By Charles Krome
The EPA fuel efficiency ratings for the 2012 Fiat 500 have now been announced, with the Chrysler Group’s much-hyped hatchback achieving 30 mpg city/38 mpg highway/33 mpg combined when kitted out with a five-speed manual and a line of 27/34/30 with a six-speed automatic. But as high as those numbers are, they represent somewhat of a disappointment given the competition.
Now, the natural choice of rivals here is the MINI hardtop, since both vehicles are small niche products that will claim a lot of their sales based on style, so here is how they match up against each other in some of the more relevant measures.
By Chris Haak
According to a , BMW has released a statement saying that the new 2.0 liter turbo four would be making its US debut sometime during 2011. Though the German automaker has not yet confirmed which models will get the new engine, BMW did previously confirm the 2.0T for the 5 Series and Z4 in Europe. The new engine made its debut in the new X1 compact crossover in the xDrive28i variant. Of course, BMW has not sold a new car in the US equipped with a four cylinder since the 90-pound weakling 318ti hatchback in 1999 (which produced all of 138 horsepower).
In the X1, the engine produces 245 horsepower at 5,000 RPMs and 258 lb-ft of torque at 1,250 RPMs. This compares to 258 horsepower and 228 lb-ft from the 3.0 liter inline six in the previous X1 xDrive28i model. So, the new engine produces more torque, at a lower engine speed, than did the old inline six. And yet, having two fewer cylinders to feed results in fuel consumption that’s about 16 percent lower in the boosted four than in the naturally aspirated six.
By Chris Haak
The Pagani Zonda, one of the rarest and most sought-after supercars in history, has finally been supplanted. It’s OK, though, because the new sheriff in town happens to also be made by Pagani. Meet the new Huayra (pronounced “WHY-ra”), a car that was in development for seven years before going under the spotlights and making its world debut.
Just as the Zonda was perhaps the gold standard of supercars (in spite of not boasting the over-the-top horsepower and price numbers like the Bugatti Veyron), the new Huayra gives more of everything the Zonda stood for, including design. Not that the design of the Zonda was anything to sneeze about; that car certainly had its fans, including among us here.
By Charles Krome
One of Detroit’s veteran auto journalists, John McElroy, dropped a bit of a bombshell recently when he provided a sneak peek inside the Bob Lutz regime at GM. It turns out that Mr. Lutz had some surprising help when he was heading up product development for the General: Four relatively highly placed (former) members of the automotive media, whose job it was to “assess all of GM’s new vehicles before they were OK’d for production. And their word was law.”
Apparently, McElroy had known about the situation for a while, but was sworn to secrecy by Lutz; now that the latter has left the building, however, the former is breaking the news.
By Kevin Miller
December saw the first consumer deliveries of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt in the US, and Cobo Hall in Detroit was literally overrun with plug-in vehicles earlier this month for NAIAS. While the vehicles will primarily be charged at home (especially by early adopters of the vehicles), much public money is being invested in building a public, pay-per-use charging infrastructure. While the charging apparatus for use in a vehicle owner’s garage must be designed with user safety in mind, such equipment for use by the general public must be even more so.
With the Volt and Leaf now on the road, and additional manufacturers preparing to launch electric and plug-in-hybrid vehicles, many companies are designing charging and supply equipment for the vehicles. Some of the equipment being designed is for use by vehicle owners in their own garages, and some is being designed for public use, whether for free use from utilities, or pay-per-use by private companies setting up their own network of charging locations. As required by the National Electric Code in the US, virtually all electrical equipment must be certified for electrical safety by an OSHA-accredited Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory. This requirement includes stuff like cord-connected appliances in your home, the espresso machine at your local coffee shop, and even EV charging stations.
By Charles Krome
As soon as Lincoln decided it would offer the MKZ Hybrid at the same base price as the standard MKZ—$34,330—I moved the car up to the top of my test-drive wish-list. And lo and behold, guess what ended up in my driveway over the weekend, complete with a full tank of gas, courtesy of our friends at Lincoln?
Now, I know the MKZ doesn’t have the best rep in the auto blogosphere, but I had thought there might be a strong business case with the Lincoln that buyers weren’t quite hipped to. Consider: There are certain types of vehicles that offer certain market differentiators that are so far ahead of the competition that said vehicles get a bit of a free pass when it comes to more mundane features. Take something like the Lotus Elise. By focusing on a low curb weight to the exclusion of nearly everything else, the Lotus offers stunning performance at a relatively low cost.
By Chris Haak
“Why do the people in front of me have to drive so slowly?” “Why did they have to paint over the passing zones on this road?” And most importantly, “why is that BMW so close to my tail when my speed is limited by the speed of the cars in front of me on this back road?”
These are the questions that I pondered one morning as I commuted to the office in a new Scion tC. I assumed that the BMW behind me was perhaps a 2011 5 Series. It surely couldn’t be more than a 535i, and though I knew that he most likely had a power advantage over my 180-horsepower Scion, I knew the road well, and wasn’t in the mood to tolerate someone riding my bumper like that. And why was he doing it? Was it because this Scion had the dealer-installed TRD Sport Muffler, and therefore had a bit of a tuner car’s bark (including burbles when lifting the throttle)? Who knows.
By Chris Haak
How about some word association. BMW? The Ultimate Driving Machine. Mercedes? Engineered like no other car. Lexus? How about ‘isolated?’ Simply put, Lexus automobiles are not known for their sporting capabilities, and in fact, are known as the wallowy, floaty entries in most of the segments in which they compete. In spite of the best efforts of the team behind Toyota’s luxury brand, buyers remain unconvinced that the likes of the IS, GS, and LS – saying nothing of the SUVs and crossovers – can be considered sporty, or even sporting, the same way that BMW’s products generally are. Lexus automobiles are very comfortable, well-assembled, and have nice features, but few would argue about which end of the performance-luxury continuum vehicles with the L on their grille fall on.
There have been a few glimmers of sport coming from Toyota City, particularly over the past few years. The IS F sport sedan, which features a 417 horsepower 5.0 liter V8 and eight-speed automatic in a compact package gives the M3 a run for its money, not to mention having one of the best exhaust notes this side of NASCAR. The F high-performance brand then extended into upgrades (cosmetic and functional) for the other members of the IS lineup, with the F-Sport package on the lesser ISs. We would be negligent to not mention the breathtaking Lexus LF-A supercar, though with production so limited and its price so high, it’s a halo car that finds itself perhaps a bit too close to heaven. So, for another step toward sport-luxury respectability, Lexus has introduced a sport package for its flagship LS sedan. Meet the LS 460 Sport.