Monthly Archives: June 2013

Electric car price war? Chevy chimes in with Volt incentives

Chevrolet Volt.

(Credit: General Motors)

Chevrolet is offering a sizable price incentive in the face of price slashing in the electric car market.

The 2013 Volt now comes with a $ 4,000 cash-back incentive and the 2012 model ups that to $ 5,000, according to Michelle Malcho, a Chevrolet spokeswoman.

That’s the largest Volt cash incentive that Chevy has offered to date, Malcho said.

Alternatively, a Volt can now be leased for $ 269 a month for 36 months with a $ 2,399 down payment.

The Volt is a plug-in hybrid (GM refers to it as an extended-range electric vehicle or E-REV) with a range of about 40 miles on electric power and another 300 to 400 miles on the range-extender gas engine.

The base price is $ 39,995 but — in addition to the new Chevy incentives — the Volt comes with other cash-back incentives and tax credits to effectively bring the price far below what’s on the sticker. That includes a federal tax credit of $ 7,500 (if you buy the vehicle) and a $ 1,500 cash incentive in California.

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Why now? In addition to getting ready for upcoming 2014 Volt, “there’s increased price competition in the market, whether it’s electric vehicles, hybrid v… [Read more]

    




Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Is 75 miles enough range for the Fiat 500e? (review)

It’s the end of my first day behind the wheel of the 2013 Fiat 500e and the little Italian hatchback is parked curbside in front of my San Francisco apartment. Chirping the alarm as I walk away, I can’t help but marvel at how ordinary the electric car looks. Unless you note the missing tailpipe, there’s not much to distinguish the 500e from the other Fiat 500, this one gasoline-powered, parked at the end of the block.

This, in my opinion, is a very good thing. Not everyone wants to be caught behind the wheel of a car that looks like a low-flying saucer.

Eagle-eyed automotive enthusiasts will spot the unique front and rear bumpers, the “5ooe” badging, and — if they peer into the window — the lack of a shift knob, but our Grigio silver example lacked even the white bumper insets and bright Arancio Elettrico orange paint that appears in most of the electric Fiat’s publicity shots. In a city filled with Mini Coopers, Smart ForTwos, and of course other Fiat 500 variants, the 500e doesn’t exactly turn heads like a Tesla does.

2013 Fiat 500e is an undercover electric (pictures)

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Automakers embrace online music apps

Scion features a line of stereos available in its cars that integrate Pandora.

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

Just about every new car comes with a USB port and Bluetooth streaming, letting you bring in digital-audio devices and play music through the car’s stereo. But many people have already moved from stored media to online music services.

Automakers are just beginning to keep up, integrating existing online music services with new models.

Automakers join online music revolution, finally (pictures)

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Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

2013 Nissan Quest Review

2013 Nissan Quest

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In recent years, the majority of mini-vans on the market have been flushed out by a new era of large cross-over SUV’s.  Only those daring enough to remain traditional have found new ways to provide interest in their offering.  Nissan’s strategy for competing in the 7-passenger segment with its Quest mini-van was to introduce modern styling coupled with performance and comfort.  That said, Nissan did a pretty fine job.  As a matter of fact, the Nissan Quest makes a bold statement – mini-vans are here to stay!

At a first glance, you will quickly notice the enormous size of the Nissan Quest and is especially apparent when compared to other vehicles in a parking lot.  Despite its size, the vehicle is actually fairly easy to maneuver and has a tight turning radius.  Nissan has also equipped the Quest with various technological features to make parking easier.

Blink twice and squint, you’ll notice the designers at Nissan worked hard at drawing boards to break out of the classical box-like minivan trend.  To give a few examples, the sharp side contours and the low side panel skirts give an overall impression of modern youth and the added spoiler and pronounced curvatures on the front and rear head lights gives off a conserved but intelligent and aggressive look.

Interior

It is apparent that Nissan spent a lot of effort on its exterior styling, and they certainly didn’t skimp out on interior.  The interior of the Nissan quest incorporates both form and function by offering a plethora of room for full-size passengers and an abundant of luxury features for added comfort.

When you’re a parent with three or more kids, the unlock button on a remote key fob is usually more like a ring bell to start off the brawl for the best seats in the vehicle.  However; with the Nissan Quest, all  of the passenger seats are near equally comfortable with the driver’s seat being the best out of the seven.  Out of many vehicles we’ve test driven, we always come down to the conclusion that Nissan/Infinity offers the most comfortable seats, and we really mean it.  To prove our point, we violated Nissan’s press vehicle policy and drove the Quest over 1000 km for a golfing weekend with 5 full passengers and a stack of golf clubs.  With the abundance of leg room and excellent support, not one of us complained about discomfort throughout the duration of being in the vehicle.

One of the pitfalls is the lack of cargo space for a full house 7-passenger trip.  Although short grocery runs will suffice, we can see that you will often nominate the passenger with the best Tetris skills to stack and fit large or multiple luggage into the rear compartment.

