Could the Pricetag for EVs Drop Soon?

Posted in: Electric Cars

Electric cars haven’t exactly taken the country by storm (yet), and even with gas hovering around the $4 a gallon mark, sales are sluggish at best. Today, we are miles away from the government’s prediction that there will be 1 million EVs on the road by 2015, although they areoutselling hybrids by nearly a two-to-one margin.

Chevrolet's electric Volt

Part of the challenge with electric vehicles is the cost; an EV costs significantly more than its gas-guzzling counterpart, and many drivers remain unconvinced that the higher up-front price will be offset by fuel savings. We received a little more insight into those costs on Monday when Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally revealed the cost of electric car batteries are even higher than what had been suspected.

A 23-kilowatt battery pack — which is what you’ll find inside Ford’s electric Focus — sells for around $12,000 to $15,000, he said. That means the battery comprises about one-third of the car’s total pricetag, which is presently $39,200. The good news is, Mulally also indicated that the price of batteries have started to fall … so if those prices drop, logic would follow that the overall sticker price will come down as well.

Mulally isn’t alone in this prediction; Tesla‘s Elon Musk recently alluded to the same belief.  Here’s hoping that they’re both right.  The best bet for putting more EVs on the road is to actually make them affordable for the average American — something that we simply haven’t seen yet.

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Porsche Unveils New Carrera Cabriolet

Posted in: General, Porsche

This is a good day to be in Detroit, especially if you like to go topless.

Porsche unveiled its 2012 911 Carrera Cabriolet today at the Detroit Auto Show, demonstrating its ongoing commitment to creating some of the sleekest, sportiest cars on the road today. Sharing the same updates given to the Carrera and the Carrera S for the new year, this beauty looks fantastic with the top down – as if it were made for the open road on a sunny day. (Which, technically, I guess it was!) The top offers smooth, superbly easy retraction with a touch of a button below the gear selector, but it can also be dropped through the use of the remote key fob. It’s a beauty to behold, but as we all know – even with global warming, that top has to come back up at some point.

And that’s where the Cabriolet truly distinguishes itself. While most convertibles lose their sleekness once the cloth top returns, the Carrera Cabriolet is designed to incorporate the car’s innate sleekness into the design of the convertible top. Gone is the boxy, bulky look that makes us keep those convertibles hidden in cooler months; the sleek new design integrates the look of a hard-top into the easy grace of a lightweight fabric top. In fact, the Cabriolet’s soft-top arch is so well designed that it looks almost as good with the top up as with the top down.



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Viper being resurrected, renamed for 2013

Posted in: Dodge, General

When the Dodge Viper first hit the road in the early 1990s, it was pretty much the most amazing racecar ever to be sold as a street car. With a V10 engine and more than 400 horsepower, this thing was an absolute beast under the hood, and a feast for the eyes.

In the years that followed, Dodge continued giving more muscle to this car, constantly tinkering with a vehicle that owners immediately fell in love with. Delivering both brawn and beauty, the Viper kept bulking up with more power while getting sleeker with nicer interior appointments. Oh, and Dodge also improved the safety and performance of the car. (Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to make a car like this without airbags?!)

By 2010, the Viper was on its Fourth Generation model and had evolved into a cult classic, with a relatively small but loyal following. Owners I knew loved this car like a child that was hard to handle at times, but worth the fuss. And the first time I sat in the cockpit and felt the car come to life, I understood completely.

Dodge began making its “Final Edition” Viper in February 2010, with only 50 models available. At the time, CEO Ralph Gilles announced they would be the last of the Vipers, and the last car rolled off the line on July 1.

But there’s a happy ending to this story; Chrysler has announced it’s bringing back the Viper for 2013. They’re dropping the Dodge badge and rechristening it the SRT Viper, according to Gilles. They’ve had a couple of years to think about how to pack more performance into the V-10, and the new SRT Viper will have in excess of 600 horsepower. It is rumored to possibly be making an appearance at next month’s Detroit Auto Show.

I don’t know about you, but I get weak in the knees just thinking about it.

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Return of the Dodge Dart!

Posted in: Alfa Romeo, Dodge, General
1974 Dodge Dart Swinger photographed in Washin...

