April 2014
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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Will BMW’s Revolutionary i3 Take the World by Storm?




It’s been on sale in Europe only since November, but BMW‘s (NASDAQOTH: BAMXF  ) i3 has already received almost 11,000 orders globally. For its first entirely electrically powered large-scale, serial production model, that’s a pretty impressive number. Additionally, the i3 will begin sales in the United States in May, and will go on sale in China and Japan sometime during the middle of this year. So is the i3 set to take the world by storm, or will it crash and burn?



Introducing BMW’s i3

With a starting MSRP of $41,350, BMW’s i3 is a revolutionary vehicle in every way. Built from the ground up as an electric vehicle, the i3 comes standard with a 22-kWh lithium-ion battery, and an all-electric 170-horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, motor. This allows the i3 to go 0-60 in approximately 7 seconds, and have a range of 80-100 miles in Comfort mode — that range can be increased by 24% simply by putting the i3 in Eco Pro + mode.


For those that aren’t comfortable with that range, BMW’s i3 has an optional two-cylinder gasoline range extender that works as an onboard power station to extend the battery’s charge — it does not drive the wheels. This increases the range up to 186 miles in Comfort mode. With this option, the i3′s starting MSRP is $45,200.


Further, as Car and Driver reports, BMW constructed the i3 with an aluminum “skateboard platform.” Basically that’s where the chassis is one self-contained unit, and the passenger cell, which is primarily made out of carbon fiber, is another.


For those that aren’t comfortable with that range, BMW’s i3 has an optional two-cylinder gasoline range extender that works as an onboard power station to extend the battery’s charge — it does not drive the wheels. This increases the range up to 186 miles in Comfort mode. With this option, the i3′s starting MSRP is $45,200.

Further, as Car and Driver reports, BMW constructed the i3 with an aluminum “skateboard platform.” Basically that’s where the chassis is one self-contained unit, and the passenger cell, which is primarily made out of carbon fiber, is another.


Beyond the specs

That’s all impressive, but of course the real question is how the i3 will affect BMW’s bottom line. So far, demand has been strong, and there’s currently a six-month waiting list for an i3. Plus, last October, BMW Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner said strong demand could lead BMW to increase production. The other good news is that Car and Driver reported that the i3′s driving experience is “both familiar and pleasing in many ways, and unique in many others.”


More importantly, the i3 is BMW’s first foray into large-scale, serial production of an EV. If it does well, there’s a good possibility that BMW could extend its i line to a third model — however, AutoNews reports that Harald Krueger, BMW’s production chief, said that would depend on demand.


Consequently, while the i3 has so far seen strong demand, investors would do well to monitor how it does beyond its initial offering. If it continues to sell well, and doesn’t encounter serious problems, that’s likely great news for BMW. If, however, demand drops off, or major problems are reported, that should give investors pause. Regardless of how the i3 performs, BMW has a number of things going for it, and presents investors with impressive growth – both in the U.S and China, and record-breaking sales. As such, it could merit a closer look if you’re looking to profit from an auto stock.



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10 Awesome Cars by Boutique Carmakers



Today’s restomodders, replica builders, and tuners take an obsessive approach to performance. These vehicles are modified to a level of detail so far beyond their original roots that they are better described as brand-new production cars and trucks rather than upgraded versions of the original.


Hennessey Performance Venom GT

John Hennessey has been creating a steady stream of high-horsepower four-wheeled insanity since 1991. In 1993, when he turned his attention to Dodge Vipers, a legend was born. Over the last two decades, each generation of Hennessey Viper has produced some very serious numbers and taken down plenty of competitors at track tests. His latest, the Venom 1000 Twin Turbo, makes and astonishing 1120 hp and runs through the quarter-mile in 9.7 seconds.


But perhaps the company’s most interesting vehicle is the Venom GT. Here is a widened, stretched, and modified Lotus wearing carbon-fiber bodywork. This featherweight no longer uses a Toyota four-cylinder engine; instead, the Venom draws its power from a twin-turbocharged 7.0-liter, 1244-hp Chevrolet LSX V-8. Woof. That pushes the car to a speed of 265.7 mph and makes it one of the fastest in the world, and one of the world’s greatest thrill machines.


Icon Thriftmaster Pickup
Icon began as a top-level restoration house for Toyota Land Cruisers back in the late 1990s, and they continue to restore vehicles to original condition. But it is Icon’s wildly reimagined Land Cruisers, Broncos, and Chevy pickups that take modified restoration to an obsessive level. Company founder Jonathan Ward upgrades every aspect of these vehicles. If suitably robust and beautiful upgrade parts don’t exist, he builds them—expense be damned.


Thriftmaster trucks, based on 1947 to 1953 Chevrolet trucks, are marvelous performers thanks to a modern supercharged (and emissions-legal) GM crate engine, a capable Art Morrison road race-style chassis, and a detailed and luxurious interior. Even the doors of this truck are cool: Icon redesigned the door’s latch mechanism as well as all the cranks and pulls, so now this door closes with a solid thunk and the windows power up and down using the original window crank as switches. We particularly like the bison-hide bench seat filled with Tempur-Pedic foam cushions. Ward even re-created the original Chevrolet font for the Icon badging on this vehicle.

Singer Vehicle Design Porsche 911
For 50 years Porsche‘s 911 has been an icon of performance. Though today’s 911 is a sophisticated and evolved sports machine, plenty of purists prefer the 911s of the past. Singer Vehicle Design takes some of the best characteristics of these classic 911s and melds them with modern technology and impeccable craftsmanship to create what many have called the ultimate 911.


The chassis comes straight from the early 1990s 964-series 911, the last and most evolved of the air-cooled Porsches. The flat-six cylinder engines come in either a relatively tame 3.6-liter 270-hp version or a wild 360-hp 3.6-liter version, and both are paired to either a five- or six-speed manual.


Beyond the specs, it’s Singer’s details that are truly breathtaking. Though the body looks just like the classic 911, it’s actually a new and subtly flared custom amalgam of different models built from carbon fiber (except for the doors), which saves about 500 pounds. Though the exterior lighting recalls the original small bumper 1964 to 1973 cars, the lamps themselves are modern Bi-Xenon units with polycarbonate lenses. The brightwork around the car isn’t just reproduction chrome pieces but special nickel-plated pieces. And those wheels are cool, new 17-inch forged replicas that allow for larger tires.

Lingenfelter Performance Engineering Reaper
For more than 40 years GM specialist Lingenfelter has produced some truly potent machines, including stock Corvettes tuned to become monsters, such as a 1000-hp version of today’s C7 Stingray. Their latest vehicle, the Reaper, was unveiled recently at the Chicago Auto Show. It’s a collaborative effort between Lingenfelter and Southern Comfort Automotive to produce a high-performance off-road truck based on the Chevy Silverado, one aimed to rival Ford’s Raptor.


Under the hood is one of two supercharged V-8s, the more potent of which is a 6.2-liter block that’s been supercharged to deliver 550 hp. The Reaper’s unique look is the result of a 3-inch taller Ride Tech suspension and aggressive new body panels that are flared to make room for 33-inch tires. Reapers can be ordered and delivered to select Chevy dealers and carry a three-year warranty. We’re ready to take the Reaper out to some rough terrain to see how it stacks up against the Raptor.

Shelby American 50th Anniversary Shelby Cobra 289 FIA
The late Carroll Shelby’s legendary Cobra is the granddaddy of small-batch tuner cars, though the term tuner seems a bit flip for such a storied and influential supercar. But at its roots, that’s what the Cobra was. Shelby took a big Ford engine and had AC rework the chassis of their Ace sports car to accept it. To mark the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the 289 Cobra, Shelby American will be building just 50 limited-edition continuation Cobras with either a fiberglass body or a more expensive aluminum one.


Plenty of companies have built Cobra replicas over the years. But the most highly prized ones aren’t replicas at all, but this kind of “continuation”—small batch production cars built by Shelby American. This anniversary tribute model is one of the coolest the company has ever created.


VL Automotive Destino
The Destino is the one car here you can’t buy yet. And frankly, we’re not sure when or if it will ever hit small-batch production. But the idea behind the car is just too cool. VL wants to repurpose the leftover chassis and bodies of the plug-in hybrid Fisker Karmas (the company’s assets are planned for auction on Feb. 12) by installing a new powertrain. Former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz owns half of VL and plans to use his formidable connections to create a Corvette-powered sport sedan with the Fisker’s concept car looks.


Should the Destino reach production once Fisker’s bankruptcy proceedings are resolved, VL says it will offer the car with either the LT1 V-8 from the current C7 Stingray or a LS9 V-8 with more than 600 hp, made famous in the ZR1 Corvette. Katzkin, an interior-parts supplier would handle the custom leathers and finishes for the Destino. And to give the car a unique look upfront, there’s a more traditional grill that replaces Fisker’s original.


