Monthly Archives: May 2013

Carpool creation site open for business

The Group Carpool Web tool makes it easy to sign up as a passenger or volunteer to drive.

Launching with an ethos of “Keep it simple,” the Group Carpool site is designed around the idea of making it easy for large groups of people to organize drivers and passengers.

James McBryan, programmer of Group Carpool, says he grew frustrated with using Google spreadsheets to match up drivers and passengers for backpacking trips. He set up this new Web application to provide a means of arranging transportation for specific events.

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To create a carpool, you don’t need to register for an account or log in with Facebook. It merely takes clicking the “Create a carpool” link on the app’s home page, after which you will be asked to name the trip and enter your e-mail address.

The site presents you with a custom link for your trip, the o… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Simple Bluetooth audio adapter plagued by nonstandard quirks

The GoGroove BlueGate performs one very simple function that can be split into two parts. It receives a digital Bluetooth audio signal from a smartphone (or other Bluetooth capable device) and outputs an analog audio signal that can be listened to through headphones, a car stereo, or home audio system. It basically takes a wireless signal and makes a wired one.

The wireless portion of the BlueGate’s functionality was performed almost flawlessly. It’s the wired half of the equation that frustrated me.

The trouble with wires The BlueGate device itself is remarkably compact and unobtrusive. The tiny matte black box measures 1.8 inches by 1.3 inches by 0.3 inch, or about the size of a book of matches, and has the GoGroove BlueGate logo printed in gloss black on one of its flat sides. Along one edge is a small black power button and a round power input. Along another edge is a small LED indicator and a 4-inch pigtail that ends with a male 3.5mm analog auxiliary plug.

It’s from the audio and power that my biggest complaints about the GoGroove BlueGate stem.

For starters, although the device charges via USB the cable has a proprietary rounded tip rather than the more conventional micro or mini USB connections. So, if you lose the included cable, you lose the ability to charge the device.

Also, the audio output terminates in a male 3.5mm connection, which is fine if you’re plugging into a car or home stereo, which often present their inputs… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Aston Martin reveals Batmobile-like anniversary speedster

It looks strangely like something Adam West’s Batman might drive in 2013, but Aston Martin’s 100th anniversary CC100 speedster wasn’t designed with superheroes in mind, camp or otherwise. Instead, the yellow-and-blue-gray speedster is an homage to the company’s heritage as a manufacturer of luxury sports cars.

Aston Martin’s crazy concept speedster (pictures)

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The design is based on the 1959 Le Mans and Nurburgring-winning DBR1, with materials and design elements that look to the future, according to the company. “CC100 is the epitome of everything that is great about Aston Martin. Fantastic heritage, exceptional design, superb engineering and an adventurous spirit,” Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez said.

With no cover, it certainly wouldn’t be of any use as a day-to-day car, but as it was designed as a concept and remains one, we don’t think Batman would have to worry a… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

My iPhone 5′s got a V-8

ID America's Gasket V8 case comes in five colors, those shown here plus red and yellow.

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

For the last week, my iPhone has been sporting a case designed to look like an engine’s head gasket. The maker, ID America, calls it a V-8, but as I’ve only got one phone, it’s a four-banger.

The Gasket V8 case, as ID America calls it, is a nice variation on the competition, usually plastic or rubber with decorations consisting of simple prints and decals. This one is made of metal stamped through with four cylinder holes and apertures for cooling, oil, and bolts.

For variation, it comes in silver, charcoal, red, yellow, or blue. You will have to add your own grease.

A soft material coating the inside keeps it from scratching the phone and provides a little shock protection. Installation is a simple matter of snapping the phone in between the sides, no torque wrench required.

For those prone to dropping phones, the Gasket V8 case doesn’t offer a lot of protection. It shields the back and sides, but leaves the ends and face completely uncovered. ID America includes a clear plastic screen cover, but it has a big logo reading ‘Born in New York’ down one side, which I didn’t really want on my phone.

The plus side of the open design is that the iPhone’s ports and buttons remain easy to … [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

On the road with Samsung’s S-Voice Drive mode

We get behind the wheel to see how Samsung's S-Voice Drive performs on the road.

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

Aside from sounding like it received its moniker from BMW’s product department, the S-Voice Drive driving mode is an extension of the Samsung Galaxy S4‘s S-Voice voice command app that adjusts the system in a few very important ways for drivers.

Firstly, it allows the driver’s interactions to be mostly hands-free. When in this driving mode, S-Voice Drive is able to be activated with a spoken command, rather than pushing a button. This allows drivers to keep both hands on the wheel. Simply say, “Hi Galaxy” and the device springs to attention, ready to accept your voice commands.

