Monthly Archives: February 2013

Faux SUVs: Five all-wheel-drive crossovers

The popularity of truck-based SUVs slumped when gas prices first spiked last decade, and never recovered. Filling their places in America’s driveways came a new legion of vehicles offering similar practicality, but smaller and more economical. Termed crossovers, these vehicles come with independent suspensions for a more comfortable ride and better handling. And although they may not be as rugged as their predecessors, the five here feature all-wheel-drive for extra grip when the going gets slippery.

2013 Audi Allroad Audi’s Allroad is a somewhat lifted wagon, a good choice if you favor a more car-like driving position. It relies on Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, made famous in World Rally Car competitions, designed more for cornering at speed on gravel than tackling a 30-degree rutted ascent. The car is a bit of a technical marvel and appeals to gadget heads who want to explore the back country.

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i The X1 looks like BMW’s bigger Sports Activity Vehicles (BMW’s name for its crossovers) bu… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Tesla CEO: NYT review cost us $100M in value — Bloomberg

Tesla's Model S

(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET) The New York Times/Tesla debacle may have cost the car maker $ 100 million in value, Tesla’s CEO told Bloomberg.

Elon Musk, speaking on Bloomberg TV, said “a lot” of people canceled orders for Tesla’s Model S following a scathing New York Times review.

Related stories:

“It probably affected us to the tune of tens of millions, to the order of $ 100 million, so it’s not trivial,” … [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Automatica automatically updates contents over Wi-Fi

A Wi-Fi-enabled USB drive seems like an odd idea, yet the Automatica serves an excellent purpose in the car. Inrete, maker of the Automatica, sets up the device to automatically update content such as music or podcasts.

There are some limitations, however; for example, the Automatica only works if you have a USB port in your car. It may be useful in some other settings, as well, but in a car seems the most likely.

The Automatica would make the most sense for drivers who park their cars within reach of a home Wi-Fi network. Every time the Automatica makes its Wi-Fi connection, it automatically updates its content, downloading the latest podcast to which the driver has subscribed, for example. When the driver gets back in the car, the updated content will be ready for the morning commute.

The device measures about 3.5 inches long and 1.25 inches wide, and has ports for USB and HDMI in its sides. It plugs into a car through its Mini-USB-to-USB adapter cable.

There is also a red LED that shines through a pinhole in the case and shows when the Automatica is charging. The device lacks any switches or other controls, and is, quite literally, a black box.

Log in, select content To use the Automatica, I first had to set up an account on Inrete’s Automatica site and associate the device with my account. The process for adding podcasts was very simple, letting me enter the podcast URL or choose among the p… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

2013 Dodge Dart Review

It is oftentimes difficult to find the vehicle that is right for you, especially with all of the options available. This may result in you choosing something without first forming an informed decision, possibly causing you to later regret the purchase. To avoid this type of situation, you have to know more about what is out there. The Dodge Dart is one vehicle that is new to most people, but will not fade into the background. While it may be a newcomer, it offers an appearance that is sure to make a great first impression. It comes at an affordable price and is a great buy for people who want smaller vehicles. It may not be the greatest vehicle when it comes to performance, but it does provide enough for people who are looking for reliability in an attractive package.

What is going to stand out the most for people with this vehicle is its body styling. The appearance of this small car is attractive and different from its competition. Rather than following what the rest of the market is doing, the designers took a step back and brought in inspiration from Italian designers to create something new that separates itself from the rest of the cars out there. That aggressive appearance stays with you, leaving a first impression you will not soon forget. Even from the back, this wows you. Its 152 LED rear lights provide brightness and beauty while still doing the required job. The body as a whole stays with you, and its safety features make that possible.

Under the hood, you have a very capable vehicle. While it may not be able to compete with the more expensive vehicles, it is truly incredible for the price that you are paying and it is one of the best in its class. Depending on the type you choose from the ones available, you can see great performance. The 160 horsepower, 184 torque engine provides exceptional power on the road. Along with its impressive capabilities, you also have a combined 29 MPG, which is improved when you take into account the light weight of the vehicle. This car can take you places and provide you with an entertaining and incredible ride.

Inside of the car continues to surprise and please. It has plenty of room and comfort to give you a ride you will be able to enjoy, and want to, as well. From the moment you sit inside, you will experience the thrill, even before you start the engine. You also have the large 8.4” LCD screen that is easy to use and will not cause issues. The buttons are large and it does what you need it to do without a problem.

Overall, this is a phenomenal vehicle. For the low price and all of the benefits, it is hard to pass it up. People who like small vehicles will love not only the design of this one, but also all of the features and the performance. For the cost and size, you have a lot to love about the new Dodge Dart.

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2013 Ford C-Max Energi moonlights as an electric car

For those not ready to jump feet-first into the electric-vehicle pool, the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi offers a toe-dipping experience, a chance to check the water temperature before committing to the deep dive. And after experiencing the C-Max Energi, any reservations about electric cars should be erased.

The C-Max Energi is a variant of Ford’s C-Max Hybrid, a funky European-derived car abounding in sheer practicality. In our testing, the C-Max Hybrid achieved consistent low-40s fuel economy, while offering a large amount of versatile interior space.

