Monthly Archives: October 2012

Supercars and attainable performance during day one of SEMA 2012

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that the SEMA Show in Las Vegas is easily the largest aftermarket car show in the world. Hundreds of customized cars (dinged up daily drivers, glossy show cars, battle scarred race cars, and bench racing dyno queens) crowd the Las Vegas Convention Center every year. It’s nearly impossible to see it all, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. So after filling up an SD card with snapshots, we’ve sorted out the best of day one for your enjoyment.

The Camaros, Corvettes, Sparks, and Sonics that populated Chevrolet’s booth may look extreme, but a closer look at their upgrades list shows a plethora of parts that you can order from your local Chevy dealer. This year’s concepts could be in your garage by this time next year. And if you’re feeling impatient, you can always just buy one of two new production Camaros that debuted as concepts as early as last year.

Chevrolet shows off attainable concepts at SEMA 2012

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2013 Infiniti EX37

Following the trend of success held by Lexus and their line of SUV’s, Nissan has now caught on with their own breed.  The Infiniti EX37 has been a widespread gossip since its initial launch back in 2008.  The 2013 EX37 is powered by a 3.7 liter six cylinder VQ engine wrapped around an elegant package of style and luxury.

The EX37 shares its genetic platform with Infiniti’s luxury sports vehicle lineup, the G37 coupe; resulting in equivalence of high precision handling, luxury, features and performance.  The EX37 is available with a 7 speed automatic gearbox  transmission.  The front double wishbone suspension and multi-link rear suspension setup create an overall a near perfect balance between handling capability and ride comfort.

Like many of Infiniti’s lineup, the EX37 comes standard with a plethora of great features, while still leaving room for more purchase upgrade options including enriched multimedia package and various high-tech automotive safety features.

The EX37 comes close to having its cross-over SUV class license suspended.  Although marketed as one, the EX37 follows its trend and styling of Infiniti’s Coupe models resulting in lowered center of gravity, lengthened wheelbase, and contoured roof.  As much as the EX37 benefits from more room in the back due to its lengthened wheelbase, the tapered roof makes the interior cabin space feel cramped.  Nevertheless, the exterior styling is very luxurious and is one of the most aero-dynamic cross-over SUV’s on the market.

The Ex37 is propelled by an all new 3.7 liter six cylinder VQ engine, producing an impressive 325 horsepower and 350Nm of torque.  Infiniti’s VQ engines have always earned its reputation for how robust and well made they are.  The all new 3.7 liter VQ engine shows nothing short of expectation.  The 3.7 liter engine uses light-weight cast aluminum utilizing a bed-plate construction platform whose technique is used in automotive racing applications.  Never to say the least, this engine design is inspired by automotive racing with robust and reliability in mind.

The interior of theEX37 offers a space of tranquility and comfort.  The linings are bolstered with high quality soft quilted leather and the dash and board panels are accentuated with beautiful wooden trims, high quality plastic and chrome plating.  One of the unique features of the Infiniti EX37 is its electrical powered rear fold down seats, making loading and unloading bulky cargo a breeze.

The EX37 comes standard with a bag of goodies including the I-key smart access system.  Once the vehicle detects the I-key within its proximity range, the doors can be unlocked and the ignition can be started without ever having to pull out the keys from your pocket.  Other standard features include privacy glass, a six-disc, seven speaker CD audio system, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, cruise control, power seats, auto-dimming rear view mirror, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, six airbags (featuring thorax and pelvis protection) and integrated fog lamps. The leather trimmed steering wheel incorporates controls for the audio system, cruise control and telephone.

The Bose audio entertainment system is one of the sweetest features worth mentioning.  The system is specifically designed and installed to complement the interior cabin space of the EX37 in order to produce the overall sound experience to mimic a live concert.

Another feature unique to Infiniti’s lineup is its panoramic camera system.  The system consists of small cameras integrated into the front, sides and rear vehicle chassis panels, allowing a bird’s eye-view to be displayed of the on the 7″ infotainment screen.  This feature makes parking hassle free as you can see exactly how close your wheels are to the curb as well as real-time surrounding obstacles.

The Infiniti EX37 brings a refreshing taste in the automotive market.  In result of inheriting the genetics of a coupe with SUV features, the EX37 offers high performance capability and cargo versatility.  With added luxury styling, high quality interior and drive comfort, the EX37 really brings out the best of automotive excitement.

Can the new Dart give Dodge a sexy Italian accent? CNET On Cars, Episode 5

Can the new Dart give Dodge a sexy Italian accent? CNET On Cars, Episode 5


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Seldom have I received so much email asking me to check out a new car than I have for the new Dodge Dart. So here it is, in this episode, a very promising car with one big flaw in the configuration they sent us. Stay on it, Dodge, you’re that close to having a winner here.

I thought I’d seen every oddball stat about driving until the State Farm team shot me one about hybrid drivers having far lower injury rates in accidents. We look into it this week in the Smarter Driver segment.

I get about 100 cars sent my way each year, and a lot of them don’t look that much different from the others. You might think auto designers are running out of ideas, but thats fa… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Lapping the lightweight Lamborghini

The Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera definitely gets your attention.

(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

At CNET, we dig into the cabin electronics available in just about all new cars, comparing navigation, voice command, and telling you how well your phone will integrate with the handsfree system. But on one chilly Tuesday morning, I put all that aside in favor of some pure automotive adrenaline, getting a feel for the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera.

There is certainly a tech story about the Superleggera. Its 5.2-liter V-10 uses direct injection, and it comes with a six speed computer-controlled transmission. The car CNET got even had navigation, but it was an older Audi-derived system. But any notion of looking at the cabin tech fell by the wayside when the massive thrust of the V-10 kicked in, a 570 horsepower roar that engendered an immediate grin, part thrill and part terror.

With the recent rain and some hard driving, this Superleggera was not destined to stay clean.

(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

I had driven other fast cars on this relatively small double figure-8 closed course, but none could quite compare to the Superleggera. Accelerating down the longest straight, approximately 800 feet, I was pretty sure the sp… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Dodge, Ford, Mazda, and Toyota nominated for Green Car award

The hybrid Toyota Prius c is just one of the fuel sippers nominated for Green Car of the Year.

(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

Each year, Green Car Journal names its Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles Auto Show. For the upcoming award, the field has narrowed down to five contenders, each using technology to achieve high fuel economy.

Here are this year’s nominees:

  • Dodge Dart Aero
  • Ford C-MAX
  • Ford Fusion
  • Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv
  • Toyota Prius c

The Aero version of the new Dodge Dart uses aerodynamic components, low rolling resistance tires, and a grille shutter to get 41 mpg highway from its turbocharged 1.4-liter engine. However, its combined city/highway fuel economy is only 32 mpg.

Ford gains two places among the nominees, one for its new Fusion and one for the C-Max, a model that will only be sold with a hybrid drivetrain in the U.S. The stylish new Fusion will give buyers a number of choices for drivetrains, from a hybrid system to Ford’s economical EcoBoost engine. The C-Max looks to be a serious competitor for the Toyo… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

2013 Subaru Legacy 3.6R

The Legacy has always been known for Subaru’s flagship with the idea of a homogeneous four door sedan complemented with a flat four-cylinder boxer engine and Subaru’s AWD system.  The all new 2013 Subaru Legacy adds quite a bit of extra flare  with more aggressive styling and an upgraded 3.6R trim model with the boxer 6-cylinder engine.

Subaru’s AWD system is the biggest selling point for the Legacy, but the downfall is reduced fuel economy due to inherent friction from added complexity in the AWD system compared to front or rear wheel drive power trains.  Subaru has taken this aspect into account and has since improved the overall drive train design with new four-cylinder engine and upgraded CVT transmission. This brings the fuel efficiency score cards close to other front cylinder four-cylinder engines on the market such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic.

For drivers who want more power and acceleration on their daily commute, Subaru also offers the 3.6R model which comes with a 3.6 liter 6 cylinder engine.  Although the power delivery and acceleration falls short with some of its competitors in its class, but the acceleration and gear changes in the Legacy AWD system is ultra smooth.

Subaru has also introduced a new technology in the Legacy lineup as an option called the “EyeSight”.  The system utilizes two windshield mounted camera systems to produce a stereoscopic image in real time to perform adaptive cruise control, alert the driver when the vehicle swerves into neighboring lanes unintentionally and actuates brake assist when the vehicle detects an obstacle is approaching too fast.

The Subaru Legacy is offered in two drive train options: the 2.5 liter flat four cylinder boxer engine and the 3.6 liter six cylinder engine.   The 2.5 liter engine produces 173 horsepower and 174 foot pounds of torque, which is respectable for its engine size.  The 2.5 liter engine model comes standard with a 6 speed automatic transmission, but a CVT transmission can be upgraded as a purchase option. Fuel efficiency of the 2.5 liter engine scores in at 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.  The 3.6 liter six cylinder engine boasts an upgraded 256hp and 247 ft. lbs of torque.  A five speed automatic transmission is the only purchase option for the six cylinder engine model.  The fuel economy of the 3.6 liter engine comes in at 18mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway, which is quite a significant drop compared to the four cylinder engine as fuel efficiency goes.

The interior is very clean and sleek, especially with leather interior.  The dash controls are simple and easy to use, but they are not the most user intuitive.  The graphical user interface  is not the nicest layout and the foam material used for the seats feel cheap.  Nevertheless, there is some sense of luxury feel when you step into the car and there is plenty of legroom and space for both the driver and passenger.

The Subaru Legacy drive feels great.  The acceleration and gear changes on the 5-speed transmission with the 3.6 liter engine is amazingly smooth.  Notorious for Subaru’s jewels, the car feels extremely solid and stable.  The steering is fairly heavy and lacks positive feedback.  However, the Subaru AWD system with reduced body roll make the Legacy very capable of handling corners.  Consumers will have to draw the fine line between choosing a car with better fuel economy in its class, or bite for Subaru’s silky smooth power train with Subaru’s AWD system.


Your automotive DJ: Five cars that play requests

Voice command systems in cars let you make phone calls, enter an address into navigation, and even request music by an artist or album name, all without taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. Voice command over music usually works with an iPhone or iPod cabled to the car, or a thumb drive plugged into the USB port. Most of the cars below rely on Gracenote’s music database to translate artist and album names into phonetics understandable by a voice recognition system. This database includes nicknames, so instead of saying “play Bruce Springsteen”, you can say “play The Boss”.

Here are five cars waiting to take your musical requests.

2013 Acura RDX A couple of years ago, Acura added a feature into its latest cars called Song By Voice. This system lets drivers request music by artist or album name. It is only included on cars with the navigation option, and only works for music stored on an iPod or iPhone plugged into the car, or on the car’s own hard drive, which includes space for locally stored music. Beyond the RDX, this feature is available on every Acura model, and some Honda models now, as well.

[Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Crave giveaway: Cowon Auto Capsule AC1 dashboard camera

The AC1 only has one button and one indicator light, which changes colors to indicate status.

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET )

Congrats to Jean F. of Gainesville, Fla., for scoring a Crux360 iPad case with Bluetooth keyboard in last week’s giveaway.

Do a lot of driving? You and your car (and your insurance company) will love this week’s freebie, a Cowon Auto Capsule AC1 dashboard camera.

The 2-megapixel cam with a 16:9 wide screen records and stores high-resolution 1,280×720-pixel high-definition footage in real time at 30 frames per second. When the device’s internal accelerometer detects a shock, it automatically captures a video clip (“see, a Tasmanian devil really did dash in front of me!”). The 15 seconds of cached video preceding the event and the 15 seconds following are stored on the microSD card as a 30-second AVI file.

Related story

The petite device measures about 4 inches long and 1.5 inches deep. In his four-star review of the product, CNET Car Tech editor Antuan Goodwin says the pill-shaped Cowon Auto Capsule AC1 is so simple to use it requires almost no interaction fro… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

2013 Ford Escape Review

Ford has been gluing bits and pieces onto their existing vehicle platform on the Ford Escape for quite a while until now.  A quick glimpse at some of the new features ensures plenty of excitement as to what the new Escape has to offer.

