Sunday, May 17, 2009

2009 Dodge Charger

Aggressive styling, legendary engine performance, and a refreshed interior define the 2009 Dodge Charger, a four-door, five-passenger performance sedan that harkens back to the heyday of Detroit muscle cars.

Trim levels include the basic SE, loaded SXT, powerful R/T, and muscular SRT8. Engine choices start with a 2.7-liter, 178-horsepower V-6 that provides solid acceleration. The 3.5-liter, 250-horspower V-6 engine is definitely lustier, with punchy acceleration. In addition to its muscular powerband, the new-and-improved 5.7-liter, 368-horsepower HEMI® V-8 offers a Multi-Displacement System, deactivating four cylinders while cruising to maximize fuel economy. The super-powerful SRT8 boasts a 6.1-liter, 425-horsepower HEMI® V-8 with 420 pounds-feet of torque for eye-popping thrust. An available five-speed AutoStick® transmission provides the versatility of a clutchless manual with automatic gear selection.

Fuel economy is moderate with 13-18 mpg in the city and 19-26 mpg on the highway. The Charger competes with the Chevrolet Impala, ford Taurus and Pontiac G8.

Front bucket seats with generous bolstering and a high seating position provide a comfortable, commanding view of the road. Optional illuminated cup holders are a welcome addition for nighttime cruising. The Charger boasts the incredibly versatile UConnect® system that can fulfill your digital dreams through a 6.5-inch touch screen. Turn your car into a Wi-Fi hotspot and connect laptops, phones, PSPs, PDAs and play online games, surf the internet and download music. The 30 GB hard drive lets you upload and store up to 6,700 songs, tons of photos and play your iPod/MP3 player through the sound system. Include Sirius Satellite Radio, turn-by-turn navigation and Bluetooth connectivity and you’ve just turned your car into the ultimate entertainment center.

Rear-wheel drive is standard across the line, providing superior handling on dry pavement. The optional all-wheel drive system on SXT and R/T models improves acceleration in limited traction situations and includes an active transfer case designed to maximize fuel economy. The optional electronic stability control assists the driver in maintaining control during extreme steering maneuvers. Standard four-wheel disc brakes with available anti-lock control provide shorter, more controlled stops. The standard tire pressure monitor system alerts the driver to any significant drops in pressure. Driver’s-side inflatable knee bolsters, optional side curtain airbags and front seat-mounted side-impact airbags help aid occupants in a collision.

With abundant power, supremely comfortable seats, and a wealth of advanced creature comforts, the 2009 Dodge Charger is a kinder, gentler muscle car for the masses.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

2010 Chevrolet Corvette

The 2010 Chevrolet Corvette should see no major changes. Corvette should continue to be available as both a coupe and convertible, with three different trim levels: base, high-performance Z06, and ultra-high-performance ZR1. All base Corvettes should have a 430-hp 6.2-liter V8 engine. An optional "dual-mode" exhaust system that increases horsepower to 436 should remain available. Base Corvettes should be available with a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Z06 should remain a coupe only and come with a 505-hp 7.0-liter V8 and mandatory 6-speed manual transmission. Z06 models also should have specific suspension tuning, tires, and brakes. ZR1 should continue to have a supercharged 638-hp 6.2-liter V8 engine. It should continue to team with a 6-speed manual transmission. ZR1 should continue to differ from other Corvettes by its unique suspension tuning and use of lightweight carbon fiber on the hood, roof panel, roof bow, front fascia splitter, and rocker moldings. Convertibles should have a soft top that folds with manual or power operation, depending on model or option selection. Available safety features across the Corvette lineup should include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, and front side airbags. Base models should be available with GM's Magnetic Selective Ride Control that automatically adjusts suspension firmness within two driver-selectable modes. Also likely to remain optional on base Corvettes is a high-performance Z51 package that has a firmer, nonadjustable suspension. This report is based on evaluations of the 2009 Chevrolet Corvette.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

2010 Mazdaspeed3

In 2007, the Mazdaspeed3 was the most powerful front-driver under $25,000. Yet, it was the deft combination of power and utility that made the hatchback irresistible. The 2010 Mazdaspeed3, fortunately, relies on much of the previous generation's hardware -- engine included -- but gains Mazda's smiley-face aesthetics, an updated suspension and driveline, and reworked electronics to improve upon an already stout platform.

As with the standard Mazda3, Mazda's "Nagare" design language is apparent. The 2010 version receives a new lower airdam and hood scoop to differentiate it. The larger scoop improves intercooler airflow and frees enough real estate for a new intake duct; both upgrades, Mazda says, improve efficiency. Side skirts and larger exhaust tips complete the visual upgrades.

