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Hyundai Launches Android

By: Gary S. Vasilash 27. May 2015

The interfaces for most automotive infotainment systems are, well, to put it nicely, something that, if they were on the screen of your smartphone, you would find to be so unacceptable that you’d find yourself wanting to take said smartphone and throwing it at the nearest available wall.

Which is why Hyundai deserves great credit for launching Android Auto on its 2015 Sonata with Navigation vehicle.

The company announced yesterday that existing vehicles—as in those people have already purchased, not just those at dealerships—qualify for a free Android Auto software update at Hyundai dealerships.

Android Auto in the 2015 Hyundai Sonata

Explaining the rationale behind the deployment of the new tech, Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said, “Android Auto aligns with Hyundai’s core interior design principles of safety, intuitiveness and simplicity.”

And with Hyundai’s general approach of offering things that are generally associated with high-end vehicles in its mass-market cars, like the Sonata.

Android Auto is based on running Android 5.0 Lollipop (or higher) on their smartphone. For the first use, the driver connects the phone to the Sonata’s USB port with a cable, and the phone then prompts the download of the Android Auto companion app from the Google Play store. That pretty much sets the whole thing up.

Subsequently, voice, steering wheel controls or the touch screen can be used for applications ranging from Google Maps to phone calls. And yes, there is an array of third-party apps, like Spotify, Stitcher, Skype, etc.

Hyundai plans to roll out Android Auto on other vehicle lines in the months ahead.

Zuchowski: “We launched this highly anticipated feature on our best-selling Sonata, adding to our promise of value. With the launch of Android Auto, we provide more owners with the experience of cutting-edge technology.”

And they offer those owners with a whole lot less frustration in trying to use their infotainment systems.

Richard Rawlings, Fast N’ Loud & Other Entertaining Things

By: Gary S. Vasilash 26. May 2015

“We really are building ‘em.

“Really are selling ‘em.

“TV has to keep up with us.”

That’s Richard Rawlings, the man behind Fast N’ Loud on the Discovery Channel.


Kaufman (left) and Rawlings (right).  Fast N’ Loud, both.

He and his crew at Gas Monkey Garage—with the remarkable Aaron Kaufman, builder extraordinaire*—are taking cars that are really in need of restoration and turning them into the kinds of cars and trucks that plenty of people lust after. They find ‘em, fix ‘em and flip ‘em.

And they do it fast, putting in plenty of hours, day in, day out. While some shows showing people making things seem to be happening quickly, the Gas Monkey gang, Rawlings says, really are making it happen.

Rawlings talks about the Gas Monkey Garage, Fast N’ Loud the show and the book, and how he has become an entrepreneur with interests ranging from music venues to a branded tequila on this edition of Autoline After Hours.

John McElroy of Autoline, Mike Austin of Autoblog, and I have the opportunity to talk to Rawlings, who joins us from Gas Monkey HQ in Dallas via Skype.

It is informative—and refreshing, as Rawlings, even though a major success, has a regular-person point of view (i.e., speaking of the genesis of his show and how there is a comparative affordability to what they do, he remarks, “Damn, I can’t have a $230,000 motorcycle,” referring, without mentioning it, to another show about vehicle builds).

In addition to which McElroy, Austin and I compare the stats of the 2016 Camaro with the 2015 Mustang, look at how you can lease a car for less money than you might spend at Starbucks, and a variety of topics.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro RS computer generated image

2015 Mustang Media Drive in L.A.

All of which you can see right here:


*Asked about what happens in the event that there is no available part for a particular vehicle being produced, Rawlings says that Kaufman simply makes it. What’s more, even if there is a part available, Kaufman often decides that he can make a better one, and so he does.


Memorial Day, 2015

By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. May 2015

Always remember.

Arlington National Cemetary

Honor a service person today. And every day.

Red Bull Takes It to the Soapbox

By: Gary S. Vasilash 22. May 2015

To say that Red Bull is a brand that has far exceeded its canned beverage is an understatement.

From Formula One to people jumping out of airplanes at insane altitudes, Red Bull has been behind it.

And it is going to be rolling into Cincinnati on August 29 for the Red Bull Soapbox Race.

Mayor Martin Eurlings of the city Valkenburg aan de Geul performs at the press track explanation for the Red Bull Soapbox Race (Red Bull Zeepkistenrace) in Valkenburg, The Netherlands on April 16th, 2015 // Marcel van Hoorn / Red Bull Content Pool // P-20150416-00279 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

This isn’t what some of you may remember from your days in scouting.

Rather, they’re looking for people who are 18 and older to compete.