Our fingers are crossed for this one. A four-door with Corvette power never goes out of style.

Superformance Caterham Seven
Superformance is a small-batch builder of replica cars from South Africa whose designs represent the legendary American performance machines of the 1960s. They include Cobras (Superformance calls them Mark IIIs), Daytona Cobra coupes, and GT40s. Superformance cars are accurate and well-built. Their inventory has always been heavy on brawny American V-8 sports cars.


Now, for the first time, Superformance will be the official U.S. distributor for the Caterham Seven. It’s based on the Lotus Seven, the definition of a lightweight and rewarding open-air sports car. When production ended, Caterham bought the rights to build these cars from Lotus, and the Seven has been in production more or less uninterrupted since 1957.


Caterham Sevens destined for our shores are available in five models of increasing capability and speed. And like the Superformance cars, the Caterhams will be sold as a rolling chassis with third-part installation of the powertrain. Caterham says a top-level CSR with a 260-hp 2.3-liter four-cylinder Ford engine will hit 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. We can’t wait to see these Caterhams on our streets.


Legacy Classic Trucks Power Wagon
Save for the Willys MB, no other American 4WD vehicle has a more decorated military history than the WC series Dodge trucks—Power Wagons. Legacy Classic Trucks of Jackson Hole, Wyo., has become one of the premiere restorers and restomodders of these icons. The company offers its Legacy Power Wagons upfitted with heavy-duty hardware, because Legacy intends its customers to use them as real trucks.


Under that domed hood, a buyer can opt for either a modern 425-hp Chrysler Legacy Magnum V-8 or a 3.9-liter Cummins diesel, both backed by a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Why not the 6.7-liter Cummins from today’s Dodge trucks? It just won’t fit. In either case, the power gets routed to a tough Atlas transfer case and down to Dana 60 front and Dana 80 rear axles with locking differentials. That’s extreme-duty truck stuff. So is the standard 16,500-pound-capacity winch and optional 42-inch tires. We’d have at least one of these in our dream garage.

American Expedition Vehicles Brute Double Cab
Jeep hasn’t had a pickup truck in its lineup since the Comanche ended production in 1992. But in 2004 Jeep revived the idea with the Gladiator, a name it borrowed from its mid-1960s full-size pickups and applied to a modern concept pickup built on the bones of the modern Wrangler.


Well, it’s 10 years later and we still don’t have a Jeep pickup. But American Expedition Vehicle (AEV) builds the Brute Double Cab to fill the void. AEV has been building and modifying Jeep Wranglers for 15 years. The Brute Double Cab is based on a 14-inch stretched version of the current Wrangler Unlimited chassis and fitted with a 5-foot composite bed. The DC350 model wears a 3.5-inch suspension lift, 35-inch-tall tires, and a Warn winch for off-road excursions. If you have an older Jeep Wrangler and want the utility of a pickup box, AEV has a Brute conversion for the 1997 to 2006 TJ Wranglers too.


Brabus B63S-700 6X6
We’ve left the wildest small-batch vehicle for last. Legendary German tuner Brabus has taken the insane 500-plus-horsepower, 6-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6X6—already perhaps the most wonderfully looney small-batch production vehicle on the planet—and gone a little further. Are they nuts? Of course. Thanks to new turbos supplying more boost pressure, the 5.5-liter engine pumps out 700 hp. That’s enough to move this 9000-pound beast to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds.


There’s lots more fun stuff here too, such as the exhaust valve button on the steering wheel for Loud or Quiet. There’s plenty of carbon-fiber bodywork to dress this beast up too. Inside, the interior gets retrimmed in Alcantara and (in this case) fire-red leather.
Don’t expect to see one of these small-batch machines in the wild—unless you happen to visit Dubai on vacation.



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VW’s New Scirocco breezes into Geneva





VW‘s latest generation Golf-derived coupé will be making its global debut at the Geneva Motor Show, which is quite fitting seeing as the company chose the same event to unveil the original Scirocco some 40 years ago.


And, with a 280PS (276hp) 2-liter turbo engine crowbarred under the sloping hood, the range-topping R promises much, although how much — in terms of performance — Volkswagen won’t be revealing until the show gets underway on March 4.


