Autofield Blog

Ford Turns Down the Volume

By: Gary S. Vasilash 3. April 2014

Although MyFordTouch has been roundly derided for a variety of reasons ranging from difficulty to downright disfunctionality, there is one product beginning with an attributive adjective that seems to be useful for parents of teens and operators of contracting businesses alike, which seems to indicate that all is not lost vis-à-vis Ford’s telematics undertaking.

2014 Ford Mustang MyKey screen in a 2014 Mustang

It’s MyKey which provides the ability for someone in charge (e.g., adult, business owner) to set up the vehicle so that:

--The top speed is limited. 80 mph is the overall maximum (not that we’re aware of anywhere where one can legally drive 80, you never know when you need to put the pedal to the metal).

--The audio system is limited to 45% of max volume so that one can actually be aware of things like sirens and horns being sounded.

--Incoming phone calls are directly routed to voicemail, thereby making sure that one concentrates on driving, not what they’ll be doing after they get off of work.

While Ford initially seemed to target MyKey to parents of teens, thereby creating nearly eternal enmity among teen drivers of their parents Mustangs and Taurus SHOs, now they are focusing on contractors, too, putting the telematics system on, for example the 2014 Transit Connect.


Smells Like Teen. . .

By: Gary S. Vasilash 2. April 2014

Over at, my colleague Peter DeLorenzo often rails against what he considers the democratization of luxury. The point being that in the automotive world, there once was a notion of what luxury meant, and that tended to have more than a little something to do with the notion of exclusivity, not everybody.

One of DeLorenzo’s targets in this regard is Mercedes. As he wrote last November: “Let’s not forget that once upon a time, when it wasn’t so obsessed with being the all things to all people car company that it is today, Mercedes-Benz was considered to be a maker of exclusive luxury cars. That was back in the day of the imperious - and perfectly rendered - ad theme ‘Engineered Like No Other Car in the World,’ which came with the belief that driving a Mercedes was truly something special and was coveted by the well-heeled who could actually afford one and the rest of us with aspirations of wheeling that level of luxury some day.”

Merc scent

That criticism came to mind when I saw an option that Mercedes is offering to its German customers of the new C-Class, the “Air-Balance” package. This package consists of an air filter, ionizer and a “fragrance system.”

Said system is based on 15-ml glass flasks of scent. The available fragrances are “Freeside Mood,” “Nightlife Mood,” “Downtown Mood,” and “Sports Mood.” They are housed in the glovebox, then wafted into the interior of the car.

As this is a Mercedes C-Class, it seems somewhat downmarket. But then it should be noted that a similar system is available for the S-Class, and that car is nothing but upscale.

But all in all, I can’t help but think of this.

2014 Cadillac CTS 3.6-L TT Vsport

By: Gary S. Vasilash 1. April 2014

I mentioned to an auto executive who doesn’t work for Cadillac that I was driving the 2014 CTS, the North American Car of the Year (NACOTY). And he admitted that he was looking forward to the opportunity of driving one himself. He said that he was “incredibly impressed” with the body fits and the curb weights. He was also piqued because of the “love-fest” editorial coverage of the car—as in not only the NACOTY judges, although presumably most of those journalists rhapsodized about the car in their own outlets.

2014 Cadillac CTS

It had been a couple of months since I first drove the CTS on twisty, turny, elevation-changing roads in California. Now I was going to have the car in snow-covered, freezing, pothole strewn, and straight roads in southeast Michigan.

And damn if I didn’t crack a smile that didn’t want to go away when I drove out of the parking lot.

Sign me up for the love-fest.

This really is a wonderful car.

2014 Cadillac CTS

What made matters more impressive is the fact that I had just been driving another luxury car with—somewhat—sporty performance. And the distance between the two was rather noticeable in a variety of ways, not the least of which was the powertrain response. The One that Will Go Unnamed (TOWGU) has a V8 and the CTS as driven has a twin-turbo V6. One was stately. The other was bat-out-of-helly.

TOWGU has a really refined interior with acres of leather and a grove worth of trees, too. Yes, yes, the Cadillac has “hand-stitched” leather. No, this doesn’t mean that some person is trying to force a needle through cow hides (I remember back in the day trying to sew a patch on a jean jacket and I put my thumb out of commission for quite some time, and that was just denim.) Rather, a real person is using a sewing machine to put the various trim bits together to create an engaging whole. But even in the last-generation CTS (this, by the way, is the third), hand-sewing and wood and metal notwithstanding, the interiors just left me feeling as though it was still an exercise in trying to achieve three-quarters premium.

2014 Cadillac CTS

The 2014 CTS has an interior execution that I suspect that even people at Audi are impressed with. There is a certain substantialness to all aspects, from the steering wheel to the seats, from the leather and wood trim to the lining in the door pull pockets.

(Here’s the obligatory complaint about the CUE—Cadillac User Experience—infotainment interface. There is an eight-inch color screen that has capacitive sensing capability, just like a smart phone. It is used for entertainment. Navigation. HVAC. Hands-free calling. If you are, say, using the navigation screen and want to change the radio station, then as your finger nears the screen virtual buttons pop up across the top of the screen: you select the one that looks like a speaker, and it brings you to the audio page. Were this a smart phone in the palm of your hand, it would be good. But as this is a screen in a 420-hp vehicle, the whole touching and swiping and swiping and swiping and swiping and---!!!!! doesn’t work out so well. Here thinking that the next-gen CUE has a truly revolutionary addition: a knob that rotates. Maybe even more than one.)

2003 CTS Then

2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport Now

At the risk of committing some sort of sin of design relativism, it is absolutely remarkable to look at a first-gen CTS (2003) and the current model. As you may recall, the first-generation CTS was used in the 2003 film The Matrix Reloaded. The objective was to have a car that looked futuristic, and it did. Funny how the future ages. The first-gen is Bill Logan to the third-gen’s Neo. It has profoundly greater presence, angularity and yet fullness. Eleven years from now it will probably look contemporary.

Yes, a lot to love.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 w/DI and VVT

Horsepower: 420 @ 5,750 rpm

Torque: 430 lb-ft @3,500 to 4,500 rpm

Materials: Aluminum block and head

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic w/paddle shift

Steering: ZF rack-mounted electric powered assist

Wheelbase: 114.6 in.

Length: 195.5 in.

Width: 72.2 in.

Height: 57.7 in.

Passenger volume: 97-cu. ft.

Trunk volume: 13.7 cu. ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 16/24/18 mpg

Ralph Gilles Talks Cars: from the 200 to the Viper & Beyond

By: Gary S. Vasilash 31. March 2014

Ralph Gilles is arguably the consummate “car guy.” That appellation is predicated on skills, talent and passion for all things automotive, and in his long career at Chrysler—he started there in 1992—he has demonstrated all of those characteristics with panache. Were he to have done no more than being the designer credited with styling the 2005 Chrysler 300, he would have made his bones as being among the best, but that’s only a small part of what he’s accomplished.


Here is a man who started out as a designer in the Design Office, who now not only runs design (officially: Senior Vice President, Product Design, Chrysler LLC), but who is also the president and CEO of SRT Brand and Motorsports.

SRT is the place where Chryslers, Dodges and Jeeps are made into performance products, predicated on five aspects: awe-inspiring powertrains; outstanding ride, handling and capability; benchmark braking; aggressive and functional exteriors and race-inspired and high-performance interiors.

2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 “Core” model

And SRT is the place from whence the 640-hp Viper comes.

On this evening’s edition of “Autoline After Hours” John McElroy and I are joined in the studio by Frank Marcus of Motor Trend. And we talk about things ranging from the 2015 Honda Fit’s clever packaging to the Rallye Monte-Carlo ZENN (Zero Emission, No Noise).

But what is most pertinent, engaging and enjoyable is Ralph Gilles, discussing things ranging from the 2015 Chrysler 200—which he’s brought to the set—to how design is done at Chrysler. And he answers—or doesn’t, in the case of future real and rumored products—questions from the SRT partisans that are sent and called in.

Street and Racing Technology (SRT) brand introduces new Stryker Green exterior color for 2014 SRT Viper

Generally “After Hours” runs for an hour. That wasn’t enough time for this one, so it is pushed for an additional 15 minutes. It’s all worth it.



Big Engines

By: Gary S. Vasilash 28. March 2014

Next month, Chrysler is putting its Conner Avenue Assembly Plant on hiatus for a couple of months. Conner is where the SRT Viper is built. The Viper has a 640-hp V10 engine. Not that it matters, but the EPA fuel economy is 12 city, 19 highway. And because it does matter, it has a top speed of 206 mph.

The SRT® brand kicked-off “The SRT Viper Color Contest,” an online contest that enabled Viper enthusiasts to name the new blue exterior paint color for the 2014 SRT Viper.   More than 11,000 names were submitted and the top three finalists have been chosen. Fans can vote online at to help select the winning name. In addition to becoming part of Viper history, the fan who submitted the winning name will win a trip to the 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway. Voting for the final round of the “SRT Viper Color Contest” runs through Sunday, Nov. 10. SRT Viper

Oh, and then there’s the starting price of $99,885. That’s sort of important. And may explain why the plant is being shut down for a while.

This came to mind in relation to an announcement made last week by Bentley Motors, which is based in Crewe, UK. Bentley, which is part of Volkswagen Group, is going to be the source for all VW W12 engines. Yes, “W” and “12.” The engine as used in the Bentley Continental GT speed produces 616 hp.

Bentley W12 covered W12, Bentley application

About the designation of Bentley as the source of W12s, Dr. Wolfgang Schreiber, Chairman and Chief Executive of Bentley Motors, said: “This is an important step, not just for Bentley but also for the UK manufacturing sector. This W12 centre of excellence is recognition of the long standing engine manufacturing expertise we have that has resulted in performance improvements across the model ranges over recent years. The production of this advanced engine and its future generations will bring new technologies and skills to Crewe.”

Bentley W12 build Building the W12 in Crewe

The company plans to produce as many as 9,000 of the engines per year, which are not only used in Bentley models, but in applications like the Audi A8 and the VW Phaeton.

Presumably, there is the financial wherewithal for people to lease or buy lux cars with big engines, which is not, evidently, the case when it comes to two-seaters that go like bats out of. . . .

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