John's Journal: John McElroy's multimedia blog about the automotive industry

AAH #257 – Meet the Man Who Made the Hellcat

September 12th, 2014 at 4:38pm

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UP FOR DISCUSSION:
- First impressions: Mazda MX-5 Miata and Lexus RC.
- Remembering Jim Harbour.
- Sergio Marchionne fires Ferrari Chief, Luca di Montezemolo.

SPECIAL GUEST: Russ Ruedisueli, VLE & Head of Engineering at SRT.
- What’s the REAL horsepower rating on the Dodge Challenger Hellcat? Where else is this engine going?

All that and much more with John McElroy, Autoline.tv; Gary Vasilash, Automotive Design & Production; Chris Paukert, Autoblog.com.

Thanks to our sponsors who make Autoline After Hours possible: Bridgestone and Hyundai

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AAH #256 – Why Luxury Brands are Murdering Mass-Market Cars

September 5th, 2014 at 4:50pm

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UP FOR DISCUSSION:
- How come Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn’s direct reports are leaving left and right?
- Is the “The Hydrogen Transition” on the horizon?
- Are down-market luxury cars stealing sales from mass-market brands?

All that and much more with John McElroy, Autoline.tv; Gary Vasilash, Automotive Design & Production; Dave Sullivan, AutoPacific and Joe White, The Wall Street Journal.

Thanks to our sponsors who make Autoline After Hours possible: Bridgestone and Hyundai

Subscribe to the free podcast version of Autoline After Hours:

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Thanks to our partners and friends AutoFieldGuide.com and WardsAuto.com for embedding AAH!

Seat Time: 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

September 4th, 2014 at 3:00pm

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: Chip Drake
Manufacturer: Mercedes-Benz
Make: Mercedes-Benz
Model: C-Class
Type: C300 Sedan; C300 4MATIC Sedan; C400 4MATIC sedan
Competitors: BMW 3 Series; Audi A4; Lexus IS; Cadillac ATS
Price: C300 — $38,400; C300 4MATIC — $40,400; C400 4MATIC — $48,590 (all prices do not include $925 d&d charges)
Made in: Mercedes-Benz Vance, Alabama factory for the Americas; Also built in Germany, China & South Africa
Drivetrain: C300 — 2.0L Turbo Inline-4 (RWD); C300 4MATIC — 2.0L Turbo Inline-4 (AWD); C400 4MATIC 3.0L Bi-Turbo V6 (AWD)
EPA Ratings: Not rated yet

Final Impression:

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-ClassCommunications and marketing teams try their best to find the perfect location to unveil a new car to the media. There’s a lot that goes into the deciding which city is chosen like the accessibility of its airports, whether or not it has good roads and of course nice hotels don’t hurt either. But then there’s the more cheeky question like the car’s aesthetic: does the environment work with the vehicle? Sometimes it does, many times it doesn’t and then there are times the teams just choose a spot so the box is checked. However, when city and car come together there’s a certain symmetry that works for both of them; and as as far as I’m concerned, that’s what happened when Mercedes brought the media and its new car to the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle, Washington is known at least throughout my world for a couple of important items: Coffee, the tech industry and the Grunge music movement of the ’90s. And what they’ve done for the city — in simplest of cultural terms — is help transform the city and area into a thriving metro scene. Just the kind of area that fits hand-in-glove with the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

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Seat Time: 2015 Acura TLX

September 3rd, 2014 at 2:53pm

2015 Acura TLX

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: John McElroy
Manufacturer: Honda Motor Company
Make: Acura
Model: TLX
Type: 4-door sedan
Competitors: Lexus IS, Infiniti Q40, Cadillac ATS
Price: Base: $30,995. Top line: $42,500
Made in: East Liberty, Ohio
Drivetrain: 2.4 L I-4 w/8-spd automatic; 3.5 L V-6 w/9-spd automatic, AWD avail w/3.5 L
EPA Ratings: 2.4 = 24 city/35 hwy/28 combined; 3.5 2WD= 21 city/34 hwy/25 cobined; 3.5 AWD = 21 city/31 hwy/25 combined

