Monthly Archives: December 2012

Put your phone into ‘car mode’ with these dashboard apps

Sadly, Android's original Car Home app is incompatible with most modern versions of the OS.

(Credit: Google)

My first Android phone, the original Motorola Droid, was one of the first phones to debut Google Maps Navigation. Now, Google knew that this feature would get drivers interested in using their Android phones in the car and that the tiny virtual buttons and shortcuts that worked well when the device was handheld wouldn’t cut it behind the wheel. So, when users popped their Droids into their car docks, they were presented with a simplified interface with large shortcut buttons to car-centric apps, designed for safer use while driving.

Smartphones have come a long way since I retired my Droid, but–with the exception of a few devices with customized OSes–the Car Home feature has largely disappeared from newer Android phones. In a time where drivers are more concerned than ever about distraction behind the wheel, this is a shame.

Here’s where the third-party steps in to help. We’ve rounded up a collection of our favorite dashboard apps that closely replicate (and in many cases, exceed) the functionally of that old Car Home app for both Android. We… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Car Tech’s guide to using your Android phone in the car

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

As a CNET reader who’s addicted to tech, you likely already know why a phone and the apps therein can be useful in the car. Your phone is a hub for your music and entertainment, GPS navigation, and communications with your friends, family, and social circles. You’ve got your apps for streaming music and podcasts from the web, apps for picking a place to eat or finding the lowest fuel prices around, and your hands-free calls of course. Or, because phones are such personal devices, your handset can only bring a few of these things to your driving experience.

You’re in charge of why you’d want to use your Android phone in the car. The tricky part is figuring out how to do it and how to do it safely. Read on.

Bluetooth For the last few years and for most of the Android OS’s lifetime, Bluetooth’s Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) has easily been your best bet for connecting an Android phone to most newer model vehicles. This is especially true if you’re already making the Bluetooth wireless connection for the Hands-free Profile (HFP) to make voice calls–using A2DP kills two birds with one stone. Often, A2DP connected stereos can display artist and title data for the currently playing song and almost always includes shortcuts (either onscreen or accessible by steering wheel buttons) for play, pause, and skip.

Bluetooth-to-stereo audio streaming does have one minor d… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Honda readies small SUV for Detroit

Honda's new SUV concept will appear at the 2013 Detroit auto show.

(Credit: Honda)

Today Honda sent out a sketch of a new concept vehicle the company intends to unveil at the Detroit auto show in January. Honda calls the concept an Urban SUV, and it looks like the predecessor to a new, small SUV in the line-up.

The sketch shows the profile of a car with lines similar to the latest CR-V model. However, Honda updated the CR-V for 2012, so the concept is not likely to be a new version of that car.

More likely would be a smaller SUV, similar to the Subaru XV Crosstrek and BMW X1, a type of vehicle that seems to be growing in popularity. The word Urban in the name, automaker shorthand for small, suggests an SUV coming in below the CR-V in the line-up.

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2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid: Prius Killer? CNET On Cars Episode 8

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid: Prius Killer?


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Some 15 years after its introduction, the Toyota Prius still defines the hybrid car business. It’s an amazing dominance, comparable to the iPod’s position in the portable media player market. Prius models outsell all other hybrids combined in the U.S. but that doesn’t mean they always will. Enter the … [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

2012 Infiniti Mx37

Today’s midsize luxury sedan market is filled with stiff competition that funnels down into two categories.  One in which a more composed and comfortable ride is  emphasized while the other is a more aggressive and engaging driving experience.  The M37x falls much more heavily in the latter pool.

From ground up, the M37x was built to bring jaw dropping smiles thanks to its powerful V6 engine and sharp handling.  Complement to its aggressive performance and handling, the M37x is still complemented well with a soft and luxurious cabin space embodied with high tech features.  Its caliber of comfort still falls short of comparable midsize luxury sedans such as the Lexus GS series, but for the price point and performance features, the M37x is difficult to beat, even in its competitive market it resides in.

For 2012, the Infiniti M37 is propelled by a 330-horsepower  3.7 liter VQ37VHR engine mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Both the standard M37, and M37 sport come standard with rear-wheel drive, while the M37x model had all-wheel drive.

The features in our tested Infiniti M37x  defaulted with a plethora of goodies such as 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, fog lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery and a BOSE six-speaker sound system.

Other upgrade options and safety features include 20-inch alloy wheels, upscaled leather upholstery and interior trim, heated and ventilated front seats, a premium surround-sound audio system and a navigation system. Also on offer were a whole host of electronic gadgets such as auto leveling headlights, adaptive cruise control, blind spot and forward collision detection system, and a lane-departure warning and prevention system.

We conclude the Infiniti M37x to be an awesome midsize luxury sedan that offers state of the art high-tech safety, a classy cabin space, and aggressive power and handling. However, due to its stiff sport tuned suspension and large 18″ wheels, the ride quality can be somewhat stiff.  The steering is also quite heavy and requires extra effort to keep the car strait.  There is also a fair amount of tire rolling and wind noise leaked into the cabin space.  The vehicle acceleration in response to the gas pedal is also very sudden and abrupt, even on standard drive mode.  As much as we appreciate the shear level of joy and excitement the M37 brings, the comfort level and ride quality falls short for its class.



