Tag archives for Nissan
Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Nissan, and Tesla are among 13 companies joining together as founding Partners of the Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge.
“The market for electric vehicles is expanding dramatically, giving drivers more options to save money on gasoline while reducing carbon pollution,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
The mission of DOE’s Workplace Charging Challenge is to increase the number of employers with workplace charging by tenfold within the next five years in hopes of strengthening the nation’s electric-vehicle infrastructure while increasing consumer exposure to plug-in electric vehicles.
Joining those automakers are 3M, Duke Energy, Eli Lilly and Company, General Electric, Google, San Diego Gas & Electric, Siemens, and Verizon. The DOE will be providing technical assistance and establishing a network where Partners and Ambassadors can share their best practices.
“These 13 companies are taking strong steps to make charging infrastructure more broadly available to their workforce – setting an example for others to follow and helping America lead the global race for a growing industry,” Chu said.
Discuss this story at GM-Volt.com
By Jason Siu
Give Nissan some credit, here: the company is proudly publicizing coming in second.
The Japanese automaker entered a souped-up Nissan Leaf in an all-electric-vehicle race at Japan’s Sportsland Sugo earlier this month, with hopes of knocking off proverbial favorite Tesla in the 50-kilometer race.
The Nissan Leaf Nismo RC was customized with a groovy, sleeker body as well as having its motor shifter around to make the car rear-wheel drive. The battery pack was moved to the middle for better handling. Additionally, Nissan added more crumple zones and automatic electric-power shut-down capabilities the event that the car got munched.
The good news as that the car didn’t. The bad news is that it finished second to a Tesla Roadster.
“Tesla’s speed on the straights was much more impressive than we anticipated,” driver Tsugio Matsuda said (in translation). The racer did look like he enjoyed the challenge, though, as you can see in Nissan’s six-minute video below.
By Danny King
The U.S. government would be more effective at spurring plug-in vehicle sales if it provided more financial incentives to consumers instead of automakers. At least, that’s the opinion in a Bloomberg News editorial.
Saying that finding alternatives to gasoline “a worthy public goal,” Bloomberg says the government should expand purchasing incentives beyond the $7,500 it provides for buyers of some plug-ins and hybrids. President Obama has said he wants 1 million plug-in vehicles to be on U.S. roads by 2015; the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards he proposed last year would mandate about a 70 percent fuel economy improvement by 2025. Bloomberg figures the government should hand out money to buyers, not companies, to encourage sales:
Providing loans to companies that can get their own financing in the capital markets is a questionable way to reach [the goal]. A better use of government money would be to encourage consumer demand – by continuing, and expanding, tax credits or other incentives for people who buy vehicles that use little or no gas.
During the past three years, U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Financing Bank has made more than $8 billion in loans at about a 1 percent interest rate to established automakers such as Ford and Nissan as well as advanced powertrain specialists like Fisker and Tesla, strictly for the purpose of developing electric-drive vehicles. Bloomberg called such a strategy “questionable.” Such automaker loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Energy.
By Danny King
Attention all college grads with an engineering degree (and a slight interest in cars): add the Renault-Nissan Alliance to your job hunting list of automotive companies that have been actively seeking and hiring talent to fill engineering and technology jobs. The group announced that in a few weeks it will open its doors to a new research office in Silicon Valley, which is home to a number of high-tech giants.
According to a prepared statement yesterday, the new Northern California office will play an important role in ensuring the group stays “ahead of trends that are reshaping the way people interact with their cars.” The office will research and develop upcoming in-car tech including advanced display interfaces and Internet connectivity. And as one the most prominent manufacturers of electric vehicles, Nissan will use the office to advance its influence in green technology.
Speaking yesterday at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, said, “The Alliance is at the vanguard of the auto industry’s shift to sustainable transportation. Having a greater footprint in one of the world’s headquarters for clean tech research will extend our lead further.” Ghosn also stated that green-tech research is having a positive impact on the economy as well as the job market in the auto industry.
