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Toyota Finally Succumbs to Plug-In Hybrid Desire
Dec15

Toyota Finally Succumbs to Plug-In Hybrid Desire

Or at least, succumbs to consumer desire for plug-ins…

By Brendan Moore

12.15.2009

Toyota logo-smallToyota announced yesterday that it would offer a plug-in hybrid version of its Prius on a lease basis this winter and would offer the same car for sale in the next two years. The company said only 150 of the plug-ins would be offered under lease terms in the next few months, but that “tens of thousands” would be offered for sale in the next 24-month time period.

It has to be said that Toyota officials are not exactly ecstatic over the fact that they will be offering a plug-in hybrid. For years, Toyota has been lukewarm to the whole idea of plug-ins, claiming that it just doesn’t make much sense to add so much extra weight to a car and to take up so much space in a car in order to make it travel for a very short distance on electric power. Toyota executives have always felt that the market for such a vehicle will be limited as a result of the compromises inherent in the car.

One gets the distinct and palpable feeling that their support for the plug-in hybrid is grudging and is predicated more by the public’s desire for the vehicles more than any internal enthusiasm they have for it. But, with GM and Ford both planning launches of plug-in hybrids in the near future, and, other companies, most notably Nissan, planning to offer all-electric vehicles for sale next year, Toyota does not wish to be seen as dragging its feet in either a technology or a “green” sense, so it seems they felt as though their choice was made for them.

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2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is Adds a Letter to its Name, 35 Horsepower to its Engine
Dec14

2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is Adds a Letter to its Name, 35 Horsepower to its Engine

By Chris Haak

12.14.2009

P90054023BMW confirmed yesterday that it will display the upcoming 2011 Z4 sDrive35is roadster at the January North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The “s” model adds a special version of BMW’s 3.0 liter twin turbo inline-6 that produces 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, vs. 300/300 for the “normal” sDrive35i (and in fact for normal versions of the twin turbo I6 in other BMW applications such as the 535i, 335i, and 135i, among others.) As in the Porsche 911 Turbo, this engine’s management software also allows for a brief overboost function that boosts peak torque from 332 lb-ft to 369 lb-ft . With the overboost feature, the car can leap from zero to sixty in 4.7 seconds, according to BMW.

The upgraded engine makes its extra power without increasing fuel consumption or emissions – always a good thing in these environmentally-sensitive, fuel economy-intensive times.  Aside from the engine upgrades, the Z4 sDrive35is gets a re-tuned exhaust for a more aggressive sound and a deeper bass rumble than the exhaust in the regular sDrive35i.  Having driven a 2009 Z4 sDrive35i with the top down, I can testify that even the standard exhaust has a fairly-aggressive sound, and hearing the dual-clutch gearbox pop off upshifts and downshifts literally in the blink of an eye is another magnificent auditory experience.  From BMW’s press release, it appears that the modified exhaust does not improve performance or contribute to the car’s horsepower and torque gains relative to the standard model.

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Updike’s Miles
Dec14

Updike’s Miles

By Roger Boylan

12.14.2009

[Quoted passages from “My Life in Cars,” in Due Considerations, by John Updike. New York: Knopf, 2007.]

John Updike, who died last January, was a man of many interests and broad horizons: novelist, art critic, short-story writer, poet, and, up to a point, car guy—or should I say, automotive esthete. Not for him the oil-stained T-shirt and under-the-hood exertions of a weekend. He couldn’t have cared less about the 0-60 time or highway mpg of a car. Nevertheless, as he says in Due Considerations, his last collection of essays and reviews, he truly loved cars. “One lives in these machines, and loves them sometimes without knowing it,” as he says. So, in a delightful short piece called “My Life In Cars,” he sketches an auto-autobiography.

55_ford_blue[1]He starts by reminiscing fondly about his first car, “a ’55 four-door Waterfall Blue Ford,” but fails to state whether it was a Fairlane or a Crown Victoria. I’d go for the Fairlane, as the more common model, and one commonly available, my research tells me, in Waterfall Blue.

This car survived for several years as a transporter first of the young bachelor, then of the married man and his growing family; and it made the transition from New York City, where, Updike says, his indignation still simmering, “the Waterfall Blue paint got spattered with drops of tar,” to halcyon Massachusetts. In the countryside, no further such outrages occurred. Updike raised his first family, started writing for The New Yorker, and drove the Ford back and forth to New York City. It died at a respectful age, having been traded in, then bought back, by its deeply affectionate owner, who never forgot it, as if it were a faithful dog, or an old horse. But after all, as he says, “We in America make love in our cars, and listen to ball games…small wonder the landscape is sacrificed to these dreaming vehicles of our ideal and onrushing manhood.”