Technology

Many of the technological features on the Nissan Quest are also shared on the Infinity luxury class.  The Nissan Quest comes with its feature rich infotainment system that bundles GPS navigation, blue-tooth phone and audio connectivity as well as standard AM/FM radio, Sirius XM satellite radio and USB audio.  The particular SL model we test drove was equipped with panoramic video camera that displays a birds-eye-view of the vehicle onto the infotainment screen.  This feature makes parking and backing up a breeze, even with its enormous size.  Despite the abundance of times we’ve used this feature, we still drop our jaws in awe and excitement every time we use it.

The rear seats are also equipped with two 11″ screens encased in the back side of the front passenger seats.  Videos can be played either from a USB media drive, or RCA connectivity.  The Nissan Quest also comes with wireless headphones so that rear passengers can enjoy watching videos without distracting front seat passengers.

In terms of the cockpit, all media controls are easily accessible either on the touch screen infotainment system, or the tactile buttons built onto the steering wheel.  Climate controls are simplistic and ergonomic, but we particularly disliked the PRNDL handle blocking some of the media and climate buttons on the center console.

Driving Impressions

The Nissan Quest has excellent visibility in the front, side and in the rear view while driving.  We particularly liked the blind spot detection with the illuminated amber light built into the side view mirrors to give better assurance for changing lanes.  The Nissan Quest provides ample power in acceleration thanks to its 3.5 liter V6, which produces 260 hp and 240 ft.lbs of torque.  However; due to its weight distribution and front wheel drive, the wheels will often slip on heavier acceleration attempts especially on slippery or slanted hills.

The heavy weight of the vehicle certainly doesn’t do good for its fuel consumption, but it does, overall, provide more stability and comfort for the vehicle.  Driving on the highway or even less traffic intensive city streets remain stress free thanks to its excellent visibility, but busier days or poorer weather can lead to difficulty with squeezing into tight spaces.

Although we haven’t quite reached the age of parenthood yet, we can easily foresee the Nissan Quest to be an excellent choice for larger families.  Although modern 7 seat cross-over SUV’s provide sharper looks and better performance and handling, we’re sure someone high up working at Nissan realizes that you that you can never replace the comfort and versatility of a good old mini-van.

BMW updates online services, supports Android

BMW announced new features and a reorganization of the online features in its iDrive cabin electronics interface.

(Credit: BMW)

Almost every new BMW model will come with an integrated SIM card, enabling a dedicated data connection into the car. BMW also announced this week that it would release an Android version of its Connected app, currently only available on iOS, this summer.

This week’s announcement comes as part of a larger reorganization of the connected components of BMW’s iDrive cabin electronics.

As we saw in BMW 750Li, recently reviewed by CNET, the automaker currently includes music coming in through satellite radio, traffic data delivered as an FM radio signal, the BMW Online service, and the BMW Connected app for smartphone integration.

The reorganization does not actually consolidate these disparate features, but seems as if BMW is starting to get a handle on an area it let run wild. BMW says that it will include a dedicated data connection in most of its new models to power the BMW Online services. These services are built into the car, and include Yelp, stocks, news, parking garage information, destination photos, and many others. Owners can selectively install the online services they find the most useful.

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Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Street-legal bumper car makes the road your carnival

Get ready for the ride of your life.

(Credit: bumpercarguy)

I’ve seen street-legal bumper cars made out of vehicles from vintage amusement park rides, but this is the first time I’ve seen a real full-size car transformed into a giant bumper car. The well-named seller, bumpercarguy, is parting with his sweet wheels on eBay. There are only a handful of hours left for you to get your bid in.

The base of the unusual vehicle is a 1984 Dodge Colt 1.6-liter turbo. Yep, a turbo bumper car. What could possibly go wrong? The exterior has been customized from fiberglass to make it look like the outside of a big red bumper car. It even has the pole sticking out the back that would make the electrical connection in a real bumper car.

The unique vehicle features a cold air conditioner, two new front tires, and a $ 1,500 stereo for listening to calliope music. So far, bidding has reached $ 2,020, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

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2013 Lexus RX450h review

Introduction

The 2013 Lexus RX 450h SUV is a luxury car without a luxury fuel tank. Unlike a regular gasoline-powered car, this hybrid is equipped with a 3.5 liter V6 in conjunction with electric motors run on battery packs. The batteries charge automatically, capturing energy usually lost in braking. Electric motors assist during acceleration, greatly reducing gasoline consumption.

The hybrid components for the RX 450h price it at about $6,000 more than the all-gas-burning RX 350. According to the EPA, an average driver would have to own the RX 450h for approximately eight years for enough fuel savings to pay for the added cost of the hybrid model.

Body Design

Lexus has made the purchasing option for the RX 450h simple, with only the basic trim level available. This standard trim’s exterior has 18-inch wheels, LED running lamps and fog lights, a power lift gate, automatic on/off headlights, and rear privacy glass.