Last year, more than 32,000 jobs were created in the industry including thousands of engineering positions. At the 2011 Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress held last month, more than 10,000 attendees had the opportunity to check out and seek possible employment from 35 companies in the engineering field, including Chyrsler, Ford and General Motors. Back in March, we reported that the Detroit three were recruiting newly minted engineering grads for new tech jobs. Attracting graduates to apply has been a challenge, however, mainly due to the low starting wages in Detroit, especially when compared to similar positions Silicon Valley.
In addition to Renault-Nissan’s new office, a number of automakers also have a presence in the high-tech hotspot. BMW’s Technology Office in Palo Alto, California, for example, opened over a decade ago and played a big role in the inception and subsequent revisions to the automaker’s iDrive interface system. Mercedes-Benz has a Silicon Valley-based Group and Advanced Engineering office, which recently developed the smart drive app for the iPhone and has been involved in the testing of fuel-cell vehicles. The Volkswagen Group recently opened an Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Belmont, California, which will develop future infotainment platforms and driver assistance systems. Lastly, Tesla Motors, makers of the all-electric roadster and the upcoming Tesla S sedan, is headquartered in Northern California, and took over the GM/Toyota NUMMI joint-venture assembly plant in Fremont.
Is the future of the U.S. car industry moving away from Detroit to high-tech areas like Silicon Valley?
Source: Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Tesla
Gran Turismo 6 is coming. In celebration of the franchise’s 15th anniversary, Sony today announced its signature racing game Gran Turismo 6 is in development, and will arrive on shelves this holiday season. A playable demo is scheduled to arrive in July.
Sony touts Gran Turismo 6 as bringing new levels of realism and authenticity to the sim racing genre. GT6 boasts an entirely new game and physics engine, the latter of which includes a new aerodynamic model, a new tire model, and a new suspension and kinematics model. Like its rivals at Forza 4 (which worked with Pirelli to help with its tire models), the GT6 team joined with Yokohama and KW Automotive to help develop a more realistic experience in the latest Gran Turismo game.
Gran Turismo 6 will reportedly be released this holiday season, though it’s probably worth noting that GT6′s predecessor, Gran Turismo 5, was the subject of multiple delays. Still, there are a few reasons to remain optimistic. For starters, all of the cars and tracks in GT5 will be carried over to GT6, which will include 1200 cars at launch (though as Motor Trend’s Kirill Ougarov joked on Twitter, “1100 of them will be Skylines”). The newest Gran Turismo will also include seven new tracks (including Silverstone), bringing the track total to 33. There will be 71 different track layouts in the game, with 19 of them new. If those grow old, the course maker function has been improved.
With the announcement of GT6, Sony is planning on continuing its collaboration with Nissan’s GT Academy, the program that turns Gran Turismo gamers into real-life racers. GT Academy returns this July, with the release of the GT6 Silverstone demo.
Speaking of the demo, Sony released a short teaser of the killer graphics and cars we can expect to see in GT6, including the 1986 Audi Quattro rally car, and the 2012 Tesla Model S Signature Performance.
Here are the cars you’ll be able to drive in the July demo. Bold text indicates the car is new to the Gran Turismo series:
- 1991 Acura NSX
- 2011 Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale
- 1968 Alpine a110 1600S
- 1986 Audi Quattro S1 rally car
- 2009 Ferrari 458 Italia
- 1971 Ferrari Dino 246 GT
- 2006 Ford GT
- 2012 KTM X-Bow R
- 1974 Lamborghini Countach LP400
- 2007 Light Car Company Rocket
- 2010 McLaren MP4-12C
- 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3
- 2008 Nissan 370Z (GT Academy Version)
- 2008 Nissan 370Z Tuned Car (GT Academy Version)
- 2012 Nissan GT-R Black Edition (GT Academy Version)
- Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 N24 Shulze Motorsport
- Nissan Leaf G (GT Academy Version)
- 2012 Tesla Model S Signature Performance
- 2012 Toyota 86 GT
It’s Car of the Year time again! Over the past two weeks we’ve been teasing new 2013 Car of the Year contenders every day. With the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year announcement coming Monday, November 12 at 6:30 p.m. EST, we thought it’d be fun to ask which contender you think will take home the golden calipers.
