Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jeep Liberty Limited works like a truck

Texas Truck Mama smiled as she pulled into the driveway in her little Mini Cooper. Parked in front of her was a considerably different vehicle, a 2008 Jeep Liberty Limited sport-utility vehicle. It was about two feet longer than her Mini Cooper, several inches taller and nearly 900 pounds heavier.

The four-wheel-drive Jeep Liberty, of course, had a bigger engine -- a 3.7-liter, 210-horsepower V-6, compared with the 1.6-liter, 118-horsepower in-line four-cylinder engine in her front-wheel-drive Mini.

The Jeep Liberty, wearing all-new sheet metal for 2008, looking rugged the way a Jeep should look, barely got 21 miles per gallon on the highway, drinking regular unleaded gasoline. Texas Truck Mama's Mini got 36 mpg on the highway. And with her behind the wheel, driving like the mild-mannered elementary school teacher she is, squeezing 37 or 38 mpg out of her Mini was not uncommon, although she frequently complained about the Mini's requirement for premium unleaded fuel.

I mention these things in solicitation of help in figuring out the woman to whom I've been married for nearly 40 years.

She's a little thing, barely standing five feet tall. She's painfully sensible. Had it not been for her, we could've been a part of the mortgage mess that's sinking the U.S. economy. She was an environmentalist before environmentalism was cool. And she's so cheap she has an almost religious compulsion to return an item to a store if she discovers that she could have gotten the same thing from somewhere else for 10 cents less.

But when it comes to trucks in general and Jeeps in particular, the woman is insane. Fuel economy doesn't matter. Her usual preference for small cars disappears. Bigger becomes better. Her mild demeanor is supplanted by a lust for power. Mary Anne -- the sweetly smiling schoolteacher and gentle, churchgoing wife from Marshall, Texas -- becomes Texas Truck Mama.

"It's a Jeep! A Jeep!" she exclaimed as she pulled into the driveway.

Then, for a moment, she returned to sobriety. She thought about Ria Manglapus, my associate in vehicle evaluations. "What's Ria driving?" Mary Anne asked.

"Ria's running the Infiniti M45X," I said, thankful that the Infiniti had come a few hours before the Jeep Liberty arrived.

"Oh, well, that's good," Mary Anne said. She backed her Mini out of the driveway and parked it on the street. "Where's the Jeep key?" she asked. I gave it to her. She came inside, dropped her school bags on a living room couch ... and left.

"Errands," she said.

And it went that way for several days -- Mini parked on the street, Mary Anne behind the wheel of the Jeep, until I reminded her that Ria and I weren't reviewing the Mini.

That is when I discovered something else -- that women generally seem nuts about Jeeps. For example, the women at Mary Anne's school were almost as sad as Mary Anne when we took the Jeep away. "I really love that Jeep," the school's vice principal said in a tone that hinted accusation. And, then, Ria: "I thought I wasn't going to get a chance to drive it," she said, collecting the Jeep key and turning over the key to the Infiniti M45X.

Go figure.

The Infiniti M45X is a premium luxury car -- elegant, fast and powerful. The Jeep Liberty is, well, a Jeep. Its attractive new body does not conceal its essential nature, which is that of a utilitarian truck.

The 2008 Jeep Liberty feels better on the road than older Liberty models, the first of which went on sale in the United States six years ago. But there are many sport-utility rivals that have a smoother, more car-like, on-road ride.

The Jeep Liberty beats many competitors off-road. It is a mud-loving, rock-crawling vehicle if ever there was one. But neither Mary Anne, nor Ria, nor any of the women at Mary Anne's school, nor I, drove the 2008 Jeep Liberty off-road. We used it the way most Americans use sport-utility vehicles -- as a station wagon.

My off-road experiences with Jeep Liberty SUVs were in previous versions. Judging from the mechanicals of the 2008 model -- Command-Trac four-wheel-drive (in the tested version), four-wheel-independent suspension with solid live rear axle, hill descent control, electronic high-low gear selection and automatically locking hubs -- the new Jeep Liberty has sacrificed none of its off-road prowess.

