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2017 Porsche Boxster 718 Manual Tested | Review | Car and Driver

When Porsche revised its roadster line last year, rechristening it the 718 Boxster, restyling it slightly, and swapping in turbocharged 2.0- and 2.5-liter flat-four-cylinder engines for its beloved 2.7- and 3.4-liter flat-sixes in standard and S models, respectively, we knew we would have to test every powertrain permutation of each to see exactly how the changes would affect their characters and capabilities. (It’s a tough job, we know.) Well, after this test of a Guards Red 2017 718 Boxster with the six-speed manual, we now have coverage of all four Boxster models. Say what purists will about the loss of two cylinders in the (still unfortunately sealed) engine bay behind the driver, we now can aver that every last variant of the 718 Boxster is spectacularly quick. And we’ve got the numbers to prove it.


If This One’s the Slowest . . .

With its mere 300 horsepower and human-actuated shifter, we expected this configuration to be slower than either of the 350-hp S models and/or any Boxster equipped with the lightning-fast dual-clutch automatic transmission. And we were right that this car did take the longest to get to speed. But, like all 718s we’ve tested so far, the base Boxster proved exceptionally quick, requiring just 4.4 seconds to hit 60 mph, 10.6 to achieve 100 mph, and 13.0 seconds to cover the quarter-mile at 109 mph. Yes, 4.4 seconds to 60. And that’s the slowest-accelerating Boxster available to Americans.

In terms of acceleration, the switch to turbo four-cylinder power has paid off particularly well for base 718 models: This car is a huge 1.2 seconds quicker to 60 mph than was the previous Boxster manual, while the 718 Cayman manual’s comparable time has dropped by a full second, from 5.3 to 4.3 seconds. PDK-equipped 718s do remain consistently quicker than their manual counterparts, but with the 2.0-liter turbo four, the gap has closed somewhat. Only 0.4 second separates human-shifted 718 Boxsters and Caymans from their automatic counterparts.

Thank you, turbocharging, for bestowing the 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 280 lb-ft of torque, 36 percent more than the former naturally aspirated 2.7-liter flat-six could muster, all of it delivered with only a whiff of lag from a low 1950 rpm. In most of our previous 718 reviews, we’ve expressed how the 2.0-liter lacks the nuanced character and symphonic aural experience of its predecessor. It’s worth noting in that context that this engine’s 7500-rpm redline is just 300 revs lower than that of the old six, and the 2.0-liter unleashes its 300th only when the needle sweeps past 6500 rpm, so exploring the full range of the tachometer remains as worthwhile as ever. With all that torque on the low and middle revs and peak power still found near the top, pretty much any spot in the 2.0-liter’s rpm range could be considered the sweet spot. The result is a car that feels highly alert and more excitable. The base 718 Boxster bares its teeth and bites on command, and with the optional sport exhaust system ($2890), it boasts a mean bark, too.


The $10,400 Question

While Porsche claims that half a second separates the base Boxster from the S in the run to 60 mph, this car’s time trailed that of the 2.5-liter S manual by a mere 0.1 second. That half-second disparity did appear in the run to 100 mph, which the S did in 9.8 seconds, but the base Boxster lost no additional time to the S as it charged toward the quarter-mile mark, even regaining a tenth, and ultimately arriving just 0.4 second and 4 mph off the S’s result of 12.6 seconds at 113 mph.

There’s zero daylight between the 718 Boxster and Boxster S manuals in handling, at least if the non-S is equipped, as ours was, with the $1970 19-inch Boxster S wheels, the $1790 Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) dynamic dampers that drop the car by 0.4 inch, and the $1320 torque-vectoring differential. Despite lacking the S’s optional Sport Chrono package, which brings a still lower ride height, this Boxster demonstrated 1.01 g of lateral grip versus the S model’s 1.04 g. At 145 feet, this Boxster’s 70-to-zero-mph performance was as scintillating as the other three versions, which halted from 70 at 143 or 144 feet.


Praise, Praise, Praise: You’ve Heard It All by Now

After publishing six prior instrumented tests of 718 Boxsters and Caymans and naming the pair to our 10Best Cars list, it’s likely that few readers remain uninformed about the many ways in which we think the cars get all the important sports-car things right. Everything from their solid structure to their excellent seating positions, great visibility, clear and sensible instrumentation, and perfectly sculpted steering wheels contributes to driving environments that are nearly ideal. And the precise shift action and communicative clutch found in 718s with the six-speed stick are benchmarks for those who would understand how a properly engineered three-pedal manual operates.

The Boxster also gets lots of other things right, including its impressive materials and assembly quality. Front and rear cargo holds give it unexpected practicality. Fuel economy is near the top of the segment, at 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. And its perfectly proportioned mid-engine body is absolutely, incredibly, ridiculously good-looking.

As with most vehicles Porsche provides for testing, this one came to us with a healthy dose of options that bloated its $57,050 base price (reminder: 718s invert the old order, so Boxsters now cost more than Caymans) to $73,040—far from cheap but reasonable compared with some of the upper-level 718s we have tested. In addition to the exhaust and the suspension-related extras detailed earlier, this car had a 16.4-gallon extended-range fuel tank ($140), leather interior trim ($2520), heated seats ($530), a smaller-diameter GT steering wheel ($320), navigation ($1730), Porsche Connect Plus telematics ($1300), sport seats ($440), an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a rain sensor ($690), and our favorite frivolity, a $350 pair of Guards Red seatbelts.

As nostalgic as we may be for the mellifluous flat-six sound of Boxsters of yore, it’s clear that the new models—even the “slow” one—deserve their 10Best Cars awards as much as did any previous iterations.

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2017 Ford GT

Lap after lap, Scott Maxwell gnaws deeper into the curbing. By drawing a straighter line through a shallow chicane on the road course that lies in the shadow of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Canadian pro driver with class wins at Sebring, Daytona, and Le Mans is searching for—and finding—more speed. What started as a nibble is now a chomp as he rides to the top of the red-and-white candy cane on his fourth lap. The 2017 Ford GT he’s piloting, the car in which I’m riding shotgun, swallows it whole.

The GT skates over the pavement, clearing it by just 2.8 inches in its ground-sucking Track mode, when the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are sunk into the wheel wells and the GT looks as if it has all the suspension travel of a bobsled. Yet this carbon-­fiber dart from Dearborn never threatens to lose traction, to pitch left, or to unsettle as it leaps off the curbs. It soaks up the input gracefully, presses rubber into earth, and rockets ahead. “I kept expecting that curb to launch us,” Maxwell says during the cool-down lap. “But the car just takes it.”

