Category Archives: Car & Truck

2018 Audi A5 Cabriolet Tested: The Renaissance Droptop

2018-Audi-A5-cabriolet-PLACEMENT

The seasons always change, but convertibles rarely do. The idea of a retractable roof on automobiles has existed since before the invention of the car itself, and droptops have been a mainstay of Audi’s offerings for decades now. In the United States, the four-ring brand sells four convertibles for a variety of clientele. There’s the small and relatively affordable A3 for sun seekers on a (sort of) budget, the stylish TT for sportier and more style-conscious tastes, and the wild R8 Spyder for those looking to cause a stir. Think of the mid-level A5 and its S5 sibling, then, as Audi’s Goldilocks cabriolets: not too big, not too small, not too expensive, but not too plebeian, either. READ MORE ››

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2018 Chevrolet Equinox 2.0T First Drive: Torque and Treat

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-2.0T-PLACEMENT

When manufacturers aren’t introducing brand-new vehicles to fill the nooks and crannies that remain between segments, they’re altering the sizes and shapes of existing models to better fit the boundaries that have solidified since those cars were first introduced. With the all-new 2018 Equinox, Chevrolet is doing the latter: The new Equinox has been downsized to more closely align with other compact SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, the Mazda CX-5, the Ford Escape, and the Toyota RAV4, and in the process the Chevy has become a much better vehicle. READ MORE ››

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2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – First Drive Review

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The Sweet, Dirty Music of Expansion: C/D Is Growing

The Sweet, Dirty Music of Expansion: C/D Is Growing

As I write this letter, reciprocating saws and nail guns are cacophonating in the background, making the sweet, dirty music of expansion. We’ve blown out the north wall of our office to take over the adjacent two spaces, adding a little breathing room for the talent we’ve been adding on the digital side—including the great Rich Ceppos, returning to C/D after 26 years. If you’ve visited our website lately, you’ll know why. We are in the process of transforming caranddriver.com from the industry’s best and most comprehensive news-and-reviews site to what we’re sure will be its best and most comprehensive automotive decision-making tool for shoppers and enthusiasts alike. READ MORE ››

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Gorgeous Sport: 310-HP Buick Regal GS Revealed!

2018 Buick Regal GS

The previous Buick Regal was something of a poor man’s Audi A4, but the new-for-2018 Regal Sportback, with its hatchback body style, aims a bit higher—at the stylish and practical Audi A5 Sportback, perhaps? That makes this more performance-oriented Regal GS, then, Buick’s S5 equivalent, bringing more power, a sharper chassis, and enhanced looks to the table. READ MORE ››

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When Nissan Was Still Datsun: We Drive Four Half-Century-Old Datsuns!

When Nissan Was Still Datsun: We Drive Four Half-Century-Old Datsuns!1967 Datsun 1600 Sedan1967 Datsun 1600 Sedan1967 Datsun 1600 Sedan1970 Datsun 311 (Fairlady) Roadster1970 Datsun 311 (Fairlady) Roadster1970 Datsun 311 (Fairlady) Roadster1965 Datsun 320 Pickup1965 Datsun 320 Pickup1965 Datsun 320 Pickup1967 Nissan Patrol L60Like all of the aforementioned trucks, the Patrol is a handsome beast, true to its form and function but quite horrible to drive. It has decent power, with a 4.0-liter inline-six generating 145 horsepower and pumping out a significant 235 lb-ft of torque at a low 2000 rpm—great for chugging through the mire. But the delivery is, as you would imagine, extremely unrefined. That isn’t unexpected from an iron lump in this era, but still, it’s as much tractor as truck. ---On big, knobby tires, with wind slamming against its many vertical surfaces and sailing in through giant panel gaps and straight-to-the-outside air vents, the thrum of this thing on the road is borderline maddening. Steering that is about nine turns lock-to-lock makes the maneuvering even more interesting. ---But did we mention that we kind of love it?1967 Nissan Patrol L60

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BMW Connected+ Brings Remote 3D Security Cam, Microsoft Email Integration, and More

BMW Connected Plus

Digitally, things are moving quickly at BMW these days. The automaker released an all-new version of its iDrive infotainment system (iDrive 5.0) for the 2016 model year, followed in rapid succession by a new BMW Connected app for interfacing between its car and smartphones, and then an even newer iDrive 6.0 this year on the latest 5-series. Hold on to your ones and zeros, people, because BMW has tossed out yet another digital advancement: BMW Connected+.

