Archive for July, 2012
Model: 2012 Porsche Cayman R; 330-horsepower 3.4-liter 6-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual transmission
Base Price: $66,300
Options: Automatic dimming mirrors, Porsche Communication Management w/navigation, xenon headlights w/cornering lights, sound package plus storage, automatic A/C, sport chrono package plus, XM satellite radio, universal audio interface, black painted wheels
Price as Tested: $79,285
Total Miles Tested: 602 miles
Fuel Economy: 20 mpg
Tom Appel: With strap door pulls that actually manipulate the car’s locks, and a navigation system, this R isn’t as pure as such Porsches may have once been, but get past that stuff and the driving experience is as essentially honest as any you can imagine. Turn off the radio, forget the the other stuff, and just drive. . . aggressively. If I had to learn a new track in a hurry, this would be the car I would want to learn it in. The ride is a little crunchy for the Chicago area, but that’s my only serious criticism of this delightful machine.
Unlike many model-name acronyms that seem to carry no significance whatsoever (what exactly are we supposed to infer from “ILX,” “XTS,” or “MKS”?), the letters “EV” have meaning. And in the coming years, you’ll likely see the abbreviation for “electric vehicle” on more and more badges.
Although it’s certainly not the first car to carry the nomenclature, the latest one that does is the new Honda Fit EV, which just went on sale in California. As the name implies, it’s essentially a Honda Fit that has undergone an engine-ectomy and been fitted instead with an electric motor and battery pack. We had an opportunity to drive one at a press preview a while back and came away with the following impressions.
1. According to the EPA, the Honda Fit EV not only has the highest MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent) rating of any electric car currently on the market, but also the longest range: 82 miles in a mix of city/highway driving. In our experience, we’ve found electric cars generally cost 2 cents per mile or less to drive, so a full “tank” of electricity would probably run about a buck fifty. That would buy you less than a half-gallon of gas at today’s rates. How far could your current car go on that?
I am the first to admit that technically I am a pretty weak photographer. I have more camera than I need or deserve, and a wife and child that are too understanding of the time I spend prowling around the back roads of industrial complexes and rotting commercial properties. The net result of this unfocused prowling is albums full of images that have been seen once or twice, usually only by me. (Try forcing your 12-year-old kid to sit still while you explain why an old F-150 with some graceful sun-induced patina is cool.)
So, here’re a few random shots from my years of poking around where the sun don’t shine much. Some are from press trips, too, like the Power Wagon on the rocks. There are not a lot of slick bare-rock mountainsides here in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.
Model: 2012 Jaguar XKR-S convertible; 550-horsepower 5.0-liter supercharged V8 and 6-speed automatic transmission
Base Price: $138,000
Options: Grey brake calipers, 20-inch wheels in gloss black
Price as Tested: $140,825
Total Miles Tested: 501 miles
Fuel Economy: 17.4 mpg
Tom Appel: It would be easy to dismiss the XKR-S as a $140,000 version of a cushy convertible. Don’t do that. This potent Jag is a superbly well-sorted super car that shines as a bargain compared to competition that can match the power and speed. The XKR-S asks little in the way of compromise, as the ride is decently compliant, cabin quietness is luxury-class with the top up, and the cabin’s appearance is knock-out classy. There’s also the absurdly vicious, and insanely awesome, exhaust note that shows up only when serious power is throttled up. If I had Bain Capital money and enough garage space, I’d own one.
Auto safety has come a long way since the 1950s. Check this ad for the Irvin Auto Safety Harness for “children 8 months to 6 years,” courtesy of CG Auto Publisher (and proud father) Tom Appel. (How does he make time to find such things?)
We know it’s from the “Happy Days” era because of (a) the typefaces and layout, (b) the period “Impale-O-Matic” steering column, (c) the driver’s proto-Jackie Kennedy attire, (d) the toddler’s nerdy shoes and plaid pants, and (e) the checked-cloth seat upholstery, perhaps an “E-Z Fit” cover from the June Cleaver Collection at Western Auto.
We can also date this ad from the product package featuring Yogi Bear and Quick-Draw McGraw, two of the early Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon characters that began appearing in 1958 or so. I should know. I watched ’em faithfully, often with my dad, bless him.