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Beijing Automotive Buys a Saab Lineup
Dec13

Beijing Automotive Buys a Saab Lineup

And by doing so, finally gets a lineup of their own

By Brendan Moore

12.13.2009

Saab emblem blue backgroundUPDATED: 12.14.2009 12:15 – Negotiations between China’s Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp (BAIC) and GM regarding the sale of the technology and tooling required to produce all the iterations of Saab’s previous 9-5 and 9-3 models has concluded today with the preliminary sale of same to BAIC, according to sources in Sweden.

Beijing Automotive will build the older models in China under their own, as yet undisclosed, brand name.

The sources offered assurances that the deal for the older models will not impede the possible sale of Saab to a new owner in any way.

There is no official comment from GM, Saab or Beijing Automotive. Previous comments by Saab officials regarding the possible sale of the old technology to Beijing Automotive merely stated that Saab was confident that any new versions of old Saabs produced in China would not injure the Saab brand elsewhere in the world.

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Tasteful Brand Emblems are Nowhere to be Found
Dec12

Tasteful Brand Emblems are Nowhere to be Found

By Chris Haak

12.12.2009

11_superduty_fullfrontWhen Ford’s very butch 2011 Super Duty pickups made their debut, one of the new truck’s most outrageous features was its exaggerated grille.  Further adorning this exaggerated grille is probably the second- or third-largest Ford blue oval emblem that you are ever likely to see (the two larger ones being those at an auto show or on a dealership’s signage).  It’s easily larger than any other blue oval affixed to any other vehicle in history, although I don’t have its exact measurements.

The almost-cartoonish size of the 2011 Super Duty’s Ford emblem makes a little more sense in that particular application because the truck itself is very large.  And with pickup trucks, and three-quarter and one-ton heavy duty models in particular, brand loyalty is probably stronger than in any other vehicle class.  I know guys who have gone from BMW to Mercedes-Benz and back again to BMW, but would be hard-pressed to think of any who have switched from Ford to Chevy.  So perhaps Ford is just saving its owners the trouble of sticking a Calvin-peeing-on-a-bowtie sticker on the back window, and giving them another outlet to display their brand pride.

Still, the 2011 Super Duty’s emblem is hopefully the zenith of a trend that has been several years in the making.  Considering that the emblem consumes about a third of the grille’s width, it seems unlikely that it a future Ford truck could ever possibly have a larger emblem attached to it.

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Auto Dealers Taste Victory with Arbitration Bill in House
Dec11

Auto Dealers Taste Victory with Arbitration Bill in House

Senate may vote on bill early next week, approval there is expected

By Brendan Moore

12.11.2009

Maybe not...

Maybe not...

In a development cheered by some American automotive dealers, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would guarantee as many as 2,150 terminated General Motors and Chrysler dealers the right to “neutral” arbitration hearings under rules defined by those dealers as more advantageous than the current criteria used by the two manufacturers.

Groups representing the terminated dealers, including the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) have ratcheted up the pressure on their state lawmakers to act on their behalf since GM and Chrysler sent out the notices of dealer closings.

GM and Chrysler were able to nullify the restrictive dealer agreements they had with the dealers as a result of their federal bankruptcies, but the affected dealers have since mounted a fierce effort to convince their local representatives that their franchise agreements should not be superseded by federal law, that GM and Chrysler should still have to abide by their dealer agreements.

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London 2012 Blowing off the Nissan Leaf
Dec11

London 2012 Blowing off the Nissan Leaf

By George Straton

12.11.2009

A_london2012_logoPerhaps the Fab Four were a bit off when they heralded “money can’t buy me love.”

Because it seems that $45 million USD and the ubiquitous “oohs” and “aahs” which accompany the Blue and White Propeller, mixed in with some political fears of failure are precisely what finalized acceptance of BMWs bid to supply the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games with 4000 courtesy vehicles.

You know; the transport for athletes, IOC officials and volunteers. Does BMW seriously expect the investment required by them to become a Tier One “corporate sponsor” will pay off the way it does for another Tier One, McDonald’s? After all McDonald’s serves “Billions and Billions” each year while BMW serves barely over one million. Perhaps BMW’s numbers can swell if it licenses technology and gets another line out of it  such as that of the composite-bodied planned Mega City Car.

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2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited Review
Dec10

2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited Review

By Kevin Miller

12.10.2009

2010 Subaru OutbackI’ve just spent a week with the range-topping version of Subaru’s new-for-2010 fourth-generation Outback, the 3.6R Limited. Having recently had a week with a rather austere version of Subaru’s Legacy sedan, I rather enjoyed the week I spent with its elevated sibling.

The all-new 2010 Outback marks the fourth-generation of Subaru’s Sport Utility Wagon. The new Outback is available with two all-wheel drive powertrains; a: revised 170-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine in the 2.5i, and a 256-hp 3.6-liter, Boxer engine in the 3.6R.The 2.5i is available with Outback’s first-ever 6-speed manual transmission or a Lineartronic CVT automatic which achieves a commendable 22/29 MPG EPA rating. The 3.6R has a five-speed automatic transmission.

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