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PT Cruiser, RIP
Jul16

PT Cruiser, RIP

By Roger Boylan

When it came out in late 1999 as a 2000 model, the Chrysler PT Cruiser PT was, love it or hate it, sui generis. It kicked off the retro revolution. Two years after the furor of the New Beetle, American car design was back where it belonged, out in front of the pack, and Chrysler was once again taking chances…and dividing public opinion. I can remember no other vehicle—not the Mini, not the New Beetle, not the Chevy HHR–that aroused such passions, pro and con, at its inception.  A few years later, of course, feelings had cooled, and after a couple of minimal cyclical touch-ups and a spate of spinoff submodels such as the Dream Cruiser, the GT Turbo, and the misbegotten convertible, Chrysler wound down its investment in the Cruiser.

By 2007, after a half-hearted attempt to refresh the aging design, the company, by then heading rapidly down the tubes itself, had essentially condemned the PT to death. It limped on for another three years. Then the former “it” car, the hottest of hot sellers, the  paradigm of cutting-edge design, was no more. The last one rolled off the line on July 9.  The plant that produced it in Toluca, Mexico, is being retooled for Fiat 500 production.

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2011 Ford F-150 to Get Three New Engines

By Chris Haak

Ford announced yesterday that its 2011 F-150 pickup will receive three new engines for the 2011 model year, and all should improve fuel economy, power, and torque over their predecessors.

For the first time since the 2008 model year, the F-150 will be available with a V6 as its base engine.  Back in 2008, the V6 was an agricultural 4.2 liter unit, but the new one should sound familiar to Mustang fans – it’s a derivative of the 3.7 liter Ti-VCT unit installed in the 2011 Mustang Coupe.  Speaking from firsthand experience, this excellent engine is a strong V6 and surely will not leave base F-150 buyers wanting for more power.  In Mustang trim, the V6 produces 305 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque; the former base engine, a 4.6 liter 2-valve V8, produced a paltry 248 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.  The V8’s torque peak came at 4,000 RPMs and the V6’s comes at 4,250 in the Mustang; not a significant difference, and one that may be altered via tuning before installation in the truck.  The 3.7 liter, you may recall, returns an impressive 31 mpg on the highway in the Mustang.  Our crystal ball says to expect low- to mid-20s in the F-150.

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Can Transformers 3 Help NASCAR Transform Its Image?
Jul15

Can Transformers 3 Help NASCAR Transform Its Image?

By Charles Krome

Frankly, I’m not much of a Transformers guy. I was a bit too old to watch the cartoons, and the acting skills of Megan Fox notwithstanding, I watched but didn’t get much out of the first Michael Bay movie. Needless to say, I passed on the second altogether.

On the other hand, I am an old-school NASCAR fan, who grew up cheering for the likes of Bobby Allison, Richard Petty and David Pearson back in the 1970s. True, my interest in the sport shrank as NASCAR itself grew to become a multi-billion-dollar spec-racing series in more recent years, but it never disappeared entirely.

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Chevy Volt’s Battery Will Have 8 Year/100,000 Mile Warranty

By Chris Haak

The Chevrolet Volt – whose production is inching closer, for a fourth quarter soft launch – will see its batteries (including 161 related components such as the thermal management system, charging system, and electric-drive components) covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles.  This warranty is longer than what GM offers on any other passenger cars or light trucks, and was probably done out of necessity to convince hesitant potential buyers that they aren’t likely to have to spring for battery replacement on the car during their first few years of ownership.

GM also announced today that the Volt’s internal-combustion engine will carry at least the company’s typical 5 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, though that was not announced today.

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Jaguar Green-Lights 3 Series Rival and 2-Seat Sports Coupe

By Chris Haak

Several of us at Techshake are fans of Jaguars, and their latest offerings in particular (such as the XF Supercharged and the XF Premium) have drawn much well-deserved praise from us.  Writing about cars and driving all of the latest and greatest from auto manufacturers certainly tends to jade us, so when the two of us who spent weeklong stints behind the different XF models immediately scoured eBay for used examples, you know that Jaguar has something special on tap.  In other words, we were willing to put our money where our mouths (keystrokes?) were, if only XFs would just depreciate a bit faster.

We also, however, do not have any formal editorial stance here.  Just because two of us loved the XF does not mean that opinion is universal here.  But alas, nothing is able to stop progress, and today we have news [] that Ratan Tata, chairman of Jaguar’s new parent company that carries the same name as him, has approved development of a new flexible architecture that is to be used on several exciting new Jaguar models.

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2011 Ford Fiesta Deliverys Delayed Due to Weather

By Chris Haak

Production of the all-new Ford Fiesta subcompact [note:  first drive review available here]  in the company’s plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico (near Mexico City) is ramping up, and many eager buyers are waiting to receive their new cars.  (With apologies to Henry Ford, in spite of what we’ve seen in the Fiesta’s promotional materials, there is no truth to speculation that the car is available in any color, as long as it’s lime green.)

Unfortunately, deliveries of the car have hit a snag.  Hurricane Alex hit northern Mexico in late June, and Tropical Storm Bonnie hit the country shortly thereafter.  The back-to-back storms knocked out critical rail lines that Ford typically uses to transport completed cars north of the border into the US.

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NHTSA Analysis Shows Driver Error Caused Most Toyota SUA Crashes

By Chris Haak

According to a , people familiar with an extensive analysis done by the Department of Transportation told the paper that the agency has found that in all of the crashes that it investigated, the accelerator was applied and the brakes were not.  The DOT did not find any indication of electronic “gremlins” that had been suspected as a potential cause of the recalled Toyotas.

Though Toyota seems to be in the clear regarding any type of electronic glitches, the WSJ points out that the electronic exoneration does not extend to the issues for which millions of Toyotas were recalled.  That is, the floor mat entrapment and sticky CTS-supplied accelerator pedals still are still issues that have to be addressed via recall repairs.

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Making Sense of the Toyota/Tesla Deal
Jul13

Making Sense of the Toyota/Tesla Deal

By Charles Krome

When you think about it, Elon Musk’s decision to name his electric sports-car company after Nikola Tesla made for a perfect match. Tesla, the scientist, was originally known for his groundbreaking research into electricity and electromagnetism, but his later years were taken up by lawsuits, constant battles to get his projects funded and an increasingly eccentric personal life.

Needless to say, it doesn’t take much creative license to apply that template to Musk, which would seem to make Tesla, the automaker, an odd choice for a Toyota investment. Yet back in May, Toyota ponied up $50 million and the NUMMI plant in California to partner with Tesla on future products, with the future arriving a lot quicker than most people thought.

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