Month: March 2017

2018 Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster / GT C Roadster Driven: Beheaded But Little Changed ""

It’s not hard to get excited by a Mercedes-AMG sports car aimed at the Porsche 911. But it can be hard to wrap your head around the Mercedes-AMG GT lineup. First there was the GT S, which was followed by an entry-level, non-S GT. Then came the other bookend, the top-of-the-line GT R, and the race car, which gets no name at all beyond the class it sometimes competes in: Mercedes-AMG GT3. Then came the inevitable GT convertible, the GT C, which seemed to be positioned as the roadster complement to the GT S coupe—until it was announced that there will be a GT C coupe as well. There’s no word on an R convertible, although there will be a four-door model from AMG badged as a GT that almost certainly will be available in many, if not all, of the aforementioned trim levels. (When discussing these options with your spouse or financial manager, keep in mind that there are GT S and C coupes and convertibles, but Mercedes also makes S- and C-class coupes and convertibles, which cover a wide price range. Employ specifics and vagaries as necessary to obtain a blessing for your desired derivative.)

Irrational Pie

As confusing as all this can seem, it’s what you do when chasing the 911: You slice your pie thin and add so many layers, spinoffs, and special editions—the GT C’s first has already been announced—that it starts to resemble a pie five minutes after it was served to an unsupervised toddler. Or a model of the solar system that accounts for at least three more dimensions than the average human is cognizant of. Or the frenzied pursuit of money, money, money, money.

At any rate, we now have driven two more slices/branches/wormholes of the space-time pie: the GT roadster and GT C roadster. Weight gain compared with the coupes is minimal, just 110 or so pounds in the GT and only about 75 pounds in the C, according to Mercedes. A trunklid of carbon-fiber composite offsets some of the gain. The roadsters get additional bracing in the dashboard and the rear bulkhead, a rear tower brace, and reinforced sills. The result is a car that not once in our drive around central Arizona shuddered or otherwise reminded us it was a convertible, except when we realized our faces were assuming the texture of pork cracklins. Luckily, the top raises or lowers in just 11 seconds, at speeds up to 31 mph.

Hot Vee, Hot Stats

Both versions faithfully track their coupe siblings. For the GT, that means 469 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque from the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 routed to a rear-mounted seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transaxle. For the GT C, the eight pumps out 81 more horses—550 in total—and 502 lb-ft of torque. The C borrows quite a few pieces from the lunatic GT R coupe, much of it concentrated in the back half of the car. The C shares with the R its wider rear fenders, rear-steering system, taller first and shorter seventh gears, taller final-drive ratio, and electronically controlled limited-slip differential. It also borrows the grille shutters from the top dog’s front fascia and its dynamic engine and transmission mounts, which vary their stiffness, lessening it to isolate the occupants from the thrashing of the drivetrain’s mass or firming up to better control load transfer during aggressive driving.

Like the coupe, the AMG GT roadster is snug inside. Pop the hood and it’s easy to see why: The traditional AMG engine cover—signed by the engine builder, of course—is right there at the front of the bay. But on second glance, you realize that the cover isn’t actually concealing the engine. It covers the radiator and coolant-overflow tank, plus assorted hoses and ducting. The turbos poke up behind the cover, where the engine sits well aft of the front-axle centerline. Viewed as a whole, the actual engine and misplaced cover give the impression of a V-16 or something rather more exotic than a turbo V-8.

Not that the V-8 doesn’t generate plenty of excitement. The turbos dull its soundtrack somewhat, but the exhaust supplies plenty of pops on overrun, and the thrust is undeniable. Throttle mapping varies with the driving mode—Comfort, Sport, and Sport+, and a Race mode on the C—but even at its most relaxed, the engine’s response is immediate. Figure on the GT hitting 60 mph in just 3.2 or so seconds, with the C needing about 3.0 seconds. GT C drivers will appreciate that model’s simplified launch-control activation, whereby a traditional brake-torque approach—left foot on the brake, the right mashing the gas—frees the engine to rev to whatever speed the driver chooses using the shift paddles. Then just step out of the brake, the clutch dumps, and the car is gone.