The wheels, sporting a design from the RX-8 R3, retain an 18-in. diameter but grow 0.5-in. in width. Tires follow, changing from Bridgestone Potenza RE050As to wider Dunlop SP Sport 2050s, sized 225/40R18. The wheels attach to MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink rear suspension, both with stiffer springs and higher dampening rates. There are new mounting points for the front stabilizer bar, and, for the rest of the suspension, thicker sheetmetal in high-stress areas, improving rigidity. Mazda claims a 2% increase in overall torsion stiffness.

The mechanical braking and hydraulic steering systems are no more. Mazda adopts electrical solutions to both, claiming greater flexibility in tuning. Rotors remain 12.6 in. up front and 11.0 in. at the rear, but now use an assist to combat driver hesitation during panic braking. The electric steering, Mazda says, is well weighted at high speeds, but not heavy when putting around parking lots.

Behind the steering wheel is the normal gauge cluster, augmented with a LED boost gauge. The rest of the interior wears black with red stitching and Mazdaspeed3 graphics on the semi-bucket front seats. Storage space grows slightly over its predecessor, to 17.0 cu ft. And, like on the standard Mazda3, an optional Tech Package includes push-button start, navigation, satellite radio, alarm, six-disc changer, and a five-channel Bose sound system.

The 263-horse turbo 2.3L carries over, but mates to a transmission with taller gears from second to fifth. With 280 lb-ft at 3000 rpm, torque steer is the enemy. Mazda combats it with a torque-sensing conical limit-slip and recalibrated torque-management system, which limits power based on gear and steering input.

Despite being one of the oldest in our "Small, Fast, Fun" comparison, the last Mazdaspeed3 clinched third thanks to incredible torque and driving feel. For 2010, Mazda appears to have only improved on the Speed3's strong points.

By Carlos Lago

Source: Motor Trend

Sunday, April 5, 2009

2010 Cadillac CTS

Cadillac exterior design director John Manoogian II can't contain himself. He talks about the production CTS coupe and how it will hardly vary from the "CTS coupe concept," the unmitigated hit of the North American International Auto Show (Detroit), without adding the requisite, "If we were to build it." And so what's a poor Cadillac P.R. guy to do, but to say it hasn't been made official?

If you read Motor Trend, you know Cadillac has been kicking around the idea of a new coupe since before the doddering Eldorado was sent to that great Cadillac Ranch in the sky. And you know that this latest "coupe d'etat," designed much more recently than those earlier ideas, is set for a 2010 model year introduction probably some 18 months from now, alongside a Euro-centric CTS wagon-er, estate/shooting break. (One insider says, if you like the coupe, "Wait'll you see the wagon." Wait until when? That CTS wagon won't make its debut at Geneva and, in fact, hasn't been scheduled for any auto show so far this season.)

Manoogian credits designer Bob Munson for drawing the sketches that led to the coupe concept about two years ago, as work was wrapping up on the 2008 Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Cadillac CTS sedan.

"Bob had done a sketch of a two-door," Manoogian says. "And everyone's reaction immediately was, 'There isn't a market for two-doors, why would we want to do that?' We said, 'Well, let's just kind of give it a shot.' So we did a scale model, based on Bob's sketch." With design chief Ed Welburn's prompting, that led to a full-size clay. "So we did a full-size clay, took it out on the patio one day for Mr. Lutz, and he came out and said, 'Wow! That's pretty cool!' Then we made arrangements to show Mr. Wagoner as well, and everyone agreed: we can't afford not to do this car."

Here's the real kicker, the sign that GM indeed has hit a new design renaissance: Manoogian and Cadillac design director Clay Dean swear the CTS coupe concept is virtually unchanged from Munson's original drawings. Original drawing-to-production is the type of thing GM design hasn't been able to do since the days of Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell.

"When we started with the scale model, to what you see right in front of you," Manoogian says, "is identical. Our mission was, take that scale model and do a full-size car."

Source: Motor Trend

Sunday, March 22, 2009

2011 Ford Fiesta

Consumer Guide’s Impressions of the 2011 Ford Fiesta

The stylish Verve concept previewed Ford’s promised subcompact challenger to Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and other “B-Class” cars. The styling will change--as well as the name--but a Mazda foundation ups the chances for success.

What We Know About the 2011 Ford Fiesta

Fuel-stingy minicars are back in vogue, thanks to unstable gas prices. Ford has long promised such a car for its U.S. lineup. In fact, it had one ready several years back, but canceled it on learning the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris would show up.

Since then, the Blue Oval has been working on what it thinks will be a more competitive minicar. Though Ford isn’t talking timetable or specifications yet, the three Verve concepts, unveiled at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show, 2007 Guangzhou Motor Show, and 2008 Detroit Auto Show suggest the showroom version is well on the road to completion. So does the debut of a new Mazda 2, which will parent the U.S. baby as well as a redesign of Ford’s popular European Fiesta. Right now, sources predict the American version--which will be badged Fiesta--will arrive in 2010 as a 2011 model.

The 2011 Ford Fiesta is another “world car” project a la Ford’s 1981 Escort and 2000 Focus. Like the original VW Beetle, the idea is a basic design that can be built and sold profitably the world over, because one car serving many markets drastically cuts development costs and raises profit potential. That’s why General Motors still dabbles with world cars, too.

In the past, though, Detroit “world cars” ended up with so many regional design and engineering changes that economies of scale were diminished, if not erased. The Focus is one example. At first, the U.S. and European models were quite similar. Then Ford Europe did a 2005 redesign that U.S. marketers deemed too costly. In other words, a Euro-based Focus would have been priced out of its U.S. market slot. Which is why our Focus still uses the original design, already paid for, albeit heavily updated for 2008.

Ford says Focus will be a “world car” again in its next incarnation, expected around 2011. There’s not much choice. Ford is running very low on cash and must leverage its global resources--that timeworn Detroit cliché--to get the most new model bang for the bucks it has. That’s why Ford CEO Alan Mullaly is busy spearheading a global product plan that aims for big savings by greatly trimming the number of platforms and parts in Ford Motor’s worldwide inventory. The increased sharing won’t be confined to small cars, either. Ford also plans to merge two different midsize sedans, the American Fusion and European Mondeo, into a single basic design, with only modest tailoring for various markets.

All this explains why the 2011 Ford Fiesta will be closely related to the next-generation Fiesta, but possibly sourced from low-wage Brazil or Mexico to achieve a competitive El Norte price. And because Ford now assigns small-car development to Japanese affiliate Mazda, which is plenty experienced that way, the Fiesta will be derived from the recently-released second-generation Mazda 2. That model isn’t coming here, but its good U.K. and Continental notices bode well for the North American Ford.

The 2011 Ford Fiesta will share a new B2E corporate platform with the Mazda 2, but have different styling (penned by Ford designers in Europe) and perhaps different powertrains, too. It will look more conservative than the Verve concept, which Ford says suggests the general “design language” of the production car. But the concept is certainly expressive, as is the wedgy Mazda 2, so the showroom Fiesta won’t be another plain two-box appliance like the Fiesta sold here way back in 1977-1980.

Size wise, the 2011 Ford Fiesta should be close to the Fit, Yaris, Chevrolet Aveo and other so-called “B-Class” minicars, but a generous wheelbase versus overall length should make for a surprisingly roomy four-seater, judging by the Mazda 2. It’s front-wheel drive, of course, and a 4-door sedan body style is assured for the U.S. Two- and 4-door hatchbacks are likely for Europe and possibly for our side of the pond as well.

Powertrains should come from the Mazda 2, which in various markets offers twincam 4-cylinder engines of 1.3 and 1.5 liters. We’d guess the U.S. 2011 Ford Fiesta will get the 1.5 at least, or perhaps a 1.8-liter enlargement providing the extra low-end torque that’s always so helpful for U.S. driving conditions.

Transmissions should comprise a 5-speed manual and an optional 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Dubbed PowerShift, Ford's new dual-clutch transmission behaves much the same as a conventional automatic transmission, but Ford says it weighs less than a 4-speed auto, and helps increase fuel economy by about nine percent. Standard equipment should include antilock brakes, front torso side airbags, and curtain side airbags. Traction control will certainly be available, maybe even standard. Stability control is a likely option, as it is on the Mazda.

A Notable Feature of the 2011 Ford Fiesta

Depending on marketers’ courage, the 2011 Ford Fiesta may offer upscale extras like sport suspension, 16- or 17-inch tires to replace standard 15s, power windows, keyless power door locks, perhaps even a navigation system. The options list will almost certainly show the new Ford Sync system for voice-activated control of cell phones and portable music players, if only to court the youth market. An available 5-speed automatic would be a competitive advantage among B-Class cars, where 4-speed transmissions are the rule so far. Let’s also note that the latest Mazda 2 weighs some 220 pounds less than the previous version, which bodes well for both performance and fuel economy in the 2011 Ford Fiesta.

Buying Advice for the 2011 Ford Fiesta

B-Class competition is heating up fast. Suzuki now offers sedan and hatchback versions of its little SX4; Toyota’s Scion brand has replaced its small xA hatchback with the more-refined xD; and 2009 brings a new, slightly larger Honda Fit with fresh styling, better performance and more interior space. The Toyota Yaris will also be tweaked before its expected redesign for model-year 2012. And Korean brands Hyundai and Kia won’t be idle. With all this, the 2011 Ford Fiesta will have a lot to contend with, but it should be up to it, assuming the well-received Mazda 2 is any guide.

