Friday, March 31, 2006

Am I the Only One Who Thinks There's Something Not Quite Right About the "Rendezvous" Clip?

The more I watch this clip, the more it seems to me the motion one should see given the sounds of the engine, shifts and tires doesn't quite match with the actual motion portrayed in the clip. Am I the only person with this reaction?

I raced open-wheel Formula Fords, as well as a variety of fendered race cars, for three years and I've spent a good amount of time since 1985 on race tracks across the country testing new models from the manufacturers. So I have some sense of what high speed looks and sounds like.

The vehicle in "Rendezvous" sounds like it is powered by a highly tuned naturally aspirated V-6 that is routinely capable of moving the tach needle way over to the right while straining toward top speed in fifth gear. The car is said to be a mid-70s Ferrari, so my guess is it's a Dino because I don't quite hear the tearing sheet sound of a Ferrari V-12.

And the powerplant that dominates the senses during the clip also sounds imminently capable of reaching velocities far into triple digit speed territory that are clearly suggested at several points in the clip. Allegedly, the top speed reached during the clip is 140 mph.

But ... at the end of the long, long straight (perhaps the producer meant to suggest Mulsanne?) in the opening scenes where the driver is flat out in fifth, for example, he barely slows from what sounds like 150+ mph for what appears to be a large, open traffic circle.

The cars being passed and other elements of the scenery don't approach and flick by as swiftly as they should and there are times braking into and accelerating out of corners where the tires squeal long after they should have, given the turn-in and track-out points.

Even if there is something fishy about the clip, though, I have to admit that I love the sound of the engine as the driver blips the throttle and downshifts in the traditional heel-and-toe style that is disappearing now in the age of clutch-less paddle shifters and manumatics.

And I appreciate that he misses a couple of upshifts, over-cooks it getting in to a couple of corners and misses several apexes. But I wonder why there is not much more vertical movement when traversing a couple of rises in the road.

Anyway, this clip just doesn't look like it sounds. Could this be an automotive analogy of lip-synching?

What do you think?






CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, March 31, 2006


April is arriving, so the New York Auto Show is just around the corner. That explains the deluge of news releases from automakers announcing this new model or that new concept during the April 14-23 event.

But lots of other interesting "stuff" has been happenning this week, too, so how about we grab a cyber-first gear and hit the road for this week's drive around the auto blogs block!

Holmes Tuttle, who just happens to be U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James, remembers what the American Revolution was about - "No Taxation Without Representation" - and he takes seriously the time-honored international practice of not taxing visiting diplomats. Don't Mess With Taxes explains the car connection on this story here.

Stephen and Dorri over at If It's Got An Engine ... have company coming, so naturally they gotta have a rag top. You may be surprised to learn what they found when Stephen went on the hunt. Or maybe not. Go here.

Now, moving right along ...

Did you know the Sebring 12 Hour earlier this month marked the 50th anniversary of Corvettes competing in international sports car racing events? If I recall correctly from my reading as a six-year-old in Dad's Hot Rod magazines, John Fitch was the first factory Corvette driver. Fitch was hobbled by an unsorted vehicle but the factory team did rather better at this year's enduro.

Peter DeLorenzo at Auto Extremist wonders why Chevy isn't making a much bigger deal out of the anniversary, noting that "the Corvette Racing program is probably GM's most visible sign of success to the rest of the world - especially when it delivers another Le Mans victory - and it should be the priority, rather than an afterthought."

I agree. And with Toyota coming into NASCAR next year, you can bet the Corvette effort will become an even lower priority at GM. The Corvette deserves better.

Autoblog thinks you ought to check out the new long-term subscription deal from Grassroots Motorsports.

Cars! Cars! Cars! sees a certain contradiction between this and this. But don't worry cauz C!C!C! explains everything.

Excellent post over at Carscoop explaining why the U.S. and E.U. are filing a joint complaint at the World Trade Organization against China concerning auto parts. Given the exploding nature of China's economy, this skirmish is likely only the first of many to come.

Should the IRL have cancelled the Homestead race last weekend after Paul Dana died in a warmup crash? FastMachines surveys the commentary and recomends a couple of articulate advocates for both sides of the debate.

Others are crying "The Sky is falling" but not GM's Bob Lutz who returns to Fastlane Blog to remind us that his very first post there promised lots of excitement coming from Saturn. Now the Sky is red!

Somebody in France has invented a vehicle that runs on .... air, according to FosFor Wheels. I wonder how easily it burns.

Gear6 says one of the many debuts anticipated at the New York Auto Show is a new Lexus LS hybrid.

Nissan's Shiro Nakamura had this gem of advice for GM: "You need to touch your customers more." At first glance, you might conclude old Shiro never got the memo following the "Pepsi brings back your dead ancestors" debacle in China, but on further reflection, I realized those wild and crazy guys at Jalopnik were indulging a bit of editorial creativity. Still worth reading.

Anybody know if Jonathan Fry is out of the auto blog business?

You must read Dave Leggett's account at Just-Auto of his long-ago interview with a Chinese official and a host of his buddies who came along to sample the Peking Duck. That is a reference, by the way, not to an item on the menu but apparently to the guy picking up the tab.

Left Lane News reports things are getting tense at the UAW as Delphi heads toward bankruptcy court.

My Honest Mechanic's Austin Davis takes a spin in the new R-class from the Benz boys.

