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Baidu Will Release a Free Operating System for Self-Driving Cars

Baidu is releasing much of the technology behind its self-driving car, a move that it hopes will fast-track the technology’s progress while cementing the company’s role in supplying key elements such as mapping and machine-learning systems.

Most of the companies developing automated driving carefully guard the technology and expertise behind their systems, as a series of legal battles between competitors highlight. Baidu’s move could perhaps lead to a more open effort and lower the bar for developing advanced driver-assist systems as well as self-driving prototypes.

“We see a lot of reinventing the wheel,” says Qi Lu, president and chief operating officer of Baidu and general manager of the company’s Intelligent Driving Group. “Let’s innovate at a higher level.”

Baidu will release its self-driving platform—known as “Apollo,” in honor of the U.S. moon missions—this July. While much of the technology required to develop a self-driving car will be made freely available, certain features, which Lu says will include some mapping and machine-learning services, will be accessible through an application programming interface that Baidu will control.

It remains to be seen whether Baidu’s move will blow open the market for automated-driving technology. As important as control and sensor software are, the most valuable component of any self-driving system may be the data amassed through testing on real roads. And Baidu has done less testing than some other companies, especially Google.

But the decision makes sense given the nature of China’s domestic car market, which is also the largest auto market in the world. Besides established foreign companies, there are dozens of small carmakers in China, and they lack the resources to develop their own self-driving vehicles. By providing the technology for these manufacturers, Baidu could establish itself as the supplier of the brains for these rapidly growing companies, and it might be able to benefit from the data they collect through testing.

Baidu’s move is somewhat reminiscent of Google’s decision to release Android, a free operating system for smartphones, starting in 2008. Android is now the most popular smartphone operating system in the world, and although Google makes it available for free, it serves to drive users to the company’s various mobile apps and services.

Baidu is one of China’s leading tech companies, with a deep bench of AI and machine-learning talent in China and Silicon Valley. The company invested heavily in AI after hiring Andrew Ng, then a leading AI researcher at Google, to lead the effort in 2014. Ng recently announced he was leaving the company to explore new opportunities. 

Baidu began developing self-driving vehicles in 2015, and it gave MIT Technology Review an exclusive sneak peek shortly before publicly announcing the project (see “Baidu’s Self-Driving Car Takes on Beijing Traffic”). The company has been testing autonomous vehicles since then on the streets of Beijing and in Wuzhen, a town not far from Shanghai.

The company hopes that giving away some of its technology will help it cement its position. “The fundamental motivation is [to create] an open ecosystem that will accelerate the pace of innovation toward fully autonomous driving, which will have profound changes to our society,” Lu says.

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Second Officer: Honda Pilot Might Spawn Cheaper Two-Row Variant

2016 Honda Pilot Elite AWD

Honda might expand the Pilot crossover lineup by, well, shrinking it. According to a report from WardsAuto, a new, smaller version of the Pilot is in the works to fill the gap between it and the smaller CR-V. The new junior Pilot apparently will have a shorter wheelbase and only two rows of seats as opposed to the current model,  which comes standard with three rows. Adding a smaller version could drop the Pilot’s starting price below $30,000 and give Honda a more direct competitor against two-row crossovers such as the Ford Edge and the Nissan Murano.

This new model could end up sharing the Pilot name in the same way that Hyundai offers the three-row Santa Fe and the two-row Santa Fe Sport. A wheelbase somewhere in between the CR-V’s 104.7-inch stretch and the Pilot’s 111.0-inch figure would likely end up close to the Santa Fe Sport’s 106.3-inch wheelbase.

Honda has otherwise hinted at an expansion of its crossover lineup recently: Last month, the company announced an $85 million expansion of the Lincoln, Alabama,  plant that builds the Pilot. The investment is for greater production and, as Honda said in a statement, “future models.” With construction scheduled to finish sometime next year, it may not be too long until this new junior Pilot hits showrooms.

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Electric Semis Won’t Just Be Cleaner, They’ll Be Quicker [Video]

Toyota hydrogen fuel cell-semi

When Tesla introduced its Ludicrous mode, that might have been the turning point for some to see electric cars in a new light. Soon, however, semi-trucks might become the greatest evangelists for the merits of electric powertrains, and for the same reason: because electric semis could be a heck of a lot quicker. 