2011 Ford Fiesta Release Date: Ford isn’t talking, as we said, but most sources expect an on-sale date in the first half of calendar 2010.

2011 Ford Fiesta First Test Drive: Assuming the above timetable holds, media previews could be scheduled for fall 2009.

2011 Ford Fiesta Prices: They’re obviously a long way from being decided, but the 2011 Ford Fiesta could well displace the bottom-end versions of the compact Focus. We’d look for prices to start at around $12,000 and range up to $16,000 loaded. Currency exchange rates between now and intro time will loom large for Ford in determining the final numbers.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

2009 Honda City

The compact sedan is a radical departure from the previous generation car, with a totally new exterior style, featuring some visual elements of the stylish Accord. The restyled exterior is joined by a new 1.4 i-VTEC engine, which gives the Honda City significantly more power and better performance.

The new engine, which is also shared with the new Honda Jazz is fitted with Honda's acclaimed i-VTEC system, which provides excellent performance and flexibility, without compromising fuel economy or emissions. The new engine gives the Honda City 100PS, a healthy 17 PS increase over the previous model. This extra power helps the new Honda City complete the benchmark 0-100 km/h in just 11.8 seconds for the manual version, an improvement of 1.6 seconds. The automatic version hits 100 in 14.7 seconds, almost half a second quicker than before.

The manual transmission for Honda City is a modified version of the current gearbox, with carbon synchromesh for smoother changes, improved refinement and a new set of optimised gear ratios. The Automatic transmission is all-new and adds the option to shift gears with steering wheel mounted paddles for the first time. With a sport mode, improved shift logic and ratios the new transmission better compliments the new car's more powerful engine.

The all-new model has been further enhanced over its predecessor with a higher quality of materials, improved aesthetics and functionality. Increased storage capacity around the cabin including a bigger glove box improves practicality, while a new design of seats improves passenger and driver comfort.

The design changes are complimented by several improvements to the Noise Vibration and Harshness technologies applied to the car. A host of new features in the body, interior, suspension, engine and mountings have been included to bring further refinement to Honda's newest sedan. The NVH enhancements allow customers to make the most of the new audio system which offers iPod connectivity and better sound quality.

The new Honda City is based on the platform of the award winning new Honda Jazz, and benefits from the many of the technologies seen in the new hatchback. The longer wheel base gives a significant improvement in interior space as well as the associated ride and handling benefits. Safety performance is also enhanced with the adoption of the ACE Body Structure (Advanced Compatibility Engineering), which better protects occupants of both cars in the event of a collision between vehicles of different heights.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa Comparison - The New Big 3’s Little 3.

Whether or not you’ve grown up as a car buff, unless you’re a troglodyte who still walks barefoot from point A to point B, you’re probably familiar with who “The Big 3″ automakers comprise. And if you’ve watched any of the executive groveling before our esteemed panel of D.C. dunderheads we call our “leaders”, then you’re absolutely familiar with The Big 3. However in the aftermath of Toyota’s recent ascension past GM to become the number #1 selling automotive brand in the world - in addition to its involvement in NASCAR and multiple American manufacturing plants - the old Big 3 moniker may need revision to include Toyota.

And who would be “The Other 2″? Honda and Nissan seem to fit the role quite well, with similarly expanding market share and multiple U.S.-based factories. Yes, it seems that when people nowadays refer to “The Big 3″, there needs to be some level of clarification - New School or Old School?

One of the central reasons why “The New Big 3″ are worthy of this author’s self-appointed title is partly because of their historical focus on offering consumers economy, value, efficiency and practicality; something traditional Detroit automakers lost sight of in the last decade. But this article is not a rant on Detroit - Twain knows the topic is already about as moth-eaten as they come, and Detroit has seen the folly of their ways.

Rather, this article is about comparing three little sub-compact cars: the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and the Toyota Yaris. Cars that have held true to the decades-old focus and vision of The New Big 3 to deliver consumers an entry-level product that’s economical, practical, reliable and safe - well, relatively speaking. Safer than walking on the shoulder of an interstate, anyway.

SECOND RUNNER UP: 2009 Toyota Yaris

The Yaris is widely known as the Corolla’s smaller brother, which is like discovering that Danny Devito actually has a shorter sibling. Although the Yaris is short on size and weight - it’s the shortest five door hatch in this comparison by 11 inches and comes in at a cross-wind swooning 2300 pounds - the Yaris offers a fair amount of car for its $14K base price. Not to mention the fact that you can fit this car in parking spaces that the Fit and Versa would have to guillotine both bumpers for.

Read the rest of the review here >>