Month: May 2017

It Seems the Honda Civic Type R Will Cost $10,000 More Than the Civic Si ""


Honda hasn’t released official pricing information for the new Civic Type R, but a photo of the 306-hp hatchback’s window sticker is giving us our first glimpse of what consumers can expect to fork over in order to get their hands on the keys to Honda’s hottest hatch.

Insight into the Civic Type R’s starting price was originally posted on in a photograph that reportedly came directly from the lens of a Baltimore port worker whose job is to affix a Monroney sticker to each freshly shipped Civic Type R’s rear window. With a pictured cost of entry of $34,775, the Type R bears a $10,000 price margin over the sporty, 205-hp Civic Si coupe and sedan. Every 2017 Civic Type R will be a top-of-the-line Touring model and will come with a long list of standard convenience items including a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, a push-button start system, and LED headlights and taillights.

2017 Honda Civic Type R

Of course, if you’re looking at forking over the cash for a Civic Type R, then the aforementioned luxury items ought to mean little compared to the car’s slew of performance features, which include a powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a slick six-speed manual transmission, a limited-slip differential, big Brembo front brake calipers gripping 13.8-inch cross-drilled front rotors, and a three-mode adaptive damping system. Other noteworthy items include 20-inch wheels wrapped in Continental SportContact 6 summer tires, a massive rear wing, and a funky exhaust system that boasts a trio of tailpipes.

That’s a lot of bang for the buck, and, if the pricing featured on this Civic Type R Monroney holds true, then Honda’s most powerful new Civic will start some $2220 less than the 350-hp Ford Focus RS and $5420 less than the 292-hp Volkswagen Golf R. Even better, a base Civic Type R with an even lower price is a rumored addition for the 2018 model year. We note that the window sticker says the vehicle is going to a dealership near our Michigan headquarters, so we’ll keep a keen eye out for it.




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Apparition Acquisition: Rolls-Royce Conjures Seven Historic Phantoms to Welcome All-New Phantom VIII ""

1927 Rolls Royce Phantom

The eighth-generation Rolls-Royce Phantom is set to appear in late July in England. And although a phantom by the traditional definition is a ghostly entity that is seen, heard, or sensed but has no physical reality, such has never characterized any of the Phantoms produced by Rolls-Royce over the last 92 years. Indeed, Rolls-Royce is doing everything it can to ensure that its newest Phantom not only will be seen, heard, and sensed once its physical reality is manifest, but that each of the previous seven generations is recognized. Hence, the company has embarked on a global dragnet operation aimed at conjuring one notable spirit to represent each of the Phantom’s preceding iterations as the world welcomes number eight.

By “notable,” think Phantoms of particular fame and notoriety, such as John Lennon’s psychedelic Phantom V, the Phantom III that belonged to Field Marshal Bernard “Monty” Montgomery, and a Phantom II that the company built for India’s maharaja.

“What we wanted to do was find seven Phantoms that represent the history of what Rolls-Royce has meant to society, not just the car world,” explains Gerry Spahn, head of communications for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in North America.

1927 Rolls Royce Phantom

The first Phantom to be snatched by these most gallant of ghostbusters is, fittingly, a massive Phantom I once owned by Fred Astaire. It is currently in the care of the Margie and Robert E. Petersen collection that is housed at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Built in 1927, the car was sold to Astaire by its original owner, with the actor commissioning New York coachbuilder J.S. Inskip in 1932 to tailor the car with certain features to reflect the style of the 1930s.

These new features included more enveloping fenders, scalloped door fillets, art deco–themed rear turn signals, and specially designed, spearlike door handles. The chauffeur’s quarters are upholstered in dark-green leather, while the passenger cabin is awash in light-green brocade and equipped with his-and-her vanity kits, flasks (of course), and two walking sticks—one capped by a small telescope and another with opera glasses.

Interactions with the chauffeur would be facilitated by a sliding glass partition or a “speaking tube” that exited near the chap’s right ear. Cantilevered off the back is one of the car’s coolest features, we think: a rare Louis Vuitton motoring trunk currently displayed with objects Astaire presumably would want to always have on hand, such as a top hat, leather gloves, a white bow tie, a black cane (with cigarette lighter), a two-person picnic set, and dancing shoes of both the ballroom and tap varieties.

1927 Rolls Royce Phantom

Astaire owned the car until 1950, and its present owners had it refurbished to its period-correct style, including the dark, Brewster Green body with black fenders and a black leather roof.

“We came in last year and saw this car . . . and it just made a lot of sense to us,” said Spahn. “The United States has always been a preeminent market for Rolls-Royce. This is the place where people have loved to have beautiful things, and . . . the Phantom has been a big part of that, whether you’re a movie star, whether you’re a business person, actor, singer, whatever you might be. Fred [Astaire] was definitely transcendent around the world. He was a dancer, an actor, and a social trendsetter . . . a Hollywood playboy,” Spahn said. “And the Phantom was definitely a car for him.”

By the time you read this, the Fred Astaire Phantom I will be in the process of being shipped back to England—or flown, rather, we’re told—soon to be joined by examples of Phantoms II through VII at one giant historic baby shower. As for the upcoming Phantom VIII, we don’t know much (except that it won’t be an SUV), but one thing is for sure: It has some mighty shoes to fill.




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2017 Range Rover Sport Supercharged V-8 Tested: Go-Anywhere Luxury ""

Range Rover–branded vehicles debuted in America 30 years ago with an SUV that hadn’t changed much since it went on sale elsewhere in the world in 1970. It finally landed in the colonies roughly concurrent with the first Japanese luxury cars from Lexus and Infiniti, and half a dozen years before anything wearing the badge of parent company Land Rover.

Iconic styling, extreme off-road capability, a premium price, and a penchant for popping up on Hollywood Boulevard have given the name clout and status-symbol cachet nearly unmatched in the SUV universe. From the initial eponymous offering, the Range Rover badge spread to the smaller Range Rover Sport and compact Evoque, as well as the new-for-2018 Velar, but always with a consistently upper-crusty tone.

This proliferation has even extended to model lines, with the mid-size Range Rover Sport itself offered in seven different trim levels. The base SE with a supercharged gas V-6 opens the pricing at $66,645 (the SE with a turbo-diesel V-6 is $68,645), while the 550-hp supercharged V-8 SVR bookends the range at $112,345. But the SVR is not the premier vehicle in the lineup, if we’re to believe Land Rover; the flagship Sport, the company says, is the $95,445 Autobiography, which has a 510-hp version of the same supercharged V-8 and its own stylish exterior features and interior accoutrements. We tested a Range Rover Sport Autobiography listed at $111,837 after options.

Personal Space

Range Rover’s Autobiography label adds some heft to its already hefty SUVs; on the 2017 Sport model we tested, it brought perforated leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, three-zone automatic climate control, 16-way power heated and cooled front seats with memory, dynamic stability control, xenon headlamps, a special headliner, an 825-watt Meridian sound system, and dark aluminum interior accents. (These all are upgrades from the midrange Supercharged Dynamic trim.)

The $695 Corris Grey paint scheme lent our test vehicle a dramatic, shadow-lurking vibe, which was enhanced by the blacked-out roof, the $1700 Stealth package that adds dark-satin exterior accents, and the $1800 22-inch satin-black wheels. Even without this look, the Sport is one of the best-looking vehicles, SUV or not, but we definitely dug this particular configuration. Our Sport also had the $4450 1700-watt Meridian audio system, the $900 Climate Comfort package (four-zone automatic climate control and a center console cooler), the $1600 Drive Pro package (adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist), the $650 tow package, $400 Advanced Tow Assist, a $1300 head-up display, $900 Park Assist, $800 18-way massaging front seats, a $537 Protection package, and a $310 full-size spare wheel. The one major upgrade left off was the $2200 Rear Seat Entertainment package with 10-inch screens attached to back of the front-seat headrests.