But since we get this question at each Of The Year event, we’d like to provide a friendly reminder that Car of the Year is only open to new or significantly updated vehicles that cost $120,000 or less. That means that the 2013 Ford Fusion is eligible for Car of the Year because it’s a full update, while the 2013 Ford Focus ST isn’t, since only one trim level is new, not the whole car. With that cleared up, let’s take a look at the contenders.
Acura ILX – We Like: Available swift-shifting manual and Honda Civic Si drivetrain. We Don’t Like: Questionable value in certain trims.
BMW 3 Series – We Like: The developed and mature feel of the car; “amazing” handling. We Don’t Like: A bit softer than previous 3 Series cars
Cadillac ATS – We Like: Excellent steering, firm chassis and impressive dynamics. We Don’t Like: Balky manual transmission.
Cadillac XTS – We Like: Exceptionally smooth ride; rock solid at triple-digit speeds. We Don’t Like: 3.6-liter V-6 could use a bit more refinement.
Chevrolet Malibu – We Like: We generally liked the Malibu’s interior design. We Don’t Like: We found the backseat too cramped for adults.
Chevrolet Spark – We Like: Surprisingly fun to toss around; well-appointed interior. We Don’t Like: Low handling limits.
Coda EV Sedan – We Like: It’s a cheap and cheerful electric car, with a long range. We Don’t Like: Subpar interior, bland design.
Dodge Dart – We Like: Pleasant styling, excellent value. We Don’t Like: “Dead” steering feel.
Ford C-Max—We Like: Ease of electric-only driving, the fact that it’s a fun-to-drive hybrid. We Don’t Like: Tires lack the grip to live up to the chassis.
Ford Fusion – We Like: Excellent steering feedback on 1.6 EcoBoost model; vast array of engine, transmission, and drivetrain options. We Don’t Like: Not as fun to drive as the outgoing Fusion.
Honda Accord – We Like: Crisp handling, and buttoned-down interior. We Don’t Like: Surge-y, on-off throttle response at low speed with the CVT.
Hyundai Azera – We Like: Comfortable, roomy cabin with huge trunk. We Don’t Like: Polarizing styling.
Lexus ES – We Like: High-quality interior and roomy backseat. We Don’t Like: Hybrid suffered from a sloppy transition between regenerative and mechanical braking.
Lexus GS – We Like: Whole lineup was fun to drive – even the Hybrid; high-caliber interior design and materials. We Don’t Like: The haptic, mouse-like controller that operates the infotainment system.
Lexus LS – We Like: Comfortable and quiet ride; V-8 grunt. We Don’t Like: Not as much of a game-changer as the original LS.
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class – We Like: An excellent Grand Tourer; felt unflappable at high speeds. We Don’t Like: More horsepower than handling prowess.
Nissan Altima – We Like: Beautiful interior and comfortable seats. We Don’t Like: Could benefit from retuned steering.
Nissan Sentra – We Like: Baby Altima styling, and genuinely roomy interior. We Don’t Like: CVT and engine moan.
Porsche 911 – We Like: An incredibly usable supercar. We Don’t Like: Too obvious that Porsche spent more time developing the PDK than the manual.
Porsche Boxster – We Like: Exceptional build quality, beautiful balance. We Don’t Like: Poor value.
Scion FR-S – We Like: Incredibly fun to drive and an excellent value. We Don’t Like: Cheap-feeling interior.
Subaru BRZ – We Like: Terrific chassis; superb balance, and steering. We Don’t Like: We want more power.
Tesla Model S – We Like: Long range combined with excellent performance. We Don’t Like: Styling a bit safe.
Toyota Avalon – We Like: Great ride and handling; nicely appointed interior. We Don’t Like: A face only a mother could love.
Toyota Prius C – We Like: Cheap and cheerful appeal. We Don’t Like: This car is no fun.
Which contender do you think will take home the Golden Calipers as our 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year? Sound off in the poll and in the comments below.
