Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Chrysler’s On a Roll with Electric Peapod

Posted in: Electric Cars, General

peapod.JPGEarlier this week, Chrysler LLC announced its intention to have three electric vehicles in production in 2010. The electric-drive technology will arrive in each of its three brands – Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler – and will boast range-extended technology that, much like Chevrolet’s forthcoming Volt, employs a small gasoline engine to provide additional power for longer trips.

We’ll look at Chrysler’s three proposed EVs next week, but in the meantime, let’s look at their newly redesigned “Neighborhood Electric Vehicle” – the totally electric Peapod.

The backstory on the Peapod is that Chrysler’s “electric community vehicles” have been around for a decade, but there hasn’t been much of a market for a plug-in with a range of 30 miles. Our new, greener consciousness opened the door for Chrysler to retool this four-passenger street-legal cart and tempt eco-friendly passengers with a new look, a new name and some updated features.

The Peapod brings with it all the usual jeers and complaints of short-range EVs: It feels like a glorified golf cart, and its top speed is a laughable 25 mph. But if you can get past its anti-Speed Racer persona, you’ll find that it brings some nice attributes to the mix.

peapod-dash.JPGAdmittedly, this car is not built with luxury in mind, but it isn’t as spartan as one might think, either. The dashboard console doubles as a docking station for your iPod and also allows for hands-free operation of your iPhone. In fact, the dash kind of looks like an altar for your iPod. (And it has a cupholder … didn’t a recent study prove that cupholders were important to female consumers?)

The ergonomically crafted seats are made of recycled and recyclable materials, and the open-air mesh design of the seats lends itself to better air circulation.

For what it is designed to do, the Peapod shows a lot of potential. No, you’re not going to load it up and trek cross-country; but it’s cute and cool enough that you shouldn’t have trouble getting the kids to climb in and let your cruise through the carpool lane. Even though it remains, in many ways, a souped-up golf cart, at least it has some sleek lines and kind of looks like a smiley face on wheels. Which, frankly, is something we can all use these days.

At the time this post was published, we were unable to find the price point of the Peapod. So if any of you readers find it please be sure to let us know!

Need A Bigger Ego? Get The $19,800 Ego For Bentley laptop!

Posted in: Bentley, General

ego_computer_image_hotspur_11.JPGWhat’s the perfect accessory to go with your Bentley? How about a powerful Ego?

No, we don’t mean that in a bad way!

Bentley Motors has partnered with the luxury electronics retailer, Ego Lifestyle, to create a sleek and unique notebook computer. The Ego for Bentley, which will retail for about $19,800, is a luxury laptop that has many of the same features that makes the Bentley such a delight: It boasts a refined design and is hand-built to ensure perfection in both detail and craftsmanship.

To complete the Bentley tie-in, the interior color options of the lacquered notebook match the car’s most popular exterior colors, while, on the outside, the panels are trimmed with Bentley leather and then finished with Bentley’s cross-over hand-stitching. Even the iconic Bently knurling, found on the interior accents of its cars, is replicated here, with etching on the handle.

Each notebook is designed to the owner’s requests and requirements, which means you get your choice of colors and finishes. Touches such as sliding doors to cover access ports add to the elegant feel of this ergonomically designed notebook. The design doesn’t look like your run-of-the-mill notebook; the clamshell-styled case looks more like an elegant accessory. And, since each notebook is a work of art, it just makes sense that each of these limited edition notebooks are engraved with their own number.

Under the hood, you’ll find a 160 GB hard drive, a 64-bit processor and Microsoft Vista Ultimate software. A dozen dedicated direct access keys make Wi-fi, Bluetooth, a web cam and a handful of other operations quick and easy.

Bentley says the notebook is due to hit the shelves “this fall,” which, accordingly to my calendar, starts today. So better get in line fast – only 250 of these limited edition laptops will be made.

GM Unveils its Car of the Future

Posted in: General

volt.JPGThe future is here and ladies, it sort of looks like a Hyundai.

At least that’s the initial impression delivered with the unveiling of the Chevrolet Volt, GM’s equivalent of a hail-Mary pass. The folks that brought us the environment-crushing Hummer have now revealed the prototype of the Volt, their all-electric auto that’s slated to hit showroom floors in late 2010. As their first electric vehicle since the  ill-fated EV-1 was introduced in 1996, the Volt has a lot of ground to cover to make up for the automaker’s slumping sales.

