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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Consumer Reports' has announced that the 2009 Honda Fit has managed to outscore its competitors, which includes the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Chevrolet Aveo and Suzuki SX4.

Consumer Reports'
tested six subcompacts and small sedans for its March issue. The Honda Fit which is all-new for 2009 received CR's top rating due to its roomy, versatile and flexible interior. CR also noted the Fit's fun to drive character and its good fuel economy.

The Fit and Suzuki SX4 are the only two vehicles in the test that are "recommended" by CR. The Nissan Versa's reliability, which is below average for the sedan kept it from receiving the publication's recommendation. The Chevy Aveo and Toyota Yaris also scored too low in CR's tests.

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Mazda has announced the introduction of two new Mazda3 models at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show.

First is the 2010 Mazda3 MPS, which is known as the Mazdaspeed3 in the U.S. The more exciting version of the Mazda3 will feature the same 2.3 DISI turbo engine as the current Mazdaspeed3, but its not yet known if it will feature more power.

The second model to be unveiled is the Mazda3 i-stop is powered by a MZR 2.0 DSI (Direct-injection Spark Ignition) engine and features a fuel-saving stop/start system. The setup yields a 12 percent improvement in city fuel economy than the current Euro-spec. Mazda3.

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Every weekday in 2008- except for Christmas Day- we saw another cool street-parked vehicle from the streets of Alameda, California. Now I'm going to share my personal favorite ten DOTS finds of the year.

These are the cars and trucks that, for one reason or another, really made my day when I ran across them on the streets of Alameda. Some of them are on this list because they're rare and/or interesting (the "Whoa! What's that?" factor), while others made the cut simply because I yearn to own them. And, yes, the Fire Arrow falls into the latter category, because I'm sick like that. So here we go, my personal Alameda DOTS favorites for Ought-Eight:

1953 Citroën Traction-Avant
Once I found the '75 Citroën GS 1220, I figured there'd be no way in hell I'd ever find a cooler street-parked Citroën on the island. Then… this car! Not only is it a Traction-Avant, it's a really solid street-driven example with a custom vintage hood ornament.

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S
A great big daily-driven Ponton, rough in spots but still majestic, no doubt with more miles on the clock than every other car on its block combined.

1960 Triumph TR3A
Finding this car led to the epic Triumph cross-country road trip story, which was a lot of fun.

1962 Chrysler 300
I'm torn between this car, the '47 Plymouth, and the '66 Lancia Fulvia Berlina when it comes to choosing the Alameda DOTS car I most wish I owned. I think the Chrysler has the edge. It's probably best that I don't own it, because I'd put a manual transmission in it and get lynched by an enraged mob of numbers-matching Mopar purists.

1963 Porsche 356
356 owners who keep their cars wrapped in cottonwool in the garage will no doubt cringe in horror at the sight of this street-driven (and, for a time, autocross-driven) vintage Porsche, but the owner believes Porsches are made to be driven.

1964 Mercury Comet Cyclone
It's a seriously rare car that vintage Ford freaks would kill to own, equipped with 289 and 4-speed, and yet it's a beat-to-hell daily driver with Greenpeace stickers and a puzzling vanity plate. I love this town!

1965 International Harvester Travelall
Look at this big ol' campin' machine!

1967 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser
It's a show-quality restored Vista Cruiser wagon, complete with the space-capsule roof windows, that lives on the street just a block or so from my house. I've wanted a Vista Cruiser (or a Buick Sport Wagon) for decades now.

1980 Plymouth Fire Arrow
When was the last time you saw a Fire Arrow? Exactly. Those tape stripes! It's like a Malaise Era museum!

1981 Fiat Strada
Europeans might think of the Strada (aka Ritmo) as a pretty commonplace, boring machine, but these things made Americans do double-takes even when they were new. To find one parked on the street was quite a shock.

First 400 DOTS VehiclesDOTS FAQ

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Based on the compact underpinings of the Ford Fiesta, the 2009 Mazda2 micro wagon is currently under heavy evaluation to determine its potential for the U.S. market. Available in Europe with three engine options, a 74-hp or 85-hp 1.3L I4, 67-hp 1.4L turbo diesel, or a 102-hp 1.5L I4, it’s likely only the standard gasoline engines will be introduced to the U.S. Unfortunately, that means that we here stateside will miss out on the Mazda2’s most fuel-efficient offering, since the turbo diesel averages a staggering 65.7 mpg combined. The Mazda2’s 1.3L and 1.5L engines are nothing to be scoffed at though as they both boast impressive fuel consumption rates, averaging 52.3 mpg and 47.9 mpg respectively.