Final Impression:

2015 Acura TLX InteriorAcura’s smaller cars have always suffered from what I call the “boy racer” syndrome. Their buzzy free-revving engines, knife-edge handling, and stark interiors were great for treating your daily commute as if it were a qualifying session, but unpleasant for everyday motoring. It’s as if they designed their cars for 20-year-olds even though most their buyers are over 40.That’s a key reason why the Acura brand never acquired a truly premium image. It never felt as if it were in the same league as Mercedes, BMW or Audi. But the new TLX could represent a turning point. It brings a level of refinement and sophistication we have not seen from the brand in this class of car.

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Seat Time: 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Lux

September 2nd, 2014 at 12:29pm

2014 Volkswagen Touareg

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: Chip Drake
Manufacturer: Volkswagen
Make: Volkswagen
Model: Touareg TDI Lux
Type: Premium SUV, 4-door and tailgate
Competitors: Mercedes-Benz M-Class; Infiniti QX70; BMW X5; Acura MDX
Price: As tested — $56, 785 (with $910 destination charge included)
Made in: Brataslava, Slovakia
Drivetrain: 3.0L, 240 horsepower 406 lbs-ft torque TDI Clean Diesel
EPA Ratings: 20city, 29highway, 23combined

Final Impression:

2014 Volkswagen TouaregWhat’s not to like about this vehicle? Yes, I’m asking you “what’s not to like about the 2014 VW Touareg TDI Lux” because for the life of me, I can’t find anything to complain about. I like the exterior styling as well as the Night Blue Metallic paint along with the 19-inch alloy wheels. It’s a nice looking stylish package. And did I mention the tailgate? It has a powered one that lifts efficiently with plenty of cargo room in back to haul the tons of donations we had to take to our local Goodwill/Salvation Army during the week I drove the vehicle. To say it’s a natural when moving items from one place to the other is obvious.

Yet it’s the other benefits of this SUV are the ones that really hit the mark for me. Let’s start with the luscious Saddle Brown interior and the comfort of the seats. I wouldn’t mind taking this sled on a drive to Alaska, especially with that 3.0-Liter, 240-horsepower turbocharged V6 clean diesel engine. I drove the vehicle for seven days around Metro Detroit going well over 450 miles only to find I had nearly a third of a tank left when I grudgingly turned it back in. And safe to say that if I’m willing to drive more than 14,000 miles round trip (to Juno and back), but more importantly with my wife as a passenger who is easily Ms. Best Ergonomic 2014, that you can be sure those 12-way power, heated front seats, 4MOTION AWD and its all-independent suspension are more than doing their jobs because there isn’t a fussier person on the planet when it comes to ride and comfort than my wife. I often wonder why no OEM has hired her as its own “tush tester.”

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AAH #255 – Plug-ins, Spin Loss and Powertrains of the Future

August 29th, 2014 at 4:08pm

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UP FOR DISCUSSION:
- Was Ross Perot Right? More Move to Mexico
- China & India Go After Western Automakers: Is This the Beginning of the End?

SPECIAL GUEST: Larry Nitz, GM Powertrain Executive Director, Global Transmission & Electrification

All that and much more with Gary Vasilash, Automotive Design & Production, Stephanie Brinley, IHS Automotive and Gary Witzenburg, AutoMedia.com.

Thanks to our sponsors who make Autoline After Hours possible: Bridgestone and Hyundai

Subscribe to the free podcast version of Autoline After Hours:

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Thanks to our partners and friends AutoFieldGuide.com and WardsAuto.com for embedding AAH!

Seat Time: 2014 Volkswagen CC Executive

August 26th, 2014 at 3:00pm

2014 Volkswagen CC

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: Chip Drake
Manufacturer: Volkswagen
Make: Volkswagen
Model: CC Executive
Type: Mid-Size Sports Sedan
Competitors: Acura TSX, Buick Regal, Hyundai Azera, Infiniti G37, Nissan Maxima
Price: As tested – $38,260
Made in: Emden, Germany
Drivetrain: 2.0L turbocharged inline four-cylinder with direct injection mated to a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission
EPA Ratings: 22 MPG city/ 31 MPG highway/ 25 MPG combined

Final Impression:

2014 Volkswagen CC InteriorAs we know, the design of Volkswagens are fairly pedestrian save for the iconic Beetle. The Passat, Jetta, Tiquan, for example, all bare a striking resemblance to a lamb cake mold but less fluffy. So to say the VW CC – in this case the Executive — is the most beautifully designed Volkswagen seems a tad empty if not wholly accurate. The car’s slopey shoulders give it the look of one of its far more expensive Teutonic cousins while its two-toned milk chocolate interior is as luscious as that first summer milkshake on a hot day.

On the inside the car has the tech it’s supposed to have though most of it seems B-list. The RNS 510 Navigation system with its 6.5-inch screen along with the Fender sound system all could stand to be punched up a bit.

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Seat Time: 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic

August 25th, 2014 at 3:05pm

2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: John McElroy
Manufacturer: Daimler AG
Make: Mercedes-Benz
Model: S550 4Matic
Type: Full-size, 4-door sedan
Competitors: BMW Alpina B7, Audi A8 L W12, Lexus LS 600h L
Price: As tested $121,345
Made in: Sindelfingen, Germany
Drivetrain: 4.6 L twin turbo V-8, 7-speed automatic
EPA Ratings: 16 city/26 highway/19 mpg combined

Final Impression:

2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class InteriorIf you are ever going to fully appreciate all the technologically packed into this Mercedes, you’d better be ready to earn a PhD in owner’s manual studies. This has got to be the most complicated machine to ever roll off an automotive assembly line. The good news is that you can just jump in this car and go, because the basics of everyday driving are simple enough for anyone to figure out the first time they sit behind the wheel. But if you want to get your money’s worth out of all the controls and functions, get ready to hit the books for some serious study sessions. And even at that you’ll probably need some refresher courses.

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AAH #254 – The ART of Audi

August 22nd, 2014 at 2:24pm

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SPECIAL GUEST: Jamie Dennis, Audi Quality & Technical Service Director
- Audi has new technology that transmits its expert technicians into any service center. How and why are they doing this?

All that and much more with John McElroy, Autoline.tv and Gary Vasilash, Automotive Design & Production.

Thanks to our sponsors who make Autoline After Hours possible: Bridgestone and Hyundai

Subscribe to the free podcast version of Autoline After Hours:

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Thanks to our partners and friends AutoFieldGuide.com and WardsAuto.com for embedding AAH!

Seat Time: 2015 Lexus IS 250 F-Sport

August 20th, 2014 at 3:00pm

2013 Lexus ISC

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: John McElroy
Manufacturer: Toyota
Make: Lexus
Model: IS 250 F-Sport
Type: 2-door convertible
Competitors: BMW 4-series convertible, Mercedes SLK, Audi A5 convertible
Price: $51,065
Made in: Tahara, Japan
Drivetrain: 2.5 L V-6, 6-speed automatic
EPA Ratings: 21 city, 30 highway, 24 mpg combined

Final Impression:

2013 Lexus ISCIf you enjoy going out on a nice sunny day and motoring down a pleasant country road in a car with the top down, stop reading this review right now and go out to your local Lexus dealer. This car is ideal for open-top motoring at leisurely speeds.

The hard-top roof opens and closes easily at the touch of a button, with no latches, covers or snaps to deal with. And all the other controls seem to be located where ever you intuitively reach for them, making this car a breeze to drive. OK, there. Now I’ve said everything nice that I have to say about this car.

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