Next, Driving Mode simplifies the onscreen interface, presenting the driver with a mostly blank screen with large text prompts instructing the driver that S-Voice Drive is ready to accept commands and displaying a few examples of what sort of commands can be accepted. No app icons are present and there’s nothing too distracting to the driver.

Drive mode also makes voice command a persistent part of the UI, even when you’re doing something else. Start navigating and you’ll see a black bar along the bottom edge of the screen with a microphone icon indicating that, even outside of the S-Voice in… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Finally, Jaguar gets sexy again: F-Type on the back roads of England (CNET On Cars, Episode 18)

Episode 18, Jaguar F-Type: Wide open on the back roads of England.


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This episode we welcome our colleagues from CNET UK who produce the XCar video series. They approach cars in a way that is different yet complimentary to my car tech videos and we’ll be featuring one in each episode going forward. We kick it off by giving them top billing with their lovely video impression of the new Jaguar F-Type which we have yet to get into the CNET garage in San Francisco. This XCar piece is a nice way to … [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse takes on the slow roads

Despite its massive horsepower and torque, the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse behaves nicely cruising on a twisty mountain road.

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

I wish I could tell you about driving the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse up to its record-breaking speed of 254 mph. Race car driver Anthony Liu did it. Of course, he drove the Veryon on a 5.6-mile straightaway at Volkswagen’s test track in Ehra-Lessien, Germany, taking the speed record for a production convertible.

On the rural roads in Napa, Calif., the best I could manage was a few seconds of maximum acceleration, making all four wheels grab pavement with neck-snapping force from the engine’s 1,106 pound-feet of torque.

With my foot flat on the gas pedal, I wasn’t looking at gauges or consulting a stopwatch, but Bugatti says the Veyron, in its open-top Grand Sport Vitesse form, hits 60 mph in about 2.5 seconds. I’ve driven cars that hit 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, but those did not prepare me for the Veyron. It is in a completely different class when it comes to stepping off the line.

Put the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox in first, push the gas, and hang on. There’s no time to tap the paddle shifters, but that’s OK, the car will automatically grab the next gear before redline. No fuel shut-off to worry about.

Behind me, I hear disparate noises, most notably the whoosh of the Veyron’s four turbocharger… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

2013 Lexus RX350

When Lexus first debuted its RX SUV in 1998, it changed the SUV game by building a sport utility vehicle on its ES sedan platform. The 5-door “luxury SUV” was a hit in the marketplace, with its comfortable car-like ride, high-quality construction, and plush passenger accommodations. The reliable 2013 Lexus RX 350 crossover SUV, now in its third generation, continues the trend toward luxury, comfort, and innovation in sport utility vehicles, and is set to capture an impressive portion of the US mid-size crossover market, where the RX has been the best selling luxury SUV since its introduction.

In line with Lexus’ new brand direction, the 2013 Lexus RX 350 crossover has been updated to give it a visual flair that sets it even higher above the competition with an athletic, sporty appeal. 18-inch alloy wheels, new grilles, LED running lights, new interior colors, and an expanded standard equipment list including power lift gate and iPod/USB audio interface serve to increase the RX 350’s luxury appeal. Still comfortably seating five passengers, the 2013 RX 350 sports a clean, classy interior of exceptional cabin materials and upscale appointments, with plenty of cargo space, headroom, and legroom. Rear passengers will ride in comfort with roomy, cushioned seating and independent reclining and sliding seat adjustments

Innovative high-tech options in the 2013 RX 350’s interior include keyless ignition, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an unmatched 9-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, and heated and ventilated front seats. The navigation system is similarly innovative, featuring the newly updated Lexus Remote Touch interface that utilizes a tactile feedback controller to access navigation through the infotainment system. The infotainment system itself runs on the Lexus Enform suite of apps, tying driver and passengers into Internet services such as iHeart Radio, Movie, and Pandora, as well as Safety Connect emergency communications.

The 2013 Lexus RX 350 crossover has a 3.5 liter V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission with standard front wheel drive (all-wheel drive is optional). This gives the RX 350 270 hp and 248 pound feet of torque. The more athletic F Sport package includes all-wheel drive, and comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 6-speed automatic gets an estimated mpg of 18 city/25 hwy/21 combined, while the 8-speed F Sport gets 18 city/26 hwy/21 combined.

