Saturday, November 30, 2013

2014 Chevrolet SS Sedan Test: A Classic Formula, Thoroughly Modernized

2014 Chevrolet SS

Now that the government's stake in GM is below five percent, the automaker is launching new models with giddy abandon. That's especially true at Chevrolet, where the lineup runs from the vest-pocket Spark to the garage-busting Suburban with a generous helping of performance models in the meaty middle. READ MORE ››

from Car and Driver Blog


Put the internet to work for you.

via Personal Recipe 647533

Luke’s Camaro, Part Two


As you might suspect, this is a sequel to Luke's Camaro, Part One. Full disclosure, there's no Camaro content this time, which is part of the fun — JB

We had just crossed a set of long-forgotten railroad tracks when it happened. The engine died, the dash lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree, and the big gray Audi rolled slowly to the side of the narrow country road.

"Son of a bitch." Not an exclamation…more of a declaration.

I cranked the engine, hoping against hope that a wire had come loose or that a ghost had reached in and flipped the key off. I checked under the hood, looked underneath the car, and saw nothing. No loose wires, blown fuses, or leaking fuel. The engine cranked but wouldn't fire. No joy.

"Son of a bitch." I was stuck.

That fall afternoon 100 miles from nowhere in rural South Dakota summed up my adventures with old German cars. My overconfidence, my "how expensive could it be to fix?" laissez-faire attitude, my hubris laid bare by a 1992 Audi 100S Quattro with what turned out to be a broken timing belt. How expensive could it be? Well, try finding a mechanic who will work on an old Audi… in South Dakota.

Like the blackjack addict who wakes up in a dumpster behind a Vegas IHOP, I was having a moment of harsh self-reflection: I had to change my life, and fast. Way too much of my personal, professional, and financial well-being rested on the shoulders of frustratingly complex and needy German cars. That gorgeous Gunmetal 100S, a 5-speed car aggressively lowered on H&R springs with 17" TSW wheels, embodied all of my Deutsche Tourenwagen fantasies and was just too much fun on snowy days.

Unfortunately it was also a 1992 Audi. But this wasn't my first German heartbreak; no Audi can break you the way a Porsche+Audi can. A couple summers before that very long day, I had woken up on a Sunday morning to find myself with more money coming in than going out. I don't know how it had happened, but I had moved up the ranks at work to the point where I had honest to God free cash flow. I was so happy about this development that I did what any 26 year old idiot would do: I bought a 1986 Porsche 944 and started to give all that cash away.

I found it the car in the Sunday classifieds (remember those?), a fully documented Guards Red two owner car, originally sold to a Mayo Clinic physician in Rochester, MN. It came with a stack of records and receipts going back to its drive off the boat, and I assured myself that those records guaranteed long-term happiness and trouble-free ownership for me, it's completely unprepared and uninformed new owner.

My first two months with that car were pure pleasure. I loved the punchy engine, the sweet gearbox, and the unbelievably direct steering. It made me leave earlier and stay later to fully enjoy my long daily commute, and even a drive to the grocery store become a 2 hour event. Everything about it, from the way the door latch snapped closed to the way the headlights popped up, exuded quality and a firearm-like, "of a piece" engineering. I took it on a Saturday rally to a nearby brewery with the local PCA chapter where some new "friends" recommended a full check up at a local independent Porsche shop "just to make sure everything (was) okay."

Stupidly, I listened to them and, not surprisingly, it wasn't. Ignorance truly is bliss, friends. The car needed a lot of work. Something like $4500 worth of it if I remember correctly, which was as much as I had paid for the whole car. Two shocks were leaking, the front control arms needed to be replaced, the steering rack was leaking, and about a hundred other things were either out of specification or nearing the point where they'd become a "real problem."

I finally got online and started doing research and, while all of the things they found were well-known and completely normal maintenance items for the 944, I was utterly shocked by the cost, time, and possible frequency at which they'd need to be fixed. As Jack has pointed out in the past, there should
be a picture of a Porsche dealership parts counter in the dictionary next to the word "gouge." What madness had I gotten myself into? I loved the car, though, so I started working through the list. Not yet confident in my own mechanical abilities, and not recognizing the chance to develop them, I wrote a lot of checks. Big ones.

The next spring disaster struck: an oil ring broke on piston #2, trashing the engine block and stranding me on a busy urban highway. My blind spot for needy creatures great and small being what it is, I decided to fix it. Thus began a long education with my generous new friend Fast Eddie.

Eddie was a software engineer in his mid-40's, and he had hit it big a few years prior as the CTO and co-founder of a small company that was bought by a very big one. When I met him, he was very much enjoying his semi-retirement as a budding classical guitar player and Porsche Whisperer, complete with a fully equipped workshop and a trio of beautiful 930s. We clicked immediately.

Fast Eddie never shied away from a challenge and we dove into the little 944 head first using the internet and a bootlegged Porsche shop manual as our guide. Eddie loved nothing more than being elbow deep in greasy Porsche parts while pontificating on business, religion, music, politics, and philosophy, usually all at the same time. A practical engineer and patient teacher, he taught me the ins and outs of "how those assholes in Zuffenhausen think" and helped me build up confidence in my wrenching abilities. We didn't take ourselves too seriously. We set reasonable goals. And we had a hell of a lot of fun along the way. After a couple months of weekends and the occasional late night, we had rebuilt the big 4 banger using a low mileage block and boxes upon boxes of expensive new parts. When all was said and done, it was turbine smooth and had far more punch than it had possessed when stock.

Basically, the 944 was perfect. So of course I sold it.

It was Eddie's fault. He had let me drive one of his 930s for a few days, just enough time for the 911 bug to fully infect my brain. I had to have one, and the car I chose would broaden my mechanical skills and driving skills even further. I'll save that for part 3….

from The Truth About Cars


Put the internet to work for you.

via Personal Recipe 680102

Myths and Legends: Citroën XM


There isn't many weirder and more wonderful car in the world than a classic Citroën. Beginning with the "Goddess", the famous and unique Citroën DS, they combine out-of-the-box technical solutions with quaint but gorgeous design. When the "déesse" arrived in 1955, it looked like something from another galaxy – and drove like that, too. The magnificent SM grand tourer, conceived in cooperation with Maserati added speed and glamour to the formula. And when the big CX replaced the venerable DS, it was still an aerodynamic fastback in a world full of boxy sedans, it still glided over the road like some eerie hovercraft, and with the DIRAVI steering and mushroom brake pedal, it provided a driving experience like nothing else. .

But for new, let's focus on the redheaded step-child of the Citroën family, the XM. Introduced in 1992, it's currently in the lowest part of the depreciation curve, loved only by hardcore Citroën enthusiasts. Because of the Citroën's terrible reputation for reliability, especially when it comes to the unique hydropneumatic suspension, the average examples can be had for €1,000-1,500. And with the proliferation of large hatchbacks in 1980s and 1990s, it doesn't even look that strange. It's still unconventional, and it's the kind of design you love more the more you look at it, but for average person, it's just an old car.


Which makes it a perfect vehicle for finding out what that whole "Citroën legend" is all about. Were French onto something with their hydropneumatic suspensions, strange power steering systems and other stuff? Was it an engineering dead end, or shall we be sad that automotive world lost something of its diversity, when Citroën started making more "normal" cars?

In the XM, you can see the Citroën's weirdness without the mythical aura surrounding its predecessors. I had an opportunity to spend some quality time with a nicely preserved example of the most desirable version of the XM – the 3.0 V6 24V with a five-speed manual transmission, in the highest Exclusive spec. This combination should make it almost into a sports sedan in its day and age – 200 horsepower was still a big deal in 1990s, especially in Europe. And with the full leather interior, power everything, AC and other goodies, and especially with the famed hydropneumatic suspension, it should be also supremely comfortable.


But the first thing you notice when you place yourself in sizeable, leather-clad chair, isn't how comfortable it is – although it really is nice. No, the first impression is of unusually low hipline – it is especially noticeable when you transfer from any kind of modern car, but even most other 1980s-1990s luxurious cars feel decidedly "bunker-like" compared to the XM. You sit quite high, looking down on the dash, and with wonderful view around, thanks to the slim pillars. It really doesn't feel like a sporty, luxurious sedan usually does, but it's not a bad thing. It's just different.

And that's good, as other stuff is dreadfully conventional. The steering wheel is round, with several spokes. Pedals are in the foot well, and all look and work like, well, car pedals. The shifter is on the center console, you need to depress clutch to shift and the shift pattern is conventional. Even the stalks and buttons are normal. If you hoped for some Citroën craziness, like clutchless manual transmission, or a mushroom instead of a brake pedal you'll be disappointed. Probably the strangest detail in all the cabin is the anti-theft device keyboard, lidded like it should really be used for launcing ICBMs (or putting up white flags). Not enough, Citroën. Not enough.


But then you start moving, and you instantly realize this car's got balls. Green balls, all six of them. They serve some function in the hydropneumatic suspension, either being reservoirs for Liquide Hydraulique Minéral, or a mixture of vampire blood, gargoyle sweat and crushed dragon claws. Either way, it should result in a ride that's compliant when you want to relax, and sporty when the computer recognizes you want to go fast. This is the difference from older Citroëns, which were usually just soft, although eerily stable.

According to the owner's words, this example had a case of bad balls, with the middle ones not working exactly like they should I was told that if 100% fit, the car would be more compliant, although it still wouldn't offer that cloud-like ride the older CX can muster.

The suspension was still strangely stable, not leaning into corners or during braking and largely ignoring the road undulations, but the secondary ride quality was a bit lacking – I could still feel the ruts and potholes in the road, although the sound was maybe more intrusive than actual movement. As it was, it rode like a really well-sorted car on a steel-sprung suspension with small wheels and tall tires. For real verdict on the unique comfort of Citroën suspensions, you will have to wait for the CX review later in the series.


But the Hydractiv suspension is about more than just a comfy ride. It can make itself stiff when needed, not allowing the car to lean into turns. At the photo venue, I had to repeatedly go up the hill with some quite slow but flowing corners and nice road surface, before I could turn around and return to the dam. And with each go, I was confident to push a bit faster, eventually going really quick. And the experience is hard to describe – for lack of better words, I would say that XM drives like in a videogame. With the car hunched to the ground, the body lean is almost absent, removing one important impression of speed and cornering. And then there's the DIRASS power steering – a modernized version of famous DIRAVI. It is speed-sensitive, getting progressively heavier the faster you go, but there's absolutely no feel in the helm. I suspect that going for the limits of grip could be a rather unpleasant experience, as the only way to tell you're past the limit is the sound of tires screeching, but up to some 7 or 8 tenths, it's actually quite good. Not great, not really sporty, but once again, the good kind of strange.


But where the XM really gets to its own is on fast, flowing country roads. It's too large and classy for backroad fun, but on faster ones, it manages to be very quick without really trying, nicely masking the real speed. You can just imagine yourself as a French industry captain, or maybe some high bureaucrat, in a hurry for some meeting somewhere, or just going to check out his domain.

The XM is truly unlike any other car. Large and comfortable on one hand, quick and even a bit sporty on other. Classy and stylish, used by industry captains, ministers and presidents, yet hugely practical with the hatchback trunk. Understated, yet unique in its design.


Myth or Legend?
Legend. It wasn't as revolutionary as the DS, or as quirky as the CX, but it was unique, and in many ways, it's the last of the breed.

Do I need to drive it?
Absolutely, no matter whether you've driven a hydropneumatic Citroën before. It can be a good start, or a variation on well-known theme.

Should I buy it?
Well, in US, you can't, so the question is pointless. But if you can, and if you don't mind fixing stuff (and have a reliable transportation), go for it. It's a wonderful car.


IMG_7183 IMG_7225 IMG_7209 IMG_7275 IMG_7262 IMG_7261 IMG_7259 IMG_7251 IMG_7242 IMG_7227

from The Truth About Cars


Put the internet to work for you.

via Personal Recipe 680102

Does the 2013 Toyota Camry SE Have an Upgraded Stereo?

"I noticed the XLE trim has the JBL stereo. What does that mean?"

John N.

