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Bugatti Sets New Top Speed Record; French Spitefully Create 11,000 MPG Car in Response

If it’s a year with four digits, it must be time for Bugatti to roll out another limited-edition Veyron model for the absurdly rich to debate buying instead of a small African country. But instead of just slapping on a fresh coat of paint (or removing the paint, as they’ve also done), the good folks at the Volkswagen subsidiary added 183 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, in order to allow the new Veyron Super Sport to reclaim the title of world’s fastest’s production car. (For those of you who get off on seeing the figures, the new totals are 1183 horsepower and 1106 lb-ft. Now please clean off your keyboard.)

Now, if you’re like us, you probably wondered, “Reclaim it from who? Didn’t they already have that title?” Well, sort of. If you ask the Guinness Book of Records (motto: “Obsolete since Wikipedia”), they’d say up ’til now, the world’s fastest production car was America’s own SSC (Shelby SuperCars) Ultimate Aero, which clocked a 256 mph run on a closed highway in Washington State in 2007 thanks to a claimed 1183 horsepower from its twin-turbocharged 6.4 liter V8. But we’d refute this claim, for three reasons: a) considering they made only 50 examples of their one model, SSC is as much an “automotive manufacturer” as BP is an “eco-friendly energy company,” b) the “Shelby” in the company’s name does NOT refer to Carroll Shelby, which is a gross misrepresentation (even if it still is the last name of the company’s founder, Jerod Shelby), and c) the Ultimate Aero is pug-fugly. I mean, the Veyron is no Marisa Miller, but at least it looks expensive. The Aero just looks like a bad body kit for a Lamborghini Diablo.

The SSC Ultimate Aero.

The SSC Ultimate Aero in a defensive posture.

Marisa Miller. (Thanks, Sports Illustrated!)

But hopefully, now that Bugatti has reclaimed the top speed record, we won’t have to look at the Ultimate Aero for quite a while. The Veyron Super Sport (a term which, between this car and the Bentley Continental Supersports, VW is clearly trying to steal away from Chevrolet) ripped off an average top speed of 268 miles per hour on Volkswagen’s test track. (Fun fact: that’s about 36 percent of the speed of sound at ground level!) No word on whether the vehicle actually used to break the record was clad in the same repugnant black-over-orange paint job used on the pictured car.

No word, of course, on how quickly the Veyron SS was sucking down gas at 268 miles per hour, but given the regular Veyron averages 10 mpg and drains its gas tank in 12 minutes at top speed, we’re guessing the Super Sport’s fuel economy at top speed resembles that of an F-22 Raptor. At full afterburner. (None of that supercruise crap!)

But luckily for our grandchildren (remember, folks, take some pictures this winter, ’cause your descendants won’t know what snow looked like!), a group of students from the French schools Polytech Nantes and Lycée La Joliverie cancelled out the Veyron’s carbon emissions by created a car capable of going 11,516 miles on the energy equivalent of a gallon of gas. (Or or 4895.91 kilometers per liter, if you want to get all metric about it.) The car uses a hydrogen fuel cell, so they simply converted the amount of hydrogen used into the amount of gasoline with the same amount of energy. Sadly, the French étudiants didn’t actually drive 11,516 miles at what we have to imagine was the speed of a stoned tortoise, but rather drove around a race track and simply extrapolated, which, let’s face it, is kind of cheating. Man up, Polyech Nantes! Bugatti actually pushed their car to 268 mph. Let’s see you drive around a racetrack a couple thousand times.

(Though we have to admit…the 11,516 mpg French car kind of looks cooler than the Veyron.)

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Ferrari 458 Italia Spotted!

Ferrari’s Manhattan showroom finally reopened this past week, and they had a special surprise: a white 458 Italia, sitting between a California and a 612 Scaglietti. And…damn. Just…damn.

It was late at night and the shop was closed, so we couldn’t go inside and touch the car in an inappropriate fashion take a better look, but we were able to grab an iPhone pic from outside the glass doors. (Of course, the showroom attendants don’t let you take pictures inside anyway, but that’s why Steve Jobs put a silence switch on the phone.) Even in flamboyant Don Johnson white, the 458 is a breathtakingly gorgeous car. Sex on wheels, friends. Just like when I bought a Happy Meal back in 1995 and they were giving away Toy Story figurines, I got a Woody.

