Autofield Blog

Learning to Work


By: Gary S. Vasilash 4. September 2015

As we are at the cusp of the school season, as many students get ready to get back to what they think is a drudge now, but which they’ll undoubtedly look back on with wistful fondness, we’d like to give some credit to the Toyota USA Foundation for investing $5.8-million in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education of high school and adult students. (Seems that too often the adult students are overlooked, as though they don’t need any assistance, which is ostensibly not the case.)

What’s interesting about this investment from the foundation is that it is wide-ranging in scope.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky

That is:

· $935,000 (over three years) are going to the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University to prepare women in supply chain and logistics skills and capabilities.

· $441,190 are going to the Center for Science Teaching and Learning in Rockville Centre, NY, for the purpose of assisting “disengaged youth in finding employment through STEM-based manufacturing careers.” Getting kids engaged—and employed—is essential for their future, and arguably ours.

· $1,500,000 over three years are going to the National Dropout Prevention Network. In this case they’re going to be introducing 24,000 students to STEM and manufacturing careers through online content and there will be coaching for teachers so they can do this personally. The students are located in New York City and rural Kentucky and Mississippi.

· $1,500,000 over three years are going to the Hot Bread Kitchen in New York City. This is to create career opportunities for immigrant and minority women by expanding a paid culinary workforce development program. After all, manufacturing and STEM jobs need nourishment, too.

And there’s more.

The whole notion of getting young people and even adults interested in manufacturing is something that gets a lot of hot air and less cold, hard cash.

Many automakers are at the forefront of funding efforts, and they are to be lauded for stepping up for their support of STEM and other educational programs. After all, this is an industry that is predicated on making things, and if people aren’t interested in making those things in the U.S., there are a multitude of other places where there are people who are more than anxious to do so.


Safety for Everybody—Almost


By: Gary S. Vasilash 3. September 2015

“Most motorists won't be riding in driverless cars anytime soon. In the shorter term, automatic braking is an accessible technology that's within reach for many drivers. We've seen an uptick in the number of luxury and mainstream models with available autobrake. That's a welcome sign for highway safety and helps pave the way for the eventual deployment of fully autonomous vehicles,” says David Zuby, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Institute's executive vice president and chief research officer.

The fact that luxury models offer the technology isn’t all that surprising. After all, that’s where advanced technology tends to be initially deployed, and then when production costs are sufficiently low(ered), then there’s the mainstream deployment.

SportWagen

Automatic braking generally combines radar and camera-sensors to determine if there is something ahead, be it another vehicle or a pedestrian, and if it seems as though the vehicle is going to hit if. If so, then the driver is alerted, usually by lights and buzzers, and if the driver still doesn’t do his or her job, then the car autonomously applies the brakes.

(It’s interesting to note that there are often ethical dilemmas put forth regarding autonomous vehicles, such as: Assume there’s a group of school children and a tree. The car has to hit one of them. If it is the tree, the occupant of the vehicle will die. If it is the children, then. . . . Isn’t it curious that you never hear someone say: If someone is so distracted while driving that he or she ignores the lights and buzzers and doesn’t apply the binders, is that person ethically responsible enough to drive?)

The IIHS is interested in preventing accidents. It was founded in 1959 by three insurance companies. Accident prevention is a whole lot better for them than paying claims.

So it has been rating cars for the past several years, and car companies are as interested in receiving a Top Safety Pick+ Award as they are a good review by Consumer Reports and an award from J.D. Power.

One of the new metrics that IIHS is applying to vehicles it rates is whether they have front crash prevention.

Mercedes is well established in the space. Its C-Class, E-Class and CLA all provide the tech as standard.

Other manufacturers that make the Superior (5 to 6 points in auto brake testing and extra credit for forward collision warning) or Advanced (2 to 4 points and the same extra credit) include BMW with the X3 and Acura with the MDX, RDX and ILX.

But then there are the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger. The Mazda6 and CX-5. And Volkswagen with the Golf, GolfSportwagen, Touareg, and Jetta.

Safer is better and a solid suite of sensors can help.


2016 Acura ILX Premium with A-Spec


By: Gary S. Vasilash 2. September 2015

When you buy a car, you are buying just that: An object made of metal and glass, rubber and plastic. Stamped, welded, formed, assembled. A thing that lets you get from here to there. A device that transports you, entertains you and allows you, should you be so inclined, to make a statement about how you perceive yourself.

When you buy a car, yes, you are getting that individual thing, that one object, but you are buying something else.

2016 Acura ILX

You are buying the statement that the model and the brand makes to the world at large. If you buy a Rolls-Royce, that says something. If you buy a Jeep, that says something else.

The ILX is a car. An individual model.

The ILX is an Acura. And there’s the rub. It seems. The question that some have is whether it is a relevant, competitive or otherwise purchase-worthy brand.

Is it become Sony in a world of Apple and Samsung?

From the point of view of metal and plastic, the ILX is well formed and assembled. It is a pleasantly designed premium compact car.

How do I know that it is a premium car and don’t designate it as “near-luxury” as some are wont to do (e.g., if you buy an Apple Nano it is still an Apple product as much as a iMac with Retina 5K display is; an Apple is an Apple is an Apple)? Because the direct-injected, 201-hp, 2.4-liter four requires premium fuel, and while you can have a premium car that doesn’t require premium unleaded, you are unlikely to have a non-premium car that does. (Buyer beware: while it once was that there was a 10-cent walk from regular unleaded to midgrade and then another dime to premium, I’ve found that the delta is not 20-cents but 50 or more.)

Oh. And then there’s the fact that you’re getting a car that has a trim level that is simply named “Premium.” (There is a higher trim level, too: “Tech Plus.” Which doesn’t sound a premium, but it is more so.)

So you buy the ILX Premium with A-Spec (which adds side-sill garnishes; a trunk spoiler; front fog lights; new 18-in., 10-spoke machined alloy wheels; and interior upgrades). The MSRP for a base ILX is $27,900. Add the Premium package and its $29,900. And then with the A-Spec addition you’re at $31,890.

To be sure, that is a more than reasonable price for a car with the aforementioned engine, an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with a torque converter (many DCTs are choppy, but thanks to the torque converter, this is exceedingly smooth shifting), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, rear camera, keyless access, pushbutton ignition, leather sport seats, aluminum sport pedals. . . .Whew! There is a lot of stuff and then some.

And while I may be off-put by the demands of the premium unleaded, the vehicle is EPA-stickered at 25/36/29 mpg city/highway/combined, and it didn’t take some sort of light-foot-accessories-off drive pattern to get numbers like that on a regular basis.

But actually, I knew more about the miles per gallon that I was getting than I really wanted to know.

2016 Acura ILX

And here’s the rub with the ILX Premium, why I think Acura has a bit of a hiccough with the positioning of the brand that it really ought to rectify.

With the Premium package there are an 8-inch upper display and a 7-inch touch screen below it.

Good, right?

Nope.

Because the larger of the two screens allow me to select “Trip Computer” or “Clock/Wallpaper.”

The 7-inch screen was good for the infotainment and provided the HVAC temperature setting.

But that big blue screen on the top let me know how many miles per gallon I was getting and had gotten. I suppose I could have use the clock or wallpaper function, but I could see the time otherwise and wasn’t looking for some additional graphics.

Where was the navigation system that should have been there?

Oh, that’s a part of the Technology Package.

You pay for the screen, which is more expensive than what navigation software costs today. Yes, you can link your smartphone to the car and use that for purposes of navigation, but you can also do that in a Chevy Spark.

2016 Acura ILX

Metal and glass, rubber and plastic. And silicon and software. That’s a car. And a premium car, a luxury car, a near-luxury car—it isn’t enough to get the first four right. Those last two can be deal-breakers.

If you want to distinguish yourself, then leaving out something as now-basic as navigation is a huge mistake, especially when someone has that giant screen sitting in the middle of the IP.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC I4

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 201 @ 6,800 rpm

Torque: 180 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic

Steering: Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 105.1 in.

Length: 181.9 in.

Width 70.6 in.

Height: 55.6 in.

EPA passenger volume: 89.3-cu. ft.

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 25/36/29 mpg

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When Is a Jaguar Practical?


By: Gary S. Vasilash 1. September 2015

The word practical can be defined as functional, sensible, utilitarian.

The word luxury goes to indulgence, extravagance, treat.

The Jaguar brand has pretty much been defined more in the context of luxury than practicality.

After all, Jag is the Grand British Sporting Brand. Even when the company was in its FoMoCo doldrums there were those who kept the flame burning, hoping that the manufacturer would bring back the “Grace, Space and Pace” that it was known for.

e coupe

A classic E-Type

Which brings us to something rather curious.

At the Frankfurt Show in a couple weeks Jaguar is going to take the camouflage off of the F-PACE, which it is calling “the most practical Jaguar sports car ever.”

Practical and sports car seem somewhat oxymoronic. Putting Jaguar in the middle muddles things.

Ah, but you see this vehicle, which incorporates “all of the learnings from F-TYPE,” like torque vectoring and on-demand all-wheel-drive is not a sports car at all.

It is a compact sports utility vehicle.

Yes, Jaguar is joining the parade of those that are—or will be—offering what is likely to be a car-based ute.

F type

A contemporary F-TYPE

The F-PACE uses the “Jaguar Lightweight Aluminum Architecture” that gives rise to its contemporary sports cars, like the F-TYPE, and Mike Cross, Jaguar chief engineer, Vehicle Integrity, said, “We haven’t made any compromises or exceptions: the new F-PACE had to be a true Jaguar and had to deliver the dynamics DNA. We’ve tested ride and handling to the limit, and the result is that the new F-PACE is as engaging and rewarding to drive as it is comfortable and quiet. As soon as you get into the vehicle you know immediately that it’s a good place to be.”

And to, presumably, pack a reasonable amount of stuff into.

F Pace

Future F-PACE

They took it to Arjeplog, Sweden, in the winter to see how it would do at -15°C or less; they took it to Dubai to see how it would do at +70°C. (And in the case of Dubai, to probably check out the interest in the market.)

If Maserati and Lamborghini will do it, if Porsche and BMW do it, then can the people from Solihull be criticized for doing so?

But practical?  Really?

F pace 1


300th Show & a ’05 Ford GT


By: Gary S. Vasilash 31. August 2015

While there is great anticipation for the forthcoming Ford GT, the previous generation car, which was produced in model years 2005 and 2006, is still among the best designed vehicles ever.

2006 Ford GT

[Not Karl’s car.]

On “Autoline After Hours” we’ve interviewed Camilo Pardo, who is credited with that car’s design.

(We also interviewed Craig Metros, who worked on the next-gen GT.)

Ford GT - FIA World Endurance Championship

The new Ford GT setup for racing

On this edition of “After Hours” we have a 2005 Ford GT in the studio along with its one-and-only owner, Karl Brauer, who picked up his car in Santa Monica on August 23, 2005, with seven miles clocked on the odometer. He’s since put real miles on the car.

Brauer shipped his car east not to have it in the studio, but to attend the 9th annual Ford GT owners’ event, which was held, not surprisingly, in Dearborn. There were, Brauer explains, about 110 Ford GT owners who came to participate. (There were a grand total of 4,038 GTs built during the two-year run; the next-gen car is expected to have production of 200+ vehicles per year, but with a price tag in the $400,000 vicinity. . . .)

Oh, one more thing.

Not only is Brauer a GT owner, he is also a senior analyst at Kelly Blue Book, so he knows more than a little about the entire industry.

He joins Michelle Krebs of AutoTrader, host John McElroy and me on the show.

Oh, and it is the 300th “Autoline After Hours.”  (No, I haven’t been on all of them.)

In addition to the GT, we discuss subjects including the outlook for alphanumeric car nomenclature (e.g., Cadillac CT6), the manufacturers’ points in Formula One and IndyCar racing, and the outlook for sales going forward, given rising prices, increasingly age of vehicles on the road, and a whole lot of leases that will find their way back onto lots.

Check it out here:

 


 




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