Case in point: Toyota’s Project Portal heavy-duty semi-truck, revealed this week, leaves its diesel-drinking cousin in a cloud of . . . well, nothing except a little water vapor. And it makes a strong argument for electric powertrains in semis, whether fed by hydrogen fuel cells or battery packs.

As shown in the video below, the hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered electric semi, loaded with cargo to a gross vehicle weight of 35,000 pounds, took 8.9 seconds to go approximately 400 feet—that’s about a third of a quarter-mile, for those familiar with the drag strip—versus 14.6 seconds for an equivalent Class 8 diesel truck carrying the same load.

According to Takehito Yokoo, senior executive engineer with Toyota Motor Research Development, there are two things that allow the fuel-cell truck to beat the diesel so soundly, especially at lower speeds. One of them is gearing. Diesel semis can have gearboxes with up to 18 speeds and need to be kept in a relatively narrow rev range—often 1300 to 1500 rpm—for best acceleration. The fuel-cell truck, on the other hand, is a fixie; its set reduction ratio of about 15.5:1 gives it good motor pull from a start and allows it to cruise at a normal U.S. highway speed.

Also key to the Toyota project’s strong (and almost silent) performance is a 12-kWh battery pack that behaves almost like a capacitor, recharging during lower load conditions and discharging rapidly to release an extra 200 kW at full throttle, for about a minute, adding to the two fuel-cell stacks’ combined 228 kW and contributing to the motor system’s 670 horsepower and 1325 lb-ft of torque.

Faster-moving semis could increase the efficiency of the rest of us, too, easing congestion on urban freeways, where merging semis can clog the right lane. Electrified heavy-duty hauling might not be ludicrous at all.

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The 2017 New York International Auto Show: best of the rest | Ars …

NEW YORK—There has been much to see at this year’s New York International Auto Show. Ford had a new hybrid police car. Cadillac brought its new race car—unbeaten in 2017—and a new semi-autonomous system that uses head-tracking to know if the driver is paying attention. Range Rover added a fourth SUV to its line-up, and Genesis showed us a rather attractive fuel cell concept. And Honda is finally bringing a proper Civic Type R to these shores. Elsewhere in our coverage we chose our picks of the show, but there were a few more vehicles that caught our eye after two days of walking the floors of the Javits Center.

Like the Dodge Demon. Dodge had already made its mark on the 21st century muscle-car market with the 707hp (527kW) Hellcat. You’d think the Hellcat would be sufficiently terrifying, but the Demon’s specs blow it out of the water. The 6.2L supercharged Hemi V8 has 840hp (626kW) and 770lb-ft (1045Nm) at its beck and call. Optimized for the drag strip, the Demon can hit 60mph from a standstill in 2.3 seconds and reaches the quarter-mile in 9.65 seconds. Dodge even chucked out the front and rear passenger seats to save more weight, although you can add them back as a $1 option (yes, you read that correctly).

Mercedes-AMG was also feeling the need to display some powerful V8 metal. It’s shoehorned its 4.0L twin-turbo V8 into the GLC SUV and coupe. The pick of these would be the GLC63 S Coupe, with 505hp (376kW), a new nine-speed automatic transmission, and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. Knowing AMG’s reputation, we bet nothing else on the school run would sound like it.

There was yet another GT-R from Nissan, and a hybrid Panamera Turbo from Porsche. If those don’t push your performance button, how about Bugatti’s new Chiron? The new Bugatti has have stupendous performance, its top speed still unknown but electronically limited to 261mph (400km/h).

For those who consider the idea of a massive 16-cylinder, 8.0L, 1,479hp (1,103kW) engine socially unacceptable in 2017, take a look at the Rimac Concept_One. Rimac is the Croatian company behind some very clever electric powertrains, including the Pikes Peak hill climb car we went to see in 2016.

Check out all of those, and more, in the gallery and video above.

Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin

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The 7 most interesting cars at the Shanghai auto show – The Verge

Auto show season marches on. The end of the New York International Auto Show signals the beginning of Auto Shanghai 2017, and this year there was no shortage of gorgeous cars with interesting designs and bizarre-looking technology. Let’s take a look at some of the major reveals from the show.