A 10-speaker sound system with speakers made by JBL, an American audio company that is a unit of Harman International Industries, is available on the 2013 Toyota Camry SE and XLE models, though with some differences.

On the 2013 Camry, the four-cylinder SE and XLE models have a standard six-speaker sound system (not JBL branded) and a 6.1-inch touch-screen. A package that adds navigation, Toyota's Entune multimedia system, satellite and HD radio, and other capabilities is a $1,050 option. In addition, the XLE four-cylinder is available with a system that includes all that plus 10 JBL speakers (with a subwoofer and amplifier) for $1,700.

The six-speaker system with navigation, Entune and the other features is standard on the SE V-6 and XLE V-6 models. On the SE V-6, the JBL speakers are a $650 option. The JBL system also is optional on the XLE V-6, but it includes a 7-inch touch-screen and a premium navigation system, and the price jumps to $1,620.

More Toyota Camry News
2013 Toyota Camry Review
2014 Toyota Camry Research

from KickingTires


Put the internet to work for you.

via Personal Recipe 647517

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Very Unhappy Thanksgiving Courtesy Of The Porsche Cayenne

Oh, Cayenne owners, you so crazy! And I should know — the $96,000 GTS 6MT above was briefly my company car way back in the day. I also had a plain "S" in 2004, although that proved to be so popular with a business partner of mine I wound up trading him for a Cadillac STS. Neither of the Touaregs-in-drag ever managed to spend more than a few months away from the loving embrace of our local Porsche dealer, so there was no third Cayenne in the plan. You know what they say: fool me twice, I won't get fooled again.

But there are people out there who have found the Cayenne even more painful than I did.

Early this week, an Oakland bartender was run down by what looks like a first-generation Cayenne. The Porsche (repeatedly and painfully called a "Porsh" in the news coverage) bopped the guy hard enough to crack about every bone he had below his waist before driving off. The victim, a bartender named Daniel Mendoza, opined that

I just can't believe they don't have enough love for their human brother to go out and see if they're ok, if they're even alive,

The interesting thing from this Midwesterner's perspective is that the fault in this accident depends on the state in which you live. In Ohio, anybody meandering across a street, particularly where there's no crosswalk, would be at fault were they to be hit. In California, as I understand it, the automobile is under an obligation to stop. Perhaps the Lawyers of TTAC can chime in here.

From the bright trim on the Cayenne and its age, I'm guessing it's a pre-2006 "S", which means it's worth about ten grand. That means that the driver might well be uninsured or even what we now call "undocumented". Mr. Mendoza is hoping that the person who hit him will step forward, because he is also uninsured. Were I him, I wouldn't hold my breath.

from The Truth About Cars


Put the internet to work for you.

via Personal Recipe 680102

2014 Kia Forte5 SX Instrumented Test: Kia’s 5-Door Hatch Gets Turbo Power

2014 Kia Forte5 SX Turbo

Kia calls its new Forte5 SX "ultra hot," proving that heat, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. By the current standards of the hot-hatch class, 7.5 seconds to 60 mph is not exactly scorching, nor is a quarter-mile run of 15.7 seconds at 89 mph. The Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen GTI are both significantly quicker, as is Ford's new Fiesta ST. Still, this is the first Forte that can make a plausible case for membership in the hot-hatchback club. And it's also a more desirable Forte5 all around. READ MORE ››

from Car and Driver Blog


Put the internet to work for you.

via Personal Recipe 647533

How Much Can the 2014 Ford Transit Connect Tow?

"How much can the 2014 Ford Transit Connect tow?"


With the redesign of the Transit Connect for 2014, Ford has issued a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds for the new models. Earlier versions were not rated for towing. Ford hasn't released complete specifications for the 2014 Transit Connect, including engine and fuel-economy ratings, but it will be available as a cargo van and passenger wagon in two sizes with two new engine choices. The engines are a 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder, which are used in other Ford models such as the Escape and Fusion, and they will team with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Cargo and passenger models will come in two new lengths, 174 inches and 190 inches, and the passenger versions will seat five in the smaller size and seven in the larger. The new models are about 72 inches tall, about 7 inches shorter than the previous generation. Sales of the 2014 models will begin early 2014. The 2013 Transit Connect came in one size, 181 inches overall length, and all models used a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a four-speed automatic transmission. Passenger models could seat five.

First Look: 2014 Ford Transit Connect: Two Wheelbases, Seating for Up to Seven
More Transit Connect News
2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon: Up Close

from KickingTires


Put the internet to work for you.

via Personal Recipe 647517

Juan Pablo Montoya Ready to Have Fun and Win Races—Which Means the Same Thing to Him

A white-haired gentleman wearing a pair of headphones beneath a black cap listened to the team radio and stood quietly as a younger driver passed by in a red, white, and black car. His face was unreadable: He'd seen so many of these youngsters come and go. "Think he'll get the hang of it?" we ask. Rick Mears smiled. "Yeah, probably, eventually. The kid seems to have some talent."

Two laps later, Juan Pablo Montoya pulls the number 12 Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet into pit lane on the scruffy, ragged back course at Sebring International Raceway. It's his first time in an open-wheel car since 2006, his first time in an IndyCar since 2000. In late 2006, he moved from Formula 1 to NASCAR, a career change that began with great promise, then sank slowly into near irrelevance for all but two races each season—the Sprint Cup road course races at Watkins Glen and Sears Point. He won at the Glen in 2007, Sonoma in 2010.

Two wins out of 253 races, 72,172 laps, 95,827 miles. For a driver used to winning in IndyCar and Formula 1, it was unacceptable for his sponsors, his team owner Chip Ganassi, and most of all, for Montoya. Not that it was an entirely wasted seven-plus years: Cup winnings alone—not including salary, merchandise, or endorsements—totaled more than $37 million. But no one who spent much time around Montoya and his crew in the Colombian's last few years driving stock cars would suggest he was having fun.

Today, a blustery one at Sebring, is different. Montoya is grinning, bouncing on his heels, looking 20 years younger than his age of 38. He, Mears, fellow Team Penske racer Will Power, and Penske president Tim Cindric circle around the car and talk about the lapping session. To be more accurate, the group mostly listens as Montoya, still bouncing, gesticulates wildly, making steering motions with his hands, and makes fun of himself for missing shifts and braking points, which isn't surprising considering he has been braking a 3300-pound Chevy—roughly twice as heavy as the car he just climbed out of—and shifting a manual four-speed gearbox rather than steering-wheel-mounted paddles.

There are other things to re-learn. Montoya can see the front wheels, but he's having a little trouble remembering where the outside of the back wheels are.

Mears, a driver coach for Penske now and an all-around calming influence, nods and smiles. It happened to him often, especially on ovals and tight road courses, when he'd slide next to the wall and wouldn't be entirely sure just how close his wheel was to whatever he was afraid he'd hit. Look at the tapes of his old races—from a career that included four Indianapolis 500 wins and three IndyCar championships—"and if I wasn't sure where the wheel was, you can see me holding my holding my head to the other side," Mears says, and he demonstrates by looking like the old RCA Victor dog listening for his master's voice. "If I knew where the wheels were, my head was straight up, looking forward, because I was comfortable."

Frankly, Montoya seemed pretty comfortable right away. Teammate Power, who won three races in this car last year, set a base time before Montoya took over, and in short order, Montoya was just three tenths of a second behind Power.

The third Penske driver, Helio Castroneves, made the trip up from Miami to support Montoya—a particularly genuine gesture considering he didn't tell the Penske people he was coming. Penske Racing's three-driver IndyCar team is going to be a formidable one.

The bottom line for IndyCar: Montoya's return could not come at a better time, given the unfortunate and unexpected retirement of the series' most popular driver, Dario Franchitti, after his horrible crash at Houston. Certainly Franchitti will return in some capacity, whether it is as a mentor or a broadcaster, but it won't be the same. Montoya brings his NASCAR fans with him, and perhaps brings back some of his IndyCar fans who have strayed from the sport.

It's a lot of pressure on Montoya, coupled with the complex IRS investigation hovering over him that suggests he owes $2.7 million in taxes and penalties for underreporting income, although Montoya insists he isn't much bothered by that. "I think we have a good case," he says.