Due to a larger lithium ion battery pack, the C-Max Energi sacrifices some of its cargo area, but gains the ability to drive under pure electric power for 21 miles, according to Ford.

The EPA estimates the C-Max Energi at 44 mpg city, 41 mpg highway, and 100 mpg equivalent, the last number based on it being driven under electric power. After a week of testing, my fuel economy in the C-Max Energi came to 58.2 mpg.

And that mileage observation is almost completely useless.

2013 Ford C-Max Energi plugs in for maximum mileage (pictures)

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6 tech features that should be standard in every new car

Air bags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control. CD players, power locks and windows, and air conditioning. These are all features that at some point or other were optional (and sometimes costly) vehicle features, but over time we’ve come to expect them in every new car on the road — whether that’s due to legislation or changing buyer tastes. As cars continue to evolve, so grow our expectations of what should be included in the sticker price. I’ve rounded up a few optional car tech features that I’d like to see become make the jump to standard equipment.

Early Bluetooth hands-free systems were often included in expensive, optional tech packages.

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

Bluetooth connectivity

Let’s start with the most obvious answer: Bluetooth. The best way to keep phone-toting drivers from plowing into things is by keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road by making use of the ubiquitous Bluetooth connection that nearly every phone has. Unfortunately, early Bluetooth connectivity was pretty clunky and had traditionally been bundled as part of expensive technology packages. Drivers and lawmakers complained loudly and, by and large, automakers have started to make Bluetooth standard on their 2012 and 2013 model year vehicles. There are still a few stragglers who haven’t … [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Tesla, the Times, and how to drive an electric car

This week’s Tesla versus The New York Times flap came to a climax yesterday when Tesla released the logs it promised on its Web site, and the newspaper responded with a point-by-point refutation.

Tesla’s post says that New York Times environmental reporter John Broder misrepresented the Model S’ performance. Broder argues that he was simply following advice from Tesla personnel during the drive.

The original New York Times story painted the Model S with a negative brush, but as I wrote Wednesday, a close reading of the article shows that the Model S operated exactly as you’d expect for an… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Lexus’ flagship gets an F-Sport makeover

Previous generations of the LS were loved or hated for their somewhat stodgy aesthetic. Some would call them boring; others might say classy. All would, no doubt, agree that the early LS models seemed to echo a bit too closely the German style it wished to displace. No longer is that the case.

The 2013 Lexus LS 460 features a design that is proudly Japanese and notably its own. The L-Finesse design language that has slowly been filtering down from the automaker’s concept cars and into production models is in full effect here. The sheet metal seemingly peeling back from the gaping spindle grille has become the automaker’s trademark in a manner that Lexus tells us should imply motion, speed, and strength.

For as in-your-face as the spindle grille and LED headlamps with their L-shaped accent/daytime running lamps are, the rest of the LS’ design is remarkably subdued. The vehicle features a flowing roofline and a wide stance that gives the large sedan a hunkered-down look that, particularly in photos, hides some of the vehicle’s mass. The wide, horizontal taillamps wrap around the rear end and feature L-shaped LED elements. Meanwhile, the dual exhaust tips integrate into the rear bumper. To use a luxury automotive cliche, the LS looks like it was machined from a solid ingot of metal. This is a very good thing.

Lexus LS 460 F-Sport’s bark is worse than its bite (pictures)

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Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Connected features abound in the 2013 BMW 750Li

The 2013 BMW 750Li may seem like the perfect luxury car, but it did not organize my financial portfolio for me. Nor did it shine my shoes. It did not even bother to buy me a winning lottery ticket. But those are about the only services it failed to perform.

The 750Li overwhelmed me with everything it did offer, from driving modes to connected features. It delivered on BMW’s reputation for excellent handling and served as a superbly comfortable freeway cruiser. It abounds with tech from stem to stern, improving its fuel economy and entertaining the driver’s every whim.

Among its few faults, the combination of the turbocharged, direct-injected 4.4-liter V-8 and the eight-speed automatic transmission could not deliver linear acceleration. The idle-stop feature, which shuts down the engine during traffic stops, might annoy a few, but it is easily switched off and makes for an essential part of BMW’s fuel efficiency strategy.

2013 BMW 750Li adds data-driven features (pictures)

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Tesla’s Elon Musk lambasts New York Times article

Tesla's Model S.

(Credit: Tesla)

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has become incensed over a news article critical of the all-electric car that was published in The New York Times last week.

“I do not think this is a he said, she said situation,” Musk told Bloomberg West in an interview today. “It is really black and white. The facts are the facts.”

The tussle got started after New York Times reporter John Broder wrote an article about taking the Tesla Model S out on a test drive in the East Coast’s freezing weather. He claimed that the car couldn’t keep a charge and ultimately died before reaching its intended destination. Before leaving on his trip, Broder said he charged the car until the display read “charge complete;” and then, working to conserve the battery while driving, he said he turned off the car’s heat and drove on cruise control at 54 mph.

Musk alleges that none of this is true and he has the car logs to prove it.

“We will publish the actual logs on the car and it is crystal clear,” Musk told Bloomberg West.

Related stories

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Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET