Thursday, January 31, 2013

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Manual Tested: Good Looks, Competent Package

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

Hyundai's Elantra is a solid player in the crowded compact-car competition, but it has also faced self-imposed limitations, lacking the nifty hatchback variants offered by competitors like the Ford Focus, Mazda 3, and Subaru Impreza. The deceased Elantra Touring wagon nibbled at this turf but lacked the svelte looks and desirability of many of its five-door rivals. READ MORE ››

from Car and Driver Blog

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Deerly Departed: All the Hot Deer-On-Car Data You Can Handle

Deerly Departed: All the Hot Deer-On-Car Data You Can Handle

Here in C/D's home state of Michigan, dead deer on the roadside are a common sight. Residents of less-savage states might be shocked by just how frequently some of their countrymen crash into deer. Since 2007, State Farm has compiled a record of the collisions between its customers and deer, and it has used that data to estimate the likelihood of drivers around the country being involved in such an incident. READ MORE ››

from Car and Driver Blog

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Audi Prices 2014 A8L TDI, Confirms EPA-Estimated Mileage

2014 Audi A8 TDI Quattro

Audi is in the midst of a powertrain overhaul for its flagship sedan, the A8, having already swapped the base 4.2-liter V-8 for a supercharged V-6 and introduced two versions of the same twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V-8 to the lineup. Next up is a new, fuel-efficient diesel model—powered by Audi's corporate 3.0-liter V-6 TDI engine—and the automaker has now announced pricing for it. The A8L TDI will cost $83,395 when it goes on sale later this year.

Now, Audi has yet to release pricing info for the rest of the 2014 A8 lineup, so for now we'll compare the A8L TDI to its 2013 model year siblings. The diesel A8 will only be available in long-wheelbase form, and its price places it squarely between the $79,395 A8L 3.0T (supercharged V-6) and the $88,095 mid-level A8L 4.0T (twin-turbo V-8). For reference, the short-wheelbase A8 3.0T starts at $73,095 and the 4.0T at $81,795.

When Audi announced it was bringing a diesel A8 to the U.S.—along with an oil-burning A6, A7, and Q5—at the 2012 L.A. auto show, it boasted that the A8L TDI would return an estimated 24 mpg in the city and an astonishing 36 mpg on the highway. Those numbers have now been confirmed by the EPA, meaning the A8L TDI betters the (fairly decent) fuel-economy estimates of the A8L 3.0T, which stand at 18/28, by a significant margin and at only a marginal incremental cost. (Face it, at this price point, $4000 can be considered incremental—at least against other long-wheelbase A8s.) Moving outside of the Audi universe, the diesel A8L also will kick sand in the face of its key competitor, Mercedes-Benz's $93,905 S350 Bluetec diesel sedan, which is rated for 21/31 mpg.

from Car and Driver Blog

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Recall Alert: 2003-04 Pontiac Vibe


General Motors is recalling 135,749 model year 2003-04 Pontiac Vibe hatchbacks due to an electrical problem that could cause the airbags to deploy, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In the affected vehicles, manufactured between Jan. 18, 2002, and April 27, 2004, the supplemental restraint system circuits are susceptible to internal electrical shorting; this may create an abnormal current flow and increased heat, which may damage the circuits. The problem could result in an inadvertent deployment of the front airbags or seat belt pretensioners, increasing the risk of a crash.

General Motors will notify owners, though no notification schedule has been specified. Dealers will install a supplemental harness containing an electrical filter between the airbag control module and its wire harness for free. Owners can call GM at 800-620-7668 or NHTSA's vehicle safety hotline at 888-327-4236 for more info.

Today's recall follows Wednesday's recall of 752,000 model year 2003-04 Corolla compact sedans and Matrix hatchbacks; the Pontiac Vibe is related to the Matrix and was produced during a Toyota-GM partnership.

Recall Alert: 2003-04 Toyota Corolla and Matrix
Read More about the Pontiac Vibe
More Safety News on

from KickingTires

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2013 Mazda CX-9: Car Seat Check


For 2013, the three-row Mazda CX-9's exterior has been updated. It's now surprisingly sleek, especially for a crossover. While the CX-9 can seat seven, it's not in a comfortable fashion. The third row has little legroom unless the second-row passengers slide their seat forward.

For the Car Seat Check, we use a Graco SnugRide 30 rear-facing infant-safety seat, a Britax Roundabout convertible child-safety seat and Graco high-back TurboBooster seat.


The front seats are adjusted to a comfortable position for a 6-foot driver and a 5-foot-8 passenger. The three child seats are installed in the second row. The booster seat sits behind the driver's seat, and the infant seat and convertible seats are installed behind the passenger seat. We also install the convertible seat in the second row's middle seat with the booster and infant seat in the outboard seats to see if three car seats will fit. If there's a third row, we install the booster seat and a forward-facing convertible.

Here's how the 2013 CX-9 did in's Car Seat Check:


Latch system: Although it has seating for seven, the CX-9 has the minimum two sets of lower Latch anchors. They're found in the second row's outboard seats and sit about an inch into the seat bight, where the back and bottom cushions meet. The second row's three tether anchors are at the base of the seatbacks.

While the CX-9's third row doesn't have any lower Latch anchors, which isn't unusual, it also doesn't have any tether anchors. No forward-facing convertibles may be installed in the third row. Many automakers include at least one third-row tether anchor, which allows for the installation of a forward-facing convertible seat.


Booster seat: Our high-back booster seat fit well in both the second and third rows. In the second row, the outboard seats are wide and easily cradle the booster. However, the seat belt buckles are on floppy bases, which can be difficult for young kids to grasp. The buckles also are on floppy bases in the third row. Third-row legroom is laughable. There's enough of it for a younger child in a booster, but an 8-year-old is going to be cramped unless those in the second row slide their seats forward significantly.


Convertible seat: We slid the second row seats as far back as possible. Doing this and reclining the second row's seatback made it a cinch to install both the forward- and rear-facing convertibles in the CX-9. The seat's rigid Latch connectors easily found the CX-9's anchors. We didn't have to move the front passenger seat forward to fit the rear-facing convertible behind it.


Infant-safety seat: There was plenty of room for the rear-facing infant seat in the second row. However, we had a difficult time connecting the seat's hooklike connector to the inboard Latch anchor because the seat bolsters were in the way.


Third-row access: The 60/40-split second row allows third-row access from either side. Just fold the seatback forward and then slide it up. The rear wheel wells eat into the resulting walkway, making it somewhat narrow.


How many car seats fit in the second row? Two, but three car seats almost fit. It could work with narrow child-safety seats.

How many car seats fit in third row? Two, but only if they're boosters.

Editor's note: For three car seats — infant-safety seat, convertible and booster seats — to fit in a car, our criterion is that a child sitting in the booster seat must be able to reach the seat belt buckle. Parents should also remember that they can use the Latch system or a seat belt to install a car seat.

Research the 2013 Mazda CX-9
More Car Seat Checks
More Safety News

from KickingTires

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Obama Chickens Out, Says A Million EVs By 2015 Not Important

Today must be International Backpedaling Day. Volkswagen said "Never mind beat Toyota by 2018."  Obama says: "Never mind a million EVs by 2015."

Under a new strategy announced today, the Department of Energy promised to support research into new battery technologies and manufacturing methods that would lower the cost of lightweight materials and improve vehicles' fuel-efficiency, Reuters reports.

But the DOE backpedales furiously from a goal set out in a 2011 State of the Union speech, where President Barack Obama announced what he called "Apollo projects of our times." One of them was the goal for the United States to be "the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015."

"Whether we meet that goal in 2015 or 2016, that's less important than that we're on the right path to get many millions of these vehicles on the road," an unnamed Energy Department official told Reuters.

Reuters notes that "demand for hybrids and electric vehicles has been weaker than expected." Government money was poured into black holes. Says Reuters:

"Poor demand has hurt lithium-ion battery makers, pushing two DOE grant recipients, A123 Systems Inc and EnerDel, to file for bankruptcy protection. Dow Chemical Co took a $1.1 billion charge last year, related in part to a writedown of its lithium-ion battery business, Dow-Kokam LLC."

from The Truth About Cars

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Chrysler Re-Jigs Their Product Lineup Yet Again

TTAC alum Justin Berkowitz hit the jackpot with Chrysler, managing to make sense of the umpteenth new product rollout they've announced since getting in bed with Fiat, and  posting the most accurate rendering of the new Jeep Liberty replacement (according to TTAC sources, it is dead on).

Apparently, Fiat will get five new models by 2015, though the brand has a habit of counting variants like the 500C and Abarth as separate models. Reports stated that Fiat is re-aligning their product range to include only variants of the 500 and Panda, however, our sources at Fiat scoffed at the notion during discussions with them at NAIAS. Apparently, eliminating all but two models would leave Fiat without the capability to produce enough volume globally. Fiat would also be left with even more excess capacity, and a lineup unsuited to markets in South America, where Fiat's lineup is tailored to market conditions. What will apparently happen is that future models will take their cues from the 500 and Panda, though it's hard to imagine how something like the Viaggio, a rebadged Dodge Dart, will do so. Playing the future product guessing game is too much of a crapshoot, but Fiat still has the Panda, Punto and Bravo in its stable. Who knows if this will even materialize. Previous reports suggested that an additional model, possibly the Punto or Panda, would come to Canada.

