Autofield Blog

Cash for (Polluting) Clunkers

By: Gary S. Vasilash 1. July 2014

Remember the “Cash for Clunkers” program (officially the Car Allowance Rebate System) from the summer of 2009?

Well, the California Air Resources Board is providing a green spin on this, with an enhancement of its Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program (EFMP). The objective of EFMP is to scrap out higher-polluting cars and light- and medium-duty trucks.


Said Mary D. Nichols, CARB chairman, “Action taken by the Board today will provide $100-million to directly benefit disadvantaged communities. The funding plan and ARB’s amended ‘car scrap’ program together provide emission reductions for all Californians and financial incentives for those who need it the most.”

Low-income residents with polluting vehicles—before they’re scrapped, they must complete a Smog Check test—will get incentives to buy a used hybrid or other vehicle that gets at least 35 miles per gallon, or funding for a new or used plug-in hybrid. The incentive is as high as $4,500.

In addition to which, the state of California is adding $116-million to provide rebates to purchases of zero and near-zero emissions cars, and is offering $5,000 for those who get a fuel-cell powered vehicle.

My “Autoline After Hours” colleague John McElroy has long contended that California is pretty much working to create a whole class of cars—zero-emissions vehicles—through funding and legislation. Looks like he has more ammo for his argument.

amerimold in The D Sets Attendance Record

By: Gary S. Vasilash 30. June 2014

A couple months ago or so, we made a recommendation that you attend amerimold and threw in a free pass and a discount. (OK, it wasn’t entirely altruistic, as the outfit that brings you this and Automotive Design & Production in the ink-on-paper form is the organizer of amerimold.)


Roush Mustang at amerimold 2014

Turns out a considerable number of you took advantage of the offer because we’ve gotten an Interoffice Memo here at Autofieldblog HQ that amerimold smashed attendance records from previous events.

And we, of course, attribute this success to you. Naturally, our brethren publications from Gardner Business Media will undoubtedly want to take their share of the credit, too, but seriously, we know it was you.

Should you be thinking ahead to next year, amerimold moves from Novi to Rosemont, Illinois, June 17-18, 2015.

GM Goes Big on Midsize Trucks

By: Gary S. Vasilash 27. June 2014

When GM’s midsized pickups—the 2015 Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon—roll out in U.S. markets this fall from the Wentzville, Missouri, assembly plant, they will be the biggest thing in the midsize category. The category consists of those two and the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier. While that isn’t a massive segment by any means, it also isn’t something that is trivial.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 2015 Chevy Colorado


Last year, according to Autodata, Toyota sold 159,485 Tacomas. By contrast, it sold 112,732 of its full-size Tundra.

Over at Nissan, the number for the Frontier was 62,837. Its full-size pickup, the Titan, had deliveries of just 15,691. Nissan delivered more of its all-electric LEAF: 22,610.

Anyway, back to the midsize trucks.

Looked at from the perspective of length, the GM vehicles will range from 208.2 in. to 224.5 in. The spread for the Tacoma goes from 190.4 in. to 221.3 in. And the Frontier’s length is 205.5 in. to 219.4 in. Clearly, “midsize” is relative.

2015 GMC Canyon All Terrain SLE Extended Cab Short Bed Rear Three Quarter in Cyber Grey - in studio

GMC Colorado

The GM trucks lead in horsepower, too. There will be two engine’s offered, a 2.5-liter I4 that produces 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque.

Over at the Toyota store, there are also two engines. There is a 2.7-liter I4 that produces 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque, and a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 236 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque.

Nissan offers one engine for the Frontier, a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque.

Bigger and more powerful, that’s for sure. Better? We’ll see.  (But from what we’ve seen and learned, they carefully benchmarked the competition, so odds are in their favor.)

But clearly the GM engineers are betting their approach will gain significant traction in a segment that it has slipped in during the past several years.

Twizy: 15 in “Zero”

By: Gary S. Vasilash 26. June 2014

This is a Renault Twizy:

Renault film 1

It is an electric vehicle with a lithium-ion battery.

It is a diminutive—just 2.34-m (92.1-in.) long, 1.24-m (48.8-in.) wide and 1.45-m (57-in.) tall—with an 80-km (49.7-mile) range (“by applying eco-driving principles”) or 55 km (34.1 miles) (“in severe conditions with repeated hard acceleration”).

Chances are, the Twizy is pretty much a vehicle that is best suited for urban environments.

Renault film 2

Given the side windows—or lack thereof—it is probably best suited for climes in which there is little in the way of rain.