Speaking of Western Auto, the words “your jobber” and “promotional aids” in the last paragraph indicate that this ad appeared in a trade publication aimed at new-car dealers and auto parts-and-accessories stores. This may explain why no price is shown, though that might have been negotiable, depending on the size of a customer’s order.
This is the first in a series of articles comparing the redesigned 2012 BMW 3-Series sedan with the brand new 2013 Cadillac ATS. Also see Part Two: Drivetrains, Part Three: Handling, Part Four: Interior Comfort, and Part Five: Value.
It’s an automotive steel-cage deathmatch. This could be the ultimate David versus Goliath, Kratos versus Ares (bonus points if you get that reference). It’s the young upstart challenging a nigh-on unassailable titan (no, not the Nissan pickup) with a pedigree that dates back more than three decades.
The BMW 3-Series needs no introduction. The 3-Series is loved the world over by critics and fans, and the company is pulling out all the stops in 2012 to make sure it remains at the top of the mountain for performance and luxury. To that end, BMW is giving its entry-level sedan a new look, updated features, and drivetrain tweaks. It might not look much different than its predecessor, but rest assured, this is a fully redesigned vehicle.
If you’ve ever experienced the nightmare of vehicle theft, you may have unintentionally done one of the following things to contribute to it. However, many times the theft is completely out of the car owner’s control. We assume that no one actually wants to have their car stolen, so the information below can be understood as more of a guideline for how not to get your vehicle taken from you.
If you saw a Pontiac ad or brochure from 1959 through 1971, you were probably admiring the work of Arthur Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick, along with his collaborator, Van Kaufman, produced all of Pontiac’s illustrations, and Pontiac relied more heavily on artwork than other automakers in the Sixties. Their work is identified by the initials “AF VK.”
Art Fitzpatrick started as an auto stylist. Preferring the freelance life to the corporate world, he switched to advertising illustrations after World War II. He did work for Mercury, Kaiser, Buick, and others before signing an exclusive contract with Pontiac.
Fitzpatrick had a talent for capturing shadows and reflections on cars. He also admitted that he “enhanced” the proportions. Pontiac was touting its “Wide Track” stance, so Fitzpatrick naturally made his cars wide. With Fitzpatrick’s deft hand, this enhancement made the drawings more stunning.
Fitzpatrick drew the cars while Kaufman rendered the backgrounds. Both men traveled extensively and took photos for potential backgrounds. Pontiacs are shown on beaches, European streets, and ski slopes. Part of the appeal of a Fitzpatrick illustration is the sophisticated lifestyle shown. Fitzpatrick’s Pontiac world was never mundane.
If you’re like most consumers, you likely purchase tires only slightly less often than you get married or shop for a new mattress. Additionally, it’s likely that every time you do buy tires, you’re buying them for a different vehicle, meaning your needs change each time you shop.
Toss into this mix the fact that shopping for tires is a lot less fun than shopping for, say, a new big-screen TV, and you have a major-purchase project that’s more than a little likely to break bad.
It’s easy to forget just how important tires are. Simply put, tires are the only contact point between you, your 4,000-pound 300-horsepower car, and the ground. Every move your car makes—accelerating, braking, turning, and traveling at sustained speed—is dependent on the four neglected, forgotten, rubber donuts at each corner of your ride.
The point is this: When you need new tires, take the time to get exactly what you need. Your comfort and safety depend on you making an educated purchase decision. For some pointers on beginning this process, we turned to Kurt Berger, Bridgestone Americas’ manager of consumer sales engineering.
When you enjoy the kind of reputation Honda does, you don’t really want to take a lot of risks. Any fault with one car line is a blemish on the whole company (and Honda has suffered its share recently), so you want to limit exposure any time you venture off in a new direction.
And although not a big deal has been made of it, Honda has a history of venturing off into new directions. The company’s tiny two-seat Insight was the first modern hybrid when it arrived as a 2000 model; the Civic GX remains the only mass-produced car that runs on compressed natural gas; and several years ago, Honda put a handful of fuel-cell vehicles in public hands to gauge reactions. (The company has since followed that up with a second fuel-cell vehicle; more on that later). So it’s perhaps not surprising that Honda’s foray into electric vehicles is more on the order of dipping your toe into the waters than jumping right in.