Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vintage #Fiat500 Ragtop in Green

By far the nicest Cinquecento
on the internet

Audi the #TDI s to #LAAutoShow #A8 #A7 #A6 #Q5 #Diesel

The diesels are coming. Well, one diesel engine sitting pretty under the shapely hoods of five Audi models: the A6, A7 and A8 sedans along with the Q5 crossover are joining the already available Q7, each powered by a 3.0-liter TDI engine offering up 240 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. Suffice it to say, we're pleased.

 Audi promises improvements up to 30 percent in both fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions when compared to its gasoline engines. Not all figures are available quite yet, but the A8, which is coming first in the spring of 2013, will score an estimated 24 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The run to 60 miles per hour is expected to take just 6.4 seconds in the big sedan.

 Not to play favorites or anything, but we're definitely looking forward to sampling the Audi A7 TDI when it comes to market in the fall of 2013, along with the A6 and Q5. Pricing is not yet available, though the Q7 has carried a $52,000 base price since it went on sale last September.

See the four new Audi TDI models in our high-res image galleries live from the LA Auto Show above and below, and there's a press release below if you're in the mood for some more reading material. Enjoy all that torque-filled goodness!

Audi Official Press Release - 

Audi to introduce four new TDI® clean diesel models to the U.S. Market at the L.A. Auto Show

The Audi A8 TDI clean diesel achieves manufacturer estimated fuel efficiency of 24 city/ 36 highway 

New 3.0 liter V6 TDI clean diesel models will include the Audi A8, A7, A6, Q5 and an updated Q7 TDI

Audi to use #FuelForThought at the LA Auto Show to create a social media experience at the display and online

Audi of America announces the arrival of the new TDI® clean diesel models for the Audi A8, A7, A6 and Q5 to debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The addition of these four models marks the first time Audi will feature a full lineup of TDI clean diesel vehicles in the U.S. as they join the updated Q7 model. Each TDI vehicle delivers up to 30% better fuel economy and 30% lower carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline engines*, resulting in longer range and fewer trips to the fuel pump. By having more density than gasoline, diesel packs more energy content in the same amount of fuel, which helps maximize the miles per gallon when that energy is released during a more powerful combustion cycle. 

The TDI clean diesel engine lineup adds to Audi's list of advanced technologies that help enhance fuel efficiency, including Audi ultra® lightweight technology, such as the use of aluminum, and the AFS® frame technology. "

Owners of Audi TDI engines have helped save over 4 million gallons of gasoline, or the equivalent of more than 240,000 barrels of foreign oil, since the introduction of Audi TDI to the U.S. in 2009**," said Scott Keogh, President, Audi of America. " And, TDI technology delivers better fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance."

In order to fuel the conversation surrounding the benefits of TDI technology in the U.S., Audi will use the hashtag, #FuelForThought and invite fans to join the conversation through a social experience at the display and online.

Audi A8 TDI
The flagship of the Audi brand, the A8 TDI, makes a powerful statement in achieving a manufacturer estimated fuel efficiency of 24 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway*. The A8 TDI clean diesel executive sedan embodies superior design and progressive advancements which sets new standards for luxury sedans in terms of uncompromising efficiency and performance. The new 2014 A8 sedans dramatically expand the flagship's engine offerings by moving from two variants (4.2 liter V8 and W12) to six, including: the entry level A8 3.0T V6; the 420 horsepower A8 4.0T V8; the new Audi S8 4.0T V8; the A8 6.0 liter W12; and the new A8 3.0 TDI V6. The new 3.0 liter TDI clean diesel engine generates an astonishing 240 horsepower with 406 lb.-ft. of torque and seamlessly goes 0-60 in 6.4 seconds.

Audi A7 TDI
The Audi A7 TDI clean diesel is the pinnacle of design and is now more fuel efficient than ever. Without compromising design or performance, every detail of the A7 TDI delivers a striking visual statement. The A7 was the first car in the world to feature available factory-installed Wi-Fi (for up to 8 passenger devices) with Audi connect™ and MMI® navigation plus with 3D Google Earth™ maps. From the groundbreaking available MMI touchpad and its gracefully integrated display screen, to the state-of-the-art head up display, the Audi A7 TDI is the perfect marriage of progressive design, efficiency and versatile space.

Audi A6 TDI
One of Audi's most innovative and technologically advanced models to date, the A6 TDI performance sedan sacrifices virtually nothing in performance, comfort or design. As with the successful A6 TFSI® gas engines, the A6 TDI clean diesel engine can make up to 2,000 decisions per second. Available driver assistance systems include night vision assistant, head-up display and Audi pre sense plus that helps detect imminent collisions and initiates protective measures when needed. Other available intelligent features include head-up display and a MMI Touch pad that recognizes handwriting, along with available Audi connect – the first factory-installed wireless internet connection that enables Google Earth maps, Google Local Search, and a WiFi hotspot for up to eight passenger devices.

Audi Q5 TDI
The Audi Q5 has proven itself an absolute success as one of the best-selling models in the Audi lineup. For the 2014 model year, the Q5 will receive the new TDI engine which will allow for better fuel economy along with increased torque. The Audi Q5 TDI combines the driving appeal of a sedan with high versatility of its interior space and many practical solutions for recreation and everyday driving. Audi has further sharpened the profile of its performance SUV in its design, technological advancements, driver assistance systems and fuel efficiencies. The new TDI clean diesel engine marks the fourth engine variant for the Audi Q5 model lineup, adding to the current four-cylinder 2.0T, the 3.0T V6, and the Q5 hybrid.

Audi Q7 TDI
The Audi Q7 continues to establish the standard in progressive design, sophisticated technology and fuel efficiency in premium sport utility vehicles. The benefits of TDI clean diesel technology are further enhanced through the revised V6 TDI engine that offers a 10 percent efficiency improvement compared to gasoline engines. The revised TDI clean diesel engine has an increased output of 240 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque that helps improve performance and offers impressive fuel economy with an EPA estimated 19 city/ 28 highway miles per gallon*. The incredibly efficient TDI clean diesel engine enables the Q7 TDI to achieve a range in excess of 700 miles per tank***.

2014 MY Availability
A8 TDI Spring 2013
A7 TDI Fall 2013
A6 TDI Fall 2013
Q5 TDI Fall 2013

Pricing for all 2014 MY vehicles to be announced at a later date 2013 MY Availability Starting MSRP Q7 TDI Since September 2012 $52,000 * EPA estimates. Mileage will vary. ** Based on total A3 TDI and Q7 TDI vehicles sold, average nationwide gasoline fuel prices, and EPA estimated annual average miles driven. *** Range based on 28-mpg highway EPA estimates and a 26.4-gallon fuel-tank. Mileage will vary. Where stated, fuel economy values (mpg) are EPA estimates. All other fuel economy values are forecast manufacturer values for the USA; those EPA estimates were not available at time of release. Audi Connect and SiriusXM Traffic services may require additional subscriptions. MSRPs exclude taxes, title, transportation, options and dealer charges.

From AutoBlog.Com

Volkswagen caught testing next-gen Golf Variant, aka Jetta SportWagen ... Including GTI and R versions!!

Volkswagen is currently testing the next-generation Jetta SportWagen in Europe, and our spy photographers managed to grab a few shots of the long-roof in action. From the looks of things, the new model will be considerably larger than the current generation, pushing ever closer to the girth of the European Passat. Technically, the SportWagen will continue to ride on the Golf platform moving forward, and there's some indication that buyers in the EU will get a shot at both GTI and R versions. Of course, the SportWagen goes by the name Golf in the old country.

 Details are scarce on what we can expect to see under the hood, and Volkswagen hasn't said when the new Golf/Jetta SportWagen will debut, but smart money is on seeing the next-generation vehicle at either the Geneva Motor Show in March of next year or the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. In the meantime, check out the full gallery for a closer look


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

@BrandChannelHub - LA Auto Show Preview: @Jaguar Fuels Desire for New F-TYPE and more

When the Los Angeles Auto Show holds its media preview on Wednesday, it'll become more apparent than ever that in the world of cars, as in some other things, California remains vastly disconnected from the rest of America.

That's because the nation's strictest emissions standards and laws mandating electric-vehicle sales put a premium for auto brands on showing the best side of their electrification efforts at the L.A. show. And so while EVs have continued to sell at a snail's pace across most of the rest of the United States, California has become a robust market for electric vehicles.

 It's also America's hottest market for sexy cars, of course, which is why Jaguar USA is at the LA Auto Show. The brand hosted a pre-show event Tuesday night to unveil the all-new F-TYPE two-seater. It also unveiled the trailer for Desire, a short film being released next year, which stars Emmy Award-winning actor Damian Lewis, produced by Ridley Scott Associates with music by Lana Del Rey. Check it out below along with other previews at the LA Auto Show.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Second Coming of Saab

Saab PhoeniX Concept Car

People love a good comeback story, the kind where a person overcomes seemingly impossible obstacles, and Saab right now might be shaping up to be that kind of a story. Many people decided the brand was deader than dead three years ago when talk of bankruptcy and winding down the brand  was first brought up by General Motors management. After languishing for a while, the Swedish automotive brand finally seemed to succumb to the many factors that caused its demise. Many kind eulogies were written for the brand and then everyone seemed to move on.

But like a phoenix, (or maybe a zombie, depending on how things turn out) Saab refused to stay dead for very long. Now it promises to rise from the ashes of the company so many wept over, hopefully stronger and ready to thrive in the modern automotive world.

Saab PhoeniX Concept

At first, plans were to relaunch the brand with only EVs (electric vehicles). That plan was an ambitious one, one that seems to have been placed on hold. Rather than let consumers continue to think that the Saab brand is dead, the company will release a new generation of the iconic 9-3 sports sedan, but it will be gasoline-powered like in the past. Rumor has it that this new 9-3 will be based on the architecture of Saab's PhoeniX concept (but sadly the scissor doors probably won't make the cut--pun intended). In the next few years, expect to see electric Saab models rolling down a road near you.

How is it that Saab has been brought back from death? Despite what most people think, when a company goes bankrupt and closes that doesn't mean the products are dead forever. If that were the case, Jeep would have been history a long time ago. The Swedish company National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (or NEVS) is partially responsible for this reboot. The company is owned by National Modern Energy Holdings, which is based in Hong Kong. A significant portion of the company is also owned by some private Japanese citizens, with the alliance surviving the current tension between the governments of China and Japan.

Saab PhoeniX Concept

China has been weighing in on electric car technology with a mandate for quite a few electric cars on the country's roads in the near future. This has helped fuel an interest in bringing more EVs to China. The US so far is the largest EV market in the world, so expect to see quite a few of these EV Saabs coming to America in the near future as well. I would imagine a fair amount of the new 9-3s will be landing on American shores as well, considering the US was a vital market for Saab back in the day. Still, with NEVS being based in China, and with the country's growing appetite for cars, Saab should be expecting to see a huge upswing in growth in China (just like Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo are all experiencing).

Of course, everything is up in the air right now. Relaunching a car brand is not an overnight process, especially with part supply chains, readying factories, negotiating with assembly workers, training, testing, etc. I'm sure the public's response to this news will play a factor in deciding if Saab is back next year, so let's all make sure to let NEVS know there's still a viable market for a combustion engine 9-3!

Saab PhoeniX Concept Wheel - I love how it looks kind of like a turbine!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hennessey preparing updated Venom GT2 with 1,500 HP

Hennessey Performance – that purveyor of things silly-powerful – has announced a sequel to its bonkers Lotus-based Venom GT, the appropriately sequential Venom GT2. While the performance company isn't quite ready to release full technical details about the new car, it has supplied us with a few of the vitals, as well as a gallery's worth of first-look eye-candy.

The GT2 seeks to trump the horsepower output of the Venom GT in a major way, upping the total pony count to 1,500 versus the older car's paltry 1,200 hp. That heroic output is produced by a 7.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine, and is attainable running plebian E85 pump gas – like a boss. The 1,500-hp figure is significant, too, as it represents one horsepower for each kilogram of weight the car carries.

Other additions for the Venom GT2 include an available seven-speed "paddle shift transmission" of unknown origin, a bump in headroom thanks to the double-bubble roof and aero improvements that drop the CofD from 0.44 to 0.42.

Look for this unmitigated beast of a hypercar to make its official debut late in 2013.

UPDATE: This just in from John Hennessey regarding the 2014 Venom GT2. We're told that the car will carry a sticker price of $1.25 million to start, and that the optional seven-speed paddle-shift transmission will be a $165,000 option. Further, Hennessey will continue to sell both the Venom GT and the Venom GT2 – the new car is not a replacement for the older, in other words.

From AutoBlog.Com

@Wired - The ‘SUV of Motorcycles’ Offers Neither Sport nor Utility

Alessandro Tartarini, the son of Italjet founder Leopoldo Tartarini, has created a new category of motorcycle we didn’t know we needed. And based on the stats and those pesky laws of physics, we’re unconvinced it’s even a viable solution for the handful of potential buyers Tartarini and his company are targeting.

