Tony Borroz – We Talk Cars. Sat, 21 Apr 2018 15:22:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tony Borroz – 32 32 8746165 Chapter 3: Teslas In The Middle of Nowhere Fri, 20 Apr 2018 19:04:45 +0000 The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me is a gasoline-fueled narrative by automotive journalist Tony Borroz. It details the joys, thrills, and even the uncertainties of the car-obsessed lifestyle. In advance of the book’s release, we are previewing the first few chapters. Chapters one and two here

Thanks to the little voice in my head, okay, the voice from Google maps coming through my Bluetooth earpiece (a necessity in a soft-top, it’s loud in here), I’m bounced off the main route from southern Arizona through Phoenix and on into Palm Springs. Google says this is for traffic, and I believe it.

Besides, since my Miata is both black and lacks air conditioning (must save weight), the last thing I want is to get stuck in the middle of traffic, in the middle of Phoenix, in the middle of yet another broiling day in the desert.

Buzzard Buffet

So I’m shunted off towards Maricopa and Gila Bend and through the Sonoran Desert National Monument. It looks like a Road Runner cartoon. And, as predicted by Google, sparsely trafficked. I’m heading north doing my usual five-over the posted speed limit when a dark blue Tesla Model S blows by me.

“Well you don’t have range anxiety it seems,” I say to myself.

Maybe it’s too many experiences of having the finest in British electrical “systems” fail me in the middle of nowhere that I see this man – older white guy driving, not-as-older white gal in the passenger seat, both of them quaffed and polished, rich-looking, in a word – as being a little on the brave side at first. How far is he from a charging station? If he runs the batteries dry, will Tesla come out to rescue him? If they do, will they get to him before those buzzards do? (Side note: There are literal buzzards in the sky more often than not around here. When you see them wheeling down, closer and closer to the desert floor, you know something (or someone) is coming to a rather grizzly end.)

I figured he knows what he’s doing. The Tesla had Arizona plates, and everything about the guy said “Scottsdale” or “Chandler” or some other rich, white burbclave where you can drop 100K on a car and the rent-a-pigs at the front gate of your “community” stand athwart any of those people who make you feel uncomfortable. But still, it was the rarity of seeing an EV out in the middle of nowhere that caught me by surprise.

You see lots of Teslas in large metro areas. Lots in Phoenix and Tucson – and with the near-constant sunshine and dropping prices of solar panels, here’s the area where you could take your personal transportation completely off the grid. The Bay Area has a lot of them, per car-capita, but Seattle has tons of the things. I’m assuming the rich, well to-do buyers in places like Chicago and Los Angeles and Miami and such look upon Elon’s offerings with approval.

Still . . . desert + middle of nowhere + failing battery capacity = buzzard buffet.

“Well you don’t seem to have range anxiety.”

Tolling Bells

At least in my mind, I’m musing, when whoosh, another Tesla Model S goes stonking by me. Given my rate of speed, this second one must be pushing the ton. This one was white, again with an older white guy driving, but with no passengers. If the first guy was brave, in my initial, conservative estimation, this guy was braver than Indiana Jones.

But there it was: The Future.

That was my conclusion as the white Tesla disappeared into the vanishing point distance. If not one, but two people, and in quick succession at that, felt just fine driving an EV in this situation, then eventually everyone would.

They might not all be Teslas – and probably won’t, given Tesla’s shakiness (both in terms of falling quality at the moment and continued red ink) – but eventually EVs will become a larger and larger portion of what we see on the road. Eventually performance cars with internal combustion engines will be regarded by other drivers and by people walking down sidewalks with the same curiosity they show today when they see a Model T. “Look’it that, you have to start it with a crank!” “No airbags. Not one!” “Your Ferrari has twelve cylinders?!”

I hear our funeral dirge, far off in the distance, can you?

Oh well.

Fast & Furious

Performance cars were always a small slice of the pie. And who cares if nine out of ten drivers choose something with all the personality of a toaster to “drive?” I don’t. I’m actually quite rare for a gearhead: I love public transportation. It’s handy in big cities and, from a gearhead’s perspective, actually beneficial to us. The more people using public transportation, the fewer of them there are on the road. In front of me. Going five miles an hour under the speed limit. Texting. Causing my blood pressure to rise . . . to . . . breathe, breathe Tony. Calm down.

And in a way, a variation about that is how I feel about EVs. The facts of the matter are pretty clear by now: cars are poisoning our atmosphere and are a leading contributor to global warming. We are going to have to Deal with that, or it will Deal with us.

And EVs are fun, even if most people don’t realize it. I’ve played around with my fair share of Teslas and, in addition to being high-tech and flashy and Helping with the environment (with a capital “H”), they are GD Friggin’ fast! Teslas, and any EV with software set up that way, are a complete blast to drive. They almost feel like driving in a video game (Forza or Grand Turismo, take your choice). All you have to do is mash your right foot and point it. BOOM! You are Down The Road. And I mean like now, daddy-o.

Tesla Roadsters, for example, are frighteningly effective on an AutoX track. They’re small enough to fit between gates and around cones and, thanks to the physics of electric motors, all that torque (and there is a lot of it) comes in rightfrigginnow! Sure, the Roadster is heavy, no way to get around that. But as my oldest brother once said: “horsepower overcomes many handling deficiencies.”

Tesla Roadster. Photo: Tesla Motors.

The More Things Change . . .

So what’s the problem? Why aren’t there more EVs out there?

To me, there are two main factors: range and cost.

Range is something anyone can readily understand. The good thing is this is slowly being dealt with. Slowly, range is becoming greater and greater. That won’t be a problem. Eventually. Of course, this does run right into the concept of energy density. Energy density works like this: How much energy do you get out of a power source of a given size. Look at my 1994 Miata. It has an 11.5-gallon fuel tank about the size of an old hard-sided suitcase. Once full, I can drive 300 miles (easy) before it runs dry.

To get that same range (give or take) out of a Tesla (the current range performance benchmark) takes a battery pack the size of a futon that weighs right around half a ton. That is energy density. And that is the other engineering hurdle to be cleared after getting that range thing finally wired.

Cost, on the other hand, is more problematic. At the moment, the price point of these things, Teslas specifically, are high. Like right around $100,000 high. Yes, there are cheaper alternatives and yes, there is the (slowly) rolling out of the Tesla Model 3, but still, if you want to get what counts as “acceptable” in the EV world, you better have the cash. Is that really so bad? Yes, yes it is. In a way. Because I want one of these, but 100-large is still 100-large (and hey, I’m a writer, I don’t even have one-large at this point).

Of course the thing about electric cars is that you have to realize you’re paying for pretty much everything up front. Since there’s no (real) maintenance to speak of, manufactures build that in to their profit structure (i.e. no dealer profit streams). It’s sort of like you’re buying all the “gas” you’re ever going to need right up front too, in a way, since your electricity rates are (generally) pretty low. So if you factor that in, if you went and bought a Camry and had to pay for all the maintenance up front, and had to pay for all your gas up front too, Camrys wouldn’t be that cheap either.

The More They Stay The Same

But where would I have been a century ago? Would I have been standing on a sidewalk in a city, seeing a rich guy drive by in a Marmon and sighing wistfully, “Man, if only I had the bank account to afford that!” Yes, yes I would. Think about it. 100 years ago, cars were finicky, short-ranged toys for rich people to play around with and have bragging rights over their lessers. And today? Tell me a Tesla Model S or X doesn’t do the same thing. Sure, for now they’re 90 percent owned and operated by rich people, but soon enough, the Model T of the electric vehicle world will show up, and that will be the end of the ball game.

Soon there will be something that does 90 percent of what a Tesla Model S does, and it will be affordable to 75 percent of the public, and that will be that. Goodbye to minivans equipped with internal combustion engines. Good by to sedans and taxis and delivery trucks and school busses and SUVs equipped with internal combustion engines. They will be parked in museums next to horse-drawn wagons. So it goes.

Horse-drawn carriages on display at the Autoworld Museum, Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Carl Anthony for

Odd Couple

I’m outside of Blythe or Mesa Verde or Desert Center – who can tell, it’s miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. I’m stonking along at 85 or so. It’s hard to tell. Did you know first-gen Miata speedos are set a little low? They are. You’re always going about two miles per hour slower than indicated. Anyhoo, ahead of me in the right lane (keep right except to pass (or unless the pavement is too chewed up for a short wheelbase car)) is something red and low and loping along. It looks like a big red running shoe. As I gain on it, and I’m pulling it by the yard, I see what it is: A brand new Ferrari GTC4Lusso. The refined replacement for the rather odd Ferrari FF.

And I mean odd in a bunch of ways.

Both the FF and the GTC4Lusso (yeah, it’s all crammed together in one word like that) had this bizarre, if effective, four-wheel drive system. Sure, it works, but it’s complexity only brings visions of frighteningly large repair bills to my mind. I mean, “You have to re-do the entire foundation on my house?” large. The other odd thing is the way it looks. It’s an old style, shooting-brake, long roof kind of thing. In a way it works.

On the Ferrari, it looks sleek and rapid and well proportioned. And it does have a level of practicality to it. GTC4Lussos seat four (they say) and are, of all things, hatchbacks, so you can carry a fair amount of stuff. But from some angles, they look like a big clown shoe; la scarpa di buffo. Ferrari comes ever so close to pulling it off. So very, very close, but . . . la scarpa di buffo. Whataya gonna do?