Stuck Like Glue

That rearward positioning of the engine does wonders for the GT’s handling, which is simply stupefying. The GT is imperturbable, constantly goading its driver to enter corners faster, accelerate earlier and harder, and brake later. The stoppers are firm, progressive, and tireless. And the GT is daringly neutral, particularly with the C’s rear steering—which adds up to 1.5 degrees of toe either in phase with the front wheels above 62 mph or opposite them at lower speeds. A lighter lithium-ion battery and a magnesium radiator support shift the C’s weight distribution rearward. Locating the occupants so far aft in the body amplifies the sensation of rotation, although neither car ever feels out of sorts. And while the GT C offers additional levels of damper firmness—and its most aggressive setting is notably stiffer than both its and the GT’s default mode—none is ever harsh. It is an effective apex duster and a comfortable tourer. You’d better pack light, however, as the trunk is fairly tight and there’s little interior storage. In terms of people space, the GT lands between the Jaguar F-type on the low end and the roomier 911.

Both versions of the GT roadster will be in U.S. dealers by this fall, but Mercedes has yet to announce pricing for either. Figure on the entry-level car starting around $135,000 and the C reaching into the $160Ks. At least in the financial sense, the hierarchy is clear.

Solid-State Batteries Make Strides in the Charge toward the Future of EVs ""

Solid-State Battery Illustration

Solid-State Battery Illustration

The electric car’s role in the future is assured by today’s race among General Motors, Hyundai, Nissan, Tesla, and others to advance range and affordability. With a rising number of startup challengers, these automakers agree that winning depends on making the electric car’s engine—its battery pack—cheaper, lighter, smaller, safer, and longer-lasting.

The current lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have buried previous lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride designs, but there’s fervent interest in alternatives to the Li-ion concept that Exxon, of all entities, patented in 1976.

Earlier this decade, a startup enterprise called Sakti3, working in deep secrecy one building away from Car and Driver’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, headquarters, quietly began touting a solid-state lithium-ion battery that eliminates the normal liquid electrolyte to improve energy density and safety while shortening recharge times and, potentially, lowering manufacturing costs. British inventor and consumer-electronics manufacturer James Dyson was so convinced that his firm bought Sakti3 for more than $100 million in 2015.

Various universities, research organizations, and automakers including Toyota also are targeting solid-state manufacturing, where a lithium-ion battery is created layer by layer through vapor deposition—the methodology long used to construct computer chips. At the University of Texas at Austin, research fellow Maria Helena Braga is eager to patent a battery using a solid-glass electrolyte in combination with an inexpensive sodium anode. Along with three times the energy density of today’s lithium-ion batteries, Braga’s new formulation has demonstrated 1200 charge-discharge cycles and successful operation below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery

John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery

John Goodenough, 94, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery.

On the surface, this sounds like one of countless pursuits with a slim chance of discovering gold at the end of a long rainbow. What makes Braga’s endeavor especially interesting is her mentor: Professor John Goodenough, who has been active in the lithium-ion field for four decades. Most significant, Goodenough created the breakthrough in this field—a viable lithium-cobalt-oxide cathode—in 1980 while in residence at Oxford University. In 1991, Sony added a carbon anode to that concept to commercialize the first lithium-ion batteries for use in cameras.

At 94, Goodenough visits his laboratory daily to work with Braga, whose solid-state-battery research began at the University of Porto in Portugal. A growing cadre of electric-car enthusiasts, developers, and manufacturers is rooting for their success.

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Electrified Audi RS Models Will Happen, But Not until They’re As Good As Regular Versions ""

Audi RS badge

Audi RS badge

While he admits that creating cars that can cut consumption and hit increasingly tough emission standards is at the top of his list of priorities, Audi Sport boss Stephan Winkelmann believes pure-electric RS models are still some way off.

Electric-vehicle development at Audi has been on and off enough times to tempt us into a light-switch metaphor. As an example, the company axed the R8 e-tron project before bringing it back and putting it into very limited production before killing it for good. Winkelmann says that performance EVs will definitely happen and that Audi Sport will be developing them alongside conventional RS models, but that they won’t arrive on the market until they can satisfy the requirements of a typical owner.

“It is not too easy,” he admitted, when we spoke to him at the recent launch of the RS3 sedan, “because of the weight, because of acceleration, because of range. It’s clear we want to be part of it, but it’s also clear we can’t be the first ones inside [Audi] AG, that’s not what we’re aiming for. We are also pretty sure that you cannot compare the best of the combustion engines of today with the first electric cars of tomorrow.”

So it sounds as though Audi will lead and then Audi Sport will follow, with Winkelmann hinting that this holds true for hybrids as well as pure EVs. He said forthcoming European emission standards are going to be extremely tough to beat with conventional cars and described the new RS5’s more efficient V-6 as “a step, but it won’t be sufficient for the cars of the future.”

Whatever the future holds, Winkelmann said, Audi Sport’s lineup will always be the pinnacle of the model range: “Performance is at the heart of everything we do, now and in the future.”


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Groovy, Baby! Jaguar Puts the E-type Back into Production (Sort Of) ""

JDX_Reborn_1366x650_Desktop_tcm76-362982_desktop_1366x650

Here’s apparent proof that somebody at Jaguar Land Rover is a massive Austin Powers fan. The fictional secret agent/playboy came out of cryogenic hibernation in the late 1990s after 30 years in stasis to discover that women had acquired rights and that free love had got expensive. But also that his Union flag–painted Jaguar E-type—a.k.a. the Shaguar—had remained unchanged.

Now Jaguar is trying a similar time-traveling trick with the E-type, announcing it will be the latest product of its factory-restored Reborn program, with 10 remanufactured Series 1 versions set to be sold by the company’s Jaguar Classic division. Let’s just hope that at least one buyer orders a roadster with the full Rule Britannia paint scheme. Oh, behave!

We’ve been here before, of course. First with the “continuation” Lightweight E-types that Jaguar made using a bunch of chassis plates that it had (pretty much literally) found sitting in a drawer at its Browns Lane factory. And then with Reborn versions of both the Land Rover Series 1 and, just recently, the first-generation Range Rover.

The arrival of the E-type effectively confirms that this will be a continuing trend as the company moves through its back catalog, although we imagine it will stop some way short of bringing us factory-freshened versions of the X-type sedan or the first Land Rover Discovery. As with the Land Rover and the Range Rover Classic, the E-type will be a restoration rather than a re-creation, with appropriate donor vehicles sourced and then completely restored to original factory standards.

The first car to go through the program is the one you see here, a gray 1965 4.2 coupe that originally was exported to California and only covered 78,000 miles before being stored in 1983. The body shell, engine, and gearbox have all been rebuilt by the Jaguar Classic team using period-appropriate parts and techniques.

For those wanting to cheat slightly, we’re told that it will be possible to incorporate “sympathetic upgrades from later E-types” including an all-synchromesh gearbox or more powerful Series 2 front calipers, but Jaguar won’t be slotting in any unacceptably modern updates—so don’t ask for power steering or any audio system beyond a bitchin’ eight-track. The company says that the level of attention to detail will include “re-creating the correct type of spot welding” when attaching panels.

Unsurprisingly, this won’t come cheap. While the Reborn E-types won’t approach the seven-figure price of the continuation Lightweights, buyers will have to find a minimum of $350,000 at current exchange rates, before appropriate taxes. Values of early E-types have been rising for years, but that’s still enough to make the nearly $170,000 charged for the Reborn Range Rover look like a relative bargain. We also discovered that one of the original Shaguars used in the first Austin Powers movie was offered on eBay for just $59,900 back in 2010.

So, as the man himself would ask, does it make you horny, baby?

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Jaguar-E-Type-REEL

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Proposed Regulatory Changes Mean Electric Cars Could Face a Dirtier Future ""

BMW i3 Nissan Leaf

BMW i3 Nissan Leaf

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under the leadership of administrator Scott Pruitt, is reopening the review of 2022–2025 standards that had been closed by the previous EPA administration ahead of the original timeline. While that alone could affect the future market—and automakers’ research and development decisions for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids—there’s another dark cloud hanging on the electric-car horizon: Plug-in vehicles of all kinds are bound to be a little bit dirtier over their lifetime than they might have been.