Clearly, the market is rather limited for the Twizy.

So perhaps Renault was excited that filmmaker Terry Gilliam, the man behind such films as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, used 15 Twizys in The Zero Theorem, a film opening tomorrow.

Renault film

While we haven’t seen the film, apparently it is set in “London, in the not-too-distant future.”

Which leads us to wonder about the drizzle.

The Twizy is manufactured in a plant in Valladolid, Spain (approximately 150 km, 93 miles, northwest of Madrid). Presumably, the climate would be more suitable for a car like that.

But then again, this is a Terry Gilliam film.


2015 Acura RDX AWD

By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. June 2014

One of the things that Acura has been battling against for the past few years is the criticism that the styling of some of its vehicles is just too bizarre. Much of the shots have been taken at the front ends of the cars and SUVs, with “beak-like” being the nicest characterization coming from pundits.

So it seems as though Acura designers have scaled things back, minimized their gestures.

And it is a case, at least so far as the RDX goes, of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

2015 Acura RDX

Because from a design point of view, it seems to me that the vehicle has become far too innocuous. In fact, in the office parking lot, where there are fewer than 100 vehicles parked on any given day, I had a hard time picking out the RDX from the other compact crossovers that were there. As it was the newest vehicle in the lot, you’d think that it would be outstanding, but when it comes to exterior appearance, it blends in.

It should be noted that the people at Honda East Liberty, Ohio, plant where the RDX is produced are superbly skilled at shaping sheet metal, so it’s not like there isn’t the wherewithal to make something more expressive.

2015 Acura RDX

The RDX competes in the “entry premium SUV” market with the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLK, and now the Lincoln MKC, so it’s not like it isn’t in a space where the level of challenge isn’t particularly high. That said, from a sales standpoint it is holding its own, so apparently there are a sufficient number of people in the market who aren’t as uninspired by the exterior as I am, which leads to another thought:

When you are driving a car, it is about (1) how it performs and (2) the comfort, features and amenities that are there with you in the vehicle.

That is, you aren’t looking at the vehicle, you are operating it.

And it is in the driving performance and the comparative high level of comfort and content that the RDX does well with.

2015 Acura RDX

The car is powered by a 273-hp 3.5-liter V6 that’s mated to a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters on the steering wheel (something that puzzles me, because I have doubt that people who are in the market for a vehicle like this: According to Acura, for this, the second-generation RDX, the “target buyer has shifted to a slightly older (early 30s versus late 20s) driver that is married and soon approaching parenthood. In addition, the target buyer will likely be well into their career and have a higher household income ($125,000 versus $100,000) than the previous RDX target buyer. The RDX target buyer still values a sport minded driving character but also prioritizes increased comfort (with strong emphasis on premium interior appointments) and increased utility.” So doing quick shifts on the way to Target may be fun for the first few times, but those paddles are likely to atrophy over time due to lack of use.). Know that the RDX with the AWD (the car is front-wheel-drive biased, with 100% to the front in normal conditions, but then 25% to the rear when there is wheel slip detected or hard acceleration, and a 50/50 split should this really get slick) and the Tech Package (which means navigation with voice recognition, real-time traffic and weather, ELS Surround audio, xenon hid low-beam headlights, and more) results in a vehicle with a curb weight of 3,852 lb., which is a power-to-weight ratio of 14.1, which is good, though not head-snapping-during-acceleration, nor should it be.

The suspension has MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink arrangement in the rear. It features what they call “Amplitude Reactive Dampers,” which are essentially two-valve shock absorbers that help mitigate jarring on bumpy surfaces.

2015 Acura RDX

The leather seats are nicely bolstered and comfortable; yes, the driver has 10-way adjustability, which seems to be the sort of thing that one apparently needs in the category of vehicle.

The descriptor of the target buyer includes a desire for cargo utility. The tailgate opens 48.8-in. across, which means ready access. Behind the rear seats there is 26.1-cu. ft. of storage; flip the handles on either side of the cargo area and the 60/40 rear seats can be indexed downward so that a capacious 76.9-cu. ft. of storage is available.

Full marks go to the engineers on the project. The poor Acura designers, however, really need to change their game.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.5-liter SOHC V6

Horsepower: 273 @ 6,200 rpm

Torque: 251 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm

Materials: Aluminum block and heads

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with Sequential Sport Shift

Steering: Rack and pinion, electric power

Wheelbase: 105.7 in.

Length: 183.5 in.

Width: 73.7 in.

Height: 66.1 in.

Passenger volume: 103.5-cu.ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 19/27/22 mpg


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