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2009 NAIAS: Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S


Maserati tries to put a positive spin on product at the Detroit show, enhancing the Quattroporte into the GT S. More power and luxury, the stuff of dreams.




Follow the jump for Maserati’s announcement.

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Exhaust Note #27: Ford Flexes Creative for New Model


Is the Flex a Cool, Tricked Out Hipster?
Ford has an all-new crossover SUV/minivan/people hauler for the 2009MY, the Flex we’ve brought you several reports on. The Flex has been filtering into dealerships, and this week was the full and ferocious advertising start.


Flex TV ads hit hard with the start of the 2008-09 NFL season (click here for one), but unconventional outreaches include iPhone apps that allow a 360-degree view of the interior; Xbox, Dish Network, and Yahoo technology offering photos and videos on-demand; skits on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson featuring Flex; and description videos on Flex’s home page. On one hand, we’d like to give Ford kudos for enabling Team Detroit to create such an all-encompassing, innovative approach. On the other hand, this is a two-box people hauler and not a sexy icon of technology. Are they trying too hard?

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My Date With R8: A 100 Percent True Story


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A match made in heaven? Yes.

I settled into the driver’s seat, gripped the wheel and took a deep breath.
“You’re scared, aren’t you?” asked the Audi R8.
“Damn right, I’m scared,” I answered. “You’re beautiful. You’re powerful. I couldn’t afford you for myself if I sold all my internal organs on the black market. I checked.”
“Wow, you really can find anything on the internet, huh?”
“True dat, R8. True dat.”

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Mitsubishi i: Smarter than Smart?


If you’ve read our review of the 2008 Smart ForTwo here, you’ll know that we like its chic design, spacious interior (but only for two), and its point and squirt ability in urban environs. And you’ll also know there was plenty we didn’t like about the Smart, including its limited usefulness (only two seats and tiny cargo area), lack of power, and perhaps most seriously, its frustrating and dim-witted transmission.
As good fortune would have it, we were able to arrange for a brief drive of the Mitsubish i, an interesting extension of the basic Smart idea. The tiny Mitsubishi actually does share some DNA with the Smart. Its platform is related to the Smart’s, as is its 3-cylinder engine (but reduced in displacement to – get this – 0.7 liters in order to meet Japanese Kei-class parameters). That means it’s rear-engined and rear-wheel-drive, just like the Smart.


The Mitsubishi i expands on the basic Smart concept

From there though, the little i seems to have it all over the ForTwo. Its still petite dimensions accommodate four doors, a real back seat, and – hallelujah – a real automatic transmission (no robotized manual tomfoolery here). It looks really neat too, especially in the white that we drove. It almost looks like an iPod on wheels.

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Muscle Cars: Losing Mass, Momentum


Okay, let me run some names by you:

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Pop quiz, hot shot: What decade is it?

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Exhaust Note #10 – Will VW’s Road to Mainstream Success be Smoothly Paved?



Considering just how much Volkswagen is a part of our cultural lexicon, it’s somewhat surprising that there aren’t more of them on the road. Volkswagens have been an iconic part of our automotive landscape, and just about everyone has a Volkswagen memory – whether recent or from long, long ago.
Volkswagen enjoyed a tremendous resurgence in the late 1990s with the New Beetle and the fourth generation Jetta. Both appealed strongly to young and young-at-heart buyers, leading to incredible sales growth and an enviable owner base of youthful, hip, opinion-leading consumers. As of late, though, the brand has lost some of its luster. VW has lost some of its edge with those trend-setters that had flocked to the brand just a few years ago. Yet, losing that edginess hasn’t translated to massive sales gains to mainstream Middle America types.
Volkswagen is currently in a push to become a truly mainstream brand in the North America, as it is in many other parts of the world. They have ambitions to sell (combined with its sister Audi) one million units in the US by the middle of next decade. Those are some seriously lofty targets, making one wonder what steps Volkswagen is taking to achieve those goals.