Interior Design and Options

The 2013 RX 450h SUV seats five, with plenty of space and comfort in the front. It also offers an ergonomic front center console, power steering wheel with tilt and telescope capabilities, and eight-way power front seats with independent lumbar controls. Passengers will appreciate the reclining rear seating and dual-zone climate control system. Standard electronics include an emergency communications system, Bluetooth capability, and 9-speaker audio system with CD changer and MP3/USB interface.

Unfortunately, room for tall or long-legged rear passengers is mediocre at best, and the materials in the RX 450h are not up to par with expectations of Lexus sedan owners. Some of the moldings feel like plastic, less supple leather is used on the seats, and oppressive dark wooden trim may bring horror films to mind. Those who have driven other Lexus models may also notice that the Rx450h allows more outside noise, making the ride less relaxing.

Drive Impression

The 2013 Lexus RX 450h hybrid powertrain is both fuel efficient and powerful, providing a good overall drive quality. The engine shuts down upon stopping, and starts again when accelerating from a standstill. The noise of the two engine components is minimal, although a low rumble becomes noticeable as speed increases. For an SUV, the suspension is fairly conservative and soft-sprung, providing a relatively smooth ride. In comparison with the RX 350, the additional weight of the RX 450h’s batteries holds the handling back a bit, but with the new standard Sport Mode in the 2013 model, steering effort, throttle response, and transmission shifts are improved for a more engaging driving experience.

The RX 450h has a combined city/highway rating of 30 mpg, easily beating luxury hybrid SUV competitors such as the Porsche Cayenne and Mercedes ML 350. Drivers can enjoy additional fuel savings by utilizing the optional “EV Mode,” which allows the RX 450h to run entirely on electrical power from the battery when driving at very low speeds.

Overall, the 2013 Lexus RX 450h is without question the most fuel-efficient luxury midsize SUV on the market. With good fuel economy, a solid drive quality and plenty of luxury interior features, the RX 450h is a sure bet for those who want both luxury and a smaller carbon footprint.

Honda builds 130 mph fire-spitting lawn mower

The Honda mower just as modification work began.

(Credit: Top Gear)

British TV series “Top Gear” is known for building some pretty outlandish automotive creations. The latest in that lineage is a Honda FH2620 mower. That doesn’t sound very exciting until you learn just how heavily modified it is, from the tires to the engine.

“Top Gear” called in Honda racing group Team Dynamics to help turn the lawn mower into a lawn monster. The steering rack is from a Morris Minor. It got a fresh set of racing wheels and tires. They managed to stuff a VTR 1000cc motorcycle engine into the thing. The theoretical top speed is 130 mph.

The modifications don’t end there. The back axle comes from a go-kart. There is one important requirement that can’t be overlooked here. This beast of a lawn mower still needs to be able to cut grass. The Honda team dumped the regular metal blades and installed two electric motors with two bits of brake cable attached. Those suckers spin at 4,000 rpm. That might be enough to slice through an entire tree.

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Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse: Priciest car we’ve ever driven (CNET On Cars, Episode 19)

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Well, I don’t know what to say about the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse that hasn’t already been said. Add to that the fact that we only had access to it on public streets with moderate speed limits and you can see I was in a pickle. So I chose to seek out the essence of the car and tell some of its less-told stories. I hope you find it at least something of a departure from the usual fawning and drooling over its top speed and horsepower.

201… [Read more]

    




Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Garmin’s new flagship adds a premium edge to classic portable navigation

After years of reviewing PND after PND, it’s hard to get excited about a GPS device’s physical form. However, the Nuvi 3597LM has managed to capture my attention with its glossy, black face and slim chassis.

The Nuvi looks slimmer than it actually is thanks to tapered edges that visually shrink the device’s profile and make it easier to slip in and out of a pocket. Strategically placed black panels on the top and bottom edges also aid in visually slimming and classing-up the silvery metallic device. However, at its thickest point, the 3597LM is about as thick as the rest of this class of portable navigation devices.

The hardware On the face of the Nuvi 3597LM, behind a capacitive glass panel, shines a crisp 5-inch TFT screen that is gorgeous. The 800 by 480 pixel resolution isn’t as hypersharp as today’s Retina-class smartphone displays, but its brightness and clarity are better than on nearly every other portable navigation device that I’ve ever tested. Being capacitive, the glass can register swipes and pinches as well as taps, and the Nuvi’s interface takes advantage of these new input types. Just to the right of the screen, you’ll find a pinhole cut into the glass bezel for the Nuvi’s microphone.

The Nuvi features an internal accelerometer of some sort and its display can rotate between portrait and landscape orientation for the maps and menus.

Along the bottom edge of the Nuvi 3597LM is a small slot where a microSD card can be inserted … [Read more]

    




Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET