Ugh…

Someone please stop the madness!

The first time I noticed it was when the Pontiac G6 came out. The ad tagline was “The First Ever Pontiac G6”, or something very similar. Then it seemed like more new GM vehicles used it in their ads, including the 2016 Cadillac XT5 crossover SUV. Now, other car companies like Infiniti have jumped on the bandwagon.

Please stop saying “First ever”!

I’m not sure why this has me so rankled but know that it has. Maybe it’s because it seems like PR/Advertising laziness or maybe it’s just kind of annoying, like the phrase “it is what it is”. Whatever the case, it needs to stop now! All new cars are the first ever! You don’t need to spell it out in your advertising!

This “Auto Critic” even said it!!! Someone take away his press cars…stat!

But seriously, the more you call a new car a first ever the more annoying, watered down and un-special that phrase becomes. It’s the automotive equivalent of YOLO and it needs to die a quick painless death form the automotive advertising lexicon.

Thanks for letting me rant.

… See You Down The Road!

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Cadillac Escala Concept

2016-Cadillac-Escala-Concept-Exterior_1Perusing through the news after a long weekend, trying to find the gumption to dive into beast-mode at work, I came across a story about a new concept from Cadillac that was shown out west for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It’s a sharp looking car with less of the sharp lines of previous Caddys and is definitely more streamlined.

2016-Cadillac-Escala-Concept-Exterior-005What really caught my attention was the first thought that came to me as I was ogling…I mean viewing…the wonderful pics from the press launch.

…This thing screams Lincoln to me.

The Escala Concept introduces the next evolution of Cadillac des
The Escala Concept introduces the next evolution of Cadillac design.

There’s something about how the roofline meets the rear in the side view…or how the tail lights come together. I can’t put my finger on it but it’s there.

2016-Cadillac-Escala-Concept-Exterior-002I first saw the Escala on TheVerge.com and the headline read “Cadillac’s fantastic Escala concept is more New York than Detroit”. I think the author maybe meant to say “more Lincoln than Cadillac” but you be the judge.

Cadillac’s Escala concept previews craftsmanship and technical
Cadillac’s Escala concept previews craftsmanship and technical ideas in development for future models.

Watch the unveiling here:

 

Here’s the official press release in all it’s glory:

  • Concept showcases future design and technical systems in development
  • Flagship Sedan is a concept for a more expressive, expansive companion to the recently launched CT6
  • Dual-Theme interior includes Curved OLED displays, next-gen connectivity designs, ingenious details

The Escala Concept debuts in California tonight, introducing the next evolution of Cadillac design and previewing the craftsmanship and technology being developed for many future models. Following a series of private previews, Escala will be displayed this weekend at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The Escala Concept previews the design and technical ideas driving the next phase of Cadillac’s ongoing expansion.

“Escala is a concept with two clear objectives,” said Johan de Nysschen, president of Global Cadillac. “First, Escala is a statement of intent for the next iteration of the Cadillac design language, and also technical concepts in development for future Cadillac models. Secondly, Escala builds Cadillac’s aspirational character, signaling the brand’s return to the pinnacle of premium.”

Cadillac has released a new slate of models bristling with expressive design and exhilarating performance, driver’s cars taking Cadillac into a new chapter of its storied 114-year history.

“Escala is a concept car, but one based upon the unrelenting rise of our product substance,” de Nysschen said. “Depending on the development of market segment for large luxury sedans, Escala is a potential addition to our existing product plan.”

Escala — Spanish for “scale”— is a concept for a larger, more elite and expressive companion to the recently launched 2016 Cadillac CT6, the brand’s remarkable new range-topping prestige sedan. Escala is also the third in a series of concepts Cadillac has debuted at Pebble Beach in recent years, following the Ciel convertible (2011) and Elmiraj coupe (2013).

Escala is designed to be both a driver’s car and an indulgent flagship sedan. The large 4-door sedan features an expansive liftback design emphasizing the car’s considerable scale and versatility. At 210.5 inches in overall length, Escala is roughly 6 inches longer than today’s CT6.

