Saturday, March 31, 2012

BMW i8 Concept Spyder Debuts: Same Plug-In Hybrid, Now Closer to Production

BMW i8 Concept Spyder
BMW's i8 Concept Spyder shows that no matter how high-tech, carbon-fiber-clad, or battery-laden the car, some conventional rules still apply. In this case, even the mighty Bavarian automaker couldn't escape the Aristotelian maxim, "Where there is a coupe, soon follows a convertible." (We may be a bit rusty on our Greek history.) And so we have this i8 Concept Spyder, which essentially is an i8 coupe without a fixed roof. Critically, though, the i8 Spyder looks more like a production vehicle than did the coupe concept, and so it gives us a decent idea of what both body styles will look like when they actually go on sale.

Keep Reading: BMW i8 Concept Spyder – Auto Shows

from Car and Driver Blog

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Sound and Fury

Recently, while praising the growly note produced by the VW GLI, I made an off-handed remark concerning the multitude of axle-backs I've bolted onto my WRX over the years. Unlike most of the hyperbole that is my métier, such statement was actually based in reality.

I really did swap out back-boxes like Jack cycles through guitars, desiring both an uncorking of the rumble produced by a flat-four with unequal-length headers, yet without the yobbish blatting of some angled oil-barrel. A straight STi swap? Nope, all the metallic unpleasantness of chomping tinfoil. The Borla Hush? Stealthy in looks only, but drones like Ben Stein playing the didgeridoo.

If you're interested, I ended up with a 2.5" single-tip Maddad Whisper, a fine, US-made piece of engineering which I paid through the nose for. Worth every penny though: just enough bass at idle to flip my on-switch, crest 4K in the rev department and suddenly Nicky Grist is calling out the pace notes.

And here's the thing, of all the facets of the motorcar that are constantly being refined and improved and modernized, it's the sound I'll miss the most.

Now, don't get me wrong, the rest of my car isn't as tuneful as the exhaust. There are more groans, squeaks and rattles than – well, than something that wouldn't be possible if not for the invention of Viagra. And the wind-noise, ye gods! You'd get less buffeting rounding Cape Horn in a two-decker Napoleonic frigate.

But it's all part of the experience: while the visceral tug of lateral or accelerative/decelerative g-forces are what generate a physical connectedness with a car, it's the sound of the thing that really sparks the emotional connection. The feel, if you'll allow some pretty puffy-shirted poetic license, of your horse breathing under you.

I felt a great sadness to learn of the new M5′s Active Sound Design, whereby the stereo will contribute simulated engine noise to the tomb-like silence of the cabin. I read this technical tidbit with the sort of dismay one might experience upon hearing that Mark Knopfler had embraced auto-tune.

There is no doubt that the twin-turbo V8 is the new king of the hill when it comes to motivating whichever flavour of teutonic boulevard-strafer you might prefer. But since when does an M5 need the aural equivalent of a foil-wrapped zucchini for added stage presence?

And then there's the latest Merc' Hammer. Yes it now has enough torque to strangle a humpback-whale, but at what cost? Even at idle, the old 6.2L engine burbles like the borborygmi of Cthulhu, and when prodded with a violent downshift barks like a stabbed Allosaur.

I feel a great disturbance coming, as though a million cylinders have cried out in anger and are being silenced by five catalytic converters, three resonators, two mufflers and a pair of electrically controlled baffles. Is the future a place where rock n' roll is truly dead and all we'll hear is the pious hum of a range-extended EV?

Probably not, at least not too soon. I've just finished up with a MINI Cooper S Coupe, and while it's truly a wretched-looking little car, its tendency to parp with such cheerily enthusiastic flatulence on lift-throttle applications couldn't help but charm. And then there's the GLI which, as mentioned, is note-perfect.

Be it the psssst of a excess turbo pressure being vented to atmo, or the *clack* of shutting the door on a 993, or the frenzied howl of Vtec kicking in, yo, what's your favourite auto-related audio?

from The Truth About Cars

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New or Used: Replacement for Rusty Rocker’d Ride?


TTAC Commentator bigev007 writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

Been going back and forth on my buying decision for about 8 months now and I'm hoping to glean from the wisdom of yourself and the collective.