To compete for the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year title, contenders must be all new or significantly revised 2013-model-year cars or 2012-model-year cars that went on sale too late for 2012 COTY consideration. All eligible vehicles are invited to compete. Check back to MotorTrend.com on November 12 at 3:30 p.m. PST / 6:30 p.m. EST to discover what will become the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year!
AAA plans to roll out fleets of trucks equipped with fast chargers to better serve auto club members with EVs, according to Bloomberg. The trucks will be able to charge electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Roadster when their batteries run down on the road. This move follows that of AAA’s counterpart in Japan, the Japan Automobile Federation, earlier this month, where that organization announced a joint effort with Nissan to test charger trucks.
Speaking to Bloomberg, AAA spokesperson Christie Hyde said that the Florida-based organization will begin testing the trucks in August. According to Hyde, the initial test group will consist of six “mobile charging units,” testing in states such as California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. Hyde declined to give specifics on the cost of the units and who will supply them, however, she did state that AAA will test chargers from multiple suppliers.
With a couple EV models already on the market, and more on the way, automakers’ increasing interest in electric vehicles has prompted the development of a charging infrastructure. Companies such as General Electric are developing roadside charging stations, while power companies are beginning to upgrade to smart grids – installing new meters and transformers to help ensure people can recharge their vehicles at home.
AAA is also preparing itself for the arrival of more electric cars on the road. “We know electric vehicles are coming and we’ve got to be ready for them,” said Hyde. This first batch of charging trucks is part of that plan to get ready. Hyde says that AAA will debut its first mobile charging unit at an electric vehicle conference in Raleigh, NC, next month.
And just like that, we’re closing the book on 2012 and preparing to start 2013. Motor Trend staffers were lucky enough to drive a wide assortment of fantastic cars, with everything from the 74-hp Volkswagen Up! to the 691-hp Lamborghini Aventador passing through our garage. Of the hundreds of cars we’ve driven this year, these are the cars that stood out most to our editors in 2012, for better and for worse.
Erick Ayapana, Associate Online Editor:
Best: 2013 Porsche Boxster S
I only needed a few minutes in the 2013 Porsche Boxster S before feeling completely comfortable driving the car at its limits. No other car I’ve driven this year has felt as perfect or as fun to drive as the Boxster. And how about that back side? The Boxster’s spoiler (and how it blends into the taillight units) is hands down the sexiest automotive design feature I’ve seen all year.
Worst: 2012 Volkswagen Routan
The VW logo on the steering wheels said I was driving a Volkswagen, but it sure didn’t feel like it. Again, this is nothing more than a rebadged Chrysler Town & Country and nothing about the minivan feels remotely German. Case in point: we all know that German carmakers treat cup holders like the plague, yet the Routan’s Getränkehalter (cup holder) count totals 15.
Mike Febbo, Associate Editor:
Best: Porsche 911 Carrera S
I proclaimed the beginning of the end when the 996 replaced the air-cooled 993, but became a believer again after first driving the 997. As for the 991, the car has restored my faith in Porsche as the best sports car builder on the planet. From driving position, to steering, to the new PDK gearbox, everything about the 991 is exceptional.
Worst: BMW e39 M5 at the Nurburgring
While the e39 M5 is one of the best sedans ever built, this particular car was on its factory tires — the tires fitted when it was built. After a few years of hard use and then being put into storage, these near slick chunks of carbon offered just slightly more grip than the wheels they were mounted on. On a rain-soaked track in just over freezing temperatures, this was one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve had as a journalist.
Mike Floyd, Senior Digital Content Director:
Best: Cadillac ATS
Other than our esteemed 2013 Car of the Year — the out-of-this-world Tesla Model S — the car I was most impressed with in 2012 was the Cadillac ATS. Anyone who thinks General Motors can’t build world-class cars needs to beat feet down to a Cadillac dealer and get behind the wheel of the ATS. Both the turbo-four and V-6 powertrains are impressive, and while we had some issues with the manual (they assure us it’s being adjusted), the fact that they offer one at all was a huge bonus point in any enthusiast’s book — and mine as well. It looks good, handles great, moves out with authority and while a little fussy at times, its CUE telematics system is among the most impressive of its type out there. Bravo Cadillac, a sport sedan that truly has what it takes to compete with all comers.
Worst: Chevrolet Malibu
Conversely, the Chevrolet Malibu also shows how far GM has to go in some segments. At this year’s Car of the Year event, we had some of the heaviest hitters in the midsize sedan category out for evaluation, and the Malibu was literally crushed by the weight of new Accord, Fusion, and Altima. Its engine/transmission was underpowered and lazy, its steering was vague and suspension unsettled and its interior (at least the car we had at the event) was no match for its competitors. To put it bluntly, it simply cannot compete with the best the segment has to offer. We hear now that Chevrolet is rushing changes to the Malibu much as Honda did with the Civic. Let’s hope it helps, because the present Malibu is going to need all the massaging it can get to stay off the rental car lots.
Zach Gale, Online News Director:
Best: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG coupe
The Aston Martin DBS is more attractive than the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, but at least the German car doesn’t have a small, folding Garmin navigation screen at the top of its otherwise pleasing cabin. What excites me about the SLS AMG is its engine note. No modern supercar can be fully exploited safely on open-to-the-public winding roads, so I especially appreciate the SLS AMG’s engine sound and the wild appeal provided by the long hood and gullwing doors. My honorable mention might go to the Lexus GS 350, with its surprisingly good interior and decent driving dynamics.
Worst: Coda EV sedan
It must be a tough time to be a small electric-automaker, competing with well-funded entries from companies like Nissan and Chevrolet, but that doesn’t mean we can overlook the Coda EV sedan’s shortcomings. Though I love an underdog, this electric sedan has too many impossible-to-ignore shortcomings. Despite the bold five-spoke wheels, there’s the dated exterior styling and the interior’s center stack that’s simply not up to the class standard, with an ultra-low-mounted central screen and a general feeling that’s more “economy car” than “special electric sedan.” We want to like the Coda but, at least for me, I found it difficult to get past the packaging that helps keep costs down.
Jonny Lieberman, Senior Features Editor:
Best: Porsche 911 Carrera S
Yeah, the car that won the 2012 Best Drivers Car also won my heart. Other cars are faster, flashier, more practical, etc., but no car is as fun to throw around on your favorite mountain road. A huge improvement over what I thought was already nearly perfect (the old 997), the new 991 is a revelation. I can’t even imagine what the follow-up versions (Turbo, GT3, 50th Anniversary edition, etc.) will be like, but I can imagine how much I’ll like them. Runners up this year include the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CL65, Tesla Model S, Cadillac ATS 3.6, Toyota Avalon, and Morgan 3-Wheeler.
Worst: Chevrolet Malibu
Really GM? You knock one out of the park with the Caddy ATS and then revert back to your bad old ways with this… well, you can’t call it a car so much as a collection of bad things people associate with rental cars. Slow, bad brakes, clueless transmission, an engine that sounds like a vacuum cleaner sucking up a T-shirt, poor suspension, tight back seat, poor NVH, etc. I refer to the new Malibu around the office as “Dumpster Fire.” It’s that bad. Don’t believe me? GM is rushing the refresh. Runners up: Dodge Dart, Toyota Prius C, Lexus ES 350.
Ed Loh, Editor-in-Chief:
Best: Tesla Model S
Obviously our COTY! Everyone who has driven it comes away impressed; I have yet to find anyone who has not been “converted.” It also ranks as the most surprising for me. I remember flying to Las Vegas for the third long-distance test we did and feeling the weight of expectation as I approached it in the parking garage of the Aria casino. I remember feeling somewhat confused and lost when the valet handed me the key, because I had been so busy up until that moment of truth, I hadn’t paid much attention to the testing we had done, the feedback from colleagues Kim, Frank, Jessi, and Benson — in fact, I had no idea about how to open the car door or start it up, save the verbal instructions I had received the day before. And to my surprise – everything worked as promised. The door handle popped out when I pushed on it, the car magically came to life when I got it inside, and a minute later, as I pulled out of the darkness of the garage and into the bright daylight of Las Vegas, I forgot I was in an electric car. It was that seamless and smooth. Shocking really.