Renault R.S. 2027

At first blush, the Renault R.S. 2027 is an elegant concept racecar packed with LED lights. But for a concept, it’s actually pretty timid. Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on your point of view. On one hand, the ideas Renault is suggesting with the car (four wheel drive, better fuel efficiency, increased fan engagement) are a more practical take on the next 10 years of Formula One.

But on the other, why bother with a concept car if you’re only going to aim for practicality? Most of the ideas Renault proposed with the R.S. 2027 were already being worked on, if not by F1, then by its closest competitors. We’re not saying concept cars should only be used to propose impossible ideas. We’re just saying it would’ve been nice to hear something a little bit crazier from Renault.

Lynk Co.

Lynk Co, a Volvo-sibling startup owned by Chinese automaker Geely, might not be the first company to suggest shared ownership of a car — but it doubled down on the idea this week with the 03 concept, a staid but smart sedan to compliment the SUV that was announced last fall. You might own this car one day, or you might split it with your family. Or maybe you’ll only rent it when you need it, allowing others to access the car during the times when the only thing controlling its movement are gravity and the parking brake.

Unlike some other recent car startups with questionable futures, Lynk Co at least has a lineage that makes one believe the company can survive the slog of making cars at a significant volume. Lynk Co hopes the 03 concept can make a few waves, but it’s hard to break into an already turbulent auto industry.


NIO (née NextEV) is being frustratingly vague about its all-electric concept SUV. We reached out to the Chinese startup about battery power and range, and all we got back were specs on the ES8’s dimensions, suspension, and all-wheel drive. These are not the specs most people want from their electric cars. People want to know how far they can drive it, and how much storage it has. To this NIO says, “TK.”

NIO previously has showed off an ultrafast supercar, a self-driving concept, and not much else. So whether or not the ES8 actually makes it to production is anyone’s guess. And aside from Tesla’s Model X, there aren’t many electric SUVs on the market. So it would be nice to have a few more to choose from.

Audi E-tron Sportback

Look at that glowing badge on the front of Audi’s new E-tron Sportback concept! Nothing says “Hi, I’m from the future” like a glowing badge, which explains why other automakers like Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti have also slapped illuminated logos on the grilles of their futuristic concepts. It’s a like digital kiss from a cold and distant robot.

Which is not to say that the Sportback isn’t a nifty car. Audi says it will have 320 kilowatts of power — in addition to a “boost mode” to 370 kW — and can sprint to 62 mph in 4.5 seconds. A 95 kWh battery pack will enable just over 310 miles of range per charge, though that will probably be closer to 275 miles, given that the German carmaker uses the European rating system for electric vehicle range. The automaker says the new electric coupe crossover will hit the market in 2019, about a year after the Quattro E-tron, Audi’s first electric concept which it introduced back in 2015.

Volkswagen I.D. Crozz

It’s not as sharp as the E-Tron concept, but Volkswagen’s I.D. Crozz SUV concept still looks pretty good in renderings. As we learned from the plasticky and frankly kind of gross interior of the I.D. Buzz microbus in Detroit, concept renderings aren’t everything. But an electric crossover SUV seems more likely to actually hit the road than the microbus revival Volkswagen so clearly loves to tease, so here’s hoping the company can eventually deliver on things like the 300-plus mile range and quick charging capabilities. After all, VW’s got a lot of ozone to make up for.

Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan

Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz is building some beautiful concepts these days. At the Geneva Motor Show, Merc gave us the gorgeous Mercedes-AMG GT Concept, and now it brought the Concept A Sedan to Shanghai. It’s a hint at what the German carmaker’s next generation of compact cars will look like, embodied by Mercedes’ “sensual purity” design language. The head of design for Daimler says it “shows that the time of creases is over,” with “perfect proportions and a sensual treatment of surfaces with reduced lines.” OK then. Looks good, though, right?

MG E-motion

MG Motor hasn’t appeared much — or at all — on this site, but the UK-based brand’s latest concept, the E-motion, seems tailor made for The Verge. A powerful electric powertrain wrapped up in the body of a wickedly voluptuous sports coupe, the E-motion is both fun and environmentally sustainable. MG, a subsidiary of Shanghai’s SAIC Motor, says the vehicle will go 0-to-62 mph in under four seconds, and will boast a range of more than 310 miles on a single charge. Those are pretty incredible numbers, so hopefully MG will see this particular concept through to the end.