The 2013 Lexus RX 350 maintains its luxury name when it comes to ride quality as well. Like all Lexus vehicles, driving impressions are very homogeneous. The RX 350’s plush ride and composed handling reduce the stress of driving so driver and passengers can enjoy the ride. The RX 350 provides exceptional sound insulation and a quiet, softly-sprung suspension to coddle passengers in a bubble of quiet, comfort, and luxury. Although the engine is impressively quiet, it boasts enough power to accelerate quickly and easily, and the steering has a responsive and sporty feel, with confident composure in turns. The F-Sport model’s sport-tuned suspension sharpens the handling to make it especially fun to drive, with the exhaust note giving quite a grunt on downshifts.

With a base price of $40,000, the powerful and efficient 2013 Lexus RX 350 crossover SUV provides a combination of comfort, convenience, innovative tech features, and a strong safety and reliability record that promises to keep it at the top of the luxury crossover market.

2013 Kia Optima – Another Hit!

The Kia Optima sedan, when it initially debuted in 2000, was essentially a variant of the Hyundai Sonata, with slightly different styling details and minor differences in equipment. The second generation, introduced in 2005, used a global platform unique to Kia, called the “MG,” but still shared its 2.4 liter straight-four engine and Sportmatic transmission with the Sonata.

The third generation Kia Optima sedan, in contrast, is completely revamped, with sleeker, sportier styling and a powertrain upgrade to a universal GDI 4-cylinder engine.

The 2013 Kia Optima sedan offers European-inspired styling designed by Kia’s chief design officer (former chief designer for Audi), Peter Schreyer. With its complete redesign, the Optima went from looking ordinary to being one of the nicest-looking sedans in the mid-size market. The new design boasts sporty, European detailing, a more rakish, coupelike roofline, stretched headlamps, and flashy wheel designs, and it has a more athletic look overall than most mid-size sedans.

The well-heeled interior of the Optima has a clean, minimalist design with a wide bank of controls canted in the driver’s direction, that are easy to read and pleasing to the eye. It also offers features such as available heated rear seats and panoramic glass roof. The cabin is fairly spacious and provides comfortable seating and a good amount of legroom in both front and rear, and boasts an abundance of soft-touch materials as well.

The 2013 Kia Optima is offered in LX, EX, SX, and SX Limited models. The LX and EX are both powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection, providing 200 horsepower and 186 pound feet of torque, in both manual and automatic 6-speed options. Both LX and EX trims deliver outstanding fuel economy figures of 24 mpg city/35 mpg hwy, and 28 mpg combined. The SX and SX Limited utilize a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that gives up to 274 horsepower and increases torque to 269 pound-feet. This added boost barely affects fuel economy, with the SX trims still getting 22 mpg city/ 34 mpg hwy. Kia also offers an improved Hybrid powertrain in the 2013 model, teaming the basic four-cylinder engine with a 40-hp electric motor and batteries. The Hybrid achieves an output of 206 horsepower and 195 pound feet of torque, while getting 35 mpg city and 40 mpg hwy.

The 2013 Kia Optima rides and handles well, with a quick, nimble feel both on open stretches and in city traffic. The electronic power steering feels a little numb, lacking positive road feedback, but the ride is comfortable and quiet over textured surfaces, and the overall driving experience is better than average for mid-size sedans. The four-cylinder engine, paired with a responsive transmission, provide a smooth-shifting and powerful-feeling driving experience.

With a starting MSRP of only $22,000, this well-rounded mid-size sedan offers a long list of positive attributes and plenty of features for your money. With its variety of trims and prices, there is a model to fit most budgets, as well. Overall, the 2013 Kia Optima sedan is a good choice for a family car, providing comfort, style and a fuel economy rating that is top in its class.

Old and new collide in the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG

It could be the most extraordinarily bizarre production vehicle in the world. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG makes no sense whatsoever. It’s a German military truck dressed up in a veneer of civility with a hot-rod engine. It combines legendary off-road capability, AMG performance, luxury, and technology in complete disharmony.

And whether you love it or hate it is a pretty good indication of whether you operate from the heart or the head, at least when it comes to cars.

The sensible approach to the G63 AMG would be to reason that you will never use its three differential locks and then dismiss it over its dismal fuel economy. But for some of us, the roar of the engine coming out of the quad-sidepipes coupled with the goofy, boxy cab and chrome brush bar will provoke instant desire.

Everything old is new again My first clue to the absurdity of the G63 AMG came when I used the key fob to remotely unlock the doors, the door locks sounding like the pump action of a Mossberg 500 shotgun, then had to push a button on the door handle to actually open the doors. The car I learned to drive in, a 1961 VW Beetle, had similar door handles, giving a clue to the vintage of at least some parts of the G63 AMG.

Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG is a beautiful kludge (pictures)

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Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET