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The Mystique of Italian Cars
Apr12

The Mystique of Italian Cars

maserati-granturismo

By James Wong

04.12.2008

Passion.

It’s a rare thing these days, with every car manufacturer claiming a full-blooded engineering marvel every time they release their latest sports car. How many of the cars in the world today actually tugs at our heartstrings and make us crumble in joy whenever we see or hear one pass by us on the street? And where do these cars always come from?

Undeniably, Italy is one country that will produce automobiles that no any other country can ever replicate – and, although it’s a personal opinion, I do believe that they produce the most passionate cars in the world. Just articulating their names to yourself makes you smile, having spoken one of the most beautiful names you can ever give to a brand. Maserati. Ferrari. Pagani. Lamborghini. And their cars itself, each and every one revered by car enthusiasts worldwide, are no empty vessels either. They are true driver’s cars, built for the winding B-roads and the Autostrada that Italy is so famous for. So, this article hopes to explore why Italian cars hold a special place in every one of our petrolhead hearts, and why they are probably going to be on bedroom posters of young boys for a long time to come.

2007-pagani-zonda-fItalian cars are no stranger to history. Dating back to as early as the 1920s, Maserati has been making racing cars to compete in races that included illustrious competitors like Auto Union (which eventually became Audi) and Mercedes. Ferrari, a name synonymous with the F1 Grand Prix, is still a force to be reckoned with in the racing scene, having taken 1st place in the Constructor’s Championship for both 2007 and 2008. In the 1960s, Lamborghini built a car called the Miura which, up till today, is still looking as good as ever. Pagani, although a relatively new company set up in the 1990s, restored whatever lost faith people had in Italian cars by building outrageously opulent, gorgeous, manic cars that did not live by the constraints of conformity and tastes of the bourgeoisie. As one can plainly see, the reputation of Italian cars did not come out of nowhere – their colourful and deep history serves in some way or another to contribute to the appeal of Italian cars.

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2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is First to Get Chrysler’s New V6
Apr10

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is First to Get Chrysler’s New V6

By Chris Haak

04.10.2009

All-new flexible fuel 3.6-liter V-6 engine

Chrysler's new Pentastar V6 engine

Lost in the news about this week’s unveiling of the all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the news that Chrysler’s new V6 engine family, previously known as the “Phoenix V6”, will make its debut in the Grand Cherokee.  Chrysler was unable to trademark the Phoenix name, so it decided to name the engine family the “Pentastar V6.”  I’m guessing that they already owned the trademark to ‘Pentastar.’

The new engine family will find its way throughout the entire Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep lineup eventually over the next few years in a variety of configurations and displacements.  In fact, according to an , there will be ten variants of this engine family, in displacements of 3.0, 3.3, and 3.6 liters, two marine-only 4.0 liter versions, and a V8 version displacing 4.7 liters at some point down the road.  Some future variants will have direct injection, cylinder deactivation, hybrid applications, and more.  The Pentastar V6 replaces seven current V6 engines, which not only will provide customers with a more powerful and fuel efficient engine, but should also save Chrysler a ton of money by simplifying its engine lineup (and therefore making manufacturing much simpler).

Specific to the 2011 Grand Cherokee, the engine displaces 3.6 liters and produces 280 horsepower at 6,400 RPMs and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4.800 RPMs.  It also runs on regular unleaded fuel and provides an 11% fuel economy improvement over the Grand Cherokee’s current 3.7 liter V6 (with a 33% horsepower increase and 11% torque increase).  It has a 7,200 RPM redline, is capable of running on E85, and is classified as a PZEV (partial zero-emissions vehicle), meaning the exhaust coming out of the tailpipes is cleaner than the ambient air in a smog-filled big city.

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2009 Chevrolet HHR 1LT Review
Apr09

2009 Chevrolet HHR 1LT Review

By Roger Boylan

04.09.2009

450px-texas_hill_country_nima_2The Hill Country of Texas, which extends from the southernmost part of the Great Plains to nearly the Mexican border, is an ideal place to test drive a car. Not only is it a beautiful, windswept, rugged region–a kind of Texan Provence, down to the limestone crags and barren hillsides–it also has winding roads of such tortuous narrowness as to bring out the best, or worst, in a car’s handling, steering, and suspension; broad highways where a surreptitious scofflaw can easily hit 100 on a hot afternoon when the sheriff’s on his siesta; and rock-strewn trails tailor-made to shake up any 4-Wheel-Low system. A couple of times a year there are torrential downpours that would make Noah feel at home and that tax a vehicle’s windshield wipers and maneuverability to the limit. In the fleeting interstices of winter, there’s even the occasional ice storm to facilitate your sideways skid. All the Hill Country doesn’t have, or so rarely as to be almost never, is snow.

28136425heloteslongroad1pbI happen to live on the edge of this wonderland, so it’s into the hills I go when I want to shake out the hidden flaws of a test vehicle–literally, because the Hill Country back roads are paved in rough asphalt that sets off little riots of rattling in poorly fitting panels. This last week I put a Chevrolet HHR (for Heritage High Roof) to the test. It was a ruthless decision, but over the first three days of my week-long test I’d found myself liking the little retrowagon a little too much. As a diehard PT Cruiser fan and owner, I was prepared to find fault with its newer, boxier rival, but instead I found myself having an absolute blast with the HHR, and I wasn’t even driving an upscale version.

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New York Auto Show, Second Press Day
Apr09

New York Auto Show, Second Press Day

auto-journalists-at-ev-truck

By Brendan Moore

04.09.2009

The second day of the New York Auto Show opened here with more media types present, but not appreciably more. More of the displays are now moving towards completion, which, again, is out of sync with past years – usually the manufacturers want to put their best foot forward while the automotive press is in front of them, but it seems some of them are more or less just phoning it in this year.

I went by the Volkswagen stand again today to take another look at the 2010 Golf and I have to say, I think it’s a very good updating of VW’s main car. I think it’s a clean, uncluttered look that is pleasing, albeit certainly not exciting.

Hyundai is making everyone nervous in the US auto industry, and they have a great display and show stand here – it looks like their show marketing budget has survived relatively intact, unlike so many others.

I did see some journalists downstairs wandering among the trucks today, so that’s an improvement over yesterday when the whole area looked like a ghost town.

More in a little while.

COPYRIGHT Techshake – All Rights Reserved

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Ford Transit Connect Family One Concept
Apr08

Ford Transit Connect Family One Concept

transit family one concept rear doors

By Brendan Moore

04.08.2009

I saw a lot of things today at the first day of the New York Auto Show; I saw Jim Press of Chrysler drive a Fiat 500 to the stage at a press conference that was supposed to be all about the new Jeep Cherokee, I saw Steve Saleen’s new specialty cars, I saw really cheap materials in almost every display, I saw the dog-friendly version of the Honda Element and I saw a French auto journalist make a terrible face when his colleague pointed out the Chrysler Sebring to him. These are just some of the things I saw at the show today.

I also saw some pretty cool versions of the forthcoming Ford Transit Connect. There were nicely-done commercial versions there, but the consumer concept Ford showed was called the Family One concept.

I liked it. Here at Techshake we’ve been waiting for the Transit to show up ever since Ford announced they might bring over the European van, and now that it arrival is definite, we look forward to some seat time in the tough little van.

But it is apparent the Ford believes that the Transit Connect might just appeal to families as well – something we‘ve thought right from the beginning. It is also not much of a mental struggle to see this van have some strong appeal to the same young people that crave the Scion xB, a market segment Nissan has also made note of, and is looking to address with the imminent Nissan Cube.

But the concept was focused on family use. I’m certain we’ll see the young hipster version ginned up very soon.

The Family One concept has some interesting features and some nice touches. I can see how it would certainly serve the target market very well.

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New York Auto Show – First Press Day, Afternoon
Apr08

New York Auto Show – First Press Day, Afternoon

By Brendan Moore

04.08.2009

gm-segway-puma-concept

GM-Segway Puma concept

The New York Auto Show has now hit its stride in this, the first of two press days. The trickle of journalists I described this morning has turned into a steady stream, and once again, there is a media scrum around every auto executive at the various press conferences. All in all, a much more lively scene.