Yet, even with all the trimmings and the rich leather smell, it made a somewhat tepid first impression. The Sport greeted us with a black infotainment screen for about 30 seconds after our initial startup. Once that was resolved, further electronic wonkiness occurred when a Bluetooth phone conversation became garbled, then cleared up, then abruptly ended when communication was handed off to our phone. When it’s functioning right, the system is cleanly designed and ergonomically friendly.

The interior is filled with quality materials and has the premium look and feel of all Range Rover Sports, but given the Autobiography label and $100,000 price tag, we felt slightly let down. The buttery soft leather was wrinkled and slack in places on the rear seats, where there was a conspicuous lack of USB ports. The front seats were stiff, and the dark aluminum interior trim wasn’t so much elegant as reminiscent of something in a far lesser vehicle, as the metal felt as if it were coated in plastic. The paddle shifters felt small and criminally flimsy, too.

Goes Everywhere, and Quickly

The Range Rover Sport has the juice to warrant its label, packing a 5.0-liter intercooled and supercharged V-8 engine with direct injection that makes 510 horsepower. Despite being installed in an SUV weighing nearly 5600 pounds, the eight-pot jolted the Range Rover Sport to 60 mph from a standstill in 4.7 seconds on all-season tires, during which significant squat gives you a true sense of launching. The fully electric Tesla Model X is much quicker, teleporting to 60 mph in a blistering 3.3 seconds on high-performance tires, but without (obviously) the hearty and satisfying 5.0-liter roar of the Sport. The Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S 4MATIC and the BMW X5 M both ripped to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, wearing high-performance tires. These German performance SUVs also cost more.

The Sport gained a few performance points back against the Model X on the skidpad. While the Tesla managed 0.86 g, the Sport reached 0.92 g. That said, it’s not exactly a cornering champ. While the grip is tenacious for something this large, there’s a lot of body roll that can take time to get used to; the GLE63 and X5 M, helped by their tires, bested the Range Rover Sport’s skidpad grip, marking 0.95 and 0.96 g. Such on-track comparisons, though, don’t reckon with Range Rover’s reputation for go-anywhere off-road ability, which is reflected in the tire choice.

Among truly off-roadable SUVs, the Range Rover Sport is one of the best choices. When considering the seven trim levels, though, we think this Autobiography adds more cost than it does benefit. By sacrificing a few amenities, the buyer could choose the Sport Supercharged—the entry-level V-8 model—and still get an extremely nice interior and excellent performance. Or, for only a bit more cash outlay, the SVR really sits at the top of the mountain, regardless of the marketing department’s argument that the Autobiography carries the prestige flag.

Uber Fires Anthony Levandowski amid Lawsuit over Self-Driving-Car Trade Secrets ""



It’s hard to believe, but it was only 10 months ago that Anthony Levandowski ascended to arguably the most enviable position of any engineer pioneering autonomous technology. Uber acquired his months-old self-driving-truck startup in August 2016 for $680 million. After enriching him, the company put him in charge of all its autonomous-development efforts, a critical role for a ride-hailing company with a $60 billion valuation that is largely dependent on a future filled with self-driving vehicles.

At the time, it appeared to be a perfect match between a wildly ambitious, boundary-pushing company and an equally ambitious, envelope-pushing engineer. But less than a year later, the relationship is in shambles, and the role of either party in the advent of autonomous travel appears uncertain.

Uber fired Levandowski on Tuesday, citing his refusal to comply with requests for assistance into an internal investigation into whether Uber’s new lidar sensors had been built using proprietary trade secrets that Levandowski had extracted from his previous employer, Google.