With impressive fuel efficiency and prices beginning at £8,599 [approximately $15,700], the 2009 Mazda2 has been doing wonders for Mazda’s sales as more and more drivers clamor for fuel sipping compact cars. Despite initial plans to release the Mazda2 in the U.S., Auto News reported that Mazda is now dragging their feet. Unafraid of stiff competition from similar models like the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit, Mazda is more concerned with how the Mazda2 will impact sales of their most popular vehicle, the Mazda3. Already precariously perched as a solid contender in the U.S. market, Mazda is concerned that the introducing the Mazda2 would hurt sales of the Mazda3, which is currently the company’s top seller.

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Hot Rods and art go hand in hand. Now there’s a great book that gives you the best of both worlds. It's the Hot Rod Art Book: Masters of Chicken Scratch.

The Hot Rod Art Book: Masters of Chicken Scratch is a book put together by designer Dwayne Vance of Hot Wheels fame. There are over 100 pages of killer hot rod art from an impressive list of artists including Thom Taylor of How To Draw Cars Like A Pro fame. Also included in the package is a CD with tutorials showing the process of how a sketch goes to a full blown illustration. The book has an on-sale date of February 2009 and is the perfect supplement to your car book collection. We’ll be picking up a copy as soon as it becomes available.

[HotRodArtBook via Future Elements]

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Charles Barkley, former basketball star and future Governor of Alabama, was arrested on suspicion of DUI after running a stop sign in Gilbert, Arenas Arizona.

Details are still emerging, but according to celeb-stalkers TMZ, Charles Barkley was arrested last night for DUI after failing a field sobriety test.

Arizona Police arrested the retired basketball player on site and cited him with suspicion of DUI. Sir Charles was released a short time later and took a taxi home, which is what he should have done in the first place. Of course, if his play style is anything like his driving, he could have been stone sober and just swerving all over the road under the pretense of defensive driving. [TMZ]

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We've already seen several leaked photos of the all-new 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but now we have the leaked brochure and if you can read German you can read all the details.

In Europe the new E-Class will be powered by a series of 4 and 6-cylinder engines in both gas and turbo diesel formats:

The gas powered lineup:
184-hp E200 CGI, 204-hp E250CGI, 292-hp E350 CGI and the 388-hp E500.
The diesel lineup:
136-hp E200 CDI, a 170-hp E220 CDI, a 204-hp E250 CDI and the 3.0L liter 231-hp E350 CDI

Although the E-Class AMG is in the pictures we do not know the final specs on that model.

The 2010 E-Class will be officially unveiled in a few days at the Detroit Auto Show.

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In addition to filling RideLust’s daily “cool stuff” requirement, the pair of 2004 Volvo XC90’s built by LEGOLAND® California also take care of our obligatory Volvo-love too.

Full gallery after the jump

Press Release [via]: Volvo Cars of North America, LLC (VCNA) and LEGOLAND® California are joining forces to promote driving safety and family values. As part of the recently announced partnership agreement between the subsidiaries of the two Scandinavian icons, a replica of Volvo’s award-winning SUV, the Volvo XC90, was constructed of LEGO’s famous modeling bricks.

The Volvo XC90 made of LEGO bricks was built by LEGO Master Model Builders, members of an elite team of talented artists who design, create and maintain the thousands of LEGO brick models at LEGOLAND® California. Constructed at the U.S. headquarters for LEGO Systems, Inc. in Enfield, Conn., the Master Builders began production of the Volvo XC90 in January 2004. Noted as one of the top-three most gratifying projects of its kind for the Master Builders, the intricate stages of assembly were captured with time-lapse photography.

As the recognized leader of safety in the automotive industry, Volvo is the “Official Car” of LEGOLAND® California and will work with the theme park to bring messages of driving safety to the park’s 1.3 million annual visitors. The Volvo XC90 made of LEGO bricks, although not drivable, will stand at the park entrance as a symbol of the two companies’ commitment to safety and family.

“The partnership is a perfect fit with our ‘Drive - for Life’ initiative that focuses on affecting driver behavior and safety,” said Vic Doolan, president and CEO of VCNA. “We will be working with LEGOLAND to develop innovative safety awareness activities.”

Recently, LEGOLAND®’s popular Driving School (ages 6 to 13) and its Jr. Driving School (ages 3 to 5) were reintroduced to carry Volvo’s name and reputation for safety. These popular park attractions offer children the opportunity to drive electric-powered vehicles made to look like LEGO bricks within the controlled environment of the drive course. The rules of the road are emphasized, as well as good safety habits such as buckling up seatbelts.

“By encouraging safety as a learned behavior at an early age, we all benefit - it’s never too early to learn about the rules of the road,” said Doolan.

“We specialize in family education and entertainment,” said John Jakobsen, president and GM of LEGOLAND® California. “Our partnership with Volvo brings the type of quality and reputation that our visitors expect from their experience in the park. We could almost consider our driving programs a public service, in addition to fun and adventure,” he said.

VCNA, part of the Volvo Car Corporation of Gothenburg, Sweden, provides marketing, sales, parts, service, technology and training support to Volvo automobile retailers in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

In addition to the award-winning XC90, the Volvo automobile line is comprised of: the 2004.5 all-new S40 sedan; the sporty S60 sedan – including the award-winning performance sedan – S60 R, and its performance wagon counterpart – the V70 R; the flagship S80 luxury sedan; versatile V70 wagon and rugged XC70 (Cross Country); the C70 convertible; and, the compact S40 and V40 models.

LEGOLAND California is a 128-acre theme park geared specifically towards youngsters ages two through 12. With more than 50 family rides, “hands-on” attractions and shows, LEGOLAND California provides education, adventure and fun in this first park of its kind in the United States.

In addition to LEGOLAND California, there are three other LEGOLAND parks in the world - LEGOLAND Billund in Denmark; LEGOLAND Windsor, outside of London; and LEGOLAND Deutschland in Germany.

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Ford has announced its new "active park assist" system that is optional on the 2010 Lincoln MKS sedan and the new Lincoln MKT crossover.

With the touch of a button the Active Park Assist system uses an ultrasonic-based sensing system and Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) to parallel park the vehicle without any assistance from the driver. There are sensors on the front and rear of the vehicle to help the system guide the vehicle into the driver's desired parking spot. Ford claims that its system is better than what is offered by Lexus since it requires less driver interface.

The Active Park Assist system will be available in mid-2009 on the Lincoln MKT and MKS. Ford hasn't stated what vehicles are next in line for the technology. Instead only mentioning that the system will be on 90 percent of Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles by 2012.

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From Autopia: the Swedish safety moguls at Volvo are bound and determined to put an injury-proof car on the road by the year 2020. To do this, researchers are currently studying the African locusts in an attempt to integrate the little bugger’s “sensory-input routing methodologies” with Volvo’s computerized safety features. If thousands of the locusts are able to travel in swarms without constantly hitting each other, shouldn’t people during their morning commute be able to do the same thing? Volvo thinks so, and that’s why they’ve partnered with Dr. Claire Rind and the Insect Vision Laboratory at the University of Newcastle in London. Although studies have revealed that the locusts’ inherent algorithms are far more advanced then the current technology, Volvo has been steadily working since 2002 to adapt the Locust Principle for their cars. “We still have many years of research ahead to bring that small locust brain into our cars,” said Jonas Ekmark, director of preventive safety at Volvo, but it’s not an impossible task and by 2020, Volvo hopes to match the African locust’s internal processing system beat for beat.

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Navigon and Rand McNally have teamed up to develop some interesting new GPS features that make it easier for users to personalize their trips.

Landmark View 3D is s a $40 upgrade for Navigon's 2200T model and has the ability to display 600 North American landmark buildings in 3D to aid directions... or at least add some novelty to your nav. In keeping with the tourist theme, scenic routes and city guides will be available for $20 each. The scenic routes will feature weekend getaway suggestions, picturesque tours and regional trips. More than 1,400 cites are covered in the guides and routes can be customized to fit your interests. And for another $30 a year, Navigon owners can now be alerted to red light camera locations.

Headed overseas? Add maps of 38 European countries to your Navigon for $130. The update comes pre-loaded on an SD card and covers 4.5 million miles of road and millions of points of interest. The new features will be available for download from the Navigon Fresh software website sometime in the Spring.

CES 2009: Navigon takes routing personal originally appeared on Autoblog on Sat, 10 Jan 2009 19:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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In Dallas, Texas, Bea Arthur [sorry, The Golden Girls was on TV at my gym this morning] has been recorded on video tape wreaking tree-hugging havoc on a burgundy HUMMER. According to the Dallas Morning News, surveillance footage captured by HUMMER’s security system recorded an unidentified man keying a large “X” into the side of a HUMMER left in the Carroll Senior High School parking lot. Detective Keith Fulgium, who is investigating the case, said that vandalism is not an isolated incident by any means. As a matter of fact, Fulgium’s department has been flooded with reports from HUMMER owners complaining of similar X’s keyed into their cars.

Thanks to the footage captured by the HUMMER, police now have a better working identity with which to actively pursue the man, and a BOLO [Be On The Lookout, come on, stay current on your COPS episodes people] has been issued for a white male in his 50 to 60’s driving a gold Honda or BMW. If anyone has any information regarding the whereabouts of the suspect, they are urged to file the serial number off the firearm and assemble a convincing alibi before phoning the department tip line to direct them where to find the body. I mean this is Texas, there are rules

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Lost in the jeers following Honda's move to cancel the NSX - a car it could probably sell based solely on its ridiculously wonderful exhaust note - is news that the Big H is planning an A-segment car for markets outside of Japan. Now that the microcar segment is what's cooking, and the smart fortwo isn't doing so bad on its American voyage, cars like the Toyota iQ, Volkswagen up!, and Hyundai i10 are getting lots of attention.

To keep the cost down, Honda is expected to stick to traditional materials and probably focus on packaging. The powerplant is rumored to be a 1.4- or 1.5-liter turbodiesel with anywhere from 60 hp to 100 hp. But before you get excited, this car isn't automatically destined for America. Of course, none of this would-be Honda's competitors are headed this way yet either, and until the microcar trend is firmly established in the US - either by smart or another vehicle - we wouldn't advise holding your breath.

[Source: Paul Tan]

Rendered Speculation: Honda to create mini-hatch for emerging markets originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 09 Jan 2009 19:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Earlier this month, mortgage lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which collectively own or guarantee roughly $5 trillion in mortgages, were seized by the U.S. government to prevent an even more catastrophic housing industry collapse. Last week, when global investment firm Lehman Brothers began to go belly up, the federal government wasn’t nearly as charitable and on Monday, Lehman Brothers headed into bankruptcy. Watching the events unfold from Detroit, GM, Ford, and Chrysler have begun to get nervous.

With the failure of Lehman Brothers, some auto industry analysts fear the government has drawn a line on federal intervention, just when the Detroit 3 need it most. Getting proactive, teams of lobbyists and executives representing the biggest auto manufacturers have begun to flood Washington, hoping to remind them that Detroit is not Wall Street. “[It's] a very separable issue,” said Ford. Still, lawmakers are approaching the loan requests with caution, and the foot dragging is yielding to frustration. According to Auto News, GM CEO Rick Wagoner was quoted explaining to the press, “The financial markets have worsened so much since the energy security act was passed last year, that providing the loans would seem to be the appropriate and fair thing to do right now.”

Other accounts report that auto makers are cautiously optimistic that they’ll receive the bailouts they need, and as of right now, no one is planning on shutting their doors. Said Wagoner, “I can’t really say at this point that I’ve seen specific ramifications from yesterday’s actions [referring to the Lehman Brothers failure], but we have to watch that closely.”

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An amateur photographer has snagged shots of the upcoming 2010 Mercedes E-Class Coupe almost completely undisguised months before it's unveil at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show.

Verboten shots of the new E-Class sedan snuck out a couple weeks ago, but these show the sleek and aggressive new look for the Coupe version, long overdue update to the stylish two door. This one may even be an AMG, but that's totally speculative. The new E-coupe gets a more edgy set of headlights, pronounced body lines and a built-in diffuser at the back, though we'll bet our hats its all style for that bit. Head over to World Car Fans to get a better look.

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