Somebody at Ford isn't satisfied with the Fusion's lines, judging by these spy shots you will find at Straightline.com.

Want to get a feel for what's it's like these days for some people working white collar jobs at a struggling U.S. industrial giant. Check out this post by The Auto Prophet.

Something from MPH blog to think about the next time you think about putting an evangelistic sticker on your bumper.

Lincoln's LT pickup comes in for some measured praise from The Truth About Cars' Sajeev Mehta. I still think it's the answer to a question nobody in particular was really asking but that's just me.

And finally, Joe Sherlock at The View Through the Windshield takes a stroll down memory lane with a bunch of New York Auto Show memorabilia.

And don't forget:

Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of cars using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.





Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Would Zora Recognize the Chevrolet Malibu SS?


Ever since Arkus Duntov fielded the original Corvette SS, that designation has had special meaning when coupled with a Chevrolet – namely that this one is fast and, being a Chevy, affordable.

So what’s with the Malibu SS? Not that there is anything wrong with the Malibu but it is one of the odder creations to emerge from General Motors design shops in years and even in the hatchback Maxx edition presumes only to be a high-value choice for low-budget buyers who need a family car.

But the contemporary Malibu bears virtually no relation to the mid-size Chevy that bowed in 1964 and about five minutes later spawned a Malibu SS with a 396 cubic inch edition of the Z11 porcupine head 427 mystery engine under the hood.

The newest Malibu SS does get an engine upgrade, compared to the civilian versions, which are powered by either a 2.2 liter four cylinder producing 144 horses or a 3.5-liter V-6 good for 201 horsepower.

The SS gets a 240 horsepower 3.9 liter V-6 that is coupled with a four-speed automatic that features adaptive shifting and manumatic controls. My Laser Blue Metallic tester chalked up consistent low seven-second 0-60 mph times. Other testers have seen sub-seven second times.

The SS also gets bigger wheels and tires, plus a refined suspension setup that provides great ride quality in city driving while also allowing the Malibu to move down a twisty road with some authority.

The powertrain is a front-wheel-drive configuration and the 3.9-liter displays some unexpected torque steer, especially on wet pavement, but the V-6 still manages to be a more than adequately smooth and spirited performer. It helps immensely that the Malibu is built on GM’s Epsilon platform.

Too bad it has to do its thing within the Malibu. I’m sorry, but this car just isn’t especially attractive, at least to my eyes. I know Chevy has had some sales success with the Malibu and it won’t surprise me a bit to see the SS improving that score.

A redesigned Malibu is in the works and the various sketches floating around the auto blogs and purporting to represent the coming model’s lines clearly reflect some of the themes seen in the recently unveiled Camaro Concept.

Let’s hope Chevy is able to restore the to Malibu a look that commands attention, screams speed and satisfies the desire for fluidity and form working together. If the powertrain is equally successful in doing its thing, the Malibu will have truly been restored.

Maybe even enough for Zora to recognize it!





Sunday, March 26, 2006

As Truth of Detroit's Plight Becomes Clearer Even Some in the UAW Are Beginning to Get It

Excellent piece in today's edition of The Washington Post focusing on the GM-Delphia agreement and how it is being received by long-time members of the United Auto Workers union.

The UAW has been the driving force for the past five decades in determining the economic equation under which Detroit has been forced to compete with the onslaught of Japanese and European competitors. The Post story by reporter Dale Russakoff that aptly summarizes what the UAW has wrought:

"Even as the UAW's ranks are shrinking, foreign automakers such as Kia and Toyota - whose U.S. plants are non-union - have vastly expanded. The foreign automakers pay comparable wages and benefits for active workers, in part to ward off unions, but they do not have the staggering retiree benefits of the Big Three. GM, for instance, has 2.5 retirees for every active worker."

Yes, management at all three of the major U.S. automakers have made countless stupid mistake after bumbling goof over the years in marketing, design, public policy and customer relations. Their arrogance and narrow-mindedness in the face of foreign challenges often bordered on the legendary.

But the bottomline for any business, (but especially one as capital intensive as making and selling vehicles) is most influenced by the cost of the workforce. Personnel is virtually always the biggest item in the budget of a mass-production manufacturing operation. And that is where the arrogance and narrow-mindedness of union leaders made everything infinitely more difficult.

Sooner or later reality had to catch up with the UAW's blind demands for massive wage hikes, lavish health care and pension benefits, virtual lifetime employment security through job banks that pay 90% of the unemployed's previous wages and decades of spending hundreds of millions of dollars in members' dues to support politicians whose public policy agendas were equally out of touch with economic reality.

There just isn't anything like a free lunch.

Go here for the full Post piece.








Friday, March 24, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, March 24, 2006


All winter I muttered "Spring can't get here too soon, Spring can't get here too soon," and now it's finally here. Well at least on the calender, it is. Things have been warming up around the auto blogs this week, too, so what say we throw this puppy in gear and head on out?

Excessive labor costs, unsustainable pension and healthcare costs, lengthy new model development cycles, boring design, you name it, General Motors Corp. has all of those problems and more. Hardly anybody on Wall Street would be surprised to read of a GM bankruptcy filing. But Professor Stephen Bainbridge suggests GM's biggest problem goes even deeper - it's the layer upon layer of hierarchy in management. Very persuasive case here.

Audi made history at Sebring, winning with a diesel-powered racecar. Brian Vermette at Racedriven.com takes note.

Mazda has a brand new crossover coming next month called the CX-7 and Inside Line's Karl Brauer has driven it. Only problem is if he tells us about it, Mazda will kill him for violating the April 20 embargo. So go here to learn more about the new Mazda CX-7. No, Karl didn't break the embargo, but he sure is a cagey writer.

Check out this Gatornationals wrap from The Driving Woman's Sheila Mar, which includes interviews with Sheila Troxel and Shirley Muldowney.

Next time you wonder what kind of mileage you can expect from that shiny new car that caught your eye on the dealer's lot, Phil Reed with Strategies for Smart Car Buyers has just the thing to turn you into an educated consumer. Statistics are wonderful, aren't they!

Now, moving right along ...

So your boss says "here's a check for $35,000 for you to get lost and never come back." And you say???? TheCarConnection.com details the GM-Delphi deal.

OK, who said this: "If carrots are so good for the eyes, why does the pointy end hurt when you stick it in?" Joe Sherlock at The View Through the Windshield will tell you but you have click the mouse thingie here. While you're there, be sure and read all about the Cobalt Queen of GM.

Oh man, dyad ya see that thang!!?? Iz got a Hemi!!! I never seed no throttle steerin' lak that before!!!! It's here at The Auto Prophet and it is probably the most linked to video ever down in Dawg Country.

And now for something completely, totally, I mean absolutely different from the return of the General, Serious Wheels' spotlight is on the Lambo Hamann Gallardo.

One of the world's top emerging carmakers is slashing its prices. Paul Tan will tell you who, what, when and where here.

My Honest Mechanic's Austin Davis knows just what to say when your buggy has that spongy brake thing going.

Joe at MyFordDreams has been having terminal-sounding problems with Blogger all week. Hey, Joe, don't give up. It's been a hard week for a lot of Blogger users, including yours truly. Movable Type is looking better every day, my friend.

David Wassman at MotorAlley goes googling for Pontiac and came up with one very insightful comparison of a Grand Prix with the Camry. Rick, are you listening, buddy?

Want your 2007 Dodge Calibre to take less than six seconds to get to 60 mph? Left Lane News has some news you need to know.

There's actually a fair amount of good news for GM for those willing to look beyond Detroit, according to JustAuto.com's Dave Leggett.

Jalopnik's Fast is a little gassy ..... but only just a little. Me neither. Go here.

Ever heard of the Classic Car Club in Manhattan? Shouting Thomas at Harleys, Cars, Girls & Guitars was driving by there recently and investigated. What he found is an interesting concept for putting gorgeous vehicles like the 89 Ferrari 348 GTB pictured with the post in your driveway. For a day or so anyway. Check it out here.

WARNING: Grant's Auto Rants is doing that exponential notation calculation stuff again. I thought he was back on his meds!! They never should have rented "A Beautiful Mind." Seriously, it's all about BMW, hydrogen and the next big thing in alternative alternatives.

Lots of talk about a low-end Cayenne from Porsche over at Gear6.

Racing season starts soon for the real race cars - you know, the ones that don't have fenders - and Fast Machines has lots of great stuff, including Danica playing it cool about her absence from Victory Lane. Will Danica's critics remember a certain Mr. Cheever who spent how many years in F1 without a trophy to show for it?

If you ever wondered how they make those neat auto tv spots, Carscoop has it on a Bimmer piece from Down Under.

Anybody know who owns the ticketed Ferrari Carpundit saw across the street from Park's True Value Hardware in Boston?

AutoBlog's John Neff drives the Lincoln Zephyr and explains why its lack of stability control is not a concern. Now, tell me again, Mr. Ford, what will the Zephyr's name be this time next year?

This Just In! The Justice Department publishes the "Criminal Resource Manual," according to Auto Muse. Strange, I thought DOJ's job was depriving criminals of resources ....

And finally, the clock goes tick, tick, tick for Rick, according to Auto Extremist honcho Peter DeLorenzo. Here's the bottom line: "The bottom line for Rick Wagoner is that even if some sort of an agreement with the UAW and Delphi is hammered out this week, it won't be enough."

Again, thanks to all the new contributors to the Carnival of Cars and we will meet again right here next week.

And don't forget:

Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of cars using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.





Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Is Audi's A3 Turbo a Wagon, a Hatchback or What? I Just Call it Fun


Actually, the A3 combines elements of several configurations in one package that is practical, refined, comfortable and modestly affordable for most folks. To put it another way, the A3 is quite literally the Audi of fine econocars.

The A3 shares the Volkswagen Golf’s platform and drivetrain, but there are more than enough distinctively Audi elements of this vehicle to insure it is never confused with the Peoples Car Company.

The A3 is also not Audi’s first at-bat in seeking to offer an econo sedan with some higher end trimmings and performance. Folks who remember the Audi Fox and VW Dasher sometimes don’t realize they also shared platforms.

In fact, my very first new car was a cream-colored 75 Fox with a tan interior and I absolutely loved that hot little sedan. It was a little expensive to repair but a complete blast to drive. And in those days, Audis were still fairly rare on American roads and not yet made the target of automotive yellow journalism.

Okay, enough with the walk down memory lane, what about the A3 turbo? It’s a hoot, let me tell you. Serious drivers will appreciate the A3’s handling prowess, the tremendous smoothness and flexibility of the 197 horsepower 2.0 liter turbo four and the refined braking and steering.