However, if the figures for the Golf R are anything to go by, expect to go from 0-100 km/h in under 5 seconds. The two cars share the same engine and the Scirocco will be lighter and more aerodynamic.


As well as a better engine, the new Scirocco has had quite a hefty facelift to bring it in line with VW’s current design language. So a more aggressive and angular nose and new 18-inch alloy wheels.


Inside, the cockpit is equally sporty with a dedicated charge gauge for monitoring the turbo’s activity and a chronometer for timing runs. The R also gets full sports seats for extra support in the bends.


And it can be specified with VW’s sublime seven-speed DSG paddle-shift dual-clutch transmission or with a standard six-speed manual. The DSG will add weight to the car but it will enable immediate yet smooth gear changes and perfect blips of the throttle on the down change.


For those that just want the looks, the Scirocco will be available with a choice of two 2-liter diesel engines, the more powerful of which will offer up 184PS (181hp) and a fuel economy of up to 68.9mpg (4.1L/100km), when it goes on sale this May.



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5 Cars Almost Too Fast For the Road



There’s supposed to be a clear difference between cars designed for the street and those built for the track. The line between the two gives us both the excitement of race day and a reasonable chance of coming home from the corner store alive. Sometimes, however, the distinction between the two types of vehicles grows ever-so-blurry, as the following cars show.


Porsche 991 Turbo S

Porsche 911 Turbo S


PHOTOS: See More of the 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S

This latest incarnation of the legendary 911 has a twin turbo-charged engine that turns out 560 horses, along with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed sequential double-clutch transmission. Porsche claims it can go 0-60 in 2.9 seconds. With a ride like this, even the geekiest kid from your local high school would have his choice of dates to the prom.

Whether he would return from the event in one piece is another question entirely.


Corvette C6 ZR1

Corvette ZR1


PHOTOS: See More of the 2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

With a supercharged 6.2-liter engine under the hood capable of 638 horsepower, this is by far the baddest production Corvette to date. It boasts a top speed of 205 mph. Compared to the Porsche, however, it’s a real slouch acceleration-wide, taking a full 3.1 seconds to go 0-60. Something tells me the difference is hard to notice.


Mercedes-Benz CL65 Bi-Turbo

Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG


PHOTOS: See More of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG

With its 12-cylinder twin-turbo powerplant, this isn’t exactly your dad’s Mercedes. 0-60 time is a relatively sedate 4.2 seconds, though with 621 horses under the hood you’d probably shave a few seconds off the daily work commute, even if you carpool.


Lotus Exige S

Lotus Exige S


PHOTOS: See More of the Lotus Exige S

This speedy little ride shows what a 1.8-liter Toyota engine can do when it’s turbocharged and inserted in an ultra-light auto body. With a 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds and a 0-100 of 9.98, this Lotus will turn heads faster than it will set the local cop’s nerves on edge. Park it in your garage next to the family mini-van and ask Junior which vehicle he would rather use for his new pizza delivery job.


Jet-Powered VW Beetle



No, your eyes don’t deceive you; that’s a VW Beetle with a jet engine sticking out of its behind. This vehicle is the odd-man-out for this list, but I included it because it is street-legal in California. Its owner, Ron Patrick, put his PhD in mechanical engineering to good use, building this high-powered bug in his garage. Patrick took advantage of the fact that CA laws allow the addition of a secondary engine, so long as the original production motor is left unmodified.  On his site, he discusses how law enforcement has been trying to figure out a way to ticket him for years, with no success.


The jet engine is a General Electric model T58-8F. It spins up to 26,000 rpm and is rated for 1350 hp. Top speed and 0-60 times are unknown because, as Patrick says, “I built the car to thrill me, not kill me.” Smart guy.



Hyundai Debuts Limited Production 2014 Veloster RE:FLEX at Chicago Auto Show




Hyundai says that the new 2014 Veloster RE:FLEX Edition model that the company debuted at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show is a response to what the automaker’s customers say they want. As Scott Margason, director of product planning at Hyundai, explained: “Veloster customers desire limited-edition models with even sportier styling, unique features and exclusive colors that allow them to stand out from the crowd and that is exactly what RE:FLEX Edition delivers.”


In order to serve that buyer, Hyundai has based the new RE:FLEX Edition on the standard Veloster equipped with the 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. No turbo and no clutch pedal are available.


Ice Pearl paint is an exclusive color for the Veloster RE:FLEX, but buyers can also choose Century White, Boston Red, Ultra Black, or Vitamin C. Standard equipment includes projector-beam headlights, fog lights, LED running lights, LED taillights, chrome exterior trim, and 18-inch chrome wheels. Step into the car over the illuminated doorsill trim and you’ll find black or red leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, premium sound system, alloy pedals, and piano black trim.


If this sounds appealing, know that Hyundai will build just 3,000 units of the Veloster RE:FLEX Edition, which means that when the car goes on sale in early spring of 2014, motivated buyers should get to a dealership before they’re all gone.



Build Your Own Life-Saving Emergency Car Kit


This winter continues to be ugly, and it’s times like this that your hour-long commute on the interstate can turn into an unexpected adventure, leaving you stuck in a snowy ditch miles from help.


In most cases you can expect to be there for no more than a few hours, says Tony Nester, founder of the Ancient Pathways survival school in Flagstaff, Ariz. and author of the e-book A Vehicle Survival Kit You Can Live With.


“Statistically, you’re more likely to encounter small scale episodes where there’s a blizzard, you spin off the road and you’re there for maybe a day or overnight,” he said. (Nester is also an EMT.)


First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is essential any time of year, but in bad weather, especially, the stakes are higher. “You’re your own first responder,” says Nester. He recommends Adventure Medical Kits ($79, amazon.com) because they are designed for remote medical needs. “These are superior to the average Red Cross kit,” he says.


Leatherman Wave

Leatherman’s top-selling multitool can help you MacGyver your way out of any number of situations. “For a vehicle they’re outstanding,” says Nester: “A snowmobile, an ATV—anything with a lot of screws and wires where you need to make small-scale repairs and you have to improvise.” $60, acehardware.com


Sleeping Bag or Wool Blanket

Wrapping up to conserve body heat can save your life: “If you’re stuck in your vehicle and the heat’s not working, [a sleeping bag] will allow you to take care of that critical priority of staying warm and fending off hypothermia,” says Nester. “You can get ones these days that scrunch down to the size of a loaf of bread or smaller for $50 to $100.” He suggests taking the sleeping bag you use for camping and “throw[ing] it in your vehicle from October till May.” Marmot’s Trestles 15 (left) is an affordable cold-weather bag that insulates down to 15 degrees (Starting at $102.91;amazon.com). Cheaper options include REI’s Polar Pod (middle), rated to 31 degrees ($65-$80; rei.com), and the Siesta +25 (right), rated to 25 degrees ($50; rei.com). And if you don’t have a sleeping bag, a wool blanket is better than nothing.



Getting stranded in the snow without a way to dig your car out is not a pleasant situation to be in. “I have a Lifeline shovel, which is a collapsible telescoping shovel made from aircraft aluminum,” says Nester. Popular among snowboarders who ride in avalanche country, these lightweight shovels can help you get out of a ditch. $19; Amazon


Duct Tape (or Gaffer’s Tape)

Duct tape—“or gaffer’s tape if you want to take it a step further, because it is laced with fibers”—is one of the ultimate survival tools, says Nester. “I once used it to fix a leak in a radiator hose, and I’ve used it to repair a cracked sole on a boot and patch clothes. If you can get pink or orange, it can double as a signalling device if you wrap it around a nearby tree or pole”—or your car’s antenna.

Nester has also gotten in the habit of using it to tie a loop around all the critical tools in his pack: “on my lighter, on my sparking rod, on my Leatherman.” He learned this lesson the hard way. “I was going to light a fire once and I pulled out my lighter and dropped it in two feet of snow. [Now] when I go to pull out my lighter and my knife it’s attached to my wrist until it goes back in my pocket.”


Head Lamp

That high-output tactical flashlight may be useful in a pinch, but its batteries won’t last long. Because you don’t know how long you’ll be stranded—and might want to use your hands—Nester suggests throwing an LED headlamp into your emergency kit. “LED ones will last a couple days,” he says. “I go a step further and add lithium batteries—they cost a little more but they’re definitely worth it.” Look for a headlamp with a strobe feature for signalling, he says. Black Diamond’s new Spot headlamp lasts up to 200 hours on its lowest setting, includes a strobe feature and a red LED to preserve night vision ($40;blackdiamondequipment.com). Last year’s model is still available for cheaper ($30), and you can also find plenty of budget options at your nearest Walmart or outdoor outfitter.


