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Archive for December, 2011

Top 10 Cars to Look Forward to in 2012: #10 and #9

December 29th, 2011

#10 – 2013 Mazda CX-5

2013 Mazda CX-5 Best Cars of 2012
Mazda doesn’t move the raw numbers of its Japanese competitors Toyota, Honda or Nissan, but its 2013 CX-5 compact crossover has all the goods to steal a big piece of the coveted segment sales pie right off the windowsill. The CX-5 is the culmination of everything Mazda’s been up to the last couple of years as the first vehicle to make full use of the brand’s Skyactiv design philosophy.

Skyactiv is simple in theory: develop highly efficient drivetrains and pair them with lightweight body and chassis components specifically designed to take advantage of their strengths. At the CX-5’s heart is its new 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G gas engine, outputting 155 horsepower while capable of returning up to 26 city/33 highway mpg (the best in the segment).

The company’s new Kodo design language looks more entertaining and natural than Mazda’s past several new models, some of which looked overstyled and for lack of a better phrase, a little odd. No such problem with the CX-5, which brings something new to the segment and flows nicely from front to rear.

The CX-5 will be available in front- or all-wheel drive with 6-speed manual and automatic transmissions. Autoblog called Mazda’s newest model “The Most Functional Miata Money Can Buy,” high praise considering Mazda’s roadster brings more smiles per dollar than just about everything on the road. Base price will be reportedly under $20,000 with sales beginning in February 2012.

#9 – 2013 Lexus GS

2013 Lexus GS 350 F-Sport Best Cars of 2012

For years now new Lexus models have been praised for their comfort, reliability and interior technology while being largely ignored by the enthusiast community as, quite simply, too soft. Lexus seeks to change all that with its sharp-edged next-generation 2013 Lexus GS, and parent company Toyota has managed to create a new model not only engaging to look at but more importantly lots of fun to drive.

From its black-widow-like hourglass front grille and aggressive air inlets to its simple yet attractive profile and well-tucked rear end, the GS looks great. At 3,346 units sold in 2011 through October, the GS hasn’t been able to match the Infiniti M’s 8,813 let alone the 52,340 of the class sales-leading Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

The base model will be the GS 350 with its 3.5-liter, 306-horse V6 and 6-speed automatic. An F-Sport package will add aero enhancements, 19-inch wheels with summer performance rubber, better brakes, perforated leather interior, aluminum trim and pedals, and dynamic handling with variable-gear-ratio steering.

A sport-oriented hybrid version will continue, the range-topping 450h, which will offer V8-like acceleration while returning 29 city/34 highway mpg, or right around the mpg of Toyota’s own 1.8-liter Corolla. Twin electric motors combine with Toyota’s tried-and-true 3.5-liter V6 to output a combined peak 338 horsepower.

The 2013 GS will hit the street with a release date in February 2012 with a base price reported to be right around $48,000.

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2013 Dodge Dart: Rumors, News and Features

December 29th, 2011

2013 Dodge Dart Official Production Pics Header

Dodge’s intriguing new compact car, set to replace the aging and none-too-efficient 2012 Caliber when it goes on sale next year as a 2013 model, will wear the brand’s historic Dart nameplate. If you’ve forgotten, the Dart was a compact sedan, coupe and convertible line of Dodge automobiles of the 1960s and 1970s, famous for its bulletproof slant-six-cylinder engine and offbeat styling.

The new car will be closely based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and will debut as a compact 4-door sedan propelled by naturally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder engines. Two new related motors, codenamed “Tigershark,” will displace 2.0 and 2.4 liters. The up-level powerplant is confirmed to be Fiat’s new 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo four, which was just introduced on the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth.

2013 Dodge Dart Official Production Pics Rear

In even more exciting news, the 2013 Dart will see a ZF-sourced 9-speed automatic transmission, which will help it reach upwards of 40 mpg on the highway. The 9-speed is a little ways off; at launch the Dart will use a dual-clutch automated manual, with no word yet on conventional 3-pedal manual.

As for styling, some teaser shots show a new front end design that is a big departure from anything we’ve seen from the Dodge camp to date, while the rear receives a familiar treatment similar to the new Charger with taillights running the full length of the rear deck.

1970 Dodge Dart Swinger

1970 Dodge Dart Swinger

All in all the Dart is looking quite compelling, or at the very least far moreso than the ugly-duckling Caliber. We can’t wait to see the full design when the Dart is officially unveiled at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in January.

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Consumers Skip Maintenance Due to Economy

December 28th, 2011

Customers Neglect Skip Car Repairs Maintenance Due to Economy

A new survey from Consumer Reports shows that consumers are neglecting to maintain their cars because they quite simply don’t have enough money. Skipping maintenance leads to costlier problems down the road and potentially an unsafe car, but when the rent needs to be paid or the tires need to be replaced, well, the tires often wait another month.

The extensive survey involved 1,699 consumers asked what maintenance was put off for financial reasons along with impacts on vehicle ownership. 22% delayed minor manufacturer-recommend scheduled service in the past year, 17% neglected wear items like brakes and tires, 15% delayed body repairs and 11% went without major manufacturer-recommended service, results show.

The impacts of letting maintenance go on your car go are broad. 30% of those who skipped maintenance said they felt their car was worth less, 17% were hesitant to take long trips, 14% said they thought their car was less reliable, 11% said they felt it was less safe, and 8% were just plain embarrassed of their ride.

If you can, give your car the present of some new tires and brake pads this holiday season, and give your mechanic a call when the new year rolls around. You’ll be much safer on the road, and you’ll get more when it’s time to sell.

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2013 Lexus GS Pricing Announced

December 27th, 2011

2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Price Pricing Release DateThe next-generation 2013 Lexus GS will receive a base price bump of exactly $0 when it goes on sale in early February 2012. Lexus will continue to offer the base GS 350 with rear-wheel drive at $46,900, or with all-wheel drive at $49,450 (AWD increases $600 for 2013).

Prices do not include an $875 destination charge. As for the range-topping GS 450h hybrid, official pricing is as of yet unreleased but we’ll go out on a limb and go with around $59,450 which would be a $500 increase over the current model.

Lexus also released further info on 2013 GS option packages. The most interesting tidbit: the GS 350 F-Sport package will go for $5,690 and bring a host of cosmetic and performance modifications. On the exterior, F-Sport owners will get 19-inch wheels, F-Sport adaptive suspension, sport bumper, rear lower valence, rear lip spoiler, a sportier grille and special badging. Rear-wheel drive F-Sport models will also see staggered-width 19-inch wheels, upgraded brakes and variable gear ratio steering.

2013 Lexus GS 350 Base Price: $46,900
2012 BMW 535i Base Price: $50,100
2012 Mercedes-Benz E350 Base Price: $48,850
2012 Infiniti M37 Base Price: $47,050

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How Tough are the Nissan LEAF’s Batteries?

December 27th, 2011

Nissan LEAF Battery Safety

In the wake of the likely impending Chevrolet Volt recall due to a potential battery safety issue, Nissan assures its customers that the brand’s LEAF electric car’s battery pack will not catch fire following a collision. A couple dozen of the electric cars were destroyed by the Japan tsunami earlier this year, exposed to the elements and severe body deformation. None of the cars’ battery packs caught on fire, and all remained intact. The LEAF’s battery pack is completely encased in steel, while Chevy’s model uses a steel t-shaped tray and cover.

The assurances come after in a few incidents the Volt’s battery packs have caught days or weeks after being damaged. One fire occurred at an NHTSA parking lot 3 weeks after a Volt was crash tested. The fire started in the battery pack and was bad enough that surrounding cars were damaged. Then in laboratory testing another battery caught fire, while a third smoked and emitted sparks.

The NHTSA has stated that the believed cause of the Volt fires is a ruptured liquid cooling system following damage to the battery, leading to heat build-up and eventually a fire, even long after the event damaging the battery. The LEAF’s battery does not use a liquid-cooling system.

Though long-term, daily slog lithium ion EV battery durability and safety is a very new science, the LEAF at least will not suffer from the particular issue that has damaged the Volt’s good reputation very quickly.

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