In essence, Connected+ is a suite of digital services that builds on the original cloud-connected BMW Connected app (which itself sprung from the multi-app ConnectedDrive ecosystem started a few years ago). The idea is to integrate more of those ConnectedDrive and Connected features into a single app while adding a few nifty new features that work with BMW’s impressive iDrive 6.0 system, which we recently tested on a 2018 440i coupe. BMW Connected previously offered remote vehicle locking and unlocking, HVAC preconditioning, alerts to leave for upcoming appointments, the ability to send navigation directions from your phone to your car, and push texts to contacts from your phone that you’re on your way.

BMW Connected Plus

Connected+ adds to that a smarter time-to-leave function that takes the vehicle’s location into account for true door-to-door travel times. Say you have a meeting scheduled for 2:00 p.m. across town, and your car is parked around the corner. Connected+ will prompt you to leave and offer walking directions to your car—it incorporates that walking time into your total trip time—and when you enter your vehicle, it will automatically pair with your phone over Bluetooth and begin the car portion of the trip navigation on the dashboard display.

A new on-screen Control Display menu then offers parking options at your destination, the ability to share live trip information with phone contacts (they’re sent a link to a web page that shows your route progress and ETA), or a simpler, less creepy function for sharing just your ETA with phone contacts. The benefit to those updates is that you needn’t call a nagging loved one or text them en route. The downside is that it steals your “traffic” excuses. Anyway, once you arrive at your destination, should you park a few blocks away, the Connected app will again push a prompt asking if you’d like walking directions to your final destination. Slick. Even slicker: Should your car not have enough fuel for a journey before leaving, the app will alert you to that and suggest fuel stops along your route.

Users are given two methods for pushing navigation instructions to the car: either over the car’s built-in 4G data connection or, if they’re inside the car, via Bluetooth, which is quicker. As before, Connected users can send directions from their favorite mapping app—if you’re in, say, Google Maps, you can pull up an iPhone’s share menu and select the Connected app option. New to Connected+ is a searchable My Destinations menu that links to your contacts and calendar as well as the internet, enabling users to search for addresses via contact names or appointments in addition to Google. Destinations can then be saved for later or scheduled like an appointment, separate from a user’s personal calendar.
BMW Connected PlusOne of the coolest new features allows users to remotely access the BMW’s four parking cameras and “look” around the car from a weird, algorithm-generated out-of-body view outside of the car (see the photo above, which we screen-grabbed using an iPhone). The computers render a digital version of your car—in this case, a 5-series—and you can manipulate a static 360-degree 3D view in all directions from a bird’s-eye perspective. When this parking-camera function is used in the car via the iDrive screen, it’s a live video feed; on the app, it’s a freeze frame that must be refreshed. Either way, anyone with Nest security cameras in their home will appreciate this spy function.

We briefly sampled a pre-release iteration of Connected+ at BMW’s Chicago tech office (one of four globally where the app and user experience are developed) this week, using an Apple Watch, an iPhone, and a 2018 BMW 530e plug-in hybrid. Pushing navigation directions to the car was easy, and the in-car Control Display proved handy for checking on the weather and parking options at our destination. The first phone BMW provided us had issues connecting over Bluetooth, which we chalk that up to the non-final software both the phone and the car were running. Switching to a different phone and a new Bimmer solved the issue.

BMW Connected Plus

One pair of features we weren’t able to preview that are coming to Connected+ within the next few months are Microsoft Exchange and Skype for business integration. The former will enable drivers to have emails read aloud to them, to compose emails using voice control, and to accept or decline meeting requests verbally. The Skype function won’t include a video component but will be capable of pulling call-in information from meeting requests and setting up a voice line to a conference call via iDrive, without fiddling with your phone. BMW says the Skype function will even display conference-call attendees on the iDrive screen (provided they’re in your phone’s contact list), so there’s none of that “Who’s on this call again?” nonsense typical of most group phone meetings.

If the step from BMW Connected to Connected+ sounds incremental, it is—and that’s the point. Part of BMW’s demonstration was a tour of its Chicago tech office, where we learned that the automaker’s digital mavens aim to push an update or a new feature to the Connected platform every two weeks. That cadence is made possible by BMW’s adoption of Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing platform for all Connected services. Think of Microsoft as providing the phone-to-car-and-back-to-phone infrastructure while BMW sorts out the optics and functionality. Azure is easily scalable, which helps when there are now over 1 million Connected users globally who have initiated a claimed 1 billion processes either in the car or over the app. So if you’re a BMW owner who would like to see a feature in the Connected universe, say something—it could arrive quite quickly, as has been the case lately for BMW’s digital operations.