That’s because electric cars are only as clean as the electricity used to charge them. With the expected dissolution of the Clean Power Plan, after an EPA review initiated by President Trump’s “energy independence” executive order this week, it’s likely that some states could take considerably longer to clean up their power generation. There would no longer be an assumption that all states would work to wean themselves from coal and toward renewable sources and natural gas.

The EPA previously said of the Clean Power Plan that it “establishes the foundation of long-term clean energy investments that will ensure the reliability of our electric grid, maintain affordability for consumers, and establish the U.S. as a leader in addressing climate change.” It aims to cut pollution from the power sector by 32 percent by 2030 and sets carbon-pollution standards across the nation in which it says “all gas and coal-/oil-fired plants are treated fairly.” That allows states to take different approaches depending on their current energy mix.

In Some States, an EV Could Spend a Lifetime Rolling Coal, Sort of

Over the compliance period that goes from 2022 to 2030—a period that would coincide with the tougher 2022–2025 federal vehicle regulations that would incentivize more plug-in vehicles (although not require them as California does)—the EPA says the plan “helps avoid long-lasting changes to our climate caused by carbon pollution.” Through the often squishy math that’s used to affect policy, total costs are $8.4 billion, and the agency estimates $34 million to $54 million in benefits, including reductions in deaths, hospitalizations, and missed work and/or school days.

Simply put, EVs get cleaner as the electricity they’re charging with becomes cleaner, which was to be a secondary benefit of the Clean Power Plan’s revamping of power generation and the grid. It’s one of the signature pieces of policy from the particularly EV-friendly Obama administration. Under Pruitt, a reemphasis on coal and fossil fuels could quash the improvement in some of the states that arguably need it most—leaving electric vehicles charged in those states only marginally better than most gasoline models for overall carbon emissions.

The states that depend most heavily on coal, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, are West Virginia, Kentucky, and Wyoming, while states that rely heavily on hydroelectric (Washington, Idaho, Oregon) or even nuclear (New Jersey, Connecticut) power lie at the opposite end of the pollution scale and thus have a cleaner grid to plug into.

EPA administrator Pruitt made a telling comment recently that served to underscore the level of regulatory change that could be on the way. He contradicted information on his agency’s own website, saying that he believed carbon dioxide not to be a primary contributor to global warming.

The Fox Guarding the Henhouse?

The Senate confirmed Pruitt’s appointment last month to the lead position at an agency that he had been combating for much of the time in his role as Oklahoma attorney general. Pruitt has previously joined attorneys representing 27 states to allege that the EPA had overstepped its Clean Air Act authority.

Unsurprisingly, the appointment of Pruitt has garnered some strong reactions from environmental groups. The executive director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune, said that Pruitt was unfit to serve in the role and that putting him in the position is “like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.” The League of Conservation Voters likened Pruitt running the EPA to “the fox guarding the henhouse.” The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said, “Since becoming Oklahoma’s top legal officer in 2011, Pruitt has sued the EPA to stop vital protections for public health—including standards for reducing soot and smog pollution that crosses interstate lines; protections against emissions of mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and other toxic pollutants from power plants; and standards to improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas. Each time he failed.”

EPA emissions laboratories

There’s already been a regulatory row in the making, as the Obama-era EPA, under Gina McCarthy, jumped ahead of a public comment period and made a proposed determination—a politically charged maneuver, by most interpretations—citing “robust technical analysis” that greenhouse-gas-based standards for cars and light trucks through 2025 remain in place. The Global Automakers association, a group that represents 12 foreign-owned automakers, had asked for the action to be withdrawn for a normal timeline and policy review.

Another Type of California Fault Line

A federal government that reduces its regulation of carbon emissions or pulls back on targets could create a major rift pitting the 10 states that follow California’s Air Resources Board ZEV mandate against the rest of the nation. The auto industry has been moving rapidly toward electrification over the past few years, with current trajectories showing estimates of plug-in-vehicle (pure EV and plug-in hybrid) sales reaching more than a million by 2024.

While reopening the review of fuel-economy standards (and relaxing future fleet regulations) will likely be relatively easy, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will take longer to unravel. It’s currently under a court stay and might not be completely resolved until 2018. Pruitt may end up overseeing a U.S. energy landscape with more energy independence, cleaner energy, and, perhaps, lower gas prices and kilowatt-hour rates. But it’s likely there won’t be nearly as much rapid change happening under the hood of the vehicles on the market.