Back in the pits, Jamal Hameedi, the chief engineer of Ford Performance, wants my feedback. “How was it? Did you feel something more visceral than in a McLaren?” No amount of poise can neutralize the effects of cornering, braking, and acceleration with that kind of intensity. I feel as if my gut has been run through a Vitamix and is now sweating out through my palms. So, yeah, the GT stirred something inside me.

After two years pirouetting on auto-show turntables, the Ford GT is finally making its own moves. Ford won’t let us behind the wheel just yet—at least not while the car is moving—but in between in-depth discussions with Hameedi, I was treated to 647-hp chest compressions and gut-punch lateral g’s in the passenger seat, with Maxwell and vehicle dynamics development engineer Murray White taking turns driving.

Hameedi talks about the GT program like a man who’s gotten away with something, and not just that he was able to buy a Ferrari 458 Speciale and a McLaren 675LT on Ford’s dime. For competitive analysis, you understand. The guy responsible for all of Ford’s performance variants, from the flying F-150 Raptor to the $40,000 350-hp Ford Focus RS, still marvels that his team was allowed to build a car this extreme. A career Ford engineer, Hameedi knows a thing or two about corporate bureaucracy. As the program manager for the 2005–06 Ford GT, the original mid-engined GT40 nostalgia trip, he witnessed firsthand the internal resistance to selling a six-figure Ford. That those GTs now trade for more than $300,000 (they originally retailed for $139,995) allowed his team to shoot for the moon this time around. “That car gave us the confidence to do this car,” he says.

To recognize the 50th anniversary of Ford’s Le Mans podium sweep, Dearborn was wont to do a special-edition road car. But instead of some paint-and-tape Mustang, Ford Performance unleashed both a full-fledged GT racing program and a homologation road car that’s pretty close to being the 2016 Le Mans GTE-Pro class winner with a license plate. The resulting production model isn’t just radical for a car wearing a Blue Oval badge, it’s the razor’s edge of automotive design, with a weight-to-power ratio of roughly five pounds per horsepower to back it up.

Based on the neo GT’s $450,000 starting price, you might say the confidence borders on hubris, though. The GT lies in the largely uncharted waters between million-plus-­dollar hypercars from Bugatti and Pagani and the supercar stalwarts from Ferrari and McLaren that run around $250,000. The $424,845 Lamborghini Aventador S is the only competitor parked at the same intersection of price and performance. Yet in this realm, a car is overpriced only if it doesn’t sell, and the first 750 GTs—three years’ worth of production—are already claimed. Ford will accept another round of applications for the remaining 250 cars in early 2018. Start building your case now; a social-media following helps.

It can’t hurt that the GT looks like a ­carbon-fiber crystallization of the Kama Sutra. The design studio offered three initial concepts, but the development almost immediately converged around the sketches that spawned the car you see here. “We wanted to make the air flow,” says Hameedi. “And everything else followed after that.” It starts with a front end inspired by the “keel-suspension” designs found in Formula 1 and Le Mans prototypes. Like those racers, the GT uses unusually long lower control arms to move the attachment points inboard while the springs and dampers are packaged inside the car’s body and actuated by pushrods. This leaves gaping voids on either side of the radiator to move air through the body to generate downforce.

Designers sculpted the cockpit with an extreme front-to-rear taper that keeps airflow adhering to the fuselage without becoming turbulent. The cockpit’s teardrop shape also dictates that the seat bottoms be bolted to the carbon-fiber tub, with the driver and passenger seats just a few inches apart.

The skyscraping wing/air brake rolls out a Gurney flap from its trailing edge when deployed, while a pair of active shutters stalls air over the front splitter to balance the total downforce. Hameedi won’t cite exact numbers for the GT’s performance in that area. He figures that data would allow the competition to make an easy extrapolation to the race car. “We still want to win some more races,” he says.

Both Maxwell and White extol the benefits of the GT’s downforce as they lap, but those virtues aren’t as tangible from the passenger seat. It’s the unconventional suspension and its efficacy that are rewiring my brain. There are no coil-overs. Instead, at each corner, the suspension pushrod transfers the lower control arm’s movements to a rocker arm that connects to the damper and anti-roll bar while also twisting a splined torsion-bar spring. The opposite end of the torsion bar, instead of being fixed to the body, attaches to a hydraulic actuator that contains a small coil spring, allowing Ford to vary the spring rates depending on the driving mode. Acting in series with the torsion bar, this coil provides a softer overall spring rate in the car’s Wet, Normal, and Sport modes than the torsion bar alone provides.

The hydraulic actuator comes alive in the Track and V-Max modes, compressing the coil spring and dropping the car two inches. In these settings, the coil is locked out, increasing the overall spring rate. Push the button to confirm, and the suspension doesn’t deflate as in an air-spring car; rather, it pops into a squat abruptly, a Le Mans racer dropping off its air jacks in the pits.

Multimatic, the Canadian supplier and composites expert that builds the GT in a suburb of Toronto, supplies the spool-valve dampers that deftly blend compliance and control. These devices offer finer tuning precision than the stacked shims that control damping rates in a traditional damper, and for the first time they are electronically adjustable via a rotating sleeve that opens and closes certain tailor-shaped ports in the spool valve.

The twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 is a close relative of the 450-hp version in the F-150 Raptor. Engineers unlocked another 197 horsepower with a lower 9.0:1 compression ratio, larger turbochargers, and new ­manifolds, while a dry-sump oiling system keeps it all lubricated on the track. Engineers also relocated the alternator and air-conditioning compressor to the back of the engine to position it closer to the firewall, shifting the center of gravity and reducing the polar moment of inertia.

The EcoBoost engine sucks in clean air from the lower portion of the side pods ahead of the rear wheels. The turbos pressurize the intake charge up to 30.0 psi and pass the air back to the side pods, where it climbs through the intercoolers and is piped through the buttresses toward the roof, then down into the intake plenum. Both port and direct injection deliver the fuel.

The big blowers mean that the peak torque of 550 pound-feet arrives at a very lofty, un-turbo-like 5900 rpm. To keep the turbos on call when the driver lifts off the accelerator, Ford activates an anti-lag system in the Sport, Track, and V-Max modes. By continuing to pump some air through the engine, the turbos turn at about 80,000 rpm off throttle. At full boost, they pinwheel at up to 176,000 rpm. That anti-lag system is just one indicator that Ford pri­oritized Boost well ahead of Eco with this engine. The other telltale: the GT’s gluttonous EPA combined rating of just 14 mpg, only two ticks better than the naturally aspirated V-12 Aventador S.

While the GT’s V-6 delivers supercar thrust, a car with looks and moves that can snap necks deserves the aural drama of eight, 10, or 12 cylinders. The EcoBoost engine’s soundtrack is loud and deep, but it’s a thrum, not a bark or a scream, with no fire and brimstone raining from the exhaust. The GT’s engine sounds awesome for a V-6 Fusion but restrained for a 647-hp supercar. That’s the downside to making your power with six pots muffled by two turbochargers, but Ford landed on that configuration, it says, specifically for the fuel-economy benefit in the race car. And, no doubt, the marketing traction the EcoBoost association buys.

