Category Archive:

Hyundai Swings for the Fence with New Accent

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The all new Hyundai Accent has just been introduced and it may be the final part of Hyundai’s grand slam in sedans. First the Genesis, winner of AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award (VSA) in each of its three years on the market. Then the all new 2011 Sonata that won the only President’s Award (highest VSA score ever) given by AutoPacific and then won best in class for the model year. The all new Hyundai Elantra won best in class among compact cars for the 2011 model year. Three out of three isn’t bad. The new Accent is certainly a contender.


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Road Noise: No Sleep — Or Stops — Till Brooklyn

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There’s supposed to be a point in everyone’s life where you’re sitting around with some friends, and everyone’s bored at the prospect of the boring day/weekend/month ahead, and then you look around at each other, and as one, you all go “Wooooo! Road trip!” And then everyone has a life-changing coming-of-age experience. At least that’s how movies and daytime TV have sold it to me.

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They’re having fun. See, this is fun!

Posted in: Commuting, Road Noise

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It's an expensive world out there, kids. Just stay home.

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Hey, you know what I’m totally not sick of hearing about? High gas prices. Let’s talk about that.

Posted in: Commuting, Road Noise

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World's Greatest Singer, Meet the World's Greatest Driver

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It’s been proven, through complicated, peer-reviewed studies chock-full of science (I’m not going to link to them. Let’s be realistic — you weren’t going to read them anyway) that people who think they’re really good at something turn out to be not-so-great at it in reality.
You see this a lot in the audition rounds of American Idol: People who think – nay, know — that they’re the finest vocalists ever to come out of Peoria or Podunk or Sacramento or wherever. And then they sing and we all have a good laugh and nobody gets hurt, except for the idiot singer, who doesn’t count.
However, you also see this phenomenon in effect in other, not-so-harmless situations. For instance, I’ve always thought I’m a pretty good driver.

Posted in: Commuting, Road Noise

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SIX DOLLAR A GALLON GAS

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This is all conjecture, understand? But we were talking over lunch about the continuing increase in the price of gasoline. That subject has everybody talking, right? Well, crude oil has just gone comfortably over $120 per barrel and we are well on our way to a national average price of $4 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline. What is doing this? And where is it going?

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Remember when gas was this cheap? May, 2006.

Weak Dollar
Since George W. Bush entered the White House, the value of the dollar has fallen 41%. This automatically makes the price of gasoline in dollar terms much, much higher. At dollar parity from the beginning of 2001, we would be paying $72 dollars for a barrel of oil and gasoline would be priced at between $2.25 and $2.50 using the equation from energytomorrow.org. EnergyTomorrow.org is brought to you by “The people of America’s Oil and Natural Gas Industry”. Their formula contends that crude oil is 72% of the cost of gasoline; refining, distribution, service stations, marketing is 16% (probably includes their profits as well); taxes are another 12%.
So, with gasoline being at a national average of $3.61 today, the weak dollar accounts for $1.36 of the cost per gallon.
Now, government policies determine the value of the dollar and even though President Bush and the Treasury state that they are in favor of a strong dollar, their actions have resulted in a weak dollar.
Crude Oil Prices
Sure, crude oil has just moved over $120 per barrel. Goldman Sachs Group was widely criticized in 2005 when they forecast a barrel of oil at $105. Now, they are talking about $150 per barrell by the end of the year. $150 would result in gasoline priced in the range of $4.90 to $5.10 per gallon. If the price per barrel rises to $200 per barrel a per gallon gasoline price of between $6.40 and $6.60 per gallon would be the result.
Big Oil?
We believe, although we have no proof, that Big Oil is also a major culprit. They do have some level of influence on the price of crude oil. After all, they drill for it, pump it, refine it and sell it. For the past half decade, it has appeared to us that Big Oil has been playing a psychological game with American drivers. They ratchet up the price of gasoline to $3.00 per gallon and everybody is pissed. Then they drop it back to $2.50 per gallon and everybody feels better. The next price peak is $3.25 and then it drops back to $2.75. The next price peak is $3.50 and then drops back to $3.00. See the pattern? Intentionally or not, they are psychologically conditioning us to higher and higher prices.


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Stick It To The Man

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I remember the call like it came just last week, because it did.
“Katrina, I have a new car.”
“How exciting!”
“It…it has a stick shift.”
“Even better!”
“You don’t understand! I don’t know how to drive a stick. I need you to teach me.”
“You’ve made me a very happy woman, grasshopper.”


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It's Finally Here: Satellite TV for the Car

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Having Trouble Getting Your Couch Potato in the Car? Chrysler and SIRIUS Offer a Solution
As you may have noticed from our Detroit auto show coverage, Chrysler’s latest minivans, the Town and Country and Dodge Caravan (click for story and podcast), arrive this fall with several new features for making life on the road more pleasant and easier for the whole family. Today, Chrysler announced the latest development for family-friendly road trips: SIRIUS Backseat TV. Chrysler’s George Murphy and Frank Klegon announced the new feature in New York, with a helping hand from SpongeBob SquarePants and some local kids. At first, SIRIUS Backseat TV will offer three channels, well chosen for families and include Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, and the Cartoon Network. (One more channel is needed: ESPN, for Dads to watch while waiting for the beloved family to just get done shopping already! Or even better, for tailgating before the big game.)

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SIRIUS Backseat TV uses an in-vehicle satellite video receiver and two roof-mounted antennas, and will complement the upcoming minivans dual-DVD rear-entertainment package nicely. It’s already set up so that second and third rows can watch different media, and the addition of TV to the mix only increases options.
SIRIUS Backseat TV will be a $470 option and requires opting for the rear-seat entertainment package and SIRIUS satellite radio. That $470 includes the first year’s subscription, but requires a subscription to SIRIUS satellite radio. Based on pricing for the single-DVD rear-entertainment systems for the 2008 Dodge Avenger and 2007MY minivans, it looks as though buyers might be able to get the SIRIUS Backseat TV and dual-DVD system for well under $2000. After the first year, SIRIUS Backseat TV costs $7 a month (after the first year) on top of the SIRIUS radio’s $12.95 month fee.
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Who Else Gets SIRIUS TV?
Initially, this system will only be available on Chrysler Group products, but the minivans won’t be the only ones having the fun. The 2008MY Chrysler 300, Jeep Commander and Grand Cherokee, and Dodge Charger and Magnum will also offer the feature. What hasn’t been indicated yet, though, is when SIRIUS will add TV stations, nor when TiVo or other DVR will be added to the whole shebang.


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A Three-Row Triple From GM: 2007 Saturn Outlook, 2007 GMC Acadia, 2008 Buick Enclave

General Motors is rolling out three new crossover SUVs that share an all-new, purpose-built platform. GM has called this platform Lambda for internal purposes. The Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia are on sale now and the Buick Enclave arrives in summer 2007 as a 2008MY vehicle. These crossover SUVs are taking on not only traditional and crossover mid-size SUVs but also full-size SUVs and minivans due to their large size and dimensions (they are nearly as large as the Chevrolet Tahoe). They do not have the towing capability of truck-based SUVs, but do have the other attributes for which buyers go to SUVs, or minivans. They have high seating positions, available AWD, and interiors big enough to hold seven passengers or lots of stuff.
Following the roll-out of the Lambda crossover SUVs, General Motors will kill their conventional minivans (similar to Ford’s strategy of killing the Monterey and Freestar minivans). The Pontiac Montana SV6 is already history and its demise will be followed by the Chevrolet Uplander, Saturn Relay and Buick Terraza. Oh, yeah, Chevrolet will get a Lambda Crossover SUV in the next year or so as well.
AutoPacific and VehicleVoice analysts have been included in the reviews of these critically important General Motors vehicles.

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General Motors describes their current state as an interior renaissance, and these products are examples of smart interior thinking. They include a level of interior detail not before seen from the General. As these products were developed with a clean slate, new platform, new interiors, new powertrain, GM took the opportunity to make sure they will be easy to live with.
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The second- and third-row folding operations are simple and easy to use and the overall package is terrific. One could buy any one of these vehicles and spend the life of the vehicle discovering all the little things that will add up to a product that enhances and eases daily life. It’s taken GM a very long time to get to such a solid package design, but they have finally succeeded.


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smart Parking

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smart is coming to the USA in late 2007 or early 2008. One of the attractions of the smart fortwo is head-in parking.

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Posted in: Commuting, The Car Biz

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Jeep Expands Alternative Fuel Offerings

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All DCX 4.7L V6s Go Flex-Fuel for 2007
For the 2007 model year, the 4.7L V8 offered in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Commander gets flex-fuel treatment, making these SUVs able to run on gasoline or E85. The engine is also used in the Durango and Ram, though Dodge had already offered flex-fuel-capable powertrains. While GM and Ford offer several V8 engines in either the flex-ready or the gasoline-only variations, DaimlerChrysler will simply equip all 4.7L V8s with the appropriate modifications for the capability.
Jeep Adds Diesel Grand Cherokee for 2007
Perhaps making a bigger splash is the announcement that the Grand Cherokee gets a diesel for the States with the 2007 model year. The Grand Cherokee had already been available with in international markets with the diesel, though this will be the first for the U.S. version. The Commander is offered in Europe with the same diesel engine, so if the Grand Cherokee diesel sells well, a Commander diesel for the States seems only a matter of time.

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The diesel is a 3.0L DOHC 24v V6 common-rail injection turbo-diesel built by Mercedes-Benz, delivering 215HP for this market. It will be available in Laredo, Limited, and Overland trim levels. Look for a five-speed automatic transmission, as the diesel gets in Europe and other Grand Cherokees are equipped with.
Jeep expects the CRD to get 19 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. By comparison, the V6-equipped Grand Cherokee’s EPA ratings are for 17/22 mpg, the 4.7L V8 for 15/20 mpg, and the 5.7L HEMI V8 for 15/20 mpg. The diesel’s 215HP betters the V6’s 210HP but not the 4.7L’s 235HP, though its increased torque should provide for better acceleration and it is rated for more towing. Though VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents haven’t driven the diesel yet, it should give a more substantial feeling to off-the-line acceleration than either the 4.7L V8 or the V6 and satisfy the needs of most drivers, especially those needing to tow anywhere near the diesel’s 7400-pound capacity.
Will Going Diesel Save Money?
Diesel engines can offer better fuel economy than gasoline engines, and Jeep claiming a 30 percent improvement in the Grand Cherokee. But in the current environment, some regions have seen diesel prices running higher than or about the same as premium unleaded gasoline, which the standard gasoline-fed Jeep engines don’t even need. Regular 87 octane is the requirement for the V6 and 4.7L V8, though 89 octane is recommended for the 5.7 V8. Statistics from the Energy Information Administration put the national average for regular unleaded at $2.86 per gallon, and diesel at $2.88 (as of May 29, 2006).
Diesel engines generally get better fuel economy, but the cost savings may be offset by higher cost of the fuel. Diesel engines can be a solid choice, but it is not a slam dunk that going diesel will ease your pain at the pump.
First Modern Diesel Jeep Was Liberty
U.S. Jeep dealers began offering a diesel-powered Liberty for the 2005 model year and have sold 11,000 CRD Libertys through the end of May 2006. Of course, in all of 2005, Jeep sold more than 166,000 of the mid-size SUV. While the response to diesel has been solid and has satisfied DaimlerChrysler’s expectations, it remains a small percentage of the mix.
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