Fat Cats, Fast Cars & False Assumptions

So I pull up on the GTC4 and ease around him without breaking my stride. Of course I’m thinking that if our situations were reversed, and I was driving something with a six-liter V12 painted Rosso Corsa I’d be going considerably faster than he was.

“C’mon old man, give it some boot!” I think as I pull alongside him. I glance over and see that he’s looking at me. Older. Well-heeled. Accessorized with a Rolex, a gold bracelet, and a gold neck chain. Money. Moneymoneymoney.

I know he couldn’t hear me, but at that moment he shot me a look like a Mother Superior mid-rage.

It was if he said, “How dare you, you insolent little urchin. You with your mass-produced car from a non-European country. Good day. I said good day!”

I snap my gaze back to the road ahead. The next vehicle is about 30 yards away, so no worries there. I get 15 yards on the GTC4, signal and pull back into the right lane. I swear as I look into the mirror I see the old guy slowly shaking his head at me. “Such an affront! I do say! Away with you, away!”

Immediately my mind drifts to what happens to those who possess his attitude unchecked. Gauzy visions of the Place de la Concorde and jeering crowds and a massive shiny blade held high in the morning sun. Le rasoir national attend, mon vieux! Le rasoir national attend! It’s amusing how the rich and entitled feel so secure and sheltered by their treasures and privileges. Antoinette felt that way; the czarina felt that way I think to myself as I leave the GTC4 in my rearview mirror.

Le rasoir national attend. Attention, ça t’attend!

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

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Chevrolet Cars Set For “Restyled” Faces Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:45:58 +0000 Coherency. Coherency is a good thing, especially when it comes to corporate brands and styling. Ideally, you want everything you make to have it. Take Chevrolet, for example. You wouldn’t want a Chevy Malibu to look way different from a Chevy Impala. So, when a car company, Chevrolet in this case, makes a styling update, that update has to propagate across the entire company line.

Special Characteristics

Mainly what we’re talking about here is styling cues; belt lines, overall greenhouse shapes, grill designs, badging and where the badges go, that sort of thing. Chevy says what they are going for in the immediate future is muscular designs, new features, and more choices.

“The restyled face of Chevy cars for 2019 is characterized by a family-like appearance, with each model honoring its Chevrolet heritage while showing off expressive designs,” said John Cafaro, Executive Director, Global Chevrolet Design.

And I can totally see where he’s coming from. ‘Family-like appearance‘ is the key here.

“We are committed to offering consumers a full lineup of products with fresh designs, new technologies, and efficient powertrain options,” added Brian Sweeney, U.S. Vice President of Chevrolet. “The investments we have made in Spark, Cruze, and Malibu will help position the brand for success in competitive segments that still make up a significant part of the total industry.”

2019 Chevy Malibu. Photo: Chevrolet.

Design Language

As Sweeny alluded to, Chevy’s first go ’round will start with the 2019 Malibu, Cruze, and Spark. To that end the cars will each offer a broad diversity of trims and packages from entry-level to high-end. And Chevy will also have to serve fleets since they represent a quarter of the industry’s retail market.

Chevy’s first task in shepherding the DNA of their fleet is restyling the faces of the cars with signature lighting that will make each instantly recognizable as a Chevy. The redesigned front ends for the Spark, Cruze, and Malibu will offer a more premium look while maintaining their athletic body sides. And yeah, this is the first time I’ve heard the phrase “athletic body” used in conjunction with the Spark and Cruze. Anyway, Chevy will give greater attention to detail like the intricate sculpting on the grilles and the brand’s signature dual-element taillamps.

Malibu RS

The Malibu RS, a first for this ‘Bu generation, will offer a sporty, personalized appearance propelled by blacked-out styling cues like the sport grille, bowtie emblems, rear spoiler, 18-inch machined wheels, and dual exhaust. The inside introduces a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, black cloth seats, and a standard eight-inch touchscreen for the Infotainment 3 system. There will also be a new CVT transmission standard on models that come with the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine.


2019 Chevy Cruze and Cruze Hatchback. Photo: Chevrolet.


The Chevy Cruze, along with the updated front fascia, welcomes new interior colors and a new infotainment system with a seven-inch color touchscreen. Remote start and automatic climate control are now standard on LT and Premier, but optional on other trims. The LS Hatch trim is added to the Cruze Hatch line for the first time. That sounds like a good move, since 20 percent of all Cruze sales in its first full year of production are the Hatchback.


The Spark, which sells by the train-load in its segment, gets new front-end styling with the same cues found on the updated Malibu and Cruze. New exterior color options will also be coming along with revised interior trim and an additional available safety feature called Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking. Chevy does not go into detail about what Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking is, but I bet it has something to do with hitting the brakes for you when you’re moving in a forward direction at lower speeds and aren’t paying attention.

Don’t hold me to that, though.

The 2019 Chevy Spark is powered by a 1.4-liter DOHC engine offered with either a manual or continuously variable transmission. Photo: Chevrolet.

Availability & In Person

You will be able to see the new design direction for the corporate automotive giant when the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu, Cruze, and Spark go on sale later this year.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos & Source: Chevrolet.

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Will Kia’s Wireless EV Charging System Change The World? Wed, 18 Apr 2018 23:05:17 +0000 Kia has come up with a rather nifty wireless charging system for EVs and, honestly, this sounds pretty cool. As anyone who has ever messed with tangled power cords and such knows, wires can be a real pain. And I’m also willing to bet a chunk of people who are hesitant to buy EVs don’t like the idea of having to mess with chords and wires, and always having to plug them in all the time.

Bright Ideas

About a hundred years ago there was this half-crazy Serbian guy named Nikola Tesla. About half of his ideas made logical sense (alternating current, florescent lighting etc.) and the other half were borderline ya-ya (electric death rays, The Tesla Ozone Company etc.) but my favorite idea of his, borderline ya-ya or not, was power transmission without wires. No, I’m not sure how it was supposed to work, or even if it would work, but the idea itself was fantastic. No more wires, no more plugging things in, everything just runs.

What Kia and their tech partner in this, Mojo, have come up with isn’t a full on Tesla deal, but it’s still pretty cool. Kia rigged up a small fleet of its popular Soul to develop the wireless charging system. And the really neat thing about what they came up with is that not only is it wireless, it’s not nearly as finicky as you’d expect. Even when the Kia Soul is misaligned over the charger, the system can wirelessly charge cars with up to 85 percent efficiency.

The wireless charging system, which has been in development for three years already, is said to be an important step in the future of electric vehicles, according to Hyundai and Kia. And it’s easy to agree with them. If you can take another hassle out of owning an electric vehicle, the better our EV future will be. The project, a collaboration between Hyundai and Kia, Mojo Mobility Inc., and the U.S. Department of Energy, shows a way for future electric vehicles in which plugs are no longer necessary.

Photo: Kia Motors America.

Park & Charge

The system works by using an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two coils. There’s a transmitter on the ground and a receiver on the bottom of the vehicle. You simply park your car above the transmitter to begin charging and the electrical energy is sent through an inductive coupling, which uses that energy to charge the battery. It’s the same way a Sonicare toothbrush charges, only on a much bigger scale. And again, even if there is some misalignment between the transmitter in the ground and the receiver in the car, charging can still happen.

It’s easy to see how this system could play out: every shopping mall and downtown parking lot will have an inductive charging pad buried in it. All you have to do is park your car as you normally would, and while you’re away, it’s automatically charging, no muss, no fuss.

2018 Kia Soul EV. Photo: Kia Motors America.

Future Considerations

Sadly, there are no current plans to offer the wireless charging system on production vehicles for sale to consumers. That makes sense, because while installing the wireless charging gear in the car would be pretty straight forward, it’s the parking space part of the equation where things get sticky. Sure, simply modifying parking spots is relatively easy, but it’s the number of parking spots that’s the potential problem.

There is also a downside on getting the charging pad installed for home use. The home high voltage charger for a Tesla, say, is easy to bolt into your wall and any competent electrician can hook it into your 220V line in a snap. The Kia system potentially means cutting into your garage floor to install the pad and run the wiring. That could be a hassle.

On the upside, if this system works out and becomes widely adopted, driving and charging – and therefore living with – your electric vehicle could become a lot easier.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos & Source: Kia Motors America.

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Chapter 2: Talking With Bob At Lulu’s Sat, 14 Apr 2018 01:21:04 +0000 The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me is a gasoline-fueled narrative by automotive journalist Tony Borroz. It details the joys, thrills, and even the uncertainties of the car-obsessed lifestyle. In advance of the book’s release, we are previewing the first few chapters. Chapter one here

I’m in downtown Palm Springs (at least I think it’s downtown, is there a downtown?) at a place called Lulu’s with my old friend Bob. Crossing that border, going either way, always seems to result in some shift of mood. Either crossing into Arizona on I-10 or into SoCal going the other way, things modulate. As I crossed over, other drivers seemed to both speed up and get less aggressive. It’s never out of your mind, when you’re in Arizona, that there are a lot of people wearing gun belts. People seem to have this affect of always being under threat, ready for anything.

“Don’t cross me” seems to be the attitude, body language, and implication, if not outright stated. I once had a guy reach for his gun on me when I moved his shopping cart out of the way at the Fry’s Grocery.

But this does not seem like a very strong possibility here in Palm Springs. Palm Springs is simultaneously an odd and an alluring place. It’s about as Southern California as you can get without a beach. Everyone seems polished, for a start. Everyone, or nearly everyone, boarders on Hollywood-good-looking. Which is not that surprising, since Palm Springs was started, or at least put on the map, as a Hollywood Colony, a nice getaway spot for the weekend, before The War. It has that sense that everyone you see, at least everyone who is white or acceptably ethnic, is somehow Connected.

As I crossed over, other drivers seemed to both speed up and get less aggressive.

Setting The Scene

It’s a nice balmy desert evening in January by the time Bob and I are making our way through the semi-cavernous interior of Lulu’s. Lulu’s is like an architectural representation of Palm Springs itself. Who knows what it was when it was first built, because by now sweetie, this place has had more work done than Joan Rivers. On top of that, it’s polished, lit just so with very expensive looking lights, slathered with “art” of a nondescript modernist bent, decorated in colors a toddler would love, and menu’d with fare that is 50 percent weird stuff (calamari croquembouche with a fennel semi-demi-glaze drizzled in raw balsamic goat sweat) and 50 percent normal diner food (burgers, fries).

And, since this is Palm Springs, about a third of the people you see are gay. The other thirds are Hollywood types, usually an older rich guy with his bit of fluff for the night, and then even older Hollywood types. Palm Springs is where a lot of gay people go both from SoCal and from up in the Bay Area. Supposedly the place gets really full around holidays, Christmas and Thanksgiving and such. It makes sense. Who wants to spend time with a family that, up until recently, was pretty damn likely to disown you.

Rocket Man

Bob is gay. He’s an older, refined sort of fellow that I worked with for a number of years at Boeing. He has a clipped and direct way of speaking; looking squarely at you, always clearing his throat to speak, precise in his diction and word choice. You could think that’s because he used to be a writer (at least that’s what he was when I met him at Boeing) but it’s actually his mom raising him to be a gentleman at all times. He’s that kind of Old School Guy.

He understands what is expected. He knows what one does not say at a time like this. He can also turn that off in an instant to make stunningly adult jokes that leave everyone in convulsions. Bob is good company and it always turns out to be a good conversation. In addition to being a plane guy (you had to be, working in the aerospace industry) Bob is very, very much a car guy. It used to be Porsche 911s (he owned a string of them) that he was constantly working on and modifying, but recently he got a first-gen Mercedes SLK. “I’m older now,” he said by way of explanation.

He had been around the industry long enough to have seen, if not been part of, a lot of outright failures.

Grand Visions

Tonight’s first topic of conversation: the modern aircraft industry, natch. Bob, being an older chap, is starting to show some weariness concerning things that fly. He had been around the industry long enough to have seen, if not been part of, a lot of outright failures. If things turned out the way the aircraft industry said it would, by now, there would be super-sonic transports zipping all over the place and landing at airport transportation hubs built on top of skyscrapers in downtown Chicago. But, they didn’t, so here sit Bob and I talking about current failures.

“Well Airbus sure screwed it up with the A380,” he says with a wry chuckle.

The A380 is that huge double-decker plane that, if you listened to the Airbus marketing guys, was going to dominate all overseas routes and literally be the only way to fly if you were on a long haul hop from Australia to Dubai. Bob was, of course, referencing the recent news that Airbus was on the verge of canceling any further production of the A380 because no one was buying them. Then Air Emirates handed them a lifeline and put in an order.

“Seriously, they thought that would work,” scoffed Bob. “They take forever to get people on and off of. They require larger gates. [That’s a huge deal.] And the fuel costs are outrageously high. But there’s Boeing, plugging along with making dual-engined wide-bodies that can fly from Hartsfield-Jackson to Gatwick in a single hop on 30 percent less fuel. Who the hell does Airbus think they’re fooling? What, airlines want to spend more money? Never in my life, I can tell you that!”

Bob’s right. There are many, many things I learned working in aerospace. I picked up stuff on composites and the logistics of bombing the living crap out of a city and why you design planes to have the engines literally drop off in some situations. I also learned a lot about why people buy airplanes. Why do rich people buy airplanes? Convenience. The same reason we own cars: because taking the bus or getting a cab is pretty inconvenient in most cases.

Goodbye Sky Lounge and hello to cramming as many people as you can fit into a tube without them going totally Malthusian on the flight crew.

Jumbo Jets & Big Rigs

Why do airlines exist? To make money. Period. Remember all that mid-century stuff about how airliners of the future would be like flying bar-lounges where the Roger Sterlings of the 21st Century would hang out, make the big deals, and get drunk as skunks? Yeah, that didn’t happen, did it? Airlines are not in the travel business. They are not in the business of making your flying experience one of luxury and being pampered by a miniskirted sky-trollop. No. Airlines are in the people moving business. And, like any other business, they are there to make money. First and last and always. So goodbye Sky Lounge and hello to cramming as many people as you can fit into a tube without them going totally Malthusian on the flight crew.

Bob recently got to fly first class, and he noticed, as I had noticed in the recent past, that flying first class today is what flying, period, was like years ago. To be treated with dignity and respect and like a living, breathing human being; you’ve got to pay for it now. Nearly triple, actually. The sad trajectory here is that airlines will keep squeezing us, literally, as much as they can until their is such a passenger revolt, or the FAA forces them through regulation to stop treating us like pigs in a semi trailer bound for a rendering plant.

Of course, talking about planes quickly led us to talking about cars. Specifically, Bob and I were both fascinated by the impending arrival of self-driving cars. Of course we both look at the entire concept with dread and repugnance, but auto firms seem to want to make it happen, and a certain portion of the populace think it’s a good idea.

“But you know,” Bob said, “that’s not where they’re going to really work.”

“How do you mean?”

“Look, the most logical place to get all this self-driving car tech figured out and first implemented is with self-driving semis,” he grinned.

It suddenly made perfect sense, like someone telling you “turn it to the left to get the screw off.”

“Yeah, that would work. It’s using an industrial setting as a technical proving ground,” I agreed.

“And, most semi truck driving is on long, more or less straight stretches of freeway. There’s little variation in routes. And getting stuff from A to B is easier than people who change their minds, want to stop for lunch and all that stuff,” he pointed out.

“The only problem is going to be . . . ”

“Teamsters,” we both said in unison.

“Jeez, can you imagine their response when Elon Musk tries to tell them their jobs are going to be obsolete,” I asked, shaking my head.

“Oh. They’ll weld him into an oil drum and dump him into Monterey Bay before dinner,” Bob smiled. “This is the problem with tech guys. Half of the time they answer questions nobody really asked, and the other half of the time, they don’t fully grasp who they are going to seriously piss off with their bright ideas.”

It suddenly made perfect sense, like someone telling you “turn it to the left to get the screw off.”

What Women Want?

I told Bob about when I was working at Microsoft, and this guy was putting together a presentation for digital currency and how it can be used and all that stuff. At one point, his presentation said something about “we will soon have a completely cashless society” and I half-stifled a laugh. He looked at me incredulously. “What? You don’t think we can do it?” Oh, I know you can do it. It’s just if you think there’s going to be a “cashless society” I know of some thoroughly legitimate businessmen in the waste disposal industry in northern New Jersey you should talk to.

It was like a light bulb went off over his head, I told Bob. He had literally never thought about the possibility that some people actually like to deal in cash. And there’s a whole portion of society that needs to have things be on a cash-only basis. I think I kind of ruined the poor guy’s presentation for him.

Naturally, talk of self-driving-anything lead to Bob’s next thesis for the night: women want appliance cars.

Now, at this point, it’s worth mentioning that Bob is, in a lot of ways, an old school kind of guy. And on top of that, he’s an old school gay guy. Not that he’s misogynistic, just like a lot of post-war gay guys, he never seemed to be interested in women as people. Call it a low grade, but not negatively realized prejudice.

I don’t agree with Bob on this, or idea that “women want appliance cars” but I can see where he’s going. It dovetails with the self-driving car thing. I don’t think that women want appliance cars – I think a certain portion of the population, male or female, want cars that function as nothing more than appliances.

Call it a low grade, but not negatively realized prejudice.

Necessity Versus Passion

The thesis, in more egalitarian terms, works like this: An even larger portion of the public either have no need for cars, or, if they do, see them as little more than the machine you use to get from here to there. This is the machine that makes my toast, this is the machine that heats my food, this is the machine that gets me to my job, then to the club after work.

For people that think like this, and Bob and I both feel there is a growing number of them, a self-driving car seems ideal. These are, we both postulated, 90 percent of the people who buy Kias and Hyundais and other near-entry level “fashion” cars. Cars that look of the moment, styling-wise, that have a lot of cool features you expect in a new car, but will also be a device that, when the time comes to ditch it, you will do so with about as much thought as junking an old microwave.

This is the future demographic for self-driving cars. Neither Bob nor I am outright opposed to this future, but we also agreed that just as long as they stay the hell out of our way when we’re out for a Sunday morning drive, it will be a good thing for us gearheads.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

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Land Rover “Draws” Massive Defender Outline At 9,000 Feet In The French Alps Thu, 12 Apr 2018 12:59:42 +0000 So Land Rover has been in the truck-making game for 70 years now. That’s an impressive string, especially when you consider what the British automotive industry went through in the late-70s, early-80s. But here we are, and as you would expect, Land Rover decided to celebrate.

And how did they celebrate this milestone? By making a giant Defender in the snow of the French Alps, of course. No, it doesn’t make much sense to me either, but it’s still kind of cool. The giant Land Rover snow art was made in anticipation of World Land Rover Day, April 30th, which will be exactly 70 years since the original Landy was first shown at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show.

