Tag: Motor Trend
Motor Trend has named the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S as its Best Driver’s Car for 2013. The Best Driver’s Car honor is decided after a yearly competition among the top new or improved performance cars available in the U.S. market. This is the second consecutive year that a 911 variant has won the award.
“The 911 Carrera 4S has terrific balance, telepathic steering, a potent engine, and a lightning quick transmission,” said Ed Loh, Editor-in-Chief of Motor Trend. “But what impressed our judges the most was the confidence and joy it delivered, on the street and at the track. Congratulations to the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, Motor Trend’s Best Driver’s Car for 2013.”
“This is a significant honor for our brand as we celebrate the 50th birthday of our 911 sports car this year,” said Detlev von Platen, President and CEO, Porsche Cars North America, Inc. “Being named Motor Trend’s Best Driver’s Car shows that our flagship car still has the same appeal it has had for 50 years.”
Each year, Motor Trend editors choose the car that most compels them to want to drive. Each contender is run through a series of instrumented performance tests, a 500-mile road trip highlighted by aggressive canyon driving on a closed course and finally, evaluation at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The test aims to go beyond the numbers to uncover the one vehicle that offers enthusiasts the most engaging and rewarding driving experience possible.
Check out the video below of Motor Trend’s run of the 2013 Porsche Carrera 4S:
At the Los Angeles Auto Show last week, the 2012 Volkswagen Passat was announced as the winner of the Motor Trend Car of the Year Award, which is the most prestigious honor bestowed upon an automotive manufacturer by Motor Trend.
This year’s group was a record at 35, all-new or thoroughly redesigned, 2012 model year vehicles. The all-new for 2012, made in America, Volkswagen Passat edged out its European, Japanese and American contenders in an exhaustive evaluation process that included the full complement of Motor Trend performance tests, track-based ride and handling evaluations, and real-world driving on city streets, freeways, and two-lane roads.
“The well-equipped Passat is a breakthrough car for Volkswagen, as it has been designed to suit the North American market and is being built in a brand-new, state-of-the-art assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.,” said Motor Trend editor-in-chief, Angus MacKenzie. “It has one of the roomiest interiors of its class, a wide choice of powertrains and a well-tuned chassis. A compelling new entry in the toughest, most competitive vehicle segment in the U.S. today; it’s a terrific all-around family sedan.”
For the past 62 years, the editorial staff of Motor Trend has met to determine the best new car for the following model year. The Car of the Year process is not a comparison test; the winning vehicle is the one that, in the judges’ opinions, best fulfills six key criteria: advancement in design, engineering excellence, efficiency, safety, value, and performance of intended function.
The Passat’s styling is clean and simple, but executed with precision normally seen on expensive luxury cars. Car of the Year judge Tom Gale, Chrysler’s former design chief, noted, “…like the Audi [A6], what is remarkable is the restraint shown with the handling of the design. Clean, beautiful surfaces have been refined for an engaging result.”
With options that include a 2.5-liter five-cylinder gas engine, a powerful V6 or a highly efficient turbo diesel–each with the option of being mated to a standard transmission or the seamlessly smooth dual-clutch auto-manual unit–Motor Trend found the powertrains of the Passat to be perfectly matched to the car. Editors particularly praised the diesel engine mated to the dual-clutch auto-manual gearbox. Engineering guru, Chris Theodore noted of the combination, “…without the compromise that mainstream green vehicles impose–a true technological achievement.”
The standard 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine returned 26.5 mpg in testing while the optional turbo-diesel returned an average of 34.3 mpg. The Passat has the best fuel economy stats among this year’s finalists over the course of 11 mixed-driving loops.
Between government mandates and consumer expectations, pretty much all vehicles in this segment gets a standard complement of passive safety gadgets that include six airbags, stability control, tire-pressure monitoring, ABS, and brake-assist, among numerous other electric aids. “What’s more fun to talk about under the safety rubric is how well the Passat’s chassis is tuned to keep it out of trouble, because well-driven, agile cars are less likely to plow into things than poorly controlled, flabby, clumsy ones,” said Motor Trend technical editor, Frank Markus.
And by investing in a facility in Chattanooga, Tenn. to build the Passat, VW has reduced the potential for currency fluctuations to negatively impact the price, as happened with the previous imported model. With initial costs lower and overall ownership costs suppressed–thanks to improved build quality and VW’s Carefree Maintenance Program–the 2012 Volkswagen Passat stands as a great value in a market segment driven by price-conscious consumers.
The 2012 Passat was inteneded to be an affordable, roomy, efficient mid-sized sedan for the American family, and the car delivers perfectly on the mission statement. Car of the Year judge, Chris Theodore summed it up best, “I was expecting a large, cost-reduced VW that had lost its Fahvergnugen, but it’s still there, just cloaked in Brooks Brothers.”
This is only the second time Volkswagen has won Motor Trend’s highest honor, the first being in 1985 for the then American-built TDI.
