February 2, 2021

Autonomous System Supporting Human Assisted Transport (ASSHAT)

Better journalism for driving Tesla automobiles.

What is autonomous vs what is reacting to a human request ?
Experienced driving enthusiast Alex "144" Roy is the master at deciphering PR hype that bamboozles many experienced and otherwise credible tech reviewers.

Does a "lane keeping" system center the car in the lane or only take action when the car strays from the lane ?

Does an "emergency braking system" act upon detecting when that the driver is attempting an emergency stop or that there is an obstacle in the car's trajectory ?

how the media gets Tesla wrong the David pogue edition

Continue reading "Autonomous System Supporting Human Assisted Transport (ASSHAT)" »

July 21, 2018

culture of action --

"That spot [the 'Born of Fire' 2011 Super Bowl commercial] is homage to the culture of action and to our industrial roots. It speaks about hard work and results achieved through resilience and tireless efforts, about people that are not resigned to their destiny but redesign the future for themselves, day after day.

It is not simply a commercial. It is the embodiment of our spirit. It portrays our company and its aspirations. It shows our passion for cars and our desire to create the best. It embodies the values upon which the American dream was built. In the end, it expresses the vision that we are making come to pass."

-- Sergio Marchionne, when the Fiat Chrysler company repaid the Chrysler government loans, May 2011

May 2, 2018

Can Tesla be agile to make cars ?

What many people enamored with the idea of agile fail to realize is where the limits are. Agile is efficient when the cost of making a change is lower than the cost of an iteration. In other words, your iterations have to be profitable (at least in aggregate.).

Deploying software to a server costs almost nothing, so you can iterate every five minutes and make money. Except when you make a mistake and deploy something broken, which can cost you in damaged customer reputation. In many cases these are costs that can be absorbed, but fail too often and the product is doomed.

Agile works by holding time and effort constant, but letting scope vary. That means using agile techniques to handle hardware projects where scope can't vary (like deploying routers to remote sites) can fail much more easily. If any component is delayed, the whole product is delayed, and other expenses rise: rescheduling installers often has a cascading effect on the rest of the project.

April 30, 2018

Ford once made cars

Ford once made cars, and they were great: case of the Fiesta ST.

April 12, 2018

VIA rideshare: redlining in DC ?

Washington, D.C., has some of the world's strongest nondiscrimination laws, with a robust Human Rights Act that protects a whopping 20 traits, from race and sex to political affiliation and personal appearance. That doesn't mean, however, that discrimination never occurs in the District--or that it's always remedied promptly. On Friday, the Washington Post revealed that Via, a popular ride-sharing service, has been violating the city's nondiscrimination laws since fall of 2016 by excluding two of the District's predominantly black neighborhoods from its coverage area. Even worse, the city has failed to enforce its own laws against the service, undermining its putative commitment to equal rights.

The story of Via's illegal service in Washington is a vivid illustration of how a company's policies can disproportionately burden minorities even if the company itself harbored no explicit animus. Although it recently introduced private rides, Via is primarily a ride-pooling service like Lyft Line or Uber Pool, allowing drivers to pick up and drop off multiple passengers. When it launched in the District, it hoped to catch riders bailing on Metro over seemingly endless safety maintenance. But unlike Uber and Lyft, it covered only a segment of the city, encompassing downtown D.C. and some surrounding neighborhoods, mostly to the north.

February 8, 2018

McLaren's four characteristics that define sports car

McLaren's Paul Burnham, makes the case for such an audacious claim rests on four characteristics. First, there's an all carbon-fiber tub, which knocks just about every historical sports car out of the running for authentic sports car status.

Second, McLaren's a believer in hydraulic steering. Fair point, but McLaren may end up eating those words if the company ever follows the EPAS route of most automakers.

Third, McLaren credits its cars' V8 engines. Retroactively and futuristically cross the Lotus Elise off your sports car list. Also remove the new Ford GT that Horacio Pagani paid for with his own money.

Finally, McLaren associates authentic sports cars with midship engine placement, as if the Chevrolet Corvette needed another reason to stand outside McLaren's sports-car sheepfold.

Continue reading "McLaren's four characteristics that define sports car" »

January 10, 2018

Infotainment responses still laggy

Car and Driver details the responsiveness of touchscreen dashboards.

Examples tested include VW Golf R, Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STi, and Honda Civic Type R.


November 9, 2017

Tesla is more than electric: Doug DeMuro,

Tesla is a philosophy, not just a car. Alex Roy supplements Doug DeMuro, explaining how duMuro became an unwitting pawn in a much bigger game: Tesla's asymmetric war on the auto industry.

August 24, 2017

Jack Baruth handed you the truth, how did you handle it ? The truth about cars 2014/07/theres-no-pill-for-contextual-dysfunction/

Jack Baruth handed you the truth, how did you handle it ?

The truth about cars's theres-no-pill-for-contextual-dysfunction.

June 26, 2017

BMW vs Honda: humpback battle 1 of 4

BMW 640i xdrive GrandTurismo vs Honda Civic hatachback

Ghosts of the Saab wagonback return.

BMW vs Honda: Front, humpback battle 2 of 4
BMW vs Honda: Side, humpback battle 3 of 4
BMW vs Honda: Rear, humpback battle 4 of 4

June 19, 2017

North Shore Racks bike racks

North Shore Racks customer testimonials and Series 202 racks.

February 3, 2017

Wasteful and profuse luxury

The wasteful and profuse luxury depicted in the photographs above reflect the insatiable need for constant growth -- the boundless, directionless quality of the drive to accumulate, possess, and consume. The current system encourages and facilitates this disposition in an increasingly narrow section of society.

These decadent lifestyles stand in stark contrast to the principles of austerity being forced on the vast majority in the West's recession-plagued economies. Amid deepening inequality, images like these can justifiably provoke anger: Lord Aleem, a nineteen-year-old, self-styled Rich Kid of Instagram from Birmingham, regularly posted photographs of his collection of luxury cars outside his home until four of his £500,000 fleet were torched by arsonists last year.

Continue reading "Wasteful and profuse luxury" »

July 10, 2016

Autodesign, 1980 - 2010, four-door fastback 'coupe'

BMW will sell you an X6 "coupe" which, properly speaking, should be called the X6-11 because it looks exactly like a Citation X-11 with the nose from a Pontiac Grand Am welded on as an afterthought.

In retrospect, it's fairly obvious why somebody would trade in a '79 Granada for an '84 Accord: You got twice the gas mileage and more than twice the longevity at virtually no cost in usable interior room. That's a practical, sensible decision.

It's not nearly as easy to understand why someone would trade a 2011 Accord for a 2016 Pilot or CR-V. There's a substantial price penalty to be paid for the "upgrade" to a crossover or SUV. Fuel economy suffers. Tires and brakes wear out quicker and cost more to replace. The handling of any lifted vehicle is always much, much worse than that of the car from which it's derived. Look at it this way: If you knew with absolute certainty that your morning commute tomorrow would feature a flatbed losing its cargo on the road ahead of you, scattering cars and trucks in every which direction while you tried to steer and brake your way to safety, would you rather be driving a Camry or a Highlander? A BMW 530i or a BMW X5? A Porsche Cayman, or a Cayenne?

To choose a crossover instead of a car is to willingly give back virtually all of the advances that American buyers gained when they went from Granadas to Accords. And what do you get in return? It can't be that customers demand all-wheel-drive; that was offered in everything from the Camry to the Tempo back in the Nineties and very few people stepped up to pay the extra money. Most of the "SUVs" I see on the freeway nowadays have an empty hole where the (optional) rear differential would go anyway.

-- Jack Baruth has won races on four different kinds of bicycles and in seven different kinds of cars. Everything he writes should probably come with a trigger warning.

June 13, 2016

Google's Self-driving car

Google self driving car report; WashPost on how the era of self driving cars will change more than cars.

March 30, 2016

Self dealing car dealers make sales

Update: Inventory management 2.

When an automaker posts its sales figures at the end of the month, how many vehicles actually left the dealer lot?

Not all of them, according to a top BMW executive, who admitted that his company and others "punch" up sales numbers to boost their standing, according to Automotive News.

Punching cars is "not an ideal practice," but it's a reality in the industry, BMW of North America CEO Ludwig Willisch said on March 22.

Speaking at the National Automobile Dealers Association-J.D. Power Automotive Forum in New York, Willisch said there was "a lot of pressure" to boost sales numbers. The practice involves an automaker purchasing its own vehicles to serve as dealer loaners, then quickly re-selling them as pre-owned after having seen very little use.

The issue of punching arose from last year's close four-way battle for the top luxury automaker spot in the U.S., a battle BMW won -- on paper, at least.

Recording 346,023 U.S. sales in 2015, BMW placed first in the race and Lexus third, but when actual vehicle registrations were tallied, Lexus came out on top.

Numbers gathered by IHS Automotive/Polk showed a gap of 10,764 vehicles between BMW's sales and registration figures, the largest of the top three luxury automakers.

December 30, 2015

Drive-by automobile emissions testing

About a half-dozen states now use it routinely to supplement their inspection programs, and at least 10 others perform periodic surveys and studies, mostly in urban areas with air-quality problems, to monitor overall compliance to clean air rules. In Colorado, for instance, cars that are found in compliance by a remote sensing device are exempted from vehicle emissions tests.

What makes this technology particularly useful is its ability to aggregate emissions data on makes and models of cars and measure how various models, vehicle technology classes and emissions-control components are performing on the road.

The results can be eye-opening. I was part of a team of scientists in Colorado that used this technology to identify emissions problems with Volkswagens and Audis that have two-liter diesel engines months before the recent scandal broke.

The first hint came from a colleague in Europe who, looking at remote sensing data collected in Switzerland, had noticed high diesel nitrogen oxide emissions coming from passenger cars. At his suggestion, we examined thousands of measurements collected by Colorado's vehicle emissions program.

Peter M. McClintock, air quality and vehicle emissions consultant for Opus Inspection, an international vehicle inspection company, and a contractor for the Colorado and Virginia emissions inspection programs.

Continue reading "Drive-by automobile emissions testing" »

September 26, 2015

Economy of scale of death

One model that N.H.T.S.A. has studied is the one now used by the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates commercial aircraft. The F.A.A. dispatches representatives to plane manufacturers to directly oversee the software design process for the critical systems that control flying.

If it were to carry out those inspections, N.H.T.S.A. would need skilled people. The agency estimates that it has 0.3 staff members for every 100 fatalities in automobile crashes; the F.A.A. has at its disposal over 10,000 staff members for every 100 fatalities on commercial aircraft, according to N.H.T.S.A.

-- Philip Koopman, an associate professor at the department of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

May 24, 2015

3er at 40, BMW 3 series

Low key promotional video with documentarian tone.

May 18, 2015

Straw buyers are real buyers

gents with the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, who questioned whether these small export companies were violating federal law by usingstraw buyers -- people paid small sums to buy cars -- to conceal that the vehicles were being bought by people who had no intention of keeping them and were using cash from other people to make the acquisitions. Federal authorities have argued that using straw buyers is a deceptive practice that potentially deprives American consumers of a chance to buy the luxury cars and limits the ability of automakers to keep tight control over sales to domestic dealers and to foreign countries.

But the Justice Department recently advised its prosecutors to be more judicious in pursuing civil forfeiture actions -- and even criminal cases -- against car export companies and their owners.

"Over the past year, we have been engaged in a comprehensive review of the asset forfeiture program, including straw-buyer luxury export cases and other aspects of the program," said Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, in an emailed statement. "As a result of this ongoing review, the department is encouraging prosecutors to pursue civil and criminal sanctions for straw-buyer fraud cases that lead to other criminal violations, such as tax fraud, identity theft fraud and the submission of false export documents."

September 8, 2014

Simplified cockpit for busy driver

Much as regulators and automakers have rushed to deal with the flood of distractions that invade the automobile -- GPS displays, Internet radio, e-mail and even Facebook apps -- there is a growing effort by engineers to build cars that gauge the difficulty of situations and recognize a driver in distress. Then the car would react, delaying all but the most urgent alerts, sending phone calls to voicemail and freeing the driver to focus on the task.

The study of driver workload management -- some would point to the irony in this reaction to a situation partly created by automakers themselves -- is progressing alongside the efforts of the planners who dream up new generations of infotainment features. A foundation of workload study is the Yerkes-Dodson Law, a theory developed in the early 20th century that plots workload and performance on a bell curve.

There can be trouble at either end -- an inattentive, underworked driver may be as much a risk as an overworked driver who cannot handle the combined sensory inputs and driving chores. In the middle is the ideal, a driver functioning at optimum level.

Systems that detect driver drowsiness, like the Mercedes-Benz Attention Assist feature, can prompt a driver to be more alert, but driver overload is harder to manage. N.H.T.S.A. has issued voluntary accessory-design guidelines in an effort to reduce distraction, but given consumers' hunger for gadgets, managing those distractions to reduce workload may prove a better solution.

As safety groups press for restrictions on phone conversations and messaging in the car, the urgency to find a solution will only increase, experts say. Studies of driver workload have a long history, but a milestone came in 2003 when the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, a unit of the Transportation Department -- in conjunction with Delphi, the giant parts supplier, Ford Motor and several universities -- began a research project to quantify distractions and driving situations as a way to generate workload estimates.

Paul A. Green, a University of Michigan research professor, said in a telephone interview that the Volpe study stimulated research. Today, automakers and universities are developing technologies that will let them measure the level of driver stress and the response to the pressure. That data could be used by a management system that would delay calls, alerts, text messages and warning lights at the times when the driver's workload was peaking and the stress level was high.

Continue reading "Simplified cockpit for busy driver" »

July 12, 2014

Subaru BRZ special edition, Aorta Azora Ozara ? aozora

2014 July Subaru promotions are more styling and options rebundling.


May 8, 2014

The sound of Formula One F1

Andy Cowell, the leader of the Mercedes Formula One engine program, said that whereas the V-8 engines of the past were so loud that all that could be heard was "angry noise," today there is a music to the engine function.

"You just take your earplugs out," he said. "Instead of it being painful unless you had earplugs in, now you can almost enjoy the sound, the musicality of it."

"Every time, I hear the compressor spin up and spin down as the driver rolls out of the garage," Cowell added, "and he puts a little bit of throttle on, and you hear the compressor come up and there's a 'whoosh,' as the compressor comes up, and the lift-off into the corner, there is a higher pitch, a higher frequency musicality to it."

December 1, 2013

Ghosts of Honda past

"Racing improves the breed."

" We will not be content with this victory alone [first win in F1]. We will study why we won and aggressively apply those winning technologies to new cars."

"The value of life can be measured by how many times your soul has been deeply stirred."

"If Honda does not race there is no Honda."

The man who said all these things created the great company that still bears his name. That company made its name selling economy cars, but every product with an H on it was imbued with a little bit of Mr Honda's spirit. He understood that racing didn't just make better components and better cars, it made better engineers as well. Engineers who understood what made a great car, not just a car that sold well.

When Soichiro Honda died, he took the guiding force of Honda Motor Company with him, and slowly, all the people who helped him make the company retired or left, and have been replaced with bean-counters who couldn't care less about making a car that excites you, every time you start it. The performance spirit took a few years to disappear completely, but if you look at today's Honda/Acura lineup, it is clear that it's gone.

If Mr Honda came back today, and saw some of the products that now bear his name, he'd be throwing piston heads at some of his employees, as he used to in the early days of the company

August 25, 2013

Peak car

city, state and federal policies that for more than half a century encouraged suburbanization and car use -- from mortgage lending to road building -- are gradually being diluted or reversed. "They created what I call a culture of 'automobility,' and arguably in the last 5 to 10 years that is dying out," Ms. Sheller said.

New York's new bike-sharing program and its skyrocketing bridge and tunnel tolls reflect those new priorities, as do a proliferation of car-sharing programs across the nation.

A study last year found that driving by young people decreased 23 percent between 2001 and 2009. The millennials don't value cars and car ownership, they value technology -- they care about what kinds of devices you own, Ms. Sheller said. The percentage of young drivers is inversely related to the availability of the Internet, Mr. Sivak's research has found. Why spend an hour driving to work when you could take the bus or train and be online?

From 2007 to 2011, the age group most likely to buy a car shifted from the 35 to 44 group to the 55 to 64 group, he found.

Continue reading "Peak car" »

June 10, 2013

Essex chav car culture waning

The financial crisis and disappearance of easy credit contributed to the contraction, but there's also been an aesthetic backlash. The popularity of Max'd cars peaked after the 2001 release of the first installment of the "Fast and the Furious" movie franchise, which centers on the illegal street racing culture, said Mark Guest, a former editor of the now-defunct magazine Max Power.

After the movie, modified cars "became very cool. Everyone wanted cool black civics and undercar neon. But now, modifieds have become associated with 'chav' culture," said Mr. Guest, using the derisive term often attached to white, working-class British youths some associate with criminality. "The image of the 'boy racer' became so unfortunate that the scene was driven underground," he said.

At its peak in the mid 2000s, Max Power sold 250,000 copies a month, Mr. Guest said. By 2010 it was out of business.

Weekly get-togethers, or "cruises," became targets of police intervention and public scorn, said Mr. Guest. In February, the local government in Southend-on-Sea, the Essex town known for its robust modified scene, issued an injunction against a planned cruise, citing prohibitions against, "cars driving in convoy, excessive speeding, racing, performing stunts, making excessive noise by, for example, sounding horns or playing radios."

Continue reading "Essex chav car culture waning" »

October 13, 2012

Hankook Ventus R-S3 tires

A great summer tire.
Large tread blocks.
Deep circumferential grooves.
Curved water evacuation grooves.


September 13, 2012

Debt stimulus and auto buyers

there are millions of gullible Americans who believe the storyline and are easily convinced that driving a $30,000 new car, financed over seven years, makes them a success. The decades of Bernaysian marketing propaganda has worked its magic on the government educated, math challenged citizenry.

There are only two things that matter to the non-thinking auto buyer (renter) - the monthly payment and what the next door neighbor and his coworkers will think. Buying a fuel efficient car they can afford, paying it off in three or four years, and driving it for ten years, while saving the monthly car payment, is what a practical, rational thinking person would do. The fact that only 20% of the 9.7 million vehicles sold this year have been small cars and the average sales price of new cars sold is now $31,000 proves Americans are still living in a delusional fantasyland of cheap gas and monthly payments for eternity.

Continue reading "Debt stimulus and auto buyers" »

September 8, 2012

Uber #1

The cab commission of the District of Columbia is less thrilled: it is in the midst of a legal tussle with Uber. Ron M. Linton, chairman of the commission, said Uber had begun operating in the city without its approval.

He said that under the commission's rules, there are limousines, which set a price with passengers in advance, and there are cabs, which have meters that charge by time or distance. He said Uber was breaking the rules by trying to be both. Uber calculates fares by time and distance, and then bills the customers' credit card.

The commission's inspectors have been citing Uber's car-service partners for infractions, Mr. Linton said. The commission is proposing to change the district's taxi laws to strengthen regulation of sedans like the ones that Uber's partners use. Mr. Linton said this would allow it to protect consumers from issues like extra fees that they don't understand.

"There's room for limos, for taxis and this new concept for sedans," he said. "We're trying to make it work for everybody, but we need cooperation. We can't deal with an organization that sticks its thumb up our nose."

Mr. Kalanick of Uber said its operations in Washington were completely legal, and that the commission was citing rules that don't exist. He said the commission wanted to regulate sedans more tightly so that it could control their fares, which would prevent Uber from eventually undercutting cabs.

"They want to keep our prices from going down, which is a very unusual price-fixing scheme," Mr. Kalanick said. "Essentially they're trying to protect taxis from competition, from having any viable alternative."

New York doesn't seem to have a problem with Uber. Allan Fromberg, a spokesman for the city's taxi and limousine commission, said that as long as services like Uber conformed to the city's rules, "we are highly supportive of ways to use technology to enhance service to the riding public."

August 15, 2012

Valencia built it

Spain, a country where regions have fought hard to bolster their autonomy, including the right to use their own languages. They regained those powers in the late 1970s, when Spain's fledgling democracy drew up a new Constitution after decades of authoritarian rule under Gen. Francisco Franco.

Gradually, the regions were put in charge of more of Spain's public expenditures, eventually accounting for about half -- twice the level of three decades ago. Ciudad de la Luz has become a prominent example of Valencia's frenzy of modern-day pyramid building, which left a legacy of $25.5 billion in regional debt and bankrupt infrastructure projects as well as the backlash now building against it.

Valencia's other investments included a harbor for superyachts, an opera house styled like the one in Sydney, Australia, a futuristic science museum, the biggest aquarium in Europe and a sail-shaped bridge, not to mention an airport that never had a single arrival or departure. It also attracted extravagant events like the America's Cup and Formula One racing.

June 11, 2012

FF shooting brake

Ferrari could have just gone with the crowd and built a low-slung four-door like the Aston Martin Rapide. Instead it built a modern version of the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Breadvan racecar, and bully on them for doing it. The world has enough Mercedes CLS clones. It doesn't have nearly enough Ferrari shooting brakes.


March 24, 2012

High cost of blue tech refills from Mercedes

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, buyers who choose the Bluetec 4Matic over the gasoline V-6 version of the ML350 will save $450 a year in fuel. That said, Mercedes's diesel S.U.V.'s require periodic fill-ups of another precious fluid. And with dealers marking up this pollution-fighting liquid like champagne on New Year's Eve, refills can cost owners $200 or even $300, wiping out a chunk of the fuel savings.

Like other larger turbodiesels in America, the ML must carry a large onboard tank of urea crystals in mineralized water, in a solution typically branded as AdBlue or DEF, for Diesel Emissions Fluid. The solution is automatically injected into the hot exhaust stream. Fluid vaporizes into carbon dioxide and ammonia, which enters a catalytic converter to turn smog-forming nitrogen oxides, a bane of diesel engines, into harmless nitrogen and water.

But fans of diesel powertrains have complained on Internet forums about high prices for replacing the urea solution. Consumer Reports received an eye-popping $317 dealership bill to refill a Mercedes GL-Class with about 16,500 miles on the odometer. That included $241 for 7.5 gallons of solution, which worked out to $32 a gallon.

Nor can owners simply keep driving their diesel after the juice runs dry: the E.P.A. thought of that, too, and it has required models to shut themselves down after a certain number of starts if owners ignore low-fluid warnings. Each gallon of solution is good for about 1,500 miles, and Mercedes recommends topping off during regular 10,000-mile service visits.

Handy owners, however, can avoid buying steeply marked-up fluid from dealers and refill on their own at much less expense and without labor charges. Such do-it-yourself jobs are more convenient because Mercedes moved the filling spout on the refreshed M-Class to behind the fuel door from the cargo area .

At Silver Star Motors in Long Island City, Queens, a Mercedes service adviser quoted me a price of $7 a quart for the emissions fluid, or $28 a gallon.

But retailers including AutoZone and Napa Auto Parts offer 2.5-gallon jugs of DEF for around $13, barely $5 a gallon, meaning that some dealers are marking up the fluid more than 600 percent over retail prices.

The do-it-yourselfer, then, could fully refill the Bluetec for less than $40. Silver Star's adviser said owners need only remember to top off before the urea tank is nearly empty, which can require resetting the computer sensor that monitors the fluid level and system.

Donna Boland, the corporate communications manager for Mercedes-Benz USA, said in an interview that the dealer servicing also includes a flushing of the system. She added that owners who opt to replace the DEF on their own should follow the product instructions explicitly and be certain that the solution is viable, as it can crystallize if it lingers on a shelf for too long.

BMW, for its part, gives its diesel owners free urea fill-ups under its four-year, 50,000-mile scheduled service plan. Volkswagen covers refills for three years and 36,000 miles. For BMW, the plan would pay for four annual fill-ups. In contrast, a Mercedes dealer's four premium pours would pluck roughly $900 to $1,200 from an owner's pocket. Another tale BMW value.

February 13, 2012

Digitally remastered by BMW, Part II: the sounds of M

The sound doesn't even come from a microphone in the engine compartment, which would make some perverse sense, but from a digital recording: "a discreet soundtrack in keeping with the harmonious and assured characteristics of the V8 power plant," BMW explains in its literature. Stomping on the gas pedal, the Bavarians continue, "prompts an immediate audible response to match the instantaneous -- and typically M -- burst of power from beneath the bonnet." They call it Active Sound Design.

In perspective, we all know that much of what we hear in life is not really so. Canned laughter and "sweetened" applause have been TV staples for decades, and all the slamming doors, breaking glass and squealing tires you hear in movies are sound effects. (Always notice when they have tires squealing on dirt roads ?)

Warning: The Next Sound You Hear Will Not Be Your Engine
Published: January 25, 2012
In a world of virtual noise, BMW fakes the roar of its engine with a digital recording in a red-hot 2013 model.

Posted in: Autos

Part 1: BMW X5, X6 vs Bill Howard and Dan Neil on digitally remastered suspension, brakes, engine controls, all required to negate the effects of more weight

November 22, 2011

Tradevans as playpens on wheels

Some owners use them as mobile offices, outfitted with fine leather chairs and Persian rugs; vans may also double as a child's playroom on wheels, complete with a built-in vacuum to clean what the children dirty.

And while some owners say they are drawn to the vehicles' vanilla exteriors, their outsize profiles cannot help but draw attention: at more than 22 feet long and nearly 9 feet tall, they look like cargo vans on steroids, their high roof lines dwarfing nearly all that surrounds them on the streets of New York. And that's before the satellite dishes are raised.

They are a striking and sometimes unwelcome counterpoint to other trends seen on city streets, where tiny Smart cars dart around hybrid taxis and traffic lanes once reserved for gas-guzzlers are now for bicycles or pedestrians.

"Using your vehicle as a luxury lounge is just usurping public space for your own private use," said Michael Murphy, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group that encourages New Yorkers to travel around the city more responsibly. "Streets are shared space and belong to the community."

Nonetheless, during morning spin classes at Soul Cycle, the Upper East Side studio, the parking spaces cannot accommodate the Sprinter vans, Range Rovers and Lexus GX470s that are sometimes double-parked. A modified black Mercedes van owned by Philip A. Falcone, the chief of Harbinger Capital Partners, has become a fixture on the Upper East Side, idling by the Michael Kors shop on Madison Avenue.

Jill Kargman, a writer and mother of three who lives on the Upper East Side, said that play dates adhered to a certain pecking order: those that start in one of these ultra-luxury vans are preferable because they can "just bop into a souped-up bulletproof living room on wheels," she said.

Continue reading "Tradevans as playpens on wheels" »

September 25, 2011

Honda losing its way

My family has owned four Civics over the last 20 years. Every month I pay $347.66 on my daily driver, a Civic Si sedan I bought new back in 2008. With this new, indifferent Civic, alongside the hulking second-generation Pilot sport utility; the Insight, a cut-rate Prius clone; and virtually all of the current Acura models, Honda seems intent on eradicating its own distinctiveness.

Where is the Honda that built the sophisticated Prelude sporty coupe, the intuitive S2000 roadster, the overachieving Integra Type R and the world-beating NSX supercar? The Honda where keeping things simple also meant better quality, thoughtful detailing, exquisite engineering and delightful mechanical operation?

I want that Honda back.

Continue reading "Honda losing its way" »

June 5, 2011

Middle class economy car: make less than $85k, drive an economy car

famous Prius owners just like driving a 50 m.p.g. hybrid even if they could commute via yacht and helipad. And even for many middle-class converts, the Prius's $26,000 median price is hardly a burden: Toyota figures the average Prius household pulls in nearly $83,000 a year, which is rather high for an economy car.

Those figures help to illuminate Toyota's logic behind the 2011 Lexus CT 200h. Is this deluxe hybrid hatchback a better car than the Prius? You bet. Is it really worth an extra $7,000 or $8,000? For a bargain hunter, no. But for a certain well-heeled, light-footed buyer, the Lexus should be a painless stretch.

The CT 200h won't quite match the Prius's mileage, but at a robust 44 miles per gallon in my own combined city and highway driving, it's close enough. And despite its pokey Prius-based hybrid system, the Lexus gives people good reasons to move up.

The CT is more luxurious, more quiet and feels more solidly put together. And its distinctive design, inside and out, may attract two types of customers: bored Prius owners who want something new, and people who crave high mileage but wouldn't be caught dead in a Prius, for either its econobox vibe or its granola image.

Continue reading "Middle class economy car: make less than $85k, drive an economy car" »

December 22, 2010

Employment elasticity of demand for auto insurance

In addition to the growing number of older cars on the road, the percentage of uninsured drivers rose to 18.1 percent in 2009, from 17.4 percent a year earlier, according to CNW Research. The economy is a big reason: a percentage point increase in the unemployment rate leads to a rise of 0.75 percentage point in the number of uninsured drivers, said Michael McShane, a risk management professor at Old Dominion University.

Continue reading "Employment elasticity of demand for auto insurance" »

November 14, 2010

F1 2010 standing cumulative plot

Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton chase the Formula One championship..


Via Autosport / AtlasF1

September 13, 2010

Useful, practical, durable city-cars: obsolete ?

The durable Ford Crown Victoria and Lincoln Towncar with easy entry back seat are being retired.
Will they be replaced by smaller cars with smaller, painful to access back seats, or with full size SUVs, or with specialty makes like a Checker Marathon Cab or London Taxi ?


"These cars are a facet of people's everyday experience," said David Yassky, the city's taxi commissioner. "Whatever takes their place will have a real and tangible influence on the city's aesthetic."

Passengers should prepare for a bumpier, more cramped ride. Forget roomy trunks that fit a French-door refrigerator; the older models are yielding to smaller gas-and-electric hybrid vehicles with knee-bumping back seats and flimsier frames.

The impending departures have left New York's livery world scrambling. The Taxi and Limousine Commission is holding a contest to design a new taxicab to replace the city's 8,200 Crown Victoria yellow taxis. The Police Department will lose a fast-accelerating sedan it has depended on since 1992. And the black-car industry must replace 75 percent of its fleet.

What's next: Audi A8L, Tahoe Denali XL, or Altima ?

Continue reading "Useful, practical, durable city-cars: obsolete ?" »

August 7, 2010

Orange Cayman S


2010 Porsche Cayman S Orange

July 16, 2010

BMW Classic supports classic older BMW autos with parts, service, restoration, information (brochures, press kits, service manuals), and museums and rentals.
Rent a restored 1960s BMW rebuilt by the factory !

Example: 1968-1975 e3, prelude to the 5 series.


November 12, 2009

aspirational Suzuki Kizashi

The question for Suzuki is whether Kizashi sales will be hurt by the poor economy or helped because consumers see the car as a good value. Suzuki, long a bit player in the American market, said its goal was to move from being an alternative to mainstream brands (Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Toyota) to being an alternative to aspirational brands (Mini, Volkswagen, Mazda). That will be a tall order indeed, but certainly the Kizashi is a big step in the right direction.

Continue reading "aspirational Suzuki Kizashi " »

August 31, 2009

VW for idiots, Part 2

The Jetta platform will provide the basis for VW's new workhorse for the American market, and the company is "pretty much convinced" that Jetta will be the name as well, Mr. Jacoby said. But he promised a retooling that would try to blend European design and allure with Americans' practical needs.

For instance, there will be more and different types of cup holders -- a must-have for American consumers.

A different suspension will yield a smoother ride. Folding mirrors, a necessity in tight European streets, will not be standard. The acceleration and braking pedals will be farther apart in response to American complaints that it is easy to accidentally press both simultaneously.

And some other device will replace the balky dials used to recline seats in European cars. Market research in the United States found that "women break their fingernails or scratch their hands," Mr. Jacoby said.

Volkswagen is also slowly asserting firm control over its dealer network, long a source of irritation among American buyers. They complained about bad after-sales service on top of quality problems, such as electrical systems, with VW cars.

Part 1: VW tailored especially for unrefined Americans.

Continue reading "VW for idiots, Part 2" »

August 24, 2009

Tailored especially for unrefined Americans.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta - Tailored especially for unrefined Americans.

From C&D:

"Why is VW walking away from global cars, especially at a time when other automakers are globalizing? The company feels that American and Asian customers don't appreciate the refinement of its current offerings. "U.S. customers look at car size and engine displacement. They won't pay a dollar extra for a Passat over the Camry just because of its finesse and attention to detail," a company executive told us in Wolfsburg."

I hope that VW realizes that many of us by a VW JUST because they are refined - and are willing to pay a little more. Build your car for the masses - just please keep sending the Passat, Golf, etc., for those of us who appreciate the difference.

Continue reading "Tailored especially for unrefined Americans." »

August 23, 2009

BMW departs F1

At a time of financial meltdown, is it any wonder the board looked at the embarrassment of its F1 programme and identified an easy nine-figure saving each year? BMW was the victim of a confluence of factors: a progressively technically strangled F1, the inopportune advent of an expensive technology with an economic downturn, its brand's sensitivity to lack of performance and its own very specific and confident timetable for success, something that always made its prospects somewhat brittle.

-- Mark Hughes, Autosport

June 23, 2009

Trade in clunkers ?

Do new-car buyers even drive clunkers ?

Am I driving a clunker because I cannot afford a 4 year old car ?
Will an extra $1000 trade in afford me a new car (or 14 month olf d car) ?

Update 2009 June 30:

"It has to be worth not very much and it also has to get very poor E.P.A. fuel economy," said Jack R. Nerad, the executive editorial director and market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "It's a fairly narrow profile. You're talking about people who are probably economically challenged to begin with and they have to be able to qualify for a new car purchase in the midst of a deep recession. Those are some difficult parameters."

The case of the sad SAAB, junked with a work badge.


Continue reading "Trade in clunkers ?" »

May 10, 2009

Nostalgic cars

In what ways are the new pony cars like and unlike the predecessors they at once pay homage to and claim to surpass?

-- Stanley Fish capture the appeal of retro cars like the MINI, new Beetle, Camaro, Mustang and Challenger.

December 14, 2008

Cars Direct experience

Carsdirect buying experience:

On Monday I placed an online order with CarsDirect for a Honda Pilot. Dealer Invoice was $32,507 (that's what the dealer pays), and MSRP was $36,040 (the recommended price). Anything above the invoice price is profit for the dealer. The CarsDirect price was $33,306. That leaves $800 in profit for the dealer and CarsDirect to split. Seems fair to me. An hour after I placed the order I had a ten minute conversation with a CarsDirect rep named John. I confirmed I wanted the car, discussed the pros and cons of buying a black vehicle with him, and he promised to call back when he found the car. Twenty minutes later he called back and said he found the car with the options and colors I wanted. He asked when I wanted it and if I wanted it delivered. I said "tomorrow, and yes please deliver it to my house". Total time spent: about 30 minutes.

December 13, 2008

Germanity in auto advertizing

Good rant about car ads

The other side of the equation? VW's "Un-Pimp Mein Auto" spots. Swedish actor Stormare is obviously playing off his Uli Kunkel/Karl Hungus character from Lebowski, and while it should be funny to see Stormare goofing on Deutschland, VW poking fun at itself and to watch ludicrous tuner cars get lunched in ridiculous ways, it's too fratty and over-the-top. The wink; the nod; they are too broad. Instead of just being clever, they shout, "Let's show you how clever we really are in a bro-down kind of way. Seth Stevenson has an excellent deconstruction of Crispin Porter + Bogusky's recent ads over at Slate.

mixed metaIV.

Continue reading "Germanity in auto advertizing" »

November 18, 2008

Value of GM

The company: $ 1.7 Billion market capitalization.


The building: $ 2.9 Billion


November 10, 2008

Telephone sales scams promoting extended car warranties

Alert: The muchly annoying robo calls are under investigation.

This is the second warning that the factory warranty on your vehicle has expired.

ATTORNEYS GENERAL in several states are investigating what they suspect are telephone sales scams promoting extended car warranties, often by calling cellphones or numbers that are listed on do-not-call registries.

The Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, said his office had received "a huge number of complaints -- hundreds of complaints." Connecticut is part of a large, multistate investigation into such calls, he said.

Another of those states is Iowa. "They are trying to trick you into believing that the communication is coming from the auto manufacturer and that your warranty is about to expire and you need to do something to extend that warranty," said William L. Brauch, a special assistant attorney general and director of the consumer protection division in Iowa.

But automakers are not behind the policies, Mr. Brauch said, and after purchasing such a policy it may be difficult if not impossible to get reimbursed for a repair.

"A number of these companies tend to routinely deny paying, they come up with various interpretations, shall we say, of the agreements, which they say justify them not covering whatever the ...

Fill story after the jump

See also: Amazon Prime $79 Refund class action suit.

Continue reading "Telephone sales scams promoting extended car warranties" »

September 5, 2008

Motoring Friday: BMW X5, X6 vs Bill Howard and Dan Neil

The X5 has a feeling of sullen mass being bullied around by unsympathetic power and technology. Put another way: the X5 drives like a Formula 1 forklift. ... A tangled skein of electronics and digitally remastered suspension, brakes, engine controls, all required to negate the effects of more weight, requiring yet more weight (wheels and tires, brakes, engines, up and up and up) ? In this most elegant of vehicles, where's the elegance in that ?

Dan Neil and Bill Howard in 2008 August Roundel.

July 9, 2008

SUV culture

Have you ever tried to talk someone out of a bad idea?

Some people are going to be open-minded and listen to your objections,
and if you're actually right, they'll consider the evidence and take
your advice. Some people will get defensive, however, and refuse to listen.

Some people will get so defensive that they'll actually double down to
prove the nay-sayers wrong--they'll marry that bad boyfriend or put more
money into the bad investment. They will, rather than risk the chance that
they might get proven wrong and open themselves to a chorus of
"I told you sos", will live in denial about their bad decisions until the last
possible moment when it's becoming clear that they cannot sustain this
bad decision any longer.

Having framed the question, the fact that America's reaction to
increasing evidence of both peak oil and global warming would be to
reduce our average gas mileage was entirely predictable.


it was inevitable that a high percentage of people would like SUVs not in spite of their low mileage, but because of the low mileage. Instead of wishing human nature to change, then, I'm going to suggest that the people who exploited this rationalization tendency hold the lion's share of the blame. For people who wanted to engage in wishful thinking about the relationship between oil and environmental problems, right wing pundits, car companies, and oil companies did all the hard psychological rationalizing work for people. They painted critics as effeminate hippies that are just trying to tell you what to do because they're sanctimonious and nosy. (That some really are sanctimonious only made the situation worse.) They gave people pseudo-scientific explanations they could latch onto.


June 2, 2007

Autoblog relaunch

Autolog has cleaned up its design, and keeps posting
about twice an hour.

Notable: Relaunch and companion Autoblog Green lusts after
the new MINI Cooper D.

Previously: Autoblog enjoyed the MINI back in 2004, too.

Continue reading "Autoblog relaunch" »

May 27, 2007

Third car is a small car

“From a dollars-and-cents point of view, it doesn’t make sense,”
said Jesse Toprak, director of industry analysis for,
a Web site that offers car-buying advice. “There’s no way you’re
going to drive it enough to justify the purchase, so it’s more of a
psychological decision.”

That is particularly true for premium models, like the Mini Cooper,
as well as cars in Toyota’s Scion lineup. When decked out with
options like aluminum wheel covers and leather seats, their prices
can climb well above $20,000, the same as a family sedan or a
midsize S.U.V.

[ small car, third car ]

March 5, 2007


Fast Lane Daily portal of driving and automotive blogs.

October 10, 2006

Audi rs4: hoontastic

Best sport sedan proclaimed: 1, 2, 3.

See also TTAC review by simile factory Jonny Lieberman and comment.

September 11, 2006

My hoopty ride

Lincoln Town Car, 1998+, black.

Continue reading "My hoopty ride" »

September 9, 2006

Fourtitude: Audiworld++

Fourtitude community of Audi, and like makes.

Events like
Audi Forum Meet

Showing of the new Audi R8 at the Audi Forum New York City
has been confirmed as a go. This Saturday, October 28 from
3-5 o’clock PM, Fourtitude readers will have a chance to get
up close and personal with Audi's new supercar one last
time before it is packed up and shipped out of the Audi Forum.

Of course, the Audi Forum holds up to five cars, so accenting
the R8 will be a 1939 Auto Union Type D silver arrow racecar,
an RS 4 sedan, a Q7 and a $175,000 A8 W12 kitted with just
about any option quattro GmbH can dream up.

While many guests will be local Manhattanites, we hear some will
be travelling from far-flung places like Florida and points west.
Look for a little something special for the person coming in from
the furthest point on the map.

Audi Forum Director Axel Catton will offer a short presentation on the
forum and the cars, followed by a casual time where visitors can
examine the cars, ask questions of Audi and Fourtitude staff on
hand, and simply enjoy the atmosphere.

The Audi Forum New York City is located on the South East corner of
Park Avenue and 47th street in the heart of Manhattan.

August 25, 2006


NY BMW CCA's forums and latest news.

The New York BMW Car Club of America.

August 22, 2006

Golf 1,2,3,4,5: Rabbit

Five generations of VW Rabbit, Golf, Golf, Golf and Rabbit.
Ten inches longer, 1000 pounds heavier, and twice as powerful.

August 21, 2006

Audi s3, Orange

Orange was previously requested.

Continue reading "Audi s3, Orange" »

June 9, 2006

Matte black on Autoblogging Friday

Matte black looks great on the new Honda Civic Type-R.
Analysis. Would look good on a new Bangled 5er or
Lexus IS, too, with their superflouos stealth
fighter curves.

Update 2006 Nov:

As show-stopping designs go, none proved more popular
with the paparazzi than a black 575-horsepower Mercedes
-Benz CLS55. This wicked witch was built by a noted
customizer, Matthew Figliola of Ai Design in Tuckahoe, N.Y.
The car’s buffed matte black paint looked like burnished
steel. Why did it work?

Because of the “flop”, said Mr. Foose, who is also host of a
customizing show, “Overhaulin’,” on the Learning Channel.
The flop is the break in light and dark shading across a vehicle’s
character lines.

“When you bring in a matte color, it may have a really beautiful
flop to it,” Mr. Foose explained. “You know, a light side and a dark
side, and your eye can focus on that surface. With all the polished
and reflected surfaces around it, it gives a quality texture.”

Mr. Foose uses matte or flat black surfaces to relieve the
“Christmas ball effect” that he says can overwhelm some of
today’s more extreme designs.

“When you have a full-polished surface, all you are looking at
are reflections,” he said. “When you open the hood of a car, and
you look at the beautiful reflective body forms, you are going
down to a chrome surface on the engine, and you’re looking
at a color right next to it that is all polished. It starts looking
like a Christmas ball next to another Christmas ball next to
another one.”

The danger of dull black finishes, Mr. Foose said, is that when
they are poorly executed “it doesn’t convey quality.”

“It’s kind of like, ‘O.K., we didn’t have enough money to finish
this car, so we just matte-finished it.’ ”

-- SEMA 2006.

Would like to see an orange

Continue reading "Matte black on Autoblogging Friday" »

May 12, 2006


STL BMW CCA aka STL BMW Club gave a great technical event: Gateway Tech.

January 8, 2006

Subaru Impreza WRX STi

STi page is at

December 15, 2005

Cool is when you aren't

Hips are about sexuality.
-- Joel Piaskowski, chief designer at the Hyundai Kia Design
and Technical Center in California.

Hips are also about hipness, or youth.

But these judgments are often made by designers and auto executives
who are no longer young. Something may seem hip to them because it
evokes their past; to young people, something may be cool because it
envisions their future.


Continue reading "Cool is when you aren't" »

November 7, 2005

Tour de NORD: Hudson Bay or Bust III

Mapping the 2006 arctic expedition.

Newfoundland coast

Planning threads:
Arctic MINI reference by Ross Trusler.

More about Newfoundland:
Picture gallery by Jerry Curtis.

Saint John's: BureauMétéo
Increasing cloudiness. Snow at times mixed with ice pellets beginning overnight.
Snow and ice pellet amount 5 to 10 cm. Wind becoming east 20 km/h then increasing
to 40 gusting to 60 overnight. Temperature rising to zero by morning.

August 22, 2005

June was Lane Courtesy month

June was Lane Courtesy month.
Keep right except to pass.
Slower traffic keep right.

It's the law.

Continue reading "June was Lane Courtesy month" »

July 31, 2005

Shanghai Roads

As many road geeking opportunities as California ?

Continue reading "Shanghai Roads" »

May 19, 2005

Hudson galleries

Uptick's arctic trek gallery.

Ross Trusler's Arctic MINI and Dave Rose' DuctTape.

May 16, 2005


Peter 'Uptick' Wan' s photo galleries include NYC MINI.

May 13, 2005

Hudson trip gallery

Peter E (nakedpillowfight) 's gallery.

May 11, 2005

nemini thread

NE (New England / North East) MINI thread on Hudson trip.

May 2, 2005

misc us highway photos and roadgeeking

Misc. highway photography and roadgeek forum by
Carl Rodgers.

Example: I-880/CA-262 Interchange in Fremont, CA


April 17, 2005

Sell your car online

Field report:

Your odds are much better when placing an online ad for your used
MINI, in the main "outlets" such as and A
dedicated MINI website for this purpose could not always be a successful
thing because buyers out there interested in MINIs (mainly, classics are
a more confined market)are also shopping for other vehicles as well.

I sold my '04 MCS in, just 6 days after placing the ad
with 12 photos. The buyer of the car is a local resident, so you never
know who may show interest in your car.

April 15, 2005

Motorist News

Motorist news covers sppeding tickets, enforcement,
traffic calming and road imrprovements from a motorist's
point of view.

March 20, 2005

Shoulder of James Bay highway

James Bay road's wide shoulders offer progressively deeper
snow the further off road you go. The centre of the road
offers a thin layer of packed snow and ice.


February 3, 2005

Hudson Maps 3: Montreal to Mont Laurier

Part 3: Montreal to Mont Laurier

3a Montreal to Ste-Agathe-Des-Monts on Hyw 15
3b Ste-Agathe-Des-Monts to Mont Laurier on Hyw 117

Road conditions Hyw 15.

Montréal (pont Champlain) – Jcn A-40 (Montréal)
Jcn A-40 (Montréal) – Ste-Thérèse
Ste-Thérèse – St-Jérôme
St-Jérôme – Ste-Adèle
Ste-Adèle – Ste-Agathe

Road Conditions Hyw 117


January 28, 2005

2005 Formula One calendar

2005 Formula One calendar.

1. March 6 Australian GP - Albert Park
2. March 20 Malaysian GP - Sepang
3. April 3 Bahrain GP - Bahrain International Circuit
4. April 24 San Marino GP - Imola
5. May 8 Spanish GP - Catalunya
6. May 22 Monaco GP - Monte Carlo
7. May 29 European GP - Nurburgring
8. June 12 Canadian GP - Montreal
9. June 19 United States GP - Indianapolis
10. July 3 French GP - Magny-Cours
11. July 10 British GP - Silverstone
12. July 24 German GP - Hockenheim
13. July 31 Hungarian GP - Hungaroring
14. August 21 Turkish GP - Istanbul Kurtkoy International Circuit
15. September 4 Italian GP - Monza
16. September 11 Belgian GP - Spa-Francorchamps
17. September 25 Brazilian GP - Interlagos
18. October 9 Japanese GP - Suzuka
19. October 16 Chinese GP - Shanghai International Circuit

January 17, 2005

Winter driving report

Winter driving report
Location: Sandy Hook Manitoba Ca

Extreme cold temp. report
The over night lows here are hitting -30F and with the windchill it feels like

My MC starts every time,first time,with no block heater.

North American Motoring

Continue reading "Winter driving report" »

December 29, 2004

Harris Yong

Harris Yong's (snow driving) and car and tire reviews.
Pics index, and Dragon drive review, and cupholder movie.

November 28, 2004

AutoBlogging Friday: Subaru Re1

AutoBlogging Friday compared dreamy showcars vs dreary their
production descendants.

Case in point: the Subaru Re1.

November 11, 2004

Rennwerks German car tuning in Silicon Valley

Rennwerks is a German car tuner in Silicon Valley, and builder of winning racecars.

October 12, 2004

Go Motoring

Go Motoring, MINI Cooper blog-portal aggregator.

October 9, 2004

Motoring File

Motoringfile, best MINI Cooper blog.
Based in Chicago, USA.