Worst/Most Disappointing: BMW M5
I was probably most disappointed by the BMW M5. Fast yes, but so much of the purity, of what made that car special, seems to have disappeared. It’s still fast, but its feels artificially enhanced and unnatural. On an industry level, I’m really sad to see Suzuki exit the U.S. market; they have a great sedan here (Kizashi) but that clearly wasn’t enough. Would have loved to see Swift and Jimny here, but those are fringe products; Suzuki went after mainstream volume and failed. Hyundai’s 40 MPG debacle is also incredibly disappointing, but only stands to highlight how important fuel economy is right now and will continue to be in the future.
Frank Markus, Technical Director:
Most Memorable: Lamborghini Aventador
To be clear, the best car I drove this year was Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Model S, which conveyed myself and Jessi Lang from L.A. to Vegas with no extension cord. But my most memorable drive of 2012 was a 2107-kilometer (1310 mile) trek from Sant’Agata Bolonese, Italy to Zaragoza Spain in Lamborghini’s new Aventador for a visit to the very bullring where its namesake, an 1118-pound toro bravo fought so bravely in 1993. Scaling the spectacularly scenic Col de la Bonnette in the Maritime Alps, and the Col d’Aspin in the Pyrenees was almost as memorable as threading the seemingly 9-foot wide spaceship through tourist-choked medieval cart-paths of Monte Carlo, Nice, and Arles. Watching the descendants of the Gallardo line of fighting bulls charge this orange missile and then using the Aventador to charge matador Tomas Luna on the very same Albero sand where the brave bull perished are permanently etched in my automotive memory banks.
Worst: Coda EV sedan
This is really a case of inopportune time-shifting. The Coda is a 1990s car trying to compete in 2012, and as such it doesn’t stand a chance. The Chinese, bless their hearts, cannot design a new car to save their lives. (Yet.) So they engage in their own brand of R & D (receive and duplicate) or, as in the case of Hafei, start with ancient hand-me-down Mitsubishi architecture and pass the design-cost savings along. Getting the car itself for super-cheap was understandably important to Coda, which planned to stuff it full of 20 or 30 grand’s worth of batteries. The result is a stiff riding, tinny sounding, poorly appointed, noisy, mean conveyance that does—on the upside—offer plenty of get-up-n-go and reasonable range. Just try super hard to avoid the sort of wrecks that NHTSA and others subject cars to, as the Coda performs like an ancient Mitsubishi in such tests.
Alex Nishimoto, Associate Online Editor:
Best: McLaren 12C
During our 2012 Best Driver’s Car competition, I had the good fortune to take home the McLaren for a night. Needless to say, it was a good night. The racy exterior design, low-H-point seating position, and 592-hp twin-turbo V-8 all contributed to a VIP-like driving experience. Though it sometimes took multiple finger swipes of the touch sensors to open the handle-less scissor doors, there are few things I can think of that impart swagger better than getting in or out of a $200,000-plus supercar.
Most Disappointing: Mitsubishi Lancer GT
Going into my test of the Lancer GT, I was actually excited to see what the sporty-looking compact had to offer. On paper, the GT trim level looks like a decent sport compact for budget-minded enthusiasts. But a poorly appointed cabin (especially for our $25,000 as-tested price), nasal-sounding engine note, and un-engaging paddle-shifted CVT held the car back from being anything other than basic transportation.
Kirill Ougarov, Production Manager:
Best: Mercedes-Benz G550
We had one hell of a year when it comes to Benzes, what with getting every AMG extant and every S-Class, but my favorite was easy the red G550 for the simple reason it was a G-Wagen, and thus awesome. There’s also that whole thing about us Russians loving G-Wagens. Honorary mention to the matte-white E63 AMG. Now to combine the two and get my hands on a G63…
Worst: Ford Taurus
There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the car itself, but I’m putting it down here because MyFord Touch froze up on me while I was trying to switch audio sources and wouldn’t reset until the car power-cycled once I parked it at my destination, which happened to be some 45 miles away. Merely turning it off then back on, on the side of the freeway didn’t do the trick. As a result, I had limited controls over the audio, no ability to control the climate control, and no navigation during the whole drive.
Kim Reynolds, Testing Director:
Best: Tesla Model S
This pick sounds a bit obvious now, but before anyone had a chance to drive the Tesla there were lots of reasons to be apprehensive. It was their first from-the-ground-up design. They had zero experience in building a complete car. And after the Volt battery-fire incident, also good reason to worry about its enormous lithium-ion battery. So the Model S’ subsequent competence is just short of miraculous. By comparison, we still see cars from very established, highly experienced car companies that contain absolutely remarkable mistakes. Such as my Worst pick of the year.
Worst: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
Understand, this isn’t my worst car of the year, but rather the one that most surprised me (in a negative way) compared to my expectations. The SLS AMG’s limit handling is very difficult for me to comprehend from a company with this experience. Defeat its stability nannies and its rear can slip away like a squeezed pumpkin seed and is about as easy to wrangle back behind you as a frightened rabbit. Driven with abandon, the SLS AMG can quickly make you look like a complete idiot.
Christian Seabaugh, Associate Online Editor:
Best: Subaru BRZ
I drove a lot of fantastic (and expensive) cars and trucks this year including the Tesla Model S and the Porsche Boxster S, but the car I keep coming back to is the Subaru BRZ. I can’t get enough of this car. Every time I get out of it I want nothing more than to go back out and have another go. It’s just such a rewarding car to drive, with so much personality; the engine is rev-happy, the gearbox is a delight, the pedals are perfectly spaced, and the handling is some of the best I’ve experienced this side of a Ferrari 458 Italia. I simply adore this thing. Honorable mentions: Chevrolet Spark, Ford Raptor, Mazda Miata Super 20, Porsche 911 Carrera, Tesla Model S.
Worst: Chevrolet Malibu
I never thought I’d more miserable driving than I was earlier this year trying to get 40 mpg out of our old long-term Hyundai Elantra. Then I drove the Chevrolet Malibu. The Malibu is just such a disappointing car to drive, especially compared to the new Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. From the transmission constantly hunting for gears, to the underpowered, drone-y engine, to the complete disconnect between the wheels and the road – the Malibu just disappointed on all fronts. I can honestly say that I’ve never been so eager to stop driving than I was in the Malibu. Here’s hoping GM can step its game up with the next one. Dishonorable mentions: BMW 528i, Cadillac Escalade, Dodge Dart, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius C
Melissa Spiering, Online Editor, Truck Trend:
Best: XPLORE Adventure Series’ 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
I got to take XPLORE‘s custom built Adventure Series’ 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon off-roading in Johnson Valley, California, to watch the Sixth Annual Griffin King of the Hammers off-road race. It had the right modifications mechanically and visually to stand out in the crowd without looking over done. The all-new 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar was a blast to drive on the trails and hillsides to get to the best viewpoints for the race.
Worst: 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4X4
Is it dead yet? Two weeks in the 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude and I couldn’t get one staffer to trade me vehicles. The noisy CVT was nerve wrecking and the 2.4-liter engine was gutless. The most heartbreaking thing about the Compass is that it poses itself to be a real Jeep but sadly lacks the true heart and soul of what the Jeep brand is. My dog enjoyed the ride though – she was able to hold her balance in the back seat due to the lack of torque.
Jason Udy, Associate Online Editor:
Best: Nissan GT-R Black Edition
After putting more than 1700 miles on our long-term Nissan GT-R Black Edition in four days, including onramp blasts for the enjoyment of 30 friends and family members, I came away impressed by Godzilla’s ride quality, fuel mileage, and sheer acceleration. In fact, my 60-year-old aunt who traveled with me commented that it was the most enjoyable road trip she had ever made. Points for the Recaro seats and suspension’s comfort mode. Overall the GT-R returned 19.1 mpg (19.9 mpg not including the tank of fuel used for onramp runs) at an average of 10 mph above posted speeds. Let’s not forget the as-tested 2.8-second 0-60 mph time.
Worst: Coda EV sedan
While the Coda may not be the most disappointing car I drove in 2012 (my expectations were too low for disappointment), it was by far the worst car I drove all year. The interior is cheap and handling is downright scary. Part of what makes the Coda feel cheap are its Chinese economy car roots – basically a modified and rebadged Hafei Saibao that has been on the market for years.
What were the best and worst cars you’ve driven in 2012?
Some Republicans decry what they say are the liberal leanings of the federal government, but when it comes to rating the single-charge range of electric vehicles, the feds’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is decidedly conservative.
At least, this is what Edmunds found in a recent EV road test of nine models, including the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf and a prototype version of the Volkswagen e-Golf. In fact, all eight non-prototype vehicles beat their EPA ratings in a 105.5 mile course through Orange County, CA, that Edmunds says “includes exactly zero freeway miles, more than a few hills and dozens of signals and stop signs along the way.” Edmunds says the cars, which were driven during rush-hour morning traffic, didn’t hit speeds of more than 50 miles per hour and didn’t use any air conditioning.
The proverbial superstar of the group was the Toyota RAV4 EV, which lasted 144.5 miles (i.e. it had 40 miles left at the end of its lap), or about 40 percent more than its stated range. The Ford Focus EV reached about 100 miles, compared to its 76-mile single-charge range rating, while the BMW ActiveE, Coda Sedan and Honda Fit EV all cleared 100 miles and beat their EPA ratings by 15 percent to 20 percent. The Leaf surpassed its 73-mile rating by 20 miles, while the Tesla exceeded its 265-mile rating by about four miles. The VW came in just short of 100 miles, while the Mitsubishi i beat its 62-mile-range by an impressive 14 miles.
Of course, Edmunds couldn’t resist getting some performance numbers from the EVs, and those held up as well. It’s no surprise that the Model S went from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a tidy 4.3 seconds, but the RAV4 also turned out to be pretty quick, going from 0 to 60 in 7.7 seconds. The Bimmer, Coda, Honda and Ford all went from 0 to 60 in just under 10 seconds, while the VW and Nissan came in at about 10-seconds flat. Only the Mitsubishi turned in a golf-cartish 0-60 time of 14.9 seconds. Check out all of Edmunds‘ summary here.
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By Danny King
With the rise of electric vehicles comes the risk of confusing methods to charge the batteries. Thankfully, seven automakers have collaborated and reached an agreement to standardize EV fast charging methods in the United States and Europe.
The automakers include Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche, and Volkswagen. All seven have agreed on one vehicle inlet/charging connector as well as the method in which the car communicates with the charging station. They also considered the future of smart grid application and have decided to use HomePlug GreenPHY for the communication protocol.
The agreement is compatible with the J1772 connector standard in the U.S., now used at Level 2 (220V in the U.S.) charging stations.
“At Ford, we know how important it is to provide technologically innovative solutions that are convenient for our customers – it’s part of our ‘One Ford’ vision and a key factor in our company’s overall success,” said Steve Biegun, Ford’s vice president of international government affairs. “We applied the same philosophy in working with other global automakers and governments to offer one common approach on charging electric vehicles – helping speed infrastructure development, strengthen economic growth and most importantly, make charging even more convenient for our customers.”
However, it’s a different story for Japanese cars such as the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i, which currently support the CHAdeMO standard for level 3 DC fast charging (anywhere between 300-500 volts). That means owners of Japanese EVs will likely have to use adapters for any quick charging station that isn’t CHAdeMO compatible. Tesla, which created its charging units prior to standardization, also requires an adaptor for any station outside of the automaker’s proprietary connectors for all charge levels (1,2, and 3) for both the Roadster and upcoming Tesla S sedan.