Popping 0-60 mph in 6.46 seconds was routine duty for my Lava Gray Pearl Effect A3 2.0 Turbo tester with the Direct Shift Gearbox and Electronic Stabilization Program. This is the kind of car that makes you anticipate Saturday all week, just thinking about the fun you are going to have driving a favorite road, over and over.

I thought the A3 looked a little on the heavy side when it first arrived in my driveway but after driving it a couple of hours I was quite impressed with how agile and maneuverable it felt.
I was doubly impressed when I checked the spec sheet and found its curb weight is slightly above 3,200 pounds.

Considering the conventional nature of its suspension pieces – MacPherson struts up front and four-link independent out back, with anti-roll bars at both ends – the A3 is fast, fun and tremendously responsive. It’s my kind of car for driving fun.

Practicality? Well, the A3 is a hatchback and the rear seats do fold down to expand the cargo capacity. The front seats are comfortable and form-fitting, providing excellent support for long distance touring and daily commuting.

My tester’s sticker bottom-lined at a pricey $34,835, but I could quite happily live with an A3 2.0T without the Navigation and premium sound package for $2,850, the Open Sky System for $1,100 and the XM satellite radio for $350.






Friday, March 17, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, March 17, 2006


Despite the late start, we're fired up now and ready to head out on this week's Carnival of Cars: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, March 17, 2006.

Before we go, though, thank you to the growing list of Carnival of Cars submitters. The list gets longer every week and that is good for everybody. So, let's hit the cyber road:

There was a time when Henry Ford wanted his company to be so self-sufficient that its monstrous Rouge factory would receive at one end from Ford-owned producers and transporters from around the globe all of the raw materials needed to build the car that finally emerged at the other end.

That was one extreme of the vertical integration versus outsourcing debate that has been a commonplace in the auto industry virtually from the start. Now comes Professor Stephen Bainbridge of UCLA Law School and ProfessorBainbridge.com with an in-depth analysis of the current troubles at GM and Ford and how they relate to the outsourcing or vertical integration issue.

If the names "Hondo Crouch," "Jerry Jeff Walker," "Helotes" and the "Broken Spoke" are familiar terms, then you are either from Texas or you wish you were from Texas because you've been there. If that sentence makes no sense to you, Kay Bell at Don't Mess With Taxes explains it all, including the automotive connection, here. BTW, they are and I am.

Now, let's head over this way to Miss Cellania's explanation for why WWJD really means "What Would Jesus Drive?" Let me tell you, this lady knows all about the One Ton Tomato song and she's a scriptural scholar to boot!

If you are still wondering about any aspect, and I do mean any, of the Las Vegas NASCAR doings, Racedriven.com's Brian Vermette has you covered. As you might expect, a roll of the dice is definitely a key part of the story, on and off the track.

As young as he looks, Inside Line's Karl Brauer probably doesn't even know what Maypo was but he wants his E85 and he wants it now. He doesn't sound too impressed with promises from the politicos for a plan coming to increase the current total of 600 service stations selling the stuff. That's 600 down and only 169,400 to go.

Nissan hasn't had many fumbles in recent years, but The Driving Woman's Erin Riches is doubtful the changes announced for the Quest during the Chicago Auto Show will do much to erase the French-owned Japanese firm's lapses in the minivan market.

Have you ever been walking down in the mall or sitting through an important meeting at the office and suddenly asked yourself this burning question: "What About Holdback?" If you are an educated auto consumer, you have. Strategies for Smart Car Buyers has the answers.

Now, moving right along ...

Peter DeLorenzo at Auto Extremist thinks there may well be a bunch more Nissan fumbles ahead because the move from South Cal to the Tennessee Waltz is looking more and more like a disastrous decision. As usual, Peter is shy about expressing himself on these things, but here's a quick summary graph:

"What it comes down to is that Ghosn has achieved legendary status around the world - and he is too arrogant to retreat or admit failure. He would never admit that the idea was flawed or that he is setting up his North American organization for a disastrous undertaking - it's just not in his makeup."

Ya think Peter will be getting any invitations to Renault in the days ahead?

Scion plans to light the Fuse in New York, according to AutoBlog.

Please, Carpundit, tell me this isn't true.

Hey, loyalty and longevity are great values and all but keeping the same agency to do ads since 1914? Cars! Cars! Cars! sounds as stunned as I am.

Look! It's an Audi. No, it's a KTM motorcycle!! No, it's a .... beats me. But Carscoop thinks it worth photos, commentary and more here.

Fast Machines' George Katinger says it's going to be another year for Alonzo over in the F1 wars. My dark horse hunch is it's Montoya's year to - finally - make it all happen.

Fastlane Blog's illustrious editor thought PM Blog should have consulted a Google map and posted images from way up there on the progress of their drive in a Z06 from LaLaLand to Gotham City. Vlogging would have been good, too.

Gear6 wonders if it's curtains for Volvo's S60. I hope not.

Can you guess the reaction over at General Watch to news GM is revising its 2005 loss total to $10 billion? You think Polonius ever figured out ole Bill Shakespeare was actually mocking him?

Remember J. Edgar Opel? Jalopnik has some, uh, observations about badge engineering and the new Saturn Sky/Opel GT.

Then there is the meal-and-dessert-all-in-one from Krispy Kreme, as reported by MPG Blog. Maybe this says something about why the Krispy Kreme boom has faded????