At the beginning of 2011, I heard rumors of a Fisker store coming to town. A few weeks ago, while I was at Lexus Santa Monica testing the new 2011 Lexus CT 200h, I learned that Sullivan Automotive Group (Lexus Santa Monica’s parent) was building a Fisker store next to its Volkswagen Santa Monica dealership.
The location, at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and 25th Ave, is the old Lexus Santa Monica site that is now the internet sales department for the VW dealership. The building is relatively small, but you don’t need a large space for the Fisker brand because they only have one model, the voluptuous $95,900 – $110,000 Karma electric extended range sports car.
Sullivan Automotive Group is the 33rd largest dealership group in the US (2010). In 2010, it sold a total of 21,239 units (new, used and wholesale) and had total revenue (including parts, service, etc.) of $632,338,233 – with only seven dealerships:
The group uses the catch-all LACarGuy.com website to promote its stores and, if you live in LA, you’ve seen billboards for LACarGuy and TV commercials featuring patriarch, Owner/President Michael Sullivan. All of Sullivan’s dealerships have adopted environmentally-friendly practices, both in the showroom and in the service bays. Green is good for business these days.
LACarGuy claims that it’s the number one hybrid dealer in the world. I know the Lexus store is the number one Lexus hybrid seller in the US. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the combination of hybrid sales from the two Toyota dealerships, the Lexus store and a few niche hybrids like the VW Touareg, Porsche Cayenne, and Porsche Panamera Hybrids, put it on top. We do love our hybrids in LA.
The group also has EV charging stations “live” at some of their dealerships. Odd, as none of the vehicles they sell are plug-in hybrids – yet. The Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid EV and the upcoming plug-in Prius will also use the charging stations.
The Fisker brand is a good fit for Sullivan Automotive and the City of Santa Monica. So far, it’s the only Fisker dealer in greater Los Angeles. The next closest store is in Orange County.
If you’ve never been to Sullivan’s flagship Lexus Santa Monica dealership, it’s worth your time to see this video. I give them props for restoring this beautiful, historic building.
The People’s Republic of Santa Monica is the perfect location for the plug-in EV Fisker Karma. It’s home to ultra-wealthy aging hippies, environmentalists and lefty socialists. Entertainment industry and creative-types populate trendy restaurants and condos. Expensive boutiques on Montana Avenue attract celebrity shoplifters. You’ll find LEED-certified buildings and the most creative, modern architecture there.
Santa Monica is home to Heal the Bay. It’s the unofficial “Home of the Homeless.” The City hosts four terrific Farmers Markets each week in three different locations. Organic and locally-sourced food is pervasive.
Santa Monica banned smoking on public beaches and the outdoor patios of restaurants. Plastic bags are banned from supermarkets. The City’s fleet of non-emergency vehicles is mostly hybrids or alternative fuel vehicles. The City’s Big Blue Buses all run on compressed natural gas (CNG). It’s not uncommon to see an old diesel Mercedes that’s been converted to run on B20 bio-diesel or used vegetable oil. The Prius appears to be the unofficial transportation appliance of Santa Monica — you can’t throw a stone in any direction without hitting one.
Santa Monica is ground zero (in the LA Metro) area for everything environmentally-friendly, progressive and “green.” There are many wealthy early adopters of EVs and other advanced hybrid technology living in or near Santa Monica. In short, it’s the perfect market for a $100,000 extended-range electric vehicle.
The Fisker Karma is a plug-in electric vehicle with a gas engine that drives a generator to charge the batteries for extended-range driving. Fisker claims the Karma can travel 50 miles on the batteries and an additional 200 miles in extended-range mode. The concept is much like the Chevy Volt; but the Karma’s execution is very different and the target audience is wealthier.
The Karma packs a GM Ecotec 2.0 liter direct-inject turbo I-4 engine just behind the front wheels. It drives a generator to charge the large-capacity 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that forms a rigid spine down the center of the car. The Karma is a proper rear-drive sports car (albeit a bit heavy at 4,100 lbs) driven by rear-mounted dual 300 kW electric motors good for a total of 403 hp with a heart-stopping 981 lb-ft torque available from the moment your foot hits the electron exciter. The Karma seats four adults and can hit 60 mph in 5.9 seconds.
Fisker Automotive got more than $500 million from the Department of Energy to build the Karma in the US. Fisker bought a shuttered GM plant in Delaware and is in the process of converting it into a shiny modern factory to produce its sleek sports car. It’s going to have to sell lots of cars to pay back its investors.
Below is the Fisker Karma’s first “Get Hot” commercial:
In the meantime, the Karma is being built in Uusikaupunki, Finland by contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive. Valmet also builds the Boxster/Caymen line for Porsche at this plant. The Karma began production on March 21, 2011 so deliveries may happen as soon as this summer. I’m sure Fisker Santa Monica is taking orders. Just have your checkbook ready.
Motor Trend’s Technical Editor, Kim Reynolds, gives his take on the Karma:
Reprinted with permission from Todd Bianco’s ACarIsNotARefrigerator.com Blog The Truth About Cars and the Car Biz in LA