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2019 Porsche Cayenne Spied Mostly Uncovered!

2019 Porsche Cayenne Spy Photos

What It Is: A near-complete preview of the next-generation Porsche Cayenne. Although the smaller Macan has overtaken the Cayenne as Porsche’s best-selling vehicle, sales remain high for the mid-size truck (it outsold the 911 by a margin greater than 300 units last month), and all consumer trends remain pointed directly at high-riding crossovers and SUVs, not low-slung sports cars. READ MORE ››

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2018 Honda Accord Revealed! Major Changes for the 10th-Gen Best Seller

Crossovers may dominate in sales, but affordable, efficient four-door sedans with chassis and powertrains that don’t retreat at the first sign of spirited driving remain a universal target in the car biz. Few models have hit the bull’s-eye as consistently and systematically as Honda’s Accord sedan. It’s a longtime Car and Driver favoritethe Accord has earned a spot on our 10Best Cars list 31 times—and we’ve come to expect each new version to raise the bar. The same goes for this all-new, 10th-generation model. READ MORE ››

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The End of Car Ownership? Report Projects Big-Bang-Style Disruption in 2021

ancient Dodge

Will the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles and electric powertrains send gas prices into a downward spiral, render car ownership obsolete, and cause masses of used cars to be abandoned? These are the outcomes forecast by a controversial, widely discussed paper published earlier this year, predicting what it calls a “Big Bang disruption” triggered by the approval of autonomous vehicles for widespread use on public roads. This is a turning point that the study claims could arrive as soon as 2021 with the introduction of vehicles that, as it defines them,“will drive themselves with no human mechanical input (no pedals or steering wheel).”

Tony Seba, who with James Arbib published the study for their think tank, RethinkX, says its basis is “purely economic”—a distinction that many tech reporters have failed to make. Their study and its jarring vision of the future should serve as a wake-up call to the complacent. It centers around the transition of the personal-vehicle market to a new economy of transportation as a service (TaaS), and it crunches some of the numbers and projects what might happen to the market in a rapid transition.

The study involves many controversial assumptions, the boldest perhaps being the assertion that by 2030, or within 10 years of regulatory approval of autonomous vehicles, 95 percent of U.S. passenger-vehicle miles will be traveled by autonomous electric vehicles and that these will be owned by fleets offering services, not by individuals purchasing them for personal use.

Arbib and Seba, based in London and Silicon Valley, have applied a “technology disruption framework” to consider issues including technology-cost curves, market dynamics, and product and business-model innovation. Seba, a Stanford University economist—and a green-biz keynote speaker—laid out some of this vision in a 2014 book anticipating the decline of the global oil industry, a collapse that he foresees will be spurred by electric cars and renewable energy.

Economically Irresistible to Give Up Car Ownership?

Sheer economics will be at the root of the change, the paper argues. The average American family will be able to save more than $5600 per year by using driverless transport instead of personally owned vehicles (the savings is only $2000 annually compared with a completely paid-off vehicle). These savings, the study argues, will lead to greater consumer spending in general—to a total GDP boost of $1 trillion—while the time freed up from driving could lead to another $1 trillion in productivity gains. All of this would more than offset a $200 billion loss of personal income from jobs for the likes of chauffeurs, taxi drivers, and Lyft contractors.

Uber passenger

In cities, the economic revolution that Seba forecasts would mean that such services would offer an unbeatable deal for most households; they could cover their transportation needs for a quarter to half the cost of operating a vehicle they already own, or as little as 10 percent of the cost of purchasing a new car. By 2030, even though individually owned vehicles will comprise 40 percent of vehicles in the United States, they’ll cover only 5 percent of passenger miles, according to the study. The total number of vehicles in the United States would drop to just 44 million from 247 million today, leading to the abandonment of 100 million existing vehicles as economically unviable.

A widespread switch to battery-electric vehicles—another trend that still looks tenuous for the time frame forecast by the study—is seen as essential for this scenario to play out. The projected cost savings are predicated on the arrival of a fleet of autonomous EVs that would be on the move almost continuously whenever they’re not being charged. Vehicles that are part of the TaaS economy will be on task 40 percent of the time. (Currently, independently owned vehicles are unused 96 percent of the time, just sitting in garages, driveways and parking lots.)

Despite this constant-use scenario, the study projects that vehicle lifetimes will extend to 500,000 miles (and 1 million miles by 2030)—a controversial assumption on its own—so the cost of nearly everything related to operations, including maintenance, depreciation, and insurance, would be reduced, while the transition to electric will save energy with each mile.

“The death spiral of the internal-combustion-engine car industry will go into high gear.”

— Arbib & Seba, Rethinking Transportation 2020–2030

Another bold prediction in the study that goes along with the transition to autonomous EVs: a 90 percent drop in demand for oil related to passenger road transport by 2030. The authors project a 5 percent annual decrease in oil demand beginning in 2021 due to the electrification of the trucking industry. And the study extrapolates some of these U.S. trends to the world at large—another major leap—anticipating only a four-year time lag before autonomous vehicles pass their tipping point in other key markets.

If Oil Is Cheaper Than Bottled Water Now . . .

The economists expect that, in the scenario they anticipate, some types of oil extraction could become nonviable, too. Global oil demand would fall from about 100 million barrels a day in 2020 to 70 million a day in 2030, and prices would plummet. “The effects of such a dramatic decrease will ripple through the whole value chain, causing systemic disruption from oil fields to pipelines to refineries,” the authors argue. This could lead to the abandonment of large-scale pipeline projects and other high-cost oil-extraction methods such as offshore drilling and fracking.

Although that might sound like a bright future to environmentalists, what it suggests for the vehicle market and the auto and oil industries isn’t so rosy. People would stop buying new cars. Then, as production and sales declined, plants would close, and the car industry would lose its economies of scale. This in turn would lead to higher vehicle costs, accelerating the trend as the cost advantage for using TaaS widens.

Autonomous electric vehicles will be highly modularized, the report anticipates, and cheaper to assemble. “The death spiral of the [internal combustion engine] car industry will thus go into high gear,” the study declares.

Ford Focus Electric

These authors issue one of the most bullish projections yet for the death of the internal-combustion engine. Other sources are more conservative on the growth of EVs. Last month,  Morgan Stanley reported that it expects electric vehicles will make up about 16 percent of all vehicles sold globally by 2030 and that EVs won’t outsell ICE vehicles until 2040. The most recent forecast from BP takes an even more conservative tack, anticipating that the global fleet of vehicles will double from 0.9 billion in 2015 to 1.8 billion in 2035. During that time, it’s projecting that the number of electric cars will grow from about 1.2 million to 100 million—which would still make up just over 5 percent of the total fleet.

Far-Fetched or Alarming?

If the RethinkX forecast sounds fantastical and far-fetched, it likely is. Yet the auto industry does face some harsh realities. According to a Federal Reserve paper published last year (and drawing from J.D. Power data), new-vehicle purchases by Americans in age groups 16 to 34, 35 to 49, and 50 to 54 all dropped significantly from 2000 to 2015, when the market as a whole had mostly bounced back from the recession. There were especially noteworthy drops in the 35-to-49-year-old range, while those aged 55 and older were the only group to show a boost. Yet these authors declared: “Our results suggest the decline in the per-capita rate of new-vehicle purchases since 2007 more likely reflects economic factors than permanent shifts in tastes and preferences for vehicle ownership.”

While that statement may seem blissfully out of touch to, well, anyone too young to get into the AARP, virtually every other estimate falls into a conservative middle ground between Seba’s ideas of cataclysmic disruption and the Fed’s business-as-usual nonchalance.

On Which We Can All Agree: Industry on the Verge of Big Change

Seba’s paper, and all the buzz around it, probably should be understood more as a thought experiment than a prophecy. It outlines a fringe scenario that could happen if the tech world and the auto industry merged in an impossibly smooth way.

There is one especially rapid shift already underway within the industry—that of some automakers reformulating themselves around mobility services. They see that the future isn’t in traditional manufacturing but (just as with our smartphones) in the platforms, operating systems, and services that go along with autonomy. We’ll be spending more time in cars in 2030, the study anticipates, so there’ll be more room for revenue in that. And automakers who have a whole service ecosystem—not just a product—stand a chance to thrive.

If automakers don’t take control of the value of personal transportation—the shared mobility and connectivity services and the user experience—they’re going to end up subservient to the Ubers and Lyfts of the future.

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