Monthly Archives: June 2013

Peugeot takes to the waves with high-tech surfboard

(Credit: Peugeot/Laurent Picard)

If a FlowRider Surf Machine is making an appearance at a car festival, Peugeot steps up to the plate. At this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K. (from July 11-14), the car manufacturer will debut the GTi Surfboard concept, based on its recent performance cars — the 208 GTi, in particular, as well as the RCZ R and the Onyx concept vehicle.

Carved into a coupe franche (“clean cut”) shape, the GTi board shows two distinct parts: the nose of the surfboard in wood, the original material for the craft before fiberglass and polyurethane came along. This wooden nose, Peugeot said, represents “emotion,” and is carved with the Peugeot GTi logo.

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Second-generation BMW X3 grows up, slims down

Perhaps it’s BMW’s fault for cramming so many similarly sized vehicles, between-size variants, and remixed configurations into its lineup, but I had the hardest time deciding if the 2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i is too big or too small.

The second-generation vehicle’s aesthetic is more wagonlike and it seems to press down into the ground when viewed in the round, which makes it look smaller — both in photographs and in person — than the pre-2010 model, which has a more angular, upright design. However, put the models side by side and it becomes apparent that the new model has actually grown by a few inches in every direction.

Adding to the spatial confusion, front and back seat passengers remarked that the 2013 X3′s cabin didn’t feel as spacious as they thought a small SUV should, even while I was raving about enjoying about the crossover’s tall driver’s seat position, which gives a good view of the road ahead and the area around the vehicle when maneuvering into tight parking spaces.

For the entire week, I went back and forth on the X3′s scale, but ultimately decided that I liked it — perhaps the X3 is just right. It looks and feels smaller than it is, which is a good thing for drivers who want a vehicle with more space for people and the flexibility of the crossover’s hatchback, but don’t want to feel like they’re behind the wheel of a Hummer.

Fortunately, it’s not my job to decide whether the X3 is rightly sized — that’s a subjective decisio… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Experimental brake lights wirelessly communicate with other vehicles

(Credit: Ford)

Your car’s brake lights are simple, right? You step on the big pedal, the red lights on your vehicle’s tail illuminate, and drivers behind you can see that you’re slowing down. But what if your next car’s brake lights could let drivers who aren’t in line of sight know that you’re slowing; what if they could let drivers rounding a bend know that you’re slowed or stopped on the other side.

That’s Ford’s vision for its experimental “Electronic Brake Light” technology — an odd moniker, as all brake lights are typically electric — which is able to wirelessly communicate with other vehicles on the road.

Demonstrated in Frankfurt, Germany as part of Safe Intelligent Mobility – Testfield Germany (or simTD), a group of euro-market Ford S-Max vehicles equipped with the experimental brake lights are able send a signal that illuminates a light on the following vehicle’s dashboard. The chasing driver now knows when the lead vehicle is decelerating, even when visibility of the brake lights is obstructed by weather (such as heavy fog, snow, or rain), other vehicles, or terrain (such as when cresting a steep hill or rounding a severe bend.

Though LED technology may largely render blown taillights a relic of the past, my hope is that this technology could also let the following driver know when leading vehicle’s tail lamps are not functioning, granting critical reaction time to avoid a rear collisi… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Garmin readies Android-powered Monterra outdoor GPS

(Credit: Garmin)

Today, Garmin pulled the wraps off of its new Monterra — a handheld, outdoor GPS device that can survive in conditions and environments where few smartphones dare to tread.

At first glance, the the newest model in Garmin’s line of outdoor GPS devices looks remarkably similar to its existing Montana models — which is good for reasons that we’ll revisit later. The Monterra differs from the current Garmin product line in being powered by the Android mobile operating system. The advantage here is that users will be able to download outdoor-related apps to augment the device’s functionality, such as Summit Finder, professional apps like construction estimators and ArcGIS, or one of the plethora of Android geocaching apps.