But if that prowess isn't ever used, does it matter?

"Yes," said Texas Truck Mama. "It makes you feel like you could do something if you wanted to do something. It makes you feel powerful," she said.

General Motors to sell used cars on eBay

General Motors said Friday that 3,900 auto dealers who sell GM’s Certified Used Cars will list their entire inventories on eBay Motors, according to industry publication Automotive News.

The listings will be free for dealers, the report said, and could radically alter the used-car business.

Mark Matthews, GM’s director of used-vehicle activities, told Automotive News that the certified used-vehicle inventory of dealers who sell GM Certified-brand vehicles will be listed on the third-party classified site starting in the second quarter.

GM’s brands include used Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, Pontiac and Oldsmobile vehicles. Cadillac, Hummer, Saab and Saturn have separate certified used-vehicle programs, but their certified-used inventories will be listed on the site, too, Matthews told the publication.

The eBay Motors Web site has 11 million unique users and the agreement with GM allows dealers who sell GM brands to show their certified-used inventory to them. The program will become even more attractive to dealers and consumers if other manufacturers post their certified-used inventory on the site, too, Matthews told Automotive News.

GM is still working with eBay Motors to finish the site, according to the report, which also noted that GM’s certified-used vehicle inventory is already listed on more than 300 Web sites.

Fiat 500C – Sometimes A Picture Says It All

As the title suggests, sometimes I’m actually lost for words. Not often, but sometimes. This is one of those times. I’m afraid that you, like me, cannot now unsee the picture above. Granted, there was already a ‘pink’ version of the 500 available, but this one is a convertible. This means that EVEN MORE PEOPLE will stare. Make of that what you will. Anyway, here’s the extras you get:

* Special Pink colour
* 16-inch alloy wheels
* Chrome trim
* Side rubbing strip with 500 badge
* Body coloured door mirrors
* Leather steering wheel
* Leather gear knob
* Special carpet mats
* Special Pink key cover
* Split folding rear seat
* Blue&Me infotainment

Want one? This is one of those rare occasions where I’ll say you can keep it!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

VW Polo Named 2010 Car Of The Year

Announced April 1st at the New York International Auto Show in New York City’s Jacob Javits Center, the annual World Car of the Year awards recognize the year’s most outstanding vehicles based on merit, value, safety, environmental impact, significance, and emotional appeal. The VW Polo surpassed 29 other cars to become the the 2010 World Car of the Year.

We’re honoured that the Volkswagen Polo was chosen by this distinguished group of jurors,” said Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG. “After the great triumph of the Golf last year, we are delighted to repeat this success with the new Polo. These automobiles have reaped numerous awards, winning well-nigh every prize the automotive industry has to award. This shows that Volkswagen is on the right track and is offering arguably the best range of products in its history.”

The latest generation of the Volkswagen Polo has quickly become a favorite in the brand’s lineup to drivers and media alike, with its uncluttered, timeless design, and exceptional versatility and efficiency. More than 230,000 customers worldwide have placed orders for the newest version of Volkswagen’s popular subcompact vehicle.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Do You Drive Before You Buy?

It’s a pet hate of mine – when a buyer gets in their mind that they want a particular car, despite the fact that they’ve never driven it, or even suitable alternatives that better suit their needs. Not only do they run the risk of being disappointed, but by driving before buying, they can sure the new car is exactly what they want.

An astonishing one in five Brits doesn’t test drive a car before they buy it, research from has revealed. Findings also show that more than a quarter of Brits have regretted buying a car soon after purchasing it, with almost 10% blaming the colour of their new motor for their dissatisfaction.

Research commissioned by leading used car website delved into British car buying habits, and has revealed many Brits are intimidated by the buying process and have a tendency to act before they think. Over 75% admitted feeling out of their depth, with little or no confidence when making decisions about buying a car.

Our research has revealed only a quarter of Brits feel confident with the car buying process and it’s clear that some consumers need help when they’re choosing a car,” commented Alan Hazelhurst at

That’s why at we’ve created a free car buying guide to provide consumers with simple, easy to use, jargon-free tips to consider when choosing a car. We aim to take the mystery out of the whole car buying process.”

You can download the free guide at:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Official Ford Focus RS500 Video

Just how good is this final swan song for the final Ford Focus of this generation going to be? Well, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be very special indeed. Just take a look at the video above and see what you think. Imagine having that following you on a B road late at night! Surely this fast Ford is going to be the dream of every hot hatch fan out there.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The new BMW 5 Series Touring

This is the new BMW 5 Series Touring, which will be available and on sale from September 2010. This is the fourth generation of the range and is sure to put a grin on the faces of owners by having the best of both worlds – real world performance and real world practicality (it’ll also look better to the neighbours than going the whole hog and buying something like an X5).

Initially available in four derivatives, the new BMW 5 Series Touring offers a choice of two petrol cars, the 523i and 535i, and two diesel models, the 520d and 530d. All four are packed with innovative technology that ensures class-leading performance, fuel economy and CO2 emissions, while providing an elegant, comfortable and driver-oriented estate car.

Tim Abbott, Managing Director of BMW UK, said: “BMW can fairly claim to have created the idea to turn executive saloon cars into practical yet still fun to drive estates with its first 5 Series Touring in the UK back in 1991. Up until then most large estates were utilitarian load-luggers that eschewed both the driving capabilities of their saloon cousins as well as the style. The 5 Series Touring changed all that and its success has led to the new fourth generation being unveiled today. Since the UK is the third largest market for the 5 Series Touring, this new model is an important and exciting one for us. Offering best in class performance, fuel efficiency and emissions, I have high hopes for the new 5 Series Touring here.”

The boot capacity of the new Touring is 560 litres, 60 more than the outgoing model, and a huge 1,670 litres with all rear seats folded. A further option is Extended Storage that includes “cargo” functionality for rear seats. This allows the rear seat backrests to be fixed in a more upright position thereby increasing luggage capacity by 30 litres and minimising wasted space behind rear seats. This feature increases normal load capacity to 590 litres as well as adding lashing rails, storage nets and straps. Naturally, a ski bag is available as an option.

What do I make of it? Well, it’s hard to fault the 5 Series really and this new has lower emissions, higher power and plenty of boot space. I suppose my only gripe will be that plenty of them will be out there not being used properly and instead invested in to keep up with the Joneses, whoever they are!

Friday, April 16, 2010

How do the vehicles stack up?

While the retail price of the two vehicles will be enough to persuade or deter many customers from being among the first to drive a mass produced electric car, there are other factors to be taken into account. Here is how each vehicle stacks up over some key criteria:

Vital statistics of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV:

  • Zero CO2 exhaust emissions.
  • Top speed: 81 mph.
  • Range: 80 miles (EU combined mode, estimated).
  • Charging time: Seven hours with a 220V system.
  • Seating capacity: Four adults, plus luggage.
  • Kerb weight: 1,105kg.
  • Dimensions: 3,475 (l) x 1,475 (w) x 1,610 (h).

Vital statistics of the Nissan LEAF:

  • Zero CO2 exhaust emissions.
  • Top speed: 90mph.
  • Range: 100 miles (based on an urban driving cycle).
  • Charging time: Eight hours with a 220V system.
  • Seating capacity: Four adults, plus luggage.
  • Kerb weight: 1,545kg.
  • Dimensions: 4,445 (l) x 1,770 (w) x 1,550 (h).

The Nissan LEAF has the slight edge in terms of range and performance capabilities, but the statistics are close enough to suggest that the initial price tag may be the key in swinging consumers one way or the other.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How much does each vehicle cost?

Nissan has confirmed a starting price of Y3.76million in Japan with the LEAF to also benefit from up to Y770,000 in government incentives and be free from car acquisition and weight tax – the vehicle will be available to order from April 1. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi countered by making its vehicle available to individuals on the same date and with government subsidies it could be picked up for as little as Y2,840,000.

In the US, the Nissan LEAF is expected to cost around $25,280 after a Federal tax credit of $7,500 has been deducted – before the deduction, the model costs $32,780 (see article). Orders for the model in the States open on April 20, with deliveries in select markets to begin by December. By contrast, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is expected to go on sale in the US in April 2011 and Mitsubishi Motors spokesman Maurice Durand told reporters at the New York International Auto Show that a sub $30,000 price tag would be targeted even before tax credits are taken into account.

Here in the UK, Mitsubishi has already announced that its i-MiEV model will cost just under £39,000 (see article) although customers will be able to benefit from a £5,000 reduction thanks to the Government’s Plug-in Car Grants which begin next year. We have an in-depth analysis of how the cost of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV stacks up compared to a petrol car here – the vehicle is also expected to be marketed as the Peugeot i0n and the Citroen C-ZERO before the end of the year. Nissan is yet to confirm the official price tag of the LEAF in the UK, but it is expected to be along the lines of its US retail price, which would make it significantly cheaper than the i-MiEV.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

F1 – Race 3 – Malaysia

Another great race, most of the excitement being in the qualifying laps on Saturday.

The rain started just before qualifying. Sebastian Vettel was out early whilst his team mate Mark Webber, the Ferrari’s, McLaren’s and Mercedes’ remained in the pits. The rain, wrong decisions on tyres and not getting onto the track early meant that Fernando Alonso spun and was out in Q1. Also out in Q1 was Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Lucas di Grassi, Jarno Trulli and Bruno Senna. Jensen Button ended up in the gravel early in Q2 for a grid start of 17th. Mark Webber was in trouble with two minutes to go, in position 12, but managed to pull back to 7th by the end of the session. Pedro de la Rosa Sebastian Buemi, Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock and Vitaly Petrov all fail to make Q3. With all the cars in Q3 on wet tyres, with the exception of Mark Webber, and Sebastian Vettel sitting on pole, it was going to be interesting. Webber’s choice of tyres meant he got pole position with Nico Roseberg 2nd and Sebastian Vettel 3rd.

The race itself got off to a good start, in the dry, with Vettel passing Rosberg and Webber on turn one. Hamilton managed to sneak up on the inside from 20th to 12th. By lap 4 Hamilton was 10th with Vettel still leading, Webber 2nd and Rosberg 3rd. Lap 7 and Hamilton got a little carried away and was warned about weaving in front of Petrov to keep him back. Lap 10 and Michael Schumacher was out with a rear suspension problem (turns out he lost a wheel nut) and Button was first to make a pit stop going from soft to hard tyres hoping that the rain did not return.

Hamilton was up to 7th by lap 13, 5th by lap 21 and 2nd by lap 25: an amazing feat from starting 20th on the grid. Lap 34 saw Vitaly Petrov retire with gearbox problems and Hamilton (now 7th after a pit stop in lap 31) still unable to pass Adrian Sutil. By lap 39 Vettel was 3.8 seconds ahead of Webber who was 12.6 seconds ahead of 3rd place Nico Rosberg. Fernando Alonso made up ground despite a downshift problem but just couldn’t get past Felipe Massa (8th). Massa managed to pass Button in lap 44 but Button retaliated two laps later to regain 8th position.

Lap 51 and the top 8 were pretty much set for the last 5 laps: Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, Kubica, Sutil, Hamilton, Massa and Button. Alonso passed Button on the penultimate lap only to watch him fly past again as he limped onto the grass verge in a puff of smoke! After the reliability problems of the last two races Red Bull get it right finishing first and second. Virgin managed their first finish of the season whilst it was another disappointing race for the Lotus team.

So, on to China (Shanghai) on 18th April. Last year saw Vettel and Webber do the same double as they did in Malaysia this year. Can they do it again, and will the rain stay away for race this year? I think Red Bull have a very good good chance of getting two podium places again in China. What do you think?

Driver Team Time
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:57:43:485
2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault +00:04.849
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP +00:13.504
4. Robert Kubica Renault +00:18.589
5. Adrian Sutil Force-India-Mercedes +00:21.059
6. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +00:23.471
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari +00:27.068
8. Jensen Button McLaren-Mercedes +00:37.918
9. Jaime Alguersuari Torro Rosso-Ferrari +01:10.602
10. Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth +01:13.399

Drivers Championship Table

Driver Team Points
1. Felipe Massa Ferrari 39
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 37
3.Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 37
4. Jensen Button McLaren-Mercedes 35
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 35
6. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 31
7. Robert Kubica Renault 30
8. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 24
9. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 10
10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 9

Enjoy Perth at its Best

erth is the largest city on Australia’s western coast. It ranks eighth in the World’s most liveable cities and is widely known as “The City of Lights”. This is because the residents of Perth lit up their homes as the American Astronaut John Glenn passed the city in space in 1962; and then again in 1998. There are some wonderful experiences to be had in Perth and with temperatures ranging from 7 – 31 degrees, you are bound to enjoy your time here any time of year.

The city lies on the banks of Swan River, which is absolutely beautiful. There are over 80kms of white sandy beaches, unspoilt and clean for you to relax and unwind, or if you fancy, go swimming or surfing! Visit Kings Park and Botanic Garden, which is the green heart of the city. Being the most popular visitor destination in Perth, you won’t want to miss being able to hire a BBQ and enjoying the great outdoors, in a city! It also houses a beautiful collection of flora with 319 native plants and 80 species of bird. If you fancy something really different, why not watch a movie in the outdoor cinema? Or just sit in the cafĂ© and have some coffee and cake.

Perth’s Mint is a multi award winning attraction! It is one of the world’s oldest mints that is still in operation from it’s original premises. For over 90 years the gates were locked to the public, but it is now open as a popular tourist attraction You can experience the gold rush, handle over AUD400,000 worth of gold bullion, find out the value of your weight in gold and even create your own personalised gold medallion.

The Bell Tower is one of the largest musical instruments on the planet which was custom built for housing the bells of Saint Martin in the Fields Church, the parish church of Buckingham Palace in Trafalgar Square in London. They date back to before the 14th century and is the only place where you can sit and view bell ringing in action, or even have a go yourself!

There is so much more to enjoy in Perth such as the Art Gallery or if you want to enjoy the night life, head to Northbridge or Subiaco. If you are looking for something little more relaxed go to Scarborough or Cottesloe.

There is anything and everything to do in Perth, if you want to relax or take part in extreme sports they will have it! If you are travelling, it is a great place to experience. Have you been to Perth? What have you done while you have been over there?

CAT envisages fossil-free Britain in 20 years

The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) is drawing up plans which could help Britain to banish fossil fuel use in just twenty years.

The report which details measure designed to slash carbon emissions and eliminate oil use in Britain is set to be published in June, the BBC reports.

Entitled ‘Zero Carbon Britain’ the report’s authors say that through proper use of renewable energy sources, using more energy efficient buildings and by making a switch to electric cars Britain can cut energy demands in half.

At present, the UK government has pledged to reduce emissions by 80 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2050. However CAT is much more ambitious:

"We are saying 100 per cent by 2030," Cat researcher Alex Randall told the broadcaster, adding: "We can’t keep burning fossil fuels."

As oil shortages are predicted to hit as early as 2015 , such targets may be needed to prevent an energy crisis in the UK.

The centre based in Machynlleth, Powys in Wales was opened in 1974 and promotes sustainable living solutions.