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Feeling Pressed by Beijing, Auto Makers Set Plans to Build Electric Cars in China

SHANGHAI—The world’s top auto makers are gearing up to build electric cars in China, despite concerns about market demand and the potential their technology could be compromised in a market with weak safeguards for intellectual property.

Companies including Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. set out plans for electric-car…

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Used Maserati Ghibli Gets Massacred During Review

If you were planning on never purchasing a Maserati Ghibli, this review will do everything short of straight out erasing this car from your memory.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. This here isn’t a review of a 2017 Ghibli. This is a used, 2015 model, which means
it’s missing updates such as the new infotainment system, air quality sensors or a wide array of active safety systems.

Yet, it’s still a Maserati. It still has a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 unit, good for 404 HP (410 PS) – which by the way, sounds properly Italian. However, you could say that Doug DeMuro was not too impressed.

After spending a few days with this 2015 Maserati Ghibli, he concluded that the car is by no means worth $80,000 or more. He also started to take it apart systematically, toying with its feelings as if he was a movie villain looking to ruin the hero’s life before finally eliminating him.

The thing is, we can’t exactly fault him for his conclusions – as many of his observations are really obvious and hard to ignore. And yes, the build quality can be described as questionable, especially for a car that costs this much.

We’ll let you find out everything else that’s wrong with the car by watching the clip – but be warned, it’s so brutal, you may even end up deleting the Ghibli from your virtual garage in Forza.


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One Week With: 2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE

I can’t help but think, “Who needs an 8,250 rpm redline?” as I row the long-geared Tremec unit as the glorious LT1 V-8 of the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE shouts at the world. Sure, Ford’s Shelby GT350 sounds amazing, but this LT1 is quicker to 60 mph than the flat-plane crank-powered V-8 Mustang (4.2 seconds to 4.3), and it feels as if I’m revving past 8,000 rpm even though I’m shifting at 7,000. That’s the magic of the SS 1LE: It feels like a high-dollar German sports car, and a damn good one at that.

The Camaro SS 1LE uses the same 455-horsepower, 455 lb-ft, 6.2-liter 16-valve LT1 V-8 found in the standard Camaro SS. Nothing else in the powertrain is different, though the 1LE gets a short-throw shifter. Peak power arrives at 6,000 rpm and peak torque at 4,400. Yet, when developing the base SS, like Porsche’s new turbo engines, Chevrolet allowed its V-8 to rev past peak performance to better engage the driver.

And engage it does.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE rear three quarter 03

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE rear three quarter 03

On open stretches of highway, you’ll find yourself dropping down a gear and crushing the accelerator, unleashing the Camaro SS 1LE’s fury of power and torque. But you won’t want to shift until it screams at 7,000 rpm, letting your foot stay plastered to pedal as the flood of noise fills the cabin. Power swells, but it doesn’t rapidly build as it does in a Ferrari, McLaren, or Porsche. Instead, the gradual buildup of power indeed makes the car feel like it has a higher redline, similar to the GT350 and its full stop 8,250 top end.

It’s that feeling that will make you keep coming back to the Camaro SS 1LE day after day. To get you coming back week after week though, the car’s excellent suspension befits the Camaro’s recent race-car heritage.

Before the fifth generation, the Camaro was dealt the same “couldn’t turn to save its life” plight as other ponycars. The car was a straight-line animal and not much else. Then, a rebellion. Independent rear suspension led to magnetorheological shocks, which led to the last generation’s Multimatic Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve shocks (DSSV) optioned in the magnificent Camaro Z/28.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE front view 03

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE front view 03

And while the new 1LE doesn’t use those DSSV pieces, it gets updated, upgraded, and reworked magnetorheological dampers, springs, and stabilizer bars that transform the Camaro SS 1LE from daily commuter to “holy [expletive], how am I going so fast around a turn” with a push of a button. With these upgrades, the Camaro SS 1LE ties — ties! — the last generation Z/28 around Chevrolet’s proving grounds, despite using less-sticky tires and non-carbon-ceramic brakes. But what do all these stats, figures, and performance metrics mean in the real world? How does the car make you feel?