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Ford Transit Connect – Niche Busting Van


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One of the most significant launches at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show was the 2010 Ford Transit Connect. This relatively small van is made by Ford of Europe in Turkey and will be shipped into the USA from the Middle East. The Transit Connect re-opens a niche that Ford and General Motors abandoned when they shut down their Aerostar/Astro/Safari vans. Remember, those were mid-size “minivans” that had rear wheel drive and were powered by V6 engines. Selling briskly at first, these vans eventually faded away.
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Ford positions the Transit Connect as a commercial van designed for plumbers, florists, audio visual companies, etc. While the dual sliding doors come standard “blind” with no glass, they can be had with glass. It does not appear that Ford is going to offer a version with windows in the rear quarter panels which would open the Transit Connect up to being a “passenger van/minivan” rather than a commercial van.
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Powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission, the Transit Connect promises 19mpg in town and 24 on the highway. Certainly not earth shattering, but pretty good.
Having wondered for years why Ford did not import the Transit Connect to the USA, it took Ford Chairman Alan Mulally to break the roadblock created by Ford’s financial system to develop a strategy allowing Transit Connect to be positioned competitively in the USA. Transit Connect is a very good looking product that should do quite well once it hits the ground.

Now, Ford should introduce a passenger version with windows all around and two rows of seats (5-passenger only please).

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Today's News – Ford Selling Jaguar/Land Rover


Automotive News Europe is breathlessly reporting that Ford is to receive at least six bids for its Jaguar and Land Rover operations. AutoNews sources British press – Financial Times, Economic Times and the Daily Telegraph – in lining up the names of the bidders
The bidders include the usual suspects from the capital equity world including Cerberus Capital Management – the new owners of Chrysler Group and Tower Automotive in addition to Delphi and half of GMAC, Ripplewood Holdings and One Equity Partners.
Carmakers thought to be in the running include Hyundai Motors from Korea, Tata and Mahindra& Mahindra from India
Automotive News reports that “Ford said today that it has had contact with interested parties and is evaluating the level of interest, but declined to provide details on the potential bidders or give a timeline for any sale.”
Reports are that the sale price was expected to be on the order of $1.5 billion. Given the price Ford paid for Jaguar (about $2.5 billion i the late ’80s) and Land Rover, this seems to be petty cash. Land Rover is doing very well these days and a price as low as $1.5 billion has to be in recognition of a huge discount assigned to Jaguar. Recent speculation has been that the third brand in Ford’s Premier Automotive Group – Volvo – could bring $8-billion or more should it be sold.

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2009 Volkswagen Tiguan: A Preview



Volkswagen has developed a little brother for the Touareg SUV, and as a reader, you may have seen our previous Tiguan report and podcast. Set to launch midway through 2008, the Tiguan is a small SUV of the crossover/modern style, based on the latest Golf (known as the Rabbit in U.S. dealerships). But like the Touareg above it, Tiguan has some rock-crawling capability (depending on equipment and market). With inspiration claimed in part from dune buggies, it is fitting that VW ensures the small SUV can get over some rocks and through some sand.
The formal reveal is scheduled for the 2007 Frankfurt auto show, but VW has been comparatively public about its development. The first hint of their intent was found in 2004’s outlandish Concept T, an odd cross between sports car, SUV, and dune buggy revealed the North American International Auto Show. Next the inspiration was applied to Concept A, a more rational development of ideas born in the Concept T shown in February 2006 at the Geneva auto show. In November 2006, the near-production Concept Tiguan was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show. VW has released quite much about the European-market Tiguan and invited a group of international journalists to tag along for some development testing in Namibia. The first production photos were released in June 2007 and we’ve got a pretty clear picture of the car you can buy next summer.



(Click for more Concept T photos here and here, another Concept A photo, and another Concept Tiguan photo.)

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2008 Dodge Avenger SXT: MyGig in Action


One feature we were looking forward to experiencing on our own home turf is the Chrysler Group’s voice- or touch-screen-operated MyGig infotainment system. MyGig uses a 20GB hard-drive to manage music, navigation (including real-time traffic capability), space for storing photos, and operating UConnect and Sirius satellite radio. Chrysler Group offers MyGig with the latest Dodge Avenger and Nitro, Chrysler Sebring sedan and convertible, the upcoming minivans, and Jeep Wrangler and new Liberty. Though we first covered MyGig after seeing it in the Chrysler Sebring, we recently spent a few days with a MyGig-equipped 2008 Dodge Avenger SXT.



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