Monthly Archives: November 2012

Lamborghini debuts drop top Aventador Roadster

(Credit: Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.)

My favorite model in Lamborghini’s lineup has for many years been the Gallardo, but the flagship Aventador is unquestionably the most powerful. With today’s unveiling of a Roadster version, the Aventador also gets an injection of style.

Lamborghini Aventador Roadster: Italian model drops its top (pictures)

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Rather than a power retractable roof, the Aventador LP 700-4 Roadster features a two-panel carbon fiber roof that is manually removed … [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

GPS buying guide

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

I get it. Portable navigation devices (PNDs) are a bit archaic at this point. In a world where every smartphone and tablet has some sort of GPS receiver built into it and most cars offer some sort of navigation option, buying a standalone GPS navigator seems both superfluous and archaic.

Yet, the PND market is far from dead. There are still a number of good reasons to choose a standalone GPS device. So if you’re interested, here are our top picks.

Garmin Nuvi 3490 LMT

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

The Garmin Nuvi 3490 is the flagship of Garmin’s line of GPS navigators, featuring an ultra-thin form factor, great voice command, and a crisp 4.3-inch color touch screen. Opt for the LMT version and you’ll also get lifetime map and traffic data updates. This unit debuted at a lofty $ 399 MSRP, but it’s not difficult to find it for as low as $ 299 to $ 349 these days.

TomTom 2535

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

TomTom’s 2535 isn’t as thin as the Garmin 3490, but it does pack a larger 5-inch screen. For your $ 299, you can get the 2535 M Live, which features TomTom’s Live … [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

First Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ


The BRZ is a condemnation of Subaru’s bread and butter all-wheel drive and turbocharged performance stall. Apart from the fact that bits and pieces are picked off from the Impreza design lot, Subaru has pretty much completely diverged away from their rally racing trademark and dulve into a light weight rear-wheel drive sports car machine. To give a few examples, the front struts are tilted at an angle inwards towards the engine bay to yeild a lower front height while retaining equivalent suspension travel resulting in  improved ride comfort and handling. The radiator is also placed at angle to achieve better weight distribution in the rear.

A bulk of the engineering design efforts of the Subaru BRZ was spent on optimizing weight distribution. In order for Subaru to achieve an overall 53/47 front to rear  balance,  Subaru used an aluminum hood and placed the auxiliary battery behind the front wheel axle. The engine mount is also recessed lower into the vehicle to improve the center of gravity. Even though all the components are mounted so low in the vehicle, the BRZ still surprisingly achieves decent ground clearance with no issues of front or rear fenders scraping under typical driving conditions.

Driver Ergonomics

One of the major design criteria of the Subaru BRZ was to maximize the man-and-machine interaction. Never to say the least, Subuaru scored an A+ on this one. Once hopped into the BRZ and doors closed, you obtain an immediate effect of being fully integrated with the vehicle. The raw engine sound floods strait into the cabin to fully alert the driver of the rev status. There is minimal sound insulation in the cabin space – every rain drop splattering on the chassis roof can be clearly heard. The six speed automatic transmission delivers a quick snap effect with blipped throttle when changing gears upon a flick on the paddle shifter. The six speed manual transmission gets even sweeter.

The shift lever has a perfect throw coupled with a light weight clutch. Even the manual shift knob shivers with alertness to indicate the car is ready for some cornering ass kicking. As much as the BRZ was built for handling – it doesn’t deliver that neck-snapping effect when sling-shooting through corners. However, the car is so well balanced and lightweight (at 2700 lbs) that in any conditions in and out of a turn, the car remains completely calm and composed. It is so easy to drive, and the car simply goes and does what you want and expect it to do.

Performance and Handling

The six speed manual transmission definitely delivers a much more exciting driving experience, but you won’t be flogged for buying the six-speed automatic version. In fact,the automatic transmission has a few nifty features to preserve the track car driving experience such as an integrated yaw sensor to detect when the car is turning through a corner to instruct the transmission to hold its gear at up to 7450 rpm. Common to both transmission models, the speedometer is dead simple with a triple digit seven segment LED display to clearly indicate vehicle speed, a massive tachometer and a large blinking red LED shift indicator when engine speeds are within the red-line zone. The BRZ does have a limited 200 hp of power delivery.

The torque curve starts to flatten when breaching 3200 rpm. Building up speed and passing can lead to difficulty in the lower rpm range; therefore, downshifting is a necessity to keep the engine revs up to deliver peak acceleration.


In modern sports cars, on-board computer nannies are built into vehicle to assist and override physical driver input to achieve better cornering performance.  It is rather refreshing to see that Subaru has stripped out all vehicle baby sitters to deliver a purely raw driving experience. The overall vehicle weight of 2700 featherlight pounds with sport tuned suspension and a light-weight 4 cylinder horizontally opposed boxer engine make the BRZ a cornering machine of excellence. The Subaru BRZ is definitely a very unique car and will be enjoyed by many enthusiasts for generations to come.

2013 Ford Taurus SEL AWD

Bringing back the old reminiscent crown jewels of the Ford Taurus has sparked new excitement in the automobile industry.  At a first glimpse, the Ford Taurus can be accurately described in a sentence with candy words such as big, relaxed, luxurious, and powerful.  As much as these characteristics line up with higher end sedans on the market, Ford refuses to classify the Ford Taurus in the luxury domain and instead, has reserved that territory for their premium Lincoln fleet line.

Ford has freshened up the looks of the 2013 Ford Taurus with a larger and more aggressive front grille, redesigned exterior lighting, rear fenders.  Other features newly introduced in the 2013 model include new suspension tuning, electronic controlled power assisted steering with torque vectoring control, and upgraded brakes to improve the brake feel and stopping distance.

Ford continues to follow its elegant European style trend in the interior cabin space of the Taurus. The interior is bolstered with high quality leather with fully adjustable seats.  Other luxurious features and attributes incorporated into the 2013 Ford Taurus include Microsoft Sync media access and connectivity, and excellent interior sound insulation.

Under the hood lies a V6 engine coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual select-shift capability.  Ford also offers an AWD power train option for commuting in more extreme weather conditions.  Averaged at 26 mpg on city and highway, the Ford Taurus gains respect in performance and fuel efficiency.

The Ford Taurus is classified as a family sedan and seats 5 passengers and is offered in four different trim levels: SE, SEL, Limited and SHO.

Standard equipment on the entry-level SE include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED taillights, blind spot mirrors, cruise control, air-conditioning, a six-way power driver seat (manual recline), a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.

The SEL adds larger 18-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, remote ignition and keyless engine start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Microsoft Sync media control with integrated bluetoothe smart phone connectivity and satellite radio.

Other purchase options for the SEL model include rear parking sensors, an additional high fidelity center speaker, Improved MyFord Touch with a larger 7″ LCD front navigation display, two USB ports and expanded Sync functionality. For the more demanding consumers, up-scaled purchase options further adds 19-inch wheels, a rearview camera, keyless ignition/entry, ambient interior lighting and power-adjustable pedals. Free-standing SEL options include leather upholstery (packaged with heated front seats and a six-way power passenger seat), a power sunroof, a rear spoiler and a voice-activated navigation system.

The Ford Taurus is propelled by a 3.5 six-cylinder engine producing 290 hp and 255 ft.lbs of torque.  Fuel efficiency can be slightly gained with the front-wheel drive powertrian system with its score cards showing 19 mpg in the city, 29 mpg in the city and combing average of 23 mpg.  While the AWD power train system scores slightly lower in both city and highway fuel consumption at 18 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and a combined average of 21 mpg.

The interior cabin space is the most notable feature of the Taurus lineup.  The interior is very solid and well built with high quality material.  Ford has also paid quite a bit of attention into their detailing, such as the mesh pattern leather stitching on the side panels and uniform dash board control styling.  The seats are very large and provide plenty of comfort and adjustability with the added bonus of an integrated back massage system built into the seats itself.  The Ford MyTouch infotainment system coupled with Sony’s media and climate control dashboard really adds the final touches to provide both form and function.  However; like the rest of Ford’s lineup coupled with Ford Mytouch system, the Microsoft SYNC software provides a plethora of features, but lags in overall user response time.

The overall ride quality of the Ford Taurus is great, but can be a little harsh over bumps due to its large wheels stiffer suspension setup and more rigid chassis structure.  Nevertheless, there is no shortage of power delivery from the v6 engine.  The extra power delivery and increased cabin space does increase the overall size of the vehicle and weight of the vehicle, but maneuverability and parking is still very well manageable.

Luxury, power delivery and roominess will be greatly enjoyed by consumers looking into purchasing the Ford Taurus.

Volkswagen versus iPhone 5

The VW Golf R uses an iPod integration system common to many VW and Audi models.

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

When Apple announced the iPhone 5′s new Lightning connection, a replacement for the 30 pin connector of past iPhones, iPads, and iPods, it also announced an adapter to maintain compatibility with 30 pin accessories and docks. I tested the iPhone 5 with its biggest 30 pin accessory, a Volkswagen.

Volkswagen uses the same iPod integration system as Audi, which it calls the Music Interface. This system consists of a proprietary port in the car with adapter cables for 30 pin iPod connector, USB, mini-USB, and auxiliary input. As Volkswagen has not come out with a Lightning cable for its Music Interface, you have to get Apple’s 30 pin to Lightning adapter, and connect it to the car’s adapter cable. Not exactly an elegant solution.

iPhone 5 to Lightning adapter to VW Music Interface adapter. What could go wrong?

(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

I previously tested the iPhone 5 in a Chevy and Nissan by plugging its Lightning cable directly into those cars’ USB ports. In each case, the integration worked perfectly, showing the iPhone 5′s music library on the car’s LCDs and having no issues in playing music through the… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Scosche announces its first car stereo and there’s an app for it

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

LAS VEGAS–Scosche has been manufacturing car stereo dashboard mounting kits, wire harnesses, and installation accessories for so many years, but it has never offered a car stereo receiver of its own…until now.

At the 2012 SEMA Show, Scosche showed off the SCDBTA60 Car Stereo Receiver. This unit features an internal four-channel amplifier that outputs a maximum of 40 watts per channel and three preamp outputs for adding external amps. It’s got a CD player and an SD card slot, and can connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth (HFP and A2DP), USB, or an auxiliary input. By itself, it’s a solid, yet simple single-DIN receiver that is probably best distinguished by its lowish MSRP of $ 139.95.

With the ControlFreq app for iOS and Android you can stream audio to the receiver, select the audio source, and adjust the radio tuner.

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

However, the SCDBTA60 isn’t by itself. It works hand in hand with Scosche’s new ControlFreq app available for free in the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Market.

Related stories

GPS apps that let you know where you’ve been

Cyclist Chris Phipps made creative use of GPS to show his support for the San Francisco Giants.

(Credit: Strava user Chris Phipps)

When most of us think about GPS apps for smartphones, we’re thinking about navigation apps that help you to get wherever you happen to be going. However, there’s a whole range of GPS logger apps that are designed to keep track of where you’ve been.

Tracking your historic position, movement, speed, and elevation is very useful for fitness, as evidenced by the selection of fitness apps below, but it can also be fun. For example, after exporting the .GPX data from a GPS logger app, it can be imported into Google Earth or similar software to create a 3D flyby or, as is the case in the image above, 2D virtual artwork on a massive scale.

(Credit: Google)

My Tracks (Android) Fire up My Tracks on your GPS-enabled Android device and it will silently record your GPS position and elevation. Your live trip can be viewed on a Google Map and saved for playback later. My Tracks has the ability to export popular GPS data formats (such as GPX or CSV) for import and playback in mapping software, such as Google Earth or many of the fit… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Pioneer doubles down on MixTrax for new car stereos

Pioneer’s multimedia receivers also receive a physical and digital interface restyling for 2012.

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

LAS VEGAS–At the 2012 SEMA Show, Pioneer announced all-new lines of CD and DVD/multimedia receivers. The changes for this new generation are sweeping, encompassing nearly every product Pioneer makes; subtle, consisting mostly of moderate upgrades; and significant.

Starting with the 6.1-inch AVH-X1500DVD ($ 300), MixTrax compatibility comes to Pioneer’s line of DVD/multimedia receivers. MixTrax, Pioneer’s automated DJ and playlist software, analyzes your music library and creates custom mixes that play back while you drive. Compatibility with those mixes and control over how they’re played is now baked into every Pioneer receiver with an “X” in its model number, as in AVH-X1500DVD.

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The AVH-X250… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Take a drive down the Route 66 of the future

Designer Daan Roosegaard, left, and an unidentified director at Heijmans Infrastructure discuss Dutch roadways.

(Credit: Daan Roosegaard/Heijmans Infrastructure)

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde thinks we drive on dumb roads. So he teamed with mega European construction company Heijmans Infrastructure to create a vision of a “smart highway” for the Netherlands — and possibly the rest of the world.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of these future roads is the fact that two concepts of the bunch — glow-in-the-dark roads and dynamic paint — should arrive by mid-2013. The group plans to introduce the rest of the concepts before 2015, giving the world a glimpse at how technology could revolutionize the way we drive by making it a safer and more sustainable experience.

Click through our gallery below to see the kind of roads you may be driving down one day.

Vision of a smart highway (pictures)

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