Monthly Archives: March 2013

Terra Motors launches electric tuk-tuk for Philippines

Terra Motors' e-tricycle can carry six and travel 31 miles per charge.

(Credit: Terra Motors)

Tuk-tuks are a common way to get around in many Asian cities, but they contribute to urban pollution and high fuel costs.

Tokyo-based startup Terra Motors wants to put more non-polluting vehicles on the streets with an electric tuk-tuk unveiled this week for the Philippines.

The blue and white “e-tricycle” is powered by a lithium-ion battery and can carry six people including the driver. It’s just under 11 feet long and is steered with handlebars.

It can travel some 31 miles per 2-hour charge, according to the firm, which is hoping to become the world’s top electric tuk-tuk maker.


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“There is no single company in Asia that mass-produces electric bikes or tricycles,” president Toru Tokushige was quoted as saying by AFP.

“I think it could h… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Must-see videos from the New York auto show

This week our Car Tech team was on-hand at the 2013 New York auto show, busily scouring the floors in order to bring you the best from the event, here in video format.

1. 2014 Kia Soul

The 2014 Kia Soul is the surprise of the 2013 New York auto show and a hit of the “box on wheels” movement, plus it comes stacked with some nifty tech.

[Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Buick updates tech in 2014 LaCrosse

Buick shows off the revised 2014 LaCrosse this week at the New York auto show.

(Credit: Buick)

When Buick updated its LaCrosse model with its mild hybrid system, eAssist, and the IntelliLink infotainment system for the 2012 model year, the car was the most technically advanced Buick available. Rather than rest on its laurels, Buick gives the model new internal tech features for a 2014 model year update, including a new LED panel in the instrument cluster.

The 2014 LaCrosse model will feature the same drivetrain options as before, a 2.4-liter four cylinder aided by a 15 horsepower electric motor or a more traditional 3.6-liter V-6 with direct injection.

The look gets refreshed slightly with new LED parking light strips in the headlight casings, a design cue that puts the LaCrosse in league with many, many other models currently on the road.

The instrument cluster does not appear to have gone full digital. Instead, Buick places an 8 inch LCD between physical gauges for tachometer, fuel, and engine temperature. The LCD portrays a speedometer and other graphics useful to the driver, such as adaptive cruise control information.

The 2014 LaCrosse benefits from the … [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

A look inside the EPA’s contentious MPG ratings (CNET On Cars, Episode 13)

Episode 14, EPA Mileage Ratings Explained

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If you like high-tech cars, the Audi A7 is very high on your list. It’s just about the techiest ride out there and far from the most expensive. Add the hot sauce of S trim and the 2013 Audi S7 becomes a favorite of ours. I’ll take you for a ride in this episode.

I’ve never received more sustained email on a single topic than I have on EPA mileage ratings lately. Many of you ar… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Blue exterior

2013 Nissan Pathfinder Overview

For the longest time, the Nissan Pathfinder has always retained its renowned discipline in hauling, occasional off-road adventuring and towing capabilities.  However, its downsides include cramped rear seats, truck-like driveability and unsatisfactory fuel economy in today’s strict standards.  In Nissan’s attempt to fall in phase with consumer expectations, the 2013 Pathfinder now offers a more comfortable ride quality and better fuel economy.

Nissan also figured out the demand for rugged off-road  capabilities has phased out.  This is why the Nissan Pathfinder inherited much of its design efforts from the Infiniti Jx35 Crossover.  The vehicle is merely 500 lbs lighter than its predecessors.  As what you might have guessed, the lighter and better fuel efficiency sacrifices for less towing capacity than its older brothers, but it can still haul up to 5,000 lbs.

A lot of positive comments can be said about the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, namely the silky smooth acceleration and luxurious cabin space.  Even so, it still faces stiff competition from other automotive giants including the Mazda CX9, and Ford Explorer, and Honda Pilot.

Powertrain and Performance

The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is propelled by its well renowned 3.5 liter six cylinder engine, producing 260hp, and 240 ft-lbs of torque.  The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder comes standard with front wheel drive coupled to a CVT transmission.  The powertrain can be upgraded to Nissan’s all-wheel-drive system, which allows the user to select between all-wheel-drive mode, which dynamically splits power delivery between the front and rear axle, or locks the power delivery to 50/50 between the front and rear axle.  The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder fuel economy scores in at an estimated 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 combined.  These numbers are not mind boggling, but for its power capability and features, these scores deserve honorable mention.  Our 0-60 acceleration test scored in at about 8.0 seconds, which passes the average score numbers.   When equipped properly, the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder towing capacity is rated up to 5,000 lbs.