My very first experience with the Dodge Dart came in high school, when my best friend’s dad bestowed one upon her as her first car. With four doors and a dated look, it wasn’t exactly the car of her dreams, and the fact that it was green didn’t do it any favors. (She quickly saved enough money to buy a much hipper Volkswagen Beetle.)

I thought the Dart was in my rear-view mirror for good once she upgraded to the VW, but fate has a funny sense of humor. (That’s funny odd, not funny ha-ha, just for the record.)

I was in college when an unexpected turn of events left me without a car, and a friend of the family stepped up and graciously donated her daily driver to me. She had just upgraded to a station wagon and no longer needed her 1967 Dodge Dart Swinger.

The car was not going to win any beauty contests. It was white, with a rear view mirror that had some sort of adhesive issue, as it failed to stick to the windshield when the temperature got above 85 degrees. The seats were torn in a couple of places, and it had a few other cosmetic failings that would simply sound like nit-picking this many years later. Still, it drove like a tank – which was bad for racing but great for durability. I lived in Kansas at the time, and cars were usually no match for the icy winter roads. But my Dodge Dart Swinger took them like a champ! On at least two occasions I slid helplessly across black ice into the waiting trunk of a tree, hitting it head first. Each time, I managed to drive away with a new dent but no real damage.

To say I drove the car hard was an understatement; I literally drove her to death.

We parted ways one night when I was driving back to the dorm after working the late shift at a fast-food restaurant. Yes, I saw the traffic barricades where they were doing road work, but I had been slipping past those barricades for days while they prepped the road for whatever it was they were going to do. This time, as I maneuvered around them, I was surprised to learn that, apparently, what they were going to do was remove the concrete. My durable Dodge Dart Swinger and I plunged into the black hole where once a road had been, and as I heard the poor old gal emit a steely groan, something told me we’d had our last adventure.

When I heard that Dodge was resurrecting the Dart, I admit that I was suspicious. I recalled its boxy shape and less-than-sporty interior. How could Dodge – which has put the muscle back in the muscle car – consider smearing its reputation this way? Then I saw glimpses of the new and vastly improved Dart, which will be introduced next month at the 2012 North American International Auto Show.

This time around, the Dart is based on Alfa Romeo‘s Giulietta platform, and the design is muscular, sleek and sexy. Smooth curves have replaced sharp angles, and drivers will have three options of how they’d like the four-cylinder engine: as a 2.0-liter (base model), a turbocharged 1.4-liter or a  2.4-liter. Dodge has yet to unveil the car – we’ll have to wait until next month for that – but just the glimpses of what’s to come are enough to make me stand in line for a test drive. The truth be told, a Dodge Dart hasn’t made my heart race like that since the last time I clutched its steering wheel as I plummeted into a gaping hole where once the road had been.



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Costly crash in Japan terminates 8 Ferraris

Posted in: General

It’s not often that you get to see a dozen supercars in one place, and even more rare to see them piled up on the side of the road. But that rare sight was exactly what Japanese drivers saw Monday on the rain-slicked Chugoku Expressway in Yamaguchi.

A convoy of luxury cars driving from Kyushu Island to Hiroshima took a turn for the worse when the driver of one of the Ferraris tried changing lanes. But instead, he hit a median barrier and as the other cars swerved to avoid him, they collided with each other. The damaged cars included eight Ferraris, three Mercedes-Benz (no word on which model) and a Lamborghini Diablo. Two Toyotas were also involved in the chain-reaction crash.

Damage is estimated at more than $1 million.

None of the drivers were women. Just sayin’.

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Porsche Panamera: A Four-Door to Adore

Posted in: General, Porsche

Can the Car Crash Become Obsolete?

Posted in: General

Billy Joel, rejoice – Cadillac claims there’s a crash-proof car just around the corner. If so, drivers like the Piano Man – who famously mangled three cars in just two years – just might be able to keep it between the ditches…without even trying!

Cadillac announced last week that coming technologies could include in-vehicle Doppler radar, which will let you avoid traffic jams and roadblocks. Even further down the road, the company is predicting self-driving vehicles that can actually communicate with each other, traffic signals and buildings. (Now, if only they could put some of that communication technology into men!!)

