Archive for June, 2012
The 2013 BMW X1 is not an SUV, BMW says. It’s a “Sub-Compact Premium SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle).” It’s unique—that’s for sure—and it’s new to North America.
It is also your chance to drive a BMW for around $30,000. It starts at $300 less than the 2012 BMW 1-series (the automaker’s lowest-priced car) and $6,200 less than the 2012 BMW X3, its lowest-priced SUV. Consumer Guide Automotive has more to say on the 2013 BMW X1.
The big news for GM’s Chevrolet Cruze-based compact car is the addition of a high-performance variant. Sporting a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with an estimated 250 horsepower, the 2013 Verano Premium could be the spiritual successor to the dearly departed 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt SS sedan. Buick will offer buyers of this sporty Verano the choice of a manual or automatic transmission.
For more details, read Consumer Guide Automotive’s review of the 2013 Buick Verano.
What’s new for this premium-midsize car is what Buick is leaving out. The formerly standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine goes away in favor of a drivetrain that uses GM’s “eAssist” technology. The eAssist basically works like a “mild” hybrid. An electric motor and small battery pack allow the gasoline engine to shut off at a stop and restart when drivers release their foot from the brake pedal. This combination promises up to 36 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA.
For more details, read Consumer Guide Automotive’s review of the 2013 Buick Regal.
I am pretty sure that if, as a nation, we could assess and grade the driving skills of all our drivers—and we could subsequently keep folks earning D and F grades off the road during rush hour—our collective commuting times would drop by at least half.
I’m going to pass here on mentioning folks too obsessed with their mobile devices to realize that the light has gone green. Some descendent of Dante is already working on a special guest room just for them.
Instead, I am focusing on the fundamental tenets of commuting to which every decent, law-abiding, socially conscious driver should be committed. More correctly, I am focusing on the drivers who operate vehicles in vacuums ignorant of the folks around them—especially behind them.
You know these drivers. These are the people whose actions result in you missing lights, getting caught by trains, and arriving home late for dinner. They are the enemy—and here are the six crummy things they do that annoy me most.
“My bad!” Ted says. Don’t tweet and drive is the lesson that’s learned in this clip from the movie Ted, a Seth MacFarlane creation that is opening to sparkling reviews and raucous laughter this weekend. MacFarlane is the voice of the cute but crude little teddy bear.
Surely it’s not really the case, but I can’t help thinking that some boardroom brain trust had the following conversation.
“Okay everyone, it’s come to our attention that some city-dwellers don’t buy our cars, the ungrateful urbanites. And it’s not because they can’t afford them—it’s because they can’t park them. What can we do to change that?”
“Make them tiny!” suggests the smart one.
“Give them a tight turning radius and sturdy bumpers!” shouts the wrangler of the group.
Then the meek little engineer with the taped glasses and twin pocket protectors pipes up: “Uh . . . why don’t we just make the cars park themselves?”
And Park Assist was born.
It’s not really that there’s anything wrong with it. But some might argue that if people can’t figure out how to parallel park a car, do we really want them roaming our city streets? Shouldn’t that fear exist in order to keep them out in the suburbs where they belong?
That argument is really just part of a bigger issue that questions whether it should be the job of our cars to mask our failings and cater to our every whim. And increasingly, that argument is being overruled.
Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2012 BMW 3-Series Sedan, a premium-compact car that starts at $34,900.
Test car came equipped with: two-tone leather interior, Sport Line Package, sunroof, split-folding rear seat, heated front seats, satellite radio, BMW Assist with Bluetooth and USB connections. Total MSRP with $895 destination charge = $43,570.
Powertrain: 240-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive.
Acceleration: Car and Driver clocked a 328i sedan with 8-speed automatic transmission at 5.6 seconds 0-60 mph. I’d guess my test manual model might be a click or two slower, as the transmission retains BMW’s traditional “high-inertia” action (my term), which frustrates truly fast shifts and quick launches; it also remains a bit notchy. At least clutch action is smooth, progressive, and agreeably low-effort. But the automatic swaps cogs faster than most people can, and it should probably be your choice.
Either way, the new turbo 4-cylinder feels punchy in most situations. It doesn’t have the effortless power delivery of the previous 328i’s non-turbo 3.0-liter six, but it’s not peaky either, pulling smoothly at lower revs even in 4th or 5th gear. Still, if you’ve got the manual, you’ll need to shift fairly often to get all the engine has to give.
I recently spent a beautiful summer day at Ford’s Dearborn Development Center at a media event. It’s a fairly surreal place since it is basically across the street from the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. The steam-powered train in the village is often heard, providing a bit of an audio link back to the time of Henry Ford.
Ford planned a full day of activities, and one of the more interesting ones was a chance to drive a European Focus with the new 1.0-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine. Yes, a 3-cylinder engine.
Ford’s 1.0-liter three is a new design; it’s not based on a four with a cylinder removed. Engineers went with a cast-iron block because it allowed them to keep the engine as compact as possible. A powertrain engineer said the 1.0 weighs 213.8 pounds. Like other EcoBoost engines, it uses a combination of turbocharging, direct fuel injection, and variable valve timing.
In Europe the engine comes in two versions, which make approximately 98 and 123 horsepower. The cars I drove had the 123-horse engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. European fuel economy is rated at 56.5 mpg.
A bad rap can go a long way toward messing your legacy. Take the poor, ill-remembered Edsel. Rendered largely unsellable by a recession and some dubious marketing, the car is now recalled as a lemon, which is certainly not the case.
So it is with the cars listed here. Lemons, bombs, or just unglamorous transportation fodder for the masses, these plain-Jane rides never got full credit for being fine-looking rides—and that’s a shame. So, put away your preconceived notions about these work-a-day cars and look again. I say they’re pretty nice looking.
Chevrolet Vega (1971-1973)
If you don’t see a little German and Italian influence in these clean, sporty lines, then your heart has been hardened beyond redemption. I am especially smitten with the thin bumpers. You have to admit that in red, this car looks decidedly (and deceptively) racy.
Chevrolet Nova (1968-1972)
I know people who HATE the way this car looks. Philistines. The clean, pinch-waisted “Coke-bottle” profile is both clean and taut—and completely devoid of the flabby organic vagueness that would soon plague most American cars. The Rally in this ad is absurdly cool. I want it.
Although I’ve visited California frequently over the past 20 years—and even lived there briefly back in the ’70s—it always takes a while after arrival to acclimate to the local climate. And I don’t mean the weather. I mean the driving climate. Which, like the weather, differs from that of the rest of the country.
If you grew up in the Golden State, most of these automotive-related rules won’t seem odd at all. But you should know that they aren’t the norm in most other parts of the country. Keep in mind that these are just the ones in the automotive realm; I’m not even going to touch on your selection of celebrity governors, your affinity for fruit smoothies, or the unsettling number of young men I’ve seen wearing Capri pants.