The road car routes torque to the rear wheels through a Getrag seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and a Torsen-style limited-­slip differential. In manual mode, cogs are swapped via milled-­aluminum shift paddles inspired by the Daytona prototypes in which Ford developed the GT racer’s engine before the rest of the car was finished. The stack of slots in the paddles and the vertical ridge on their backsides add tactility and grip. Launch control—activated from the top line in the digital instrument cluster’s menu—cues the engine at roughly 3000 rpm and should send the 3250-pound GT to 60 mph in under three seconds. With V-Max mode retracting the wing and opening the two flaps at the back edge of the front splitter to reduce drag, this carbon-fiber wonder ran a claimed 216 mph at Porsche’s Nardò test track in Italy.

Today we’ll top out at 135 mph while driving around what White, the chassis engineer, calls a “little Mickey Mouse point-and-shoot thing.” The road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is utterly flat, a go-kart track on a grander scale. Nevertheless, in a Ford GT, the thrills are more Space Mountain than Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

White bends the squared-off steering wheel into each turn with a single smooth input, exhibiting the confidence of a man who knows his machine intimately. His movements become the GT’s movements through a hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion steering system with a fixed 14.8:1 ratio. Over and over, he wheels the car toward the apex, then coaxes the throttle to deliver midcorner rotation in a brief, tightly controlled drift. Not showy, but playful.

As White tucks into the right-handers, I watch for his elbow to jab my bicep, but it never happens. The GT’s cockpit is compact but not unlivable. The passenger seat ­sacrifices legroom to a shoebox-sized insert in the footwell intended to control the passenger’s movements in unbelted crash tests. On the other side of the car, though, the steering wheel and pedals offer manual adjustment beyond my six-foot, three-inch frame. Pull the small fabric loop by your right knee and the spring-loaded pedal box slides toward the driver, or away from you if you stand on it. Headroom, especially with a helmet, is in shortest supply, although you can compensate with the generous amount of recline adjustment in the seatbacks.

Faux suede with splashes of aluminum and carbon fiber bathes the interior. The gear selector and headlight, window, mirror, and lock controls are the only visible pieces pulled from the corporate parts bin, and the Sync 3 infotainment system plays through a 6.5-inch screen. The sole volume control is on the steering wheel. Ford expects GT buyers to be more interested in the fact that an FIA-approved steel roll cage is sandwiched between the carbon-fiber exterior and the interior trim in every car and that the mounts for six-point harnesses are installed at the factory. The firmly padded carbon-fiber Sparco seats look retro, as if they were sculpted in the mid-1950s and upholstered in the ’70s, but they’re reasonably comfortable and wider than what we’ve come to expect from this kind of exotica.

Six-piston monoblock calipers clamp the carbon-ceramic brake rotors up front, with four-piston units out back. White and Maxwell both gush about the binders—they’re constantly pushing deeper into the braking zone, they say. After braking early on the front straight two laps in a row, Maxwell pushes too deep the next time around and gets on the left pedal late. He catches the car in speed-scrubbing oversteer. The next lap, he repeats his mistake but dumps speed into a front-end push.

Maxwell toys with that balance in every other corner. Driving fluidly but constantly feathering the throttle in turns, and making microadjustments to the steering, he rides the limits without holding back. He appears challenged but in control, and wholly engaged. The Ford GT is a beast of brute force and a clockwork of rare nuance.

My attention wanders from the windshield for only a few seconds at a time. The GT’s brakes throw me into the harness. The tires shove me into the Sparco’s bolsters. And the twin turbochargers punch my spine as Maxwell lines up a straight shot through the chicane. I desperately want to be in the driver’s seat. The fact that I’m not is really what’s making me sick.



Explained: Rarefied Air

Automotive engineering and design are rarely as intertwined as in supercar development, where stratospheric speeds and mid-mounted engines elevate the importance of moving air over, through, and to the right places. Notice how the GT’s front lower control arms nearly meet in the center of the car. Along with moving the dampers and springs upward and inboard, this creates large channels to move air through the body with minimal disturbance, reducing lift. At the tail end of the GT, the wing and diffuser perform the bulk of the aero work while airflow through the body feeds the engine and its heat exchangers. The transmission and oil coolers aft of the rear wheels rely on air scooped from the car’s underside, and they exhaust it, cleverly, through the centers of the GT’s round taillights. —ET

001. 3.5-liter V-6
002. Turbocharger
003. Intercooler
004. Oil reservoir
005. Seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle
006. Transmission coolers
007. Engine-oil cooler

008. Suspension pushrod
009. Torsion-bar spring
010. Hydraulic actuator with internal coil spring
011. Spool-valve damper
012. Anti-roll bar

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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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Article source: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604220/baidu-will-release-a-free-operating-system-for-self-driving-cars/

2017 Cadillac Escalade | Review | Car and Driver

Overview: Read the specs for the gargantuan 2017 Cadillac Escalade ESV, and you may confuse it with a 1966 Cadillac Eldorado. Both measure a smidge over 224 inches long, both feature body-on-frame construction, and both feed (lots of) fuel to a pushrod V-8 engine. Compared to the Eldo’s 340-hp (SAE gross rating) 7.0-liter iron-block lump, however, the ’Slade’s aluminum-block 6.2-liter V-8 makes an additional 80 horsepower and boasts now ubiquitous engine technologies such as direct injection, cylinder deactivation, and variable valve timing.

Still, like that ’66 Caddy, the Escalade makes a big statement, whether we’re talking about the standard-length version or the 20.4-inch-longer Escalade ESV, which rides on a wheelbase stretched an additional 14.0 inches. The ESV provides an expansive 39 cubic feet of space behind its third row, while the stubbier Escalade offers a mere 15 cubes behind its rearmost row—four fewer than what you’ll find beneath the trunklid of the Chevrolet Impala. The ESV’s long wheelbase also allows passengers in its standard third row to sit more comfortably, as there’s 34.5 inches of rear legroom, 9.7 more than those unfortunates stuffed into the shorter Escalade’s rearmost seats will get.

Both the Escalade and the $3000-pricier ESV are available in four trims: base, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum. Rear-wheel drive is standard throughout the lineup; all-wheel-drive models cost an extra $3000. For this review, we drove an Escalade Premium Luxury with a base price of $84,090. Thanks to a handful of options such as a $595 coat of Dark Adriatic Blue Metallic paint, $1750 for power-retractable running boards, $2000 in Kona Brown leather seats, $2695 for the dealer-installed Radiant package (special 22-inch wheels, chrome exhaust tip, and a more garish grille), and $3000 for all-wheel drive, the as-tested price swelled to $94,130.

What’s New: The Escalade and ESV see a smattering of changes for 2017. Superficially, Cadillac renamed some trim levels. Last year’s Luxury Collection and Premium Collection are this year’s Luxury and Premium Luxury. Of more substance is the addition of Cadillac’s rearview-mirror camera system on the Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum trims. With a flip of a switch, the reflective rearview mirror displays a video feed from a camera mounted at the rear of the SUV, virtually eliminating blind spots caused by pillars, headrests, and the like. Other new items include an automatic parking system that can steer the Escalade into a parallel or perpendicular parking space, the addition of automated emergency braking to the Luxury trim’s list of standard features, and a new 22-inch wheel design.

What We Like: Despite weighing well over two and a half tons, the Escalade doesn’t struggle to build speed. We’ve yet to strap our test equipment to the ESV, but a regular Escalade Platinum ran from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, 0.4 second quicker than the Infiniti QX80, 0.7 second quicker than the Lincoln Navigator, and 1.4 seconds ahead of the Lexus LX570. The Escalade and Escalade ESV are able haulers, capable of towing up to 8300 pounds (8100 for the ESV), be it a boat, a camper, or a track-prepped Acura Integra. Finally, there’s no denying the Escalade’s immense visual presence—a quality we’d imagine sits high on the wish lists of buyers in this vehicle segment.

What We Don’t Like: While the Escalade is equipped with Cadillac’s magnetorheological dampers, which should improve ride quality, we’ve found that the Escalade still suffers from a rather harsh ride, especially when wearing the 22-inch wheels and tires that come standard on Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum models. Additionally, Cadillac’s CUE touchscreen infotainment system continues to be a thorn in the Escalade’s side. Although it is somewhat improved over earlier versions, we still prefer the HVAC and infotainment setups found in the Escalade’s siblings from Chevrolet and GMC, which use knobs and physical buttons rather than CUE’s capacitive proximity-sensing switches. Finally, the cabin’s overabundance of General Motors parts-bin switchgear is disappointing in a vehicle of this price.

Verdict: Flashy and iconic, but we’d save $7330 and buy a GMC Yukon Denali instead.

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2017 Dodge Challenger GT: Our View

I can’t help but wonder if the car pictured here is a solution to a problem nobody had. On one hand, owning a retro-styled muscle car is a ton of fun, with the looks, speed and cachet you can get from driving a beastly sports car. On the other hand, it comes with tradeoffs owners have traditionally expected and lived with — they aren’t efficient, outward visibility is poor and they’re … disadvantaged in the snow.

Well, the folks at Dodge decided to tackle that last compromise with the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT, billed as the world’s first winter-ready muscle car. It features the all-wheel-drive system that’s available in the Charger sedan (the Challenger sits on a shortened Charger chassis) mated to a stout 3.6-liter V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Dodge even held the launch party for this car in the middle of a Maine winter to prove you can drive it through ice and snow successfully. But in transitioning to an all-weather coupe, will the Challenger lose some of its muscle and street cred?

Grip — Anytime, Anywhere

There’s nothing different about the Challenger GT from the outside. It looks like any other Challenger, with big, 19-inch wheels and — in our test car — Green Go nuclear verdant paint. The only clue that this isn’t a standard rear-wheel-drive Challenger is the subtle GT badge on the fenders. You can’t even tell it sits a little bit higher than a normal Chally, so slight is the difference.

It’s when you’re driving in terrible conditions that the AWD makes its presence known. The standard 3.6-liter V-6 makes a decent 305 horsepower and is the only engine offered (for some reason you can’t get a V-8 with AWD). In the rear-wheel-drive Challenger, the V-6 is a reasonably efficient engine that moves the car with acceptable, if not exactly exciting, speed.

The last one we tested, as part of our Small-Engine Muscle Car Challenge, went from zero-to-60 mph in 6.3 seconds — not exactly hair-on-fire levels of speed. It was the slowest of the “small-engine” coupes we tested. The AWD’s extra weight doesn’t help that, but speed isn’t exactly the Challenger GT’s mission.

Grip is what it’s all about. Specifically, grip anytime, anywhere. Rainy? Snowy? Icy? Doesn’t matter, the Challenger will keep you pointed straight and get you moving. The AWD makes itself known most in straight-line acceleration. There’s very little wheel slippage in the rear when you plant the accelerator on a slippery road. It accelerates swiftly, with little sideways fishtailing. If you turn while accelerating from a dead stop, this will kick the tail out until the stability control catches you, so it’s still possible to get into trouble despite the additional traction.

Grip is what it’s all about. Specifically, grip anytime, anywhere. Rainy? Snowy? Icy? Doesn’t matter, the Challenger will keep you pointed straight and get you moving.

The difference the AWD makes in inclement weather, though, is rather remarkable. I was fortunate enough to experience a moderate snowstorm during my week with the Challenger GT, one that would have been extremely hazardous had I been driving an over-powered, RWD muscle car with performance tires. Yet the GT powered on through everything, allowing me to accelerate confidently from stoplights with nary a squirrely movement from the back end.

In dry conditions, however, the Challenger V-6 isn’t all that entertaining. It feels heavy and ponderous, not as willing to dance on a twisty back road as competing muscle cars. The acceleration that feels so quick in slippery conditions isn’t impressive, the brakes aren’t that strong when bringing the car back to a halt, and the super-thick steering wheel doesn’t transmit much information about what the tires or suspension are doing when you’re rounding bends. For people seeking a big, comfortable, stylish coupe, this will be just fine. For buyers wanting an actual sports car, this ain’t it.

Of course, AWD will not help you stop in slippery conditions; your tires are far more important for that. The Michelin Primacy all-season rubber on the Challenger GT does a decent job of handling slippery conditions, but adding true winter tires to this package each fall would indeed transform the Challenger from a three-season tourer to a capable-year-round coupe.

This is something no other reasonably priced sports coupe on the market can claim. In order to get that kind of all-weather capability in a coupe, you have to go to the German luxury brands, where BMW or Audi will be happy to sell you a much smaller car for a lot more money.

You Coulda Had a V-8

The fact that you can’t get a V-8 with the Challenger GT’s AWD is truly unfortunate, as that more powerful motor would wake up this sleepy touring car nicely. The AWD system is available in the Charger Pursuit police car with the V-8, so we know the chassis can support it, but Dodge says that this is where the volume is in the market, so this is where they’re positioning the AWD Challenger.

Fuel economy for the GT, rated by the EPA at 18/27/21 city/highway/combined, is dead even with the 3.7-liter V-6-powered Ford Mustang but behind the 22/31/25 mpg Chevrolet Camaro with its standard turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. My observed fuel economy for the week was a rather modest 17.2 mpg, though that admittedly did not include much highway driving, and slick roads aren’t efficiency’s friend.

