Published Date : February 18, 2013
The 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, courtesy of Conceptcarz.
Two thousand and twelve proved a banner year for the automotive industry. Sales hadn’t soared so high since 2007, a year before the economic downturn that threatened to nearly completely upend the market for good. Makes like Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors all posted enviable upticks in sales increases, and foreign automakers weren’t left out of the financial boom: Volkswagen, for instance, posted a phenomenal 35% leap in figures last December alone.
Yet having learned sage lessons from the recent recession, the industry knows better to rest on its high-selling laurels. Consumers crave convenience and innovation and a richer experience, all of which they stand to receive in abundance from automobiles in 2013. Among the trends of note: the not-so-subtle smartphone takeover, new and improved engines, and hots for the hybrid.
Hail to the hybrids — all over again. If you thought that the heyday of the hybrid had come and already gone, you ought to rework your definition of “heyday.” Indeed, more and more automakers are looking to capitalize on the public’s acceptance of the hybrid car as the best bang for their buck: it offers the fuel economy that slim wallets crave, plus the environmental advantages that make every driver feel like a green goodie two shoes.
Hybrid detractors claim that its appeal ends with the discussion of SUVs; there’s just no way a big 4×4 could be hybridized and still maintain its requisite all-wheel-drive power. Enter Toyota and its acclaimed Highlander SUV model to terminate that naysaying conversation. Edmunds offers the Highlander hybrid especially attractive praise, extolling: ” the Highlander Hybrid is larger and roomier… an excellent option for growing families with an aversion to oversized and thirsty SUVs.”
Luxury makers are also gravitating to the hybrid craze, BMW most emphatically with its drop-dead gorgeous i8, branded as “the world’s most progressive sports car” and styled to look straight out of Three Thousand and Thirteen, if you ask us.
The motor industry goes mobile. As tablets continue to replace laptops in everyday usage, and smartphones increase their pull over our lives on an almost constant basis, automakers have collectively opted to hop on the “mobile phone mania” bandwagon themselves. Those exploring the new car market can expect to encounter vehicles flaunting exceptional connectivity to the latest gizmos and gadgets.
A new wave of vehicles will likewise boast GPS/SATNAV technology, which allows drivers to directly transfer information and data from their cars’ multimedia system onto their devices, either in or away from the cars themselves. The trend ought to lend an entirely new meaning to the term “auto-mobile.”
Courtesy of Torque News.
Ford Motors will get a boost from its own EcoBoost. When exactly did small become the new huge? Perhaps this “big versus little” dynamic first emerged with the impressive feats of Napoleon, the pint-sized but pugilistic world conqueror. Taking inspiration from this tradition of great leadership in smaller packaging is the craze surrounding the “EcoBoost Motor,” a revolutionary engine sprung from the brain trust at Ford Motors that’s actually been available for a few years in some of the company’s makes and models.
Yet 2013 should see the engine’s noteworthy power blast a new position at the top of every auto enthusiast’s “ooh and ahh” list. The Ecoboost is a turbocharged engine that takes directly injected gasoline, a style of engine displacement that grants the engine a great deal more power — the “Boost.” As for the “Eco,” the engine emits 15% fewer greenhouse gases and uses its fuel with 20% more efficiency. It seems as if the EcoBoost’s reputation alone should do much for Ford in the coming year: the company’s already produced 500,000 EcoBoosts for its Escape model alone.
The rise of Korea’s cogent car manufacturers. Name the world’s most important car manufacturing country. If you said the United States, Germany, Japan, or China, you’re not exactly wrong. But if you happened to mention Korea, you’ve hit the bulls-eye, as far as we can augur from what 2013 may hold. Even though General Motors posted one of its best recent years in 2012, Korean brands Hyundai and Kia have toppled the erstwhile manufacturing giant in practically every market that matters, including Western Europe. Hyundai pocketed a cool $7 billion during the year, and Kia looks to join its automotive compatriot in equal sales for 2013.
Courtesy of Karl’s Lounge.
Key to this pair’s ambition to complete its rise to the top next year is its newfound self reliance — both carmakers have now established their own battery production, steel mills, and alternative energy design teams. Hyundai plans to harness this independence towards the fine-tuning of its own luxury automobile line, while Kia will carve out a space in the family lifestyle car sphere.
Even major auto brands plan on losing serious weight. Next year’s newest cars will be economizing on much more than just fuel. In an interesting twist from the “more is more” manufacturing trends of the 2000s, this decade is seeing virtually every major automaker downsize on the several key aspects of its production priorities and traits. The frequently heralded six-cylinder engine that long characterized BMW’s line has been quietly swept aside in favor of slimmer and less wasteful four cylinder models — a trend the luxury brand is emulating from both Ford and Volkswagen. As with the rise of the EcoBoost above, engine efficiency has also become a design style of choice for manufacturers, with a number of noteworthy enhancements debuting under the hoods of 2013′s new models: sequential turbocharging, valvetrains with less heft, and reduced friction, to name only a few.
Aftermarket parts move to the forefront of consumers’ consciousness. It used to be that only the most elite, persnickety auto industry insiders knew such specific lingo as “OEM,” “aftermarket,” and the vital difference between the terms. (For the record: both phrases relate to the origin of auto parts and components: “OEM” stands for “original equipment manufacturer,” while “aftermarket” refers to any vehicle part that did not originate from the car’s manufacturer directly.)
But an influx of entertainment programs and media centered on tricked out car repair / upgrade work has raised the profile of aftermarket goods, which should be more noticeable on myriad vehicles on the road as 2013 progresses. Sleek and powerful bodykits, such as the TRA Kyoto/Rocket Bunny for the Subaru BR-Z, should surface as the year’s most popular aftermarket hit.
And finally… Car Keys — improved for convenience and for kids. Our tools for entry into our vehicles stand to benefit from a radical progression in technology and innovation in the New Year. Traditional modes for the manufacturing and use of car keys will step aside in favor of more modern and forward-thinking methods of automobile access and locking, methods that are at once more personal and more convenient. At the vanguard of this “new and improved keys” trend stands the MyKey from Ford Motors.
Ford’s option will please frazzled parents of teenagers in particular. MyKey permits them to configure an array of programming options that help to not only keep track of inexperienced motorists, but also safeguard their driving practices. Certain other key options are expected to limit maximum vehicle speed, put a cap on car speaker and subwoofer volume, and even prohibit texting while driving. Quite the renovation for what was once merely a well-shaped piece of metal.
Posted on February 18, 2013 by
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Published Date : February 11, 2013
Tires…they are very complex engineered components, but if I had to take a guess, at least 9 out of 10 drivers takes them for granted. Really when you think about it, you can’t blame these people. Tires do what they are supposed to do just about every time you’recounting on them. There is so much that is and can be discussed around the tires alone, but when you look around it’s largely overlooked. With this being said, let’s dive in and gain some appreciation for what makes tires tick.
This post is dedicated to snow tire vs. regular tires. Regular tires here will be defined as your average all season (or M+S) radial tires. Now when it comes to comparing snow tires and regular tires, there are countless number of points that can be compared. If we spend the time comparing all of these points, I’ll lose your interest somewhere around the discussion around “Chains vs. Studs vs. Studless”. Today we’re going to focus on tire material, tread pattern and tread depth, which I feel is a good place to start with comparing snow tires and regular tires.
Courtesy of ChapmanPayson.
Tires are mainly made of a rubber formulation. Most of us know this. But formulations vary greatly depending on the intended use. All season tires use formulations that are relatively stable through the entire temperature range, but this ends up being a compromise at one end of the temperature spectrum. Either it hardens more than desired on the cold end, affecting dry and wet handling, or softens a lot on the warm end, affecting expected wear and tire life.
Other materials play a serious role in the construction and performance characteristics of tires. A lot of tires use steel belts to form the mechanical structure of the tire. It’s strong and stable, but temperature adversely affects the performance of steel. Other tires have introduced belt materials such as nylon, which performs the same regardless of temperature but is not as strong. When looking at snow tires, these belts are going to be designed for a tight temperature range; therefore they will perform the best in cold conditions.
Treads are so important to your tires. Most people say tires are the only thing between you and the road, but in reality your treads are the only thing between you and the road. Tread patterns come in all shapes and textures. This becomes extremely important when thinking about snow tires vs. regular tires. Snow tires will be more knobby and have lots of little grooves and cutouts that allow for biting traction against the snow. Regular tires don’t have this level of detail so their ability to bite against the snow is immediately limited in comparison. The best regular tire will never stick the snowy road as well as an average snow tire. Even having all wheel drive isn’t an automatic win over a comparable non all wheel drive vehicle equipped with snow tires. But it’s all in the tread.
Talk about an aspect of the tire that is taken for granted… When was the last time you checked your tread depth? Do you know where it should be, and when it indicates that the tires are no longer effective for its intended application?
The DOT regulation says you need a minimum of 2/32” tread depth for any tire to be safe from failing. Experts say you need a minimum 6/32” of tread depth to be able to compact the snow.You have to be able to compact the snow, otherwise you won’t make proper contact with the road. Tread depth and pattern work hand in hand. If one of them is an area of weakness, the tire won’t perform as desired. Snow tires excel in the tread depth department. Regular tires come with a maximum 11/32” depth. Some snow tires go deeper for added performance and tire longevity.
Courtesy of TheDriverBlog.
Don’t underestimate the positive effect that snow tires can have on your snow driving experience. Everyone’s situation is different and needs to be evaluated on an individual basis. The case for snow tires is amplified when compared against summer tires which aren’t appropriate under 40°F due to their construction and rubber formulation. Evaluate your situation, your car, driving style and weather conditions, and decide whether they are appropriate for you.
Posted on February 11, 2013 by
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Published Date : February 4, 2013
Courtesy of Tesla Motors.
All hail that mighty make, Tesla. Last month the California-based manufacturer of exclusively upscale electric vehicles captured the attention of the mainstream auto world after its Model S garnered Motor Trend’s Car of Year award in mid-November. All 11 judges “unanimously voted the first vehicle designed from the wheels up by a fledgling automaker,” as a statement of America’s capacity to still lead the planet in innovate car manufacturing.
The previously under-the-radar company has now enjoyed a title wave of attention for its signature model, so much so that those now wanting to purchase a Model S have to prove their desire with a $5,000 reservation fee. (Fully refundable, of course). Why all the hype about what’s essentially a very nice looking electric car?
Thanks to Slate Magazine.
Well, most auto industry insiders feel the car transcends the “very nice looking electric” label. Praises Motor Trend themselves, “The mere fact the Tesla Model S exists at all is a testament to innovation and entrepreneurship, the very qualities that once made the American automobile industry the largest, richest, and most powerful in the world.”
Yet the inundation of accolades does not come without some controversy, naturally. Yahoo! Autos, which also named the Tesla S their 2013 Car of the Year, cites (but doesn’t necessarily counter completely) several complaints against the tony Tesla: it’s “not affordable,” at $50,000; Yahoo! and Motor Trend are chastised for being overly confident in the car, “not yet knowing how reliable it will prove” over the years; and that picking such a fancy, souped-up car actually amounts to a “boring” fanboy choice, not one that comprehensively considers what will pique serious curiosity and practicality.
Inside Tesla’s factory, via Edmunds.
Electric cars might also be “an extraordinarily bad idea,” an idea Forbes recently explored. “Cold weather and fast driving” could seriously shorten the length of driving time that an electric can demonstrate, a phenomenon the article refers to as “range anxiety,” which can become problematic in an emergency scenario. The Nissan Leaf, heralded perhaps even more so than the Tesla S, is the primary focus of Forbes’ critique. Yet some of it may hold true for Tesla’s jewel as well.
All of this makes us wonder: what makes a vehicle your own personalized Car of the Year? How do you set about determining that automobile, and seeking about that dream car? Here’s some advice on how you can tailor the car-hunting experience on your own terms, not just those of a vaunted car publication.
Head to the websites that make dream-car shopping easy. HertzCarSales.com has a reputation for simplifying auto purchases. If you don’t discover what you want from using the site’s local search option, activate the search filter to survey how many cars are on sale nationwide. If you can’t find your dream car via HertzCarSales initially, try expanding your search criteria and perhaps some of our other great deals will satisfy your driving needs. Finally, consider AutoCheck.com or another vehicle history report service to check cars before you go to see them.
What kind of car does your life (specifically) need most? Believe it or not, some people actually would do better with a convertible — the sort of person who needs to make a statement of desirable exclusivity. These cars feature expressive designs, but restricted access to the back seat that seriously limits their practicality. You might even consider the hatchback, the once ubiquitous auto shape now derided as old fashioned, but that’s making a comeback with more stylish designs and an emphasis on their environmental advantages (like their fuel economy). And there’s no car like the minivan to efficiently transport loads of people to and fro.
Consider pursuing a classic car as your vehicle of choice. These automobiles whose elegance has lasted over time are often much more affordable than newer models of similar or even lesser appeal — barring Formula 1 racecars and the like, of course. Should you maintain the vehicle well once you own it, you could actually notice the car’s worth augment in value. The National Auto Dealer Association’s (NADA) Classic Car Price Guide Book, Hemming’s Classic Car, or a comprehensive eBay search could shed light on just how much that hot rod is worth. Classic cars carry a reputation as more reliable than newer cars — less technology might make them more resistant to wear and tear.
Are you really sure that an electric, hybrid or diesel would be best? The style of driving you do shapes the decision whether or not an electric, hybrid or a diesel is right for you. Electrics obviously use no fuel at all. Hybrids do use less fuel around town, when low speeds and frequent braking keep them running on battery power longer. Diesel drivers will see their sweetest reward on the highway, though diesel cars are more efficient than gasoline guzzlers at low speeds, as well. All of these approaches will stretch your fuel dollar or eliminate entirely the need for a fuel budget. Yet be conscious of the premiums you’ll be handling up front (again, $5,000 for a Tesla up front!) and the distance you’ll have to drive to make up for your costs. The fuel economy may seem economically advantageous now, but that shift quickly since fuel prices fluctuate so erratically.
All Wheel Drive (AWD) is not for all drivers. All-wheel drive is considered to be a safety feature in regions with challenging winters. But the everyday driver will only notice with all-wheel drive when accelerating, due to the traction that AWD adds. All-wheel drive doesn’t improve a car’s capacity to stop or turn. Most buyers don’t grasp is just dramatically winter tires can transform the driving experience. They are less expensive than upgrading to an all-wheel-drive car, and don’t have the year-round negative impact on your fuel economy that characterizes a car having to drive all four wheels all the time.
Posted on February 4, 2013 by