Escala features a new and evolved face of Cadillac design that will begin appearing on production models soon. This includes a new expression of Cadillac’s vertical lighting, a brand signature since 1948. Organic light emitting diode (OLED) lighting elements are thinner and set deep within the fascia, creating a sinister look, day and night.

The concept’s details invite closer inspection, including a three-dimensional precision pattern in the grille design and 22-inch wheels with two layers of spokes.

“This concept shares how Cadillac will bring forward a new experience that is uniquely American, and unmistakably Cadillac,” says Andrew Smith, executive director of Cadillac Global Design. “Escala is an expressive symbol of reward and an exhilarating driving experience. On the interior, we pushed further. It’s about precision and ingenuity in craftsmanship, and the artistic integration of technology.”

Escala features a “dual personality” interior crafted with distinctly different zones: The front is about intensely focused modern technology, while the rear delivers relaxation.

“My brief to the designers was to create a car you desperately want to drive, and also one in which you want to be driven,” Smith said. “So rather than a single design, this interior consists of two themes. It was an opportunity for our designers to break the rules a little bit, exactly what Cadillac should do from time to time.”

An array of three curved OLED screens is a prominent feature in the front of the cabin. The very thin, curved displays are layered in front of the driver, with the back sides wrapped in hand-stitched leather embossed with the Cadillac script. The array of screens consolidate the traditional “cluster” of driving gauges with the “center stack” into one integrated unit.

Escala includes new designs for connectivity and control, providing a prototype for the user experience in development for future production models. The system features a central control module that enables the driver to execute tactile commands across the spectrum of connectivity functions, in addition to voice and gesture control technology. Inside the controller sits a new edition of Cadillac’s “flying Goddess” icon, a nod to the brand’s illustrious heritage.

Like all Cadillac models today, the interior is assembled using hand cut-and-sewn techniques. However, Escala presents several new and unique touches, blending overt luxury with covert technology. Escala makes broad use of hand-tailored fabric on the door trim and seating areas. Inspired by suiting material used by Cadillac’s partners in the fashion industry, the fabric provides a new level of hand-applied craftsmanship and color, unique in today’s auto interior landscape.

The Escala Concept utilizes Cadillac’s new RWD-centric large luxury car architecture, featuring one of the world’s most advanced body structures, which debuted on the new CT6. The mixed-material construction enables unprecedented agility and efficiency.

Escala uses a new 4.2-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine, a prototype of a new system in development for future Cadillac models. The advanced engine utilizes Active Fuel Management technology, enabling fuel-saving 4-cylinder operation.

###

Cadillac Escala Concept Basic Specifications

Model Escala Concept
Body Style 4-door expressive flagship sedan, with lift-back rear opening
Height 57.3 in / 1455 mm
Width 76.7 in / 1948 mm
Length 210.5 in / 5347 mm
Wheelbase 127.1 in / 3228
Engine 4.2-liter Twin Turbo V8

…See You Down The Road!

Pearl RearVision

Sometimes you see a commercial and you don’t even need to hear the full pitch. You see the product and get the gist of what it does and you want it because you know it fills a niche in your life. And then, you see the price and you know you will not have one…at least not THAT one.

That happened to me recently when I saw an ad on YouTube that really caught my attention. (As much as I despise those ads, every once in a while they work.) It was for a license plate surround with dual integrated backup cameras. The cool thing about the product was its solar charging built into the surround and lack of wires…along with a plug that goes into your car’s OBD socket and the requisite app to help get the most out of the product.

The company was founded by three former Apple employees who worked on the iPod and iPhone and are, as their web site explains, dedicated to making the same transformative change in the auto industry by delivering advanced, adaptive and continually improving driver assistance features to all 1.2 billion cars on the road.

 It’s a great concept for those of us who have an older vehicle that doesn’t have the backup camera or backup sensors. The app on your smartphone is what provides the view, a regular view and fishbowl view to better see around corners, and the OBD plug that links the cameras to your phone wirelessly.

 It all sounds so nice and simple. And you know what that means, it’s gonna cost you. Call it the Apple Tax but when you get something so complicated yet is supposed to work so simply, you know you’re going to have to pay extra for that.

Pearl RearVision, as it’s called, will set you back $500, which includes the camera frame, car adapter and a phone mount. The first catch is that your car has to be from 1996 or newer, since that is the year OBD II was mandated. The second catch is that you need either an iPhone 5 or newer along with iOS 9 or newer…or an Android phone that has Bluetooth 4.0 and Android 5.0 Lollipop or newer.

Granted, most who would want this tech on their car either have all of the above already or will be buying a new car with backup camera already installed. It seems that the market for this is quite small at the price they are seeking…but if they sell 10,000 units at $500 that’s $5 million. Not a bad payday as long as they didn’t have that much in research and development costs.

My opinion is that they will sell quite a few to tuners and people who think this will help make their cars safer for them to drive. But I think that the market will dry up fast if they don’t either drop the price or come out with a less expensive model.

I think it’s a great product. It seems very well designed and meets a need, at least for the next couple of years as the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has mandated backup cameras on all vehicles that weigh less than 5 tons beginning in May of 2018.

We’ll keep an eye on Pearl’s RearVision to see just how well it does.

… See You Down The Road!

Must…Have…Now

So Tesla will be producing much more than just a couple of awesome cars in the future, as laid out in a few tweets and blog post from Elon Musk, the president, founder, and all around billionaire guy who runs the company.

That blog post, entitled “Master Plan, Part Deux“, basically publicly outed how Tesla plans to move forward in its world domination of all things electric vehicle and technological awesomeness. And of course the Internets are all a flutter of what it all means.

To get you up to speed, the first part of Tesla’s electric world domination looked like this:

  1. Create a low volume car, which would necessarily be expensive: Tesla Roadster
  2. Use that money to develop a medium volume car at a lower price: Tesla Model S and X
  3. Use that money to create an affordable, high volume car: Tesla Model 3 (or III?)
    And…
  4. Provide solar power.

The next steps are:

  1. Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage: think on buses and other large vehicles
  2. Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments (emphasis mine)
  3. Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
  4. Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it

Number 4 is quite intriguing….make money by letting other people drive your car when you’re not. hmmm.

But what I want is the Tesla Minibus!!!!! Especially if it’s going to look anything like the render posted by Jalopnik:

tesla_minibus_render

Click the pic to head over to their site to see their write up.

2016 Dodge Dart GT (non-turbo)

041316_0153_2016DodgeDa1.jpgThe original Dart was a stylish (for the time) car but it was killed off in the mid-70s. The irony is that in its first few years of life the Dart was a full-size sedan. Its 3rd year brought something interesting; they shrank it, making it into a compact car…something that is pretty unheard of today!

041316_0153_2016DodgeDa2.jpgI was pretty sad when I heard that FCA was killing off the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200. They seemed like very well put together cars that were also stylish and fun to drive. But unfortunately, the car landscape is changing and with low gas prices all around people are buying more small or medium crossovers than passenger cars, not even taking pickups into consideration as the Ford F-150 is still the top selling vehicle in the US some 30+ years running. Another factor is ease of ingress/egress in today’s crossovers compared with small sedans and the amount of money car makers are putting into the small crossover realm.

2016 Dodge Dart
2016 Dodge Dart

The real shame is that FCA has that styling thing down pat. Good looks and sporting intentions abound in the lineup and the Dart is no slouch in either aspect. We got to drive a Dart in a closed-loop urban setting and were happily surprised with how well it handled and how nice the car actually is.

2016 Dodge Dart Limited
2016 Dodge Dart Limited

With plenty of power on tap from the start, we were able to get through city traffic with little effort and the suspension soaked up the bumps with ease.

Surprisingly quick and very comfortable. The interior is very nice and the instrument cluster is top-notch. Seriously, the design of these is crazy good.

2016 Dodge Dart GT
2016 Dodge Dart GT

Look to pick up one starting at $22095. Just hurry as the Dart is short on life these days.

2016 FIAT 500 Abarth

020516_2312_2016FIAT5001.jpg

The FIAT 500 is a small car with a big heart. That shows in its interior accommodations, at least in the front seats, as well as its fun-to-drive ratio. Like most other automakers who are looking to appeal to more customers on all levels, FIAT now (since the 2015 model year) offers a six-speed automatic transmission on the performance-oriented Abarth model, making the car accessible to more people than just high performance seeking enthusiasts.

020516_2312_2016FIAT5002.jpg

The trade off with having the automatic is a loss of 3 horsepower but a gain of 13 lb.-ft. of torque. What that means in the real world is that you’re really not going to feel a difference between the two versions. The nice thing is that the turbo should stay spooled up so that it should stay in the power band longer, giving the car more oomph (technical term).

2016 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio

For such a small car, the 500 Abarth handles rougher roads easily without a harsh ride. Also, the peppy engine makes getting around town fast and easy. Since I didn’t get a chance to take the 500 Abarth out on the open road I will not even speculate on how it handles on the interstate, except to say that small cars like this usually feel very skittish at highway speeds and with such a short wheelbase expect a lot of porpoising over road undulations and expansion joints.

020516_2308_2016FIAT5004.jpg

For 2016, the high end Abarth gets FCA’s UConnect system 5.0 which sports a 5-inch touch screen radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and integrated voice command to control it all. Couple that with the available BeatsAudio 368-watt six-speaker/subwoofer and DSP system and you’ve got one great-sounding ride with tunes from coast to coast.

For 2016, the high-performance Fiat 500 Abarth and Abarth Cabrio

There’s also a bunch of high-tech safety features to keep you safe and on the road. Some of the more than 35 safety and security features include seven standard airbags (including full-length side-curtain air bags, standard seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags and even one for the driver’s knee) and an Abarth-tuned three-mode Electronic Stability Control.

020516_2308_2016FIAT5006.jpg

The FIAT 500 Abarth starts just over $22,500 and goes up from there but you can easily keep it under $30k if you watch your options. Speaking of which, our test vehicle had a few options like that Aisin six-speed automatic transmission ($1350); premium leather-trimmed bucket seats ($1200); premium Italian stripe package by Mopar ($515); BeatsAudio ($700); and the comfort/convenience group ($975) and it was just under $28k! Drive the manual off the lot and you can see how much you’ll save ($1350) but you’ll also have so much more fun!

2017 FIAT 124 Spider

Soon there will be more to FIAT in North America than the 500. Recently announced at the LA Auto Show was the FIAT 124, a roadster based on the Mazda MX-5, but with the FIAT 1.4-liter MultiAir (read turbocharged) four cylinder putting out 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. The Mazda version has 155 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. out of a non-turbo 2.0-liter. That engine is the one found in the FIAT 500 Abarth and will likely turn the little car into a roadster rocket compared with the MX-5 due to the leap in torque. Here is the original 124 for comparison: And here is the new one: Why would someone take a Mazda MX-5 and slap some different sheetmetal on it to make it their own??? Especially someone as big and full of great cars like FIAT! Granted, it’s easier to bring a model to the US market that has already passed safety and emissions testing, and the MX-5 is perpetually lauded for its handling prowess, but this has the propensity to be either a boon for FIAT or a bust. That judgement will have to wait until that production vehicles make it here. We should all be grateful that the 124 can be had with either the wonderful six-speed manual or six-speed automatic found in the MX-5 So that’s the bad. The good is that the new 124 indeed looks like the original and this adaptation promises to be a wonderful performer and welcome addition to the FIAT portfolio in the US. On the safety front, the 124 has advanced features like adaptive front headlamps, blind-spot monitoring and a backup camera.