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February 2011 Archives

Who's Your Gas Buddy? 16 Cars With 40-MPG Gas Mileage On Sale Now

Gas prices got you all nervous? Figuring the days of cheap gas are over? Thinking about a new car with much better gas mileage?

Well, just because the EPA rates a specific car at the magic 40-mpg mark doesn't mean you'll actually get 40 mpg.

But the ratings are a good indicator of where cars stand relative to one another.

Porsche Recreates The Original Hybrid Car, 111 Years Later

The name Porsche has traditionally been associated with fast, rear-engine sports cars, and more recently with fast heavy SUVs and fast heavy four-door luxury sedans.

But it all goes back to pioneering engineer Ferdinand Porsche.

He also designed the prototype for what became the Volkswagen Beetle, and would found Porsche AG after World War II.

Lohner-Porsche series hybrid

Designing the first hybrid

Porsche's role in creating what is acknowledged to be the first functional hybrid-electric vehicle in the world is now getting more attention, since virtually every automaker is working on hybrids--including Porsche itself.

The company has been selling the 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid sport-utility vehicle for several months now. It will officially launch the 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid at next week's Geneva Motor Show.

BMW Confirms 'i' Electric Sub-Brand, Lineup: MegaCity Now i3

Auto marketers and PR people have a love-hate relationship with the Internet. It lets them connect directly with users and fans, but it also transmits facts, leaks, and rumors at lightning speed.

That meant that this morning's BMW press conference, telecast live from BMW Welt in a snowy Munich, contained very little new to anyone who had been following closely.

Rumored BMW 'i' logo

The event was to announce that BMW is creating a new sub-brand (which had been rumored), to be known as 'i' (which had been rumored), with its own graphic (which had been leaked), that will grow to include an entire range of custom-developed vehicles.

2013 Chevrolet Cruze To Offer 2.0-Liter Clean-Diesel Option

Last fall, GM executive Tom Stephens said the company would offer a passenger car with a clean-diesel engine in the U.S. market, its first since 1985.

Now we know what that vehicle will be: a model of the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan.

Workers at the Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant where the Cruze is built were told about the model last week, according to GM Inside News.

The engine in question will be a modified version of the General Motors corporate 2.0-liter turbodiesel. It is already available in Cruze models sold in Europe and, as the Holden Cruze, in Australia, among other markets.

'Diesel fuel only' caution on Audi Q7 TDI

In Australia, the 2.0-liter common-rail turbodiesel engine is rated at 148 horsepower (110 kW) and a strong 236 foot-pounds (320 Newton-meters) of torque. It is offered with a five-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.

2011 Geneva Motor Show: Three World Premieres For Toyota

Toyota FT-86 II Concept teaser
We already know that Toyota will be unveiling an updated version of its FT-86 rear-wheel drive sports car concept at next month's 2011 Geneva Motor Show, the aptly named FT-86 II, which we saw a teaser of last month, but now the Japanese auto giant has confirmed several other world premieres.

2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Priced From $95,000

Earlier today Porsche took the sheet off its 2012 Panamera S Hybrid, revealing a 333-horsepower, supercharged V-6 powerplant supplemented by a 47-horsepower electric motor in the familiar long-back sedan shape. Now we have its starting price: $95,000.

That's a steep point of entry, but considering the standard 400-horsepower V-8 Panamera S starts at $89,800, it's not a big relative jump. But how does it compare to the competition?

2011 Geneva Motor Show: 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid

It's been known for a while now that Porsche was working on a hybrid version of its Panamera sedan and today, just a few weeks out from its debut at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, the sports car company from Stuttgart has revealed its gasoline-electric gran turismo.

The new model goes by the full title of Porsche Panamera S Hybrid and develops a total output of 380 horsepower--333 horsepower from a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 and 47 horsepower from an electric motor.

How Child-Friendly is the 2011 Nissan Leaf?

For those who don't know or have forgotten, the name for Nissan's first mass-produced electric car is an acronym: Leading Environmentally-friendly Affordable Family car. But is the 2011 Nissan Leaf really a family-friendly car? 

When examining a car for suitability for a family there are a fair few prerequisites. As our colleagues over at FamilyCarGuide will tell you, a good family car needs to have the right mix of practicality, flexibility, safety and affordability. 

School Runs, Grocery Trips

Admittedly it only has an EPA rated range of 70 miles between charges, but the 2011 Nissan Leaf should provide an average family with enough range to tackle all but the most extreme of school runs, shopping trips and football practices. 

Rear seats can be split 60/40, meaning those family with only two children can make use of extra storage space for luggage or shopping if the Leaf's load bay just isn't large enough. 

Safety Seat

Spills, Sick and Soccer Boots

To anyone with young children however, the Hobson's choice of an off-white interior is enough to induce that reoccurring nightmare of finding ground in chocolate, mud or even sick all over the door pulls, seat base and back of the front seats. 

Luckily, scotch-guard or similar should put those fears aside. Since interior and exterior treatments are de-facto recommendations for any car, the Leaf's interior color is hardly a deal-breaker, although you may want to carry some wet-wipes to prevent stains from forming.

Toyota Recall Recap: Floormats, Sticky Pedals, AND User Error

Let's recap.

After 18 months, recalls totaling 9 million Toyota, Lexus, and Pontiac models, and investigations by Toyota, Congress, NASA, and the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unit ... what have we learned?

(1) A few accelerator pedals did stick open, for one of two very different reasons.

First, some dealers or owners fitted unapproved floor mats that were too thick, which could prevent the accelerator from returning to its usual position.

In the case of the horrifying and highly publicized crash of a Lexus that sped along a California freeway before overturning, burning, and killing all four occupants, a trapped accelerator pedal is thought to have been compounded by the driver not knowing how to turn off the engine in a car with a push-button start.

Loose all-weather floor mat jams accelerator pedal. Photo: NHTSA

(The answer: Hold down the "Start" button for a full 3 seconds. Hardly obvious without reading the owner's manual, which few people do for their own car, let alone the dealership loaner that crashed.)

Solution: Toyota amputated the bottoms of low-hanging pedals in some models, leaving clearance for even the thickest floor mats to be used without interfering with reshaped, shorter pedals.

2012 Buick Regal With eAssist: 26 MPG City, 37 MPG Highway Expected

The rumors started last week, and they were largely true: Buick plans to offer a model of its Regal compact sports sedan with the eAssist mild-hybrid system.

What we didn't have were the projected EPA mileage ratings (based on GM's internal tests). The company expects the 2012 Buick Regal with eAssist to be rated at 26 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, making it the most economical Buick model for 2012.

Unlike the larger 2012 Buick LaCrosse, which will fit the eAssist system as standard on the 2.4-liter Ecotec engine, the 2012 Regal will offer a base 2.4-liter engine without the system, and a version of the same engine with the fuel-saving powertrain as well.

2012 Infiniti M Hybrid Secures 32 MPG EPA Highway Rating

Luxury hybrids are storming the marketplace, and bringing with them a new era of hybrid chic. The 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid hopes to snatch some of that market, and today's official EPA rating of 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway should bolster its chances.

Those figures yield a combined average fuel economy of 29 mpg. Before you say, "But 32 mpg isn't exactly impressive!" let us compare it to the competition. Well, there isn't really any direct competition.

Which Is Selling Better: 2011 Chevy Volt Or 2011 Nissan Leaf?

The first business day of every month is when automakers release sales data for the previous month. Today, we got January's sales figures, which are an improvement over last January's.

But the question that we keep hearing is: Which sells better, the 2011 Nissan Leaf or the 2011 Chevrolet Volt?

First 2011 Chevrolet Volt delivered to retail buyer Jeffrey Kaffee, in Denville, NJ, December 2010

They're the first two plug-in electric vehicles sold in the U.S. by major manufacturers in a decade, and now they've been on sale for roughly six weeks. The first Leaf was delivered in San Francisco on December 12, and the first Volt followed three days later in New Jersey.

Technical Details Revealed: 2012 Audi Q5 Hybrid Crossover

Sometimes you just never know where you'll dredge up technical details on vehicles that carmakers haven't yet launched.

Technology conferences can be a good source. Take, for instance, the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference (AABC) held last week in Pasadena, California.

A battery systems engineer from Audi laid out full details of the hybrid-electric drive system in the upcoming Audi Q5 Hybrid, a vehicle that has been described only at Audi technology seminars for invited audiences and hasn't officially been revealed to the public.

2012 Ford Focus: First Drive

While it's easy to find a good, sensibly-sized and relatively fuel-efficient small car, it's really hard to find much personality.

At the same time, you could argue, Americans haven't seemed to want much charm behind the wheel. The first-generation Focus, for instance, came in a wide range of body styles (including three- and five-door hatchbacks), and had a standard of ride and handling arguably better than anything in its class at the time, but it became a sore reality after a few years that Americans weren't willing to pay for small-car sophistication. A couple of refreshes cut body styles from the lineup and left the Focus feeling a little more refined, but also more conservative.

Times have definitely changed since then--and they've definitely changed since the last time Ford went to the drawing board for its last 2007 refresh of the Focus, when the vehicle lost all its hatchback styles, gained Sync connectivity as a central selling point, but lost its hatchback body styles, became more conservative-looking, and lost even more of the dynamic spirit of that original Focus.

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