Pardon me while I pass on that one ....

Over at My Honest Mechanic, Austin Davis wonders what's the big deal about the Rubicon.

Want to see a Bimmer float in the air? Straightline has the straight poop.

The Auto Prophet says make sure you have the sound turned up.

The Truth About Cars' Robert Farago is taking a 10-day sabbatical to, among much else, tool up a bunch of new features. Just before taking off, he offered this warning to Ford regarding its ongoing brohaha with Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association: "... FoMoCo’s financial aid to GBLT pressure groups plants the corporate flag on one side of a highly contentious issue."

And finally, from The View Through the Windshield comes a Friday roundup that includes an item about an unbelievable memorial service for a young protestor who was bulldozed out of this world a couple of years ago in Palestine. No, neither Joe nor I made this up.

Again, thanks to all the new contributors to the Carnival of Cars and we will meet again right here next week.

And don't forget:

Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of cars using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.








Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NOw This is a Monster Harley!

Go here, carefully.

M-Benz E350 is a Seriously Beautiful Luxury Sedan


This may come as a shock to some folks but one in every four Mercedes Benz sales in the U.S. every year is an E-class, which makes it the most successful European luxury sedan in the world.

There are lots of changes for 2006 in the E-class, most notably under the hood where the German automaker’s most powerful V-6 is now taking up residence. The 3.5 liter DOHC V-6 produces 268 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. That is a mere seven horses less than the V-8 that powered the previous E430 with its 4.3 liter V-8.

The new V-6 was first seen in Mercedes Benz’s SLK roadster and it is the first-ever V-6 from the German firm with dual overhead camshafts. It is a muscular powerlant, producing 258 lb-ft of torque, with maximum torque available from 2,400 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm.

My Granite Grey tester came with a five-speed automatic transmission featuring Touch Shift, plus Mercedes Benz’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Too bad the weather was consistently sunny and in the mid-60s throughout the week in which the Tapscott driveway was graced by the E350.

Regular readers will recall that the V-8 powered E500 drew extremely laudatory reviews in this space, both because of the impressive performance of that model’s 302 horsepower V-8 and the handsome exterior lines of the E-class.

Opting for the V-6 model rather than the V-8 hardly represents a sacrifice, as it streaks from rest to 60 mph in 6.92 seconds. With the engine’s variable valve timing system, performance above 3,500 rpm is also impressive, which is crucial for things like passing semis on two-lane highways.

All E350s equipped with 4Matic have to make do in the transmission department with the five-speed automatic. Rear-wheel-drive only models benefit from the seven-speed automatic that eventually will see service throughout the Mercedes lineup.

Inside the passenger cabin, the E350 provides high levels of comfort and functionality. The standard comfort and convenience equipment includes dual zone automatic climate control, 10-way power-adjustable seats for driver and passenger, a multifunction, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, premium audio system with a single disc player and AM/FM and tilt and telescoping steering wheel, among much else.

Like the rest of the E-class, the 350’s exterior look combines muscle and gracefully flowing lines that I find vastly more attractive than the Dude Ranch Dandy CLS four-door coupe. The E is a seriously luxurious and beautiful sedan.






Friday, March 10, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, March 10, 2006


Looks like this weekend is going to be the first good riding days of 2006, so I will be exercising my Suzuki Bandit 600S tomorrow. Perfect way to wrap up a great week, so let's get this drive around the Auto Blog Block show on the road, shall we?

Mercedes Benz is selling its all-new S-Class, but Carpundit ain't buyin' it! Go here to find out why.

Over at Science and Politics, Bora Sivkovic has an interesting concept for rel0cating air bags in the event of a crash. (Welcome to Carnival of Cars, Bora!)

Josh Cohen has been doing some serious thinking on speed limits over at Multiple Mentality (Welcome to Carnival of Cars, Josh!).

Contrary to lots of reporting, there is no settlement yet between General Motors, the UAW and Delphi, according to TheCarConnection. So forget for now all that talk about sweeping reorganizations, new approaches to business, etc. etc.

Think GM and Ford are the only big, once-dominant manufacturers battling a seemingly losing cause now against vastly more agile overseas rivals? Joe Sherlock at The View Through the Windshield has more on a model little story with very big implications.

Speaking of big, once-dominant manufacturers, Thomas Bernard says the way towards salvation for Detroit can be found by looking to Milwaukee and Harley Davidson. Do that and you see the ticket: "Building big dumb American cars offers US automobile manufacturers a huge economic advantage." Get all of Bernard's reasoning here at The Truth About Cars.

Looking for a brand-by-brand take from non-car folks in Southern California? If so, then Joel at The Car Blog has just the ticket for you. You will want to make a scheduling note that it's a multi-part feature.

The Auto Prophet has found one swinging bus driver in this video from a Russian tunnel! Where do these people get their driving licenses?

TAP gets a two-fer this week: Check out his masterful deconstruction of Consumer Reports, the hybrid craze and the numerical foundations of the environmental movement. Some excellent investment advice there, too.

Think you've been hearing spots on XM radio of late? Straightline says if you haven't, you soon will be.

Not sure what to think of this from Serious Wheels.

Then there Driving Sports, which promises to provide hot video of "extreme driving in all its tire-shredding, clutch-grinding glory ..." on your iTunes, according to Qt Auto News.

How many cute Asian models does it take to introduce the new Honda Civic over in Paul Tan's neck of the woods? Don't know if Paul has the answer to that query but it sure looks like he got the answers to other question you could ever have on the topic, plus a bunch of great photos.

My Honest Mechanic says an Altima's Check Engine light coming back on two weeks after being "fixed" by the dealer may indicate a new problem. Or an old problem. Either way, take it back.

Yourapeeins don't care for pick'emup trucks, right? So why is the new Ford Ranger you can see at My Ford Dreams being introduced over there instead of right here?

Head-to-Head Comparison ads are good, no? Takes guts or something else for a carmaker to do such ads, right? Welllllllll .... Motor Alley's David Wassman is puzzled by Chevy's latest effort in this vein, which points us to an Edmunds.com comparison test that includes the Cobalt.

And since we're on the topic of auto advertising, Left Lane News thinks you should take a look at a piece in Automotive News about the most effective tag lines. You know, "see the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet." Oooops, guess I just revealed my (advanced) age. But the AN piece is about mindshare, right?

Why spring the full nine yards for a Z4M when the Z4 2.5 Sport is just about as quick but costs a good bit less? That's the question being posed by Just-Auto.com's Dave Leggett after spending a day in South Carolina at the Bimmer plant.

Jalopnik has visual proof of why I should have been born extremely rich and extraordinarily talented behind the wheel. Oh, to be able to slip behind the wheel of a Ferrari F430 GT. My knees get all weak just looking at the photos.

Oh man, now that Grant man is ranting about too many choices. What an odd slant for Grant's Auto Rants.

Should Rick Wagoner and the rest of the senior GM executive managers be sent to the Pokey? Jim Dollinger at General Watch thinks so, thanks to the prospect of new $2,000 rebates on Trail Blazers and other GM products.

Audi's TT Microsite is up, says Gear6. I rather like the looks of the new coupe, don't you?

Now this is what I call real supercharging! FosFor Wheels has a quick look at a 1,350 horsepower boost for your Volkswagen New Beetle.

At Fastlane Blog, Lutz is back to your ideas for saving GM. Really, I think he actually does read this stuff.

Having Eddie Irvine back in F1, even if only as a team owner, will certainly spice up the paddock. Fast Machines' George Katinger wonders if maybe Eddie isn't getting a head start on the happy doings connected with March 17.

Carscoop gets truck scoops, too. Go here for the Mazda BT-50 debut. Yes, a one-ton pickup from Mazda.

Cars! Cars! Cars! is picking on one of my fellow Okies who until recently was occupied during the day by installing liftgates on Chevy trucks at the GM plant in Okie City. Actually, C!C!C! isn't picking on my buddy, just has a better idea for what he could be doing during the day instead of sittin' on his posterior end drawing a Job Bank check.

Audi is planning a maxi war on Mini, with the next generation A2 being the weapon of choice, according to Autoblog. This could get right interesting!

Lots of Audi stuff this week. Auto Spectator has the release and photos of the new A6 Allroad.

The Supremes are getting it from The Auto Muse, thanks to an Amicus brief filed in the Avery case. And why do they call them "briefs" they frequently run to 25, 30 or more pages? Anyway, congrats to E L Eversman.

And finally, what kind of schedule would you put together if you had the power once Champ Car and the IRL are married? AutoExtremist's Road Kill column has answers. It's a dream schedule because it includes Barber Motorsports Park and the Glen. I raced at the Glen. I know the Glen. Oh Lord, please let it be!

And that's all, folks. Have a great week.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of "Carnival of cars". Use our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.






Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Now that Geneva is Finished ...

... Bob Lutz is back in town and posting on Fastlane about the flood of comments received last month when readers were asked to tell GM how to fix itself. Says Lutz: "I was pleased to see that most comments were about our vehicles themselves. This confirms my lifelong conviction that what customers really want are great cars and trucks."

May I just add one more suggestion? Do whatever it takes to attract customers to a continuing relationship with a unique brand, not just the sucker that comes in every three or four years to buy a new car or truck.

Anyway, go here for the full Lutz, which as always is well worth checking out. Also, don't miss the GM Geneva videos here.



Monday, March 06, 2006

Kudos for Affordable Kia Spectra


Mention Kia and a lot of folks still think “cheap cars” but the 2006 Spectra SX provides more evidence that the South Korean subsidiary of Hyundai is making major progress toward becoming an automaker to be reckoned with in the U.S. market.

The Spectra is Kia’s main economy sedan offering, being a little more expensive and with more comfort and convenience features than its Rio stable mate. Performance is also better and the Spectra’s styling displays a bit more sophistication.

Power is provided by a 138 horsepower 2.0 liter four cylinder with dual overhead camshafts, fuel injection and variable valve timing. It’s a revvy engine that provides good power and returns acceptable fuel economy for an econo-class sedan.

My “Spark Blue/Gray” tester came with a five-speed stick shift but you can also get a Sepctra SX with a four-speed automatic, which will add a tad under $1,000 to the bottom-line on the sticker. With the stick shift, the 0-60 mph time was 8.84 seconds.

The Spectra SX gets a little bit firmer suspension tuning and slightly wider tires than the less expensive EX and LX editions, but all Spectras are aimed at providing a softer ride quality.

Exterior styling is conservative and restrained, but the Spectra SX is certainly not faceless. The fit and finish of my tester seemed quite good, too, with all the visible gaps between adjoining panels being consistent and tight.