Sunlight fading, a cool breeze wafting its way through the canyons, I’m propelled by furious noise. The Camaro SS 1LE is in Sport mode, with firmer dampening, heavier steering, exhaust baffles open. Throttle response is increased, and traction control is off. I don’t need it. The Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar tires are sticky enough and the slick electronic limited-slip differential sends power to the rear so perfectly that when I come out of a turn hot, the slide is controllable and hysterically good fun.

A puff of tire smoke trailing behind, the car lazily revs to 7,000 before I grab third gear. Vibrations, noise, and the guttural menace of the Camaro SS 1LE vibrates through the suede steering wheel, detailing the rocks and road imperfections. It’s not as communicative as, say, a Porsche 718 Cayman S, but you have to remember this car weighs nearly 3,500 pounds. Yet there’s never a sense of disconnect, letting me confidently push the car.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE front three quarter 03

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE front three quarter 03

Up ahead, a sharp switchback with an off camber exit nears. I wait to push the aggressive six-piston Brembo brakes deeper into the turn. Nonplussed, the car shrugs and almost destructively bites into the road, nearly halting my forward momentum. The Camaro holds the radius and barely wriggles or writhes out of the turn that normally upsets rear-wheel-drive sports cars with this much horsepower. I’ve been grinning since I started my run, but after that turn and believing I — by myself and not the car and all its amazing systems — nailed that turn, the smile has become wider.

Through each turn, I make a quick glance at the Camaro’s g-meter. I know it’s pedantic and really belongs on a racetrack, but according to Chevrolet, the Camaro SS 1LE can clip 1 lateral g, and I can’t help but try to hit those lofty performance stats. I see 0.76 g, 0.88, 0.93. Close. For a road car, however, on non-slick tires and carrying a fair amount of heft, that’s hugely impressive, especially on such uneven, pockmarked pavement.

When Chevrolet unveiled the Camaro SS 1LE, chief engineer Al Oppenheiser said, “The Camaro 1LE package follows a recipe any track-day enthusiast will appreciate.” And while that’s probably true, it’s up here, in the mountains railing the Krypton Green Camaro, leaving behind a wake of summer-rated tire smoke and aural enchantment, where enthusiasts will truly appreciate just what Chevrolet has built.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE front three quarter 04

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE front three quarter 04

Yet, everything isn’t sunshine and growly V-8s. There are two problems I’d love Chevrolet to fix: the heavily bolstered seat and the irritating “Skip Shift” transmission programming.

I’m not exactly the slimmest, trimmest, or fittest individual. Nor am I the star of TLC’s “My 600-lb Life.” Yet that’s how I felt as I tried to squeeze my 220-pound frame into the bolstered Recaro seats. The problem isn’t so much the sides as it is the thigh bolstering. The channel that makes up the seat pad is far too tight for me. I end up feeling as if I’m sitting only partially in the seat. Shifting my weight, I either have my right or left butt cheek on the bolsters. On long commutes through Los Angeles traffic, it can get somewhat painful. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I need to lay off the burgers and bratwurst. But then again, I’m not exactly Andre the Giant.

Beyond the seats, the interior offers some hard plastics and a few inexpensive trimmings, but overall it is comfortable if a bit claustrophobic. Standing outside the car, you’d expect the interior to be roomier, as the exterior’s lovely old-school looks and dimensions feel larger than your average sports car. But get inside, and everything is tightly packed. And don’t even think about putting a full-sized adult in the rear seats unless you bring a bone saw or know how to origami a person.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE fender

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE fender

After killing The Incredible Hulk and putting his skin on as a wrap, the #Chevrolet #Camaro SS 1LE went to get breakfast. (It’s not actually a wrap, its paint, I just had to make the joke work)

A post shared by Kirill Ougarov (@kougarov) on Mar 9, 2017 at 7:17am PST

As for the long-standing Skip Shift transmission programming, it is designed to save fuel when shifting at lower rpms — 35 percent throttle or less. From first gear, the transmission gate will lock out second in favor of skipping to fourth with almost no revs. It doesn’t always feel as if there really is any rhyme or reason to when the computer decides to lock you out of the process, either. Throughout a week with the car, I couldn’t accurately find that 35 percent or less cutoff, and it instead always caught me by surprise. Yet the way this car drives as you approach the limit will make you forgive its little hiccups.

Detroit’s reigning sports-car maker has taken a heavy, lumbering, old-world type of car and built a dominant, yet pliable, monster for the road. The Camaro’s anachronistic exterior may befuddle you at first, but the engineering underneath will make anyone a believer. If you’re thinking about getting a track-ready muscle car, one that pushes you and sounds magnificent, look no further as the 2017 Camaro SS 1LE is one of the best performance cars on the market.

Brawler. : : #brawler #NoBoringCars #growl #wakethedead #donthategetav8 #1le #ss1le #ss #camaro #camero #v8 #chevyperformance #chevrolet #getoutanddrive #drifttheapex

A post shared by Jonathon Klein (@jonathon_klein) on Apr 17, 2017 at 8:23am PDT

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2017 Subaru Impreza review

From a distance, the new Subaru Impreza looks a lot like the old one. It has a very similar shape.

And why shouldn’t it?

Subaru owners are as loyal as they come and, to many, their cars have achieved icon status on par with the VW Golf, or even the Porsche 911. You don’t want to rock that boat too hard.

But get closer and you start to notice that the blockiness is gone, like a chiseled wood sculpture that’s spent some time on the sanding table. It seems very polished.

Expand / Contract


And it is. Despite any resemblance to last year’s model, the 2017 Impreza is built on an all-new modular platform that will be used for new models of every Subaru family car and crossover in the coming years. And for the first time, it’s made in America, alongside the Legacy and Outback, in Indiana.


It’s bigger, too. The 2017 Impreza has the most passenger space of any compact sedan or five-door hatchback, the two varieties it’s available in.

Expand / Contract


Not that the Impreza it replaced felt very small, but it did feel a little cheap. There was too much hard plastic, and it was noisy. It may have been as reliable as a marble statue of a cocker spaniel, but it was about as refined as a tramp.

Not so, this one. You’ll thoroughly enjoy finding out how long you can drive it before it finally breaks down. The interior is trimmed in soft, top-notch materials, the background sounds have been turned way down and the ride is as good as anything in the class — better if you hit a rutty dirt road. And since this is a Subaru, you will.

The visibility is also outstanding. A low beltline and thin roof pillars offer a panoramic forward view that won’t have you wishing you were sitting high up in an SUV. But if you really need a loftier perspective,  the new jacked-up Crosstrek version of the Impreza will be available in a few months.

As always, the $19,215 Impreza comes standard with all-wheel-drive, and aside from the ancient Mitsubishi Lancer, it’s the only mainstream compact sedan/hatchback that offers it — an open secret to its sales success that, surprisingly, hasn’t caught on across the segment.

Another is its safety. Equipped with Subaru’s optional Eyesight, which uses stereo cameras to enable pedestrian-detecting automatic emergency braking, the Impreza earns perfect scores on both the NHTSA and IIHS ratings.

Eyesight also manages adaptive cruise control and a lane departure prevention system that’s as hands-off effective as anything short of what the top luxury brands offer. Of course, like many of these systems, it doesn’t actually let you keep your hands off the wheel for very long before it deactivates, but it gives you the strong impression that you could.

The one thing missing from this Impreza is power. It still uses a sewing-machine smooth 2.0-liter flat-four boxer engine that has only 152 hp and no torque to speak of. It’s very efficient, though, delivering 38 mpg on the highway in the sedan and 37 mpg in the five-door, the highest MPG of any all-wheel-drive car. If you want more oomph, wait a year or two until the next-generation Impreza-based high performance WRX comes out.

That car should be outstanding, because the Impreza is already very engaging to drive, even with the optional CVT automatic. The steering has weight to it, and the Impreza feels like it’s on rails when you give it power in a turn, the all-wheel-drive system seamlessly shuffling it around to track right down the middle of the road.

And if you buy the optional built-in navigation system, you’ll have no trouble finding new ones to drive it on. All Imprezas also have smartphone-enabled Apple and Google maps integration and a Magellan app that gives you four ways to get directions, plus whoever’s in the passenger seat. It should be the official car of the Redundancy Department of Redundancy. And there’s an eBird bird spotting app that’s probably the most Subaru thing ever.

For the past year or so, the Honda Civic has been the clear-cut best-in-class compact car, but this excellent new Impreza has clouded things.