We’ll sneak in and grab some more pictures sometime soon, but in the meantime, the multitudes of American car lovers can rejoice in knowing the latest Ferrari has finally reached our shores. Hallelujah!

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Review – 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid

The Good: Excellent gas mileage, high quality inside and out, makes driving efficiently fun.

The Bad: $32 grand for a family car, not long for this world.

The Verdict: Mercury finally has a sedan people want—too late to make a difference.

Watch our video review too!

A moment of silence, please, for Mercury.

Decades ago, Ford’s midlevel brand had panache. During the Heyday of America (1945-1968), the brand was a step on the ladder to success; driving a Mercury meant while you may not be able to afford a Lincoln just yet, you’d pulled yourself up high enough by your bootstraps to graduate from those run-of-the-mill Fords.  Much like Buick over at GM, Mercurys were just fancy enough to make their drivers feel slightly superior.

However, much like Buick, the brand lost their way in the last few decades of the 20th century, and spent much of recent history cranking out mildly gussied-up versions of Ford vehicles. (The last Mercury to differ in more than badging from a Ford product was the Cougar—and that cat went extinct in 2002.) So it was no surprise when Ford announced on June 2nd they’d be euthanizing the nameplate this year. While Buick escaped the executioner’s block by virtue of its immense popularity in China, the 72-year-old Mercury remained unloved by any rapidly expanding consumer nations, and so we bid it adieu.

But come December, don’t be surprised if the last Mercury to ever roll off the assembly line is a Milan Hybrid—because this is the first Mercury in a long time to instill in its owners that tiny feeling of supremacy. Sure, the car’s pretty much a clone of the Ford Fusion Hybrid (though a bit less plebian to my eyes), but who cares? This car makes you feel just a bit better than all those clods in their Foci.

But in this eco-conscious age, those feelings stem less from the car’s price (though if you can afford a car that costs more than $30,000 in this economy, you can probably pat yourself on the back) and more from the impressive fuel economy figures eked out by the gasoline-electric powertrain. By mating a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine to a 275-volt nickel-metal hydride battery, the Milan achieves 41 miles per gallon around town and 36 mpg on the open road, according to the EPA. (Fast fact: at a combined 39 mpg, you could drive the Milan hybrid 1,111,500,000 miles on the amount of gasoline that could have been made from the crude leaked so far by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill! That’s 2,326 round trips to the Moon!)

However, unlike some hybrids, the Mercury doesn’t sacrifice much power on the altar of efficiency; the engine-motor combo creates a combined maximum of 191 horsepower, par for the midsized hybrid sedan segment where it competes. (The comparable Nissan Altima Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid make 198 and 187 horses, respectively.) With the power traveling to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission, the dash from 0 to 60 arrives in 8.5 seconds, according to a Car and Driver test of the mechanically identical Fusion Hybrid.

The trunk's interior latch appears aimed at kidnappees.

Impressively, the Milan/Fusion duo of hybrids can reach a claimed top speed of 47 miles per hour on electricity alone; I never quite reached that mark just on juice, but did once make it up to about 45 only on electrons. As John Mellencamp said, that’s close enough for rock and roll. However, making maximum mpg means driving like a rock star is out of the question; a feathery touch on the accelerator is required to keep the inline four from leaping into action. Remember when your parents/driver’s ed teacher/arresting police officer told you to imagine there was an egg under the pedal? If your aim is to use as little gasoline as possible in the Milan, it’s best to picture a helium balloon tied to your right foot. Or better yet, actually tie a helium balloon to your right foot.

But there’s an unexpected side effect to this: it makes driving slow fun. Instead of seeing how quickly you can swoop through the turns or bomb the quarter mile, the joy comes from toying with the formerly-known-as-the-gas pedal, trying to use as little energy as possible to move about without risking incoming gunfire from drivers behind you. (That’s not a joke here in New York City.) In an increasingly common burst of creativity and wisdom, the folks at Ford Motor Company included multiple means of informing the driver just how eco-friendly s/he is being—most inventively, by including a virtual patch of vines on the digital instrument panel, which grows leaves when the car is driven efficiently and sheds them when you’re pissing off the planet. Sounds stupid, but I found it surprisingly effective—and guilt inducing. (“NOOOOOO! THE LEAVES ARE DYING!”)

Apart from the powertrain, the Milan is pretty much standard Ford material—which is to say, a lot better than it was five or more years ago. (Maybe it’s time to reanimate that old “Have you driven a Ford lately?” tagline.) The gray leather seats in my tester were comfy on long hauls, but not particularly well-bolstered; of course, the hybrid Milan really isn’t aimed at those who’re big into hauling ass and taking license plate numbers, so this comes as little surprise. But the leather was soft, the plastic on the dashboard pleasant to the touch, and the interior proved quite appealing to at least four senses. (I did not lick it.)

This Milan was also equipped with Ford’s Sync system, designed by Microsoft to make ease integrating your cell phone/iPod/microwave oven with the car’s computer. It let me play music from my iPhone through Bluetooth, but wouldn’t read my incoming text messages to me because my phone was “incompatible.” Plus, Sync repeatedly “lost” my phone’s signal, forcing me to dive into the car’s submenus to manually reconnect. (I imagine the car did this passive-aggressively as part of a “I’m a Mac / And I’m a PC” interaction.)

But the rest of the car’s tech proved well above and beyond what I expect from family sedans. The rearview camera and parking sensors were, as always, handy, and the navigation system never steered me wrong. (It does leave “bread crumbs” on the screen to track where you’ve been; after several days driving around New York City, however, it was starting to look like Little Billy’s dotted line from The Family Circus.) The Sony-designed 12 speaker, 390-watt stereo knocked my ears out of the park; I never had to turn it up past 30 percent power. And having two 12-volt cigarette lighter-style and one household-style 110-volt three-prong outlets was quite nice. Finally, I could use my MacBook, my iPhone and my iPad all at once without fear of low batteries—while driving!

[Editor’s note: he did not actually do this. But if Apple wants to give us some freebies so our passengers can try it, we won’t say no.]

The Bottom Line:

The Milan will all but certainly be the last new car made by this septuagenarian brand, unless Ford decides to reward the brand’s tiny audience of fans and unveils a Mercury version of the Mustang. (The Pegasus?) But this hybrid’s virtues have earned it a place in the brand’s history—not just because it was the last in a long line of Mercurys, but because it was the last Mercury anyone could drive and feel proud that they were doing so. Death will guarantee the Milan Hybrid shall remain a rarity on our roads; the company sold only 1, 486 in 2009, and pre-extinction-purchase-fever aside, I doubt the company will sell more than that this year. (In contrast, the Fusion Hybrid sold 15,554 units last year.)  But those 3,000 owners can take pride in knowing they’re driving a unique version of the best family sedan Detroit has made in a very long time—and that’s starting to mean something again.

So with that, we say goodbye to the brand with a phrase most apt for a car company named after the messenger of the gods:

Godspeed, Mercury.

Base Price/Price As Tested: $31,980/$32,980

0-60: 8.5 seconds (courtesy Car and Driver)

Fuel Economy: 41 city/36 highway (EPA estimate)

Key Competitors: Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

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General Motors Nearly Axes “Chevy” from Corporate Lexicon; Journalists Stretch for Don McLean References

Ah, General Motors. Just when everyone was starting to like you again, you find a way to look bad.

In this case, the offense wasn’t a sloppily made vehicle, but some very out-of-touch executives who decided it would be better for Chevrolet to completely stop all corporate uses of the name “Chevy.” Everywhere.

The New York Times broke the story, reportedly after receiving a copy of the memo from a stupefied employee (who wasn’t named, mostly because when even the stoic Times describes you as “disbelieving” in regards to something your bosses did, you probably don’t want the higher-ups to know so much as your shoe size), and it’s too rich to go unshared.

The memo states, “We’d ask that whether you’re talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising, or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward…when you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding.”

Right. Because it’s not like Coke or Apple each have one other name that’s entirely synonymous with their brand. Not at all. No, don’t go look on a can of Coke—that scribbly writing’s just a bit of pretty jibberish. And don’t listen to what Justin Long calls himself in those Apple TV commercials, either. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

The gaffe was so embarrassing, even former GM CEO Rick Wagoner winced—more than a year before it happened.

Of course, as soon as the story broke, General Motors quickly issued a press release to the contrary, stating, “In no way are we discouraging customers or fans from using the name [Chevy].” Which, technically, is true—they’re just discouraging employees from using the name. And with idiotic ideas like that, I don’t think I’d be much of a fan of the company I worked for.