Still, the show is more subdued than in years past, with everyone feeling a bit insecure about their own business and the economy in general.

Some cars that stand out so far are the Ford Fiesta, the Chevrolet Camaro (even more wonderful in the metal, jeez, I want one), the GM-Segway Puma concept, the electric Mini, the new Spyker and the many variations of the Kia Soul.

As usual, the almost all the trucks are all parked on bottom floor. There are not a lot of people walking down there, and in fact, it resembles nothing so much as an elephant graveyard. It makes you wonder how many people will be down there during the public attendance days.

It’s a shame as the trucks look beautiful, and, there are some great products on display from the various manufacturers. But their desirability seems to have been eclipsed by economic events.

Off to a press conference now – will check in later.

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Sign of the Times as Nissan’s Indian Baby Undercuts the Koreans
Apr08

Sign of the Times as Nissan’s Indian Baby Undercuts the Koreans

By Andy Bannister

04.08.2009

One of the few booming segments of the market at the moment in Europe is that of bargain-basement car, helped by generous government-funded scrapper schemes in countries like Germany, France and Italy.

Value brands like Renault’s Dacia marque and Korean twins Hyundai and Kia have been doing particularly well in this sector of the market, leaving many more traditional car makes floloundering.

One that isn’t taking it lying down is Nissan, which has hit back with the new Pixo, an Indian-built 1000cc city car that looks like a serious bargain.

nissan-pixo-side-view

Just going sale in Europe at the moment, the Pixo is the result of a deal between Nissan and established small-car specialist Suzuki, which builds the car in India. The Pixo is a lightly-disguised version of its Alto, itself recently launched in this new and much-improved form.

Previous Altos were horrible tinny little buzz boxes with none of the character small cars normally possess, but the latest Alto/Pixo is an altogether more serious contender and has hit the market at exactly the right time.

Nissan’s contributions to the Pixo are simply new headlights, bumpers, bonnet, front grille and seat trim, which do little to distinguish it from its Suzuki sister. Cleverly, though, Nissan is pitching in with a seriously lower price and the advantage of a bigger dealer network

In the UK a base model Pixo will retail at under £6000 ($8800), some £800 ($1180) less than a (slightly better equipped) Suzuki Alto, which must be worrying for Suzuki’s own dealer network.

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New York Auto Show – First Press Day, Morning
Apr08

New York Auto Show – First Press Day, Morning

2010-ford-taurus-sho-emblem

Recognize those letters? Ford is showing their SHO on the Taurus stand. As in years past, the appearance of the Taurus SHO is not that different from the regular Taurus, but, underneath and in the engine compartment, it’s a different story.

By Brendan Moore

04.08.2009

I got to the show this morning early, at 7:30. It’s always a crush on the first day, with long queues for press passes and validation.

Except that it wasn’t this year. I was the only one in line for my media pass at 7:30 AM. I walked past the registration point again around 8:30 and there were more press people, but not the usual hordes. The breakfast presentation was well-attended, but free breakfast for bleary-eyed journalists always draws a crowd.

At 9 AM, there was a fair amount of foot traffic between the display stands, but nothing like the amount of people in past years. It is now 10 AM and I am in a media room with a lot of empty seats. In past years, journalists waited a long time for a spot at a table (with an actual chair, by God!) where you could pound out a piece in relative comfort.

So, I have to say that there are fewer automotive journalists here at the show this year. Maybe there is less interest because of the sorry state of the auto industry, maybe it is a consequence of cutbacks at media outlets or maybe just less travel money allocated to journalists by their respective organizations. I assumed there would be less people here this year, but I didn’t assume there would be a drop like I’m observing so far.

The mood here is fairly quiet, with everyone from the manufacturers looking a little beat-up underneath the veneer of smiles. It’s certainly more somber than shows past.

I’m sure it will pick up in a little while – I’ll post again after lunch and I’ll let you know what’s happening then.

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