Vertical Limits

In La Plagne, France, which is southwest from Chamonix, snow artist Simon Beck, who somehow has a job creating geometric art on foot, confronted sub-zero temperatures to produce the outline of a Defender 820 feet across, 9,000 feet up in the French Alps. Yeah, the idea is kind of nutty, and the details make it even more so. To create the high-altitude Defender, Beck walked for 20,894 steps through the French Alps. That adds up to a total of 10.2 miles.

“Making my snow art requires endurance, accuracy, and strength – all attributes shared with the Defender. Its iconic shape is so simple and recognized across the world; this must be the most recognizable piece of art I’ve ever made,” related Simon (although that sounds like he was reading something a marketing weasel handed him).

And I get what they were going for here, but if it was me in place of Simon Beck, I would have made them trace it out on a sandy beach in Hawaii or some place warm like that.

Snow artist Simon Beck at work. Photo: Jaguar Land Rover.

Humble Beginnings

Of course, the thing about doing this in the first place is that it ties back to how Land Rover got its start. You’ve heard the phrase, “I sketched it out on the back of a napkin?” That’s pretty close to how Land Rover got going. It all started when Rover’s Engineering Director, Maurice Wilks, first sketched the shape for the original Land Rover in the sand of Red Wharf Bay, England. See guys: Sand. Hawaii would have been much better.

Anyway, Maurice proposed the idea to his brother, Spencer, who just happened to be Landy’s Managing Director. Spencer liked it, christened it the “Land Rover,” which over time turned into the modern day Defender.

Waxing Poetics

If you’re a fan of the go-anywhere Brit, there’s no need to hike up into the Alps to join the celebrations. Land Rover is inviting fans to join the World Land Rover Day fun via an online broadcast from the UK at 3:00 pm EDT on April 30th. Programming will feature the significant people who created “the world’s most-loved 4x4s.” That, of course, made me cough the word “JEEP!” very loudly, but okay, people still like Land Rover. Let’s not gild the lily too much, shall we chaps?

Anyway, that online broadcast will also take an in-depth look at the band’s most innovative technologies, from the original Series Land Rover and Defender origins, up to the introduction of the Range Rover in 1970 and the Discovery in 1989.

Continued Celebrations

The U.S. market will get in on the fun by celebrating World Land Rover Day at its new 12-acre headquarters in Mahwah, New Jersey. There will be a gathering of people and products of historical significance for the Land Rover brand. Members of the winning 1993 American Camel Trophy U.S. team will be reunited with the vehicles that competed in that year’s rally in Malaysia.

In addition, a North American Spec Range Rover Classic from the first year Range Rover was sold in America will be on hand, along with several examples of the North American version of the Defender sold here from 1992 to 1997.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

70 Years of Land Rover Timeline

1948       Land Rover Series I launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show.

1953       Long Wheelbase version of the Series I is introduced.

1956       Oxford and Cambridge teams complete on London to Singapore expedition in Series I.

1958       Land Rover Series II unveiled with more refined design.

1970       Original two-door Range Rover (the Classic) goes on sale.

1971       Land Rover Series III launched.

1972       Range Rover crosses Darien Gap on 18,000-mile Trans-America expedition.

1976       1,000,000th Land Rover built.

1979       A Range Rover wins the inaugural Paris-Dakar rally (and again in 1981).

1981       Land Rover begins legendary partnership with Camel Trophy.

1981       Four-door Range Rover released.

1989       Land Rover Discovery, the third Land Rover model, goes on sale.

1990       Original ‘Landie’ relaunched and renamed Defender.

1994       Second generation Range Rover launched.

1997       All-new Freelander is unveiled with innovative new technology: Hill Descent Control.

2001       Third-generation Range Rover with all-round independent air suspension revealed.

2003       Inaugural G4 challenge sees 16 teams traverse USA, South Africa and Australia.

2004       Range Stormer Concept previews performance Range Rover and three-door body.

2004       Discovery 3/LR3, the third-generation Discovery, launched at New York Motor Show.

2005       All-new Range Rover Sport unveiled.

2006       Freelander 2/LR2 launched. The first Land Rover to be manufactured at Halewood.

2007       LRX concept car previews design language of a new luxury compact SUV.

2009       Fourth generation of the Land Rover Discovery introduced.

2010       Range Rover Evoque, the world’s first luxury compact SUV, makes global debut.

2012       Fourth-generation Range Rover introduced – the first all-aluminum SUV.

2013       New generation of Range Rover Sport unveiled at New York Motor Show.

2014       Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division is officially launched.

2014       Range Rover Sport SVR debuts, the fastest, most agile, most powerful Land Rover.

2014       Discovery Vision Concept previews design vision for new family of Discovery vehicles.

2014       Launch of Discovery Sport, a new premium compact SUV with 5+2 seating.

2015       Trio of end-of-line Defender editions revealed with biggest sand drawing in UK.

2015       Exclusive Range Rover SVAutobiography long wheelbase launched in New York.

2015       Evoque Convertible becomes world’s first luxury compact SUV convertible.

2015       One-of-a-kind Land Rover ‘Defender 2,000,000’ sells for £400,000 at charity auction.

2016       Last Defender rolls off the production line.

2016       All-new Discovery with world-first remote Intelligent Seat Fold technology launched.

2017       Land Rover launches the fourth Range Rover, the Velar.

2018       Limited Edition Range Rover SV Coupé debuts at Geneva Motor Show.

Photos & Source: Jaguar Land Rover.

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Lotus Exige Cup 430 Type 25: The “Collector’s Piece” Tue, 10 Apr 2018 23:01:26 +0000 Okay, I am being totally serious here: I think Lotus is messing with us. They have put out so manyspecialeditions that I am starting to doubt them. Seriously, has anyone ever seen all the special editions in the same place at the same time? At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone at Lotus said, “Nah, sorry mate! We was just havin’ a laugh!” and this all turns into some sort of prank.

Anyway, here is the new “special” edition: The Lotus Exige Cup 430 Type 25 Collector’s Piece.

Name Game

No, that is the real, full name for this thing: Lotus Exige Cup 430 Type 25 – billed by Lotus as a “collector’s piece.” At first I thought it was a piece, like a piece of a racecar or something. But no, this is an entire car. A specially-prepped, painted and limited-run Lotus Exige Cup 430. And yes, like all Lotus cars, it is impressive. It’s quick, fast, turns like the devil, and does the business.

Lotus will be making only 25 of this version, although the name also applies to it being a tribute to the Lotus 25 Grand Prix car from 1963.

Distinct Markings

To distinguish this edition, every Lotus Exige Cup 430 Type 25 is finished in metallic Lotus Racing Green, or Old English White, with contrast pinstripes on the front splitter, front access panel, bargeboards (which are new), roof panel, and rear wing, as well as unique decals on each rear buttress. In case you don’t know, Lotus Racing Green is not as dark as British Racing Green, and Old English White was the primary color on the Lotus Cortina (potentially the original sport sedan). This is all the work of the Lotus Exclusive program that combines traditional British craftsmanship with the best of modern design.

Lotus Exige Cup 430 Type 25

Lotus Exige Cup 430 Type 25. Photo: Group Lotus plc.

Power & Performance

The Lotus Exige Cup 430 Type 25 employs a supercharger and chargecooler, designed specifically for the unique demands of the engine, which pumps out a very impressive 430 horsepower and 325 lb-ft. of torque. Given the size and weight of an Exige, that is a beautifully grotesque amount of horsepower. 60 mph comes up in merely 3.2 seconds before topping out at 180 mph. Lotus says it’s one of the fastest road cars to lap their Hethel circuit, covering the 2.2 miles in just 1 minute 24.8 seconds.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the Exige Cup 430 Type 25. There is also a variable traction control function, linked directly to the ECU and controlled by a six-position rotary switch on the steering column. There are five pre-set traction levels as well as “off”. . . and this is pointing out the obvious to us gearheads, but we all know how much capital-F, Fun that “off” position is going to be!

Aerodynamic Art

Yes, the Lotus Exige Cup 430 Type 25 is road legal, but it is sort of a British version of a Porsche GT3: This thing shines brightest on the track. Motorsport aero can be found all over the place. The carbon fiber front splitter’s trailing lip helps separate and speed airflow under the car. The new air curtain elements on the front clamshell move air through to the front wheel wells to reduce turbulence and drag. The front louvers reduce the pressure within the front wheel arches and cut lift.

Out back you’ll notice the large cut-out sections behind the rear wheels to reduce wheel arch pressure and boost downforce. Put all that together with the high-set rear wing and rear diffuser, and you’re looking at over 450 lbs. of downforce.

Lotus Exige Cup 430 Type 25 white

Composite technology, according to Lotus, plays a considerable role in the Exige’s construction, with every area examined with the intent to cut unnecessary mass. Photo: Group Lotus plc.

Suspension & Braking

The suspension is as close to perfect as Lotus can make it. That means, as far as you’re concerned, it is perfect. Nitron three-way adjustable shocks and adjustable Eibach front and rear anti-roll bars are standard. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are fitted to ultra-lightweight, fully machined, forged aluminum wheels. Stopping is done via forged, four-piston AP Racing brake calipers and race-derived two-piece, J-hook brake discs.

Interior Treatments

On the inside it’s all down to business. The Type 25’s interior includes in-house manufactured carbon race seats, themed in black Alcantara, with bespoke trim and a custom stripe for the head and backrest. The door panels and face-level vents feature new contrast double stitching, and the cabin is finished all around in anodized aluminum and carbon fiber bits and pieces. In a nod to the original Lotus Type 25 Formula 1 car, there is a wooden gear selector knob. Sweet!

Curiously, the Lotus Exige Cup 430 Type 25 is not all Harry Hairshirt track-focused austerity. There is air conditioning, an entertainment system, including iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, and cruise control. There is even carpet and floor mats. However, Lotus says if you want to be all Harry Hairshirt track-focused austerity, you can delete some of those items.

Sigh. I guess this “Special Edition” Lotus will have to go in my Lotto Garage as well.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos & Source: Group Lotus plc.

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Chapter 1: Setting Off From Sierra Vista Fri, 06 Apr 2018 19:06:37 +0000 I’m in the middle of the southern Arizona desert blasting north at 75 miles an hour. I’m at that rise, just beyond the Border Patrol checkpoint, when I glance in the rearview mirror and see it all laid out before me.

“Back there,” I think, “is everything I know in a certain sense.”

Memory Reflector

Recently both my parents died, and I have just (finally, finally) settled up everything, and have gotten my ass out of what I can only relate to as being a horrid place to live. Back there, in that rearview mirror is the past. Not just the literal past, where I was driving a few moments before, but my past. My parents house where they retired. Three bedrooms and two baths of stuff neither me nor my brothers really wanted, but a house that now, in my mind’s eye, is some sort of strange reflector of memories on top of memories on top of memories.

It hits me that I am not driving a car, and a limited-run racing special with a “significant” competition history at that. No, I’m not driving a car, I’m driving a time machine. In here, it’s the present. In the rearview mirror, it’s the past. And out there, on the other side of that windshield, is the future.

Cars are interesting things. They’re more than art objects or a way to get dates; or a way to show off or a way to get you from point A to B. Cars are, in their own way, time machines.

And the future is roaring more than a mile a minute.

The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me is a gasoline-fueled narrative by automotive journalist Tony Borroz. It details the joys, thrills, and even the uncertainties of the car-obsessed lifestyle. In advance of the book’s release, we are previewing the first few chapters here on Automoblog.

Farm Boy

In a lot of ways, this was a (lower case r) revelation that was a long time coming. This is not about the passing of my parents, although, in almost every way imaginable, this is all my dad’s fault. Thanks to my father, I grew up in a car-oriented family. The garage – there was always a garage – was packed full of sports cars, antique cars, sensible work cars, and tools, literally thousands of tools.

By the time I knew my father, he was a tool and die maker at an aluminum factory. Before that, his job was killing Germans, and before that he was a coal miner. Before that, he grew up on a farm in rural Illinois in a town that literally disappeared during the Great Depression. In other words, he found himself in a lot of situations where he had to work with a lot of mechanical things and, even more to the point, he had to be able to fix them. So, being a tool and die maker was a natural fit for a farm kid who was, for a time being, a drill sergeant who, for a time being had to Make It Work, no matter what a bunch Fascists thought.

Or, as my dad once put it, “It’s a great job. I get to make stuff out of metal and no one is shooting at me.”

He loved working in aluminum, or ‘luminum, as he said it in his Colorado cowboy twang. “It’s soft, easy to work, and if you know what the metal is doing, it can take really high loads with out deflecting an inch. You can work it to really high tolerances and it cuts like butter.”

Obsessions & Passions

And of course there were cars. Everybody, and I mean literally everybody in his family was seriously obsessed with cars. Partially I figured it was a genetic thing. Italians have this odd fascination with speed that a lot of other cultures lack. We invented circuit racing, for example. All that Ben-Hur chariot racing stuff? The Italians were running chariot races for centuries before that movie was set.

The odd thing here is sports cars. Unlike a lot of Americans, and especially the ones where I grew up, my father had little to no interest in hot rods and muscle cars. He liked sports cars. Cars that could not just go, but go, turn, and stop. Cars that were no bigger and no heavier than they had to be.

Ergo, when my oldest brother, Terry, turned 16 and got a car, it was a Triumph TR-4 (red with the dog dish hubcaps). When my other older brother, John, turned 16 and got a car, it was an MG-B (antique white). When I turned 16, I got a Mercury Capri II with the 2.8-liter V6 engine. The biggest you could get. As my dad always said, “If you’re going to get a car, get the one with the all the hot options.”

My dad seemingly had thousands of those little truisms, some coming from the Army, some coming from the Farm, but the vast bulk of them coming from direct experience.

“You can find lots of idiots that can hold their foot down. That’s not being a race car driver. Knowing when to hit the brakes and turn, that makes you a race car driver.”

“You can never have enough tools.”

Any oil leak is a problem,” said over my brother’s TR.

And my personal favorite: “Finding interesting cars is easy. Finding garage space, that’s the problem.”

Borroz often recites his father’s sayings in conversation, especially when asked about the mythical “Tony’s Lottery Garage.” While there are many cars in Tony’s Lottery Garage and new ones can be added at random, the one guarantee is available space.

Family Dynamics

My being a gearhead was foretold even before I was conceived. It wasn’t just cool cars in the garage and talk of new limited slip differentials at the dinner table. If there was racing coverage on TV, it was on. If the new Autoweek & Competition Press showed up in the mailbox, hierarchical birth-order and body size clashed against cunning and desire. Before dad got home. Precisely at 4:50 to be followed by dinner precisely at 5:00. Then that week’s copy of Autoweek & Competition Press was his.

And the same went for Road & Track, Car & Driver and any other thing in print that found its way into our home. Did I mention that my dad was a (precise) tool and die maker? Did I mention that my dad was a (by the book) drill instructor? Did I mention that my dad was sort of an anal retentive jerk? He was.

Racing on TV was watched in reverent silence balanced with barely contained contempt for the commentary crew. “These idiots excel at telling ya somethin’ ya already seen.” My dad, of course. The quiet only being broken by the occasional “Uh-oh!” when someone uncorked it. Post race after action reports could sometimes last for weeks. “Yeah, but if Mario didn’t break-” “Yeah, but he did! And the whole point being that Unser-” “Oh screw Unser! That guy’s never turned a wheel in a sports car, let alone a Grand Prix car.” “Yes, but we weren’t watching the Grand Prix, were we? No. We were watching the USAC race at Ontario.” “Which just proves my point . . . ”

And on it went.

I swear my brothers would still devolve into an argument about whether Richie Ginther really was robbed at that race at Torrey Pines that one day.

Remarkable Parallels

I realize, of course, this is not all that different from baseball families (“Oh Lou Gehrig my butt!”) or basketball families (“Yeah, but Bill Russell was playing against little white guys!”) or, perish the thought, families who were sadly obsessed with [shudder] golf.

Years ago I had the great opportunity to work on some pre-packaged TV coverage of formula racing. One of the racers involved in Formula Atlantic at that time was a guy named Mark Dismore (who was having a knock-down-drag-out championship battle with Hiro Matsushita). Finished with his interview, we were hanging out with Dismore back at the transporter in the paddock. The show’s producer, this really nice guy named Tommy Coggins who worked as a shooter with me on many a gig, asked Dismore, “So how did you get into doing something like racing?”

Tommy was a baseball guy. He had never really watched racing on TV, let alone been to a race, let alone seeing how close to unmitigated disaster these guys worked. It pretty much put the zap on his head, seeing it in person. His question was more akin to, “You go out and face off against a bull with a piece of cloth?!”

“Oh, you know,” Dismore said with a resigned smile. “Family. My dad raced. My uncle ran a machine shop. You know. Some people grow up in baseball families, and some people grow up in basketball families, I grew up in a racing family.”

Dismore delivered it with that “it’s kinda obvious” tone.

Tommy Coggins didn’t get it right away, but I did.

The Road Ahead

My predilections were pre-ordained, but my future was not. Indeed our future, the future of the gearheads and automotive enthusiasts of this world, are seemingly more and more in doubt with every passing day. Gearheads in the 50s had a secure gearhead future to look forward to. “20 years from now? Well shoot, cars will be powered by jet engines and cruising at a hundred miles an hour on pool-table-smooth superhighways!” That’s what we, the gearheads, would have been saying in 1958.

Now? In 2018? You tell me where cars will be by 2038? Will there still be cars? If there are, will we be allowed to drive them?

That . . . this . . . all of this, my father, my family, where cars and racing were, where cars and racing will be . . . all of this washes through my mind as I blast through the desert at 80, one eye in the rearview mirror, one eye on the road ahead.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

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2019 Hyundai Kona Electric: Compact, Efficient & Strong Fri, 06 Apr 2018 17:33:35 +0000 There’s no word on how much Hyundai will ask for their new 2019 Kona Electric, but you have to guess it would be cheaper than a Tesla Model X. The Model X runs for around $110,000 on average, and I bet for that price you could buy three, maybe four 2019 Hyundai Kona Electrics. Consider that, and also consider that Hyundai, as a company, isn’t going away any time soon.

I know that might not be all that fair, given Tesla’s preeminence in the EV world, but you have to keep in mind that Tesla is a very new company. And even if it was started with the best of intentions, no shortage of cash and ground-breaking technology, the road to competing in the car market is littered with other such noble failures from Tucker up to and including Elio.

Platform & Technology

The new Kona Electric is, apart from the EV drivetrain, just like a regular Kona. It rides on the same long wheelbase with short overhangs and wide track underpinned by a MacPherson strut front suspension, a multi-link rear suspension, and standard 17-inch alloy wheels. The Kona EV uses the same hot-stamping methods to produce lightweight, ultra-strong structural elements to maximize the cabin’s central safety cell. It has the same active safety features, including Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, High Beam Assist, and Driver Attention Warning.

And the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric also has all the standard infotainment one would expect: Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM Radio, HD Radio, and Blue Link LTE-powered connectivity. The standard seven-inch color LCD display includes auxiliary inputs, voice recognition, and a Rear View Monitor. The available eight-inch touchscreen navigation display includes traffic flow and incident data via HD radio, Infinity premium audio, Clari-Fi music-restoration technology, and smartphone integration.

These “Blue Link” services are a big deal to Hyundai and all Kona Electric models include a complimentary three-year term. Blue Link has enhanced safety, diagnostic, and remote and guidance services, along with a list of connectivity tech: Google Home, Remote Start with Climate Control, Destination Search by Voice, Remote Door Lock/Unlock, Car Finder, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, and Stolen Vehicle Recovery. The Kona Electric adds exclusive EV-oriented features such as Remote Charge Management, Charge Scheduling, EV Power History, and EV Range.

Hyundai anticipates some Kona Electric buyers will be downsizing from larger and/or higher-end vehicles. That said, the Kona Electric offers premium options, like a larger gauge cluster, heads-up display, power driver’s seat, and heated leather seats. Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

Power & Performance

But it is, naturally, the EV features that will set the Kona Electric apart. The powertrain employs a high-efficiency 150 kW permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor supplied by a high-voltage 64 kWh lithium-ion battery. That’s good enough for 201 horsepower and 291 lb-ft. of torque delivered to the front wheels. The battery system is liquid-cooled and operates at 356 volts. Battery pack energy density is 141.3 Wh/kg (greater than a Chevy Bolt Hyundai notes) with a total system weight under 1,000 lbs.

The Kona Electric utilizes a Level-II on-board charging system capable of a 7.2 kW rate of charge for rapid recharging. The estimated range of the Kona Electric is a – “generous” according to Hyundai – 250 miles. Not as good as a Model X, but still pretty good. Eighty percent charge can be had in 54 minutes with a Level-III quick charge. The 100 kW DC fast-charging capability is standard all Kona Electrics and for your charging convenience, the port is located in the front grille area.

The new Kona Electric employs a sophisticated multi-link rear suspension designed for agility and comfort on a variety of surfaces. The rear control arms are designed to minimize camber and toe changes throughout the suspension. Photo: Hyundai Motor America.

Handy Tools

The other interesting thing found on the Kona Electric is the MyHyundai with Blue Link app. With this nifty little gizmo you can manage and monitor the Kona Electric remotely.

If you live in an area with different electric rates at off-peak times, you can schedule the Kona Electric to charge to reduce cost and peak demand on the electric grid based on time and date. For example, you could set up a charging schedule to start at 10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays on a weekly basis. Handy! Blue Link again for the win.

Manufacturing & Availability

The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric will be produced in Ulsan, Korea and will arrive in the fourth quarter of this year.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos & Source: Hyundai Motor America.

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2019 Toyota Yaris Sedan: Mid-Premium Goodness Thu, 05 Apr 2018 22:18:21 +0000 Here is the 2019 Toyota Yaris sedan . . . wait, they make a Yaris sedan? Why would you make a Yaris sedan? At this point, why would you make a Yaris? I keed! I keed! The Toyota Yaris is a perfectly serviceable car. No, it does not take you in Rolls-like comfort. No, it does not have Ferrari-esque power and agility. But it is a Yaris.

And at a certain point in time, maybe a Yaris is what a person needs. If you can get past the looks – and you’re going to have to, because this thing is gruesomely unattractive – but the Yaris is as dependable as, well, as a Toyota.

Mid-Premium Design

The Yaris sedan will come in three grades for 2019: L, LE, and XLE. The XLE is said to be more of a premium grade, although we here at Automoblog might call it “mid-premium.” The XLE offers up leatherette-trimmed front seats, which Toyota describes as “sporty” along with a leather-trimmed steering wheel, shift knob, and parking brake. The HVAC system has automatic climate control; there are automatic LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and illuminated entry on the mid-premium Yaris XLE.

There are newer styling touches to be found on the 2019 Yaris, like the front grille with a honeycomb insert, “upscale” piano black accents, and chrome trim. Fog lights are standard on the LE and XLE, and there’s also a new rear lip spoiler and a color-keyed shark fin antenna for the satellite radio. Power outside mirrors are standard on the L, and the LE and XLE get power outside heated mirrors with LED turn-signal indicators. And all this inexpensive yet practical goodness will come painted in seven colors.

Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Power & Performance

As you would expect, the 2019 Yaris sedan is as efficient as any other Toyota out there. It’s powered by a direct-injected, 1.5-liter engine mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Those equal up to 32 mpg in the city, 40 on the highway, and 35 combined. Nice! But if you opt for the six-speed manual box, those figures turn into 30 mpg in the city, 39 on the highway, and 34 combined, but you do get the fun and enjoyment of stirring your own gears. Which actually should be fun thanks to the compact, lightweight design, and short-throw shift changes.

That 1.5-liter DOHC four-banger pumps out 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft. of torque, or about what a first gen GTI put out. So the Yaris should have some semblance of fun about it.

Chassis & Suspension

There’s a lot of high-tensile strength steel in the body and frame, so the chassis of the Yaris sedan should make for a rigid suspension platform. The ride is controlled via stiffer springs paired with MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam suspension in the rear, and all you gearheads know: torsion beam rear suspension = three-wheeled corning around the AutoX course – yee-HAW!

The steering is provided by the now nearly-completely-ubiquitous electronic power steering unit. There’s a Sport mode for improved torque feel at the flip of a switch. Stopping is taken care of by ventilated discs up front and drum brakes in the rear. No, really: drum brakes and a torsion beam suspension out back. Ha!

Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Tech & Safety

The interior falls into the “modern car manufactured to a price point” category. Every Yaris has a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system with voice recognition, remote interface, steering wheel controls, Bluetooth connectivity, and a standard backup camera. The speedo is analog, the tach digital, and cruise control comes standard. Every Yaris is standard equipped with an Active Safety System: Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control System, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution, Anti-Lock Brake System, and a Brake Over-Ride System.

The Low-Speed Pre-Collision System scans the road ahead for potential collisions. If the system sees something is up, an audio/visual alert and braking assistance are designed to automatically trigger. Should you be a complete dolt and fail to respond, this system may automatically apply the brakes.

Pricing & Availability

The new Yaris will hit Toyota dealerships this fall with pricing information due closer to that time.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Photos & Source: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

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Can The 2019 Kia K900 Compete Against The Europeans? Thu, 05 Apr 2018 02:30:54 +0000 Here it is, the 2019 Kia K900. A car that un-ironically uses words like “classically drawn exterior” and “gravity of prestige” to describe itself. For more than four-thousand words, the Kia press release drags on and on, blah-blah luxury this, flim-flam high-tech that, worry-worry safety stuff over there. All that stuff is beside the point when you get to the part about the new K900’s powertrain and chassis.

You know what words I noticed? Albert Biermann. Yup, that Albert Biermann. The BMW tuner guy.

Kia states very flatly that the whole point of the K900 is to compete against its premium European competitors. And that phrase becomes more than marketing horse manure when you realize that Albert Biermann is the President of Kia’s Vehicle Test and High Performance Development. Yeah, the former Chief Engineer for BMW’s M performance cars with over 30 years of experience.

“The goal for the K900 was to achieve ‘confident comfort’ on the road,” he explained. “To deliver this result, we focused on four main categories: drivability, NVH, comfort, and steering precision.”

Power & Performance

The 2019 K900 is powered by a 3.3-­liter twin turbo V6, the same engine found in Kia’s much ballyhooed Stinger fastback. In the K900, it cranks out 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft. of torque, with the twin, single scroll turbos integrated directly into the exhaust manifold; Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing broadens out the power band. A cooling system described as “robust” is there to handle the increased thermal loading with a wider radiator and 600-watt fan motor.

This plant is mated to a second-gen, in-house built eight-­speed automatic operated by a Shift­-by-­Wire gear selector that allows for quicker shifts during more spirited driving. And on top of all that is full-­time “Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control,” or a standard all-wheel drive system in other words. It is electronically biased towards the rear but freely distributes torque to any and all four corners as the system sees fit. Up to 50 percent of the torque can be sent to the front and up to 80 percent of the power can be routed to the rear in Sport mode. The K900 is the second application of this in-house system with the Stinger being the first.

2019 Kia K900 on display at the 2018 New York International Auto Show.

Ride & Handling

The wheelbase is longer and the stance wider for greater control and stability; the chassis was strengthened over the previous K900 with increased front and rear lateral stiffness thanks to a greater use of structural adhesives. Torsional stiffness is up by 33 percent over the outgoing K900; the new model has four times more hot stamping than before to give the vehicle a more solid and premium feel.

The K900 utilizes a wheel air curtain to minimize vortices inside the wheel arches by introducing air from the bumper. The full underbody panels reduce drag as does an active air flap. The bottom line: a drag coefficient of .27 Cd. Noise, vibration, and harshness reduction measures are positively euro-like with enhanced insulation throughout the vehicle structure, including the firewall, under floor cover, and vibration pad behind the headliner. There’s even an acoustic film on the windshield for a quieter cabin.

A new “Quadric pattern” grille is found on the 2019 K900. There are 176 “jewel-like cells” within the grille that visually represent ripples that would result from the impact of a splash. Photo: Kia Motors America.

Steering & Suspension

The steering itself is an electro-mechanical, rack­-mounted power assembly designed for increased agility and comfort. There’s “slower” off-center feel, which provides a better sense of stability, especially during high-speed driving. And for anyone who has ever driven a BMW, this will feel quite normal. Huh, I wonder where Kia came up with that notion?

The four-wheel independent suspension delivers tighter and quicker turns via a new front multi-link design, and by increasing the stiffness of the front and rear axle assembly. An Electronically Controlled Suspension is available to boost ride comfort. The system reduces things like chassis motion using an internal damper system to modulate the suspension accordingly.

“Although the K900 prides itself as not being overtly luxurious, the one nod to the haute lifestyle is an analog clock specially designed and co-branded by Maurice Lacroix,” reads a statement from Kia. Photo: Kia Motors America.

Pricing & Availability

The new K900 will be built in Kia’s Sohari facility in South Korea, the same plant where they build the Stinger. Kia didn’t give any definite word on price but it will hit dealers in the fourth quarter of this year. In the meantime, it’s on display at the New York International Auto Show, now through April 8th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

I’d love to get my mitts on one of these and a good, used M3 and see what the similarities are.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

2019 Kia K900 Gallery

Photos & Source: Kia Motors America.

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2019 Mazda CX-3: Sign of The Times? Wed, 04 Apr 2018 03:15:37 +0000 Mazda recently introduced its updated CX-3 subcompact crossover before journalists at the New York International Auto Show. The CX-3 looks just like the other Mazda CXs, only squashed into a much smaller package. I’m not saying it’s a bad look or that the 2019 CX-3 doesn’t work, it’s just that you can only smush something down so far. Other than that, the new Mazda CX-3 will work out quite well in urban environments.

Minor Upgrades

And that – urban environments – is what this is all about. Although you could nominally take a Mazda CX-3 off-pavement, you wouldn’t confuse it for a Jeep. And besides, 90 percent of CX-3 owners would never do that in the first place. The new CX-3’s interior has undergone a significant revamp with the most notable new bit being the electronic parking brake. Yes, that gives you more room and allows for a significant increase in storage space, but gone will be the joys of handbrake turns in snowy parking lots. Full-leather seating surfaces are now available and redesigned seats provide drivers a more comfortable position.

The SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine is said to be smoother, more efficient, and more refined. Also reduced, according to Mazda, are noise, vibration, and harshness characteristics.

2019 Mazda CX-3 on display at the 2018 New York International Auto Show. Photo: Mazda North American Operations.

Reactive Vs. Proactive

And all this is well and true and fine and good, but it’s another example of how automakers are all SUVs, all the time these days. Car makers have clocked to the fact that people love SUVs, so be it. But car makers will try and do the strangest things to try and accommodate those perceived needs. Automakers are, by and large, reactive organisms. They see a trend and respond to it. It’s hard to think of the times car manufacturers have shifted audience desires in a given direction. The only two I can think of is the Ford Mustang and the Chrysler minivans (both of which were done at the behest of Lee Iacocca, curiously enough). The Mustang started the pony car wars, of which we are still enjoying the fruits of today, and the minivan created the, er, well, it created the minivan.

But so be it. Automakers see that most Americans want an SUV – or something that can be sold as an SUV or a crossover or an “Urban Activity Vehicle” or something else condescending – and come perdition or high water, they’re going to sell it to us. This isn’t a problem. SUVs aren’t like disco music, something that was forced on the people. No, we want our SUVs, and nine times out of ten, we want them for all the wrong reasons.

Fashion Sense

So Mazda will make us a CX-3. A vehicle with limited non-pavement functionality and too small to haul anything practical. And people will buy them, and most of those people will be happy, and who am I to say they are “wrong” in their purchasing choices. People, the same slice of the market, actually, were joyously happy with minivans. Until those same people realized that driving a minivan marked you as a “suburban parent, 2.6 children, dog (small – medium), loves: Local Sports Team.” And the most practical, get-the-job-done conveyance ever devised by 1980s era man had to go.

And I should say that I am not just picking on Mazda here. A number of automakers released new SUVs during the New York International Auto Show; Acura, Lexus, Lincoln, Hyundai, and Maserati among them. It’s all about what is fashionable. Fashion. That’s why people buy SUVs, ultimately. And if the 2019 Mazda CX-3 suits your style, then have at it. It’ll work.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

2019 Mazda CX-3 Gallery

Photos & Source: Mazda North American Operations.

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2019 Subaru Forester: Little Bit Bigger, Little Bit Better Wed, 04 Apr 2018 01:21:12 +0000 Is it just me, or is the Subaru Forester getting bigger? They used to be this more upright wagon that was about the same size as the Outback (more or less), but they seem to be slowly turning into bigger and bigger SUV-like rides. And the specs from Subie on the 2019 Forester bare this out. The wheelbase is nearly two inches longer, for one thing, and there are gains in head, hip, and shoulder room. Yup, bigger.

Red Carpet

The new Forester just rolled out at the New York International Auto Show, marking the fifth generation of the Subaru SUV. The thumbnail sketch is that the 2019 Forester will come in Standard, Premium, Limited, and Touring trims, along with a new Sport trim. All versions are powered by the ever-dependable 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine. The plant is paired with a standard Lineartronic CVT; also standard (all trim levels) is Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. Duh!

The 2019 Subaru Forester’s wheelbase was increased from 103.9 inches to 105.1 inches. This allowed the rear seat legroom to increase, which is now 39.4 inches, a 1.4 inch gain over the prior model. Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.

Safety & Security

Like many other car companies these days, Subaru is really focused on ladling in as much safety tech as they have available. Apart from what is now seen as “the regular safety stuff,” Subaru has also come up with DriverFocus. DriverFocus is a monitoring system that uses facial recognition software to identify signs of fatigue or distraction, and works in conjunction with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology to reduce the chances of an accident. A nifty little side note is that DriverFocus can also recognize up to five drivers and their presets for seat position, climate, infotainment, and such.

The rest of that safety stuff includes Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Pre-Collision Throttle Management, and Lead Vehicle Start Alert. That’s the standard stuff. Optional safety features are Reverse Automatic Braking, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The higher trim packages include High Beam Assist, Steering Responsive Headlights, and Trailer Stability Assist.

And lots of airbags too: front airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, front side pelvis/torso airbags, and side curtain airbags.

2019 Subaru Forester Sport interior layout. Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.

Connectivity & Technology

There is also lots of non-safety tech to be found in the new Forester: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXMBluetooth capability, phone connectivity, and audio streaming just to name a few. The Aha and Pandora apps are also integrated. The navigation system is built-in and voice-activated, powered by TomTom with an eight-inch, high-resolution touchscreen. The Starlink Connected Services offers remote start, a concierge service, anti-theft vehicle immobilizer with flashing security lights, and young driver safety functions including geofencing, speed alert, and curfew. Firmware updates come to your Forester over the air.

Power & Performance

All of this tech and safety is powered down the road, paved or otherwise, by a new version of the 2.5-liter Boxer four-cylinder engine, complete with direct fuel injection and higher compression. The new plant produces 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft. of torque. With the standard Lineartronic CVT, the whole package gets 33 mpg on the highway.

If you opt for the Sport or Touring, the CVT has a mode that simulates a seven-speed manual transmission with the steering wheel paddle shifters. In the middle of the drivetrain is the standard, driver-selectable SI-DRIVE that allows you to tailor the vehicle’s throttle characteristics by selecting between “Intelligent” and “Sport” modes. “Intelligent” mode helps smooth out accelerator inputs for fuel savings, while “Sport” mode tunes the throttle to emphasize performance.

A power rear gate is standard on Limited and Touring trim levels and available as an option for Premium and Sport. Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.

Design Treatments

Subie goes into great detail on the new Forester’s design, but to me, there’s not much to go into here, which is a good thing. It’s kind of that straight up, two box design with truck-like proportions. It’s simple, non-finicky, and it works. Fuji Heavy Industries has added new colors for 2019 though: Jasper Green Metallic, Horizon Blue Pearl, and Crimson Red Pearl. You can even get a panoramic moonroof.

There’s a ton of cargo space (76.1 cubic feet), 60:40 split rear seatbacks, and the rear gate opening width is 51.3 inches wide, which is pretty big. If that’s not enough room for you, roof rails, standard on all but the base model, allow for carrying stuff like bicycles and kayaks. New tie-down hooks are integrated into the rails so all your toys can be secured more easily.

Availability & In Person

The 2019 Forester is arriving at Subaru retailers later this year. In the meantime, it’s on display at the New York International Auto Show, now through April 8th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

2019 Subaru Forester Gallery

Photos & Source: Subaru of America, Inc.

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2019 Genesis G70 Looks To Establish Brand’s Longevity Mon, 02 Apr 2018 23:55:26 +0000 You know, Hyundai – okay, okay Genesis, sorry – might really be onto something here. Hyundais are, generally speaking, well made, fantastically practical cars that are ultimately disposable. Genesis, the spinoff brand from the Korean auto-giant, is just like that, only luxury-oriented and feature rich. Could there be a market out there for rich people who would not only drive a Genesis, but drive a new one every year?

Good Old Days

That used to be the way it was done, actually. I’ve personally known several old duffers who used to, every year, drive their car back to Detroit, straight to the factory, and trade it in right there, for the next such-and-such coming off the line. Now, people who are leaning that way just get a new such-and-such on lease every 12 or 24 months. Could Genesis be one of those cars? It is pretty loaded down with all that feature-frosting rich dorks demand.

Marketing Speak

Genesis officially introduced the 2019 G70 luxury performance sedan to the U.S. market at this year’s New York International Auto Show, and yeah, there’s a lot there. The G70 rounds out the Genesis sedan lineup, joining the G80, G80 Sport, and flagship G90 with all that codswallop about the brand’s “Athletic Elegance” design signature blah-blah-blah. Marketing speak, you know?

Still, the interior of the G70 is driver-focused and saturated with enough high-quality materials to choke a horse. Brushed aluminum surfaces, quilted Nappa leather seats, stainless steel speaker grilles, and premium-stitched soft-touch surfaces are all over the place. A 15-speaker Lexicon high-fidelity audio system with QuantumLogic surround-processing allows you to listen to, oh, I dunno, Slayer, in some sort of strange, false echo DSP-chip “environment.”

Photo: Genesis Motor America.

Power & Performance

You want power? The U.S. market G70 will have “enough.” There’s a choice of two engines: a 252 horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four, and a 365 horsepower 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6. Obviously get the big mill! Rear-wheel drive is standard (baby!) and all-wheel drive is optional. The standard box is an eight-speed, sport-tuned automatic with steering wheel mounted shifters and launch control regardless of engine.

And this is actually impressive: Genesis will offer an optional six-speed manual gearbox on the 2.0 real-wheel drive model. Huzzah! Huzzah! Someone is listening to the luddite gearheads out there! Huzzah!

Ride & Handling

All G70s ride on a pretty standard MacPherson multi-link front and multi-link rear suspension. Sure there’s performance-oriented geometry dialed in, and sure, it probably corners okay, but until Genesis/Hyundai start hiring away chassis guys from Red Bull, don’t expect this thing to be a real track star. They have paid attention to overall lightness however, St. Colin of Hethel be praised.

There’s an aluminum hood and a mechanical limited slip diff for improved traction. Variable ratio steering is on the G70 3.3 turbo, and 3.3 turbo Sport models add an electronically-controlled suspension.

The G70 is customizable to each driver’s preference with five available modes. You can tweak powertrain response, steering weight, engine sound, torque distribution, (all-wheel drive models), and suspension firmness. Brembo brakes are optional with fixed four-piston calipers up front, and two-pistons at the rear so you can stop real good. 19-inch wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires are an option as well.

Photo: Genesis Motor America.

Safety & Technology

Digital servants? Of course, this is a car designed and built by Koreans in 2019. There’s oodles of standard safety equipment: Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Driver Attention Warning make up the Genesis Active Safety Control suite.

Like all Genesis models, the G70 comes with advanced telematics, seamless connectivity, and nifty in-house tech goodies like Destination Search powered by Voice, Car Finder, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Recovery, and SOS Emergency & Automatic Collision Notification.

On top of all that, the G70 is an Amazon Alexa-enabled device with voice control.

Availability & In Person

The Genesis G70 arrives at dealers this summer and will come in eight exterior colors: Victoria Black, Casablanca White, Himalayan Grey, Santiago Silver, Adriatic Blue, Mallorca Blue, Havana Red, and Siberian Ice. In the meantime, it’s on display at the New York International Auto Show, now through April 8th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. A chapter from his forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me appears every Friday on Automoblog. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos & Source: Genesis Motor America.

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Inside The 2019 Acura RDX Mon, 02 Apr 2018 22:57:44 +0000 The 2019 Acura RDX, which recently debuted at the New York International Auto Show, sees the most extensive overhaul to its platform in a decade. For 2019, the Acura RDX comes with a VTEC Turbo engine, 10-speed transmission, and an available torque vectoring all-wheel drive system. The available A-Spec variant goes further, adding sport appearance detailing both inside and out.

Walk Around

The 2019 RDX has a new look that Acura calls “sharp, low, and wide.” The RDX aims for that wide stance and sleek presence by focusing on its “wheels-out” proportions. It has that Acura signature Diamond Pentagon Grille, now flanked by Jewel Eye headlights with seven LED light elements. The wide air intakes include an NSX-inspired air curtain to feed air around the front wheels and down the body. Prominent hood bulges are visible from inside the cabin so you can always remember what a powerful SUV you have and that you’re not compensating.

The front and rear fenders have sharp character lines themselves and another aggressive character line runs the length of the RDX. The whole thing is capped off with distinctive “dragon tail” LED taillights. No, really.

Photo: Honda North America.

Chassis & Suspension

What lies beneath the sculpted new body is also of interest. The architecture delivers a “sophisticated driving experience” thanks to a 2.6 inch longer wheelbase; cargo behind the rear seats has expanded by 3.4 cubic feet, and there’s an additional 1.7 cubic feet of under floor storage. The 2019 RDX also has a fully-flat rear floor for easy loading and unloading. That body structure is mated to an all-new chassis with variable ratio, dual-pinion electric power steering. There is a “sport-tuned” Macpherson strut suspension at the front, an all-new five-link independent rear suspension, and adaptive dampers.

Power & Performance

The new RDX is motivated by a direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-liter, 16-valve powerplant with a DOHC VTEC valvetrain and Dual Variable Timing Cam. Power comes out at a healthy 272 ponies and 280 lb-ft. of torque; that’s up by around 10 percent versus the outgoing model. And since the torque band has been moved lower, there’s quicker acceleration and sharper throttle response.

Also in the mix is a 10-speed automatic transmission, the first and only 10 speed found in the RDX’s class – but I wouldn’t expect that to last since these ten-cog boxes are all over the truck world. Give them time to percolate down into the almost-truck-world. Acura says gear changes are quick and seamless, in both automatic mode and when using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Torque Tools

Curiously enough for an SUV, the RDX comes with torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. Torque vectoring is currently found on high performance exotics (Ferrari invented it) but it is a clever engineering solution that should make a welcome appearance on almost any road vehicle. Acura’s torque vectoring is a little different since it is applied to the front end to sharpen handling response, rather than applied to the rear. Although Acura points out that up to 70 percent of the torque can be sent to the rear wheels, and up to 100 percent can be distributed to either the right-rear or left-rear wheel; so that’s pretty close to what “normal” torque vectoring is.

Interior Treatments

Of course the inside is all spacious and luxurious. This is an SUV from Acura, after all. The seating comfort and lateral support improves thanks to more intricate sculpting, lightweight steel frames, and 16-way power adjustability. The standard panoramic moonroof has power slide and tilt functions and a power sliding sunshade. Brushed aluminum, stainless steel, open pore Olive Ash wood, Ultrasuede, and rich Milano leather can be slathered about the cabin as the buyer sees fit.

Acura’s True Touchpad Interface is also along for the ride and provides a system-level approach to the in-car user experience. The interface features a 10.2-inch full-HD center display and an all-new, Android-based operating system. Acura even included a padded wrist rest for a comfortable and stable platform while operating the touchpad. The new RDX also comes with a premium audio system developed by Acura and Panasonic.

Availability & In Person

The new RDX is set to arrive at Acura dealers nationwide mid-year. In the meantime, it’s on display at the New York International Auto Show, now through April 8th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

2019 Acura RDX Gallery

Photos & Source: Honda North America.

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Want Your Next Lexus To Start? Lick The Steering Wheel. No. Seriously. Sun, 01 Apr 2018 12:43:40 +0000 Auto shows can be crazy places with half-thought out ideas all over the place. Gyroscope-stabilized briefcase warmers for the back seat. Cop cars with integrated doughnut dispensers. Turbine-powered iPad docks. Lots of nutty stuff that will (thankfully) never see the light of day. Sadly, Lexus and their new partner, genetic screening company 23andMe have teamed up for “Genetic Select” and it looks like they’re “serious.”

Lexus made the announcement in conjunction with the 2018 New York International Auto Show.

“Finding the perfect vehicle that meets your every need was once only a fantasy, but now it’s becoming reality,” crows Lexus inaccurately. Finding my perfect vehicle is easy guys. Finding the money for it, that’s the hard part. Genetic Select is the “Ultimate Answer to Vehicle Customization” and a revolutionary new car buying experience.

It also pegs the goofy meter.

Perfect Fit

Available on April 1st at Lexus dealerships, Genetic Select’s patented “DNA sequencing model-to-model technology” will pair drivers to a Lexus vehicle that’s tailored to their every characteristic. Lexus says with 23andMe’s understanding of genetic variants, Genetic Select will enable them to deliver the perfect color, trim, horsepower allotment, seating configuration, and radio presets, with 99.99967 percent accuracy.

“It will be impossible to tell where the driver ends and where the car begins,” reads a statement in the press release.

This is all based on the driver’s DNA, so if the customer does not have a genetic variant for bald spots, the car will come equipped with a sun roof. Those genetically prone to more freckles will receive custom window tinting.

In conjunction with 23andMe, Lexus will offer a unique vehicle customization program – one that considers the buyer’s genetics and configures the car accordingly. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Spit, Sign & Drive

Your Genetic Select appointment takes about 10 minutes and is sort of like the movie Gattaca. Lexus’ service staff will collect a saliva sample as quickly and painlessly as possible, then send it to 23andMe for full sequence testing. 48 hours later, the perfect vehicle will arrive at the customer’s doorstep, badda-boom badda-bing! You won’t even need a key to operate it – the revolutionary new saliva-powered start system operates via a DNA ignition sensor on the steering wheel. Just lick and drive!

Customers can make their appointments at their local Lexus dealership starting April 1st. The video below explains more.

That date again is April 1st! 

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos, Video & Source: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

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