The all new Ford Escape has direct inheritance from the European Cross-over SUV model, Ford Kuga.  The influence of European styling is immediately noticeable.  Compared to previous year models, the all new Escape expands its base chassis dimensions, resulting in increased inside cabin space and sleeker looks from the outside.  Other features newly added to the all new Ford Escape include more easily accessible rear fold-down seats, MyFord Touch media and navigation system, and higher grade materials used in the interior.

The all new Ford Escape only offers three different flavors of 4-cylinder engines as trim level choices go.  The base model comes with a  2.5 liter engine producing 168 hp, or the more popular model with a turbo-charged 1.6 liter engine bumping up the power output to 178 horsepower.  For the more demanding drivers who want better acceleration and power, Ford also offers the higher model of the Escape with its engine producing 240 horsepower.

The base price for each trim model for the Ford Escape is attractive, but when adding all the nifty features and options, the sum can quickly add up towards earning a spot in one of the most expensive cross-over SUV’s in its class.  Nevertheless, if the heavier price tag is not a conflict, the Escape with all the custom added features make it an excellent choice for a cross-over SUv.

The all new Ford Escape can be purchased in four different trim levels: S, SE, SEL and Titanium.

The S trim model comes with 17-inch steel wheels, blind-spot indicators located on side mirror, MyKey parental controls, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack.

The upgraded SE model comes equipped with a turbocharged engine boosting output power by 10hp compared to the S model, color-keyed mirrors/door handles, foglamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry keypad, privacy tinted glass, a four-inch multifunction screen, the Sync system, reclining rear seats, satellite radio and steering-wheel audio controls.

The higher SEL supplies heated side view mirrors, single-touch button control for all windows, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, MyFord Touch media control, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, interior ambient lighting, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), heated front seats and an upgraded, nine-speaker sound system.

Finally, the top of the line Titanium model adds a more powerful engine with 240 hp output, 19-inch wheels, remote start, keyless ignition/entry, ambient lighting, upgraded leather upholstery and the Sony audio system.

All models are equipped with a standard six-speed automatic transmission   The four-cylinder power train engine is by all means, not fast; and in some cases, underpowered.  Power delivery is sufficient for daily city driving, but merging and changing lanes on the highway can be frustrating due to excessive lag in the Eco-boost turbo system.  The fuel economy estimates for the 2.5 liter engine are 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway and combined average at 25 mpg.  The 1.6 EcoBoost with front-wheel drive results in 23 city/33 highway.  finally, the 2.0 EcoBoost with front-wheel drive rates 22/30/25. The All-wheel-drive versions rate deducts 1 to 2 mpg.

The interior space of the Ford Escape is much to praise for.  The cabin space is lined with soft and high quality leather upholstery with all climate and media controls conveniently placed.  There is excellent noise dampening to reduce the amount of wind and unwanted engine noise into the cabin space.  the MyFord touch adds a nice complement to the Escape with the amount of features available, but the overall user interface is a little unresponsive compared to other touch screen infotainment systems.

The overall ride quality of the Ford Escape is very comfortable and easy to drive.  It feels light and nimble, yet has the ability to handle corners fairly well.  The power train and gear shifts are very smooth and quiet.  The higher center of gravity does induce some body roll, but is well managed by the power train control system.  The only downside on our drive impression is climbing up steep hills or merging lanes.  Excessive turbo lag and insufficient power capability of the 1.6 liter engine model reviewed requires a heavy put on the accelerator pedal high power demands from the engine.  Consumers who want the extra punch in better acceleration and power output delivery will have to upgrade to the higher end trim model with the 240 hp turbocharged Eco boost.



Now showing: The future of tablet and car displays

A sneak peek at a vehicle instrument cluster made by JDI. (Click to enlarge.)

(Credit: Japan Display )

After seeing these prototypes, you might think next-generation LCD technology looks brighter and clearer than ever.

Japan Display today revealed two exciting prototype LCD screens from the labs of the mega joint venture — consisting of Sony, Toshiba, and Hitachi’s manufacturing talents — that could one day change the way we look at car and tablet displays.

Related stories

While several vehicles — including those by Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover, Dodge, and others — currently utilize large screens for the instrument cluster (tachometer and speed gauges), few compare with the 12.2-inch automotive touch-screen displa… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET