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Motor Trend pits Camaro 1LE vs Mustang with Performance Pack, surprises ensue

Posted Oct 16th 2014 2:57PM

2015 Ford Mustang and 2015 Chevy Camaro

With the 2015 Ford Mustang firmly on the scene, the inevitable comparisons with its arch rival, the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro are just starting to trickle out. Over the next several months, you're likely to be inundated by every outlet's muscle car comparison, whether it be the turbocharged Ford against the V6 Chevy, a V8-powered convertible comparo or what we have here, a competition between each vehicle's performance upgrade.

Motor Trend has pitted the Camaro SS 1LE against a Mustang with the GT Performance Pack for a comprehensive series of comparisons on the test stage, street and finally, at Willow Springs with ace Randy Pobst behind the wheel. As per usual, we aren't about to spoil this one for you.

So, hit the play button, have a look and then let us know what you think in Comments.

News Source: Motor Trend Channel via YouTube

Convertible demand has tanked over last seven years

Posted Oct 16th 2014 2:15PM

Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

Few things match the joy of open-roofed motoring. The wind runs through your hair, the sun beats down and the trees flash overhead, and it's then that you realize that this elemental experience is just better than being permanently ensconced in stylized cage of steel and glass. Unfortunately for a lot of convertible manufacturers, consumers are unaware of this truth.

That's bad news for the sun worshipers among us, as a new report from Automotive News Europe indicates that falling demand for droptops is not just turning off automakers, but it's actually impacting the contracted manufacturers whose primary focus is canvas roofs and folding hardtops.

According to ANE, convertible sales are down from 5.4 percent of sales in the first half of 2007 to just 3.3 percent in 2014, a situation that is untenable for the three largest manufacturers of convertible roofs, according to one CEO.

Holger Engelmann, the CEO of the world's largest convertible system supplier, Webasto, told ANE if convertible sales continue to decline, the market won't be strong enough to support his company and its two main competitors, Magna CTS and Valmet, the second and third largest manufacturers, respectively.

The reasons for the decline of convertibles are wide and varied, but a few obvious things can be blamed – first, there are changing tastes. In the past, people opted for droptops "because they wanted to show that they belonged to a certain community," trend research Sven Gabor Janszky told ANE. "Today, people would rather show that they are something special or that ecology is very important to them by buying an electric car such as the Tesla or the BMW i3."

Beyond that, things are easier to pin down. According to the analysts that spoke to ANE, the market-wide shift towards crossovers and SUVs isn't just hurting sedans, it's having an impact on convertibles, too. Factor in the proliferation of glass roofs and panoramic sunroofs, which provide the sort of elemental experience typical of convertibles, but without the increased price, complexity and sometimes off-putting driving dynamics, and it's not too hard to see why convertible sales are facing issues.

Still, this isn't a trend we want to see. Here's hoping Joe Consumer realizes the error of his ways and moves back to open-roof driving.

Why narrower 10-foot roads may be safer than 12-foot roads

Posted Oct 16th 2014 1:30PM

Bicycle Buffer Zones

We live in a society where more is generally considered better. We want improved fuel economy from our cars, more data from our phones and a better picture from TVs. But when it comes to engineering some roads, giving drivers more room might not actually be an advantage. There's some evidence that switching from the current 12-foot standard for lanes to 10-foot-wide lanes for urban streets could boost safety. The change might potentially mean around 900 fewer fatal crashes each year.

An article on CityLab, a site that brings scientific thinking to the questions of urban life, investigates the current state of traffic engineering for lane width, and the author lays down a compelling argument about making things narrower. Two-feet might not sound like a lot, but when multiplied over the whole roadway, you end up with quite a bit of extra real estate to play with.

The piece explains some of the reasons that 12-foot lanes are the standard in the first place and then breaks each of those arguments down to show that they might be a fallacy. If nothing else, the story makes you think more about traffic engineering than you probably have in years. Read the whole story for yourself, here.

News Source: CityLab

Image Credit: Richard Vogel / AP Photo

Six luxury-car features I'm ashamed to admit I love

I Want My Hands Hot And My Butt Cold... Don't Judge Me

Posted Oct 16th 2014 12:44PM

Mercedes-Benz S-Klasse (W 222) 2013

A hot compress felt wonderful on my sore back. The methodical kneading of my shoulder blades loosened the knots that formed over several hours of driving. The Swedish-style pulses firing into my lumbar region released more tension.

I wasn't getting a much-needed massage following a recent road trip. I was getting it during the road trip.

I grew up riding in the back seat of a 1976 Chevy Nova. But once you use these lux features, it's easy to go soft.

It came courtesy of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a car which provides an array of "hot stone" massage features in the driver's seat. Controlled through distinct chambers in the seat, the luxury car offers six varieties of massages that lull a driver into automotive bliss.

On a barren stretch of interstate, the massage made my ride not just tolerable, but wholly enjoyable. I left the chair massage on for hours, and when the time came, I lamented the fact I had reached my destination.

These days, more and more luxury-car customers expect these sort of perks. Buying a luxury car is as much about the creature comforts as it is the precision of the powertrain. As the luxury carmakers seek to keep their brands a cut above the rest, they've gotten more creative in adding these indulgent innovations.

Over the past year, the seat massage has probably been my favorite creature comfort in a new car. But it has hardly been the only one I've come to appreciate.

Enjoying these new comforts doesn't come naturally. I grew up riding in the back seat of a 1976 Chevy Nova. But once you use them, it's easy to go soft. If it's been a while since you got behind the wheel of a luxury car, here's a look at a few of the advances you're missing out on:

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL, BMW, Mercedes-Benz

2015 Kia Soul EV

Progressing The Game, Just Not Changing It

Posted Oct 16th 2014 11:57AM

2015 Kia Soul EV

You'd be forgiven if you weren't fully aware of this vehicle's existence. While the Soul EV is a big deal for Kia, as it marks the Korean brand's first foray into the world of pure electric vehicles here in the US, it simply has not a been able to garner much regard from the average car fan or, really, the automotive press.

As a green car, it has to be tough to compete with Elon Musk's remarkable ability to consistently hold our attention with nearly everything he touches at Tesla. Add that to the fact that the Soul EV doesn't offer a ton in the way of aesthetics to differentiate itself from its gasoline-powered sibling – save a few tweaks here and there – and its limited initial availability (CA only for now), and you end up with a vehicle that just isn't on a lot of people's radar. And that's too bad.

You see, none of the above is meant to imply that this is a bad car. In fact, as you read through our driving notes, you'll see that the reality is actually the opposite: Kia has a genuinely solid product on its hands.

Driving Notes
  • Those limited exterior changes we spoke of include a larger, sealed-off 'Tiger Nose' grille with integrated charge port, blue-tinged lighting, unique front fascia, ultra-aerodynamic Cuisinart-spec alloy wheels, plus the obligatory badges and unique color and trim options.
  • The Soul EV employs an 81.4-kW electric motor fueled by a 27-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. The latter weighs a whopping 620 pounds with its warming system, taking the car's overall curb weight up to about 3,400 pounds. Considering that the regular Soul comes in at just 2,784, that added mass makes the Soul EV pretty hefty for a hamster.
  • In spite of the car's added weight, the instant torque provided by an electric powertrain means that acceleration is a hoot. It doesn't take much to get the tires to chirp when starting from a dead stop, and even though the 0-60 time isn't anything to write home about, the initial boost of power that the car experiences off of the line is enough to make scooting around town an enjoyable affair. All told, the powertrain makes 109 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque.
  • Electric vehicles have progressed in many ways over just the past few years, but one thing that impresses here is how much the feel of regenerative braking has improved. The Soul still suffers from a noticeable sharp-bite-then-fade when stopping or slowing down, but it's not nearly as jarring as EVs we've experienced in the past. This makes driving in traffic especially nice, which is particularly important since that's where the vast majority of EVs live.
  • Like the regular gas-powered Soul, this EV isn't really intended for aggressive drives along winding mountain roads, but I did it anyway, and I have to admit that I walked away impressed with its handling. Its electric power steering is on the heavier side, and is responsive to quick and minute inputs. The aforementioned weighty battery pack keeps the center of gravity very low, which inspires confidence when taking a turn at speed. All in all, the Soul EV is more about efficiency, and that's evidenced in its small wheels and super low rolling resistance tires that are geared more towards extending range than spirited handling. Even so, we'd venture to call this a fun little hatch to drive.
  • The Soul EV has a range of 93 miles, depending on how you're driving. That's a solid number – in fact, the Tesla Model S is the only electric that beats it, according to Kia – but there's still a limit to this vehicle's utility. Buyers in urban areas with short commutes should be able to get by owning just this vehicle, but for anyone in the suburbs, the Soul EV will likely serve as an addition to any potential buyer's existing fleet.
  • The Soul EV offers both an SAE J1772 port for Level 1 and Level 2 AC charging as well as a CHAdeMo DC fast-charging port (480v). Charging takes five hours with a 240-volt outlet, and using a 50-kW quick charger will give the batteries an 80-percent charge in as few as 33 minutes.
  • In many EVs built on an existing internal-combustion platform, there are noticeable bumps and/or indentations carved out for the battery pack – as a result, there's less room in the rear seats or the trunk. Hats off to Kia engineers, though, who have managed to shoehorn all of the cells into this model without sacrificing any interior space. Since a big selling point for the Soul has been the versatility of its spaciousness and cargo room, that's a big, big win.
  • Speaking of this Soul's interior, it's a really nice place to be. The new version of the gasoline-powered Soul has made tremendous strides in its improved cabin materials, ride and noise levels. Since this vehicle eschews the normal rumble of an internal combustion engine, it's even quieter, leaving only faint traces of road and wind noise to experience. Additionally, the seats are comfortable and Kia's newest iteration of its UVO infotainment system makes controlling media and other functions easy. Its EV-only digital instrument cluster is crisp and easy to read.
All told, this is one of the better EVs we've driven over the past couple years. That speaks to both Kia's aptitude for making a green vehicle, and just how much the genre has improved in a relatively short period of time in regards to their range, cost and overall driver experience. Heck, compared to the Nissan Leaf, this thing feels downright posh.

The Soul EV is not going to change the landscape of alternate-fuel vehicles, but it's a legitimately nice vehicle. For a driver in an urban area or for someone outside the city who wants something a little greener for grocery runs, this is a sensible and enjoyable option.

Vital Stats

Soul EV +
AC Synchronous Motor
109 HP / 210 LB-FT
Single-Speed Auto
Base Price:
As-Tested Price:
$36,500 (est)

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Zak / AOL

Americans could waste $2.8 trillion being stuck in traffic by 2030

Posted Oct 16th 2014 11:31AM

Washington Rain

Traffic Congestion Cost StudySitting stopped in congested traffic might be one of the most frustrating feelings imaginable. You're trapped in your car unsure when things might pick up again, when all you really want is to get to your destination. Not only is this exasperating, it might be costing us all a huge pile of money.

A study from the Centre for Economics and Business Research and the company Inrix Inc claims to be the first to assess the "economic and environmental costs of US traffic." It reports that cumulatively between 2013 and 2030 traffic congestion could cost the US $2.8 trillion (graph right).

According to the study's calculations, Americans wasted wasted $124 billion sitting in traffic in 2013 and it cost the average household $1,700. Los Angles drivers had it the worst with $23.2 billion lost, nearly a fifth of the national total. The average drivers sat in 65 hours of traffic during the year. By 2030, the national figure is predicted to increase by about 50 percent to $186 billion squandered in gridlock annually.

Inrix claims that the amounts are based on an analysis of direct costs like people's wasted time and fuel and indirect factors like the higher price of goods that congestion causes. It also predicts there being 30 million more vehicles on the roads over the next 17 years.

The study's conclusion somewhat mirrors another analysis predicting increases in traffic for certain areas around the country. However, other recent evaluations find people to generally be driving less, especially the young.

Inrix is a company that collects driving data and sells transportation inspiration services to automakers and cities. Scroll down to read more about the study it commissioned.

News Source: Inrix

Image Credit: Elaine Thompson / AP Photo, Inrix

Fiat opens doors at Abarth factory on Google Street View

Posted Oct 16th 2014 11:02AM

Officine Abarth on Google Street View

Google Street View has emerged as a great tool for checking out locations along your driving route, and even scoping out places you don't have a chance to go yourself. And that includes some great automotive installations. The online tool has taken us inside museums, race tracks and factories around the world, but while it has not to date allowed us virtual access to a European automotive factory, Fiat is out to correct that wrong by letting the Street View team inside Officine Abarth.

The new Abarth Virtual Tour allows online visitors to see the complex in Turin where it makes its hot hatches, including the lifts where the mechanics go to work, the paint spray booth, and a variety of technical workshops, as well as a display of historic Abarth models, a 360-degree view inside and out of the extreme Abarth 695 Biposto and even inside a reproduction of founder Karl Abarth's office. Scope it out for a visit inside Italy's premiere hot hatch studio.

News Source: Abarth

Kids 39% more likely to buy parents' car brand

Posted Oct 16th 2014 10:14AM


Children are a blank slate. They draw their habits, behaviors and mannerisms from their parents. If you subscribe to that viewpoint, then this study out of Michigan State University won't really come as a surprise. According to Soren Anderson, and MSU economist, kids are 39 percent more likely to buy cars from the brands their parents support.

So, if your parents buy Jeeps, there's a strong correlation that you're going to end up behind a seven-slat grille at some point. Same goes for Cadillac owners, Toyota fans and Bimmerphiles.

The on-going study drew this correlation after surveying 4,300 adult children and their 2,600 parents. The nationwide surveys were held every two years between 1999 and 2011 and brands were bunched by ownership, so for example, rather than listing Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC independently, General Motors was the sole option.

"In theory, these findings could change the way automakers price and market their cars," Anderson claims. "Is this really about the cars or could it be other factors, like parents and children tending to be more similar to each other than other people? We're pretty sure it has something to do with the cars themselves."

The results of Anderson's study will be published in the Journal of Industrial Economics. Scroll down for a press release on the topic.

News Source: Michigan State University

Image Credit: Peter Parks / AFP / Getty Images

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles recalls nearly 750k vehicles in two campaigns

Posted Oct 16th 2014 9:30AM

2014 Chrysler 300S

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is recalling a total of 747,817 vehicles in the US in two separate campaigns recently added to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database.

The first one covers about 434,581 units of the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Challenger, Durango, and Jeep Grand Cherokee from the 2011-2014 model years with electric hydraulic power steering, the 3.6-liter V6 engine and a 160 amp alternator, according to FCA. In the affected vehicles, it's possible for the alternator to fail without warning and possibly cause the car to stall. According to the documentation submitted to NHTSA, the automaker began investigating the problem in August 2014 and has found possible evidence of one crash caused by the failures but no known injuries.

Customers will begin receiving notification about the recall next month, and obviously the repairs will be done at no cost to them.

The second recall covers a reported 313,236 units of the 2011-2013 Jeep Wrangler built between February 16, 2010, and July 19, 2013. An electrical connection could corrode and cause a short in models with heated power side mirrors. The company says that this could potentially cause a fire. However, there are no reports of crashes, injuries, fatalities or fires related to the problem known to the automaker at this time.

According to the documents submitted to NHTSA, the first reports of this came from three Wranglers in Canada in February, 2013. Testing showed that water was making contact with the connection and caused the corrosion.

To fix the problem dealers will move the connection to a new place and will add a water shield and dielectric grease to the area. The company will begin contacting owners in early December.

Scroll down to read NHTSA's reports about both recalls.
Related Gallery2014 Chrysler 300S
2014 Chrysler 300S2014 Chrysler 300S2014 Chrysler 300S2014 Chrysler 300S2014 Chrysler 300S2014 Chrysler 300S

News Source: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Image Credit: Chrysler, Jeep

German man drives Mercedes G-Wagen on 557k-mile, 26-year road trip [w/video]

Posted Oct 16th 2014 8:44AM

Mercedes G-Class

It's a common dream to just drop everything, load up the car and make a life on the open road traveling from place to place. The vast of majority of us just fantasize about it, but it's a reality for the German couple Gunther and Christine Holtorf. They are just finishing what might be the world's longest road trip covering around 560,000 miles in a Mercedes-Benz 300GD named Otto (pictured above right) over the past 26 years.

Their goal was to visit as many countries as possible, and they ended up reached 215, including places like base camp at Mount Everest; they definitely achieved their dream. The same distance would have gotten them from the Earth to the moon and back, plus a few thousand extra miles to just cruise around.

Holtorf claims that Otto remained mostly stock for the odyssey. "The entire drivetrain with the engine, transmission and axles is still original," he said. However, some upgraded suspension parts were installed to handle the extra load from all the supplies the couple needed to carry.

Otto isn't retiring quite yet, but the hard part is over. The 300GD is going on display briefly at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart and then taking a tour of the company's dealers in Europe beginning in February 2015.

Coinciding with the latest stop in Otto's voyage, the G-Class is celebrating its 35th anniversary. To commemorate it in Europe, Mercedes is launching the Edition 35 version (pictured above left) of the long-living truck. It gets obsidian black metallic parts for the bumpers, wheels arches, side mirrors and roof and a similar motif for the interior, as well. "I promise that there will still be a G-Class in the future," said Daimler chairman Dr. Dieter Zetsche in the company's announcement.

There's a full chronicle of the trip with many videos, but it's in German. The BBC also has an excellent long-form piece about the couple in English. Scroll down to watch a brief video about the journey that's also auf Deutsch and read Mercedes' press release.
Related GalleryMercedes-Benz 300GD Otto
Mercedes-Benz 300GD OttoMercedes-Benz 300GD OttoMercedes-Benz 300GD OttoMercedes-Benz 300GD OttoMercedes-Benz 300GD OttoMercedes-Benz 300GD OttoMercedes-Benz 300GD OttoMercedes-Benz 300GD Otto

News Source: Mercedes-Benz, Ottos Reise, BBC News, Stern via YouTube

Lotus rolls out factory delivery program for Elise, Exige and Evora

Posted Oct 16th 2014 8:01AM

Lotus Delivery Program

"We are delighted to open our doors to customers so that they can collect their new car from us direct." – Jean-Marc Gales

Buying a Lotus sports car now comes with an added perk – you get a peek behind the curtain at the famous factory in Hethel, England.

It's the centerpiece of a new delivery program Lotus is launching, where customers can come to the iconic factory – where every Lotus has been built since 1967 – and pick up their new Elise, Exige or Evora. Customers receive a tour and are presented with their new car by Lotus officials. They also get a personalized owner's booklet and can visit the Lotus classic collection. Additionally, the program includes a photo shoot of the event, a signed print by Clive Chapman (Colin's son) and a car cover.

It starts at 832.50 pounds, or about $1,330. To add track time with a Lotus instructor, it's 999 pounds, or about $1,600.

The packages can be ordered through Lotus dealers.

"Hethel is the heart of Lotus, where we have been designing, developing and building the most exciting and uncompromising handmade British sports cars for nearly 50 years, and we are delighted to open our doors to customers so that they can collect their new car from us direct," Lotus chief executive officer Jean-Marc Gales said in a statement.

Factory delivery programs have become popular in recent years for high-end cars, as they allow brands to connect with their enthusiast buyers directly and are a source of additional revenue. BMW has long had a program that allows customers to pick up their new vehicles at its base in Munich, Germany, and tour the plant and museum. Similarly, Chevy offers a program in Bowling Green, KY, where customers can watch their Stingrays being built and spec-out their sports car down to the smallest detail.

The program is a bright spot for Lotus, which has endured controversy in recent weeks for plans to skip the 2015 model year due to air bag compliance issues in the United States and news of its plans to lay off a quarter of its workforce. Currently, Lotus is selling down its inventory of 2014 Evoras in the US market, and will sell race-spec cars during its off year. Other models are still offered in other markets.

For the official press release, click below.

News Source: Lotus

1969 Chevrolet Chevelle vs 1987 Buick GNX in Generation Gap showdown

Posted Oct 15th 2014 8:01PM

Chevy COPO Chevelle versus Buick Grand National GNX

Generation Gap generally tries to adhere to a theme for each episode, and for the final video from the Lingenfelter collection, the series might have its best idea yet – limited-production muscle cars from General Motors.

On one side you get a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle COPO, and it's an absolute sleeper. Other than the SS wheels, this classic coupe looks practically bone stock, at least until the engine fires up. Under the hood is a 427-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) V8 making a claimed 425 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. This was the sole year for the COPO package on the Chevelle, and Chevy only made about 323 of them.

The Chevelle's challenger is almost as rare and arguably just as cool. The 1987 Buick Grand National GNX looks just as mean today as when new. It eschews a traditional muscular V8 in favor of a 3.8-liter turbo V6 making a claimed 276 hp and 360 lb-ft, although that number is supposedly a bit underrated. Also, just 547 examples of the GNX version were ever built making it quite a collector's item too.

So what era of muscle do you prefer? Undoubtedly, both the Chevelle and GNX are certified classics, but they make their performance credentials in very different ways. Ken Lingenfelter even weighs in during the video to pick his favorite. Check it out to see which one he prefers.

News Source: Motor Trend Channel via YouTube

What you missed on 10.15.14

Posted Oct 15th 2014 7:28PM


Review: 2015 Audi A3

Audi's newest point of entry has been clocking strong sales and driving a lot of consumer interest in the months that it has been on sale. With a formula that combines design hallmarks of the brand with reasonable power from its 2.0T and a $30k-ish price to own, there's a lot to like. But does the new small Audi sedan come together in a way that will amuse drivers as it satisfies the badge patrol?

Honda CR-V crowned SUV of the Year

There was an especially strong crop of utility vehicles to choose from this year, when our pals at Motor Trend set out to pick 2015's very best. So, when we heard that the 2015 Honda CR-V won out over the likes of Cherokee, Escalade and Macan, well, we were certainly interesting in finding out both why and how. You should do the same, here.

Mystery Benz is fascinating and unknown

Typically when we're sent a fresh set of spy photographs, we have at least a good working idea of what we're looking at. So, when something shows up that's truly puzzling, it's an exciting day. Cue Mercedes and a sheet-cloaked concept car of some ilk, with spaceship-like proportions and zero real back story. Get our best guess, and make your own in Comments, by clicking through.

Top Stories

Datsun's lackluster initial sales fall below Tata Nano

Posted Oct 15th 2014 7:02PM

Carlos Ghosn with the new Datsun Go

When Tata introduced the Nano back in 2008, everyone was amazed at how cheap it was. They called it a game changer, but no game was changed. In fact, it took Tata five years to sell the 250,000 units it had the capacity to build in a single year. As it turns out, even buyers in what economists call "developing markets" like India aren't necessarily interested in buying an ultra-cheap automobile. And now it appears that Nissan may be falling into the same trap.

A little over a year ago, Nissan revived its old moniker Datsun to serve as a budget brand – similar to what ally Renault did with Dacia. Its lineup (consisting of models like the Go hatchback, Go+ minivan, On-Do sedan and Mi-Do hatch) is largely based on old architecture, packaged with little more than basic equipment and sold at rock-bottom prices. But Bloomberg reports that, even in the brand's core markets like India and Indonesia, the new Datsuns haven't been selling.

According to local industry figures, Datsun has sold fewer than 10,000 units of its $5,100 Go hatchbacks in India since its introduction back in March. Maruti Suzuki, by comparison, sells twice that many of its similarly priced Alto hatchbacks every month. In fact, after peaking in April, Datsun only sold 607 units in India this past July, dipping 77 percent to drop below even the number of Nanos which Tata sold that month.

That could be bad news for CEO Carlos Ghosn, who has pledged to increase Nissan's global market share by one-third to eight percent by March 2017. The news could get even worse if the market continues to shrink as expected in Russia, another cornerstone market for the Dacia brand and where the notion of buying a Romanian-made Dacia has, according to our contacts at Renault, proven unpopular.

It is, of course, too early to predict how Datsun will perform in the long run. The brand is still new and may need some time to gain public recognition and market share. Otherwise, we may have another Tata Nano on our hands: an astonishingly cheap car that no one actually wants to buy.
Related Gallery2014 Datsun Go
2014 Datsun Go2014 Datsun Go2014 Datsun Go2014 Datsun Go2014 Datsun Go2014 Datsun Go2014 Datsun Go2014 Datsun Go

News Source: Bloomberg


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