But this is a triumphant day for automotive journalists. Not only did we stop a supremely dumb move from maligning a classic car manufacturer (whose products, PR stumbles notwithstanding, have improved dramatically in recent years), but we did it through the power of the press! We made a difference!

So the next time you refer to your Corvette, Silverado or Malibu as a “Chevy,” please—thank an automotive journalist. We’re suckers for praise. And in the meantime, enjoy this epic Chevy Superbowl commercial from a few years back. Fun fact: it was directed by Michael Bay, and you can actually see the moment where he decided he wanted to butcher direct Transformers.

(The complete memo is below; the “Chevy swear jar” in the office is my personal favorite part.)

Chevrolet Team,

We wanted to write you a quick note requesting your support of our Chevrolet Brand. When you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding. Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer. This is a big opportunity for us
moving forward.

As you know, we are investing substantially to improve the consistency of our retail facilities through the EBE process. Aside from the facilities aspect of our branding, there are many other ways in which we can demonstrate this consistency. One way to achieve this is with the use of Chevrolet vs. Chevy. We’d ask that whether you’re talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward.

We have a proud heritage behind us and a fantastic future ahead of us … speaking to the success of this brand in one consistent manner will ensure Chevrolet becomes even more prominent and recognizable than it already is.

Thank you for your support of this effort!

Alan and Jim

P.S. We put a plastic “Chevy” can down the hall that will accept a quarter every time someone uses “Chevy” rather than Chevrolet! We’ll use the money for a team building activity.

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Quick Drive – BMW 550i Gran Turismo

The Good: Supernatural power and handling for its size, more comfortable than most living rooms.

The Bad: Seriously dense, not as pretty as the 5-series sedan.

The Verdict: The penultimate car for the all-American road trip.

At first glance, BMW’s 5-series Gran Turismo seems anachronistic. It’s bigger than a station wagon outside, but offers a smaller place for gear. The higher seating position of an SUV without any implication of off-road prowess or obvious badassery. A very large car with room for only four. It doesn’t seem to make sense.

Until you drive it.

Because BMW has a way of making the illogical seem surprisingly sensible. Hop in the GT, jump on the highway and crank the tunes, and it all seems to make sense. Bimmer’s longtime slogan, “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” is too vague; this is the Ultimate Road Tripping Machine.

With 4,938 pounds (not including gasoline or the average American’s Cinnabon-scarfing ass) squeezing the tires to the road (almost 600 pounds more than the 550i sedan), the 550i GT doesn’t leap and scramble through the curves like a Miata – the driver is always aware how much the car weighs – but it cuts them apart just fine anyway. Like a defensive lineman who can double as a runningback in a pinch, the GT is more than capable of running circles around smaller, lighter cars not prepared for the turns. Likewise, the company’s trademark heavy steering (at least at low velocities) is exacerbated by the car’s size in parking lots, but once the 550i is moving along, the wheels slide wherever you want them to go as if on greased rails.

But it’s the straightaways and the slow sweeping turns where the GT is most at home. The 4.4 liter twin turbo V8 makes all and more of its claimed 400 horses, and the eight-speed automatic doesn’t trip over its own feet, kicking down four or more gears in an instant when the throttle is pinned. The car feels just as responsive from 60 to 80 as it does between 20 and 40.

Inside, the driver lords over the road from the Goldilocks height for a 1000 mile drive – not road-huggingly low, not Freightliner high. Several generations of evolution have refined the infamous iDrive into a control system that’s surprisingly easy to understand. The seats (power-adjustable in a ridiculous number of ways) ensconsce all four inhabitants like La-Z-Boys, sacrificing some lateral support for unidirectional comfort. Backseat passengers aren’t forced to suffer, either; their thrones make the most of the GT’s 7-series-spawned lengthy wheelbase, and rear occupants can recline to a perfect position for napping. The dual-opening hatch sacrifices some storage space for the sake of the car’s swoopy lines, but there’s still enough room for four or five duffel bags. As for those looks – well, the 5-series GT certainly looks better in person than in photos (much like its fellow luxo-hatch, the Porsche Panamera), it suffers when placed next to the leaner, muscularly cut 2011 5-series sedan.

Which could be said about many aspects of the Gran Turismo. The lighter, lower sedan would probably fulfill the needs of most 5-series GT buyers, while performing even more impressively. But for those occasions when three or four people need to take a long road trip – be it a tall family looking at colleges, buddies fulfilling a Kerouacian fantasy or a fellowship of travelers driving to a volcano to throw a ring into its caldera – the 5-series GT is as good as it gets.

Base Price/Estimated Price As Tested*: $65,775/$75,975

0-60: 5.2 seconds (courtesy Car and Driver)

Fuel Economy: 15 city/21 highway (EPA estimate)

Key Competitors: Porsche Panamera S, Audi A6 Avant, Mercedes-Benz R350

*Actual price of tested vehicle not available; estimation made by approximating features on car using BMW USA’s online configurator. Which is always a fun way to pass the time.

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A Fiesta Parks in Brooklyn

We apologize for the lengthy delay between posts (things have been hectic at CCO these days, including a change of location and the accompanying 10 day lack of Internet); we’ll have a full review of the Mercury Milan Hybrid posted soon, though. (Yes, folks, Mercury still makes cars. And this one is pretty good.)

To whet your thirst in the meantime, though, here’s another FoMoCo novelty for you. We spotted this Ford Fiesta in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the epicenter of douchy coolness in America. While you’ve probably already started seeing ads for the Fiesta, this example is part of the “Fiesta Movement” – the group of young hip people chosen to be brand ambassadors for the car before its full launch. These Movement Fiestas are more rare than Ferrari Enzos, so we’re pretty excited to have seen one today. (Also, we’re kinda surprised Ford hasn’t taken them back by now.)

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2010 Beijing Auto Show Recap

Ah, Beijing in April! Where the sweet, noxious smell of pollution fills the air with the sounds of thousands of coughing Chinese children. For reasons that had nothing to do with the eruption of Mount Overanalyzed (it’s just a volcano, folks – it didn’t erupt because of global warming, and it doesn’t mean the end of air travel, so calm down), we were unable to make it to Beijing; however, we did go down to Chinatown and suck on the tailpipe of a ’62 Dodge Dart for a while, which is pretty much the same thing.

However, neither our lack of airfare nor our sudden racking cough is enough to keep us from bringing you the highlights from this year’s Beijing Auto Show. Since China has become to automakers what Jerusalem was to Moses, the show this year (barely worth covering two or three years ago) played host to several world premieres of cars you’d actually want to own. So, in no particular order, here we go!

2011 Ferrari 599 GTO

We’re gonna turn this over to special guest contributor Garth Algar for our thoughts on the 599 GTO:

Are we clear on this? The 599 GTB is already one of the top three most incredible Ferraris in history, and ranks firmly atop our Powerball Car Pavilion. Compared with the GTB, the GTO is stripped of 200 pounds and packs an extra 49 horsepower to make what Ferrari calls its “fastest-ever road car.” (Not sure how they quantify that, given the Enzo topped out at 209 mph versus the 599’s 208, but hey, who really cares?) 0-60 should come in less than 3.4 seconds, and the company’s single-clutch six-speed automated manual is the only transmission. While a stripped-down interior means the GTO is probably a bit less livable than its GTB sibling, it’s a faster, more ferocious version of an already fast and ferocious machine. And it sounds like this. There’s only one word for that:

Schwing indeed.

Mercedes-Benz Shooting Break Concept

Somehow, the bizarre evolutionary arms war between BMW and Mercedes-Benz keeps resulting in more and more perplexing (and seemingly redundant) models. For example – take Mercedes’s midsize lineup. With the Shooting Break (basically a wagon version of the next CLS), Mercedes will have three separate wagons of similar size for around the same price: the E-class wagon, the R-class, and this bad boy. Confused? So are we.

But clearly they’re selling, since the company keeps wheeling out new versions. Right now it doesn’t look like the production CLS wagon will be hitting U.S. shores, sticking to markets like, well, China. Which is kinda sad, since this is a pretty enticing shaggin’ wagon. Still, if you like the look and are willing to show restraint at Whole Foods, the 2011 CLS should look almost identical, except for a more conventional trunk.

The Shooting Break also holds the first example of M-B’s new family of engines, represented here by a 3.5 liter V6 with 306 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Presumably channeled through a seven-speed automatic, this engine should become the new entry-level motor for the E-, R-, CLS-, and ML-classes…at least until they make a four-cylinder engine capable of providing the power we Americans deserve. (Arf arf arf!)

BMW Concept Gran Coupé

Remember BMW’s Concept CS of a couple years back, a sleeker 7-series-based four-door-coupe in the CLS persuasion with a paint job that shone like the T-1000 emerging from a fiery wreck? It was reportedly slated for production as the company’s range-topper (presumably called the 8-series), but the Great Recession blew the hell out of that plan.

John Connor is really getting pissed about the popularity of this color.

However, good ideas never die, they just go into hibernation – and the folks at BMW have decided it’s time to wake up their stylish little cub. The Gran Coupé will likely be coming to life as the next 6-series – probably a good business move, as it allows the model to go from being a bulky, sedan-based runner-up in the  Porsche 911/Maserati GranTurismo category to the sharpest, most exciting competitor in the CLS/Jaguar XF segment.

Powertrain details weren’t released, but we figure the new 5-series’s engines and transmissions will carry over all but unchanged. No one outside of Bimmer has seen inside, but we’re imagining a plush, comfy cabin with four bucket seats. (And in said daydream, we’re in the driver’s seat, flooring the 400 horsepower V8 and rowing through the six-speed stick. Don’t let us down, BMW…)

2011 Audi A8L W12

Should you prefer the rear-right seat of a car to the front-left, the A8L makes a convincing argument to be your vehicle of choice. With five extra inches of wheelbase over the already commodious A8, the L offers a combination of space and luxury usually found only in a Bombardier Global Express jet. For chauffeured corporate titans who need that extra bit of penis enhancement acceleration, the 6.3 liter W12 spits out 500 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque – less than the competing Mercedes-Benz S600 and BMW 760Li, but still enough to motivate the enormous sedan from naught to 60 in 4.9 seconds or so. (The short-wheelbase A8’s 372 horse 4.2 liter V8 provides motivation for the standard A8L; both engines send power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic.)

For reasons we’re not entirely sure about, the long-wheelbase A8 offers a rear-facing jumpseat that folds out of the back of the front passenger’s seat, forcing both back-right passengers to share legrooms. We think it’s actually a perch for for your cat. There’s also a center console in back that can be equipped with a fridge; no word yet whether it’ll be big enough for a bottle of Moet. (Or Donaghy Estates, if you’re so inclined.)

Chevrolet Volt MPV5 Electric Concept

Chevy’s Volt, dubbed the “Jesus of Detroit” by, well, us while writing for someone else, is finally coming to fruition; the four-door plug-in electric car-with-a-gas generator will be rolling along U.S. streets by this fall, barring any hiccups. But for all its benefits, the Volt is still a small car with a $35,000 price tag. GM swears the Volt will be profitable, but a lot of that depends on finding a way to sell as many cars with the technology as possible.

So why not throw the powertrain into something a bit more utilitarian? That seems to be the idea behind the awkwardly named Volt MPV5 Electric Concept. (How about a bit of abbreviation/Roman numeralization, and we call it the V-MPV-V?) With a 150 horsepower, 370 lb-ft electric motor for propulsion and 1.4 liter gasoline engine for recharging, the MPV5 is quoted as having an electric-only range of 32 miles and a gas-assisted range of 300; top speed is 100 miles per hour.

Not quite a minivan (the rear doors don’t slide) nor a station wagon (too tall), the MPV5 has room for five (hence the name) and an impressive 30.5 cubic feet of storage in back with all the seats up. It looks pretty cool, too – an impressive feat for an electric people-mover. Expect to see a production version fairly similar to this concept around this time next year.

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Photo Gallery: 2010 New York Auto Show

As we wrap up our New York Auto Show coverage, we wanted to take a moment to share with you a pleasant photo gallery of some of the show’s best (and worst) cars, vehicles and moments. (It took us a good three hours to upload all the &#@%ing things, so please, take a minute to enjoy them.)

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New York Auto Show – Thoughts and Judgements (Oh So Much Judgement)

The grueling two days making up the New York Auto Show press preview have finally come to a close (so many free cappuccinos…), so it’s time to reflect on just what happened. Overall, it was a pretty average show, but my gut seems to indicate the overall event was actually one of the more exciting, involving shows of late. Maybe it’s because of the infinitesimal indications that the economy is starting to climb out of the pit so large, Gerard Butler uses it for overly dramatic drop-kickings. Or maybe it was just the free beer.

Let’s talk press conferences. There were a few notable stunts and oddities this year. Mercedes-Benz chose the American 2010 Olympic gold medalist bobsled team to drive out their new, mildly updated R-class. Sadly, this was the first I’d heard of the U.S. victory. I just assumed the Jamaicans always won.

"If they make one Cool Runnings joke, we're getting back in and driving away."

Infiniti put on a brief Cirque du Soleil show before yanking the sheet off their new truck-based QX56 sport-ute. At first, I thought it was just some CDS-style dancers, but, nope, turns out Infiniti actually pulled some real performers from the famed Canadian dance-circus. All they had to do was pay a shitton of money and become the official vehicle of Cirque du Soleil, as both the dancers and the car company represent “inspired performance.” (I couldn’t make that up.) I don’t know about anyone else, but the whole thing gave me a wicked acid flashback.

Scion unveiled their new iQ and tC coupes in what can best be described as a rave setting, if most raves featured a thirty-foot tall mesh projection screen with a car behind it and house music imploring the listener to “jam it in your hole” over and over again. (Then again, maybe raves do these days. I haven’t been in a while.)

Roger Sterling takes a minute from banging his secretary to introduce the new Scions.

Unsurprisingly for anyone who’s seen one of their “cheeky” ads, Mini took full advantage of the date of their press conference to play an April Fools Day prank on the audience; touting their square, cloaked concept as a concept called the “Mini Excel,” the sheet was ripped off to reveal a large SUV-shaped plywood box with “April Fools” written on the sides. Then several roadies (Minies?) converged on the stage, each grabbing a piece of the box and removing it to reveal the Mini Countryman underneath. Incidentally, Mini’s spokesperson was the only one of the days not wearing a collared shirt; beneath his suit coat was a black T-shirt with MINI written in white print. However, his closed jacket concealed about half the word, so I spent most of the show thinking he was just a big Nine Inch Nails fan.

Of course, at any event involving a large group of competitors, there will be winners and losers. In many cases, determining which is which is pretty easy; in the event of an auto show, it’s entirely subjective. Which means it’s perfect for this site. Presenting the 2010 New York Auto Show Winners and Losers!

Winner: Hyundai. Five years ago, the idea of a Hyundai competing against Mercedes-Benz would have been much, much funnier than anything Dane Cook had ever performed. But unlike Cook, Hyundai has spent the last few years improving themselves. The Genesis sedan introduced the world to the concept of a luxury Hyundai – and the new Equus sedan sets that idea in stone.

Offering quality nearly even with Mercedes, BMW and Lexus, the Equus sets out to fight the luxury brands’ top-level sedans at a much lower price point. Fun-to-drive isn’t really the game here – leave that to the Panamera – but for those looking for a relaxed, brisk full-sized luxury sedan with oodles of comfort (and yes, an oodle is the basic unit of comfort), this Hyundai will probably be a perfect fit. It’ll probably poach Lexus LS sales like an ivory hunter with a Holland & Holland .600. Starting between $50,ooo and $60,000, and with features its competitors either charge heavily for (reclining rear right-side seat, rear fridge) or don’t offer at all (nose-mounted camera for seeing around corners, standard iPad in lie of a paper owner’s manual), the Equus will almost certainly clean up the lower end of this market.

You know how Hyundai is serious about this car? Their traditional “H” doesn’t appear on it. Instead, buyers get an abstract Y-shaped logo that looks like a weird-but-I’ve-seen-weirder sex toy.

Recline function, yes. Legroom to use it, no.

Loser: Dodge/Chrysler. Unable to muster up the energy for a press conference, the closest thing the company managed to excitement were a pair of tiny Fiat 500s from their new parent company, along with a duo of identical twins to show them off.

Otherwise, the whole display was pretty flaccid. (Yes, folks, that’s a dick joke.) Chrysler’s business plan these days seems to consist of trying to sell two-tone special editions of the 300, while Dodge is relegated to selling musclecars to the Provincetown set.

Come on, Chrysler! You used to make such great concept cars. Even had a good stretch of production models there, with the PT Cruiser and the 300. This is just sad. If Hyundai can throw two separate press conferences, you can summon up five minutes to show off something. Subaru threw a new wing on the STI and called it a day – can’t you do that to the Viper?

The model budget doesn't seem to have taken much of a hit.