Carpet Strips

You can use carpet strips 12 inches wide and 4 feet long for traction if you get stuck in the snow, says Nester. “I find they work better than spreading cat litter,” he says, referring to a common trick for getting unstuck. “[These are] what’s used in the Jeep community for when they go off-roading and get their wheel or axle stuck in the mud.”


Glow Sticks

Glow sticks be a great passive lighting device for your vehicle’s interior, a distress signal and also increase visibility “if you’re changing a tire on a poorly lit section of highway,” says Nester. He hastens to add that glow sticks typically have a shelf life of two years, so be sure to check expiration dates once a year. Industrial grade Cyalume sticks sell for $3.75 eachand last up to 12 hours. (1000bulbs.com)


Winter Clothing

Whether you’re just driving half an hour to work or road-tripping to the ski mountain, you should dress as if you’ll be spending time outside—or have the right clothes with you. “If I get stuck in the road, at least I have all this stuff,” says Nester. “A layering system is key. People who go cross-country skiing have it down to a science, but the key is you want to avoid having [your clothes] be 100-percent cotton.” Besides your t-shirt and sweatshirt that you may be wearing, he says “Throw in some quality wool pants, a wool sweater. Wool retains its insulation even when it’s wet.” Nester also recommends carrying a winter coat, Sorel Pac boots, wool mittens and socks, polypro long underwear and sunglasses.




New MyFordTouch System Might Delight Baby Boomers


Ford Motor Company might just win me back as a customer in 2015 with its revised MyFordTouch infotainment system that includes traditional buttons and knobs.


There’s a chance I could kick my Lexus to the curb because of its convoluted controls and mouse on the console.  Operating the devices makes me take my eyes off the road far too often.


New MyFordTouch System Might Delight 50+Don’t get me wrong, I love mobile technology, probably a little more than the average Baby Boomer, because I train my contemporaries on how to use it.  But I don’t like being a distracted driver while trying to change the radio stations or make a voice activated phone call in my car.  In fact, it kind of scares me.


A little history:

  • In 2008 I leased my first Ford crossover– a Lincoln MKX.  In the 37 years I’d been driving, it was my first Ford product.  I was a GM girl for most of my life, even though I was driving a Lexus at the time.  But my Boomer girlfriends were all driving MKXs and they seemed pretty happy.
  • As a Detroiter, watching the car companies in a free fall, I decided to support my hometown, turn in my Lexus 330 crossover, and try the Lincoln.
  • It was my first car with voice activated controls and a touch screen.


My experience with the Lincoln during the next three years and the dealership were not great, but the biggest problem was the voice activated touch screen.  The system didn’t always pair with my phone, it didn’t recognize my voice, and it often acted on commands I wasn’t giving.  In short, it was a real hassle to drive.  Not to mention that it was dangerous– as I was spending so much time trying to talk to it.


However, the poor experience was compounded by the dealer’s inability to train me how to use this vehicle.


“Read the manual, it’s all there,” I recall the salesman saying.  “Here’s a card, go to your computer and check all out all the features.”


The trouble was, I couldn’t use my computer in the car when I was trying to operate it, and there was no trainer at the dealership to answer questions.


To be fair—Lexus has a person who helps train new buyers on using the car’s information system and he was extremely helpful.  But the car’s system’s design is just too long and drawn out for my taste.  It takes three or four mouse clicks just to change the radio station.


Real Training Needed

So I’m looking forward to testing the new MyFordTouch system.  I hope it comes with some real training support.  As someone in the training industry, I know that training pays for itself.


When a company is selling a product that costs $30,000-$70,000 per unit, as is the case with Ford, it would make sense to train people carefully on how to use the computer systems.  As more “connected car” options become available, I’m guessing auto companies would like to sell them to customers.  But without training, I doubt the Boomers will want even more gadgets they can’t operate.  Also,  in addition to educating drivers, training is a great way to  earn customer loyalty.


So I welcome exploring the new MyFordTouch system and I hope it comes with some real training support.  If it does, Ford might get me back from the Lexus I love that has an infotainment system I find difficult to use.


And remember car techie designers– nothing about mobile apps or technology are intuitive to the 50+ market. We didn’t grow up with mobile—so app developers please stop saying that.  You can make apps easier for us to use but they will never be intuitive.



2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad Unveiled at 2014 Chicago Auto Show


At the 2014 Chicago Auto ShowDodge introduces the new 2014 Journey Crossroad model to SUV shoppers who are looking for a more rugged-looking crossover vehicle. When the Journey Crossroad goes on sale, it will slot between the existing SXT and Limited trim levels, and will start at $25,990 including the $995 destination charge.