A Child of the ’70s

Inside the Challenger, nothing has changed from the last time we sampled one, aside from a mild update to the Uconnect multimedia system. The design of the dash, doors, seats and console is still retro-themed, inspired by the 1971 Challenger in its shapes, gauges, buttons and even the shifter. While the Mustang and Camaro have embraced modernity with a few hints of nostalgic design, the Challenger remains unabashedly throwback in all its forms, outside and in. If you’re a fan of classic American muscle cars, this is awesome — you can buy a car that looks 90 percent like a classic but has all the modern conveniences, safety, efficiency and reliability of a 21st century automobile.

The interior is comfortable, as one would expect from a car this size. The only difference in the GT is the hump in the front passenger’s footwell to accommodate the AWD system, but it doesn’t eat up much room.

This car really is cavernous inside — more of a grand touring coupe than a true sports car thanks to its width and height. This means you can take along three friends in relative comfort, with nobody complaining about cramped headroom in the back or a lack of width for wider folks.

Add the optional moonroof and the headroom situation changes, with several inches eaten out of it, so it’s best for taller drivers to skip that option. The Challenger’s outward visibility is also the best of the Detroit Three muscle cars, with tall windows and an upright profile, contrasting dramatically with the Camaro’s bunkerlike, gun-slit glass all around.

Top-Notch Tech

One area in which the Challenger continues to shine is onboard multimedia technology. My test car featured a standard 8.4-inch touchscreen with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The latest update to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Uconnect makes things even better, with slightly revised icons for better visibility but maintaining the super-easy-to-use layout and lightning-quick functionality that I’ve come to enjoy. The available navigation system is also one of the few ones out there that allows you to push a button and say, “Navigate to [your destination address],” and it gets the destination right almost every time. An available 18-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system is pretty kickin’, with a subwoofer you’ll need to dial down in order to not distort any music you’re playing.

My test car had a lot of other latest-and-greatest electronic features as well, including automatic high beams, rain-sensitive wipers, adaptive speed control with stop-and-go, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, cross-traffic alert, bi-xenon headlights, remote start and more. The Challenger may look pretty retro, but it’s a fully modern automobile under the skin.

Looking Good Doesn’t Come Cheap

The AWD adds more than a little bit to the base price of a Challenger V-6: The GT rings in at $34,490 including destination charge. That’s a surprising $6,400 more than the base Challenger SXT V-6, though it does include more standard equipment than the lesser model, including leather interior, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel with power tilt and telescope, an 8.4-inch touchscreen and a standard six-speaker Alpine audio system. My car featured a number of option packages, too, including the Technology Group, Driver Convenience Group, GT Interior Package, Harman Kardon Premium Sound Group and Uconnect 8.4 with navigation, for a grand total of $39,465.

While it’s a stretch to call the Challenger GT a muscle car given it’s not all that muscular in V-6 form, one can indeed call it an excellent all-weather personal coupe. For a number of Challenger buyers, especially those living in snowy northern climes, that will likely be enough.

Article source: https://www.cars.com/reviews/2017-dodge-challenger-gt-our-view-1420695182013/

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Sedan Diesel

A groundswell of conjecture says that diesels are dead. Some manufacturers believe that Volkswagen has so poisoned the well that it has shifted future diesel development off cars to focus on SUVs and pickup trucks. Chevrolet is taking the opposite approach, figuring that the cancellation of VW’s TDI fleet leaves the desires of diesel enthusiasts unfulfilled, providing an opportunity for a compression-ignition engine done right. Enter the Chevy Cruze sedan reviewed here with the discreet TD badge on its decklid and gruff sounds emanating from under its hood.

This is definitely no Cruze missile. With only 137 horsepower on tap, all the torque in the world won’t thrust a 3000-pound family sedan to the top of your gotta-have-it list. That said, we’re happy to report that a kind heart beats deep within this attractive Chevy compact. Plus, your wallet will throb every time 40 mpg appears in the Cruze diesel’s mileage gauge.


A Primer and Pricing

Diesels are more efficient than gasoline engines for three reasons: Diesel fuel contains approximately 10 percent more energy per gallon than gasoline. Pumping losses are diminished because engine output is regulated by the amount of fuel injected instead of by how much air is sucked through a restricted inlet. And diesels operate with a much larger expansion ratio (the flip side of compression ratio, which in this instance is 16.0:1). Bottom line: Chevy’s turbo-diesel Cruze topped 50 mpg in EPA highway testing when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission and earned a combined rating of 37 mpg with both the manual and the new nine-speed automatic.

While hybrid cars routinely match or beat those EPA ratings, most hybrid models reside in the larger, more expensive mid-size class. Striving to please divergent tastes, Chevrolet parks the Cruze diesel next to its Volt plug-in hybrid, Bolt EV, and Malibu hybrid in showrooms.

To make its intentions clear, Chevy bracketed the Toyota Prius Two’s base price with the Cruze stick starting at $24,670 and the automatic costing an additional $1600. Both live within the Cruze LT trim level, only one notch down from the lavish Cruze Premier. The car we drove was equipped with a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, 4G LTE OnStar Wi-Fi connectivity, an eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, remote start, and various other assistance features.


The Experience

The commotion you notice when this 1.6-liter tiny terror cranks to life is a blend of bark and shake. Neither element is annoying or long lasting, but this turbo-diesel’s voice is louder than modern gasoline engines’, which, except for the intentionally rowdy ones, are virtually silent at work. The beauty of the Cruze TD is that once you’re rolling, tire buzz and wind ruffle all but drown out the engine din. In heavy traffic, the Cruze engine’s stop-start function can be annoying—the restart is not particularly smooth—and the only way to disable that fuel-saving device is to move the transmission shift lever to the L position.

Turbo-diesel proponents love touting all the torque produced by such engines at very low rpm. In the Cruze context, there’s some truth to tell. Versus the only other available engine, a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four gas burner, the new diesel punches home 36 percent more peak torque—a strapping 240 lb-ft—at the same 2000 rpm. The smaller gas engine does eventually win the horsepower race with 153 versus 137 hp for the diesel, but the full herd of ponies doesn’t come out of the stable until 5600 rpm versus the diesel’s power peak at 3750 revs. Our guess is that the turbo gas would beat the turbo-diesel in a drag race where you spend little time below 3000 rpm, but we won’t know for sure until we have an opportunity to test the diesel.

While stats are great for bar talk, what matters most is how much go you get when you select D and nudge the accelerator. This turbo-diesel never feels sluggish in large part because of an astute nine-speed automatic that willingly helps out. With so many gears in the box, you hustle off the line with ease, have several intermediate ratios to keep the revs up during passing, then cruise serenely at 70 mph with the tach needle below 2000 rpm. This transmission is a smooth operator that helps the diesel shine.

Unfortunately, the evil side to this new nine-speed automatic is its manual mode. Pulling the lever back a notch to the L position signals the master controller that you are a stick-shift wannabe. Assuming the resulting rpm isn’t out of range, the transmission selects ratios according to your taps on the +/- switch built into the lever’s knob and displays the highest gear at your disposal in the driver’s info center. The top gear you’ve selected is held to the redline, which is handy for challenging your back-road-assault records.

The transmission is so sluggish responding to upshift requests that most of the fun of playing pretend stick shift is lost unless you punch the + button early. The smart alternative is saving $1600 and boosting highway mileage by 5 mpg with the six-speed manual transmission that’s also offered with this engine.

While the Cruze’s chassis is willing to play road-racing games with decent damping, adequate body-roll resistance, and reasonably supple spring rates, the steering never got that memo. It’s light, lifeless, and feels disconnected on-center. One consolation prize is a brake pedal that’s firm underfoot and linearly responsive. The other is Goodyear Assurance four-season 205/55R-16 tires that hang on for dear life when the howling starts on entrance ramps.


The Inside Tale

Inside the Cruze, the trim fits nicely and the controls are thoughtfully arranged, except for the long reach to the far side of the 7.0-inch touchscreen to command the six-speaker audio system. Switches behind the steering-wheel spokes provide a work-around.

While the vast expanses finished in hard plastic and an excess of brilliant chrome edging move the ambiance down a notch from the class-leading Honda Civic, VW Golf, and Mazda 3, there’s plenty to admire in this cabin. The front buckets hug your torso affectionately and hold you securely during enthusiastic cornering. The back seat is roomy for two and wide enough to pack in three for short hops. It’s easy to augment the 14-cubic-foot trunk by folding the backrest, although doing so leaves a sizable step in the load floor. Blessed with a total passenger and cargo volume of 108 cubic feet, the Cruze sedan lives at the top end of the compact class. Later this year the turbo-diesel engine will migrate to the four-door hatchback, which offers a 25-cubic-foot cargo hold behind the rear seat or an awesome 47 cubic feet with the backrests folded.

Alas, the Cruze TD’s dearth of steering feel makes it a tough sell to VW Golf TDI enthusiasts seeking a fresh (and legal) diesel. And given that diesel fuel typically costs about 10 percent more than regular gasoline, spending $2950 to $4395 more for the diesel engine makes no economic sense. A $4 to $5 gallon of diesel exhaust fluid for the emissions-scrubbing urea-injection system every 1000 miles or so is another pain in the wallet. The EPA estimates annual fuel costs for the Cruze diesel at $1050 versus $1050 to $1150 for the turbocharged 1.4-liter gas engine. Highway range is the only clear diesel win: 640 or so miles between fill-ups versus the gas engine’s 500-plus miles.

We are encouraged by Chevy’s earnest effort to give Cruze shoppers a choice that doesn’t exist elsewhere, especially considering how bad this brand’s small cars used to be. Chevy also deserves credit for proving that rumors of the diesel’s demise are greatly exaggerated. But this sedan isn’t likely to spread diesel’s appeal beyond those who are already true believers.

View Photos

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Consumer Review of the Week: 2017 Subaru Crosstrek

CARS.COM — Subaru’s smallest crossover, the five-seat Crosstrek, is based on the previous-generation Impreza hatchback. For 2017, Subaru made all-wheel drive standard but dropped the Crosstrek’s hybrid version. Though there is much to like regarding safety and space, one owner had a bone to pick with the interior.

Chris writes:

“Now, the power locks could be better designed (the key’s buttons and the fifth door). The navigation and in-dash displays leave a definite yearning for more. … Especially the disconnect and additional unnecessary dash buttons for the trip meter, center in-dash display and even the clock. The trip meter and cruise control viewing can be easier to read if these were better designed. The interior design of the car is simple. … The car has a two-second delay or hitch after backing up until the continuously variable automatic transmission can engage. Overall, this vehicle can get the job done and has a good price, but the Crosstrek should not be recommended and Subaru can do better.”

Related: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek Debuts in Geneva

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Editor’s note: Some comments have been edited to improve clarity.

Article source: https://www.cars.com/articles/consumer-review-of-the-week-2017-subaru-crosstrek-1420694506401/

2017 Dodge Challenger – Our Review | Cars.com

I can’t help but wonder if the car pictured here is a solution to a problem nobody had. On one hand, owning a retro-styled muscle car is a ton of fun, with the looks, speed and cachet you can get from driving a beastly sports car. On the other hand, it comes with tradeoffs owners have traditionally expected and lived with — they aren’t efficient, outward visibility is poor and they’re … disadvantaged in the snow.

Well, the folks at Dodge decided to tackle that last compromise with the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT, billed as the world’s first winter-ready muscle car. It features the all-wheel-drive system that’s available in the Charger sedan (the Challenger sits on a shortened Charger chassis) mated to a stout 3.6-liter V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Dodge even held the launch party for this car in the middle of a Maine winter to prove you can drive it through ice and snow successfully. But in transitioning to an all-weather coupe, will the Challenger lose some of its muscle and street cred?

Grip — Anytime, Anywhere

There’s nothing different about the Challenger GT from the outside. It looks like any other Challenger, with big, 19-inch wheels and — in our test car — Green Go nuclear verdant paint. The only clue that this isn’t a standard rear-wheel-drive Challenger is the subtle GT badge on the fenders. You can’t even tell it sits a little bit higher than a normal Chally, so slight is the difference.

It’s when you’re driving in terrible conditions that the AWD makes its presence known. The standard 3.6-liter V-6 makes a decent 305 horsepower and is the only engine offered (for some reason you can’t get a V-8 with AWD). In the rear-wheel-drive Challenger, the V-6 is a reasonably efficient engine that moves the car with acceptable, if not exactly exciting, speed.

The last one we tested, as part of our Small-Engine Muscle Car Challenge, went from zero-to-60 mph in 6.3 seconds — not exactly hair-on-fire levels of speed. It was the slowest of the “small-engine” coupes we tested. The AWD’s extra weight doesn’t help that, but speed isn’t exactly the Challenger GT’s mission.

Grip is what it’s all about. Specifically, grip anytime, anywhere. Rainy? Snowy? Icy? Doesn’t matter, the Challenger will keep you pointed straight and get you moving. The AWD makes itself known most in straight-line acceleration. There’s very little wheel slippage in the rear when you plant the accelerator on a slippery road. It accelerates swiftly, with little sideways fishtailing. If you turn while accelerating from a dead stop, this will kick the tail out until the stability control catches you, so it’s still possible to get into trouble despite the additional traction.

Grip is what it’s all about. Specifically, grip anytime, anywhere. Rainy? Snowy? Icy? Doesn’t matter, the Challenger will keep you pointed straight and get you moving.

The difference the AWD makes in inclement weather, though, is rather remarkable. I was fortunate enough to experience a moderate snowstorm during my week with the Challenger GT, one that would have been extremely hazardous had I been driving an over-powered, RWD muscle car with performance tires. Yet the GT powered on through everything, allowing me to accelerate confidently from stoplights with nary a squirrely movement from the back end.

In dry conditions, however, the Challenger V-6 isn’t all that entertaining. It feels heavy and ponderous, not as willing to dance on a twisty back road as competing muscle cars. The acceleration that feels so quick in slippery conditions isn’t impressive, the brakes aren’t that strong when bringing the car back to a halt, and the super-thick steering wheel doesn’t transmit much information about what the tires or suspension are doing when you’re rounding bends. For people seeking a big, comfortable, stylish coupe, this will be just fine. For buyers wanting an actual sports car, this ain’t it.

Of course, AWD will not help you stop in slippery conditions; your tires are far more important for that. The Michelin Primacy all-season rubber on the Challenger GT does a decent job of handling slippery conditions, but adding true winter tires to this package each fall would indeed transform the Challenger from a three-season tourer to a capable-year-round coupe.

This is something no other reasonably priced sports coupe on the market can claim. In order to get that kind of all-weather capability in a coupe, you have to go to the German luxury brands, where BMW or Audi will be happy to sell you a much smaller car for a lot more money.

You Coulda Had a V-8

The fact that you can’t get a V-8 with the Challenger GT’s AWD is truly unfortunate, as that more powerful motor would wake up this sleepy touring car nicely. The AWD system is available in the Charger Pursuit police car with the V-8, so we know the chassis can support it, but Dodge says that this is where the volume is in the market, so this is where they’re positioning the AWD Challenger.

Fuel economy for the GT, rated by the EPA at 18/27/21 city/highway/combined, is dead even with the 3.7-liter V-6-powered Ford Mustang but behind the 22/31/25 mpg Chevrolet Camaro with its standard turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. My observed fuel economy for the week was a rather modest 17.2 mpg, though that admittedly did not include much highway driving, and slick roads aren’t efficiency’s friend.

A Child of the ’70s

Inside the Challenger, nothing has changed from the last time we sampled one, aside from a mild update to the Uconnect multimedia system. The design of the dash, doors, seats and console is still retro-themed, inspired by the 1971 Challenger in its shapes, gauges, buttons and even the shifter. While the Mustang and Camaro have embraced modernity with a few hints of nostalgic design, the Challenger remains unabashedly throwback in all its forms, outside and in. If you’re a fan of classic American muscle cars, this is awesome — you can buy a car that looks 90 percent like a classic but has all the modern conveniences, safety, efficiency and reliability of a 21st century automobile.

The interior is comfortable, as one would expect from a car this size. The only difference in the GT is the hump in the front passenger’s footwell to accommodate the AWD system, but it doesn’t eat up much room.

This car really is cavernous inside — more of a grand touring coupe than a true sports car thanks to its width and height. This means you can take along three friends in relative comfort, with nobody complaining about cramped headroom in the back or a lack of width for wider folks.

Add the optional moonroof and the headroom situation changes, with several inches eaten out of it, so it’s best for taller drivers to skip that option. The Challenger’s outward visibility is also the best of the Detroit Three muscle cars, with tall windows and an upright profile, contrasting dramatically with the Camaro’s bunkerlike, gun-slit glass all around.

Top-Notch Tech

One area in which the Challenger continues to shine is onboard multimedia technology. My test car featured a standard 8.4-inch touchscreen with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The latest update to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Uconnect makes things even better, with slightly revised icons for better visibility but maintaining the super-easy-to-use layout and lightning-quick functionality that I’ve come to enjoy. The available navigation system is also one of the few ones out there that allows you to push a button and say, “Navigate to [your destination address],” and it gets the destination right almost every time. An available 18-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system is pretty kickin’, with a subwoofer you’ll need to dial down in order to not distort any music you’re playing.

My test car had a lot of other latest-and-greatest electronic features as well, including automatic high beams, rain-sensitive wipers, adaptive speed control with stop-and-go, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, cross-traffic alert, bi-xenon headlights, remote start and more. The Challenger may look pretty retro, but it’s a fully modern automobile under the skin.

Looking Good Doesn’t Come Cheap

The AWD adds more than a little bit to the base price of a Challenger V-6: The GT rings in at $34,490 including destination charge. That’s a surprising $6,400 more than the base Challenger SXT V-6, though it does include more standard equipment than the lesser model, including leather interior, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel with power tilt and telescope, an 8.4-inch touchscreen and a standard six-speaker Alpine audio system. My car featured a number of option packages, too, including the Technology Group, Driver Convenience Group, GT Interior Package, Harman Kardon Premium Sound Group and Uconnect 8.4 with navigation, for a grand total of $39,465.

While it’s a stretch to call the Challenger GT a muscle car given it’s not all that muscular in V-6 form, one can indeed call it an excellent all-weather personal coupe. For a number of Challenger buyers, especially those living in snowy northern climes, that will likely be enough.

Article source: https://www.cars.com/reviews/2017-dodge-challenger-gt-our-view-1420695182013/

Tesla Voluntarily Recalls 53000 Cars

If you’re going to have a recall, the best type to have is a voluntary one as it means the issue with your product isn’t super serious, just serious enough to need a quick fix. And so, Tesla is issuing a voluntary recall for 53,000 cars spread between the Model S and Model X crossover.

The reason for the recall is a fault with the electric parking brakes, which Tesla sourced from a third-party supplier for use in the cars. These brakes ensure the car does not move once placed in Park, however, the affected models contain a small gear in the brakes that is prone to fracturing.

The broken gear can’t cause any harm to the driver or passengers (hence the voluntary recall), but if it happens then the car will not be drivable. It’s stuck in Park, which I’m sure you can imagine would be very frustrating for the owner.

According to CNET’s Road Show, the fix takes about 45 minutes once Tesla starts working on a car, as all it requires is both electric parking brakes be replaced with new units. Tesla believes only 2 percent of the cars being recalled contain the faulty gear as it occurred due to a manufacturing fault.

The Model S and X crossovers containing the faulty brakes were built between February and October 2016, with 31,000 of the 53,000 total being sold in the US. If your Tesla is on the list, expect an email in the next few days and then mail asking you to bring the car in for the fix.

Article source: http://in.pcmag.com/consumer-electronics/114065/news/tesla-voluntarily-recalls-53000-cars

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel First Drive | Review | Car and Driver

A groundswell of conjecture says that diesels are dead. Some manufacturers believe that Volkswagen has so poisoned the well that it has shifted future diesel development off cars to focus on SUVs and pickup trucks. Chevrolet is taking the opposite approach, figuring that the cancellation of VW’s TDI fleet leaves the desires of diesel enthusiasts unfulfilled, providing an opportunity for a compression-ignition engine done right. Enter the Chevy Cruze sedan reviewed here with the discreet TD badge on its decklid and gruff sounds emanating from under its hood.

This is definitely no Cruze missile. With only 137 horsepower on tap, all the torque in the world won’t thrust a 3000-pound family sedan to the top of your gotta-have-it list. That said, we’re happy to report that a kind heart beats deep within this attractive Chevy compact. Plus, your wallet will throb every time 40 mpg appears in the Cruze diesel’s mileage gauge.


A Primer and Pricing

Diesels are more efficient than gasoline engines for three reasons: Diesel fuel contains approximately 10 percent more energy per gallon than gasoline. Pumping losses are diminished because engine output is regulated by the amount of fuel injected instead of by how much air is sucked through a restricted inlet. And diesels operate with a much larger expansion ratio (the flip side of compression ratio, which in this instance is 16.0:1). Bottom line: Chevy’s turbo-diesel Cruze topped 50 mpg in EPA highway testing when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission and earned a combined rating of 37 mpg with both the manual and the new nine-speed automatic.

While hybrid cars routinely match or beat those EPA ratings, most hybrid models reside in the larger, more expensive mid-size class. Striving to please divergent tastes, Chevrolet parks the Cruze diesel next to its Volt plug-in hybrid, Bolt EV, and Malibu hybrid in showrooms.

To make its intentions clear, Chevy bracketed the Toyota Prius Two’s base price with the Cruze stick starting at $24,670 and the automatic costing an additional $1600. Both live within the Cruze LT trim level, only one notch down from the lavish Cruze Premier. The car we drove was equipped with a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, 4G LTE OnStar Wi-Fi connectivity, an eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, remote start, and various other assistance features.


The Experience

The commotion you notice when this 1.6-liter tiny terror cranks to life is a blend of bark and shake. Neither element is annoying or long lasting, but this turbo-diesel’s voice is louder than modern gasoline engines’, which, except for the intentionally rowdy ones, are virtually silent at work. The beauty of the Cruze TD is that once you’re rolling, tire buzz and wind ruffle all but drown out the engine din. In heavy traffic, the Cruze engine’s stop-start function can be annoying—the restart is not particularly smooth—and the only way to disable that fuel-saving device is to move the transmission shift lever to the L position.

Turbo-diesel proponents love touting all the torque produced by such engines at very low rpm. In the Cruze context, there’s some truth to tell. Versus the only other available engine, a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four gas burner, the new diesel punches home 36 percent more peak torque—a strapping 240 lb-ft—at the same 2000 rpm. The smaller gas engine does eventually win the horsepower race with 153 versus 137 hp for the diesel, but the full herd of ponies doesn’t come out of the stable until 5600 rpm versus the diesel’s power peak at 3750 revs. Our guess is that the turbo gas would beat the turbo-diesel in a drag race where you spend little time below 3000 rpm, but we won’t know for sure until we have an opportunity to test the diesel.

While stats are great for bar talk, what matters most is how much go you get when you select D and nudge the accelerator. This turbo-diesel never feels sluggish in large part because of an astute nine-speed automatic that willingly helps out. With so many gears in the box, you hustle off the line with ease, have several intermediate ratios to keep the revs up during passing, then cruise serenely at 70 mph with the tach needle below 2000 rpm. This transmission is a smooth operator that helps the diesel shine.

Unfortunately, the evil side to this new nine-speed automatic is its manual mode. Pulling the lever back a notch to the L position signals the master controller that you are a stick-shift wannabe. Assuming the resulting rpm isn’t out of range, the transmission selects ratios according to your taps on the +/- switch built into the lever’s knob and displays the highest gear at your disposal in the driver’s info center. The top gear you’ve selected is held to the redline, which is handy for challenging your back-road-assault records.

The transmission is so sluggish responding to upshift requests that most of the fun of playing pretend stick shift is lost unless you punch the + button early. The smart alternative is saving $1600 and boosting highway mileage by 5 mpg with the six-speed manual transmission that’s also offered with this engine.

While the Cruze’s chassis is willing to play road-racing games with decent damping, adequate body-roll resistance, and reasonably supple spring rates, the steering never got that memo. It’s light, lifeless, and feels disconnected on-center. One consolation prize is a brake pedal that’s firm underfoot and linearly responsive. The other is Goodyear Assurance four-season 205/55R-16 tires that hang on for dear life when the howling starts on entrance ramps.


The Inside Tale

Inside the Cruze, the trim fits nicely and the controls are thoughtfully arranged, except for the long reach to the far side of the 7.0-inch touchscreen to command the six-speaker audio system. Switches behind the steering-wheel spokes provide a work-around.

While the vast expanses finished in hard plastic and an excess of brilliant chrome edging move the ambiance down a notch from the class-leading Honda Civic, VW Golf, and Mazda 3, there’s plenty to admire in this cabin. The front buckets hug your torso affectionately and hold you securely during enthusiastic cornering. The back seat is roomy for two and wide enough to pack in three for short hops. It’s easy to augment the 14-cubic-foot trunk by folding the backrest, although doing so leaves a sizable step in the load floor. Blessed with a total passenger and cargo volume of 108 cubic feet, the Cruze sedan lives at the top end of the compact class. Later this year the turbo-diesel engine will migrate to the four-door hatchback, which offers a 25-cubic-foot cargo hold behind the rear seat or an awesome 47 cubic feet with the backrests folded.

Alas, the Cruze TD’s dearth of steering feel makes it a tough sell to VW Golf TDI enthusiasts seeking a fresh (and legal) diesel. And given that diesel fuel typically costs about 10 percent more than regular gasoline, spending $2950 to $4395 more for the diesel engine makes no economic sense. A $4 to $5 gallon of diesel exhaust fluid for the emissions-scrubbing urea-injection system every 1000 miles or so is another pain in the wallet. The EPA estimates annual fuel costs for the Cruze diesel at $1050 versus $1050 to $1150 for the turbocharged 1.4-liter gas engine. Highway range is the only clear diesel win: 640 or so miles between fill-ups versus the gas engine’s 500-plus miles.

We are encouraged by Chevy’s earnest effort to give Cruze shoppers a choice that doesn’t exist elsewhere, especially considering how bad this brand’s small cars used to be. Chevy also deserves credit for proving that rumors of the diesel’s demise are greatly exaggerated. But this sedan isn’t likely to spread diesel’s appeal beyond those who are already true believers.

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