My situation:

New job last December, 100km from home. Mostly highway (very hilly) only one stop light where I have to wait (but it is about 2 minutes at the bottom of a long hill so it is great on my rotors.) Currently driving a 2000 Impala, averaging 26-28mpg so I am spending about $520 a month on fuel.

The Impala just turned 250k kms yesterday and is running well. I am all about keeping the old car running, and was about to take it to have strut mounts and brakes done. I decided to make a rust check underneath, and found that the rockers have moved beyond swiss cheese to something like rusty mud. Love those plastic covers they put over the rockers so you can't see it. I really hate to have to get rid of a car (driving 14 years and owned 2 cars) but this made up my mind for me.

So, time for a replacement vehicle. Safety is up in November so I might be able to stretch until then, but I'm on borrowed time at this point.

Here are my needs. A combination of fuel and payment that keeps me under about $650 a month.

  • I'm 6'3" and fairly big, so a Rio or similar is out. Haven't tried the new accent yet though.
  • Stick is ok, auto preferable. Want a hatch or wagon, but will get an accessory hitch either way so not a huge deal.
  • Looking at: Cruze ECO. Right around 21k puts me in the right spot for payment and gas. Wish the auto got the same mileage. I will drive 275k in the next 5 years, will this hold up?
  • 2010 Prius. A few around locally for 21k with about 50k on the odo. I know these will live until the rust kills them.
  • 2009 Civic hybrid. 15k. Cheaper, mostly reliable, but worried about all the battery problems I have heard about.
  • 2011 Elantra Seem to be getting closer to 28mpg on True Delta. Not much of an improvement for me.
  • 2011 Focus hatch. With sync, well over 23k. Too much
  • 2010 Versa about 12k. Again, seem to barely be getting 28 on true delta.

I'm sure there are lots I haven't thought of, so help me out here guys.

Also, moving is not an option as she does not drive, and would not be able to get a comparable job in my new area. I could move about 20k closer, but would spend $300 more on rent a month.

Steve Answers:

You are getting the average highway MPG's on the Impala. Plus I do have to mention that rocker panels are notoriously weak in terms of rust resistance during this time period. The rest of your car should be perfectly fine although I would expect the wheel bearings to be the next to go. Not much rust protection for those things back in the day.

I wouldn't encourage you to be too focused on fuel economy. given that your depreciation costs may become greater than gas costs. A brand new Cruze ECO bought at 21k may only be worth about 5k after 5 years and 170k miles. That's about $16,000 in total, or $3,200 a year. If we throw in a 3% lost opportunity cost, higher insurance, and higher taxes and fees you may be looking at an extra $4,000 a year in higher costs before the gas is factored in.

Gas savings between the Cruze and your current ride? Roughly $2000 a year. I'm assuming $5 gas since you're in Canada. A Prius at 48 mpg may save you an extra $750 and the lower maintenance costs of it's components may add another $250 over the Cruze, and likely about $500 more a year vs.the Impala.

On paper it would make more sense to keep what you have so long as the powertrain is structurally sound. But you may be truly wanting to move on. So I would just try them all and see which one you like the best. Then as a long-time used car guy I would wake up from my fear induced haze. Get the Impala inspected. Replace the rocker panels. Give the undercarriage a bit more rust protection and detail the rest of it.

Sajeev Answers:

Steve is right, once again. As I am currently writing checks for a restoration that includes moderate rust repair, I wouldn't be surprised if replacing the rockers and grinding away any other significant amounts of rust elsewhere (followed up with ample rustproofing) would be much, much less than $2000. This is assuming replacement panels are easier to find than my Fox Body Lincoln using Fox Body Mustang patch panels.

But maybe it is time for a new car. It sounds like you probably drive more highway than city: so stick with vehicles with taller gearing. Obviously the Honda Fit is out. And since you are a larger guy putting a lot of hours in your ride, you should get a bigger car just to treat yourself.

Get another Impala, or maybe its plush Buick cousin on the same W-body. The 2008 Ford Taurus-Sable gets 28mpg highway according to the US EPA cycle, but maybe you do want a little better. Or maybe you'd never want a smaller car.

That said, the Prius is quite roomy for front seat passengers, and it might be the best combo of size and efficiency on the planet. Question is, will you actually enjoy driving it? Not that the Impala is an S-class Benz, but let's face it, those W-body products are a smooooth, effortless ride.

Spend a lot of time in a Prius before you pull the trigger. You might not like what you experience.

from The Truth About Cars

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Opel Labor Leader Threatens Mother Of All Plant Closures

"This would be the most expensive plant closure of all times," warned Rainer Einenkel, chief of Opel's works council and Vice Chairman of its supervisory board.  "This would cost GM billions," Einenkel said today at a news conference following a staff meeting in Bochum. "Opel would not survive this."

A few days ago, Germany's motor mouth Ferdinand Dudenhöffer had painted a semi-rosy picture. Sure, paying each employee $200,000 as severance would hurt. But closing Bochum would save around $280 million a year, three years later, the investment would be paid back, Dudenhöffer argued. Payback would not happen until 2018, closures are only possible starting in 2015.

Dudenhöffer and GM management are dreaming, says Einenkel. There are no 3,200 workers, but 5,000. Some 1,800 are loaned to partner companies, but have a contract in Bochum. Workers "won't go voluntarily," Einenkel told Reuters, signaling costly fights in the courts. The Bochum plant sits on top of former coalmines, no investor will buy the plant, fearing uncontrollable environmental cleanup costs. Closing Bochum could also severely damage Opel's brand, Einenkel said.

Before that happens, Opel will severely damage GM earnings , for many years.

from The Truth About Cars

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This Week's Most-Read Stories

Can a case be made for bringing Ford's subcompact wagon, the 2013 Ford B-Max, to America? The vehicle will go on sale in Europe later this year, but Ford has no intentions of bringing it here. There may be a case for the model in the future, though, considering how quickly gas prices have climbed once more. Tell us if you'd buy the Ford B-Max, and make sure to check out the other top stories of the week with the links below. 1.  Video:'s Chevy Volt at 18,000 Miles2.  2013 Hyundai Elantra Sedan: What's Changed3.  2013 Honda Accord Sedan Shrinks, Gets Plug-in Hybrid Model4.  Would You Buy It? 2013 Ford B-Max5.  What Car Would You Buy if You Won Mega Millions?

from KickingTires

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Interest For EVs Fading

It's "another broadside for the EV industry," says Automotive News [sub]. The alleged artillery barrage was sent by the Center for Automotive Research. It cancelled its 2012 Business of Plugging In conference. The reason? Lack of interest.

Says Brett Smith, CAR's co-director of conferences:

"Some could look at this as the industry is dead and no one cares about this anymore."

Not completely true, says  Smith. The newness of plug-in vehicles is wearing off, and with the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and the Nissan Leaf EV on the market, "we don't need the message of how they will fit in. They've got to live or die on their own."

According to AN, "car companies are seeking to distance themselves" from electric vehicles. CAR also has lost interest. The Business of Plugging In conference won't return for 2013 either, Smith told AN, claiming "that CAR knew from the beginning it would have a finite life span."

from The Truth About Cars

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Hammer Time Rewind: Hit Em Where They Ain’t!


One of the hardest questions I have to answer is: "When is it cheapest to buy at the auctions?"

I often find good deals even in the most competitive times of the year. But if we're really talking about 'averages', as in lowest residual values for used cars, I'd say that the period between late September and mid-November is the cheapest time at the auctions.

No spending holidays for consumers. No tax refunds for the public to use as down payments. Even the weather's a pain since fewer customers visit the lots when the cool season starts. Plus, most used car dealers buy with floorplans (a finance company's money) which often have nasty clauses that exact fees within 30 to 90 days.

So what should you do if the retail deal isn't for you? To paraphrase baseball Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler, in order to find a good deal in this business you have to, "Hit em' where they ain't."

The best deals in this business usually come when competition is constrained on several fronts.

