Saturday, August 31, 2013

The World’s Best Sports Car Drivers All Run Into Each Other

Click here to view the embedded video.

Hoo, boy.

The Baltimore Grand Prix is famous for big-money wrecks but this one stands out, insofar as it's the worst kind of crash a racer can have: one that happens before you get to do any racing at all. The Sunday-evening quarterbacking's been intense, with various people being assigned blame. One name being thrown around is Scott Tucker, primarily because he's the most high-profile pay driver in the melee. Jalopnik wrote a long story about Mr. Tucker's business practices in the past. As a former manager of a check-cashing store, your humble E-I-C pro tem has a thorough and visceral distaste for that miserable, repulsive business, so the less I say about that the better. Let's just say that Mr. Tucker can certainly afford to buy himself a new prototype. The question will be: are the rest of the participants in the crash just as well-off? In high-end sports-car racing, you never really know.

from The Truth About Cars

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Chrysler Group Celebrates 30 Years of Minivans with 30th Anniversary Edition Grand Caravan and Town & Country

2014 Chrysler Town & Country 30th Anniversary Edition

Chrysler may not have invented the minivan, but it sure did put a lot of them in America's driveways—more than 13 million of the bratwagons by Chrysler's count since the first Dodge Caravan (and its badge-engineered twin, the Plymouth Voyager) broke cover for the 1984 model year. Those first minivans were truly fun-size—lightweight, front-wheel-driven, four-cylinder–powered, and no lengthier bumper to bumper than a mid-1980s Honda Accord—but with way more usable space inside for seven passengers and their stuff than the competing station wagons of the day. And because they were based on car components, the early Chrysler Group minivans drove like, and achieved similar fuel economy to, cars.

Early sales success begat competition. Before long the Caravan had an extended-wheelbase Grand Caravan sibling with more space, and in 1989, the first luxury minivan, the Chrysler Town & Country was introduced. As features were added, dual sliding doors replaced single ones, V-6 power was added, doors and liftgates became power-operated, and seats not only folded and flipped, but disappeared into the floor. Cup holders spread like mushrooms and so did video systems to pacify the peanut gallery.

Are We There Yet?

Although the crossover has largely replaced the minivan as the mom bomb of choice these days, minivans enjoy a loyal following of core buyers who enjoy the low step-in height, wide-opening sliding doors, easy through-the-van access, and large windows to the tune of about a half-million U.S. sales per year. And nearly half of those sales belong to the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country.

2014 Chrysler Town & Country 30th Anniversary Edition

Perhaps to highlight its tenure in the segment it helped popularize, the Chrysler Group will offer 30th Anniversary editions of its Grand Caravan and Town & Country minivans for 2014. Both include the standard 283-hp, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and six-speed automatic powertrain, and add 17-inch polished satin-carbon aluminum wheels, 30th Anniversary badges on the front fenders, and a black-themed interior with 30th Anniversary logos on the gauge cluster and key fob.

Dodge will offer the 30th Anniversary package on two trim levels of the Grand Caravan: SE and SXT. In SE guise, the 30th Anniversary package also brings piano-black trim, silver-accent stitching, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, chrome switchgear, and satellite radio. Within the SXT, the 30th Anniversary package upgrades to suede and leatherette seats, and adds fog lamps, automatic headlights, a 10-way power driver's seat, and more exterior chrome. Being a Chrysler, the 30th Anniversary package on the Town & Country goes beyond satin-finish wheels, fender badges, and interior logos to add such features as a heated steering wheel, heated front- and second-row seats, a power-folding third-row seat, suede-and-leather seat trim, and power adjustable pedals.

No word yet, however, as to whether Chrysler has upped the cup holder count.

2014 Chrysler Town and Country 30th Anniversary Edition photo gallery

from Car and Driver Blog

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What the Numbers on Your Tires Mean


You're headed to a party tonight where you'll be around a group of gearheads who converse incessantly about cars, and you want to ensure you have one smart-sounding thing to say. You've decided to interject something about tire profiles (the height of the sidewall relative to its width), but in researching have spent the past 10 minutes staring at the indecipherable gibberish on your car's sidewalls, to no avail. Unless you know a wind talker who can translate "P205/55R16 89H M+S" into English, follow the link below for everything you must know about tire markings to crack the code for yourself.

Tires 101: What Your Tire's Markings Tell You

from KickingTires

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Which SUVs Are Easy to Get Into?

Which SUVs are easy to get into? My mom has a hip issue and has trouble stepping up into a regular SUV but still wants to ride higher than a regular car. Are there any SUVs that would fit the bill?

Jess, San Francisco

High ground clearance is a key component of the SUV look that is so popular with buyers, though car-based crossover models tend to be closer to ground level than the traditional truck-based models.

For example, the Honda CR-V has 6.3 inches of ground clearance with front-wheel drive and 6.7 with all-wheel drive; the Hyundai Tucson has 6.7 inches and the Kia Sportage 6.8. In comparison, the full-size Chevrolet Tahoe has 9.1 inches. Most cars have around 5 inches of ground clearance.

You can find how much clearance other SUVs have by browsing model reports in the Research section. Open Features & Specs, click on Specifications and select a specific model. You will have to scroll down a long list of features and specs to locate the ground clearance.

That number may not tell the whole story about how easy or difficult it is to get in or out of a particular vehicle, so you should check them in person. Some SUVs with a high stance might have seats that are lower than in other vehicles.

One suggestion to look at is the Subaru Forester. Though it sits 8.7 inches off the ground, it has wide, tall doorways that facilitate entry and exit. We can't promise it will be a snap for your mother, but it might be easier than some others.

You also could look at alternatives, such as the Mazda5 wagon, a sort of mini-minivan with dual sliding rear side doors and 5.5 inches of clearance. Regular minivans with sliding doors might also work. Other alternatives include the so-called "box cars," such as the Nissan Cube and Scion xD that are low to the ground but have tall doorways.

Have a car question you'd like us to answer? Send us an email at

Research New and Used Cars 
2014 Subaru Forester Review 
2014 Subaru Forester Rises Seven Spots in Small-SUV Affordability

from KickingTires

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Most-Watched Videos of the Week


This week's list of most-watched videos should look familiar. Brad Keselowski — 2014 Ford F-150 Tremor and the 2014 Ford F-150 Tremor videos remain at the top of the list, and Kia's new large sedan, the 2014 Cadenza, rounds out the bottom of the list. Check out what else was popular. 

1. Brad Keselowski — 2014 Ford F-150 Tremor

2. 2014 Ford F-150 Tremor

3. 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG

4. 2014 Toyota Tundra

5. 2014 Kia Cadenza

from KickingTires

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How to Choose the Right Tire


Are you a performance fanatic only interested in low-profile tires that offer the most precise handling, or do you prefer to feel and hear imperfections in the road as little as possible? Do you instead want the safest-possible tires for winter, and are you willing to change them out for a summer set when the mercury rises? Or perhaps you're the type who prefers to slap some all-seasons on your car and be done with it already. Follow the link below to learn about all the varied options, and we'll help you choose the tire you desire.

Getting the Right Tire

from KickingTires

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Detroit Electric to Start Production in Holland, Not Necessarily Move It From Detroit


Detroit Electric CEO at the April launch of the brand and its SP:01 battery powered sports car

Saying that they continue to be committed to building cars in the Detroit area, EV startup Detroit Electric has told the Detroit News that the first models of its SP:01 sports car, like Tesla's Roadster an electrified Lotus, will have their final assembly done in Holland starting in the last quarter of the year, not this month in Wayne County, Michigan as announced when the brand was launched back in April. While some have characterized the announcement as indicating that Detroit Electric is moving production from the Motor City to Europe, at the launch the company did indeed say that they'd be opening two assembly facilities, one near Detroit and the other in Europe to build cars for the European market, so it's possible that there is no move planned, just that the Detroit facility has been delayed.