Kia tends to sell a bunch of cars to middle-age parents who then give the vehicle to college age sons and daughters. For that reason, the Spectra SX comes with an impressive standard safety equipment list that includes driver and front passenger front and side air bags, as well as side curtain air bags front and back.

Scanning the sticker, other standard equipment stands out, including a tilt steering wheel, 60-40 folding rear seat, variable intermittent windshield wipers, six-way adjustable driver’s seat and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

At $16,820, my Spectra tester presents an appealing combination of performance, affordability, safety consciousness and interior comfort. For those who are still not quite convinced, remember that the Spectra comes with a 10-year/100,000 limited powertain warranty.






Does NASCAR Really Have Much Cheating?

Judging from the early returns in the poll in the right sidebar, it appears a lot of folks believe there is a significant amount of cheating in the Nextel Cup Series but it's expensive and only the top teams can afford it these days.

I tend toward the same view, but creative reading of NASCAR rules has a long history and with the growing stakes to win these days, plus so many more competitive teams than even a decade ago, it seems likely there would be even more pressure now to find that "unfair advantage."






Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Linguistic Analysis of Ferrari Names

Ever wonder where Ferrari gets all those wonderful names? Jon Fredkove at Strategic Name Development has the answer. While not an exclusively automotive blog, Fredkove has lots of fascinating information and analyses about branding and other forms of naming. Very interesting site.

Friday, March 03, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, March 3, 2006


My week has been rather pedestrian, how about you? Let's take a tour around the auto blogs and see if maybe we can spice things up a bit, shall we?

One thing's for sure right off the bat, there ain't much spice these days at Pontiac, what with the Holdenized GTO biting the dust and probably forever consigning "Little GTO" to Memory Lane. The sad part is, as Auto Extremist's Peter DeLorenzo points out so well, there was a time when:

"The street 'buzz' around Pontiac was undeniable - and it was fueled by some of the most memorable advertising ever done for an automobile. For one fleeting moment in time, product and advertising came together in such a way that it created an American sensation."

How long till BOP is just another lonely outpost on Memory Lane?

And on that happy friggin' note, let's move on down the road ...

... but wait, there's more! Maybe. I mean there could be. At least that's what AutoBlog reports Autoweek reports Bob Lutz is reporting. Can it be true? "Three dueces and a four-speed" WILL be back, come 2008?

If the Goat does return, where should you live to get the lowest insurance rates? E.L. Eversman of Auto Muse has some good things to say for Ohio. Yes, Ohio.

"Cabrio of the Year" for 2006? Auto Spectator says the Alfa Spider won the award at the Geneva Auto Show this week.

They were "four morons," according to Carpundit. Those 20-Somethings who made the video showing the utter ridiculosity of the 55 mph speed limit, that is. Normally, I find myself nodding in agreement with Carpundit most of the time, but not on this, good buddy.

Want to know why Ford is "so fracked up" dumb? Cars! Cars! Cars! will explain it all here.

From racing's Chamber of Commerce scene comes word, via FastMachines, that the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be in Charlotte. Not Daytona. Not Atlanta. Not Kansas City. Nobody should be surprised about the latter losing out because all they've got in KC is a bunch of crazy li' women.
You can ask Wilbur if you don't believe me.

If you've been eagerly awaiting the Geneva debut of Ferrari's new 599 GTB Fiorano, Gear6 has the scoop.

Back to the GTO ... GM Guy at HotWheels Blog explains how his adolescence got off track one day, thanks to unfulfilled desires and a certain misplaced white horse. I'm sorry, but you're just gonna have to go read it on your own cauz I can't explain it here, this being a family friendly blog and all. Let me just say this - Dale, buddy, I feel your pain.

Jalopnik says its curtains for the Noble M14, but the good news is there will be a Noble M15. Is somebody from GM in charge of product planning at Noble?

Dave Leggett is encouraged by the lines of the Jag XK to believe Ford is serious about turning the fabled Coventry marque around, then he goes all contemplative with a "what's it all about, Alfie" piece inspired by the Geneva Auto Show. It's all at Just-Auto.com.

Looking for a good usedGemballa Porshe Turbo or a like-new low-mileage Ferrari 360 Spider? Left Lane News know a certain doctor who is about to let one of each go. Check it out here for contact info. Serious inquiries only, please.

Want to scare the wits out of your neighborhood dummy? MPH Blog's Daniel Pund has just the thing to do it.

MyFordDreams can't understand why Euros get the S-Max minivan while we dweebs over here are stuck with "crap" like the Freestar. Me, neither. I especially like the muscular front fenders, which definitely do not look like an afterthought.

If you haven't seen the Ram rash spot, drop what you're doing right now and go to Paul Tan's place.

So you've been transferred across the country and you don't feel like riding your Hog from here to there. Qt Auto News has something new you need to know about.

Lots of random thoughts over at Racedriven.com this week.

Now this is a serious Z4! Where else, but Serious Wheels.

It's built in Hungary and it's got a Suzuki label on it, but what is it? Whatever it is, Straightline says the SX4 is headed our way.

The Auto Prophet is overdosing on Top Gear videos. This one on the Ford GT demonstrates yet again that these Brits do the best car TV ever. Even allowing for the fact we Yankee chaps are suckers for fast guys with English accents.

