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Review:  2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Dec28

Review: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS

By Charles Krome

I guess I must have been a better person this year than I thought, because Chevy Claus stopped by just before Christmas to loan me a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS, along with a full tank of gas, for a week of holiday hot-rodding.

As most people know, the SS is currently at the top of the Camaro range, and I suppose “mine” was at the top of the top: It packed the LS3 V8, mated to a Tremec six-speed manual, which meant I had 426 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque on tap; you get a mere 400 of the former and 410 of the latter with the L99/six-speed auto combination.

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NAIAS Preview:  Toyota Prius Family
Dec27

NAIAS Preview: Toyota Prius Family

By Charles Krome

After 10 years and nearly a million units sold in the U.S., the Toyota Prius is finally getting a sibling. In fact, it’s getting a whole family. The approaching North American International Auto Show in Detroit will see the introduction of an MPV version of the Prius, a plug-in hybrid model and a separate Prius concept vehicle of some sort. This will be a long overdue expansion of the Prius brand that could help Toyota recapture some of its mojo here in the U.S.—at least if fuel prices start to rise.

The MPV strikes me as a particularly interesting proposition, coming as it does when minivans in general are seeing renewed interest in the marketplace and mini-minivans, like the Ford C-MAX, are just about to hit the mainstream. Plus, both of those kinds of vehicles are typically used for extended stop-start driving routines, as parents drop off kids here, pick them up there and run to the grocery store in between. In other words, exactly the sort of driving situations in which hybrids are supposed to excel.

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NAIAS Preview:  Hyundai Veloster
Dec23

NAIAS Preview: Hyundai Veloster

By Charles Krome

Well, it looks like the long wait for a low-cost Hyundai sports coupe will soon be over. The company has   for the 2011 Hyundai Veloster, with the former providing a very few clues to the car’s content and the latter featuring a countdown clock for the its North American International Auto Show debut.

Based on that video, the Veloster will pack a direct-injection engine, a dual-clutch gearbox and the ability to hit an estimated 40 mpg, undoubtedly referring to its EPA highway rating. I’m thinking this means it will pack the same new 1.8-liter I4 found in the 2011 Elantra, where it makes 148 hp and 131 lb-ft of torque, while posting an EPA line of 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway. Details are scarce beyond this, although it’s a safe bet the Veloster concept of 2007 will have plenty of influence on the production model.

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Beijing’s New Traffic Curbs Will Harm Vehicle Sales

By Chris Haak

In China today, Beijing’s municipal government imposed some dramatic new rules that will curtail the number of new cars that can be registered in the city starting next year.  The headline is that Beijing will limit the number of new car and microvan license plates issued during 2011 to just 240,000, which is about one-third of the number issued in 2010.  Also, only registered Beijing residents will be able to obtain a license plate.  Further, cars without a Beijing license plate will be prohibited from entering the city’s center.

Yale Zhang, an independent auto analyst , noted that the move by Beijing would basically cost auto manufacturers a half-million sales during 2011.  His math is easy to see:  assuming about 720,000 registrations were allowed in 2010, lopping off all but 240,000 to be permitted in 2011 means that 480,000 new cars will not be permitted to register in Beijing, and therefore will not be sold.

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Quick Drive:  2010 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Dec23

Quick Drive: 2010 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

By Chris Haak

Having driven several hundred new and used cars during my 17 years with a driver’s license, and especially in recent years as I’m afforded the opportunity to sample cars and trucks from all corners of the automotive market, I’ve become a bit jaded, particularly in terms of what I feel is enough power for me to call it “enough.”  My own 304-horsepower Cadillac CTS sedan feels quick at times, but its slow-witted six-speed automatic and lack of low-end torque compared to V8s often makes it feel a bit flat-footed.  I’ve gotten to the point that almost any car – even those with 400- horsepower V8s – feels to me as if it could be just a little faster.

So as it happened, at a recent media event, I was standing near a parking area containing several Chevrolet models – a Cruze LTZ (which I had the chance to drive for the first time), a Camaro SS, and a few other random cars.  The folks loitering nearby were a with talk that a pre-production Chevy Volt would be arriving within moments.  “Cool,” I thought; I’d love to get some seat time in Chevy’s media darling.

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