 

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Hail to the Chief: Jeep Quietly Releases Wrangler Chief and Smoky Mountain Limited Editions ""

2017-Jeep-Wrangler-Chief-PLACEMENT

Two years ago, Jeep teased us with its Chief SUV concept. Created for the 49th Easter Jeep Safari, the retro Wrangler-based concept bore a distinct resemblance to the classic Cherokee Chief and wore a slick two-tone paint job. 

Although the Chief remains a concept, the blue-and-white SUV’s essential style lives on in the new 2017 Jeep Wrangler Chief. Available in one of three colors (including Chief Blue), every Chief includes a white hardtop and white graphics that travel from the bottom of the hood through the tops of the doors. Chief badging on the fenders and a kitschy “4 Wheel Drive” graphic on the rear gate complete the Chief’s throwback look.

Pricing for the Chief starts at $35,540 for the two-door model and $39,340 for the four-door Unlimited. Both come standard with a six-speed manual transmission connected to their 285-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine, although a five-speed automatic is available for $1400. Although the Chief is currently available at Jeep dealerships, we’re told the brand has plans to formally debut the model at the upcoming New York auto show.

2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Chief

Along with the Chief, Jeep has also added the Smoky Mountain edition to the 2017 Wrangler lineup. Like the Chief, the Smoky Mountain is offered in either two- or four-door form and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission.

Where the Chief is an ode to nostalgia, though, the Smoky Mountain is styled for modernity. A set of gloss black 18-inch wheels, trim-specific hood graphics, and gloss black accents on the front and rear bumpers, headlights, and the classic seven-slot grille help the special-edition model stand out from the rest of the Wrangler herd. The two-door Wrangler Smoky Mountain starts at $35,440, with the four-door Unlimited model going for $3800 more.

2017-Jeep-Wrangler-Chief-REEL


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2017 Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro Long-Term Intro: A 10Best Winner Comes to Stay ""

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2017 Audi Q7

Long-Term Road Test Intro

Bread and butter never tasted better.

The last time an Audi Q7 occupied a spot in our long-term fleet was more than five years ago. That’s when a first-generation 2011 Audi Q7 TDI came into our lives, equipped with a torque-rich, turbocharged diesel 3.0-liter V-6.

No longer offered with a diesel engine (thanks to the Volkswagen Group’s emissions scandal), the new Q7 is available with one of two powerplants: a 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four or a 333-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, the latter of which powers our long-term 2017 Q7. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels. Despite lacking a miserly TDI option, the Q7 posts EPA ratings of 20 mpg city and 25 mpg highway with the base four-cylinder and 19/25 mpg with the V-6. Both powertrains best our old TDI’s 17-mpg city rating and tie its 25-mpg highway figure.

Credit for the Q7’s improved fuel economy can be partially attributed to an old trick from the Lotus playbook: adding lightness. Extensive use of aluminum in the new Audi’s unibody construction results in a claimed weight savings of more than 700 pounds. Our scales recorded a more modest weight loss of 265 pounds between our 2017 long-termer and the last previous-gen, gasoline-fueled Q7 we tested. Compare our new 3.0T model with our old TDI, though, and the weight disparity more than doubles, with 602 pounds separating the two.

Although still hefty at 5085 pounds, the new Q7 is surprisingly fleet on its feet. Solid dynamics, Audi’s well-executed MMI infotainment system, and a cabin fitted with top-notch materials helped the latest Q7 quickly capture attention during our 10Best Trucks and SUVs testing, with the model taking home the top prize in the mid-size luxury SUV segment. That made a 40,000-mile shakedown a natural next step.

Our top-spec, Prestige model includes niceties such as LED headlights, a 360-degree-view monitor, navigation, a touchpad for the MMI infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, heated and cooled front seats, four-zone automatic climate control, and Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit TFT display screen in the gauge cluster.

We added a host of items to our Graphite Gray Metallic Q7, including the $4000 Adaptive Chassis package, which brings a variable-ride-height air-spring suspension and four-wheel steering, and the $2400 Driver Assistance package consisting of adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams, automated emergency braking, and a lane-keeping assist system.

Our Midwest home base practically necessitated the $500 Cold Weather bundle, which includes a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, and our plans to use a significant portion of the Q7’s available 7700-pound towing capacity mandated that we check the box for the $550 Towing package and another for a seven-pin connector for trailer lights ($125). A cargo cover, floor mats, pre-wiring for a rear-seat entertainment system, and a pair of USB cables for charging our phones tacked on an additional $755.

Finally, we dropped $1500 for the admittedly superficial Titanium-Black Optic package, consisting of a blacked-out grille, window surrounds, and roof rails, as well as 21-inch 10-spoke wheels wearing Continental ContiSportContact 5 summer tires. Even on this largest-wheel option, the air-sprung Q7’s ride quality is impressively refined.

Before we swapped out the Continentals for a set of winter-ready Pirellis, we had the opportunity to test the Q7 on its stickier stock rubber. The Q7 clung to the 300-foot skidpad with an eye-widening 0.90 g of grip. Hauling this big SUV down from 70 mph required only 155 feet. To put that in perspective, our 2324-pound long-term Mazda Miata pulled 0.88 g on the skidpad and needed 158 feet of roadway for a 70-mph stop.

Less stellar were our Q7’s acceleration times. While a zero-to-60-mph time of 6.3 seconds and a quarter-mile of 14.7 seconds at 96 mph are nothing to scoff at, a similar 2017 Q7 3.0T we previously tested was quicker to 60 by 0.8 second and through the quarter-mile by 0.5, with a trap speed 3 mph higher. We’ll see whether those figures improve once our Q7 turns 40,000 miles. Our Audi’s passing performance proved commendable right out of the box, with the quick-shifting eight-speed automatic making the most of the engine’s 325 lb-ft of torque and rocketing the all-wheel-drive crossover from 30 to 50 mph in 3.0 seconds flat and from 50 to 70 mph in 4.4 seconds.

With no major long-haul trips undertaken yet, our observed fuel economy of 19 mpg is 2 mpg below the EPA’s combined figure. We expect fuel mileage to rise as this comfortable and competent seven-seat cruiser starts traveling farther afield.

Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 3624 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 19 mpg Fuel Tank Size: 22.5 gal Fuel Range: 420 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0

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Shelby GT350 Owners Sue Ford for Overheating on the Track ""

2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

Three owners of the 2016 Shelby GT350 have sued Ford for what they claim are warranty violations and deceptive advertising after their cars allegedly overheated on the track.

This may seem like a far-fetched claim, but the law firm behind it is none other than Hagens Berman, which successfully won $1.6 billion from Toyota for its floor mats, sued General Motors for at least $350 million over defective ignition switches, and most recently sued Mercedes-Benz and Fiat Chrysler for allegedly violating emissions laws on diesel models. The Shelby lawsuit, filed earlier this month in a Florida federal court, says that the 2016 GT350 is “not fit for track use due to defective transmissions and rear differentials that cannot keep cool enough to function without external transmission and rear differential coolers.” The plaintiffs are a Miami surgeon and his wife, a medical investigator; a Los Angeles lawyer; and an owner in Texas. Hagens Berman estimates there are several thousand more GT350 owners who could potentially join the class-action lawsuit.

At issue is the 2016 GT350 in base trim or equipped with the Technology package, both of which were not and could not be equipped with coolers for the engine oil, rear differential, and transmission as on the Track and R packages. The lawsuit—and what appear to be a handful, if not dozens, of owners without factory coolers posting on Mustang forums and YouTube—alleges that these cars overheat quickly, sometimes in as little as 20 minutes, when driven hard on the racetrack. The cars then revert into a limp-home mode that limits speed and engine revs. The lawsuit claims that since Ford advertised all GT350 models as “track ready” and employed features such as a Track mode, the cars were “defective,” “dangerous” to other drivers on the track, and caused owners costly repairs, which it did not specify. It also claims that Ford would not honor warranty claims caused from the overheating and that the company recommended owners install an aftermarket pump on its Ford Performance transmission cooler kit it later offered, which could technically violate the warranty. Both parties refused to provide comment or background information.

2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R

2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R

For the 2017 model year, Ford made the Track package standard, meaning that all GT350 models now include a full complement of coolers. While Hagens Berman claims these changes are an admission of the earlier car’s defects, in a July 2015 supplement for the owner’s manual Ford explicitly referenced that the base and Technology-package cars could have reduced performance in track driving. “Your vehicle is capable of sustained high speeds and track-day driving if equipped with powertrain coolers (Track, R model),” the supplement read. “For sustained high speeds or track-day use with a Base or Tech model, we recommend that transmission and differential coolers are added. Your vehicle has electronic controls to reduce power and/or limit RPM to reduce powertrain temperatures if required.” In a separate promotional brochure for the 2016 GT350, Ford wrote that it offered “five different package levels, for different performance demands and purposes.”

Without knowing how these GT350 owners maintained or drove their cars, in general, track driving is one of those things nobody likes to take responsibility for in standard contracts. Insurance policies and automaker warranties typically don’t cover accidents or damage done on a private circuit. It’s typically on the owner’s dime if anything happens out there, regardless of how the car was equipped. We’ll have to see whether a judge decides if the GT350 case has any merit.

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How to Make Your Car Last Longer in Four Easy Steps ""

GettyImages-534255890(1)

GettyImages-534255890(1)

Every driver knows the importance of oil changes and routine maintenance to help keep any car ticking, and air filters clog, brake pads wear out, and serpentine belts stretch as the miles add up. Usually there are warning signs that let you know something is off, but there could be things you’re doing—or not doing—that will shorten your car’s life span.

If you’re the type of driver who wants to keep your car for as long as possible, these are the four things you need to know.

1. Keep It Clean

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1487370537-screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-52831-pm

Washing your car does more than make it look nice. It aids longevity by cleaning away contaminants that cause corrosion. Paint protects your car’s body panels from the elements, but the underside has it rough as it’s continually exposed to water, dirt, and grime that form rust. That’s why it’s especially important to wash your car during the winter when there is salt on the road. Road salt keeps the pavement free from ice but is notorious for eating holes straight through metal parts. Most cars have drainage points so rust-causing water can drip out, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to give it a good wash every so often.

2. Lighten Up

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gallery-1487370828-image8

Colin Chapman, creator of the legendary Lotus sports-car brand, summed up his engineering philosophy as “simplify, then add lightness.” What he meant is that the less a car weighs, the better it will drive. If you have kids to shuttle to school, materials to haul to a job site, or outdoor gear to take to the trail, you probably don’t drive a lightweight sports coupe. Still, Chapman’s words apply even if you have a minivan, pickup, or SUV.

The more a car weighs, the harder the engine, transmission, brakes, and suspension have to work. While cars are designed to carry extra weight, over the long term any unnecessary strain will take miles off its life. So remove excess stuff and only drive with the essentials. If nothing else, you’ll get a few extra miles per gallon out of it.

3. Start Slow

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Between breakfast, cleaning up, and checking your online life, it’s always a rush to get out the door in the morning. When you finally hop in your car, you drive off right away hoping to beat traffic. However, like you, your car needs time to get ready to roll when it has been resting for a while. After a few hours of sitting, motor oil cools and sinks to the bottom. When you fire up your car, the oil pump distributes oil through the engine, but it takes time for all the parts to get lubricated.

Driving immediately after startup increases friction between engine components, wearing them out faster. Let your car idle for 30 to 60 seconds after you start it to allow the oil to get up to temperature and flow through the engine. Waiting a minute for this to happen prolongs your engine’s life span, but if you absolutely must hit the road, drive gently for the first mile or two.

4. Floor It

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Most cars redline at above 6000 rpm, but in everyday driving, it’s not often that you crest even half that. Modern drivetrains are programmed to keep engine revolutions low in the name of efficiency, and while it’s indisputable that high-rpm driving burns fuel faster and increases strain on components, it’s actually good for the engine to run through its rpm range on occasion. This helps clean out carbon deposits that can foul the valves, throttle body, intake manifold, and the combustion chamber itself.