“Your failure impeded Uber’s internal investigation and defense of the lawsuit referenced above and constitutes a ground for termination for cause.”
– Salle Yoo, Uber general counsel

The question of whether Levandowski stole more than 14,000 documents related to the autonomous-vehicle technology remains at the heart of a lawsuit that Google brought against Uber and Levandowski in February, a proceeding that will undoubtedly shape the race to deploy self-driving vehicles.

“We have been pressing Anthony to comply and assist with our internal investigation for months,” an Uber spokesperson said. “We set a deadline that he did not meet.”

Tuesday’s termination was set in motion earlier this month, when a U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco ordered Uber to compel him to return any misbegotten files. Uber complied and launched its internal investigation that Levandowski ignored, according to the company.

“Your failure impeded Uber’s internal investigation and defense of the lawsuit referenced above and constitutes a ground for termination for cause,” wrote Salle Yoo, Uber’s general counsel, in a letter to Levandowski dated May 26.



Levandowski could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

By firing him, legal experts say, Uber boosts its efforts to show the court it was not intentionally using proprietary technology developed by Google, which spun its self-driving efforts into an independent company called Waymo in December 2016. But the lawsuit remains ongoing, and it’s one of a series of setbacks and sideshows that have beset the company in recent months.

Uber and Levandowski seemed to go out of their way to stir up some of their woes, including a public spat in December with the California Department of Motor Vehicles that resulted in the revocation of the registrations of more than a dozen Uber autonomous vehicles until the company finally capitulated and applied for an autonomous-vehicle permit.

Among broader challenges not specifically related to automation: The Department of Justice is investigating Uber’s use of a secret program called Greyball that helped the company evade law-enforcement and transportation officials seeking to monitor the company’s operations in certain locations.

Meanwhile, a former engineer wrote a blog post recounting incidents of sexual harassment she alleged that she experienced while working at the company. That struck a nerve across the entire tech sector, and then Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was videotaped arguing with an Uber driver over wages in the ride-hailing industry.

If those events, along with others, shook investors’ faith in Uber, the future may look more dire for Levandowski. In earlier court proceedings, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. Criminal charges remain a possibility, as District Court Judge William Alsup has referred a portion of the Waymo-Uber case to the U.S. Attorney’s office for further investigation.



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President’s Budget Proposes Selling Half of National Petroleum Reserve ""

May 31, 2017 at 5:35 pm by Benjamin Preston | Photography by PAUL J.RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Gulfport, UNITED STATES: The Shell Oil refinery appears shut down to a minimum in Pascagoula, Mississippi, 30 August 2005, after the high winds and waves of Hurricane Katrina. The US government said it was considering an oil industry request to open up its Strategic Petroleum Reserve 30 August 2005 after Hurricane Katrina battered crude production sites in the country's south. AFP Photo/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J.RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Gulfport, UNITED STATES: The Shell Oil refinery appears shut down to a minimum in Pascagoula, Mississippi, 30 August 2005, after the high winds and waves of Hurricane Katrina. The US government said it was considering an oil industry request to open up its Strategic Petroleum Reserve 30 August 2005 after Hurricane Katrina battered crude production sites in the country's south. AFP Photo/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J.RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Following up on sales set in motion by the Department of Energy at the end of the Obama administration, President Trump has proposed in his budget to begin selling oil from the  U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve next year. After a decade of domestic production increases brought about by the shale-drilling boom, the country’s reliance on imported oil has fallen, decreasing the need to maintain the 688-million-barrel, 141-day supply at its current level, the administration said.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)—the largest emergency petroleum supply in the world—is stored in four underground cavern complexes on the Gulf coasts of Louisiana and Texas. It was created in 1975 in response to the oil embargo by member nations in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1973–1974. In the years since, it has been used a handful of times to stabilize oil prices during emergencies—notably in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm and in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. The last time the SPR was filled to its 714-million-barrel capacity was in 2009.

The president’s plan would begin the sales of SPR crude in October, at the beginning of the 2018 fiscal year. The administration estimates it will bring in $500 million in revenue the first year, with prices increasing over 10 years of sales. The Department of Energy sold 16.4 million barrels from the SPR earlier this year to pay for maintenance and repair of its facilities.

Selling off crude oil to pad federal coffers is nothing new. The Department of Energy sold 12.8 million barrels in 1996 to help balance the federal budget and continues to use it to fund legislation.

For those worried that the United States is putting itself at risk by shedding a few hundred million barrels of crude, there’s probably not much to fear. Although the International Energy Agency, to which the United States belongs, requires its members to maintain a 90-day supply relative to imported oil, the current SPR supply exceeds that threshold by a wide margin.



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Red Light, Green Light: Cadillac Test Vehicles Now Talking with Traffic Lights ""

Cadillac V2I Development

Cadillac V2I Development

Some of the latest connected-car technology showcased by General Motors isn’t being developed inside its technical center in Warren, in suburban Detroit. It’s being developed on the public streets nearby.

Along with state and county transportation agencies, the company has outfitted traffic lights at two intersections near its facility in Warren, Michigan, with technology that transmits signal information to vehicles, whose drivers can then better avoid situations where they either need to brake abruptly or race through a busy intersection while the light’s still yellow.

So far, certain Cadillac CTS sedans in the company’s test fleet are equipped to receive the real-time information, which arrives via a Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) frequency. But like many competitors, GM has big ambitions for the vehicle-to-infrastructure technology.

The federal government is in the final stages of crafting rules that would mandate that all new vehicles carry equipment for enabling DSRC communications; among other things, the system can deliver critical safety messages and information on road conditions and potential hazards.

Cadillac V2I Development

Cadillac V2I Development

The proposed rules are centered on communication among vehicles, but V2I communication—between vehicles and infrastructure, such as traffic lights—remains an important component of the plan, especially when considering the long-awaited $1 trillion in federal infrastructure spending that could be on the horizon.

Former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) chief David Strickland, now chief counsel of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, extolled the potential of V2I technology during a House subcommittee hearing earlier this month.

“Ultimately, tying infrastructure in, you can let road users know about changes ahead with congestion, learn about hazards, preplan, or offer other benefits,” he said. “Like if you’re driving home late at night and there’s no oncoming traffic, you’re sitting at a red light with nobody coming. We’re going to automatically change it to green so you can keep moving.”

Automakers aren’t waiting for the federal government to deploy similar systems. General Motors, among others, already offers vehicle-to-vehicle features as standard on the 2017 CTS sedan in the U.S. and Canada.

Competitors already have deployed vehicle-to-infrastructure integrations. In certain geographical areas, in certain new models, some Audi drivers can receive a countdown on in-car displays that shows how much time remains until a traffic light turns green. Audi, like GM, is working on similar technology that would alert motorists of the optimal speed necessary to reach a light when it’s green. BMW offers a system that allows motorists to receive similar information on their smartphones.

GM is testing its V2I systems on traffic signals located on Mound Road at the 12 Mile and 13 Mile intersections in Warren. There’s an additional signal located inside the GM Technical Center’s boundary equipped with the control technology.



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Hot Commodity: Late-Model Volkswagen TDIs, New or Used, Are Rare and Selling for a Bundle ""

Volkswagen Beetle TDI

Volkswagen Beetle TDI

Although Volkswagen has paid dearly for its mistakes leading up to its diesel-emissions scandal, most owners of 2.0-liter TDI models have emerged relatively well off, thanks to the restitution and buyback terms of the $10 billion settlement program. Volkswagen dealerships haven’t fared too badly, either, with their $1.2 billion settlement. And now they appear to be making a bundle selling new, modified four-cylinder TDI models—while they last—as well as every used TDI they can, at prices inflated by market demand and short supply.