Joel at The Car Blog has some sound advice for what to do about that feeling you get in a tiny car when the joker behind you is determined to imprint his SUV's front bumper on your brand new Toyota Yaris' rear fascia.

Chris Paukert thinks "a manual cogswapper" is called for to make the new Land Rover Range Rover HSE more appropriately sporting for paved surfaces. That's one of the reasons why I can't miss The Truth About Cars. I mean who else uses such wonderfully archaic language?

Joe Sherlock saw an interesting-looking minivan in The View Through the Windshield while tooling around the Seattle region. It was disguised in the usual manner of the manufacturers, so Joe was not sure what it was he was seeing. But you know the guy is a journalist at heart because he spent half an hour looking at door handles of known vehicles on the internet trying to figure out what it was he saw. I admire that, Joe.

Finally, TheCarConnection reports the GM-Toyota research deal that has appeared to be as dead as an Aussie Goat has just been renewed.

And that, friends, Romans and countrymen who have lent me your cyber-ears, is the last word for this week's Carnival of Cars Drive Around the Auto Blog Block.





Thursday, March 02, 2006

GREEN CAR UPDATE: Virginia Dealer Creates Blog to Sell GM Flex-Fuelers


Royal Chevrolet-Cadillac in Lynchburg, VA., has created Corn-Fueled Chevy, a blog to help market the flex-fuel vehicles it sells.

There is only one post on the blog so far and only 36 visits to the site this week, according to its Site Meter data.

But the average time spent by each visitor exceeds five minutes, so the site appears to be on the "sticky" side, which ought to encourage the Royal dealership. It will be interesting to see if the site produces additional showroom traffic or any actual sales.

Is GM helping dealers like Royal put up these web sites? I wonder if it would be financially feasible for GM dealers to become E85 retailers? That might make a dent in the current paucity of E85 refueling locations.

Also worth mention here is Corn-Fueled Chevy's links to the official GM E85 web site and to the CNN Money tracking of today's crude oil price per barrel. Looks like Texas light sweet is going for $62.83 per barrel today.

Now, will the Royal folks take the next steps to insure their site becomes a source of a strong cyber buzz? Keep on eye on this one, it might just turn out to be a great new way for individual dealers to take commercial advantage of trends in commodity pricing, politics and the energy industry.

UPDATE: Corndog Says No GM Help

Just got an email from "Corndog," the creator of Corn-Fueled Chevy. He hasn't received any help from GM in putting the blog up but he shows no lack of enthusiasm for General Motors' new emphasis on E85 and flex-fuel vehicles:

"To answer your question, no, GM has not helped us with our blog but I'm appreciative of the ad campaign they are providing. Quite frankly, I just put the blog up last week, my plan is to put some 'teasers' in the local paper to see if I can get some people to go onto the site, learn about ethanol, and begin talking about it.

"GM has made flex-fuel capable the most popular engines we sell; we are going to be selling them anyway. We thought we'd attempt to do a little educating and yes, politicking, as a few years from now, the owners of these vehicles may be very glad they purchased them.

"I suppose I just got tired of all the media adulation of hybrid technology, and this is also an attempt to defend GM a little bit, at a time when we need defending. For me, bio-fuels show far more promise to solve our 'addiction' problem than hybrid technology. I think GM has picked the winner here, not Toyota."

Thanks for writing, Corndog. Keep us posted on your progress.








I'm Liking the VW Jetta ... Except The Front Grille


Volkswagen is having its problems these days with slumping sales in some markets and draconian cost-cutting measures being implemented at the factory but such difficulties have not prevented the birth of the best Jetta ever.

I say the best ever despite the fact I don’t especially care for the Audi-inspired front end styling and a paucity of rear-seat passenger room. Completely redesigned for 2006, the new Jetta is a superb entry level German sports sedan.

The first key to the new Jetta’s charm is its ability to straighten out curvy roads and leap down straights with joyful abandon. Thanks to a delightful 200 horsepower 2.0 liter turbo four cylinder and six-speed DSG transmission, 0-60 mph romps are routinely accomplished in 6.65 seconds.

VW’s turbo four has long been one of the most enjoyable powerplants on the market and, despite the bigger Jetta’s increased curb weight (now up to 3,200 pounds), the engine provides excellent power across a wide powerband. EPA says to expect 25 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

The second key to the Jetta’s charms is the way it handles. The rear suspension is extensively revised, as is the front, and it shows in the alacrity with which it turns in and tracks through a corner taken with enthusiasm. In the city, the Jetta feels smaller than it is. It’s just plain fun to drive, even in heavy traffic.

The interior layout is typical VW, which is to say a nice combination of real wood, chrome and soft plastics with well-placed comprehensive instrumentation and switching.

My only complaint about the interior is the driver’s seat took a little time to get adjusted properly and the rear seating area forces passengers to endure too little knee and elbow room. On the other hand, at 16 cubic feet, the trunk is cavernous for a compact sports sedan, so you lose something in one area and gain in another.

Now, as far as the exterior styling is concerned, the large-mouth bass look of the front grille just doesn’t do it for me. Otherwise, the front end has an aggressive, forward-reaching look to it but I keep coming back to that oversized grille.

From the side and rear-three quarter views, the Jetta has a more substantial, almost hefty feel to its appearance. VW marketers hope that heftiness will be perceived in the marketplace as evidence of a more upscale Jetta.