But pretty much anything is better than how he describes his last few years in Sprint Cup, driving for a consistently, often inexplicably underperforming team—he and teammate Jamie McMurray have a total of two wins between them since becoming teammates in 2010, while Ganassi's sports-car and IndyCar teams won six races last season alone in a decidedly down year.

Exactly why Ganassi has never been able to get his NASCAR teams up to the Hendrick, Penske, Roush, Gibbs, or Childress level is one of the great mysteries in the sport. He has changed personnel, manufacturers, spent millions, and almost always had full and deep-pocketed sponsorship. Last season Montoya had just eight top-10s and no poles, and finished 21st in points. Mark Martin was 25th in points, and he didn't even compete in eight of the 36 races.

Clearly, it was time for a change, but the change caught the sport flat-footed. "Surprised? Yes, I was surprised," teammate Castroneves told Car and Driver. "I did not expect him to leave NASCAR, plus his relationship with Ganassi goes back so far. And I was surprised he wanted to come back to open-wheel cars. But that he did was a good surprise."

So why did he? You might think that as he gets older, and the fact that he is a dedicated family man, IndyCar's 18-race schedule—half the number of NASCAR's races—would appeal, and he says it does. "But what really appealed to me was being able to run for Roger Penske, and be in a winning car, and work with Will and Helio and the rest of the Penske crew."

That should help, says Cindric, the Penske Racing president. "In NASCAR, Juan has never had a really strong teammate who was running well—and that is not the fault of his teammates—to measure himself against, to gauge his performance." Now he will.

Cindric thinks it won't take long for Montoya to get up to speed, but getting back his level of confidence, that might take a little longer.

"I had seven years where it was hard because I know I can friggin' do it," Montoya says. "It got to the point on weekends where we never thought, 'Okay, we're going to win this thing,' apart from two weeks out of the year. Otherwise, if we have a really good day, we might run fifth. Even if you have a car that can win you think, 'When are we going to screw it up?' That mentality is tough.  And being here changes that."

from Car and Driver Blog


Put the internet to work for you.

via Personal Recipe 647533

Future Ford Product Teased Just Before Debut, May Monitor Driver’s Health


Checking out, the site Ford has set up to livestream video from their upcoming reveal of the all-new 2015 Mustang, it appears that the teaser video may include exterior and interior views of the new car, along with the possibility that the 50th anniversary version of Ford's pony car will actually monitor the driver's health.



While mentioning that Ford executives will be present for "major product reveals", the video references "remarkable technologies" while a list of technology features scroll on the screen. Included among features like Fully Automated Parking, SYNC Emergency Assist and Lane Keep Assist are two features that appear to have the ability to monitor the driver's health: ECG Heart Rate Monitoring and Glucose Level Monitoring. Some cars today can record all sorts of performance data. Extending a car's information technology to record the driver's 'performance' levels as well is a logical next step.


Of course, it's just a promotional video. The driver monitoring technologies might be science fiction and the images might not be of the new Mustang but the fact that those health measurements are included on that list shows that at the very least, someone in Dearborn is thinking about them.

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 get a parallax view 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

from The Truth About Cars


Put the internet to work for you.

via Personal Recipe 680102

The Cold Hard Light Of Reality: Three Months With The Town & Country S


Buying a new car is exciting and if you are like me, you spend weeks comparing the possible candidates. You start out by looking at photos and then seeking out road tests. You gather sales brochures, pour over the spec sheets and examine the option packages. You compare prices, build fleets of similarly optioned virtual vehicles at the manufacturers' websites and eventually head to the dealership. You kick the tires, poke, prod and generally examine the merchandise. You find things you don't like and things you do. You take a test drive, go home to think, come back and drive again. Eventually you buy.

Signing the papers on a new car is pure euphoria. It's an orgasm of consumerism. Your signature spills out the end of the pen and onto the paper in the ultimate release after weeks of delicate maneuvering and pent-up anticipation. It is point where years of scrimping and saving intersect with the idea that the future is a real place and that you have committed to going there. When the act is completed, you are exhausted but happy. You've made your choice, are committed to the relationship and now have no choice but to be happy with what you've done. You have invested too much to admit to making a mistake.