For example, I bought a mid-level 2004 Dodge Grand Caravan SE this past Thursday for $2200. The 101,000 miles on it kept the vehicle out of reach for all those dealers who depend on finance companies that have cutoff's at the 80k or 100k mark. It was also bought at a public auction where dealers are fewer, and the opportunity to collude is greater.

The minivan in question also had a 'check engine' light which warded off those who justifiably are concerned about the possibility of replacing a Chrysler transmission. A simple diagnostic tool informed me of the vehicle's need for a $15 thermostat.

Before the sale started the battery was dead. I used my own mobile charger to jump it since the auctions rarely supply enough of these things.

Finally, the vehicle was being sold 'AS/IS' which means that there was no guarantee regarding the vehicle's powertrain at all.

In a crowd of about 100, the field essentially shrank down to 2. The auctioneer let the bottom fall out (lowered the price considerably to encourage more bidding) and seven bids later it was mine.

Of course now I've got to sell yet another minivan. But it's far easier to sell an unpopular vehicle at two-third's of average wholesale than to bid it up a popular car to retail prices and beyond, and hope for some finance fodder to come your way.

Note: This article was originally published in 2009 and to be frank, you probably do not want to go to a public auction in order to find yourself a 'Wee Willie Keeler' type of deal. I've been at it for well over a decade now, and public sales are one area where amateurs and professionals are routinely knocked for a loop.

Lots of uncertainty. Little disclosure about the vehicles.  A well-paid auctioneer who has probably made 100,000+ high pressure sales pitches over the years. Unless you are willing to pay for an expensive 'education', I do not advocate the auction route.  

 Private owners, impound and estate auctions, family and friends, and even the neighbor down the street wanting to trade in his vehicle can all be far better sources for great deals. Think of it. You can drive the car, have it independently inspected, and the competition is essentially the seller's perception of the vehicle's value. Enjoy this article, but go that route. 

from The Truth About Cars

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Speed, And The Cop Might Get A Free Pizza

Be careful if you take I84, one of Connecticut's main drags. You could turn into collateral damage of a war between feuding State Police troops. There might be a pizza prize on your head.

A memo, written by the commander of Troop I in Bethany, created an uproar in Connecticut and beyond. Lt. Anthony Schirillo III, Troop I's commander, issued an "all hands on deck" email for Friday, says the Connecticut Post. "We have to issue 60 infractions/misdemeanors each shift for a total of 180 infractions, in order to outperform Troop F and Troop G,"  Schirillo wrote.

Schirillo told his men that Troop F had written 301 tickets, Troop G had outdone them with 345 tickets:

"We can do better. I am asking that everyone, myself included, contribute to this effort. Based on the number of on-duty personnel, 60 infractions a shift would proportionately put us above both troops. Note, if we happen to issue 350 tickets in one day that would be stellar."

Putting even more fire under his men, Schirillo offered, in a follow-up email, pizza to the trooper writing the most tickets.

Matthew Andrews, president of the Connecticut State Police Union, said state law prohibits quotas:

"Our members won't comply with an illegal order or a ticket quota and will always use discretion as allowed by our department policy and the law. This wasn't just specifically Troop I. It's going on around the state that there's an increased desire to issue more tickets and we don't think it's proper. "

Lt. J. Paul Vance, spokesman for the state's Division of State Police, played down the incident, saying that Schirillo was merely cheerleading:

"There's no way there were any required quotas. Lt. Schirillo was saying, `Let's go and work and give a little bit more, work a little bit harder, there are speeders out there.' It was motivational and maybe he needed a little polish on it."

Schirillo lists the FBI National Academy and the University of Connecticut as places where he received education. He is Chairman of the Homeland Security Region 1 Steering Committee and the Emergency Management Director of the Town of Stratford. He seems to be polished enough.




from The Truth About Cars

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Pocket Rocket Lovers Of The World, Rejoice! Uhmm, Sorry. That Was A Bit Misleading. Let’s Start Over.

Pocket rocket lovers who happen to live in Belgium, France, Spain, or Switzerland,rejoice! According to Brazilian enthusiast site, Renault is using to good effect its Formula 1 presence and is launching the Renault Clio R.S. Red Bull Racing RB7 in  the aforementioned markets. Wow! What a mouthful for a compact car! And yes, you read right, Clio and Red Bull in the same name!