Winner: BMW. Pulling the sheets off five models at the show is a pretty good way to get on this list. (Not four, Kia. Five.) Consistently building some of the most fun-to-drive cars on the road helps, too. Granted, three of the reveals were just tweaks, but if loading a 3-series with 20 extra horses and a seven-speed DSG is what ladies call “freshening up,” I understand why they do it so often and it takes so long. Same goes for the mods to the Z4 and X5. Improvements on the 7-series – like the road-going ICE train called the B7 Alpina, now brilliantly available with xDrive AWD, and the ActiveHybrid 7 capable of going 0-60 in 4.7 seconds while still allowing you to be incredibly smug – are more than appreciated as well.

Who wants to race to Alaska?

But the new 5-series could be my new “realistic” dream car. Especially in 550i form, equipped with the company’s magical 4.4 liter twin turbo V8 cranking out 400 horses – an engine capable of moving the 5200-lb X6 from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds flat – and the available six-speed manual! (Though living in the city, I might just test-drive that eight-speed automatic. Though I’d feel like a poseur every day if I bought one.) The new 5 is handsome (much more so in person than in pictures), exceedingly comfortable, and quite big inside – big enough I could fit quite comfortably in the back seat, even with my 36″ inseam. (And I’ll just say it – comfier back seat than the new Bentley Mulsanne. No one else will say it, ’cause they don’t want to get booted off the Bentley gravy train, but I speak the truth!) Hell, the trunk is huge, too. I’ll take mine in Deep Sea Blue, please.

Winner: Cadillac. They surprised all of us with a CTS-V Sport Wagon, going on sale this fall by order only. I just need a nice juicy raise by Christmas.

Loser: Toyota/Lexus. Apparently shamed by the whole “AAAAAAUUUUUUGGGGHHHH!!!” problem (also known as JESUSFUCKINGCHRISTTHECARWON’TSTOP-gate), Toyota and its luxury brand were silent for the whole show. No apologies, no on-stage seppuku, no carefully choreographed bawling. Which was unfortunate, because at the very least, Lexus had a couple models worth mentioning. The LFA supercar made its New York debut in a matte-black shade that suggests Lexus is courting Bruce Wayne and the rest of the billionaire vigilante market. The CT 200h hybrid compact showed up for the first time too, complete with an ad for an interactive BMWFilm-like promo featuring a “Driver” played by the Boondock Saint Who Isn’t Young Indiana Jones. But no one told us anything about it.

Winner: The Lotus Elise. Because I discovered, while it takes about 30 seconds of gymnastics, I can actually fit inside it. Even with the hard top on.

Loser: The Subaru WRX STI. First, Subaru bumped up the power of the regular, cheaper WRX so it actually became quicker than the big-ticket STI. Now, the company has outfitted the WRX with a new, tough-guy look rendering it all but identical to the STI. Granted, four-door STIs (a new model, by the way) receive an Airbus-grade wing on the rear spoiler, but how long ’til some dude in an Ed Hardy T-shirt sticks one on his WRX?

While fun to drive, the WRX STI can result in other people correctly assuming you're a douchebag.

Winner: The backseat of the Rolls-Royce Ghost. It’s like sitting on a cloud made of dead cattle. (Wait, that came out wrong.)

"Would you like to see my Rolls-Royce?" is ranked #6 on the list of Top 10 Pick-Up Lines.

Loser: the asshole cameraman who spent a good five solid minutes filming the back seat of the Hyundai Equus through its open door, preventing the rest of us from sitting in it. Then, when I asked him if he was going to be much longer, simply snarked, “Yes.” By far, biggest loser of the show.

We’ll have more photos – and probably some snarky remarks of our own to go with them – coming soon! So stay tuned.

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New York Auto Show – Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi gave the New York crowd a look at their new Cute Utility Vehicle, originally dubbed the Outlander Sport. Mitsu execs avoided the name during the presentation, referring to it awkwardly as “a member of the Outlander family” – technically true, since it shares a wheelbase and much of its underpinnings with the larger SUV – but a 2.0 liter four-cylinder in any sort of truck hardly screams “sport.” (Unless they’re talking about the activities you can do after driving there.)

Still, it seemed odd that the company didn’t use the baby ‘ute’s name during the press conference. A lack of faith in the title? Is it just a placeholder name? Given Mitsubishi hopes to make it their best-selling model within three months of its arrival in showrooms this fall, that name can be pretty important. I wonder if Apple has given up the copyright on “iSlate” yet…

This post was modified to reflect the fact that we found out the car’s name after our initial post.

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