The going rate for a new, emissions-modified 2015 VW TDI model—yes, a two-year-old car, including the Jetta, Golf, Beetle, and Passat—is its original sticker price. A $5000 customer bonus does apply in many instances, but in some cases dealerships are writing that out, too. And good-condition, late-model used TDIs that are eligible for resale at this point are commanding transaction prices that approach their original MSRPs.

Good-condition, late-model used TDIs that are eligible for resale at this point are commanding transaction prices that approach their original MSRPs.

“Demand is really solid,” said Tom Herzog, the managing partner at Herzog-Meier, which has a Beaverton, Oregon, Volkswagen dealership that has taken in more than 1500 buyback vehicles so far. At the time Volkswagen froze sales of new 2.0-liter TDI models, Herzog-Meier had in stock 26 new TDI vehicles with the Gen 3 four-cylinder engine. Herzog confirms that the dealership has sold about two-thirds of those cars—each as soon as it’s fixed. And they’ve all been at MSRP.

Used TDIs Also Hard to Find

In addition to the strong market for new TDIs, used late-model TDI VWs are selling for more than their Black Book value, according to sales manager Travis Dusenberry at Dick Hannah Volkswagen, another Portland dealership. “People know that they’re worth the money, and they’re not negotiating too much,” he said.

A sales manager at a Southern California dealership said that they haven’t had a TDI get through cleaning and prep to the lot; they’re always sold prior to that. He described sales this month of new and used TDIs as “very hot” and said he doesn’t have the stock to meet demand.

April was the first full month in which dealerships had new TDIs to sell, while the sale of bought-back used TDI models just began earlier this month. Several dealerships said that there is intense interest around the remaining 2015 models fueled by Volkswagen’s announcement that its diesels are unlikely to return to the U.S. market.

Volkswagen 2.0L TDI engine

Volkswagen 2.0L TDI engine

What the Cleanup Entails

The fix for Gen 3 models comes in two phases. Phase 1, which is being performed now, is a straightforward software swap that takes dealerships about an hour. The Phase 2 fix won’t be available until early 2018 and takes an estimated nine labor hours to replace the particulate filter, oxidation catalyst, and selective catalytic reduction converter. For automatic-transmission models with less than 40,000 miles or manual-transmission models with less than 70,000 miles at the time of the fix, VW will have to replace the oxidation catalyst a second time before 150,000 miles. That fix hasn’t yet been approved.

Under the Phase 1 fix, the engine sound may change slightly, VW said, although it won’t result in any significant changes in driving characteristics, performance, reliability, or durability. The automaker actually touts better throttle response with the fix, as well as earlier upshifts when lightly accelerating in Sport mode and “smoother acceleration and improved driving experience.”

There’s one sour note to take into consideration: VW says that some owners of Gen 3 cars will notice an increase in the consumption of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) with the Phase 1 fix. New 2015 models sold now also will have revised EPA fuel-economy figures—not because the vehicles get worse mileage, but because the way the numbers are calculated has changed, VW emphasized.

Temporarily Inflated, But a Long-Term Value

Anil Goyal, senior vice president and chief analyst at Black Book, reports that earlier in the year there was speculation on TDI prices—over how some models could potentially command more than the buyback amounts—but they believe the situation is temporary. “The prices will start to normalize as start seeing more volume and transactions in the market,” he said.

According to Volkswagen, 3169 TDI models from the 2015 model year were sold as new in April. Based on information in the last Independent Claims Supervisor report, from February, we estimate that several times as many used TDI models will soon be back on sales lots, with a stronger supply in the coming months, as dealerships work through the backlog of these Gen 3 cars.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE

One can still make a strong argument for why these TDIs are a great deal—perhaps even more than before the scandal. For one thing, owners are getting a better warranty. The Extended Emissions Warranty that is included with Gen 3 vehicles will run for as long as 11 years or 162,000 miles and cover the entire exhaust system, fuel system, turbocharger, and various other components, including most engine issues. And it will be fully transferable to subsequent owners.