This very black Clio with some very yellow accent pieces is proudly equipped with a 2.0 engine, sporting a healthy herd of 203 ponies. This limited production Clio boasts 18' wheels, race flag checkered roof sticker, digital AC, automatic headlights, hands-free card key, very yellow Recaro sport seats, along with other racy bits and pieces.

Jean-Maxime Boulanger, product manager of Renault Clio Sport, puts a very heavy spin on this launch by declaring (and I loosely translate):

"The Clio R.S. Red Bull Racing RB7 is similar to a race car with its radical look, including the most recent equipment developed by the pros at Renault Sport Technologies. Fast and furious, the limited series Renault Clio R.S. Red Bull Racing RB7 has as its main attraction its impacting design. It pays homage to the relationship between Renault Sport Technologies and Renault Sport F1, in partnership with the Red Bull Racing team."

OK. Spin aside, what's not to like? 200 hp in a small, relatively lightweight, agile car. Somehow I just know that Renault with its very heavy emphasis on Dacia cars for emerging markets will not release this baby monster in Brazil. But for those of you in those selected markets, you will get a chance to live out your Formula 1 fantasies in a compact car!

Red light racers, be prepared. You may just be surprised by a little black blob.


from The Truth About Cars

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Automotive Lawsuit History Unearthed, Junkyard Style: The Ford Park-To-Reverse Warning Label

For decades, I've been seeing Ford-family vehicles with ugly, pointless warning labels stuck to their instrument panels: Unexpected and possibly sudden vehicle movement may occur if these precautions are not taken. I'd always assumed that these were ex-rental cars, but after I mentioned the warning stickers in this week's '75 Ford Maverick Junkyard Find post, several readers pointed out that the stickers were the result of Malaise Era litigation. Of course!
It turns out that many Ford automatic transmissions of the 1966-1980 period developed a tendency to slip from Park to Reverse, on their own, leading to lots of unpleasantness (if we are to believe Ralph Nader's Center For Auto Safety, this problem caused 6,000 accidents, 1,710 injuries, and 98 fatalities). Since we're talking about something like 23 million vehicles here, Ford resisted launching the biggest recall in automotive-industry history; the DOT agreed in 1980 to have Ford send out warning labels to the 23 million affected owners. Some of them used the stickers, most didn't, and we still see them from time to time in junked Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys. So, another bit of junkyard-learned Malaise Era automotive history, a nice chaser to the story of the FLOOR TEMP warning light.

from The Truth About Cars

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Toyota Corolla FX16 GT-S

Just a few years after Toyota confused American car shoppers by badging the early Tercel as the "Corolla Tercel," they offered two very different vehicles as the 1987 "Corolla GT-S." One was the AE86 coupe, based on the older rear-drive Corolla platform and much beloved by present-day drifters, and the other was the front-drive FX16 hatchback, built in California and equipped with the same 16-valve 4AGE engine as the AE86. The FX16 was sort of goofy-looking, with sharp angles and cheezy-looking plastic panels, but it was a screamin' fast competitor to the VW GTI and held together much, much longer than its Wolfsburg rival.
I found this example in a California self-service yard just a few freeway exits away from its NUMMI birthplace.
Related to the Sprinter-based Chevrolet Nova and the later Geo Prizm, the FX16 was quite a hit in California. You still see them around, though the rear-drive Corollas are much more popular among racers and restorers.
I've seen a few of these cars compete in 24 Hours of LeMons races, and they're definitely top-level competitors in the hands of a good driver, certainly much quicker around a road course than the rear-drive Corollas. The GTIs can be about as quick, but tend to be much more fragile.
There's no telling why a not-particularly-thrashed sub-200,000-mile Corolla got junked; my money is on vast quantities of parking tickets and indifference from buyers at the subsequent towed-cars auction.

14- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 01- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 02- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 03- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 04- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 05- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 06- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 07- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 08- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 09- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 10- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 11- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 12- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden 13- 1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S FX16 Down On the Junkyard- Pictures Courtesy of Phil 'Nummi' Greden

from The Truth About Cars

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