may want to be especially vigilant. They're collectively navigating some of the deadliest roads in the United States.

Your odds of dying in a traffic accident depend a lot on where you live. Michael Sivak, a researcher at the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute, has analyzed federal traffic data, and found a wide disparity in the fatality rates across individual US states and the District of Columbia.

Washington D.C. and Massachusetts ranked first and second in both lists of the safest states.

The data can be parsed two ways, either by measuring deaths per distance driven or the number of deaths measured relative to state population.

Measuring in terms of vehicle miles traveled, West Virginia has the highest fatality rate in the nation. It has a rate of 17.63 deaths per billion vehicle miles traveled, more than four times the rate of deaths found in the District of Columbia, where there are only 4.2 deaths per billion vehicle miles traveled. The national average is 11.3 fatalities per billion vehicle miles traveled.

Measuring in terms of death per population, there's even more of a disparity between the safest and most dangerous states. Washington DC has a fatality rate of 2.37 per 100,000 people. Residents in the worst state, North Dakota, are more than 10 times more likely to die, with a per-100,000-population rate of 24.3. (By population, the national average is 10.69 deaths per 100,000).

Overall, residents of the Northern Plains states and South have the worst fatality rates. Washington DC and Massachusetts ranked first and second in both lists of the safest states, and Minnesota, Connecticut, Washington, New Jersey and California all were among the top 10 on both lists. Among the most dangerous states, Oklahoma, Mississippi, North Dakota, West Virginia, South Carolina and Montana all ranked in the bottom 10 on both lists.

There are differences between the two lists, but the general results are similar: the safest states rank high on either list, and the more dangerous states fall toward the bottom in both cases.

Several factors shape the fatality rates, though Sivak cautions he has not attempted to discern their influences in this study. Generally speaking, "you can look at what speed limits are there, what kind of topography," he said. "What is the proportion of urban versus rural? What are the alcohol-enforcement policies? What is the age distribution of drivers? It goes on and on."

Dangers posed by rural roads can be especially acute. The consequence of a collision at high speeds, of course, are much greater than at lower city speeds, and factors like alcohol use, reduced visibility and drowsy driving can differ along urban-rural lines. Response time from emergency workers can also be longer.

Though there are many less vehicle miles traveled overall on rural roads, which are defined by specific population and density standards set by the Federal Highway Administration, they were home to 54 percent of traffic deaths in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics.

Where does your state rank? Click through to see.
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