Down On The Pasadena Street, 1964 Edition: How Many Cars Can You Identify?

Written By Thomas Ponco on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 | 4:15 PM

Many years ago, I bought a yard-sale box of old 35mm slides in order to score the reusable glass slide-mounts. A few of the original images were interesting, so I hung onto them. With all the scanning of old slides and negatives I’ve been doing for the ’65 Impala Hell Project series, I’ve also been searching for interesting automotive images among the rest of my collection. This photograph from 1964 Pasadena (as in “The Little Old Lady From”, which was a hit song in ’64) contains quite a few interesting vehicles. I’m going to follow up my 1973 San Francisco Car ID Challenge with the 1964 Pasadena Car ID Challenge: what vehicles do you see in this photograph?
The slide is dated 1964 and the Tournament of Roses banners nailed the street down as Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena (yes, the very same Colorado Boulevard terrorized by the Little Old Lady in her Super Stock Dodge), so it was a simple matter of searching business names to find the exact intersection. Patti’s Grill is gone, as is Jack Shannon’s and Bill and Corky’s, but the 35er is still in full effect; this photograph was shot looking west from the intersection of West Colorado Boulevard and North Fair Oaks Avenue.
The front row of cars at the stoplight should be pretty easy, but there’s some fascinating stuff behind them. What’s that lil’ red devil behind the Beetle? And is that a huge hood scoop on the car behind the mean-looking lowered Olds? You’ll be able to see larger version of the images by clicking on the gallery thumbnails below (and waiting patiently— very patiently— for the image to load).




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American Journalism Review Condemns Car Review Standards, Applauds TTAC

Please excuse the self-congratulation, but little breakthroughs like this are a big deal for a site like TTAC. The American Journalism Review has a fantastic piece by Frank Greve on the murky and corrupted world of professional car reviewing, which is well encapsulated in the piece’s subtitle

The world of car reviewing is replete with expensive perks and fantasy vehicles. Consumer advocates need not apply.

And after running through the litany of corruptions endemic in the system, Greve concludes:

Web sites like Jalopnik and The Truth About Cars deliver more independent, aggressive and timely coverage for car enthusiasts than traditional car magazines like Motor Trend.

With all due respect to MT (which is but one of many), that sounds like the truth to me. As does Greve’s description of how press cars are allotted (by the likelihood of a positive review). And for one of his examples of the system at its worst, Greve describe an incident involving TTAC’s own Jack Baruth and the aftermath of his no-holds-barred review of the Porsche Panamera.

After describing the fawning reviews for the Porsche Panamera produced by sites like Autobytel and New Car Test Drive, the AJR piece continues

One freelance reviewer sang off key, however: Jack Baruth, a racer of Porsche 911s, and “a known malcontent” by his own admission. Baruth crashed a Panamera event for reviewers at the Road America track near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and reached a damning-by-faint-praise conclusion. “More fun to drive than any other four-door sedan,” Baruth declared in a five-minute video for LeftLane But the Panamera “couldn’t be any less like a 911,” he added. Although Baruth, a Web reviewer popular for his audacity, had previously gotten along with Porsche publicists, he’s been a nonperson with the automaker ever since.

Fong says there was nothing personal about Baruth’s exile. “One of the key questions we ask is whether a reviewer writes for a demographic that can afford a Porsche,” he says.

Baruth draws a different lesson from the experience: “Carmakers can make you noncompetitive,” he says.

Well, Mr Fong, as someone with access to TTAC’s Google Ad Planner data, let me be the first to inform you that 50% of TTAC’s readership makes $75,000 or more per year (congrats, folks!). 20% make $100k or more. So what do you say Mr Fong, do we get to review new Porsches now… or are you still as afraid of editorial independence as the AJR makes you out to be? And before you answer, remember this: with every piece like this, the walls of OEM control over editorial independence crumble a little more… and the sooner they fall down, the better.

4:15 PM | 0 comments | Read More

Ask The Best And Brightest: Could This Become The Littlest Ram?

First of all, let’s not fool ourselves: this is quite the hypothetical question. For one thing, Fiat is unlikely to federalize the Doblo cargo van that this “Work Up” is based upon until a subsequent generation comes out. In the meantime, the only Fiat Professional vehicle the US market will be getting anytime soon (thanks to CKD production at Warren Truck, according to Allpar) is the Ducato van, which competes fairly directly with Daimler’s Sprinter.  But,

Its most powerful engine in the U.K. is the 1.6 liter, stop-start-equipped, Euro-5 compliant diesel with 105 HP and 213 ft-lbs … and that starts at £17,065 ($27,759 , in direct-conversion)… but there’s also a 2.0 oil-burner with 135 hp and 236 ft-lbs in the Fiat Professional quiver. Fiat Professional claims a 1,000 kg payload (about 2,200 lbs) and up to 1,450 kg (3,200 lbs) “load on rear axle,” so it’s no slouch. But between the vagaries of currency and efficiency (the 1.6 and 2.0 get 45.2 MPG and 42 MPG respectively on the European combined cycle, the latter being equivalent to the European Cruze 2.0 diesel MT), and the question of production siting, it’s difficult to put together a specific scenario for this coming to the US. But if it did, it would make even the most far-away CAFE standards look pretty mild (even though Chrysler’s once-questionable hybrid pickup drivetrain already does). On the other hand, it would also make the Ram Tradesman look like a screaming deal even though it offers “only” 1,860 lbs in maximum payload (it’s a much better towing machine). So don’t hold your breath… and if you need an efficient commercial vehicle in the meantime, well, there’s always the brand-new  Caravan Cargo Van!

3:14 PM | 0 comments | Read More

Recall Alert: 2009 BMW X5

2009 BMW X5BMW is recalling 2,120 2009 BMW X5 xDrive35d (or X5 diesel) vehicles because of fuel filter issues that could lead to an engine fire, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

On some models — built between Oct. 1, 2008, and June 12, 2009 — the fuel filter heater, which heats up the diesel fuel during cold winter driving, can experience an electrical overload that can cause the heater to stay on permanently, even when the vehicle is parked and the ignition is off. If this happens, the vehicle’s battery could drain until it’s dead or, in rare cases, the unit could overheat and eventually cause a fire.

BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel filter heater for free. The recall will begin in October. Owners can call BMW at 800-525-7417 or NHTSA’s vehicle safety hotline at 888-327-4236 for more info.

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Should the US have an energy independence plan?

Is Congress motivated by the people or by reelection?

The European Commission today is actively seeking to develop a plan to move away from oil towards alternative fuels in the EU, most recently launching a public consultation on the matter.

Should the US, via a non-partisan forum, also be investigating a straightforward, honest and transparent plan towards US energy independence?

According to some, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, concepts like energy independence are a waste of energy  — no pun intended. Essentially, according to the Council, there is simply no way to end US dependence upon foreign oil in the next few decades, and thinking beyond that is just too far into the future. Hence, the Council suggests that all foreign oil-reducing opportunities need to be utilized, including natural gas, new drilling, fuel efficiency and batteries.

Unfortunately, the Council concludes, those promoting energy independence typically only advocate one technology or pathway, such as new drilling, natural gas or plug-in vehicles. By only focusing on one; however, the Council argues that foreign oil dependence is only guaranteed to be greater than it needs to be, longer than it needs to be.

Others, such as John Stossel, have in the past argued that ideas like energy independence don’t make sense because they are anti-free trade, which means that Americans are stuck with alternatives that leave the US at an economic disadvantage compared to our competitors in the world, especially our emerging competition from Brazil, Russia, India and China. Instead, Stossel argues that free markets achieve the best solutions.

While I understand, and even somewhat concur with Stossel’s point, it’s kind of funny talking about free markets in the energy space when cartels like OPEC and nationalized oil companies, or NOCs, owned by countries like Russia and China are the major players in the energy game. Nevertheless, I do believe that governments, like the US, need to focus on breeding competition when it comes to energy and efficiency, rather than trying to picking winning technologies in some attempt to predict the future.

Likewise, I concur with the Council on Foreign Relations that energy independence is too far beyond the scope of average Americans and; therefore, somewhat distracting. When most voters don’t even know what the legacy effect is nor how it impacts the energy conversation, how can they have a clue regarding the immense difficulty of achieving energy independence? Thus, it’s too easy for politicians to convince many average Americans that just new drilling or just plug-in hybrid cars offer a real plan to timely foreign oil independence, despite the fact it’s so obvious they do not, at least not individually.

Nevertheless, I believe that US energy independence is not only theoretically plausible, but achievable far sooner than the Council believes — if, and only if, the US attacked foreign oil dependence in a non-political, united effort. Think war effort. And it is war, whether we’re talking about Persian Gulf tensions, or economic warfare, with the later probably being the greater long term concern.

Still, even achieving energy independence doesn’t mean the US

Likewise, achieving energy independence will require new trade as well. For example, there isn’t one mainstream car in the US that was manufactured using only US-based resources, and more sustainable and efficient transport solutions will even require further world trade.

Moreover, if the US was capable of achieving energy independence, we’d have a lot more bargaining power in the energy markets. In fact, a move towards US energy independence might be cause for an extension of NAFTA and lead to a new SAFTA, or South American Free Trade Agreement. In fact, AFTA might bring energy independence to all of America far sooner than any other plan, while also creating a partnership for ever more sustainable energy tomorrow, in a win-win for all American countries.

The point is, one day technology will basically enable the US to become sustainably energy independent, and it’ll be more cost-effective than the status quo,

But without a goal and an honest, transparent, step-by-step — yet adaptable — plan to achieve the goal, the US is simply wasting time and resources by enabling politicians and lobbyists to promote self-serving, pork-filled agendas, when it’s obvious to anyone objective, that there are no simple solutions. Sure, that’s a great con for the 87 percent of Congress that most Americans can’t stand to exploit, but it’s not good for the people.

Besides, America shouldn’t be defined by our dysfunctional two party system, but by democracy, by the voice of the people, especially in today’s computer-connected world. Consequently, if a non-partisan report can transparently quantify that energy independence would be a win for most Americans, what’s the downside? Real political change?

It’s time to take the politics out of energy because at the end of the day, only a great compromise can achieve real change. While sustainability is the undeniable future, things like new gas engines, natural gas, even new drilling, might be the only tools that can provide a cost-effective enough bridge to that sustainable future.

In summary, a plan for US energy independence is long over due.

2:59 PM | 0 comments | Read More

Quote Of The Day: Hands Free At High Speeds Edition

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[Skip ahead to 2:08]

It’s the stuff of a Ray LaHood nightmare. Automotive News [sub]‘s lede comes screaming out of the blackness:

BERLIN –  Ford Motor Co. has adapted its Sync in-car connectivity system to cope with high speeds on German autobahns.

But you can’t wake up, Mr Secretary of Transportation. For this is no dream…

Luckily, it is happening far away in Germany… and Ford’s not even doing all that much to change its hands-free entertainment and communication system. Per Jason Johnson, user interface design engineer for Sync product development,

Ford had to do more than simply program the technology to understand different European languages. The system also has to allow for how Europeans drive… For instance, at autobahn speeds, Ford found that its navigation system wasn’t giving sufficient warning that the desired exit was coming up. The system had to be reprogrammed to give extra warning

Otherwise, Germans should feel free to use their hands-free systems at whatever speed they happen to be driving. After all, if your hands are on the wheel, it’s not a distraction,

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2012 Honda Pilot: First Look

2012 Honda Pilot TouringThe Honda Pilot gets a mild refresh for 2012, including powertrain, interior and feature upgrades. The model is available at Honda dealerships starting today, and we detail what has changed below. 

Although the exterior look hasn’t changed much, there are important changes under the hood and cabin upgrades that make the Pilot more competitive compared with the 2011 model.

The 2012 Pilot is available in LX, EX, EX-L and Touring trims, with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The model starts at $28,470, $150 more than the 2011.

The Pilot’s updated 250-horsepower V-6 – which includes new engine friction-reduction technology – now achieves an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg city/highway and 21 mpg combined with front-wheel drive. The 2 mpg bump in the combined rating is enough to make the Pilot the most fuel-efficient eight-seat crossover. The 2012 Ford Explorer gets 20/28 mpg with a new four-cylinder, and the 2011 Toyota Highlander with a four-cylinder does better than the Pilot at 20/25 mpg, but both models seat only seven and are equipped with less powerful engines.  The eight-passenger 2012 Chevrolet Traverse gets 17/24 mpg with similar power. 

Other improvements to fuel efficiency include the use of low-rolling-resistance tires, low-drag front and rear ventilated disc brakes and changes to the exterior design that help reduce wind resistance.

On the inside, the Pilot gets more sound-deadening material to help reduce road noise. Honda says the center stack of controls has been redesigned, but the changes are mainly relegated to a new, more streamlined-looking button layout.

2012 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD.EX-L trims now get an 8-inch color display standard. Any model equipped with a navigation system will get a new one that comes with subscription-free FM traffic, 15-gigabyte hard drive for music storage and a higher-resolution monitor. Those navi upgrades sound similar to the new system we raved about in the 2011 Honda Odyssey. The navigation system also gets a new backup camera that can show wide view, normal view and top-down view.

The EX and EX-L Pilots now get a 2 GB CD library (also found on the 2011 Odyssey) that can copy music tracks from CDs, but not tracks from burned CDs or memory sticks. That feature replaces the six-CD changer option. Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming is also standard on the above trims.

On the outside, the Pilot gets a revised three-bar grille, redesigned headlights and front bumper. EX trims and higher now have 18-inch alloy wheels (upgraded from 17-inch rims), while LX trims are equipped with 17-inch steel wheels.

Continue reading below for more trim changes and pricing.

2012 Honda Pilot Pricing (2011 Pricing)

  • LX (2WD): $28,470 ($28,320)

  • LX (4WD): $30,070 ($29,920)

  • EX (2WD): $31,320 ($31,170)

  • EX (4WD): $32,920 ($32,770)

  • EX-L (2WD): $34,570 ($34,270)

  • EX-L (4WD): $36,170 ($35,870)

  • EX-L with Rear Entertainment System (2WD): $36,170 ($35,870)

  • EX-L with Navi (2WD): $36,570 ($36,270)

  • EX-L with Rear Entertainment System (4WD): $37,770 ($37,470)

  • EX-L with Navi (4WD): $38,170 ($37,870)

  • Touring with Navi and Rear Entertainment System (2WD): $39,220 ($39,070)

  • Touring with Navi and Rear Entertainment System (4WD): $40,820 ($40,670)

  • Destination: $810 (same)

2012 Pilot Fuel Economy (2011 MPG)

  • 2WD: 18/25/21 mpg city/highway/combined (17/23/19 mpg)

  • 4WD: 17/24/20 mpg (16/22/18 mpg)

2012 Pilot Feature Change Summary

  • New grille, headlights and bumper

  • New 18-inch aluminum wheels (17-inch styled steel on LX)

  • Upgraded interior materials and revised instrument panel with new center stack layout

  • Acoustic windshield glass (previously exclusive to EX-L and Touring)

  • Upgraded audio and available navigation systems

Pilot LX adds:

  • AAC audio file playback from data discs to the CD player

Pilot EX adds or replaces:

  • 18-inch aluminum wheels and P235/60R18 all-season tires

  • Bluetooth and Bluetooth audio streaming

  • 2 GB CD Library (CD-L)

Pilot EX-L adds or replaces:

  • Power tailgate

  • Intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) with QVGA resolution (includes backup camera, album artwork display and user-loadable wallpaper function)

  • USB audio interface

Pilot EX-L with navigation adds or replaces:

  • Upgraded navigation system with higher resolution and 60-GB hard drive (includes 15-GB audio hard-drive memory) and FM traffic

  • Song by Voice

  • Wide-view rearview camera with three-mode display

12:58 PM | 0 comments | Read More

Gartner Group study questions Germany’s plug-in focus

Car sharing just as important as plug-in vehicles?

While the Frankfurt Auto Show will be a forum for many new hybrid and plug-in vehicles, a new consumer survey suggests that most German consumers aren’t nearly as bullish as the German government regarding such vehicles.

Consequently, Gartner suggests that Germany should reconsider its largely singular focus on plug-ins and also include alternatives, such as new engine technologies, car sharing, public transportation, etc.

According to Gartner’s latest survey only “16 percent of Germans would consider buying a battery car, compared with 52 percent who want gasoline power, 43 percent hybrids, 37 percent diesel and 25 percent natural gas motors,” according to the DetroitNews.

Also, the keyword is ‘consider’. As US studies have proven, real world sales are far different than ‘consider’ percentages. For example, numerous studies have for a few years now also suggested that a majority of Americans would ‘consider’ buying a hybrid. Yet, less than 3 percent actually purchase hybrid cars.

Consequently, Gartner analyst and survey author Thilo Koslowski expects plug-ins to achieve just 3 percent of global marketshare by 2020 because of plug-in costs, range limitations, etc.

Fortunately, sometime after 2020, Koslowski has higher hopes for plug-ins.

Sometime in the ’20’s Koslowski expects a battery breakthrough that could significantly increase plug-in sales by significantly reducing battery costs. Even then, however, Koslowski doesn’t expect plug-ins to dominate the automotive landscape. In fact, Koslowski even suggests that automakers might even be wasting time and resources trying to develop plug-in cars that offer the same range and costs of conventional vehicles when other paths might be cheaper, but just as beneficial.

“Governments (like in Germany) are putting all their money on electric vehicles, when there might be other ways,” Koslowski said. “Instead of just subsidizing battery cars, why not split it off and spend it on public transportation, car sharing, give them a free bicycle, why be so limited in terms of what might work?”

Most interesting, in my opinion, is that younger buyers are more open to thinking outside of the box. While that’s a no-duh observation, why isn’t more being done to capitalize on this openness, whether in Germany or in America?

Younger buyers are more receptive to both plug-ins and car sharing, for instance. Thus, while they might not be able to afford to buy a plug-in, they might still be perfect plug-in car sharers — so why not some kind of incentive to share, rather than buy?

Ultimately, young consumers offer the opportunity to break the mold of urban mobility, and governments should be focusing on every opportunity to do just that — as cost-effectively and competitively as possible.

Source: DetroitNews

11:56 AM | 0 comments | Read More

Saab “Close” To $157m Bridge Loan, Situation “Dire”

Bloomberg [via the Financial Post] reports that “one of the five biggest European banks” is “close” to loaning Saab $157m  so that it may pay workers and suppliers, in order to move towards restarting production. According to, the deal is predicated on Saab securitizing the loan with shares of Saab Great Britain or other “alternative assets.” But apparently whatever the banks ask for, Saab will try to give, as Theodoor Gilissen Bankiers analyst Tom Muller explains

They need the money immediately. I hope they solve it this week, otherwise I think it’s over for Saab. It’s a very dire situation.

He’s not kidding…

Even in a “nuclear winter” scenario, Saab needs about $50m per month to keep the lights on. Add about $8m for supplier debts already logged with the kronofogden, and Saab might hold off bankruptcy for another week. To restart production, however, it needs to spend anywhere from $30m to $60m in order to pay off its entire estimated supplier debt. And get this: according to Bloomberg, Swedish Automobile’s market capitalization on the Dutch exchange is under €18m (about $26m at current exchange rates), but it’s still waiting on €245m (about $353m) from PangDa and Youngman in a deal that would value the company at over half a billion dollars. This looks quite a bit like a bridge to nowhere…

11:10 AM | 0 comments | Read More

BYD Automotive: Is the dream over?

BYD plug-in success in the US seems far-fetched today

When Warren Buffett made a major investment in BYD Automotive several years ago, it seemed the future of plug-in vehicles, particularly Chinese plug-in vehicles, was clearly secure. The oracle of Omaha had spoken.

But, based on reports coming out of China, Buffett might have to think

AutoObserver is claiming that as many as 1800 of BYD Automotive’s 2600 employees could soon be either fired or laid off. For now, however, BYD is officially denying the report. Instead, BYD is only reporting that a restructuring is in the works. Regardless, it’s clear that BYD sales are sputtering badly.

And, with the US government convinced that BYD is stealing secrets from other automakers, for instance, any hope of BYD cars finding success in markets like the US seems slim.

One can probably expect that the Chinese government will keep BYD in the automotive game, but a pin has been poked into dreaming BYD. Reality just isn’t on the same page.

10:55 AM | 0 comments | Read More

Piston Slap: Relevant Lessons taught by Panther Love

Hey, it coulda happened!

Hey Sajeev,

I love the column and I’m a daily TTAC reader, though I rarely comment. We have been a Panther household since the mid nineties, and have had great luck with our vehicles thus far. My parents had two ex-Budget rental Town Cars, a white ’93 with blue interior, and a medium willow green ’96 with that greyish-beige. I had a pearlescent silver ’91 in high school with black interior and a black canvas top (I added ’02 Cartier wheels , P71 front springs, and a dual exhaust with turbo mufflers). All were zero-problem vehicles. Which brings us to our current Town Car, an ’07 Signature Limited, fresh out of warranty, which is also an ex-rental, but I do not know which company.

The vehicle currently has 30k on it, and has developed a couple of problems. The first is fairly straight-forward: warped rotors. All of our Town Cars seemed to develop warped rotors, but no other vehicles we own ever develop this. I have read that in the 90s, the TCs with 10in brakes were under-spec’d, and saw several sites/forums at that time that recommended swapping out the 12in brakes and caliper from the later models. But with the 07 developing this problem, I’m wondering if all TCs just don’t have enough brakes. The car is driven pretty easily at all times. What is your opinion on that? And what is the best solution? Keep feeding it OEM rotors and pads, swap to P71 calipers/rotors (will they fit and what are the costs involved?-we can do the work ourselves), or is there a good aftermarket rotor that is OEM replacement but is maybe slotted or vented that you recommend for better cooling and to avoid future warping?

The second problem is a weird one. The memory seats/easy exit feature (where the driver seat slides back when the key is moved to the off position) is acting completely bonkers! All seat adjustments work just fine, like tilt, recline, etc. but the fore/aft movement only works about 10-20% of the time, and when it acts up, the seat stays back in the “exit” position with no ability to adjust the seat forward with the power controls on the door. When the memory buttons are pressed, all adjustments take place except fore and aft. It will make a brief and normal noise like it is about to move but doesn’t move. It is textbook intermittent and has no rhyme or reason as to when it decides to work. Is this a common problem? Is it likely the control module/computer has malfunctioned, or is the motor only working intermittently? What should I do here?

My last query deals with suspension tuning. Every since the TCs went to rack and pinion steering and 17inch wheels, they seem to have a sharper steering response. My belief is that they tuned the suspension to the steering response, and they now have too much damping in the shocks and not enough spring. In other words, the driver feels every bump in the road, unlike the older ones, but when bumps are sufficient to cause major suspension travel, they cause a lot of wheel movement, more than the initial dampening would suggest. So it seems that their is a poorly tuned suspension in the new ones, with a bad spring/shock combination. I know you and Jack Baruth have experience with these latest Town Cars, and I’d be interested in both of your thoughts on this issue/theory, if I’m crazy, and what you might recommend to add balance to the suspension tune without sacrificing ride quality.

Thanks so much for your time, I know this is a long one, but that’s Panther love, and when it bites, it sinks its teeth in.

All the best!

Sajeev answers:

Round these parts, rambling on and on about Panthers is falling out of fashion. But a

Question 3: Opinions on suspension systems are like butt holes…everyone has one. But only engineers involved in the game know the hard facts behind the “what” in a platform shall explain the “why” in your quandary. And as if that wasn’t confusing enough, here’s a hybrid of the last two sentences:

My opinion is that the newer Town Cars (the “skinny” ones from the Nasser Era and beyond) have too much spring with not much change in the dampers. My only basis for this is a single data point: a dude who put the soft (front) springs from a “fat Panther” onto his skinny model, removed the rear swaybar and was happy enough to say the end result was a modern Town Car that rode like a proper Land Yacht.

10:09 AM | 0 comments | Read More

2012 Nissan Maxima, Titan, Infiniti QX56, Others Get Modest Price Boost

2012 Nissan Maxima
Nissan this week announced pricing for its popular 2012 Nissan Maxima large sedan, along with other Nissan and Infiniti SUVs and trucks. This group of models — Maxima, Armada, Titan, QX56 and EX35 — consists mostly of carryovers, with few significant changes. That also means pricing stays pretty much the same compared with last year.

Starting with the most popular of the bunch, the 2012 Nissan Maxima (shown above) maintains the same pricing as the 2011 model. The Maxima undergoes an exterior refresh for 2012. The grille, taillamps and wheel designs are new. The interior gets a new instrument cluster, new trim colors, a new look for the center stack and a beige-colored interior option. In addition to the updates, the Maxima gets a new Limited Edition Package, which includes smoked-appearance xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights, 18-inch dark silver wheels, a rear spoiler and metallic trim in the interior. The package costs $710.

The 2012 Nissan Titan also maintains the same pricing as its 2011 counterpart. New for the Titan is a Sport Appearance Package, available on the King Cab and crew-cab SV trims, priced at $2,490. You can read more about the package at

The 2012 Nissan Armada has a standard power liftgate and heated front seats on its SL trim, which sees a $300 price increase.

The 2012 Infiniti EX gets a new garage-opener system standard on the EX35 Journey trim. Prices on the model have increased by $400 to $600, depending on the trim.

Pricing on the 2012 Infiniti QX56 is the same as last year. The large luxury SUV gets a blind spot warning system and a 15-speaker Bose stereo option (up from 13 speakers) added to option packages.

The models are expected to hit dealerships by the end of the summer. Continue reading below for more details:

2012 Nissan Pricing (2011 Pricing)

2012 Nissan Maxima

  • 3.5 S: $31,750 (same)

  • 3.5 S  Limited Edition: $32,460 (new)

  • 3.5 SV: $34,450 (same)

  • Destination: N/A ($760)

2012 Nissan Armada

  • 4x2 SV: $38,490 (same)

  • 4x2 SL: $43,940 ($43,640)

  • 4x2 Platinum: $51,050 ($50,890)

  • 4x4 SV: $44,090 ($44,090)

  • 4x4 SL: $46,840 ($46,540)

  • 4x4 Platinum: $53,950 ($53,790)

  • Destination: $975 (same)

2012 Nissan Titan

  • S King Cab 4x2 SWB: $27,410 (same)

  • SV King Cab 4x2 SWB: $29,410 (same)

  • S King Cab 4x4 SWB: $30,260 (same)

  • SV King Cab 4x4 SWB: $32,260 (same)

  • PRO-4X King Cab 4x4 SWB: $35,140 (same)

  • S Crew Cab 4x2 SWB: $29,960 (same)

  • SV Crew Cab 4x2 SWB: $31,610 (same)

  • SV Crew Cab 4x2 LWB: $32,060 (same)

  • SL Crew Cab 4x2 SWB: $37,510 (same)

  • S Crew Cab 4x4 SWB: $32,810 (same)

  • SV Crew Cab 4x4 LWB: $34,940 (same)

  • PRO-4X Crew Cab 4x4 SWB: $37,340 (same)

  • SL Crew Cab 4x4 SWB: $40,210 (same)

  • Destination:  $975 (same)

2012 Infiniti Pricing (2011 Pricing)

2012 Infiniti QX56

  • QX56 2WD: $58,700 (same)

  • QX56 4WD: $61,800 (same)

  • Destination: $990 (same)

2012 Infiniti EX35

  • EX35 RWD: $35,600 ($35,200)

  • EX35 Journey RWD: $37,900 ($37,400)

  • EX35 AWD: $37,000 ($36,600)

  • EX35 Journey AWD: $39,300 ($38,800)

  • Destination: $895 (same)

9:55 AM | 0 comments | Read More

Land Rover Defends The Faith

Often times concept vehicles portray an already-decided future direction. Other times, concepts are built to suggest one possibility in an ongoing debate about a model’s future. Land Rover has taken the latter approach with its new DC100 concept,  telling Autocar that the Frankfurt-bound concept

builds upon essential elements of the Defender’s character and allows us to open the debate and inspire people to dream about Defenders of the future. The DC100 isn’t a production-ready concept, but the beginning of a four-year journey to design a relevant Defender for the 21st century.

Will the new Defender get an all-new version of its rugged, body-on-frame chassis, or will it move to a re-engineered version of the T5 platform that underpins the Discovery and Range Rover Sport? That’s all still to be decided as Landie navigates a sales and regulatory environment that makes life extremely difficult for old-school SUVs. And because the Defender has lost much of its developing-world market to more reliable Toyota 4x4s, I’d guess the next Defender will be a less-traditional interpretation of the original. While that’s all being hashed out ahead of the 2015 launch date, at least we have an attractive concept to go along with a compelling debate.

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Will Rising Euro Push Alfa/Jeep Compact CUV Production To Toledo?

Bloomberg reports that Fiat is considering moving production of planned Alfa/Jeep-branded compact CUVs from its Italian Mirafiori plant to the US, as a rising Euro forces tough production choices. Production of some 280,000 units per year were planned to start at Mirafiori in late 2012, but Fiat may now build an as-yet unannounced subcompact there instead. According to Bloomberg’s reporting, Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio

Marchionne, while confirming his commitment to invest at the Turin facility, told Piedmont Region President Roberto Cota Aug. 29 that he may change the production plans for the plant.

“Fiat is evaluating which model it will build at Mirafiori,” Cota said after meeting the CEO.

Fiat’s first-half volume in the European market is down 13%, and its market share has fallen from 8.1% to 7.2%, forcing the firm to think hard about its product mix and production plans. A city car would be sold primarily in Europe, and since the Euro as risen 9% since last November when Fiat said it would build Compact CUVs at Mirafiori, it now makes more sense to build global/US-market products somewhere other than Europe. US production would be a huge boon to the reintroduction of the Alfa brand to the US market ( led by the new C-CUV), as it would keep prices and profit margins far more competitive.

There’s no indication as yet of where Chrysler could build the Alfa/Jeep Q5/Forester-fighters, but Toledo North seems like the most likely candidate. Not only is the Jeep Liberty (predecessor to the new Fiat-derived Jeep C-CUV) already built there, but Chrysler is already sniffing out incentives to expand to 327,000 units per year.

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California: Traffic Camera Firm Shakes Down City

As municipalities around the country increasingly have  second thoughts about continuing red light camera programs, the private companies in charge of the photo ticketing are turning up the heat. Redflex Traffic Systems  announced to its Australian shareholders last week that it continues to adjust contract language, boosting the penalties for cities that turn their back on photo ticketing. Just such language has hit in San Bernardino, California where rival photo ticketing firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is threatening to impose an extra $1,896,202 fee to punish the city council for  attempting to get out of the contract in March. Officials had already approved cutting a check for $175,000 to the company as compensation.

City leaders were shocked to find the penalty for early withdrawal from the contract may have been underestimated by a factor of ten. Police Chief Keith L. Kilmer blamed the mistake on the sloppy work of the city attorney’s office. The city’s legal team blamed Kilmer for providing bad information. In a February 1 memo, Assistant City Attorney Jolena E. Grider calculated the cancellation price as $975 per intersection multiplied by the number of months remaining from the original five-year contract. Grider’s memo, however, confused the term “approach” and “intersection.” Each intersection has four approaches or directions of travel. That means up to four individual cameras can be installed for each intersection.

“I asked police employees several times if installed approach was the same as intersection and was told numerous times that it was,” Grider wrote. “It was not until I received information from ATS a few weeks ago that I learned differently. All the information I received at the time I wrote and based the February memorandum on was from the police department and from no other source.”

Chief Kilmer blasted the city attorney for going to the press and trying to pass the blame for a legal mistake to his department.

“This information about contract terminology was not provided by the police department,” Kilmer wrote in an August 16 memo. “It was within the contract document itself, which I would assume that the city attorney’s office had some hand in preparing and reviewing on multiple occasions.”

The city attorney’s office fired back at Kilmer, insisting negotiations were under way with ATS to arrive at a “mutually beneficial resolution” and that the incorrect information in the February memo could not be used in a court of law.

“There is nothing to be gained by the city of San Bernardino by this type of finger pointing in his memorandum and the inaccuracies cannot be left uncorrected,” Jolena E. Grider wrote on August 17.


7:06 AM | 0 comments | Read More Provides Best Car Deals for Labor Day Weekend

Know the real price

September 3rd is Best Day to Purchase a Vehicle; Discounts as High as 21 Percent, the authority on new car pricing, trends and forecasts, has found the best new car deals on vehicles including cash, finance and lease deals available nationwide, and forecasting that Saturday, September 3rd is the best day of the month to purchase a vehicle, according to data from its latest TrueTrends Report.  The cash deals reflect the possible discount from the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) and include manufacturer’s rebates and other incentives.

Some examples of discounts available on 2011 and 2012 models include:

Cash Deals

Year/Make/ModelMSRPEstimated Net Price*Percent Discount**
2011 Chevrolet Silverado$29,109$17,58720.9
2011 Nissan Altima Hybird$26,775$22,11119.8
2011 Volvo S80$38,025$32,30415.0
2011 Chrysler 200$21,995$18,82514.4
2011 Kia Sedona$25,390$21,90613.7
*Estimated Net price is the estimated average transaction price of a vehicle after incentives.
** Percent Discount is rounded to the nearest tenth

Finance Deals

2012 Audi A7 – up to 2.9% financing for up to 60 months (Expires: 09/06/2011)
2011 Cadillac DTS – 0% financing for up to 72 months (Expires: 09/06/2011)
2012 Honda Civic– up to 2.9% financing for 60 months  (Expires: 09/06/2011)
2011 Jaguar XF – 0% financing for up to 60 months (Expires: 09/30/2011)
2011 Toyota Camry LE – 0% financing for up to 60 months (Expires: 09/06/2011)

Lease Deals

2011 Acura TSX – $309 per month for 36 months with $2,499 due at signing and 10,000 miles annually (Expires: 09/06/2011)
2011 BMW 328i – $299 per month for 36 months with $4,824 due at signing and 10,000 miles annually (Expires: 09/06/2011)
2011 Chrysler 300 – $339 per month for 39 months with $2,999 due at signing and 12,000 miles annually (Expires: 09/06/2011)
2011 Lexus GS – $599 per month for 36 months with $3,499 due at signing and 10,000 miles annually (Expires: 09/06/2011)
2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid – $389 per month for 36 months with $0 due at signing and 12,000 miles annually (Expires: 08/31/2011)

Once consumers have identified the best vehicle for them,’s Best Local Price tool, provides shoppers the Lowest Certified Price, a “no-haggle” upfront price from participating dealers. For more information about the pros and cons of leasing and getting a better deal through leasing, please visit the TrueCar Blog

About TrueCar, Inc.

TrueCar, Inc. is an automotive solutions provider focused on changing how cars are sold by providing a significantly better customer experience while helping qualified dealer partners to gain incremental market share and reduce costs. is a transparent, visual publisher of new car transaction data. price reports help both dealers and consumers to agree on the parameters of a fair deal by providing an accurate, comprehensive and simple understanding of what others actually paid for the identically equipped new car over the last 30 days both locally and nationally.  TrueCar, Inc. works with a national network of nearly 5,000 Certified Dealers that provide up-front, no-haggle, competitive pricing to assist some of the nation’s largest and most well respected membership and service organizations to meet the auto buying needs of their members and customers.  These partnerships include American Express, AAA, USAA and more than 60 others.  Collectively these audiences represent over 1M in-market customers each month.  TrueCar, Inc. is headquartered in Santa Monica, CA and has offices in San Francisco.  The company was founded in 2005 and has been profitable since 2009.  With nearly 200 percent year-over-year growth TrueCar has driven over 300,000 sales and is developing a suite of transaction oriented products and services centered on transparency and radical clarity as a result of comprehensively analyzing market data and information.

You can follow TrueCar on Twitter and become a fan of TrueCar on Facebook.

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Volkswagen 2.0T Intramural League, Second Place: GTI DSG Four-Door

Everybody agrees that the Volkswagen GTI is a great car. Except for the US-market MkI, which was underpowered. And the Mk2, which was

If I understand the conventional wisdom, the only GTI which

When exactly

Five minutes in this MkVI GTI will

We’ll start with a 150-degree off-camber right-hander. Too hot! The GTI plows for a moment until we remove all brake input and let the outside edge of the tire catch. Now it’s full-throttle along a long sweeping downhill left-hander. The end of the turn is blind but keep your foot in it. At the bottom of the hill there’s an odd dip that completely upset the Beetle and caused the Golf R to compute ferociously as the four driven wheels argued amongst themselves.

The GTI, on the other hand, just doesn’t care.

…except these are computer shocks, too, as this GTI has some kind of three-way adjustment and I have it set to “Sport”. We’ll make a mental note to drive one

Speaking of fancy stuff, note that the DSG has been flawless so far, holding the right gear when needed and seamlessly helping the engine along despite just being left in “S”. Why waste time paddling the wheel shifters when the transmission is so smart on its own? The exhaust note is multi-dimensional and it stutters almost like a boxer engine before blipping, F1-style, into the next gear without a whiff of flywheel effect. It may be one of the first dual-clutch transmissions, but it’s still perhaps the most appealing one.

Now we have a series of fast switchbacks down a hill. The guys from Bigtime Magazine who were tailgating us on the state highway a few minutes ago aren’t even visible in the mirror. This is an excellent place to try going flat in third, and we’re on the way to doing it ARRRGGGHHH THERE IS AN ELDERLY WOMAN PLANTING FLOWERS BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD well the brakes, honestly, could stand a little more pad area or a more aggressive compound. The calipers from the Golf R would be nice to have.

Now there’s some soft, heat-related travel in the left pedal but it doesn’t matter. Stomp the ABS a bit for a sharp 120-degree left. Too hot again. Would be nice to have just a slightly more aggressive tire on this thing. Unless we make a change here we will hit a mailbox at about fifty mph, so brush the brake left-footed and

Now we have a long straight followed by a wide-radius blind right-hander and sharper left-hander running beneath an overpass. In the R and Beetle this wasn’t really flat-out, but in the GTI you can hold your throttle/breath/nuts all the way to a late entry of the second turn. Doing so requires that you grind the outside tire to the squealing semi-limit very close to gravel. There’s plenty of feedback through the steering, and the level of effort involved is an accurate reflection of the number of small stones beneath the tread block closest to the shoulder. It inspires confidence. We could pick up 1 or 2 mph next time.

Now it’s time to hustle up and down a narrow road before hanging it out for a third-gear downhill leftie. All the way down, the GTI responds to mild throttle adjustments by pointing the nose in or out just a touch. If we get a bit ham-handed with the wheel, the DSC light

The Golf R didn’t really feel fast enough on this road, since the binary stop/turn/go technique demanded by its weight and drivetrain showed up the engine’s deficiencies. The GTI, on the other hand, is more than fast enough. If anything, it’s brakes that we need back here; the 2.0T can push the little car just a bit faster than it can stop. On a racetrack, the problem would be even more pronounced.

Take a look around the interior. It’s standard VW fare, available with a few extras if you so desire. The cloth seats are, to many people, an indispensible part of the GTI experience, but some people will insist on leather. Your humble author is not qualified to judge the minute distinctions between different Volkswagen plastics the way that many Euro-fans are. I had two Phaetons and compared to them the GTI sucks. I also had a 1990 Fox, and compared to

Let’s return to the drive. The GTI can do what the Beetle and Golf R can’t. It can make you

Most importantly, the obvious speed gap between this GTI and some of the competition doesn’t matter so much when the experience of driving the car is so delightful. Yes, a Mazdaspeed 3 is faster; no, I wouldn’t dream of buying an MS3 instead. It would be nice if the GTI were five hundred pounds lighter, but we live in a world where something like that simply isn’t going to happen. No time soon, anyway.

If the GTI is so wonderful — and it is, it truly

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Junkyard Find: 1974 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce

I’ve never owned an Alfa, and every time I see one in the junkyard I feel a twinge of guilt for never having rescued some poor abandoned Spider project prior to the inevitable ride to the junkyard that all such Alfas take after a decade or two spent sitting under a tarp in the driveway. Here’s yet another rust-free Spider that’s going to get eaten by The Crusher because nobody was willing to save it.
Alfa Romeo made the Twin Cam for 40 years, and the one in the ’74 made a claimed 129 horsepower from its 1,962 cubic centimeters. That’s very good for the Malaise Era, though it’s worth noting that the Datsun 260Z of the same year sold for more than a grand less than the Alfa ($5,289 versus $6,550), had 33 more horses under the hood, and weighed only 184 pounds more. Of course, the ’74 Fiat 124 Sport Spider sold for a mere $4,395, but buyers had be willing to overlook the car’s 92.5 horsepower (any time a car manufacturer claims a fraction of a horsepower, look out) and general terribleness.
This car, which I found last week in a Denver self-service yard, appears to have spent many years with its interior exposed to the Colorado elements. Too far gone to be worth restoring, although it would have made an excellent 24 Hours of LeMons race car.
What does it mean when the “THROTTLE” idiot light comes on? Broken throttle cable?

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Panoramic Sunroofs Gain Popularity

Large panoramic sunroofs are raking in the sales among luxury as well as non-luxury brands, reports The Detroit News. Buyers are willing to part with $1,000 to $2,000 for the open-air feeling they provide. Automakers like Ford, Buick, Cadillac, Lincoln, Jeep and Chrysler all reported that up to half of buyers are choosing the large sunroofs when offered.
Compared to a traditional sunroof, panoramic sunroofs have a sliding glass panel up front with a fixed skylight extending to the rear seat. They are quickly becoming the only sunroof option on many cars and SUVs, like the Ford Explorer and Edge SUVs plus others mentioned below.

Half of new Ford Explorer orders demand the sunroof option with its large, dual-pane glass, while 56 percent of Edge buyers want the option. It costs $1,595 on Explorer and Edge Limited models as a stand-alone option, but it must be equipped with an option group on lower trim levels.
Buick’s large Enclave crossover SUV and LaCrosse sedan offer panoramic roofs that so far this year make up 55 percent and 47 percent of sales, respectively. Buick charges $1,400 for the dual-pane option on the Enclave and $1,195 for the LaCrosse’s sunroof and skylight.
Chrysler’s new V-8-powered 300C is seeing 70 percent of buyers choosing the large sunroof ($1,295). Even the less-expensive six-cylinder Chrysler 300 has a third of buyers choosing the same sunroof.
Panoramic sunroofs let in much more light than a standard-sized roof, and in our experience they can even make the inside of a small car feel larger. The initial cost may not be a huge detractor because, as The Detroit Times reports, the feature also adds to the residual value of equipped vehicles.

Panoramic view goes through (sun) roof (The Detroit News)

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The Truth About The FT-86. Straight From The Mouth Of The Chief Engineer

Written By Thomas Ponco on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 | 7:56 PM

“When we started working on the FT-86 we had no idea where we would end up,” said Tetsuya Tada, whom I met last Sunday to talk about his work.

The FT-86 that eventually took shape on this blank sheet will be in showrooms down the street from you, all over the world, next year.

The FT-86 ”may just be the car to herald Toyota’s ‘second renaissance,” if some enthusiast blogs are right.

At the very least, this car will change how we think and dream of a sport scar: We won’t. This is not a dream car. For most of us, it will be an impulse buy.

Tetsuya Tada tells its story.

Tetsuya Tada is the Chief Engineer of the FT-86, Toyota’s new sports car that had powered the rumor mills for many years. Some enthusiast blogs enthusiastically painted Tada as the “Jason Bourne of Toyota Sports car development.” If that is the case, then he is the friendliest and most unassuming Jason Bourne I ever heard of. He is the man I’d expect to see carrying two bags when I take out my carefully sorted garbage after midnight in a quiet Japanese neighborhood. As a Toyota Chief Engineer however, Tada carries more responsibility and more power than the Ludlum hero. Scott Bellware once described the role of a Chief Engineer at Toyota like this:

Tada indeed is a rare person. Dressed in khaki pants and a striped shirt, the affable attitude accentuated by rimless glasses, he hides all that power well.

We met last Sunday at Toyota’s Megaweb down by the waterfront. Megaweb is part theme park, part test drive venue. We met there, because an FT-86 prototype is on display. We didn’t go there to drive it. First off, Megaweb is not a test track. It was barely appropriate to give the iQ a slow spin. Second, most of the FT-86 is still a secret. Doors and hatches of the car on display are locked tight. So were the lips of its Chief Engineer.

“You can ask anything except specs and price,” Tada-san announced after we found a quiet space away from the din of the Megaweb.

“In that case, let’s have lunch,” was my answer.

In lieu of talking about cars, we found out that Tada lived where I lived during his time in Germany: In

When Tada stared at a white page, it was 2007. He didn’t know what to think:

The customers wanted more: They wanted a sports car for less. A Veyron makes for good copy and dreams. But it also causes can’t-have-it frustrations. Tada listened intently to his future customers:

Tada and his team set out to design the impossible. A year later, they had the design, the specs, and the price point. Tada presented it to the board of Toyota. The concept was approved. The project had an important advocate on the board: Akio Toyoda. At the time, the CEO was Katsuaki Watanabe. The time was 2008, and all over the world, the skies were falling.

Tada puts it in his trademark humble words when he describes the boardroom discussions:

At the height of carmageddon, Tada received the go-ahead for what we would call an “enthusiast car.” The Japanese have a more befitting description. It’s a “

Asked what changed for the FT-86 when Toyoda took the helm of Toyota, Tada says: ”He became one of our test drivers.”

Asked what it means when you work in the shadow, but also in full view of the President of the world’s largest carmaker, Tada changes the subject. His true boss is the customer, and the customer didn’t want another rice racer:

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As for low to the ground, Tada promises a “production car with the world’s lowest center of gravity.” The FT-86 will be a tinkerer’s car. The car is named “FT-86” for a reason. Toyota wants to make a mental connection to the AE86, the archetypical cult-craze car from the Star Wars era. Nearly 20 years later, the

Tada indeed is a rare person. The Teutonic engineers I grew up with used go into convulsions or threw screaming fits when people modified “their cars” – except maybe using factory-approved and overpriced accessories.

Tada smiles when you ask him whether is hurts his pride as an engineer when the people of SEMA gang-rape “his car.”


A short, but honest answer. Isn’t it painful to spend years designing the perfect car, and to make it so perfect in a sense that some guys in a garage can modify it beyond recognition without even breaking a sweat or lighting a welder?


The Chief Engineer’s sensitivities are touched by the most benign act of modding – the choice of tires:

That owner may not need a lot of money, but he will need to know how to drive. He will need to use his own brain and the seat of his own pants. Tada had jotted down the principle in his self-derived design guide, and he sticks with it:

The FT-86 has about half of the computing power that is dragged around in a modern day car. The preferred shifter is a stick. An automatic is optional. The slushbox is nothing fancy. “No DSG or anything of that kind,” says Tada, and is proud. Sure, the automatic has a computer, but the shift points cannot be changed – at least not at the flip of a switch in the dashboard. Computers want to keep you on the straight and narrow, but some FT-86 owners want that car to go sideways. If you need nannies, go down to the children’s hospital.

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The FT-86 will be built at Fuji Heavy’s Subaru, and when I mention that, the engineer’s pride shifts into low gear – for extra revs. Tada quickly explains that this is just contract production, and it’s the same as “when we make cars at Central Motors or Kanto Auto Works.” Both are separate companies, but they are also part of the greater Toyota empire. Toyota owns a good chunk of Fuji Heavy, so Subaru is part of the family – in a way.

Subaru will produce its own version, probably called the BRZ. Both companies also developed the car together, and that must have been an interesting exercise. Recalls Tada:

In the maniac, well, enthusiast scene, it is pretty much gospel that the cars use Subaru’s flat four “D4-S” boxer engine. Depending on whom you believe, the production engine ranges from a tried & true to a refined & modified D4-S. That elicits protests from Tada, as loud as the softspoken man can manage:

Imagine how much engineer’s pride that one did cost. A completely new engine was developed. At the same time it comes with an invitation to be swapped for whatever follows the Subaru bolt pattern.

After years of concept cars, the production version of the FT-86 will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show, December 2 – December 11, 2011. “Next year” (most likely in spring), the car will be launched. It won’t be available in Japan first and years later elsewhere. It will, says Tada, be available next year “all over the world.” In the U.S., it will definitely by a Scion. In the rest of the world, it will be a Toyota.

Jack Baruth and Sajeev Mehta equipped me with a long list of questions. After Tada’s initial admonition that we can talk about everything except specs and price, I didn’t have much hope for answers, but nonetheless, I tried. The following Q&A ensued:

“Can you tell me the weight?” “No.”

“Can you tell me the horsepower?” “No.”

“Can you tell me the weight distribution?” “No.”

“Can you tell me the price” “No. It will be affordable.”

“Suspension?” “McPherson, double wishbone.” And a smile.

And so it went while Tada was conspicuously consulting his watch, signaling that time, patience, or both are running out. All I could do was to use the old investigative reporter trick, put two versions on the table, and ask which one is close. I used the crowd-sourced specs from the fountain of knowledge.

Tada eye-balls both. And gives his verdict. See above.

Last question time!

“Mr. Tada – is it true that you compared the color of the FT-86 to the ass of a monkey?”

Ooops. The Chief Engineer covers his mouth in feigned shock and explains that he indeed had experienced “some trouble” after magazines had written that he indeed had compared the car’s color to a monkey’s derriere. He quickly adds that he had referred not to just any monkey, but to a genuine Japanese monkey, those amicable animals that visit hot springs in wintertime, with icicles dangling from their furs – parts of Japan’s storied heritage.

And that’s not all, says Tada. The FT-86 red can also be compared to the world famous Japanese sunset (no sunrise is mentioned) and to the dragonfly. In Japan, the dragonfly is a symbol of courage, strength, and happiness – it even symbolizes the whole Japanese archipelago.

So there you have it. The FT-86 is so customizable, so tunable, so hot-roddable that it gives you a choice of associations triggered by its color. Depending on your mood, you can pick sunset, dragonfly, or an entirely appropriate greased monkey. As long as they are Japanese.

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What Isn’t Wrong With This Picture: The Last Of The Panther Interceptors Edition

Panther lovers will be sad to hear that this, the last of the black-and-white Crown Vic Interceptors, has gone down the line according to the Ford St Thomas Assembly Plant’s Facebook page. The last Panther ( reportedly a Town Car) is scheduled to be built on Monday, and the plant’s 150 workers will be laid off on the 12th of September. If you know someone who loves the Panther chassis, please be sensitive to their needs in this difficult time. Remind them that there’s always the used market, and that someday their beloved brutes will tear ass across a post-apocalyptic landscape, and be known as “ the last of the V8 Interceptors.”

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Ford EVOS Concept: Definitely Not A Lincoln

But… shouldn’t it be? Oh, Ford. You come up with something sexy and desirable, and you can’t help but slap a blue oval on it, can you? Ford Design Boss J Mays explains the choice, saying

We wanted the Ford Evos Concept to give a clear message about where Ford design is heading – shaping vehicles that are fun to drive, have a strong premium visual appeal, and above all, are stunningly beautiful. Our exciting new design DNA has been developed and refined by an intensive effort by all of our talented global design team. As a team, we wanted to create a more technical design vocabulary to help communicate the smart technology that is now core to the Ford brand. In addition, we worked particularly hard on meeting the high-expectations of a new generation of buyers – a group of consumers who have grown up surrounded by beautiful, premium design work on even the most affordable products.

Which leaves Lincoln… where?

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Ford Evos plug-in hybrid: The new face of Ford

The new look of Ford

The smoking-hot Ford Evos plug-in hybrid is one of those concept vehicles that will probably never see the light of day. The Evos wasn’t really designed for production, but rather to express the future of Ford’s design language.

And that future is said to begin in about 4 months time.

“We need to be immediately recognizable by the face of our vehicles,” Ford design vice president J Mays recently stated, according to AutoWeek. And what Ford is trying to exude via the Evos concept is premium-feeling mainstream cars.

Still, while the Evos might never make its way through one of Ford’s production lines, there is speculation that Ford will reveal a more production-orientated Evos inspired vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show. Moreover, the Evos is eventually going to inspire the style of all future Ford vehicles.

That means in addition to the new curves, future Ford products will be decked out with Evos-styled grills and headlights.

But the Evos is also about more than looks, it’s also about a new generation of Sync-based connectivity. The Evos is tapped into the cloud, and Ford intends to bring the cloud to all of its future products.

Plug-in technologies, futuristic connectivity and some stylish new curves, the new face of Ford is pretty exciting.

Source: AutoWeek

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2011 Porsche Panamera Review

The Nissan Juke. The Scion xB. Those are the two cars that have gotten the most negative comments about their styling while we were driving them. And by the most, I mean a 50/50 split on the xB, 60/40 negative/positive on the Juke.

The Porsche Panamera? 100% thumbs down.

Now, this is rare. Normally, when I roll up in a Porsche...any Porsche...even the Cayenne and
The good news is that, especially from the front, there is some family resemblance to the cars we've come to know and love from Porsche. And, while not blindingly fast, at least not in Panamera 4 all-wheel-drive form like our tester, it still is a very quick big sedan...0-60 in 5.8 seconds and a top speed of 159 miles per hour.

That performance is from the 3.6 liter V6, which cooks up 300 horsepower and 295 pounds per foot of torque. With a 7-speed automatic, the Panamera gets an EPA estimated 18 city/26 highway miles per gallon. Which, again, is very good for a big sedan. And it handles very, very well.

Inside the car, you can't see what the car looks like on the outside, and you are in a very Porsche least a Porsche environment as defined by the Cayenne SUV. There's room for four, it's all very plush...but the Teutonic simplicity of the marque's best sports cars? No. Of course, you probably couldn't sell a luxury sedan equipped like that, but the Panamera went the exact opposite direction. There are forty-four buttons on the center console alone. Factor in window switches, audio system stuff and the rest, and the count throughout the cabin gets stratospheric.

The list of what comes with the car as standard equipment and what's optional is very long and highly dependent on whether you order the Panamera, Panamera S, Panamera 4, Panamera 4S, Panamera S Hybrid, Panamera Turbo or Panamera Turbo S, so we'll just let you surf over to Porsche's website to check it out for yourself.

As noted above, ours was the Panamera 4. Base price $79,800. And Porsche's press fleet folks added Basalt Black Metallic paint ($790), a ski bag ($405), auto dimming interior and exterior mirrors ($420), front heated seats ($525), heated steering wheel ($250), 19" Panamera Turbo wheels ($1,950), a Bose surround sound system ($1,440), SiriusXM radio ($750) and Porsche crest front headrests ($285). Bottom line including $975 destination charge: $87,590.

The only thing least to this Porschephile who's never met a 911 he didn't like? The roar of the engine. Porsche's sixes give off this wonderful wail when you tromp on the accelerator, but the Panamera V6 just gathers up speed silently. I wonder if the faster Panameras (the S hybrid makes 60 in 5.7 seconds with a top speed of 167, the S 5.2 and 175, the 4S 4.8 and 175, the Turbo 4.0 and 188 and the Turbo S 3.6 and 190) have any of that snarl or if it's all speed.  Hopefully Porsche will allow us to find out first-hand.

Again, you have to remember that the Panamera is new territory...Porsche's response to swoopy luxury sedans like the Mercedes-Benz CLS, Audi A7, Maserati Quattroporte and the Jaguar XJ. And by any objective measure, they've hit the target. 

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2011 Lincoln Town Car Review

The end of the year clearance sales are on. 2011s are leaving the lot to make room for the 2012s.

Except for the Lincoln Town Car. When the last one is gone, that's it. There will be no more. It's been years since Ford bothered to put one in the press fleet in TireKicker's hometown, so we arranged with Fiesta Lincoln in Mesa, Arizona to drive one for a week.

The last Lincoln Town Car is a big deal because it's not just the end of a body style or a nameplate, but of a type of automobile. The Town Car is what American sedans were from World War II onward...big, comfortable, rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered machines that sat six adults in great comfort.

See that armrest in the picture above? Fold it up, and you'll find a seat belt. There's no center console. The gear selector is sticking out of the steering column. 3 in the front, 3 in the back...and even given contemporary American bodily dimensions (within reason), nobody's crowded. There's 21 cubic feet of space in the trunk for all your things.

It's more comfortable than a large SUV, certainly has a better ride and arguably better handling, and it definitely gets better mileage (the EPA says 16 city/24 highway, and we saw 22.5 on a long stretch of urban freeway, with our weeklong city street/freeway mix never dropping below 19).

Our tester? Basic as it comes. The Signature model. $47,225. 4.6 liter single overhead cam flexible fuel V8, automatic transmission, halogen headlamps, heated power windows with memory, heated 8-way power front seats with lumbar, leather seating surfaces, leather and wood steering wheel with audio, cruise and climate controls, a dual-zone climate system, an AM/FM/6-CD changer premium audio system,  power adjustable pedals, rear park assist, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, traction contol and a security alarm. All that packaged with a 4 year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 6 year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty and 24 hour roadside assistance.

Complete enough that ours had only one option...whitewall tires ($125). Yes, whitewall tires. You can still get them. And, apparently, reasonably.

All told, with $945 for destination and delivery charges, the Town Car rang in at $48,295. And you know what? We loved it. It's the ultimate road trip car (I rented dozens, if not hundreds over the years as a traveling TV news reporter), and it's perfectly fine in city traffic as well. There is, in fact, nothing wrong with it that couldn't be fixed with some cosmetic and convenience updates, and driving the Town Car, I kept coming up with arguments why it should be saved.

But the Town Car got stuck with the label of "old peoples' car", and in an acutely image-conscious society thus was doomed to declining sales as its owner base aged, gave up drivers' licenses and, well, began dying off. Demand stayed strong in the limousine and executive sedan market, where the combined virtues of room, relative economy and near-bulletproof reliability (300,000 to 400,000 miles is not uncommon for a Town Car) are highly prized.
Why don't civilian drivers who buy large (in some cases, huge) vehicles prize those qualities, too? Room for 6, more than respectable gas mileage, decent cargo space, epic safety ratings and legendary durability and reliability with a starting price under $50,000 would probably be a big draw...on paper..for a lot of buyers in their 40s and 50s.

Until you say the words "Lincoln Town Car".

So we walk away from something that works in favor of more stylish things that don't quite work as well. Our fault and our loss for that. There are a lot of people for whom a Lincoln Town Car would be just about perfect. If you have an open mind, says there are 746 new Town Cars on dealer lots in the USA as I type this. That's 28 fewer than there were when I began writing this review a little less than an hour ago. 26.64 more hours like that and they're all gone.

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Question of the Day: Can You Find a Diecast Replica of Your First Car?

After I started getting weird diecast toy cars as LeMons Supreme Court baksheesh, my office has become crowded with stuff like a 1:43 scale Leyland P76 and a 1:40 Nissan Prairie. Yesterday, as I pondered the diecast custom vans that got away, I wondered: is it possible to get a diecast toy version of my very first car?
Sure enough, it is! Thing is, the toy version costs $49.99 shipped, or exactly one cent less than I paid for my ’69 Corona sedan back in 1982. There’s no way in hell I’m paying that much for a toy version of a car that was so ill-handling, underpowered, and shoddily built that the Toyoda family would be wise to buy every last survivor and crush it, for the sake of what’s left of the company’s good name… well, except for the fact that it’s impossible for a car freak not to love his or her very first car, no matter how terrible. So, how about you? If your first car was a Volkswagen Beetle or Ford Mustang, you’re in good shape. If it was a Matra Bagheera, on the other hand— hey, you’re

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Ford Evos Concept at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show


  • Looks like: Ford's take on the Aston Martin Rapide

  • Defining characteristics: High-mounted grille, tiny headlights

  • Ridiculous features: Four gull-wing doors, information screens galore inside

  • Chances of being mass-produced: Not in this form, but expect design cues to grace future Fords

Ford likens the four-door Evos concept to the Iosis concept introduced at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show. You’ll notice the Iosis’ influence on Ford cars you see today, like the new Focus and Fiesta. Near Detroit last week, chief designer J Mays (no relation to this writer) said to expect similar influence from the Evos.

“We got a lot of mileage out of Iosis as the precursor to what became Kinetic Design,” Mays said, referring to Ford’s current design ethos. “What we’re looking for is a design DNA that will take us through the next five years.”

Ford Evos Concept

Designed in Germany and built in Italy, the Evos is about as long as a compact car, but the sucker is

The Evos has an arsenal of sports-car cues. A trapezoidal Aston Martin-like grille sits just below the hood. Muscular fenders border spindlier wheels. Up front, horizontal side portals flatten the car’s stance. The Iosis’ vertical slats, cribbed later by the Fiesta, communicated height.

The Iosis and Evos

Nor will much of the interior, we suspect. A thin rail flows from the instruments to the center console, with information screens across that rail and the driver’s door. The passenger side of the cabin looks pretty minimalist. The spindly center console clears up some space; we hope that suggests roomier cabins in future Ford models.

Being a concept car, the Evos carries a barrage of technology: a plug-in hybrid drivetrain from Ford’s C-Max Energi, health-monitoring seats that adapt to your current mood, and adaptive driving dynamics and entertainment through cloud-based driver information.

Mays promised design cues will grace Ford cars in four months, not four years. Will a production car with Evos DNA debut at January’s Detroit auto show? Mays wouldn’t say, but by our (very limited) math skills, his timeline ends sometime around a frigid January day in eastern Michigan. So stay tuned.

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

Ford Evos Concept

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