The other big story were the rash of delays; Alfa's mainstream products won't arrive until 2015, Jeep's product onslaught is being staggered (new Liberty this year, Compass/Patroit next year, unnamed vehicle in 2015), as is Chrysler's (new 200 in 2014, new 100 hatchback, new crossover and an unnamed model in 2015). Minivan plans seem to change by the hour, with nobody quite sure whether the Grand Caravan or Town & Country will be alive, dead, with sliding doors or turned into a crossover – it depends on the day. Dodge is now devoid of a new B-segment car and Avenger replacement. The mid-size Ram lifestyle pickup looks to be DOA, while a new Fiat-based large van will debut at Chicago.

from The Truth About Cars

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2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible Geneva Debut Confirmed [2013 Geneva Auto Show]

Hot on the heels of the 2014 Corvette Stingray coupe's show-stealing debut in Detroit, Chevrolet has confirmed to Car and Driver that the Stingray convertible will make its first appearance at the 2013 Geneva auto show. Rumors of the droptop C7 have been swirling ever since Autoweek first reported the Vette convertible's Swiss reveal, and although not unexpected, many figured Chevy would give the fixed-roof Stingray a little more time under the spotlight before being asked to share.

The Stingray convertible—which Chevrolet claims is not represented by these renderings that surfaced on the web, despite our thinking otherwise—is set to go on sale as a 2014 model, with production beginning as early as November and cars arriving in showrooms before the end of the year. As Chevrolet works to increase its global recognition, it makes sense that it would choose to reveal the softtop variant of its most-recognizable nameplate in front of an international audience. It'll be interesting to see how the all-American Corvette convertible holds it own in the presence of all that European hardware.

2013 Geneva auto show full coverage

from Car and Driver Blog

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Volkswagen Chickens Out, Says Strategy 2018 Is Old Hat, Declares Victory, Goes Home

In 2007, when Martin Winterkorn took over as CEO of Volkswagen, he said that Volkswagen wants to be better than Toyota, not just in units, but in profitability, innovation, customer satisfaction, everything. This morphed into the "Strategie 2018", which called for world domination no later than what the name says. Today, Volkswagen changed its mind. Declaring an early victory, it wants to move on.

Volkswagen's top managers already are working on some sort of a Strategie 2022, "as steady volume gains have already propelled the German group within reach of its current sales target for 2018," says Reuters. Volkswagen's labor chief Bernd Osterloh agrees: "We definitely need a new growth strategy." Preferably one that does not include Toyota.

World's Largest Automakers
Full Year 2012 Data
12M '12 12M '11 YoY
Toyota 9,909,440 7,858,091 26.1%
GM 9,288,277 9,023,502 2.9%
Volkswagen 9,070,000 8,160,000 11.2%
Source: Company data.
Toyota: Production. GM: Sales. VW: Deliveries.

Readers of TTAC know (ad nauseam, some will say) that Volkswagen ended the year 2012 with 9.07 million units delivered, putting in in rank three behind Toyota and GM.  Didn't they want to be the biggest? Now, the target miraculously morphed to 10 million units, a number Toyota missed by a hair last year. This year, the 10 million are in at least theoretical reach of all of the top three. Despite having been given (very long) odds by TTAC to break the 10 million barrier this year, Osterloh thinks it won't happen, and we think he's probably right. However, Osterloh says Volkswagen "must consider whether 2018 is still the appropriate standard."

Interesting. Actually, 10 million never was the goal. The goal was, as related to me by a Volkswagen top executive who was in the meetings, to be better than Toyota, not just in units, but in profitability, innovation, customer satisfaction, everything, no later than 2018. In 2011, the goal looked near: Not Winterkorn, but a giant floodwave had stopped Toyota, half a year later, torrential rains in Thailand drowned Toyota again. Volkswagen wasn't ready to exploit the situation, instead, GM became #1. Now, Toyota is back, and looking stronger than ever. Meanwhile, Volkswagen is faced with a little trouble at home. I don't blame Volkswagen for ditching the plan. Actually, I always wondered why Volkswagen would "do what CYA-trained managers usually are loath to do: Set bold and measurable targets."


from The Truth About Cars

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Super Bowl Ad Announces Price of 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

According to a Mercedes-Benz ad running Sunday during Super Bowl XLVII, you won't have to make a deal with the devil to own a luxury vehicle and enjoy all of the "seductive" side effects that come with it. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class — the automaker's first front-wheel-drive compact sedan — will start at $29,900 when it hits dealerships in September (no word yet on the destination charge), according to the TV spot. The CLA-Class starts higher than many competitors, including the 2013 Audi A3 ($28,165), 2013 Acura ILX ($26,795) and 2013 Buick Verano ($23,965). All competitor prices include destination.

The entry-level CLA-Class borrows styling cues from its pricier "four-door coupe" sibling, the CLS-Class; it shares the larger car's frameless windows and sloping roofline. The swoopy appearance isn't just an aesthetic addition but an aerodynamic one. Mercedes-Benz claims the CLA-Class is the most aerodynamic production car in the world, besting the Toyota Prius.

The CLA-Class' 208-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and has a top speed of 149 mph. Mercedes-Benz promises spring 2014 will bring the CLA250 4Matic all-wheel-drive model; meanwhile, a pop-up note near the end of the Super Bowl ad teases viewers with a chance to win a trip to New York to see the CLA45 AMG; we expect it to debut at the 2013 New York Auto Show. Check out the video above.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA: First Look
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA: Photo Gallery
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Video

from KickingTires

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Chrysler Reboots Companywide Product Plans: Goldmine of Info, Lots of Delays, Six Alfas?

Chrysler's special penchant for soap-op drama is almost enough to forgive its equally fierce passion for product changes and delays. What other company dumps the whole four-year plan on a Powerpoint slide? Hint: Only those looking for an empire's worth of fortune in investment money. On a conference call yesterday, Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne put the cards on the table for 2012 and for the product plan through 2016. Analysts liked the financial news, but we're disappointed. Other than Ram and Jeep, virtually every other Chrysler-Fiat brand gets no new product until 2015. Here's the breakdown, as inspired by our new subscription to Soap Opera Digest:


Old Plan: Compact 100 hatchback in 2012, new 200 and mid-size crossover in 2013.
New Plan: New Chrysler 200 in early 2014. Make Eminem cry. New crossover, 100, and a mystery model in 2015.
Secrets Revealed: 200 will get the nine-speed automatic transmission.
Cliffhangers: Do we really have to wait until 2015 for the 100 hatchback? We've seen advanced-stage test cars on the road.

2014 Jeep Liberty / Cherokee (artist's rendering)Jeep

Old Plan: Subcompact B-segment crossover, Compass/Patriot replacement, and Liberty replacement all in 2013.
New Plan: Whoa, slow down there, Maestro. Liberty replacement in 2013, ComPatriot replacement in 2014, subcompact crossover in 2015.
Secrets Revealed: Liberty replacement debuts at the New York auto show in April, sales begin in May. It's the first use of the nine-speed auto.
Cliffhangers: What's the other new model listed for 2015? We know no more Jeeps get SRT versions, sadly.


Old Plan: Subcompact B-segment car and Avenger replacement in 2013, Grand Caravan in 2014.
New Plan: B-segment car is dead, the Avenger isn't being replaced (though it may vanish), Grand Caravan delayed to 2015.
Secrets Revealed: The suits knew the Dart powertrain lineup was a mess from the beginning, and will be "realigned" later this year. Think 184-hp 2.4-liter engine and six-speed automatic.
Cliffhangers: Is the Dart a surreptitious Avenger replacement? Marchionne describes it as a "D-segment sedan for C-segment price." Will Dodge or Chrysler (or both) get the new minivan?


Old Plan: Large and small vans in 2012, possibly a unibody mid-size pickup in 2011.
New Plan: Large Fiat van rebadged as Promaster debuts at Chicago auto show in February, smaller Promaster City van in 2014.
Secrets Revealed: Marchionne expects Ram to join Jeep as the primary driver of the group's growth in the U.S. for the next year or more.
Cliffhangers: Are they really giving up on the Durango-platformed mid-size pickup?


Old Plan: Don't break SRT into a separate brand.
New Plan: Break SRT into a separate brand. Order new stationary. Throw parade celebrating success. Refreshes in 2014 and 2015, rear-drive Barracuda in 2016.
Secrets Revealed: Viper may get a light refresh in 2014 or 2015.
Cliffhangers: How is SRT expected to be a standalone brand if it has only one unique model for the next three years?


Old Plan: Sell more 500s than Mini can sell hatchbacks.
New Plan: Say Mini has never been the target. 500L in 2013, 500X crossover and five new models in 2015, another one the next year.
Secrets Revealed: Fiat counts variants like the the 500 and 500C as separate models, so the "five new models" thing is misleading.
Cliffhangers: Seriously though, six new models or variants? Fiat said in December that it wants every future model to be a 500 or Panda spinoff. And we ain't getting the Panda.

Alfa Romeo

Old Plan: Relaunch in U.S. in 2012 2013 with 4C, SUV, other models soon after.
New Plan: Begin work on future delay announcements. 4C sports car in 2013. Four models in 2015, one more in 2016.
Secrets Revealed: "Relaunch Alfa in the U.S." really meant "Offer one low-volume Alfa in the U.S.," which already happened with the 8C.
Cliffhangers: Will this plan for Alfa's return be any different than the others? Will the models it's planning to bring ever come to exist anywhere? Their development has been delayed for eons. Will VW finally offer the right price to buy Alfa from Fiat?

from Car and Driver Blog

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