Interior and Styling

The interior cabin space of the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is unbeatable to any other in its class.  The cabin space is very welcoming with its soft-quilted leather, and beautiful wood trim surrounding the center console.  Once seated, you will notice the panels are also bordered with soft leather and economic controls.  The front seats are designed around aeronautical research, and by no surprise, are one of the comfortable seats we’ve sat in.  The same can be said about the second row seats.  The third row provides adequate  headroom for 6-foot passengers, but clearance will begin to diminish beyond this point.

Nissan’s infotainment system deserves compliment.  It is intuitive and responsive to user feedback.  Steering wheel controls are also very conveniently placed for changing stereo settings and answering phone calls over Bluetooth.  We also like to mention one of Nissan’s amazing panoramic camera system (only included in the platinum trim level), which projects a bird’s eye-view image of the vehicle while parking to avoid colliding with obstacles.

Driving Impression and Final Thoughts

The 2013 Nissan Path finder shares its genetics with its upscale sibling, Infiniti JX35.  As a result, the ride quality of the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder falls nothing short of expectation.  It delivers a very quiet and pleasant ride.  Acceleration is very smooth and the overall ride quality is very calm and composed.  Compared to beefier 7 seater vehicles such as the Ford Flex and Mazda CX9, acceleration is a bit sluggish when pulling off from a standstill.  The steering and handling of the Nissan Pathfinder also feels lazy and susceptible to body roll when cornering.  Nevertheless, the silky smooth ride, unbeatable interior cabin space and great fuel economy is difficult to beat in its class.

2013 Nissan Sentra Review

The new and improved 2013 Nissan Sentra is making quite a comeback. The last time the Nissan Sentra was redesigned was in 2007, and let’s face it, modern technology and innovation have surpassed it. The 2013 Nissan Sentra is a modern, spacious, fuel economical and upscaled car. The 2013 Nissan Sentra has a complete new look compared to the previous generation. The 2013 Nissan Sentra is now about 2 inches longer, 150 pounds lighter, has a new continuously variable transmission (CVT), a better fuel economy and refined looks inside out.
Under the hood of the 2013 Nissan Sentra is an entirely new engine. The 2013 Nissan Sentra is offered in several different trims; the S, FE+S, SV, FE+SV, SR and SL trim. The particular “FE+” trim has promoted fuel economy with the help of less rolling resistance and under-body aerodynamic reflectors. Each of these styles, except the standard version, comes with Nissan’s well received CVT as standard. The standard version, S, comes with a six-speed manual transmission with the CVT as an option. The new CVT allows the Sentra to have more flexible gear ratios, by changing gears more effectively. This refreshed car also has a new 1.8 liter four cylinder engine now and gets 130 horsepower with 128 pound-feet of torque power. This new engine and transmission allows the 2013 Nissan Sentra to get one of the top gas mileage economies in its class. The 2013 Nissan Sentra renders 30 miles per gallon in the city and 39 miles per gallon on the highway with an average of 34 miles per gallon. The FE+ versions are expected to render 40 miles per gallon.
The outside and inside of the 2013 Nissan Sentra has also changed considerably. Each different style offered includes different features for the exterior. The standard version comes with 16 inch steel wheels, a manually adjustable driver’s seat, air conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a trip computer, full power accessories and a four-speaker sound system with CD player and auxiliary audio jack. Each version also offers different packages for the 2013 Nissan Sentra. The SR and SV also offer a drivers package. The FE+ versions of the S and SV also add extra features to the Sentra. The SL comes with the SV’s standard features and equipment from the Driver’s package. The SR, SV, and SL also offer a premium package which includes sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an eight-speaker Bose audio system. The Navigation package gives the Sentra more options for those who travel a lot. The Leather package (SL only) gives the Sentra a more comfortable style inside. Each of these features offers a modern and upscale look for the 2013 Nissan Sentra and the new length of the 2013 Nissan Sentra also allows for a more comfortable ride with more passenger space and more luggage capacity.
Driving the 2013 Nissan Sentra around town provides quite a pleasant ride.  The new CVT allows for smooth driving in the city and for merging onto highways.  Most people despise CVT transmissions, but Nissan has managed to beat the odds. The CVT allows for smooth and less frequent shifting, and a quieter ride.  As much as we enjoyed the ride quality, the steering is numb as a result of softer suspensions.   The 2013 Nissan Sentra could also have a better throttle response and a  crisper acceleration.  Stomping on the throttle at a green transition traffic light results in a capacitive delay in acceleration.  Even with these cons the 2013 Nissan Sentra is still a very satisfactory car for every day driving.  The 2013 Nissan Sentra is very competitive on the market within its midsize sedan class. The manufactured selling retail price is also very good typically starting at $16,770. The 2013 Nissan Sentra having a modern, upscale, spacious, and fuel economical sedan makes this car hard to beat if the everyday commute is your priority.