The teams will campaign cars that are human powered and measure less than 6-feet wide, 6-feet tall, and less than 12-ft long. Maximum mass, sans driver, is 176 pounds.

Clearly, these aren’t the models of your youth.

As they explain how one goes about winning:

1. Speed

Not to state the obvious, but this event is, first and foremost, a race, therefore, the fastest one across the finish line is definitely going to be looked upon favorably.

2. Creativity

It’s not enough that it actually moves. What we’re looking for is the outrageous, the preposterous, the ostentatious! Your soapbox should be an extension of you, so have fun when you design it. Be wild. Be crazy. Be anything you want. Just do not be ordinary.

3. Showmanship

We said the first one to cross the finish line will be looked upon favorably, we didn’t say they’d win. That’s because when it comes to Red Bull Soapbox, speed is nothing without a little personality. So, wow us with your stage routine, impress us with your charisma and of course, dazzle us with your showmanship.

They’re taking registrations until June 21, so step on it.

You can learn more at: http://www.redbullsoapboxrace.com/usa-ohio/en/

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2015 Toyota Camry XSE

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. May 2015

Last year, Toyota delivered 428,606 Camrys.

The year before that, 408,484.

The year before that, 404,886.

And on it goes.

According to Toyota, it has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for 13 consecutive years.

This is somewhat of a blessing and a curse for Toyota.

Camry 2

The blessing part is obvious: Toyota has sold a lot of cars.

The curse: There are a lot of people who opine about cars who mistake the car’s success for some sort of mediocrity. They decry the Camry as being an “appliance.” Part of this is based on the fact that it exhibits the sort of quality, durability and reliability once characteristic of appliances. (Anyone who has purchased an appliance of late knows that the QDR is pretty much MIA.)

For most people who buy a car (which is pretty much a separate set from the aforementioned opiners), QDR is more than slightly important. After all, they have to do things like get the kids to school and themselves to work. Consequently, they’d like their car to work, day in, day out. Amazing warranties that some vehicle manufacturers offer seem like a good thing until you realize that in order to have your car fixed it (1) has to break and (2) you have to take it into a dealer to get it fixed, which means that you’re having to juggle the kids as well as your daily commute.

Remember back at the end of 2009 and 2010 when Toyota was beset with recall problems?

It’s interesting to note what Don Esmond, then-Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., had to say on a sales call to reporters and analysts regarding how sales fared in what was certainly a dark period for the car maker: “Let’s not forget that 2010 was essentially an 11-month year for us, as we stopped sales and production last January on some of our core models”—including the Camry—“to focus all of our company’s efforts on servicing customer vehicles.
“Now I know the common perception is that Toyota has been reeling this year as a result of those recalls.
“But in fact, the final results include some remarkable accomplishments any company would love to report.”

If you do the math, the 13-year run of the sales success of the Camry is included in 2010. That year it delivered 327,804 vehicles.

Yes, the reputation of the car is that good.

The other part of the “appliance” knock goes to the point of exterior design. Chances are, you don’t get too excited about the styling of the white goods in your laundry room.

And that’s pretty much a far criticism of the Camry. Its styling hasn’t been all that impressive through the years.

But then one must take into account the fact that the vehicles that it competes with in the market, with few exceptions (e.g., Mazda pretty consistently with the 6; Ford with the Fusion starting in model year 2013), haven’t exactly been the sorts of things to get anyone’s pulse racing.

Camry 3

Last year, the people at Toyota decided that it would make major changes to the Camry, at least visually. That means that there was a near total transformation of the exterior panels (they kept the roof, in case you’re wondering). And the car looks anything but appliance-innocuous.

This is especially the case in the XSE trim. This is the “racy” variant of the Camry, with things like black sport trim and black-painted 18-inch alloys on the outside and sport seats trimmed with ultrasuede and red-thread stitching on the inside.

Camry 4

The vehicle has a 268-hp V6 that isn’t going to win many drag races, but provides more than enough response such that you may smile to yourself after you drop the kids off. (Remember: this is a five-passenger, front-drive, midsize car, not a European sport sedan.)

The vehicle as-driven had the optional technology package consisting of a pre-collision system, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. It is probably the best $750 you’ll ever spend on a vehicular option package.

Chances are, the Camry will rack up another sales record this year. And there will be a lot of people pleased that they made a good buying decision. Maybe not out-of-the-box, but chances are one that will keep them out-of-the-line-in-the-service-department.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V6

Material: Aluminum block and heads

Horsepower: 268 @ 6,200 rpm

Torque: 240 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic w/paddle shifters

Steering: Electric-assisted rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 109.3 in.

Length: 190.9 in.

Width: 71.7 in.

Coefficient of drag: 0.28

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 21/31/25 mpg

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