Three months into the relationship that surge of emotion is long gone and you are living with the results. The cold, hard light of reality shines down upon the choices you have made and the real assessment begins. I am there now. It has been almost three months and 1500 miles since I spent my own hard-earned money on a 2013 Chrysler Town & Country S. Summer is long gone and autumn is turning to winter, how fares the vehicle?


Pretty damn well, actually. With just 1500 miles on the clock, the engine is just beginning to break-in but so far there have been no problems. The mill is smooth, quiet and makes oodles of power and connects to the road through a slick shifting transmission that has already learned my wife's driving habits and a well-sorted chassis. As someone who dislikes revving an engine to make a car go, I'm glad that the 3.6 Pentastar piles on the torque early and the van accelerates smoothly all across the rev range. The suspension, which feels plush and compliant on the rough Buffalo roads, keeps the car solidly planted in the curves and allows spirited drivers to silence cranky babies in the back seat through the miracle of lateral G-force induced blackouts.

Mechanically the T&C is a winner but I am also amazed that an amount of thought that went into its interior. I noticed the well thought out controls and good looking instrument cluster on our initial test drives, but it wasn't until after I purchased the vehicle that I got the opportunity to see what it was like to be in at night. When the sun goes down and the lights come up, the already beautiful instrument cluster turns into a 1950's Wurlitzer Juke-Box and the neon theme runs the length of the passenger compartment in the form of dim blue interior lighting that illuminates the space from behind the overhead console. There is even a blue LED band that runs around the drink holder in the console between the front seats. To someone more cultured than yours truly, that might seem like a trite little add-on but to me lighting effects are to the future what the tail fin is to the past.


My inner cheapskate would not have allowed me to check the box that would not have ordered most of the electronic gizmos that the T&C S comes loaded with standard but they truly add that extra layer of luxury to an already well composed machine. When my family took a day trip to Toronto a week or two ago the in-dash blue ray DVD player and twin overhead flat screens went into instant operation and kept the kids' attention the entire ride. The navigation, something I have forgone on every vehicle with the exception of the JDM Mazda MPV we owned in Okinawa, usually runs quietly in the background while I drive, but was used extensively during our trip into the maelstrom that is the Toronto area freeway system. With the single exception of the device steering us into the collector lanes for the last part of our trip rather than directing us into the express lanes, the Navi functioned flawlessly.

The best news is that all this technology is easy to use. I don't know if you've noticed but sometime in the last few years the tech aficionado that once occupied my skin turned into a crotchety old man. The days of me sitting down and reading an owner's manual are long gone. If I can't learn how something works in less than 5 minutes by trial and error, I'm unhappy. Chrysler's technology package is simple enough that I was able to learn how it worked on the fly. I will admit that I had to research how to hook the cell phone into the blue tooth system, but even that was accomplished in just a couple of minutes.

Of course there have been a couple of issues, too. The back up sensors my wife wanted installed as a dealer added option are less than satisfactory. The initial install was fraught with problems and the van went to the dealer four times to have the problems resolved. The end result is a system that is far too sensitive for my taste, sounding the alarm at even minor changes in the pavement behind the van as we back up, and with a chirpy warning alarm that is shrill and cheap-sounding in a van that exudes solidity, quiet and comfort. The good news is that the dealer did their best to make things right by giving us free loaner vehicles every time the van visited their shop and by adding a full rust proofing treatment at no cost to me.

Three months and 1500 miles is not a lot of time with a new vehicle, but it is long enough that the rose colored glasses have come off. The euphoria is gone and the hard, cold light of the day after is here. Day to day life with the T&C is smooth and easy and if I was not totally in love when I rolled the dice and took her home, I have learned over the ensuing weeks of our relationship that there is more to her than meets the eye. Pretty to look at, warm, soft and thoughtful when I am in her embrace and with an amazing combination of practicality and unexpected strength she is, I think, a jewel. If she is durable as well, then our love will be one for the ages.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

from The Truth About Cars


Put the internet to work for you.

via Personal Recipe 680102