"We are Detroit Electric, not London Electric," the automaker's CEO, Albert Lam, said in a statement. "Our commitment to the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and the United States is as strong as it ever was. While there have been some delays in our plan to start production in Detroit, many vehicle programs experience some form of delay."

Detroit Electric earlier blamed one of those delays on the fact that it had not finalized a lease or purchase agreement on any production facility near Detroit, and now they say that securing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Certification must happen before they start U.S. production. It's not clear if that certification would include meeting all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or if the company is continuing to seek an exemption for low production vehicles, as Lam told TTAC they would, back in April at the launch.

from The Truth About Cars

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What’s Wrong With This Picture? Police Parking Illegally


Can you spot the reason for that "No Standing" sign?

This is a photograph taken recently at the Cadillac Place building, on West Grand Blvd just west of Woodward in Detroit. It used to be called the General Motors Building before GM decamped to the RenCen. To make sure that much office space (when it was built, the GM Bldg was the second largest in the world) wouldn't go vacant in Detroit's economically viable midtown area, the State of Michigan moved many of its Detroit area office workers into the renamed building. Some of those state employees work for the Michigan State Police, which has offices for their Detroit detachment on the Milwaukee Ave. side of the building. It's not a full scale police post, there's no public lobby, but it's where state police hang out in Detroit when they aren't busy protecting and serving the public, not to mention rescuing injured peregrine falcons.


Would you want this car parked in front of the building's fire pipes if you or your loved one worked there?

Notice the no-standing area? Notice the building's fire pipes immediately behind that no-standing area? Notice the Michigan State Police cruiser #2044 parked directly in front of those fire pipes, blocking access in the event of a fire? Notice the many other Michigan State Police cars parked in the area marked no-standing right where fire trucks would need to park for firefighters to have access to those fire pipes? Notice, too, the many angled, off-street parking spaces that are reserved solely for police cars, parking spaces that sit empty only a few feet from the no-standing zone?


Why should police park in angled off-street parking reserved just for them when they can park in a No Standing zone closer to the door?

I didn't go to the Cadillac Place building just to rattle some entitled cops' chains, I was working on a story about Detroit Electric's offices in the nearby Fisher Building. However, I had my camera case with me and when I saw the wholesale dangerous violation of parking laws under cover of authority, I stopped to shoot a few pics. Offhand there were about 10 police cars illegally parked on both sides of Milwaukee. On the south side of the street a Michigan State Police Ford Explorer was not just illegally parked in a no-standing zone, it was also parked close to two different fire hydrants, at least one of them closer than the minimum 15 foot distance required by state law. Back over on the other side of the street, by the former GM Bldg, while I was taking the photos two motorcycle cops showed up for what must have been some kind of meeting but they had to park legally in those angled spots. All the best parking spaces, the ones in the no-standing zone, were apparently already taken.


The motorcycle cops arrived later and since there was no more room near the door, they had to park legally.

A Ford Crown Vic in MSP blue that arrived even after the motorcyles also parked in the angled parking but for some reason he left his car running. I'm sure that someone will say something about seconds counting and if I don't like cops I should try calling a hippy the next time my kid is dying, but in an age when cars have stop-start systems that seamlessly and instantly fire up an engine after a stop light do you really believe that excuse? My guess is the warm, humid weather Detroit experienced today and the car's air conditioning had something to do with leaving it running.


The only legally parked police car on that block. He did, however, leave his car running. Hasn't he heard about global warming?

He wasn't the only duly sworn officer of the law who left his steel steed running as he left it unattended. I might not have noticed the others because of all the urban noise, but I happened to see a pedestrian who was crouching down to bend an ear to the sounds coming from one of the police cars. I'm not the only person who notices these things. At least three of the cars were left running. I know the boys and girls in blue always have an excuse, and I'm sure they want to get into a cool car after their meeting is over, but according to the weatherman on my car radio, though it was warm it was a not unbearable 81 degrees in Detroit at the time. At ~$3.60 a gallon for gasoline, can the taxpayers afford to keep cop cars air conditioned even when there aren't even cops in them? Another reason cops give for leaving their cars idling at the side of the road is all of the electronic cop toys they have in their cruisers. Apparently all that stuff needs to be powered up even when the cop isn't there to use them.


Cops say they have to leave their cruisers running because of all the electronic equipment in their mobile offices, apparently whether or not they are using that equipment or even when they are nowhere near the car. On a warm, muggy day, how many times do you leave your personal car running and unattended just to keep the A/C going and the radio on when gasoline is $3.60 a gallon?

But I digress. This is about police breaking the law, not just the taxpayers' piggybanks.

Which question has a lower number for an answer, how many times do you see police casually breaking traffic and parking laws, or how many times do you see police bothering to obey traffic and parking laws?

Now if you ask police here in Michigan, and I have asked, just when the law allows them to break traffic or parking laws, you will get answers ranging from "It depends" to "I can do it whenever I want to". I've never had one tell me what the law actually was. Asking them if you'd get a ticket for parking like they are parked, and I have asked, will get you, "Well, I won't get one." All of those quotation marks are there for a reason, those are verbatim responses I've gotten from cops. Citing the the relevant state law, and I have done so, will get you a, "Have a nice day," in that oh-so-respectful tone police use when they want to express disdain towards the people for whom they ultimately work.


The door in the middle at street level is the entrance to offices that the Michigan State Police use. Troopers have told me that it's more "convenient" to park by the door than in the spaces taxpayers have reserved for their exclusive use just steps away.

No matter what their response is, it's never to cite an actual law that exempts them. Funny how they always seem to know what law to cite, when it's you getting the citation. Michigan State Police isn't the only area police agency whose officers illegally park. If you can believe it, the suburban Huntington Woods police park in the middle of a five lane road, in the left turn lane, yep, right there in the middle of the street, because drivers making an illegal right turn on red at a nearby intersection can't see them there until they've committed to making the turn. The cops could sit in a nearby parking lot, but that would put them in the line of sight of the drivers and the object of all of this is generating revenue by issuing tickets. Can't have people not making that illegal right turn on red, can we?


There must have been some kind of shift meeting. Yet more state troopers illegally parked across the street. The building is CCS' Taubman Center. What's a few art students possibly burning to death when weighed against the convenience and comfort of police officers?

Not long ago, in Lathrup Village I noticed a small traffic jam up ahead on a residential street that crosses a mile long stretch of 25 mph road that's partly residential (hence the low speed limit). I saw a police car up ahead so I assumed the officer had someone pulled over. Which might have explained why said officer was forcing traffic to go around him, traveling in the wrong lane, against traffic. However, he didn't have anyone pulled over. He was doing radar surveillance of drivers on the busy cross street, while parked about 18″ from the side of the road (generally, more than 12″ will get you a parking ticket around here), about 15 feet from a stop sign and crosswalk (Michigan law prohibits parking within 30 feet of a stop sign, or within 20 feet of a crosswalk).


A twofer. State law requires all vehicles to park at least 15 feet from fire hydrants. I'm surprised that he didn't move a few feet up and make it three for three. The people whom that cop is endangering are car design students at CCS and the folks assembling Shinola watches and bicycles on a floor rented from CCS' Taubman Center building.

Now remember, all of these traffic and parking laws are there, supposedly, to make things safer for drivers. In the section of the law that says you can't park in the middle of the roadway, like those Huntington Woods cops do, it doesn't give the reason why you and I can't do it as "not a cop". Safety, though,  and apparently the law too, takes a back seat to revenue.


If you park here, you'll get a ticket. If you park where the state police vehicles park instead of here, you'll get a ticket.

The relevant law here in Michigan is Michigan Compiled Laws 257.603. Chapter 257 of Act 300 of 1949 is Michigan's overall motor vehicle code. I'm not a lawyer but I asked my state senator's office about it and they asked Michigan's Legislative Research Division to look into it. The folks whose job it is to accurately inform the state's lawmakers say that's the only law that exempts police concerning traffic and parking laws. Section 603 of that chapter regulates under what conditions government owned vehicles can violate sections of the motor vehicle code. You can read the relevant sections of the law below. Paragraph 1 identifies which government vehicles can break traffic laws, pretty much any government owned vehicle from the local dogcatcher to the presidential limousine. Paragraph 3 lists what laws they can break, pretty much any traffic or parking regulations. Paragraph 2, though, which says when they can do it, is much more specific, and restricts such exemptions to when the vehicle is going to an emergency or is involved in the pursuit or apprehension of an actual criminal or criminal suspect.


Privately owned vehicles used for State Police business also illegally park at the Cadillac Place building. It's nice to see that the Michigan Gaming Control Board pays its employees well enough to drive BMWs. Ya think the driver would get upset if I left a copy of MCL 257.603 under his or her windshield wiper?

Did you happen to notice anything in there about routine traffic surveillance or having a meeting with your boss and co-workers? Speaking of such meetings, my favorite part of MCL 257.603 is the part about being exempt from traffic laws when going to "but not while returning from an emergency call" (emphasis added). That 'but not from' part tells us that the legislators in Lansing who wrote that passage had an inkling the law enforcement officers and other emergency workers just might cheat a little. Just because the chief calls you back to the shop for a talk doesn't make it an emergency, so you can't speed back, or park illegally when you get there. The fact that you're a cop isn't going to move your cruiser out of the way of a firetruck as your fellow state workers burn to death because of where you parked your car.


Click here to view the embedded video.

The story does have a bit of a bittersweet ending. Concerning those cops parking in the middle of the road, I sent emails to both city managers, both directors of public safety and even had a fruitless phone conversation with the mayor of my own city, which adjoins Huntington Woods, about why our police department won't ticket cars that are dangerously and illegally parked in the middle of the road. Getting no satisfaction, I went to a city council meeting and simply read them the state law, asking them if it exempted routine traffic surveillance. Four days later the mayor called to tell me that a majority of the city council and city manager agree with my reading of the law. That was sweet, particularly since she thinks I'm crazy and knows that I'll never vote for her, so I'm sure she didn't want to make that call. I figure their decision had something to do with possible liability if someone plows into that cop car parked in the middle of the road and the fact that since some crazy guy read the law to them in public, on public access television and all that, and if the city gets sued they can't say they didn't know.

The bitter part was on my window when I got back from the Fisher Building. The same Detroit parking enforcement folks who have refused to ticket the cops and state attorneys endangering people in the Cadillac Place building, and yes, I've asked them to do so, demonstrate a bit more alacrity in enforcing parking laws when it comes to regular folks.

I have a call in to the Michigan State Police public affairs department asking them to comment about their troopers illegally parking in violation of MCL 257.603. I was contacted, asked if I was on deadline and was told that I would hear from them with a response. When I get that response, we'll publish it.

Act 300 of 1949
257.603 Applicability of chapter to government vehicles; exemption of authorized emergency vehicles; conditions; exemption of police vehicles not sounding audible signal; exemption of persons, vehicles, and equipment working on surface of highway.

Sec. 603.

(1) The provisions of this chapter applicable to the drivers of vehicles upon the highway apply to the drivers of all vehicles owned or operated by the United States, this state, or a county, city, township, village, district, or any other political subdivision of the state, subject to the specific exceptions set forth in this chapter with reference to authorized emergency vehicles.

(2) The driver of an authorized emergency vehicle when responding to an emergency call, but not while returning from an emergency call, or when pursuing or apprehending a person who has violated or is violating the law or is charged with or suspected of violating the law may exercise the privileges set forth in this section, subject to the conditions of this section.

(3) The driver of an authorized emergency vehicle may do any of the following:

(a) Park or stand, irrespective of this act.

(b) Proceed past a red or stop signal or stop sign, but only after slowing down as may be necessary for safe operation.

(c) Exceed the prima facie speed limits so long as he or she does not endanger life or property.

(d) Disregard regulations governing direction of movement or turning in a specified direction.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don't worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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from The Truth About Cars

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