Monthly Archives: November 2013

New Dodge Durango declares the SUV is not dead

High gas prices and the emergence of electric cars would suggest that the SUV has gone the way of the dinosaur, but the 2014 Dodge Durango makes a convincing argument for its continued survival, having evolved into a modern, connected vehicle that improves on its fuel efficiency.

My road testing of this Dodge Durango encompassed a trip down to the Los Angeles Auto Show, involving a significant amount of freeway driving and a bit of cutthroat LA traffic. For the latter, the Durango’s imposing size worked in my favor, as other drivers could not ignore it when I needed to merge.

However, I initially chose the Durango based on the idea that its capacious interior would keep the editorial crew I was bringing down to the show content for the long drive. It certainly pleased CNET’s video crew, who loaded up the back with all the camera equipment they didn’t want to take on their separate flight down.

In either sense, the Durango proved an able vehicle.

2014 Dodge Durango modernizes the SUV (pictures)

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This SE model is not the VW Jetta you’re looking for

I’ve driven some gorgeous rides and some hideous ones, but this is probably the most boring-looking car that I’ve reviewed all year. Call it “understated” or “timeless” all that you want, Volkswagen, but even in Tornado Red, the the slab-sided VW Jetta just looks like a lump on wheels with headlamps.

I’m of a similar mind when it comes to this 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE’s performance: it’s not bad, it’s not great. It’s just competent. If the SE were a flavor of ice cream, it would be vanilla. Most people don’t really get excited about vanilla ice cream, but it’s still ice cream, so it’s not like anyone complains much, either.

As a lover of both cars and ice cream, I was determined not to judge this scoop by its plain flavor — after all, vanilla can be downright delicious when done right. However, after living with the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE with Connectivity for a bit, I’m convinced that there are more flavorful trim levels to be found farther up the Jetta’s line.

Basic techOur SE model doesn’t feature navigation or advanced infotainment, just a single-line, monochrome RCD 310 standard audio system. Audio from its six speakers sounded merely OK. A-pillar-mounted tweeters give this system better clarity than the four-speaker rigs that you’ll find in many vehicles in this price range, but only just so. If you really care about what the music coming out of the stereo sounds like, you’ll want to look upmarket. VW’s own amazing Fender audio system, for … [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

BMW’s M6 Gran Coupe, a big, effortless rocket ride (CNET On Cars, Episode 30)

BMW’s M6 Gran Coupe, a big, effortless rocket ride (CNET On Cars, Episode 30)


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In this episode:

  • BMW’s M6 Gran Coupe, a new member of the M family
  • Bumper impact tech may not save your life, but perhaps you wallet.
  • Detail your car instead of buying a new one – see Cooley’s products list below.
  • 5 top performance technologies that used to only be on high end cars
  • Safety tech that has trickled down from high-end cars
  • Email: When and how will Alfa ever return to the U.S.?

H… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Street-legal Batmobile up for auction, flame thrower included

Always a good idea to have proper transportation to fit the task.

(Credit: Historics)

Batkid has recently shown us that it’s possible to transform into a superhero, if only for a day, and the smart superfan plans ahead for the day she/he might also be given an opportunity to fight crime before lunch and dispense justice for dessert.

Fortunately, aspiring Batpeople can lock down their own Batmobile to be ready the next time Gotham’s chief of police puts out the Batsignal.

On November 30, a fully road-legal Batmobile will be auctioned off at Mercedes-Benz World UK by auto auctioneers Historics. This particularly bat-tastic lot is modeled on the iteration of the crime-fighting vehicle seen in Tim Burton’s 1989 movie “Batman,” starring Michael Keaton as the caped crusader.

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With its 2015 K900, Kia enters the luxury sedan market

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

LOS ANGELES — Kia’s new flagship sedan debuted in the Korean domestic market (KDM, yo!) as the K9 sedan. But during its trip to the 2013 LA Auto Show, the name was changed to the 2015 Kia K900. Maybe it’s because 900 is a bigger number than 9; but I think that it was changed to avoid all of the “Kia’s flagship is a dog” jokes that the brand’s detractors were poised to make.

Kia needn’t worry about any dog jokes coming from Car Tech’s editors, because the K900 is essentially a brand-engineered clone of the Hyundai Equus premium sedan — a vehicle that picked up our Editors’ Choice nod in back in August — so we’re expecting nothing but good things from this rear-drive sedan.

However, the K900 isn’t exactly a badge job. While its wheelbase and chassis dimensions are nearly identical to the Equus, the overall length is a bit shorter. What’s more, the design of the sheetmetal is completely different, stretching the automaker’s Tiger Nose design language over the large sedan’s frame.

Under the hood, the K900 share’s its cousin’s 5.0-liter Tau V-8 engine, which uses direct-injection to wring 420 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque from Premium fuel. (The Equus, interestingly is rated at 429 horses on Premium and 421 horses on R… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Add-on module auto-unlocks your car when your phone is near

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

LOS ANGELES — For some time now, we’ve been anticipating the day that you’d be able to unlock your car by simply approaching it with your smartphone in your pocket. It turns out that the technology has been right under our noses.

The first generation of the Mobile Enhancement Specialist’s (MES) Bluetooth Passive Keyless Entry module hit the market earlier this year and, after being professionally installed in almost any car with power locks, can automatically unlock the vehicle’s doors when it recognizes your Bluetooth-enabled cellphone is within range. The phone doesn’t even have to leave the driver’s pocket; no button presses are required. As you leave the vehicle and exit the effective Bluetooth range, the car will automatically lock itself. According to MES, the module should work with any Bluetooth phone — even my dad’s Moto RAZR flip phone.

This week at the LA Auto Show, we learned about the second generation of this technology — the Premium Bluetooth Passive Keyless Entry module — boasting increased security.

The Premium Bluetooth Keyless Entry app gives the module 128-bit encrypted security and gives the owner control over its behavior.

(Credit: Mobile Enhancement Specialist)

Where the original module worked by recognizing your phon… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Big changes under new Mini Cooper’s skin

Mini released details and photos of its new Cooper hatchback today.

(Credit: Mini)

Mini previously released a few details about the long-awaited update to its iconic little Cooper hatchback, but today the bulldog comes completely out of his shed. The photos Mini released look very much like the previous generation Cooper hatchback, but the press release reveals big changes for the suspension, engine bay, and cabin electronics.

One thing Mini did not do with the new Cooper was follow the example it had set with recent model variants, all of which are bigger, and not quite as fun, as the hatchback.

The new Cooper hatchback is bigger than its predecessor, but only slightly, gaining about 2 inches in wheelbase and about 4 inches in overall length. Width and height remain about the same. Mini also says the new Cooper is lighter but more rigid than previously.

This is a new platform and Mini has completely rebuilt the suspension for the car, also introducing intriguing new performance technologies. The new Cooper S model will get an electronic limited slip differential, and have the option for an adaptive suspension.

Old looks, new tech in the 2014 Mini Cooper hatchback (pictures)

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Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

High-tech Skully helmet: A Google Glass that’s born to be wild

Taking the Skully heads-up display helmet for a spin

SAN FRANCISCO — The scariest thing about riding a motorcycle are the cars and trucks. To help riders deal with big, boxy, and often lethal vehicles, the Skully P1 motorcycle helmet sticks a Google Glass-style heads-up display, rear-view camera, and Bluetooth in the helmet. But isn’t that tech more distracting and dangerous?

It’s hard to imagine how hurtling yourself at freeway speeds down the road while dealing with what appears to be a Google Glass knockoff is a safe way to get wherever you’re going. It sounds extremely cool, and ridiculously dangerous.

Related stories:

How can you pay … [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

At long last, new Subaru WRX to break cover

Subaru released this single photo showing the new WRX's hood.

(Credit: Subaru)

Subaru promises to show off its long-awaited WRX update at the Los Angeles Auto Show next week, but so far remains quiet about the details of the new car. All we have so far is a photo of the new WRX’s hood.

However, Subaru brought out a WRX concept at the New York auto show back in March that gives some clues as to what to expect with the new model.

Subaru WRX concept makes world debut in New York (pictures)

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The hood of the production WRX, as seen in Subaru’s photo, looks identical to that of the concept c… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

BMW’s new entry-level 3 Sedan is also the most practical

Sometimes, I catch myself looking at the BMW lineup — so full of vehicles like the 5 Series GT and the X6 M — rolling my eyes and scoffing at the claim of building the “Ultimate Driving Machines.” It’s also easy for some of our more vocal readers to look at all of the new-fangled iPod integration, dashboard apps, smartphone this and that and assume that BMW has gotten away from the point. These are easy assumptions to make until you find yourself behind the wheel of the 2013 320i sedan, the automaker’s new entry point for the 3 Series sedan.

True, the lower output of the 320i’s engine means that it’s not as fast as the 328i — to say nothing of the 335is or M3. Its simplified dashboard tech offerings won’t dazzle like a 7 Series‘ will. However, after a weekend behind the wheel, I think that by stripping the 3er down to its most basic, the BMW 320i is the pudding where you’ll find proof that BMW isn’t missing the point… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET