Can you name the real cars hidden by the camouflage and facades in these classic pics taken by master spy photographer Jim Dunne, our guest on Autoline After Hours, Thursday, Dec. 17th? Click the jump below to take the quiz and win a prize.
The Chevy Volt is going to have a neat little feature that will make it easier to drive in stop and go traffic.
Like most cars, the Chevy Volt is going to have Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. But if you pull the gear shift lever back one more notch, you get a lot more regenerative braking when you decelerate.
That’s one of the ways to put energy back into batteries in hybrid and electric cars. Regenerative braking makes the electric motor in the car produce electricity and that’s put back into the battery.
Anyway, on the Volt, you can set the regenerative braking to be super aggressive, so aggressive in fact that in stop and go driving you can slow the car down and practically bring it to a stop without ever putting your foot on the brake pedal. All you have to do is back off the gas, which should make driving in traffic jams just a little bit easier to take.
Click on an image to see larger photos of the Chevy Volt
The new Ford Fiesta is a terrific small car that is going to stun a lot of the company’s competitors.
I just got a chance to drive the European version of the new Ford Fiesta, which will be in showrooms here in two years time. And it’s such a good B-class car that companies like Toyota and Honda are going to have to tear it down to see what makes it so good.
This car is remarkably quiet, it’s fun to drive, and the interior materials and quality are far better than cars that cost a lot more. This is the first car to come out of Ford’s new global product development process, and if this is any indication of what’s to come, Ford is going to soon have an impressive line-up of vehicles in its showrooms.
Of course, the Fiesta is still two years away before it will available here, and a lot of other competitors will be out by then. But the new Fiesta is a sure sign that Ford can build cars like the best of them.
Click on an image to see larger photos of the all-new Ford Fiesta
Ford is going to change the way it designs the front doors on its cars and trucks, all in the interest of reducing wind noise.
For a couple of decades now Ford has used what it calls a limo-style door design, where the front door actually covers the outside of the A-pillar. It provides a good, clean look to a vehicle.
But when you’re driving, as the wind comes off the sides of the windshield, air can get diverted into the leading edge of the A-pillar. And if the seal on the door is off by even the slightest amount, you can get wind noise.
So Ford is changing the design so that when the front door closes, its tucked into the side of the car, behind the A-pillar. So as air comes off the sides of the windshield, it just wraps around the side of the car, and that greatly cuts down on any potential wind noise.
The Chevy Camaro is as American as apple pie, with a little help from some other countries in the world.
Several years after the concept version was introduced GM finally unveiled the production version of the Chevy Camaro. But don’t get too excited just yet, it won’t hit showrooms until next year.
The exterior design is very similar to the concept, with that V-shaped grill and gills in the rear quarter panels especially stand out. Inside the design is a blend of classic and contemporary looks. For example, the gauges on the center counsel cluster are sort of like the ones on the ’69 Camaro but now they have LED back lighting and there’s an optional LED ambient lighting package.
Despite being such an iconic American car, the Camaro is actuially a product of GM’s global development process. The design was done in the United States, the engineering was done in Australia and the car will be assembled in Canada.
Click an above image to see larger photos of the all-new Chevy Camaro
The Ford Escape is selling pretty well, and the 2009 model gets some significant improvements.
Last year the Ford Escape underwent a redesign to the interior and exterior and this year they significantly improved the power train. The base four cylinder engine is now 2.5-liters up from 2.3 and the V6 engine now gets 20 percent more horsepower. The four-speed automatic has been replaced with a six-speed and despite the bigger engine and more power engineers were still able to get one more mile per gallon for all the models.
Moreover the Escape now offers popular conveniences like SYNC, Sirius Traffic Link, and a capless fuel filler. Safety features such as stability control and side curtain airbags are now available and of course these improvements don’t come for free, they also bumped the base price up to just over 20 grand.
Click an above image to see larger photos of the 2009 Ford Escape
Drag racing is one of the most popular forms of motor sport in this country. Hopped-up Hemis and blown big blocks shred tires and thunder down the 1320 in no time flat. But even the quickest modified street cars pale in comparison to the awesome power of top-fuel dragsters. In fact, the forces at work inside these cars are almost unimaginable. Here are some specifics that really put top-fuel power and acceleration into perspective.
Click an above image to see larger photos
* One Top Fuel dragster 500 cubic-inch Hemi engine makes more horsepower (8,000) than the first 4 rows at the Daytona 500.
* Under full throttle, a dragster engine consumes 11.2 gallons of nitro methane per second!A fully-loaded 747 consumes jet fuel at the same rate and produces 25 percent less energy.
* A stock Dodge Hemi V8 engine is not powerful enough to drive the dragster’s supercharger.
Hyundai is updating its popular Sonata midsize sedan with a bunch of changes for 2009.
The current Sonata launched back in 2006. It’s a solid, sharp-looking car, but Hyundai is making it even better by giving it some important updates.
Designers have restyled the front and rear ends and completely overhauled the dashboard. The changes on the exterior are pretty minor, but the new instrument panel looks like it came right out of a Lexus.
Hyundai also improved both of the Sonata’s engines. The base four cylinder now has 175 horsepower and best-in-class fuel economy of 22 in the city and 32 on the highway. The optional V6 now makes 15 more horsepower at 249 and it also gets better gas mileage.
Even with all of these improvements the Sonata is still a great value. Base, four cylinder models start at about $19,000 while fully-loaded ones top out around 26 grand.
Click an above image to see larger photos of the 2009 Hyundai Sonata
Volkswagen has a tradition of selling station wagons that goes back farther than you might think.
For 50 years, Volkswagen has been importing station wagons to the U.S. Yes, 50 years. Remember the original Microbus was actually called a station wagon when it first came to this country. And now vee-dub is continuing the tradition with its all-new 2009 Jetta Sportwagen.
The wagon is pretty much the same as the sedan inside and out. But it offers a power-sliding panoramic sunroof and carries all the other items customers expect on new cars today, like DVD navigation, a rearview camera, six airbags and electronic stability control.
Pricing for the Jetta Sportwagen isn’t official yet, but expect the base model to start around $19,000, while a turbo version will start at just over $26,000. Look for the Sportwagen to hit showroom floors in July.
Click an above image to see larger photos of the Jetta Sportwagen
About 25 years ago I drove a hybrid car that was very different from the hybrids on the road today. This one was powered by a flywheel. Instead of storing energy in a battery and then using that to accelerate the car, it stored energy in the form of a spinning flywheel.You know that kind of toy car where you push it along the carpet to turn the wheels to get an internal flywheel spinning, then let it go and watch it scoot across the floor? It’s pretty much the same idea.
The flywheel hybrid I drove was the brainchild of a professor named Andrew Frank who was then at the University of Wisconsin, though he’s now at UC, Davis. He was modifying different types of vehicles to run on flywheels and I was intrigued to learn how they worked. So I took a road trip to Wisconsin to pay the professor a visit.