To create the new 2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad, the automaker installs revised front and rear bumpers with simulated skid plates, side-sill cladding, Platinum Chrome exterior trim, and dark-tinted headlights and taillights. The Journey Crossroad rolls on unique Hyper Black 19-inch aluminum wheels in a 5-spoke design.


Inside, the Journey Crossroad features black leather seats with light-gray accent stitching and black mesh inserts, as well as plenty of Liquid Graphite trim. Standard equipment includes a Uconnect 8.4 color touch-screen infotainment system, power driver’s seat, power heated exterior mirrors, illuminated cup holders, and a keyless passive entry system with push-button starting.


Like the existing Dodge Journey, the new Crossroad model provides 7-passenger seating, reclining second-row seats with integrated child booster seats, fold-flat front passenger’s seat with a storage bin under the cushion, and removable storage bins in the second-row floor designed to hold wet items or conceal valuables. Maximum cargo space measures 67.6 cu. ft.


The Journey Crossroad is equipped with a standard 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. A 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission is optional, and the Journey Crossroad can be fitted with an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. When taking corners at speeds above 25 mph, the AWD system automatically sends power to the Journey’s rear wheels to improve handling.


Dodge says crossover SUV buyers can expect to see the new 2014 Journey Crossroad in showrooms in the spring of 2014.



Ford Plans to Roll out 16 New Models in 2014

Ford Motor (NYSE:F) said last week the company will launch 16 new models in North America this year, amid questions about whether automakers are flooding markets with too many cars too quickly.


In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Ford’s president of the Americas Joe Hinrichs said the No. 2 U.S. automaker was confident that the market could absorb the new products despite mass recalls dogging the auto industry. Recently, Ford was forced to recall its Escape sport utility vehicle, costing the company about $300 million.


“All this new product we have coming in with 16 new launches this year, we’re very confident we have the processes in place to have successful launches,” Hinrichs said.


Meanwhile, the company plans to shut its main F-150 truck factory for 13 weeks this year as part of an effort to make changes to build the 2015 F-150 out of aluminum instead of steel.


On Tuesday, the auto giant posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit as strength in the core North American market offset losses in Europe and South America.




Was Porsche’s First Car, in 1898, Electric?


The first Porsche-designed car was unveiled in Stuttgart, Germany, on Monday. It had been sitting in an old shed in Austria since 1902.


The car is, officially, the 1898 Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton. It’s known as P1, signifying Ferdinand Porsche’s first design.


It is an electric-power car, developed by Ferdinand Porsche, who founded the namesake sports-car company in 1948. Before that, as a young man with engineering aptitude but no formal engineering training, he was working for car builder Jacob Lohner, who assigned Porsche to come up with an electric drivetrain.


Porsche says it hit the streets of Vienna, Austria, on June 26, 1898, when Ferdinand Porsche was 22. He engraved the code “P1″ (standing for Porsche, number one) onto all the key components.


In the classic case of auto-collector’s fantasy come true, P1 was discovered in a warehouse, where it had been untouched since 1902, the car company says.


According to the automaker, Ferdinand Porsche’s powertrain was a rear mounted electric drive that weighs a modest 287 lbs. and produces 3 hp. For short periods, up to 5 hp can be achieved in overdrive mode, allowing a top speed of 21 mph.


The first serious test came in a race for electric cars in September 1899. The contestants had to complete 24 miles with three passengers on board.


Ferdinand Porsche piloted the P1 across the finish line 18 minutes ahead of the second-place racer, the car company’s history shows. Perhaps more important, P1 was among fewer than half the racers able to finish. The others dropped out because of technical problems.


The Phaeton designation (in mythology, a reference to the son of the god Eos) refers to an open car with front and back seats, derived from horse-drawn carriages of similar configuration.


The car demonstrates that automaker Porsche’s turn toward eletrification hardly is a new development.


Today, one of its quicker models is the $100,000 Panamera gas-electric hybrid sedan. A TV ad shows it driving faster than electric wires can spread news of its performance.


Porsche also fields the 918 Spyder gas-electric hybrid race car. In contrast to P1, the 918 racer has a combined gas-electric power rating of 887 hp (127 hp maximum from the electric motor), and can go 10 times as fast as P1 — 211 mph (though only 93 mph on electric power only).