Although the TDI badge might not have the same allure it once did, Herzog notes that the emissions issue hasn’t changed the value that customers see in the cars—and diesel’s more attractive running costs may assure that used prices won’t settle much lower than where they were before the scandal and settlement. “It’s still a value to the consumer if they’re going 100 miles a day on the commute,” he said. “I’m encouraged that people still see that value.”

If you want a brand-new TDI and aren’t offput by either the 2015 vintage or the soiled reputation, they’re going and soon to be gone. So head to the dealership, and prepare to pay accordingly. If you’re content with a used TDI, it might be smart to wait a bit for the initial frenzy to die down.



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What I’d Do Differently: John Buffum ""

From the June 2017 issue

C/D: Early in your career, you had a reputation for crashing frequently and even earned yourself a nickname—Stuff ’em Buffum. Was there an occurrence that made you transition into a more mature and faster driver?

JB: No, it was an experience thing. I wanted to go fast and I crashed because I was going faster than my skill and experience level would allow. I believe that’s the correct way to go. Going fast to start and then gaining experience and tempering yourself as you mature makes you faster in the end.

C/D: Did you ever drive on emotion and make errors that you wouldn’t have made otherwise?

JB: No, I don’t think I was an emotional driver. I think I am an emotional guy because I cry at some movies, but no, I don’t get jacked up and have road rage. I drove to win.

C/D: Who was your biggest rival?

JB: That’s easy. Rod Millen. He was right there from the late ’70s until I stopped in the later ’80s. He would push me to go faster and to get better. And it was the same for him. We ratcheted each other up.

C/D: What was your proudest moment as a driver?

JB: It’s a tossup between the fifth place at Acropolis, a World Championship event, and winning Cyprus. Ferdinand Piëch, the Audi head of technical development at the time, gave me his Audi jacket to wear to the awards ceremony at Acropolis. That was an honor. I still have the jacket. Cyprus was a win, but it was a European Championship event, a step down from a World event.

John Buffum’s Audi Sport Quattro claws through the mud on the way to victory in the 1987 SCCA Wild West Pro Rally.

C/D: What was your greatest talent?

JB: I think I measured myself pretty well. Yes, when I started, I crashed a lot, but it gave me insight as to where I could and couldn’t go. I’ve seen many times that [new] people in the sport don’t know what fast is. I found out by crashing, so that when I got into a factory drive, I knew where the boundary was.

C/D: And your greatest weakness?

JB: I love the gravel, and so I like to slide the car. It feels good. The way to set a car up [into a corner], especially a two-wheel-drive car, is to get it extremely sideways. Doing that makes you excel in the tighter corners. I didn’t do so well in the faster corners. I wouldn’t charge over blind crests. I’m not Travis Pastrana. I wasn’t willing to take those chances.

C/D: You shared the Group B era with some big names, including the only woman to win a World Championship rally, Michèle Mouton. Could you beat her?

JB: It depends on the rally. In America, we didn’t use pace notes back then, so we were always one step behind the Europeans. Because we didn’t compete against each other all the time on equal footing, it’s hard to compare. She was very good. But when I raced Mouton, we were always close.

C/D: How were those Group B cars?

JB: They were awesome but hard to control. Innovation and technology have changed the world. Go look back in the ’80s. The cars would land and the drivers were working to keep them under control. The suspensions weren’t so good, and the transmissions were street-based. They hadn’t really come up with anti-lag, though Audi fooled around with it. Your eyes bounced in your head, so driving them was tremendously difficult.

C/D: Were the risks worth the rewards in an era of aluminum roll cages, no HANS devices, and spectators lining the roads? Would you do it again?

JB: It took huge outside forces to stop the advancement of Group B in ’85 and ’86 [the death of Henri Toivonen]. And it was the right thing to do. Before that it wasn’t so bad. I’d absolutely do it again. I never worried about it.

C/D: In 1987, you won every national rally you entered. You were in your mid-40s by then. Was that the peak of your driving skill? How did age impact your driving?

JB: Sometime between 40 and 45, you start slowing down. I was very young for my age, so even in ’84, when I was 41, I was at the top of my game. I was in good mental and physical shape. I had a lot of experience, and I had a good car. It all blended together.

C/D: What legacy do you want to leave in rallying?

JB: I’d like to be remembered as somebody who loved rallying and who, as a driver, co-driver, organ­izer, or steward, tried to make rallying better. I hope people think of me as a championship-caliber driver. I may not have always been as polite as I could have been, but I’m not so sure that winners in sports are always nice guys.

C/D: Is there anything you’d do differently?

JB: I wouldn’t have done anything differently. But if I had really wanted rallying to be the focus of my life to the exclusion of everything else, I needed to go live in Europe. I didn’t really care about doing that. There were other things going on in my life. I loved America, and I was happy to stay here for most of my competition career. But to get even better, going to Europe was a necessary thing.

Tesla Model 3: 215-Plus Miles of Range, Zero to 60 in 5.6 Seconds ""

Well-connected online leakers have just spilled the tastiest tidbits of information regarding the Tesla Model 3. According to posts on the Model 3 Owners Club blog (as discovered by InsideEVs), the $35,000 Model 3 will do zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, with a driving range of “more than 215 miles.”

The full spec panel uploaded to the Model 3 Owners Club blog compares the upcoming Tesla to the Model S in size, capacity, and performance.


The original poster on the owner blog describes this side-by-side comparison chart as internal “talking points,” circulated to Tesla store employees but not published on the automaker’s blogs or distributed directly to potential buyers. A Tesla spokesperson confirmed that this infographic is official and the numbers within are accurate.

So what do we learn from this intel? That the Model 3 will be surprisingly quick for what it is, although the comparison chart does not denote whether that sub-six-second zero-to-60-mph time is for the high-performance all-wheel-drive Model 3 variant that was teased at the vehicle’s unveiling last year. And while that range spec isn’t exact, it’s within striking distance of the Chevrolet Bolt’s 238-mile rating.

Notable as well is the delivery timing mentioned on the comparison sheet. “As we continue to build out our production capacity to meet the higher number of advanced reservations, deliveries for Model 3 orders placed today are not expected until mid-2018,” the document reads. With more than 400,000 preorders submitted and production set to begin in July, we’re not terribly surprised by that particular revelation.

This story originally appeared on Road & Track.




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Move Over: This Is the New Face of BMW ""

BMW Concept 8-series

Launched on the eve of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on Lake Como, Italy, the BMW Concept 8-series is not only a close preview of the upcoming 8-series. It also ushers in a new era in BMW design, according to the corporate design chief, Adrian van Hooydonk.

With its aggressive and sculptural look, the 8-series concept takes up many elements seen in the Concept X2 that BMW displayed last fall at the 2016 Paris auto show. That car, van Hooydonk said, gave an “indication” of the brand’s new styling direction. By contrast, he said, the 8-series fully conforms to it.

Besides the sculpted look, van Hooydonk said that the low, wide kidney grille’s new shape and the freshly interpreted Hofmeister kink will find their way onto other BMW cars. “With variations, it works in all segments,” said the chief designer, adding that the new styling direction will be rolled out quickly—including on the X7: “From now on, this is the new look.” And, he emphasized, “We will change the face of the brand comprehensively.”

BMW Concept 8-series

As a minor point, there will be a new exhaust strategy as well. The trapezoidal dual exhaust outlets, first seen on versions of the new 5-series, will play a bigger role in the future.

And BMW will overhaul its interiors, too, also in line with what’s seen in the 8-series concept, which means a lower dashboard, more pronounced orientation of controls and displays toward the driver, and much tidier surfaces.

We like the new design language, particularly on the exterior. It looks aggressive and contemporary—and, next to Audi and Daimler’s offerings, it proves that there was perhaps never a more interesting period in automotive design than today.




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