You’ll also be able to download apps that aren’t outdoor specific — perhaps a podcatcher app to keep you entertained on a hike — via the Google Play Store. Garmin’s announcement also seems to imply that users will be able to sideload .apk app files that aren’t in the Play Store.

Like any good device designed for use outdoor, the new Monterra boasts a ruggedized construction; its chassis is shock resistant and IPX7 waterproof (tested to a 1m depth for up to 30 minutes). Garmin claims that the 4-inch, multi-touch mineral glass display is also durable enough to take a f… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Mazda 2 Review

It’s astonishing how much innovation and technology automakers cram into their vehicles every year.  For the case of the Mazda 2, all the high-tech bells and whistles gets a slap across the face.  While the rest of the automakers out there are racing off to come up with the best ideas to win customers, Mazda took a step back with the Mazda 2 and focused their design efforts driven by a single criteria – simpler is better.

By simpler, we mean a car that fulfills all your daily basic tasks and does a good job at it.  It’s kind of like shopping for a smartphone.  Most of them on the shelf today can surf the web, find the nearest pizzeria, or even measure your heart beat, but all you really want is to make phone calls.

Apparently popular on demand, our Mazda 2 press vehicle was delivered to us in a “party rock” green tone.  As a matter of fact, the popularity was more like a norm.  We’ve spotted multiple Mazda 2′s on the road in which all were the same color.  Not that we’re suggesting you have to fit in with the norm if this is the car you want to buy.  Fortunately, the Mazda 2 does come in five more subtle shades of color to better fit your taste.

The overall size of the Mazda 2 is small, but functional.  It’s narrow and tall chassis fits 2 full grown adults in the front seats and two teenagers or mid size adults with no issues.  The compact size also makes it very easy to park and maneuver in tight spaces.  At a short wheel base length of 2.48 meters, you do suffer from limited trunk space.  Fortunately, the rear seats do fold back to increase cargo space.  The materials used through out the cabin area is again, nothing exciting.  We were pleased to see audio control on the steering wheel, but the clothe material used on the seats gave us a very cheap impression and even susceptible to lint build up and tearing with repetitive use.

While we do appreciate the efforts made to keep all features minimalistic in the 2, but ultimate simplicity takes a toll on convenience.  For starters, there is only one key lock on the driver’s door and there is a single power lock button located in the lower center console.  This cascaded effect requires opening the drivers door and reaching for the power lock button to unlock any other door.  The vehicle also has to be unlocked before the trunk door button will open.

The 2 is powered by a moped on steroids.  Since the engine is actually a 1.5 liter 4 cylinder engine, this statement doesn’t completely hold true, but it certainly does feel like one.  Stomping on the throttle will reveal the 2′s unpleasant and loud engine scream and with so much sudden jolt and power increase, we thought the car was going to explode.  The four speed automatic transmission also accounts for the lack of smooth power transition in throttle response. However; when driven casually on city streets or even highways, the vehicle behaves relatively well composed.  The excessive body roll at low speeds tricks you into thinking you’re a road track rock star.  The steering is also fairly light and has good positive response, making the 2 an eager and in some cases, aggressive Miata-like handling on windy roads.

Mazda has proven a point where simplicity can also be functional.  Small, functional and fun to drive.  At an MSRP of only 14,450$, it really is tough to beat a competitor out there that can live up to the features the Mazda 2 offers.

Tesla battery swap a dead-end

Tesla's demo shows how fast the Model S's battery can be swapped.

(Credit: Tesla)

One hundred years ago, car makers could have devised different fuel types and filling techniques for their internal combustion cars, and drivers would have had to visit a Ford station, a Dodge Station, a Chevy station, or whatever the make of their car, to fill the tank. Fortunately, gasoline and filling standards prevailed.

In a publicity stunt last night, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk began pushing electric cars on the non-standard path gasoline cars didn’t take.

