Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Revealed: 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser

The 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser will be unveiled Wednesday Feb. 1st at the Chicago Auto Show.

For 2013, the Land Cruiser gets a refreshed exterior which includes an updated grille, headlamps with HID low-beams, LED daytime running lights, and chrome side molding.

Under the hood of the Land Cruiser will be a 5.7L V8 DOHC engine. This engine will produce 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque and uses 87 octane gasoline.

The major changes take place in the interior of this large SUV. Some new interior features include a multi-information display, heated steering wheel, dynamic radar cruise control, a multi-terrain monitor that has front, side, and rear views, and a rear cargo deck power outlet. The big news is that options such as a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, leather-trimmed steering wheel, Bluetooth hands free controls,Toyota's premium HDD Navigation with Entune multi-media system, and JBL audio are all standard.

Just like every Toyota vehicle I am not really feeling the Land Cruiser's design. I really like how big rear-wheel SUV's drive so I'm sure the Land Cruiser will drive well. I just hope down the line that Toyota does something interesting with their designs. I guess many of these people don't have design on the top of their list when they're shopping for a vehicle. But if it's not broken then don't fix it.

Check back for more details once the Land Cruiser is unveiled tomorrow!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thoughts: Nissan Maxima

I grew up around Maxima's so I am a big fan of the Nissan Maxima. My grandmother had three generations of Maxima's ('84, '99, and '05). My great-grandfather currently has an '03 Maxima. The Maxima is Nissan's flapship sedan but I think that can be argued with. Over the years the Maxima has lost it's way probably because Nissan had no idea what to do with it. I do believe that Nissan did a great job of giving the current generation Maxima a great design. This current design definitely stands out and every time I see it on the road I'm always looking like I've never seen it before. The Maxima's engine has increased in horsepower, now to 290 hp from a 3.5L V6 engine, which Nissan does very well. The interior of the Maxima has been greatly improved which it needed to be.

The main complaint about the Maxima is that it's not a true sports sedan. People have a hard time with the Maxima being front-wheel drive and having a CVT transmission. These are the two reason why many people won't purchase a Maxima. I have driven the current generation Maxima and I was quite pleased with the way the Maxima drives. With some much power from the engine I think it is time for Nissan to give the Maxima an AWD option. Many feel that if that is an option the Maxima will hurt G37 sales but I do not agree with that. If someone wants to buy a luxury vehicle they will be a luxury vehicle. The Ford Taurus, and Chrysler 300 both have AWD options and even the next generation Ford Fusion will have an AWD option. I think that the option of an AWD system would help improve the sales of the Maxima and actually make it a four-door sports car. There needs to be more marketing for the Maxima as well. I rarely see an commercials or advertisements for the Maxima. I have a couple of car reviews under my belt and when I look at other car reviewers I have not seen many reviews of the Maxima.

The Nissan Maxima is a terrific car and Nissan really needs to put the Maxima back on the map and show that it is their flagship sedan. The Maxima deserves more recognition from Nissan. The Maxima will be one of my top 3 choices when I start looking for a car.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thoughts: 2013 Lincoln MKZ

*Update (3/30/12): The 2013 MKZ will come equipped with a sliding glass roof. Lincoln chose this design to differentiate the MKZ from the Ford Fusion. I think this a great feature that many MKZ buyers will enjoy. I'm really excited about this vehicle!

(1/11/12) I have to say that the 2013 Lincoln MKZ concept car is HOT!!! This is the design language that I expect from Ford's  luxury brand. The MKZ concept looks like a true luxury vehicle. After seeing the MKZ concept, I wished Lincoln would have held off on the changes to the MKS and MKT. But like everyone else has been saying, it's still front-wheel drive. While the MKZ concept looks vastly different from the Fusion concept will that change in design make someone buy an MKZ or a Fusion? I'm quite not sure. I really like the Fusion concept and think it looks great but I also like the MKZ concept. Still when it comes down to money I don't think I would shell out extra for the MKZ.

The Lincoln brand still has a long way to go! By looking at the MKZ concept they are going in the right design direction but there's a lot still missing. I don't know what they're doing over their at Lincoln but there needs to be a rear-wheel drive vehicle in their lineup. If Hyundai made the effort to ave rear-wheel drive vehicles in their lineup, Lincoln needs to make that same effort. I personally think more changes need to be made at Lincoln.

What are your thoughts on the Lincoln MKZ concept?

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Interview: Doug Scott, Sr. Vice President, GfK Automotive

I recently had an interview with Doug Scott who is Sr. Vice President of GfK Automotive. He has more than 29 years of experience in the automotive and marketing research industries. He has also worked with automakers such as Toyota, Chrysler, and Subaru. Mr. Scott was a national research manager for Toyota Motor Sales before joining GfK.

GfK Automotive conducts research for the global automotive industry.

My interview with Doug Scott focused on the challenges that electric vehicles must overcome. Check out my interview below:

What are your thoughts on the sale figures of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf?

The sales are disappointing thus far. Gas prices have declined which has changed the thoughts of many consumers. The Volt is a car that runs on electricity and gas but that comes with a premium you have to pay for. The Leaf is entirely electric but has the range anxiety issues. We found in our surveys, when you ask people whats the minimum acceptable range for a vehicle, they usually say between 150-175 miles. The fact is that the average commute that people drive is no more than 40 miles a day. Until someone comes out with other options or the Leaf boost it's range compacity past a 100 miles there will not be strong sales numbers. Americans don't want to give up their trucks or SUV's. The sale of trucks and SUV's have picked up again because of the market place. I think the issue is that 2011 was a disappointing year for the Volt and Leaf. The fact that regular conbustion cars, the Elantra's, Corolla's and Sentra's; you have the regulatory pressures on manufacturers that mandate fuel effeciency. This makes it extremely difficult to market the Volt and Leaf.

How do you think manufactures can overcome limited driving range?

There has to be a education program that needs to get out there. The current market conditions fight against alternative powertrains. It may be that Nissan and others have to get out there. Living in a southern city and just reassuring people that they can drive over the course of a day or so 70 some more miles. They have the flexibility of using their homes to charge their vehicles. It all comes down to educating the consumer. I was recently watching  television and the Nissan Leaf was quite prevalent in several commercials. But they are only available in select areas of the country. The manufactures need figure out ways to adapt these alternative powertrains for stop and go traffic and figure out ways to decrease the amount of energy that is used by the batteries. sucking down the energy of the system. There needs to be regulatory pressures for this to take place. Chevy recently said they were cutting back the production of the Chevy volt. Thats not what Chevy needs to do for the psychology of the car. But it is marketing, and its public relations that manufacturers are going to have to do and put their effort in.

What are your thoughts on plug-in hybrids i.e. Volvo Plug-in hybrid and Ford Fusion Plug-in hybrid?

Absolutely!, what you eliminate is range anxiety. Your stuck with the premium price and that's what you have to work on. You have to bring down the cost of your comparable vehicle with a smaller displacement engine. The diesel in the U.S. has a history of smelly and fuels. Most services which had a diesel pump gave it up. They are there to gas up your car. Toyota came up with a hybrid to take up that space. This was the transition of hybrid vehicles. I believe that plug-in hybrids will surpass electric cars because of their extended range. Hybrids are your gap filler as long as the price is down. Hydrogen cars and electric cars are a long way off before they both take a portion of automotive sales.

Are electric vehicles safe?

That's a 64 dollar question. I think what we have found is that they seem to be inherently safe but when their in an accident something has to be deactivated in order to be able to get to the person. I don't think we're seeing hybrid cars with batteries going up in flames. But I think what is happening is that during an accident or something of that nature we are seeing issues. Manufactures, such as Chevy has gotten out of their fast with their mechanical issues.

What do you think is more important to a person who is buying an electric vehicle: savings cost or emissions?

I think emmissions is way down on the list. Think of the population being segmented who are very green. You have a narrow band of people at 15% who want to reduce emissions. Then there are others who would purchase an electric vehicle if it didn't cost so much. I think the other issues of a pocket book nature, is does this save me any money in either maintenance? When gas prices keep going down the monetizing begins to look difficult to look at.

In the long run, does it make financial sense to purchase an electric car instead of a gas-powered vehicle?

The answer is only when the price gap is significantly reduced. You have a catch 22 there. But only when the regulatory pressure is put on the manufactures. Then there are people who don't want regulatory pressures. It's good to have regulatory rules by 2025 54 miles a gallon. There isn't the urgency of fuel resources and pollution on the other. Many people feel I can't afford 6 or 7 thousand dollars more for a vehicle. If later in the year we have another $5 a gallon for gas, there will be more Hyundai Elantras and Honda Civics bought. There's a catch twenty, two issues which are long range regulations, and the price of fuel.

I want to thank Tania Fonovic for putting this interview together. I also want to thank Doug Scott for taking out the time to answer my questions.