Does this great car stereo really need an app mode?

Back in the days of the Car Tech Live podcast, I was often (ahem, every week) asked, “What’s the best way to add a lot of tech to my car without spending a lot of money?”

The answer I most often gave was, “Check out Sony’s MEX line of single-DIN car stereos. For about two Benjamins, you’ll add Bluetooth hands-free calling, wireless audio streaming, USB and auxiliary inputs, and upgrade the audio quality of your car’s wimpy car stereo.”

The Sony MEX-GS600BT is one of the latest units in the MEX line, keeping intact everything that I love about its family. This new receiver also brings an interesting, but rudimentary sort of two-way smartphone app integration to the table that had me “ooh’ing and ahh’ing,” even as I scratched my head at the usefulness of this new feature.

Design The Sony MEX-GS600BT uses the familiar and basic single-DIN design and proportions. The unit features a removable faceplate on which you’ll find a control knob, a bunch of button, and an LCD.

The Sony MEX-GS600BT doesn't deviate from the standard volume-knob-on-the-left, single-DIN design.

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

The control knob wears many hats. Usually, it is a volume control knob that twists freely with a nice, bumpy detents along its rotation that give a low-tech haptic feedback of how quickly you’re cranking the volume. Tapping the center of the knob like a button enters the S… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Honda and Audi show the future of driving at Nvidia conference

This digital instrument cluster in the Lamborghini Aventador is powered by an Nvidia chip.

(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

SAN JOSE–Over the past decade, new in-car electronics have helped us navigate and made more music easily available while driving. But if the work shown at Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) is any indication, bigger and better changes are in store.

Among the many automotive seminars at this year’s GTC, Honda showed off its development of a head-up display, while Audi discussed its initiatives to make urban driving safer.

In Honda’s seminar, Victor Ng-Thow-Hing, Principal Scientist at the Honda Research Institute in Mountain View, California, showed head-up display technology that makes current production examples look extremely primitive. Instead of simply projecting a speed readout or turn-by-turn directions on the windshield, Ng-Thow-Hing demonstrated work in augmented reality, projecting location sensitive information useful to drivers.

Cars on display at the GTC using Nvidia technology were this Lamboghini Aventador, a McLaren MP4-12C, and a Tesla Model S.

(Credit: Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

In one example, street names were projected onto the windshield in such a way as to appear to be signs on actual buildings. Ng-Thow-Hing explained that merely showing a flat street name o… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Dashboard mount mightily grips your phone in the car

They all may look more or less the same, but not all smartphone suction cup mounts are created equally. Some are more flexible, more articulated, or offer a longer reach. Others, like the Bracketron Mi-T Grip place a heavier emphasis on strength and stability — when it gets its grips on your phone, it’ll take more than a casual bump to knock the handset loose.

The Mi-T Grip only has one point of articulation at the ball joint where the gripping claw meets the mounting arm. So, care must be taken to properly orient the base when locating the Grip. Additionally, the short, angled mounting arm may place the Mi-T Grip outside of the driver’s reach when windshield mounting on vehicles with steeply raked glass. On the other hand, with only one articulation point and a short arm, the Grip is quite stable, exhibiting none of the shakiness and vibration that longer, more flexible mounts do. However, the Mi-T Grip perhaps performs best when it’s not stuck to your windshield.

The suction cup at the base of the Mi-T Grip is made of tacky, semi-adhesive material that sticks to most solid surfaces under its own power. This stickiness combined with the suction generated by locking the Mi-T Grip’s suction cup in place results in a remarkably tenacious grip on whatever surface I mounted it to. This strong grip is a boon for keeping a smartphone device secured and stable while driving, but it can also be a tad difficult (but not impossible) to remove between trips. A… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Range Rover Sport to make mad dash through New York

The Range Rover Sport will be revealed in a drive through New York on the evening of March 26.

(Credit: Land Rover)

Last year, Land Rover took the wraps off its fully re-engineered, weight-reduced Range Rover. At the upcoming New York International Auto Show the company will unveil the Range Rover Sport edition, traditionally a more powerful, lowered version of Land Rover’s big truck.

Land Rover promises a drive through New York as the first public appearance for the new vehicle on Tuesday, March 26.

I picture it something like this: Land Rover, wanting to enter Manhattan in style, sends the driver on a route over the Brooklyn Bridge, surrounded by camera cars. However, due to construction on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the driver exits on Flushing, losing the lead camera car in the process.

After half an hour in Brooklyn Heights traffic, mostly caused by legions of parents pushing strollers to their favorite bars and cafes, Land Rover central instructs the driver to break for the Williamsburg Bridge. Losing a second camera car in the traffic melee, the driver finds a relatively clear road on DeKalb, making his way through light after light to Broadway.

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