If the skies open up, I think I know which one I’d rather be in.


2017 Subaru Impreza 5-Door

Base price: $19,715

As tested: $29,260

Type: 4-door, 5-passenger hatchback

Engine: 2.0-liter flat-4-cylinder

Power: 152 hp/148 lb-ft

Transmission: CVT automatic

MPG: 28 city/37 hwy

Gary Gastelu is’s Automotive Editor. You can follow him on Twitter @garygastelu and @foxcarreport

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2017 hard on auto industry thus far

(Editor’s note: This is an editorial that ran in the opinion section of the 4-19-17 edition of the Kokomo Perspective.)

The year 2016 was wonderful for the American automotive industry. Car and truck sales were in the 17 million range and domestic automotive companies had strong profit levels. In addition, quality levels (conditions per 100 vehicles) for domestic vehicles were overall improved. Everything considered, 2016 was extraordinary for the domestic automotive industry. But that was 2016 and along comes 2017 with all its challenges.

I say challenges because the first quarter of 2017 is not shaping up to parallel or exceed year 2016. First quarter sales declined for the first time since 2009 and the forecast for the second quarter is not any better. Total sales of 4,030,593 were the lowest in any quarter since the first quarter of 2015. Dealer inventories, while not excessive, are reaching levels where heavy incentives will be offered by the industry to move vehicles from their lots.

A bright spot for the industry is the ratio of car sales to truck. In year 1993 the car percent was 61.2 percent while trucks were 38.8 percent. In year 2016 the ratio flip flopped considerably. Trucks were 63.0 percent while cars were 37 percent and that ratio seems to be a continuing trend. The reason the strong ratio of trucks to cars is significant is because of the profit margins on trucks versus cars. Cars are low margin generators while trucks carry somewhere around $10,000 variable profit per vehicle.

One of the surprising trends of the first quarter is the battle for second place for truck sales between General Motor’s Silverado and Chrysler’s RAM. The Ford F-series truck still leads in volume sales by a significantly increasing number. However, GM and RAM are neck and neck in sales volume with RAM beating the Silverado by some 4,000 units in March. Overall for the 1st quarter of 2017 the Silverado has out-sold the RAM by 9,000 units. All these figures are published in the April 10th edition of ‘Automotive News”.

While Ford has a considerable lead in pick-up sales over Silverado and RAM, the battle for 2nd place is certainly interesting. RAM keeps pecking away at Silverado sales volume. “Automotive News” pointed out that there used to be miles of sales daylight between the Silverado and the RAM pickup, but the gap has narrowed considerably over the years. In March the RAM outsold the Silverado 46,384 to 42,410, the third month in the past three years that Fiat Chrysler’s pickup bested the Bowtie in sales.

Market share for the first quarter showed Chevrolet, Nissan, Honda, Subaru, and GMC with small gains. Conversely, small market share losses were experienced by Ford, Toyota, Jeep, Hyundai, and Dodge. In overall sales, Toyota gained market share over Chevrolet and Ford while experiencing a small sales decrease. In the luxury car class Ford’s Lincoln, while being fifth in sales, saw a strong sales surge. Audi was first followed by Infiniti, Cadillac, and Acura.

One of the more interesting automotive events was Tesla, the electric car manufacturer, surpassing the Ford Motor Company and General Motors in market capitalization. How could this happen? Tesla has missed deadline after deadline for product realization. Tesla has hemorrhaged cash by the billions. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, bought Solar City ,another company with questionable financials. All negatives that have not had negative results as far as shareholders are concerned.

Ford and GM sold more than 6 million vehicles last year and generated pretax profits of over $10 billion and a company, Tesla, with questionable financials has a market capitalization that exceeds either company.

Elon Musk has said he will sell 800,000 vehicles in year 2018. My question is this, “Whose market share is he going to take?” Will it be GM, Ford, or Chrysler? Maybe Toyota or Honda? Tesla said it delivered 25,000 vehicles in the quarter ended March 31, an increase of 69 percent. With no stores or dealerships where will Tesla owners have their cars serviced or repaired?

While the electric car is interesting, Tesla has a lot of significant un-answered questions. If the market capitalization of Tesla wasn’t so meaningful for Tesla investors, it would be a joke.

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