CNET announces nominees for 2012 Tech Car of the Year

As 2012 rolls to a close, we look back at the cars we’ve reviewed over the last year to see which rise to the level of Tech Car of the Year. Numerous feasible electric cars launched this year and two made our nominees list. Audi and BMW continued their slugfest in cabin, driver assistance, and performance tech, and we picked representative sample models from each. Also slipping in is the new Toyota Prius c hatchback, showing off Toyota’s venerable hybrid drivetrain and its latest app integration.

Please let us know which car you think should be the 2012 Tech Car of the Year in our poll, and discuss it in the comments. Our CNET jury will place their votes, and we will announce the winner on December 19.


2013 Audi S5 Audi continues its high-tech juggernaut with the 2013 Audi S5, imbuing this model with the connected in-dash features seen last year on the A6, A7, and A8. Those features work in tandem with already leading edge cabin tech features for navigation, hands-free phone, and digital audio. Beyond infotainment features, Audi incorporates performance components that not only save fuel, but also provide for an engaging driving experience.

Top tech features: Google Earth navigation… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

$24,000 Transform Robot goes from car to humanoid

"No transform, no robot" is Brave Robotics’ slogan.

(Credit: Brave Robotics)

We’ve seen transforming robots before, and I’m not talking about anything related to Hasbro.

Researchers from MIT are among many engineers and tinkerers trying to design robots that perform different functions by changing their shape or appearance.

Japan-based Brave Robotics has designed a 1/12-scale RC car that can transform into a humanoid robot. It can shuffle around, grab footage with its Wi-Fi camera, and even fire little missiles from its arms.

But the intriguing part about the Transform Robot is its scope. Not only has Brave Robotics hobbyist Kenji Ishida put 10 years into building robots in disguise — he began in 2002 with a simple pair of legs and the Transform Robot is version 7.1 — he wants to build a full-scale transforming, drivable car with artificial intelligence by 2030.

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All-new Lexus IS to debut in Detroit, what should we expect?

The next-generation Lexus IS will feature design cues debuted on the LF-CC concept.

(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

Lexus has announced that it will be pulling the wraps off of the all-new IS at the 2013 North American International Auto Show–better known to we car guys and gals as the Detroit Auto Show. The automaker has stated that the new model “has been completely redesigned, inside and out” and will be inspired by the LF-CC Coupe Concept (which we saw make its own debut at the 2012 Paris Auto Show) and the brand’s LFA halo car.

Does this mean that the third-generation IS will be offered as a coupe?

(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

Beyond that, the automaker hasn’t said anything else about the new IS. So, exactly what should we expect to see on January 15th?

  • Let’s start with the simple stuff. Don’t expect many changes in the power-train department. The new Lexus IS will definitely retain its RWD configuration and optional AWD. It will also still likely be powered by the same 306 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine that currently also powers the … [Read more]

    Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

2013 Nissan Quest

The Nissan Quest is a versatile seven-passenger vehicle and is especially ideal for for both families with teenagers.  The quest transports four adults in comfort in the front two rows plus three more little ones in the third row. thanks to Nissan’s legacy VQ V6 engine, the Quest delivers plenty of power and drives very smoothly as well.

Nissan’s 2013 Quest is left unchanged overall with the latest-generation Quest employing styling from inside out while maintaining a harmonized balance between efficiency and performance.

All trim models of the Nissan Quest come with Nissan’s powerful VQ V6 engine common to their flagship sports coupe and sedan, namely the 370z and the G37 coupe. The Quest produces 253 horsepower and is EPA-rated at 19/24 mpg City/Highway. The quest is also equipped with Nissan’s CVT transmission in aid of producing better fuel economy.

Inside the cabin space, the Quest provides plenty of room and comfort. The second row provides excellent leg and headroom while the third row is smaller than most competitors, but still offers a plethora of space for small children.

Cargo versatility is another bonus for the Quest. Beneath the Cargo area lies a hatch opening below the floor level. This feature is ideal for carrying large luggage or moving boxes.

Nissan’s design, of the Nissan quest employs a box shape shell with contoured front ends to improve aerodynamics and driver visibility.  Contrary to its minivan middle name, the dimensions of the quest is virtually identical to most of its competitors on the market such as the Honda Odyssey.

The front of the Quest is merely homogeneous and could easily be confused with another were it not for egg shaped front and center. The front is smooth and clean, with a wide bumper section that cants upward at the edges below the headlights. All  of the front lights reside in the same housing.

The Quest is only offered with 7 seats, with two individual seats in the first two rows and three in the third row. The four forward seats are very comfortable, have good-to-best competitive dimensions.  The seats provide good support, which makes both short city or long highway commutes enjoyable.

There is no doubt that the Quest inherits some of its athletic genes from Nissan’s sports coupe and sedans. The Quest behaves relatively light on its feet. Weighing in at 3600 pounds, the Quest is by no means, light, but it still weighs less than most of its competitors and the driving experience shows it.