Although early prototypes of the car showed a sexier profile, it appears that Chevrolet has gone for a Hyundai-meets-Ford look with the five-door Volt, giving it more of a family car feeling than hinted at with the prototype shown last year at the Detroit Auto Show. Still, it has a lot of interior touches that could win us over – things like a liquid crystal instrument display, multiple touch screen interfaces and Bluetooth capabilities.

Of course, until it actually rolls out in the flesh -er, metal – it’s hard to pass judgement. So until that happens, here’s what we do know:

– The Volt is expected to appear late in 2010 and will be priced at between $35,000 and $40,000.

– Top speed is 100 mph, and it has the equivalent of a 150-horsepower engine.

– It is designed to go 40 miles without a charge, and can be plugged into a standard 120v household plug for recharging.

– After exhausting its initial charge, the Volt switches over to an onboard gas-burning generator that can go for several hundred miles.

Stay tuned. Speculation over whether Americans are willing to pay $40K for this model is already beginning, especially considering that a 2009 Toyota Prius runs just over$20,000.

Another unknown? What cars from newcomers like Fisker and Tesla, as well as from established GM competitors, will be hitting the market about the same time to steal the Volt’s thunder.

Obviously, it’s going to be awhile before we know enough about this car to see how it’s going to fit into the changing automotive landscape.

What Do Women (Drivers) Want? A Car Like Brad Pitt

Posted in: General

brad-pitt.bmpThese days, women pretty much demand the same qualities in their cars as they want from their home: Flexibility, good tech connections, and more storage space. At least, that’s what the results of a new study from Johnson Controls found.

After focusing its fact-finding mission on the evolving needs of women, the study confirmed what we’ve known for years: Women want more from their cars, and we’d like them to suit our style as well as our needs.

According to the study, here’s what’s women would like to see in a car:

– More flexibility. In the course of a single day, a woman’s car might be a kids’ taxi service, a mobile office, a transport vehicle for soccer equipment and even a party wagon for a gaggle of girlfriends. We need cars that can adapt to the ever-changing needs of our days just as well as we do!

– More connections. Women tend to use technology differently than men. We don’t see them as entertainment gadgets so much as we see them as security devices. We want ways to be able to stay charged and connected, from our GPS/OnStar systems to our cell phones and iPods.

– More space! As we’ve already established, women use their cars for a lot of different reasons. In fact, it seems that any car driven by a woman should automatically earn the MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) description. With that in mind, we’d like more space to stow our stuff, please!

–  More style. Just because we have to drop off the kids and the dry cleaning, that shouldn’t mean we have to look like we’re driving a boxy commercial vehicle! High on the list was the demand for “fun, non-mom” vehicles.

– More environmental friendliness. Leave the gas guzzlers on the lot; today’s women drivers want cars that are basically like Brad Pitt, if Brad Pitt were a car. In other words, they want something that looks good, is environmentally friendly and can fit in whatever role is demanded.

Finally, the study found that women find a lot of safety and security inside their automobiles. Because we tend to keep a lot of personal items in our cars, they become an extension of our homes and we find it easy to relax and unwind behind the wheel.

Until, of course, just like at home, the phone starts ringing and the kids start fighting…

Ford Goes Wild With Mustang Makeover

Posted in: General

2010mustangbadge1.JPGFor its 2010 Mustangs, Ford is getting ready to show us its wild side. Sort of.

The automaker announced last week that its iconic Mustang badge is getting a makeover for the ’10 lineup. In unveiling the new steed, Ford is showing off a racier-looking pony that is more muscular than its sleek, fluid predecessor. The new emblem is a glimpse of the more rugged look that’s expected for the redesigned 2010 Mustang, which will be revealed later this year.

Although tinkering with an icon is always tricky, Ford got this one right. Thanks to sharper angles and subtle tinting, this pony looks much faster and wilder than the one that first rode on the Mustang grille when the car was introduced back in 1964. The pony was replaced by the “Ford” emblem from 1978 until 1993, but was welcomed back with the ’94 models. The pony badge was most recently tweaked in 2005, but the new emblem shows a much more significant makeover.

According to Douglas Gaffka, chief designer for the 2010 Mustang, the retooling of the emblem was the first step in reinventing one of America’s best-loved cars.

“We lifted the head to make the pony more proud, tipped the neck into the wind to give it a feeling of greater speed and better balance,” he explains. “It’s more chiseled and more defined and looks more like a wild horse.”

He says the design team actually studied photos of wild Mustangs in their natural habitat to find a more natural look.

In addition to the duo-tone tinted emblem that will appear on the V6 and GT versions of the 2010 Mustang, Ford will offer a black chrome version for the GT. Here’s hoping the redesigned car is just as eye-catching as its new badge.

Pebble Beach: In Case You Missed It

Used by permission of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. All rights reserved

Photo courtesy Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. All rights reserved.

This weekend, the 58th Pebble Councours d’Elegance gave car lovers more than 200 reasons to lust after what they cannot have. The annual car show attracted competitors from 27 states and 12 countries, once again making it one of the most elite and well-attended shows in the world.

Although there was plenty of eye candy to keep onlookers oohing and ahhing at the 18th hole on the Monterey Peninsula’s Pebble Beach golf course, at the end of the day, only one car can be named “Best in Show.” And this time around, that honor went to John and Mary Shirley from Medina, Washington.

The Shirleys bought their 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta four years ago. It had already enjoyed a rich history – throughout the 1930s, the 8C 2900B was Alfa’s most prestigious touring car. Less than three dozen of the cars were ever completed and put on the road.

This particular car is even more unique, however. While most of the 8C 2900B models were bodied by Carrozzeria Touring, this is one of six that was privately commissioned to be built by Berlinetta, and its good looks landed it in several ads run by Alfa.

As if that’s not enough, John Shirley says the car’s attributes go beyond its obvious beauty.

“This car has an intriguing history,” he says. “It won the first race at Watkins Glen in 1948, and though the car’s been driven quite a bit, it’s never been wrecked.”

Even with its exquisite lines and perfect body, the Shirleys knew their Alfa faced some stiff competition. But at the end of the day, the 8C 2900B simply proved unbeatable.

“It takes an amazing level of elegance for a closed car like this Alfa to win here,” acknowledged Sandra Kasky Button, Concours chairman. “It requires the ultimate in style, grace and proportion. This car has all of that.”

Just look at this car. Who can argue with her?!

Mercedes, Gimme an “A,” A-Class That Is

mercedes-a-class-2008.jpgA few months ago while in Vancouver, I climbed inside a small, sporty crossover that had all the comfort and markings of a Mercedes, but lacked the familiar interior I’m accustomed to.

Feeling a lot like an upgraded Honda CRV, the compact MPV (or multi-purpose vehicle) boasted a deceptively roomy interior and, the driver told me, was perfect for taking her large Portugese Water Dog on adventures. It was my first introduction to Mercedes’ B-Class, and upon returning home I set out to learn more about it.

The B-Class Tourer is best described as a cross between the R-Class, which is sold in the U.S., and the subcompact A-Class, which is not. Yet.

After finding success in Germany, the A-Class, which was first rolled out in 1997, was slated for American production. Plans to bring the small family car to the U.S. were scrapped because of weak dollar, but the A-Class and its spinoff, the B-Class, which was introduced in 2005, both enjoyed healthy sales in Europe and Canada.

Now it seems that we might be able to get in on the subcompact luxury. Automotive News is reporting that Mercedes-Benz chairman Dieter Zetsche has announced plans to bring the A-Class and B-Class to American soil. The reason? High fuel costs are making even luxury drivers re-think the merits of their gas-guzzling daily drivers. Suddenly, those subcompacts are looking rather attractive – and let’s face it, when you slap a Mercedes emblem on the front of it, it’s just bound to look good!

With sales taking a nosedive, Mercedes apparently thought it seemed like a good time to re-think their previous plan – and they’ve also announced plans for an electric version.

Current plans call for the new models to arrive in the U.S. in 2011, and we’ll get both a coupe and a small crossover. All of a sudden, downsizing looks a whole lot better…

Honda Rolls Out Fuel Cell Vehicles

honda-clarity.JPGMost women would agree that they would like a little more clarity in their lives – and now Honda is delivering that.

Honda will put about 200 of its FCX Clarity vehicles on the road over the next three years, although – much like GM’s electric EV1 introduced back in 1996, the cars will not be sold. They’ll only be available for lease, and let’s hope they don’t meet the same fate! (For more on that, check out the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?)

Adding a little celebrity appeal to the FCX Clarity’s profile is actress Jamie Lee Curtis (pictured above), who became only the second customer to take ownership of the new vehicle. Curtis and her husband, mockumentary filmmaker Christopher Guest, have been vocal advocates about green living and have owned other alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles. As a veteran driver of fuel-saving vehicles, Curtis said the appointments of the new FCX Clarity caught her off guard.

“I really wasn’t expecting it to be so luxurious,” she said. “It’s luxurious, luxurious, luxurious!”

All that luxury includes a satellite-linked navigation system with a rearview camera; voice-recognition controls and heated and cooled seats … made of bio-friendly fabric, of course. And if you believe the surveys that say most women make their automobile selection based on cupholders – well, you’re in luck. The Clarity has a bunch of ’em.

More significant, of course, is the mileage of this car, which runs on hydrogen-powered fuel cells. It gets the equivalent of 74 miles to the gallon and has a driving range of about 280 miles. The electric motor runs on electricity generated in the fuel cell, and the only by-products from this zero-emission car are heat and water.

Most of the cars will be leased in Southern California, according to Honda. Here’s hoping they can hit the rest of the country fairly quickly.

Resurrected Chevy Heads to Pebble Beach

Posted in: Chevy, General

biscayne1.JPGIn just over two weeks, car lovers will flock to the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where they’ll ooooh and aaaaah over some of the finest creations ever to roll across the ground. And this year, it’s possible that no other car will have quite the allure as the reconstructed 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne.

The Biscayne was a concept car built by GM back in 1955 as part of the General Motors Motorama tour. This engine-revving caravan of concept cars traveled the U.S., inviting the public to get a glimpse of their automotive future. The problem was, most of these cars were never road-tested, and when the Motorama tour ended, GM ordered most of the cars destroyed to avoid legal problems.

Three years later, Chevrolet produced a different Biscayne, loosely modeled after the sleek dream car – but worlds away. The Biscayne that hit the road from 1958 until 1972 was designed specifically for low-cost, no-frills transportation, and was the least expensive car in Chevy’s lineup of full-size cars.

The original Biscayne might have been completely forgotten, were it not for Joe Bortz, who was a young boy when he spied the GM dream cars at the 1955 Chicago Auto Show. Unable to shake their memory, Bortz tracked down the remains of the Biscayne and the LaSalle Roadster at a Detroit-area junkyard, and has worked tirelessly to restore these concepts to their original greatness.

On August 17, the Biscayne makes its first public appearance since 1955 as part of the showings at Pebble Beach. Bortz, a self-proclaimed automotive archeologist, will have a few other pieces of history that he’s pieced together as well. Those cars join an exhibit of about a dozen dream cars that GM saved, and they’ll be part of a display celebrating GM’s centennial.

It seems fitting that the Biscayne, which was unceremoniously put out to pasture in the late ’50s, resurfaces now: In the Motorama tour, it was nicknamed the ‘Miracle Car’ because it drew the largest crowds of any of the concept cars. And with soaring gas prices, slowed sales and concerns over fuel efficiency, I can’t think of a time when the auto industry has needed a miracle any more than it does today.

Downsize Your Footprint While You Drive

Posted in: General

paula-hair-blowing-in-porsche-low-res-4982.jpgFor many drivers, the pain at the pump has translated into less time behind the wheel. But for women who really love their cars and find driving a pleasure, not a chore, the rising price of gas becomes just one more aggravation to endure. It’s kind of like wearing high heels – it hurts a little, but the end results are worth it.

Of course, it’s not just the cost of gas that we’re conscious of; it’s also the impact our emissions have on the environment. So the best compromise is to find ways to cut back on that carbon footprint while enjoying time behind the wheel.

Traffic.com, which provides consumers with a variety of driving tips and real-time traffic solutions, reports that there are five simple steps you can take to reduce gas consumption this summer:

1. Check your tire pressure. Under-inflated tires can reduce your gas mileage by 3 percent – and they look tacky, too!

2. Lighten up! Removing 100 pounds of unnecessary weight can boost gas mileage by 2 percent. (If that means kicking your husband out of the front seat while you go out – so be it. Just tell him you’re helping save the planet, and he’ll understand.)

3. Avoid sitting in traffic. This one seems rather obvious – after all, none of us really want to spend our time sitting in traffic, do we? Avoid bottlenecked traffic by using car navigation systems that give you real-time traffic updates. (My recommendation is Dash, the first Internet-connected navigation system. But that’s just me.)

4. Keep those GPS maps updated. Remember: Quickest route + updated map = less time in stop-and-go traffic.

5. Finally, use the tools provided by the fine folks at Traffic.com. You can find drive time calculators and also have them send traffic updates to your cell phone or Blackberry.

One last suggestion from Traffic.com is to take the highway, which is usually what we prefer anyway. After all, cruising down the open road beats puttering down a side street any day.