Some of the early forms of these technologies are already in place in Cadillac’s 2010 DTS Platinum, which starts at around $46,280. So if you can’t wait for the future, here are some of the features you’ll find on the Platinum:

– A lane departure warning, which relies upon a camera mounted near the inside mirror to identify traffic lane markings. If you cross the line, it instantly alerts you. (I am sure the camera’s warning is MUCH less annoying than when your mother-in-law does it…)

– Blind spot alert, which uses twin radar beacons to detect an object in a vehicle’s blind zone. It then offers a visual warning in the outside side mirror.

– Adaptive cruise control, in which sensors detect objects in a vehicle’s path and slow the vehicle down to avoid a collision.

Add these new features from Cadillac with components like Lexus’ self-parking system, Mercedes-Benz’s radar sensor controls that allow automated emergency braking, and today’s intelligent distance-keeping cruise control systems, and it adds up to cars that are kind of like teenagers: They don’t need us for anything more than money to keep the gas tank full.

Mercedes to Unveil New CLS-Class

Posted in: General, Mercedes

In 2003, Mercedes did one of the things it does best: It introduced a vehicle that was so unique that it actually created a completely new category. The CLS-Class, which combined the elegance of a coupe with the functionality of a sedan, became the only four-door coupe in its class and once again raised the bar on style.

On September 30, Mercedes-Benz will unveil the 2012 CLS-Class at the Paris Motor Show. Once again, we’re promised a vehicle that is much like the perfect date: Sporty but refined, and is just as suitable for a night out on the town as it it is for a business dinner.

Expect to be impressed with the new lines of this car. It’s less athletic looking than its predecessors, going instead for a long, sloping silhouette that is played out in countless smaller details in the car’s design.

Mercedes also had fun with the LED headlamps, displaying innovative use of LEDs by creating three arrow-shaped layers of LED lights from top to bottom for the indicator, side light and main beam. A total of 71 LEDs provide a unique night-time design that won’t go unnoticed on the road.

The cockpit benefits from the sloping design, and optional touches like black piano lacquer or carbon fiber trim elements ensure that this car is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.

Got Speed? Bugatti Does!

Posted in: Bugatti

If you really, really like the feel of the wind in your hair, maybe the new Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport should go straight to the top of your “most wanted” list.

This exotic, orange-and-black supercar has claimed the world title as the fastest production car in the world. How’d they do that? By topping out at an average 268 miles an hour. (Okay, I’m exaggerating. It was actually 267.8 mph. But unless we’re talking about my weight, I’m all for rounding up…)

Bugatti announced the new record on July 4, taking back the title from Shelby Super Cars, which had nabbed the honor when its Ultimate Aero hit an average of 256 mph in back-to-back runs in 2007. Guinness – the World Record folks, not the beer – was on hand to document the event.

So, what does it take for Bugatti to hit those speeds? Just 16 cylinders and four turbochargers. Oh, and in case you’re counting the horses under the hood, there are 1,200 of them. So it definitely has a little more muscle than your neighbor’s Prius.

Next up, there’s good news and bad news. The good news? Bugatti is going to make the Super Sport available to the public later this year. The bad news? Only the first five will have the same kind of features that let this beauty take the world record – and they’re already spoken for. The others will be built to only reach a top speed of about 258 miles. In comparison, that seems like a virtual crawl, doesn’t it?

Ladies, We’re Not Shopping Enough!

Posted in: Electric Cars, General

Tesla-RoadsterSome disturbing news was released last week – and, for a change, that announcement doesn’t have the name “BP” attached to it!

In the grand scheme of things, this news is much more innocuous, but it also strikes me as being rather curious. A recent study by of more than 13 million car registrations reveals that, even though women comprise more than half the population (51 percent), we account for just over one-third of new car registrations (36 percent).

Not surprisingly, the registrations that were made by women tended to focus on value and safety, with names like Volvo, Honda and Volkswagen ranking high on the women’s list. For men, new purchases were highest in the truck and exotic car market.

In fact, women accounted for 10 percent or less of the new registrations for such exotic brands as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Tesla (pictured above), Aston Martin and Lotus.

And not a single new Bugatti was registered to a female buyer!

Is this the best we can do? I think not! It’s time to put on our shopping shoes.