By Roger Boylan
This test of a 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4X4–it’s quite a mouthful, so let’s call it “the Rubicon” for short–was my second week-long association with a Wrangler. Back in November of ’08 I tested an Unlimited Sahara, the next trim level down in the line-up (six versions and counting, from base Wrangler Sport to top-of-the-hill Rubicon), and cheaper than the Rubicon, which can run you a theoretical $37K, fully loaded. I stress that theoretical, because I doubt that anyone in all of history has ever paid that kind of money for a Jeep Wrangler, however well-equipped. Mind you, even at that price point it’s a lot cheaper than a Range Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser, or Hummer, the other obvious rugged but family-friendly 4x4s (but on par with less upscale Toyota FJ Cruisers or Nissan Xterras).
By Brendan Moore
If you’re an automotive enthusiast, and have spent any time discussing Japanese cars and their design, or lack thereof, with other auto mavens, sooner or later someone will say something similar to the following:
“I’ve never understood why the Japanese automakers, with all of their resources, just don’t hire the Italians to design their cars. They obviously need some help in that area and the Italians are awfully good at it, so it seems like a match made in heaven. The Japanese are awfully good at engineering their cars and screwing those cars together, the Italians are generally not good at those parts of the car business unless you get up to a $100,000 price, but they are good at styling cars, so let’s just get them together.”
Or, something like that.
Dream on, right?
Well, here is the next best thing, sort of.
By Brendan Moore
In what will be a largely symbolic gesture as opposed to a change that produces big sales numbers, the Japanese government has decided to allow imported American cars to be eligible for their version of a cash-for-clunkers stimulus program.
The previous exclusion from the program was based on the fact that the imported American cars were not required to be tested under Japan’s government fuel economy standards as a result of being sold under a special waiver provision, and therefore had no official government fuel economy rating that could be used to qualify for the cash for clunkers program.
There are only around 2000 American vehicles imported to Japan every year, and of that 2000, it is believed that only about 40% of those meet Japan’s tough new fuel economy standards for 2010, which is a requirement for eligibility for Japan’s cash for clunkers initiative.
By Andy Bannister
The new-to-America Ford Transit Connect has been on sale in Europe for some years, and may have a doubtful long-term durability record, according to a newly-published British snapshot of vehicle roadworthiness after three years.
Ford has, however, strongly disputed the validility of the findings.
The Transit Connect was the most troublesome vehicle in terms of failing a maintenance test all vehicles over three years old have to undergo in the United Kingdom annually, statistics released under the UK Freedom of Information Act revealed.
By Chris Haak
The third-generation Acura TL was, in my opinion, the most attractive car that Acura has ever sold in the brand’s nearly quarter-century history. It had a dramatic wedge shape, a very pronounced character line that encompassed the door handles and side marker lights, and looked different from most other front wheel drive cars on the road. It also had a fairly attractive grille. The third-generation TL was available in the US from the 2004 through 2008 model years.
Then the time came to update the TL with an all-new car. Much about the fourth-generation (2009+) TL is right; the interior is more spacious, technology more impressive, all wheel drive is available, and the engines are more powerful. Yet the clean, lean design of the third-generation car somehow morphed into a car that has a big butt and a cheese grater grille (which Acura calls a “Power Plenum.” With the model changeover, the title of “best looking Acura” slipped over to the smaller Euro Accord-based TSX, and “best looking” became more like “least bad looking.”
By Andy Bannister
General Motors in Europe is scrambling to catch up with its rivals in the continent’s booming city car market, although it will be at least another two years before its proposed baby Opel and Vauxhall comes to market.
The company’s long-standing tie-up with Suzuki to produce an entry-level model, the Agila, has been a mite disappointing, and is potentially doomed anyway since Suzuki hopped into bed with Volkswagen.
The current Agila, now in its second generation, hasn’t been a roaring sales success, despite offering much more space than rivals like the Ford Ka, Peugeot 107 and Renault Twingo.
The trouble is it looks too big and is just not cute enough to cut the mustard as a city car player, in a market where interior room is less important than image.
It is built in Hungary by Suzuki, and has a near-identical twin sister, the similarly-obscure Suzuki Splash.
It didn’t help that the first generation Agila was particularly ugly, resembling a wardrobe-on-wheels, which made it the butt of many jokes. The latest model is much better looking, but the negative conotations still stick.
By Kevin Miller
As evidenced by the slew of electric and plug-in-hybrid vehicles seen at NAIAS this week as well as in LA last month, zero-emission plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) will soon be silently whirring into driveways and garages near you. While the fallacy of calling these vehicles “zero emission” won’t be addressed here (other than a note that you’re fooling yourself if you think the coal-fired power plant generating your electricity is “zero emission”), the impact on the electric distribution network that recharges those PEVs will.
At last month’s LA Auto Show, California’s regional electric utility Southern California Edison (SCE) had a booth and representatives for the purpose of informing consumers about their options for variable rate plans for recharging their PEVs, and also asking customers to let their utility know when they’re planning to install a PEV charger at their residence.
While it is admirable that utilities such as SCE are preparing for the additional loads of PEVs, some critics believe the utility is putting its proverbial cart ahead of its horse. As Techshake reported almost three years ago, a 2006 study by the US Department of Energy study determined that the nation’s existing electrical grid has enough capacity to accept the addition of 180 million plug-in vehicles. That is a really big number; consider that about 10.4 million new vehicles were sold in the US in 2009, so it would take at least 15 years for our country to reach 180 million vehicles, and that is assuming that every car sold has plug-in capability, which it won’t. So you might ask why utilities are so worried about the additional electrical load coming from PEVs? There are a few reasons.
By Chris Haak
According to articles both in the and in the , GM’s Chairman Ed Whitacre and an eight-member executive committee approved allocation of about $1 billion USD to fund development of the company’s next generation of full-size trucks. The update to the full-size pickups had been put on hold pending clarity on US fuel-economy standards – which has now come – and perhaps more importantly, the availability of money to actually pay for development of these new vehicles.
GM’s full-size trucks were last redesigned and re-engineered in 2006 for the 2007 model year. Meanwhile, both Ford and Dodge launched competing pickups two years later, and the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram each have certain features that the GM trucks are lacking.
Although light trucks are required to average 24.1 miles per gallon in 2011, even a fuel economy-focused engineering effort isn’t going to be enough to get the behemoths to reach that number. All is not lost, however; the new-generation trucks will improve on the current trucks’ numbers, and other light trucks such as crossovers and the like will help ratchet GM’s average upward toward the magic number.