For more information on GfK Automotive check out their website:

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Revealed: 2013 Ford Fusion

Ford unveiled the next generation Fusion. It will be the first sedan to offer gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid powertrains. Both automatic and manual transmissions will be offered. There will be three trim levels of the Fusion in North America: S, SE, and Titanium series. The Fusion will be very similar to the Ford Mondeo which will be for other world markets.

There will be three engine choices. A 1.6L Ecoboost four-cylinder engine which is expected to deliver best in-class fuel efficiency. It will deliver 26 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. It will also use an automatic start/stop system. A 2.0L EcoBoost engine paired with a six-speed SelectShift Automatic transmission. All-wheel drive will be an option for the 2.0L EcoBoost engine. The Fusion Hybrid will use a 2.0L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine. It will deliver best in class fuel economy of 47 mpg in the city and 44 mpg on the highway.

The Fusion will have tons of techonology. Options include a Lane Keeping System, Adaptive cruise control,  Active park assist, and Blind Spot Information System. It will also offer the latest version of MyFord Touch.

I am very impressed with the new Ford Fusion! Ford really took their time to come up with a great midsize sedan. I never liked the Fusion before but I really like this redesigned model. The Fusion is a good looking vehicle and looks a lot better than the Camry, Accord, and current Altima. I think that the new Fusion will give other midsize sedans a run for their money. This will be a very competitive vehicle and I'm sure that people will now take more notice of the Ford Fusion.

What are your thoughts on the new Ford Fusion?

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Revealed:Cadillac ATS

Cadillac unveiled their new rear-wheel drive ATS sedan. The ATS will compete against the BMW 3-series, Infiniti G, Mercedes-Benz C Class, and Audi A4. The ATS will take the slot below the bigger Cadillac CTS.

There will be three engine choices to choose from. The base model car will come with a 2.5L four-cylinder engine producing 200 horsepower and 188 lb-ft of torque. A 2.0L turbo four-cylinder producing 270 horsepower. The last choice is a 3.6L V6 producing 318 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel-drive will be an available option. Just like the XTS, the ATS will also have Cadillac's CUE Infotainment System.

I have to say that the ATS is a great looking vehicle. I actually think it is better looking than the CTS. I have to give Cadillac credit for their current designs! It seems that Cadillac has really done their research and tests to make sure the ATS was able to face it's German rivals. I have driven both the Infiniti G and BMW 3-series, so I can't wait to get behind the wheel of the new ATS.

What are your early thoughts on the Cadillac ATS?

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Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Hyundai will unveil the Veloster Turbo at the North American International Auto Show.

The Veloster will be powered by a 1.6L four-cylinder engine. This engine will produce 201 horsepower and 196lb-ft of torque. This is a major upgrade from the base model Veloster's engine which produces 138 horsepower and 123lb-ft of torque.

While I have not yet had the opportunity to drive the Veloster, I have heard and read complaints about the Veloster's base engine. Many people felt that is was not enough horsepower and torque. Everyone should now be satisfied with the Veloster Turbo.

Please check back for more details about the Veloster Turbo after is revealed.

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Volvo XC60 Plug-in Gasoline Hybrid Concept

Volvo will unveil the XC60 Plug-in Gasoline Hybrid Concept at the Detroit Auto Show on January 9th, 2012.

The XC60 Plug-in Gasoline Hybrid Concept has been developed specifically the United States and China. The XC60 Concept functions as pure electric car, a hybrid, and a performance car. It is the first vehicle that can plugged directly into a traditional wall outlet.

The XC60 Plug-in Gasoline Hybrid Concept uses a 2.0L four-cylinder turbocharged direct-injected engine with stop/start technology that powers the front wheels. It also uses an electric motor that drives the rear wheels. The engine is mated to a 8-speed automatic transmission. The new four-cylinder engines will appear on all future Volvo vehicles. The new four-cylinder engines will offer the same performance as current six cylinder engines but with improved fuel economy. The four-cylinder engine has an output of 280 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor adds 70 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. The XC60 Concept has a combined max power output of 350 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque. The driver of the XC60 Concept can choose from three modes: PURE, HYBRID, or POWER. The XC60 Concept can travel solely on electricity for 34 miles in PURE mode. When put in HYBRID mode it can achieve a combined 50 mpg. Acceleration from 0-60 happens in about 5.8 seconds.

I never really get excited about Volvo vehicles but this concept has me very interested. This will be a major model for Volvo in their lineup.

What are your early thoughts on the Volvo XC60 Plug-in Gasoline Hybrid Concept?

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