Nissan’s superb V6 engine has been proven to be both reliable and powerful.  The 3.5-liter engine is rated at 260 horsepower and delivers240 lb-ft of torque (using regular unleaded fuel).  It is the Nissan’s smallest available V6 engine they offer, but don’t let this statement fool you.  For example, the Toyota Sienna V6 produces 266 hp while Chrysler’s newest Town & Country produces 283..  The Quest’s engine is coupled to Nissan’s Continuous Variable Transmission, which is one of the best on the market to date.

Electric-assist steering is used on the Quest to deliver smooth and precise steering feedback to the driver. The Quest maneuvers quite well and has a decent 37 feet turning radius.

The Nissan Quest accommodates all the needs of a family van no minimal compromise in performance, efficiency, comfort or environmental features. The Quest’s ride is comfortable complemented with versatile cargo space and sufficient performance thanks to Nissan’s V6 responsive engine. The cabin is designed well for four adult-sized people plus two or three children or extra cargo.


2013 Mazda 3 Speed Review

The Mazda 3 Speed is rewarded with a 40 mpg fuel rating on the highway all thanks to its revamped drivetrain for 2013.  This is a significant improvement over the course of the last few years.  Speaking of which, more and more competitors with equivalent fuel ratings are beginning to surface on the sales lot this year.  There is definitely no shortcoming in this streak, and Mazda plays a huge role in it.

The Mazda 3 offers four available engines including the well acquainted turbocharged Mazda Speed 3. With essentially 11 different trim levels, the top two trim levels have the “SkyActiv” suffix engraved that represents a high-mileage technology incorporated into the company’s latest four-cylinder engine and transmission combination.  However, no different than other auto-manufacturers, the highest fuel economy trims comes with the heaviest price tag in its line of trim levels.  For example, the hatchback model is more fuel efficient, but its base price just for its body style costs $4,000 more than the base sedan model

The Mazda3 comes as a sedan or hatchback with four available engines and essentially 11 versions, including the turbocharged Mazdaspeed3. Two trim levels have the suffix “SkyActiv,” which represents high-mileage technology in the form of the company’s newest four-cylinder engine and/or select transmissions and other technologies. As is the case in most competing models, the highest mileage figures come in the more expensive sedan trim levels. The most affordable hatchback is efficient, but the base price for this body style is more than $4,000 higher than the base sedan’s.

All configurations on the Mazda 3 employs a fairly firm ride, which often repel shoppers away, but the significant improvement in mileage is beginning to show emphasis to consumers.

Mazda3′s two base trims, SV and Sport, is equipped with last year’s 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The drivetrain is smooth with sufficient power thanks to its optimal gear ratios in the optional five-speed transmission.  The two trim levels can be purchased with either an automatic or manual 5 speed transmission.

Stepping up to the higer trim, the 155-hp, direct-injected SkyActiv engine is also a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but adds a shy 7hp more.  The engine can be either coupled with an automatic or a manual six speed transmission.  The SkyActiv engine comes in handy on the long highways, where our manual stick-shift test car accelerated 11 mph with 6th gear selected.    In contrary, most competitors require downshifting in order to accelerate on the highway. When driven in the city, both 2.0 liter four cylinder engines feel similar with slightly reduced acceleration during start off with the sky-active engine.  For the more demanding consumers, Mazda3′s optional 2.5-liter four-cylinder has a more meaty midrange power and generates quicker quicker acceleration than most commuter cars in expense for slightly reduced fuel ratings.

The SkyActiv sedan is rated an EPA-estimate of 28/40 mpg city/highway with the automatic, 27/39 with the stick. The SkyActiv hatchback has identical city numbers but is 1 mpg less efficient on the highway with either transmission. Still, that’s 2 to 7 mpg better than the base 2.0-liter, depending on trim, and 6 to 11 mpg better than the 2.5-liter Mazda3. All three engines use regular gas.

The cabin space is clean and composed, but other competitors such as the Ford Fusion, or Nissan Altima are leaving the Mazda 3 behind. The Mazda’s dashboard controls and panels have decent texture, but are still housed with miles of plastic. However, the dials controls are made of good quality and provide great tactile feel. One of our major complains we had with the interior is the feel of cheap and thoughtless design of using two separate front LCD matrix display panels that are of both different sizes and colors.

Our test car had basic leather seats which was clean and comfortable, but can leave your back sore after driving for more than few hours. Legroom in the rear seats are reasonable, but passengers in the 6 ft range will experience limited leg space and head room.

Trunk volume in the Mazda3 sedan is measured at 11.8 cubic feet which is reasonable, but is still behind other competitors such as the Chevrolet Cruze.  However, the Mazda3 hatchback model offers a more usable 17 cubic feet behind the backseat, with 42.8 cubic feet of maximum volume with the backseat folded down.

To conclude our review, the compact five-seat Mazda3 is available as a sedan or four-door hatchback with an purchase option of the Sky-Active high-efficiency technologies. It competes head to head with serious competitors such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf and Jetta.  The firm suspension coupled with Mazda’s renowned transmission and practical cabin space, especially in the hatchback continues to mark its legacy in the automotive market in its class.