Untreated carbon buildups can cause misfires, reduce performance, and require extensive work to clean. Prevent carbon gunk building up in your engine by letting it reach the redline every few hundred miles. Never do this unless the engine is fully warmed up, and you’re somewhere safe, like merging onto the freeway. Yes, it will waste some gas, but it’s an easy way to make your engine last longer.



Even if you take great care of your car, parts are bound to wear out and need replacement eventually. When that happens, don’t skimp on paying for a qualified mechanic to make repairs with high-quality components. Using cheap parts or ignore your car’s maintenance needs is only going to damage it in the long run, and investing in repairs is almost always going to be less expensive than buying a new car.

If you want to make your car last longer, keeping it maintained is a guaranteed way to do it.

This story originally appeared on Popular Mechanics.

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2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI Tested: Simply the Best ""

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: The Volkswagen Golf GTI is as fun to drive as many sports cars, as comfortable as many luxury sedans, and as spacious as many small SUVs. It really is the whole package. As Mary Poppins would say, it’s practically perfect in every way.

And the GTI’s Sport trim level, which is new for 2017, just may be the ideal version of this ideal car. It bundles the GTI’s most desirable optional content into one handy trim level that starts at $28,815. For that price, you get the iconic plaid fabric upholstery, bixenon headlights, attractive 18-inch wheels, an upgraded touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and proximity entry with push-button start.

The Sport also comes standard with the Performance package, meaning it’s the least expensive way to get the 10-hp bump up to 220 horsepower, as well as a limited-slip differential and larger brakes. Honestly, we’re not sure why anyone would pay extra for the SE or Autobahn trim levels, unless you’re dead set on getting VW’s active-safety features, leather seats, and a Fender audio system.

Cheap Speed

Equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission, our test GTI Sport sprinted from zero to 60 mph in a brisk 5.9 seconds, just 0.1 second behind a GTI manual we tested in 2014. The optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic ($1100 extra) makes for even quicker times—we tested one at 5.6 seconds—and is one of the few automatic transmissions that presents a strong case against opting for the manual. The DSG’s quick shifts are satisfying, although the stick shift—replete with a dimpled, golf-ball-like shift knob—ups the GTI’s engagement factor. The manual’s long clutch travel, which becomes annoying in traffic, is the only downside.

Volkswagen’s turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four is getting on in years, but its 258 lb-ft of torque still comes on strong and early. It’s smooth, too, and has a pleasant exhaust note that’s slightly aggressive without being obnoxious. Tall gearing means you don’t have to shift all that often, as the engine’s broad torque band makes the car feel responsive even when loping along on the highway in sixth gear. On top of all that, it’s remarkably efficient. Our observed average of 27 mpg falls just 1 mpg short of the EPA’s combined rating, impressive for a performance-oriented car in our lead-footed, er, hands.

The GTI’s chassis is as accomplished as its engine. This car makes it easy to get into a rhythm through the corners thanks to light and accurate steering, along with taut suspension tuning that limits body roll. And yet, the ride is more compliant than you’ll find in most of the GTI’s sport-compact competitors—it’s firm and composed, like you’d expect to find in a luxury sports sedan.

Well-Rounded Box

We’re not sure which is more impressive: that a car this fun to drive can offer a hugely practical interior package, or that a car this spacious can be so dynamically satisfying. The boxy hatchback silhouette that has been a Golf staple for decades affords a capacious cargo area—23 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 53 cubes with the rear seats folded, or nearly as much as VW’s own Tiguan small SUV. The GTI’s rear-seat accommodations are top-notch for this class thanks to well-sculpted seat cushions and a clear view out the side windows.

Not that the driver and front passenger get the short end of the stick. The front seats are nicely bolstered, and large glass areas make for excellent visibility. High-quality plastics abound, and assembly quality is unimpeachable. Volkswagen installed a newer infotainment system in 2016, and it’s well organized and easy to use, whether you’re using the native interface or an integrated smartphone.

If you’re waiting for the catch, prepare to be disappointed. In our eyes, the Golf GTI has no significant flaws and that kept it on our 10Best Cars list for 2017. Some of us find its boxy styling too bland, but no one actually calls its ugly. You won’t find another car for less than $30,000 that so deftly combines practicality and driving enjoyment while also feeling like a premium piece.