At Tesla’s design studio in Los Angeles, Musk showed a video of a Tesla employee filling the tank of an Audi, while simultaneously a Model S drove on stage and had its battery replaced. A timer ticked off the seconds and, as the Model S battery swap was finished in 90 seconds, another Model S rolled out for its battery swap. Meanwhile, the Audi took more than 4 minutes to fill up.

The demonstration was completely realistic. The Model S was designed for quick battery swaps. You can argue that the Audi driver took extra time swiping his card to pay for the gasoline, but Tesla could use automatic payment technology, as the Model S … [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

With Nismo, the Nissan Juke becomes a hot hatchback

With its squat body, bulbous fenders, and round headlights, Nissan’s Juke looks like a frog, but there’s an athletic prince hiding under its funky exterior. Since the Juke’s launch, a rogue group of Nissanites in the European division revealed that hidden prince with the Juke-R, an amalgam of this odd little hatchback and the budget supercar GT-R.

Nissan HQ took note of the enthusiasm, making the 2013 Nissan Juke Nismo more widely available than the custom-order Juke-R.

Nismo, Nissan’s in-house tuner group, may have fallen short of the Juke-R’s performance, but it did manage to create a wildly fun sports car ready to go up against any hot hatchback, especially at its $ 22,990 base price.

Unfortunately, Nismo could not overcome the Juke’s biggest compromise, that its all-wheel-drive version can only be had with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A manual transmission with all-wheel drive and the Nismo treatment could have given the Juke the kind of rally cred owned by the Subaru STI and Mitsubishi Evo.

The cabin tech, another low point, suffers from Nissan’s current state of schizophrenia, but I’ll get to that shortly.

Nismo gives Nissan Juke a performance edge (pictures)

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Tesla announces partial recall on Model S vehicles

(Credit: Tesla)

Some Tesla Model S vehicles may contain a defect, the electric car maker announced Wednesday.

According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Model S vehicles produced between May 10 and June 8 of this year could contain an issue with the mounting bracket on the left-hand latch of the second row seat. Musk specifically said that the mounting bracket could be “weaker than intended.”

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“This reduces our confidence that the left hand seat back will be properly retained in the event of a crash,” Musk wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

Musk was quick to p… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Buy a $900 Porsche designed for a 5-year-old

Not quite as well-equipped as a standard Porsche.

(Credit: Porsche)

The 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid goes on sale for $ 99,000 later this year. Or you could save $ 98,100 and go even greener with a human-powered Porsche Go-Kart. Not satisfied with just tackling the adult sports car market, the automaker is trying to corner the kids’ market too.

The go-kart comes in a spiffy combination of black and orange. It’s missing some of the luxuries normally associated with Porsche vehicles, like a windshield, headlights, and an engine. It can only hold up to 110 pounds, meaning you need to be a very small adult or one of the kids the kart is actually aimed at to take it for a spin.

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The company did use some of its big car technology to craft the small vehicle. The kart weighs just 55 pounds and uses bicycle parts for the drive … [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Cadillac’s CTS-V Wagon is a rocket ride

Station wagons, once the family car of choice, plummeted in popularity after the 1970s, making the 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon a rare thing. Such a powerful wagon is an even rarer thing, yet fitting a wagon with CTS-V performance gear seems so right.

The CTS is, of course, the model that carried Cadillac through the recession. It proved so popular that the company offered it as a sedan, coupe, and wagon. A convertible was the only type the company did not release. This 2013 model is the CTS’ victory lap, as Cadillac showed off a much-needed update, the 2014 CTS, at the last New York International Auto Show.

The CTS-V is, of course, the high-powered version of the car, also available in sedan, coupe, and wagon form. Boasting 556 horsepower from that supercharged V-8 and an adaptive suspension, the performance is let down somewhat by the six-speed automatic transmission. Fortunately, a six-speed manual is available.

Cadillac’s fast wagon is due for an update (pictures)

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