The design intent of the Brutus (no relation to the Brutus electric motorcycle or Caesar’s assassin) is to be a jack of all trades, handling serious off-road conditions while simultaneously being a practical long-distance cruiser. The big feature is the tires, which are 6 inches wide at the front, and 7 inches wide at the rear.

But as with any hybrid that attempts to blend the best of both worlds, the Brutus’ stats make it sound like a mis-imagined hodgepodge that won’t be good at anything.

To begin with, it weighs in at 485 pounds – about the same as 1,000cc tourers like the Ducati Multistrada. The reason tourers can’t go off road is because they’re far too heavy, which makes the Brutus overweight for dirt path duty.

Then there’s the suspension travel, which at 80mm at the front and 100mm at the rear, is far too short for hopping rocks and ripping through ruts. Most tourers have about twice that amount of travel, and use every millimeter of it.

But questionable stats aside, the Brutus is touted as “at home in any conditions” and “a valid work tool for going where other vehicles cannot.” Two dubious claims that combined with a 45bhp, 750cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled powerplant make even less of a case for Tartarini’s halved ATV.

The production model comes with an glut of options like a reverse gear, a sidecar, a winch, a generator, and even a “snow kit,” which converts the rig into a semi-snowmobile with a track out back. Look for a release next spring, although there’s no word on pricing.

From AutoBlog.Com

The Joys of Driving a Minivan!

I am a car guy, but I'm also practical and I'm not rich. I also have several kids (which is partially why I'm not rich) to transport safely and comfortably around town and on long trips. Because of my life situation I have found myself doing what I swore I would never, ever do: I bought a minivan.

What's so bad about owning a minivan? Many people consider minivans to be a scourge on the road. I've noticed the most violent reactions against minivans and those who drive them come from women. Perhaps these women view minivans as an undue form of female bondage, like the bra-burning flower children of the 1960s? I once had a woman explain to me that driving a minivan is "sacrificing your sexuality for your children." I had no idea I drove my sexuality around on the road, but of course the little guys who drive huge trucks help confirm that at least some people do. How sad.

I really like SUVs for a number of reasons: they are excellent in snow, SUVs are good for camping and other outdoor activities and some can actually be fun to drive (while others constantly feel like they're going to tip over). But there is one major problem with 95% of the SUVs on the market today: if they have a third row, its large enough to transport a house cat or maybe a beagle and that's about it. Don't believe me? Go try to sit in the third row of a Toyota Highlander, Volvo XC90, Acura MDX or even a Ford Explorer. If you're tall like me, you won't even fit. To add insult to injury, with the third row up the vehicle's cargo area is completely annihilated. So that means if the family goes shopping together, everyone has to hold the store bags on their laps. Road trips are accomplished with everyone holding the luggage or using it as wonderful in-vehicle ottomans, or by loading everything onto the roof and increasing the possibility the vehicle will rollover at freeway speeds. Car makers could at least expand the hip room on the second row of these SUVs, allowing parents to place three car seats or boosters side-by-side and still close the doors and use the three shoulder belts.  

Minivans in general offer more cargo and passenger space than SUVs

Minivans, for the most part, have ample space on all three rows, as well as a surprising amount of cargo space behind the third row. Image be damned, having space for everyone and everything makes life bearable! Kids also have an easy time getting into and out of minivans, since they have a low step-in height and wide sliding doors. Kids have trouble with the large, heavy doors found on SUVs, which means they're more likely to hit other vehicles, metal poles, etc with them.

As gas prices continue to climb, minivans offer a more fuel-efficient way to transport a large group of people. In general, their tires and other consumables cost less. They are a more budget-friendly way to transport around your family. So many people have SUVs that cost an arm and a leg to maintain, and yet they never tap into the vehicle's off-road capabilities. If that's not conspicuous consumption, then I'm not sure what is. 

Ultimately I feel like I'm villainized by other drivers on the road because I chose a vehicle that makes sense. I had been conditioned to think that minivan drivers were some sort of a scourge, but my thinking has now changed by necessity. If more people would give minivans a try, they might realize that their kids don't need to eat their knees in an SUV's crammed third row. My experience is that the more comfortable kids are in a vehicle, in general the better behaved they are in that vehicle. I enjoy driving down the road without crying and fighting, which is hardly a scourge but instead is a huge blessing.

@GoApr - Big Turbo MKVI VW GLI - 11.49 @ 119.88

We all know I am a big fan of GoApr and the magic they perform on the VW family, but I just had to share this clip.

Alan Watts - What if Money Was No Object in your life? What would you do?

Jeep Grand Cherokee fails evasive maneuver (moose test)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2001 Cadillac Seville SLS

There she is. One 2001 Cadillac Seville SLS with 103,361 miles on it. Pretty clean car. Unfortunately, it does not start, nor crank, nor does the host of electronic gadgetry on this car work. The owner says sometimes he can disconnect the battery and reconnect and vehicle it will start and perform well. Notice the battery charger in the picture. Usually, a clear indication to me that the battery in the car is a paperweight. I see a ton of bad batteries. People will have expensive stereo systems, fancy alarms, and they have a bad battery. They don't mind jumping the car 5 times a week. That spells disaster to electronics. Between, voltage spikes and the eventual backwards jump start it gets ugly fast. Let's get the show on the road with this car.
I hook my Tech2 to see what modules are reporting. I choose Class 2 DTC Check to see what is going on quickly.

This is what I get. Now, this could go many ways here. These vehicles have lots of issues. Bad ignition switches, water leaks soaking modules and causing communication issues. On this model I know that they typically will have windshield and/or passenger door leaks and the SRS (Airbag) module under the passenger seat gets soaked and causes issues. A quick feel under the seat and it feels pretty dry. I then break out the scope and check pin #2 at the DLC and get a constant 12v. The Class 2 communication line is shorted to power. So many things can cause this-bad modules, shorted harnesses, poor grounds. Lets look at the Class 2 line.
Here is part 1.....

Here is part 2. Lots of modules here which is to be expected on a Cadillac. These modules are arranged in a Loop pattern. GM has 3 different ways to arrange Class 2. Loop is what you see here where communication lines go in and out of every module. Star arrangement where each module generally has one communication wire going to it and there is usually a splice pack where you can take one module off at a time. Finally there is Star/Loop which combines the two. Loop is great for redundancy but can be a little more intensive to diagnose. I like to start with easy. I visually check grounds and harnesses for rubbing or damage. They look pretty good. Next, I start disconnecting modules, cycle key and then look at my scope on Class 2 for activity. I disconnect ABS no luck. Every other module is buried except one-the PCM.
I unearth it and disconnect both connectors.

This is what I have at pin #2 at the DLC now. Perfect Class 2 waveform. Let's recheck the modules with the Tech2.

Nice! I now have modules reporting. The only module not reporting is the PCM. Obviously, it is hanging in the breeze. A quick check of powers, grounds, and 5vref at the PCM reveals no other issues. This PCM is the cause of the Class 2 being shorted to power. Remember, the battery charger, etc. I inform the shop owner of my findings and give him options so he can discuss with this customer. He calls me the next day and tells me money is tight with the customer. He wants to go with a used PCM and still does not want to change the battery. I do not mind setting up used modules as long as it will not cause issues. Be careful. Sometimes replacement of used modules will cause issues. Ask one shop I got called in when they changed a BCM (Body Control Module) on a Caravan to fix a rear wiper issue. Well after the used BCM went in the vehicle got infected with VTSS (Anti theft) and the mileage almost doubled with no going back. Try explaining that to the customer. Be careful! All my customers know to call me first and ask me about used module beforehand. It is something I preach. Ok, so we are going to be putting a used PCM in this Cadillac. New, reman, or used it will have to be setup with proper VIN and calibration. As well as the theft system relearned.
Used PCM installed. Still have great communication. Next....
I hook up my Midtronics battery maintainer to the battery. Not because this vehicle has a bad battery. I will not reflash, program, etc without it. It is a ripple free battery maintainer that holds voltage steady at 13.4v. It is endorsed by GM and has been the industry mainstay for some time. I know guys that flash with jumpacks or battery chargers. I do not have that kind of luck. There is a lot of data being transferred and I want to make sure I have done everything for a successful flash event. A quick check with my DVOM at the battery tells me we have stable proper voltage. Next, I hook up the Tech2 and request info from the used PCM. It will have the VIN and calibrations from whatever vehicle it came out of. I will be overwriting that with proper VIN and calibrations for this vehicle.
I then hook up my Tech2 to my TIS2000 program, input the proper VIN and choose replace and reprogram PCM. This is what is called remote programming. It is when you are downloading calibrations to the Tech2  from the laptop then disconnecting and using the Tech2 stand alone to update programming. Sometimes I use this method other times I use pass thru. I avoid flashing/reprogramming with a J2534 tool whenever possible. I like factory tooling. Less pitfalls and suprises.

There are the correct calibrations. I upload to the Tech 2 and go back to the car.

Here is where it gets a little dicey. These Cadillacs along with certain Corvette models (check your service information) really should be programmed by themselves. Apparently, with so many modules on the communication line if one of them "talked" while a programming event was going on it could corrupt the programming. So GM recommends to reprogram these PCM's with a special stand alone harness that isolates the PCM. Others, I know have made jumper harnesses of their own to work around this. I had some good information that if I pulled the I/P fuse in the underhood fusebox that the chatty modules involved would go to sleep and I could program this PCM. So I did.

Here I rechecked. Sure enough my chatty modules are no longer reporting and the PCM is there. A quick recheck of proper voltage and connections. Lets program!

Here we go.

A couple of minutes later. Lets recheck for proper calibrations.

Bingo. Vehicle still is not going to start. We need to relearn theft.
Here we have a choice to relearn theft. GM typically gives you two choices. One is a long way typically 30 minutes which involves turning key on and waiting, etc. The second way is a program that will run that speeds things up. That is what I use. Again, we request info from vehicle using the Tech2. This time VIN is correct.
I choose theft relearn and upload it to my Tech2.

This is a lot faster. After completion the vehicle starts and runs properly. I clear all codes and make sure to perform any after reprogramming procedures such as oil life reset, crankshaft variation relearn, etc. The Cadillac rides again. Hopefully, that battery gets changed sooner rather than later. 



Motor Trend goes head-to-head-to-head in Cadillac ATS 3.6, BMW 335i and Mercedes C350 Sport

Motor Trend's latest episode of "Head 2 Head" is a battle of the little luxury sixes, looking to see which of these $50,000 sport sedans, all equipped with automatic transmissions, can lay the largest claim to your money: the 321-horsepower, six-speed Cadillac ATS 3.6, the 302-horsepower, seven-speed Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport or the 300-horsepower, eight-speed BMW 335i.

Host Jonny Lieberman doesn't just look at dynamics. He starts off with an assessment of each car's interior and its infotainment interface: CUE on the Cadillac, COMAND on the Mercedes and iDrive on the BMW. A bit of a spoiler, CUE doesn't fare any better here than it did with Consumer Reports, for essentially the same reasons. Thankfully, the ATS has tricks beyond its touchscreen.

The victor and the overall ranking might surprise you. One of the contestants "goes around corners better than it goes in a straight line," one of them would have won the comparo if it were held a year ago, and one earns more mention of the word "rubbery" than you'll hear outside of a Kumho factory.

Janus Motorcycles thinks big with small displacement

What you're looking at here is a brand-new, small-displacement motorcycle from Janus, though you'd be forgiven for thinking the machine is some restored relic from the 1920s. Devin Biek and Richard Worsham got it into their heads to start building new bikes borrowing design references from their favorite antique two-wheelers, after noticing how many moped enthusiasts were working to convert their budget rides into more capable machines. The result is the Janus Halcyon 50, and the creation is powered by a liquid-cooled 50cc two-stroke engine.

A six-speed transmission puts power to the rear wheel via a chain drive, and the whole contraption is good for a top speed of 55 miles per hour. Biek and Worsham also say the Halcyon 50 can net you 60 miles per gallon, which means the bike has a range of 180 miles thanks to the 3-gallon polished aluminum fuel tank. What's more, we hear tell the engine can be easily upgraded to generate around twice the horsepower.

With its 18-inch wheels, leather saddle and hardtail configuration, the Halcyon 50 pulls at our heartstrings in a big way. Each bike is built in Goshen, Indiana, and Janus contracts local Amish workers to bend and weld the company's frames. Sinfully cool. If you want one, the company will politely ask for $3,900.

From AutoBlog.Com

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Robot Cars Are Invading!

I grew up watching the Transformers (as well as the hopelessly inferior GoBots) and so from an early age I have a positive association with robot cars. Night Rider was also part of my ultra-healthy diet of mindless television, which also helped prepare me for the future of automobiles.

Yes, that's right folks, the future of automobiles will be robot cars. Like it or not, states like California are helping usher in a new era in motoring (as my friends across the pond like to say) where the human behind the wheel is not the only one driving the car. 

What baffles me is the massive opposition to robot cars. There are throngs of people who are upset, saying robot cars are dangerous (these people watched the Terminator and the Matrix a little too much), that they take away our freedoms and that robot cars will create the ever-dread "nanny state" I keep hearing about. If you don't believe that robot cars are a hot-button issue, check out this real (I swear it is real) political ad from Florida:

Back in the day windshields were called "not commercially viable" by people who irrationally were fighting any kind of change. Considering how many deaths and serious injuries are caused by car accidents, and how many people who want to do everything but drive when they're behind the wheel, I think the benefits of autonomous cars are immense. How many times have you been in a near car accident that was due to another person talking or texting on their phone, or doing something else that completely distracted them? A robot car would prevent the damage to property and loss of life that comes from car accidents (which are altogether too common). In fact, according to the United States CDC, the number one killer of teens in the US is car accidents! 

Of course, not all autonomous car tech is created equal, so the debate should really be about what is the best way of going about it.Having a system where all the cars are controlled by a central group of servers can be a recipe for disaster, since one glitch could cause thousands of cars to drive out of control, leading to catastrophic car accidents. Instead, tech like Google's self driving cars is far better, since a glitch would only affect one or just some of the cars on the road. 

To those who bristle at the thought of a computer driving a car, since computers won't be as careful, consider that humans have proven to be quite careless behind the wheel. Most of these robot cars will allow drivers to take control at any time, so in the event of a malfunction the human driver can still maintain control. This could also mean that people could drive without using the robot aids, just like how you can turn the traction control system off on your car (and let your tires spin uselessly as a result). The point is people would have the robotic aids, just like how people have backup cameras and other technology that makes driving a car a safer and easier experience.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

‘Let It Snow,’ Jaguar Roars

Jaguar is finally dropping the other shoe – and it’s a snowshoe.

Three months ago, Jaguar began to discuss the impending arrival of important new models, offering car buyers a new all-wheel-drive system, completely different from the one last offered by Jaguar, in 2006. Rivals like Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz have long been offering the feature, putting Jaguar at a competitive disadvantage, particularly in snowy and rainy states in the northern half of the country.

Now, the 2013 Jaguar XJ and XF sedans, equipped with what the Jaguar North America unit of Jaguar Land Rover calls Instinctive All Wheel Drive, are nearing dealer showrooms. To promote their arrival, an advertising campaign is to get under way on Monday, including television and radio commercials, print and digital ads, events and a section of the Jaguar North America Web site.

The campaign, with a budget estimated at $20 million, is being created by Spark 44 in Los Angeles, an agency that is partly owned by Jaguar Land Rover, a division of Tata Motors of India. The ads use the recently introduced Jaguar brand ad theme, “Alive” — along with jaguar-like roaring sounds in the commercials — and make assertive statements like “All wheel drive. But still all Jaguar,” and “Your playground just got a whole lot bigger.”

The absence of an all-wheel-drive system has “kept us out of a chunk of the market,” said David Pryor, brand vice president at Jaguar North America in Mahwah, N.J., so “we want to make a big splash” with the campaign.

The television commercials are replete with stormy weather. In one spot, a man walks through heavy snow and gets into a Jaguar buried in a drift, starts it up and drives away. “Power your escape with a car as alive as you are,” an announcer declares.

At this time of the year, many car commercials feature snow, usually to suggest that consumers emulate Santa Claus and give cars as Christmas presents. Or the snow signals the start of year-end clearance sales at dealerships. “If we ran an ad with a Santa, I don’t think we’d break through,” Mr. Pryor said.

Bruce Dundore, North American creative director at Spark 44, said dryly, “To express the all-wheel-drive concept, it’s always helpful to have snow.”

The concept of the campaign that the all-wheel-drive system “lets you escape to where you want to go” whenever you want to is counterpoint to the conventional wisdom that “people kept Jaguars in their garages during the winter because they didn’t have all wheel drive,” Mr. Dundore said.

The campaign will make its debut during “Monday Night Football” on ESPN and continue to run on that channel as well as channels like BBC America, CNN, Food Network, ESPN and the NFL Network.

The radio commercials will appear on Sirius XM on channels devoted to sports, news, traffic and – of course – weather.

The print ads will be published in magazines like Fast Company, Motor Trend and Playboy. And the digital ads will run on Web sites like CNET, CBS Sports, The New York Times and

Stuart Elliott has been the advertising columnist at The New York Times since 1991. Follow @stuartenyt on Twitter and sign up for In Advertising, his weekly e-mail newsletter.
This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 19, 2012

An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly, based on incomplete information provided by a public relations agency working for the company, that Jaguar had never produced an all-wheel-drive car. It had offered a completely different one in 2006.

From NYTimes.Com

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2013 @Ford #FocusST vs 2012 @Volkswagen #GTI

Can The Blue Oval Bad Boy Dethrone The Hot Hatch King?

About three years ago to the day, fellow Senior Editor Seyth Miersma and I – during our respective tenures as editors at Winding Road – met on a cold, wet autumn morning to put the then-new sixth-generation Volkswagen GTI up against a slew of hot hatches for a comparison test cover story. Miersma and I share a love for this type of car, simply because they're affordable little runabouts that don't skimp on functionality while being hysterically fun to toss about. Actually, you'd be hard pressed to find a single member of the automotive media that doesn't hold at least one of these little rascals close to their heart.

The hot hatch hierarchy has long been capped with the GTI as king, and for good reason. Of all the vehicles offered in the segment, it has perhaps the best blend of the many facets we love about these cars, and it's the one that we'd absolutely open our wallets for year after year, generation after generation. So when a new kid comes to town, it doesn't completely matter how it stacks up against other competitors in the segment – if you want to dethrone the king, you have to beat the GTI at the very game it created.

Enter the 2013 Ford Focus ST, a car that Ford says will run circles around every other hot hatch available in the United States. The Blue Oval is out for blood with this one, and for good reason. After our first experience with the car overseas, we must admit, it's damn good.

So on yet another cold autumn morning, I found myself sitting behind the wheel of the brand-new Focus ST, following Miersma in the GTI out to the same roads we've flogged hot hatches down in the past. History indeed has a way of repeating itself, but with the potent little Ford now in its class, does the GTI still hold onto its crown?

There's a reason why we're keeping this a head-to-head comparison. The next logical competitor for the Focus ST is the bonkers Mazdaspeed3 – there's the old family tie there, anyway – and cars like the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart do fight in the same class, albeit with all-wheel drive. But we wanted to keep this simple, and since every new hot hatch gets compared directly to the GTI, we figured this should just be a straight-up two-car battle. No sense in complicating things with other cars.

The Focus ST is an all-new entry for the 2013 model year, powered by a 2.0-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder engine that sends an impressive 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. Those rollers themselves measure 18 inches at all four corners and are wrapped in sticky P235/40R18 Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. Our Tangerine Scream tester came packed with options like the automaker's love/hate MyFord Touch infotainment system, dual-zone climate control and the fabulous swallow-you-whole grippy Recaro seats. All in, this relatively loaded Focus ST stickered for $28,170 including destination – a full $3,405 more than the GTI you see beside it.

When we first parked the two cars next to each other, the bold, aggressive lines of the Focus ST only reminded us how much we appreciate the clean, conservative styling of the GTI. The Ford absolutely screams "boy racer" from every angle, though truth be told, this paint job doesn't help. It may be the Focus ST's show color, but it's the least appealing to our eyes. Regardless of hue, we found the Ford's design to be over-styled in many ways – most notably, there are a couple of extra character lines on the sides that don't really seem necessary and the sill extensions could stand to be smoothed out. "The body kit added on to the already complex shape of the Focus panels doesn't work for me," says Miersma. Still, when it comes to getting the point across that this isn't your normal Focus, the ST has enthusiastic charm in abundance. It is indeed both fast and furious, and looks the part even when standing still.

In this spec, the Focus ST weighs in at 3,223 pounds – 189 more pounds than the 3,034 of the Volkswagen. A lot of that comes down to the fact that the Focus is simply a larger car in every dimension. It rides on a 2.8-inch longer wheelbase (104.3 versus 101.5), is 5.8 inches longer overall (171.7 vs. 165.9), is 1.8 inches wider (71.8 vs. 70.0) and stands just over half an inch taller (58.4 vs. 57.8). Because of the added width, the front and rear tracks of the Focus are slightly wider than the Volkswagen, as well – 0.8 inches wider at the front, 0.7 at the back. Despite those numbers, the Ford just plain looks bigger from all angles, though that's largely thanks to the fact that our test Focus has four doors while the GTI only has two.

And here, we must address another caveat to this test. We fully understand that the more appropriate comparison would have been to use a four-door GTI since the Focus ST is only available with that many doors, but we were unable to source one. The more important thing to compare here concerns performance, and if we wanted a VW equipped with a manual transmission, we had to get a two-door. (The Focus ST is only available with a manual.) Even so, fitting two extra doors to the GTI adds 79 pounds to the curb weight (and $600 to the car's bottom line). Yes, it looks a little funky for the photos, but trust us, we were glad to have the stick in the VW for judging these two cars on the road. You'll read about that in a minute.

Now that that's cleared up, let's discuss the Volkswagen, all $24,765 of it. You heard right – it's a GTI that stickers under $25k. That's a seriously attractive price point for this car, though it lacks a lot of the features and functions found in the Ford. Namely, the GTI doesn't have any sort of navigation or infotainment and doesn't feature dual-zone climate control, though it does come standard with heated seats – something our Focus ST wasn't equipped with. But don't let this price fool you – top out a GTI and you'll be forking over $32,490, while a fully stocked Focus ST comes in at $30,335 (both prices include $795 for destination).

Unlike the Focus ST, we can't be anything but in love with the GTI's appearance – it really just looks like a Golf fitted with larger wheels (18-inch Detroit alloys wrapped in P225/40R18 Pirelli PZero Nero tires here). The Volkswagen has a refreshingly clean shape with simple lines that don't make it look overly aggressive or faddish. It's probably the biggest sleeper in the entire class, and its design won't be off-putting in any situation. Even your mom will think it's handsome.

Same goes for the interior – once again, we find the Ford to be a bit over-styled. Miersma's notes completely lined up with mine, the tall Dutchman citing "textures, colors, patterns and lighting that all overload the senses." We adore the Ford's Recaro seats for keeping us firmly planted while tossing the car about, but they aren't quite as accommodating to our well-fed bodies as the chairs in the Volkswagen. There's just a lot going on, though neither of us would call the Ford's cabin anything less than well-appointed and comfortable. It all just feels a bit overwhelming (and perhaps a bit cramped).

There's no need to bore you readers yet again with our dissection of the MyFord Touch infotainment system – just know that it's the exact same unit found in every other Blue Oval product. There is a complimentary five-way controller on the left side of the steering wheel to manage functions found in the gauge cluster, with a matching five-way setup on the right side to control audio functions. The rest of the steering wheel is packed with buttons for voice controls and cruise control, and despite the fact that the Focus ST wheel feels nice in our hands, it's all a bit cluttered. Volkswagen absolutely wins the helm wars here – its thick, flat-bottomed wheel is a joy to spin – and while we enjoyed the lack of any redundant control buttons attached to it, it's easy to grow tired of reaching over to the center stack to deal with audio requests (#firstworldproblems).

After being disappointed with interior fittings in VWs like the Jetta, it's so refreshing to be back in the GTI. Every touchable surface feels really high quality, and we simply adore the plaid cloth seats fitted to this test car – they're comfortable, supportive, and come on, they look awesome. And with the standard bun-warmers, we don't know why anyone would opt for the leather on higher trim levels. Call the tartan treatment gimmicky if you will (we call it "historically correct," not to mention "super rad"), but the pattern ads some pizazz to what can be an otherwise sober interior. And besides, if you don't like a bit of fun in your compact, you shouldn't be buying a hot hatch in the first place.

Behind the front cabin, the Focus ST and GTI are both extremely functional, but Volkswagen has yet again done a better job here. Both cars offer plenty of legroom and headroom for rear seat occupants, the VW offering slightly more of each, even in this two-door configuration. Back seat riders are treated to 38.5 inches of headroom in the GTI (37.9 in the Ford) and 35.5 inches of legroom (the Focus has 33.2). For hauling, both cars offer 60/40 folding rear benches, but the Volkswagen's legitimately fold flat while the seats in the Focus just sort of topple over and require you to remove the headrests. Because of that, the GTI, even with its smaller size, narrowly takes the cake on cargo capacity. You can fit 46 cubic feet of stuff into the back of the VW while the larger Ford can only hold 44.8.

From the parking lot point of view, Miersma and I were absolutely smitten with the GTI and hands-down preferred it to the Ford. But would that translate to the road?

First and foremost, despite its 189-pound weight advantage, the GTI is seriously underpowered compared to the Focus ST. Nestled under its Candy White hood is Volkswagen's 2.0-liter turbo-four, good for 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. That's a full 52 hp and 63 lb-ft shy of what's being made in the Focus ST, and in fact, the GTI is one of the least-powerful hot hatches of its size.

We lined up the two out on some of our favorite back roads just northwest of Ann Arbor, Michigan – perhaps the only good driving roads in the entire lower half of the Mitten State, and roads that Miersma and I know like the backs of our hands. Firing up the engines, the Ford came to life with an impressive rumble, while the GTI just, well, turned on – no drama here. Our first run had the GTI pacing the Ford, and here, the Focus had absolutely no problem keeping up through every corner and on every straight stretch of road. Off the line, Ford estimates a 5.9-second 0-60 time while Volkswagen says the GTI will take nearly a full second longer to reach that same speed.

"This EcoBoost powertrain feels downright epic – far closer to the brutal, what-the-hell-did-I-just-step-on throttle response of the equally bonkers Mazdaspeed3 than that of other hot hatches," Miersma notes. "The downside to all of that power and torque is some bad behavior from the front tires under hard acceleration."

Ford has employed a seriously good active front differential in the Focus ST, but there's still a wallop of torque steer in first and second gears. It's all fairly manageable – you don't feel like you're going to careen off into a ditch like you would under full-throttle applications in a Mazdaspeed3 – but you absolutely must have your wits about you. Running through the gears, the Ford's more impressive exhaust note provided pure aural delight, being pleasantly audible when you were hard on the throttle and diminishing to a dull roar while cruising. It's a perfect balance of sound and made us wish the GTI would open up its vocal chords a bit, though let it be known that the Ford's throaty noise is manipulated to be more audible at higher revs. The louder note presents itself all of a sudden around 3,000 rpm, and we don't mind it one bit.

All of that impressive front-end tuning completely came into, uh, focus when we hit our first sharp, 90-degree left-hand turn. Not only is the steering so absolutely direct with go-kart-like turn-in, the car is nearly free of awful understeer characteristics. "You might find more plowing behavior when driving on a race track, but Ford has this thing locked in for on-road performance," notes Seyth. It's really impressive and was perhaps the biggest surprise (and delight) about pushing the Focus through turns. This car is just oh-so rewarding to fling around. It's hard to completely remove both torque steer and understeer from front-wheel-drive cars with this much turbocharged grunt. Pigs may not yet fly, but at least this one can turn.

In the GTI, on the other hand, things weren't nearly as good. This little guy dove nose-first into every corner with the front tires struggling to keep things glued to the road (the Ford's grippier rubber indeed helps here), but even more disheartening is how light and carefree the Volkswagen's steering felt in these situations. This steering setup may be nicely tuned to filter out many of southeast Michigan's harsh road impacts, but we wished it were a lot more communicative during these back-to-back runs down some decidedly smooth ribbons of tarmac.

That same sort of eager-to-please but highly underwhelming dynamic could be found in other areas of the GTI driving experience, namely in its throttle response, clutch feel and gearbox. Seyth noted this on our drive out to the good test roads before even sitting inside the Focus ST, and the fact is, the meatier, more engaging setup of the Focus ST only amplifies just how weak the Volkswagen is. The clutch in the GTI is seriously light, as are the gearbox throws. That's fine and dandy for traffic jams and slumming through city streets, but on these roads – or on a track – it's hardly ideal. The same can be said about the brakes – the stoppers on both cars are plenty adequate, but the Ford's more responsive pedal feel and its tendency to stay better balanced under hard braking make it the outright better performer during slow-downs.

Once again, kudos goes to the Focus ST. Its clutch offers a near-perfect balance of weight and feedback and the gearbox offers precise, short throws. That said, the placement of the six-speed shifter in the Focus ST is a bit weird for quick steering-wheel-to-shifter movements, the whole thing feeling like it's maybe an inch too far to the right. The GTI is better in this ergonomic regard, but again, the Ford's is more engaging to use.

When it came time to line the GTI behind the Focus ST for a run down our test course, it became immediately clear just how much quicker and more composed the ST is. With the Ford rocketing ahead, it was a truly tough time trying to keep up in the Volkswagen. In order to keep the GTI's throttle on full notice, the engine needed to ideally spin above 3,500 rpm and in one gear lower than the Focus ST. Because of this, you're doing a lot more clutch-and-shifter work on involving roads with lots of varying-speed turns. For the majority of our route's difficult sections, we could leave the Focus ST in third or even fourth gears, while the GTI had to run back and forth between gears two, three and four to always have its power on tap. The VW 2.0T mill was a total honey to play with, but it felt completely outgunned by the Ford.

That same thing can be said about every other part of the GTI driving experience – it simply feels a couple notches below the Ford on the total performance and involvement scale. We'd love to get these two out on a track for ultimate testing, but there isn't a doubt in our minds that the Focus would continue to wipe the floor with the Volkswagen dynamically.

All that in mind, it'll come as little surprise that picking a winner here was a total no-brainer – the Focus ST absolutely outperforms the GTI. In terms of form and function, the Volkswagen is the sort of car that you could more easily get away with for everyday life – its lower levels of engagement, better interior and more refined styling indeed proved to be better for the sort of non-enthusiastic settings that we were faced with during the entirety of our week-long loans with the two cars. But when it came time to pick the better hot hatch, the Focus ST took our votes without a single doubt. The GTI just couldn't keep up – literally.

We mustn't discount the fact that the GTI is getting on in age – the seventh-generation car is right around the corner, previewed by a concept that bowed at the Paris Motor Show in September. And it's hard to say exactly how its performance credentials will be amped up in the coming years. But right now, we can no longer call the GTI the king of the hot hatches – Ford's European-bred offering simply stomps all over this car in the dynamics department, and while we like the overall packaging and refinement of the GTI a lot more (it's the one many Autoblog staffers would rather live with day in and day out), the Focus ST still wins. Period.

So at least until that new GTI hits the streets, there's a new king sitting atop the hierarchy of giddy little hot hatches. And when that new car launches, I'll be with Miersma for yet another round of turbocharged tomfoolery to see if the Focus ST can hold onto its new crown.

From AutoBlog.Com

Words aren't needed in the company of an Espada

There's something about vintage Italian machinery. From the curvaceous lines of the Ferrari 250 GTO to the more exacting angles of the Lamborghini Espada, the cars hold the promise of something illicit. Something both scowling parents and stern-jawed law enforcement would thoroughly disapprove of if you happened to get caught in the act. It's one of the infinite reasons we love them, and the crew at Petrolicious have managed to capture that precipice of temptation on film.

CJ Bonura was kind enough to let the crew tag along during a little impromptu canyon run in his big silver Espada. The video eschews the typical owner interview in favor of more engine audio and an appropriate soundtrack. If the clip doesn't leave you wanting to jump into your own car for a quick sprint, we can't help you. Check it out in the video below, and stay tuned for more goodness from Petrolicious.

From AutoBlog.Com

Monday, November 19, 2012

Harley-Davidson incongruously aims Sportster 72 commercial at hipsters

The official video for the new Harley-Davidson Sportster Seventy-Two XL 1200 V looks like the intro to a seventies biker flick, or like it was shot on Instagram. Part of Harley's Dark Custom line and a tribute to choppers of a Nixon-era yore, the V-Twin gets throwbacks like a 2.1-gallon "peanut" gas tank, downsized ape-hanger handlebars, chrome laced wheels on whitewall Dunlap bias-ply tires, chopped rear fender, a solo seat and a "Bigflake" paint schemes. And yes, you can get a chromed sissybar.

But instead of using a seventies biker type for riding duty in the vid, Harley went for a hipster – the slid-back beanie and the European stove top coffeemaker gave it away. We're not sure that's the target audience, but it's a neat vid and a cool looking bike anyway. Check it out in the video below.

From AutoBlog.Com

2012 US Grand Prix, remember the Alamo Circuit of the Americas [spoilers]

There were 56 laps run in Austin's Travis County prairie to complete the inaugural United States Grand Prix at the newly minted Circuit of the Americas. Coming into the race, there were nothing but questions and calculations: Would the track be any good for Formula One? Could Red Bull Racing get the five points it needed to take the F1 Constructor's Championship? Would Turn One be the Golgotha everyone predicted? Would the race be the triumphal return to America that everyone was afraid to predict? Could Sauber get enough points to overhaul a struggling Mercedes-AMG Petronas team for fifth in the Constructor's Championship? Could Marussia manage a twelfth-placed finish to overhaul Caterham? Could official track ambassador Mario Andretti conduct a post-race interview?

And most importantly, could Sebastian Vettel put an end to the issue of the Driver's Championship? He would put up a Texas-sized fight...

Vettel qualified his Red Bull on pole, but he didn't put entire counties between himself and all the drivers behind: Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren was just a tenth back. At the beginning of the race, there was another four-tenths to the rest of the bunched-up pack, starting with Mark Webber in second Red Bull in third, then Romain Grosjean in the Lotus in front of his teammate Kimi Räikkönen, Michael Schumacher vastly outperforming his Mercedes-AMG Petronas to take sixth, Felipe Massa outperforming his teammate Alonso in the Ferrari to take seventh, the consistently solid Nico Hülkenberg in the Force India in eighth, then Alonso in ninth, then Pastor Maldonado in the Williams in tenth. The major surprise was Jenson Button, a throttle problem in his McLaren leaving him back in twelfth.

Before the start, Grosjean would drop back to ninth, having had a gearbox replaced and so receiving a five-place grid penalty. Then there were two little controversies: Ferrari intentionally broke a seal on one of Massa's gearboxes, automatically dropping him back five places. The strategic move was designed to help put Alonso on the clean side of the track with Massa behind him on the dirty side in slot 12. The bigger controversy at the start concerned all the drivers in the even grid slots that were off the racing line. Even after days of F1 practice sessions and other series' racing, traction was so bad on that side that it was said that it would cost drivers two places once the race started, Hamilton said he was going to ask the FIA to clean it up, and Massa said his starts from the dirty side were slower than in the wet.

Once the lights went out, the field took off for the massively wide Turn One, drivers full on the throttle deep into the 31-foot climb and into the blind apex. Vettel got a great start, Hamilton quickly lost a position to Webber, but stayed close behind. Alonso was the revelation, gaining three places on the first lap to move into fourth.

With just two retirements, the race then turned into groups of battles among the top ten. Hamilton stalked Vettel throughout after getting past Webber in the Drag Reduction System (DRS) zone on the back straight on Lap 4. Tenth by tenth, Hamilton took time out of Vettel until his tires dropped off, but he was still never more than three seconds behind. After both drivers pitted for the harder tire, Hamilton continued stalking, finally getting past Vettel on Lap 42 after Vettel got held up behind Narain Karthikeyan in the HRT through the first sector. Hamilton didn't streak away, but the cars were too closely matched for Vettel to make a run on him without doing something crazy, which Vettel had no reason to do.

Behind, Webber's race came to a quick end: his alternator went out and on Lap 17, he told his engineer, "KERS is dead." That put Alonso into third, a position he was able to hold onto even after a slow pit stop. But his Ferrari still isn't the car he needs it to be in order to beat the Red Bulls fair and square, and he took the last podium spot more almost 40 seconds in arrears of the two leaders.

Two more "Wow" drives came from Massa and Button. From eleventh on the grid, Massa was putting in the same lap times as Vettel and Hamilton throughout most of the race and got himself up to fourth place. Behind him, Button used the harder tire to excellent effect and a long stint, aided by a great pass on Räikkönen, to get from being twelfth on the grid to fifth at the finish.

Räikkönen dropped to places over the race to finish sixth, coming home in front of teammate Grosjean who gained two places. Hülkenberg took eigth, the Williams pair of Maldonado and Bruno Senna making the top ten.

Michael Schumacher proved how far the Mercedes car still has to go, going backwards once the race began, having to pit twice for tires and finishing in 16th. Sauber, still working to overhaul Mercedes, once again couldn't get either driver into the points – although they at least both finished this time.

Lewis Hamilton finally secured the victory everyone expected from him first in Singapore and then in Abu Dhabi. No matter what happens in Brazil he leaves having fought as hard for McLaren on his way out as he did when he arrived.

Sebastian Vettel gained another three points on Alonso and now has a 13-point lead in the Championship, at 273 to 260, but it wasn't the kind of grind-your-enemy-into-the-dirt performance he wanted. If Alonso wins Brazil, Vettel would need to come in worse than fourth for Alonso to take the title – if Vettel came in fourth, that would see the two tied on points, making Vettel the Champion because he's won more races this year.

We'll leave the statistics and permutations for the commentators to chew on all this week, but know this: Alonso has won two World Championships, both of them secured in Brazil. On top of that, the weather forecast for next week declares a 40-percent chance of rain on Sunday. After the success that was Austin, Brazil should – perhaps in more ways than one – bring its usual thunder.

Some of the race's notables and firsts:
- Webber's only two radio communications during the race were "Back three clicks" and "KERS is dead."
- On Lap 10, Schumacher became the first man in F1 to drive more than 80,000 kilometers (nearly 50,000 miles), going further than ex-teammate Rubens Barrichello.
- Kimi Raikkonen, his first year back, has scored points in every race since Bahrain, a stat no other driver has managed. He has not scored points in just one race all year – another stat no other driver has managed – in China, when tire troubles saw him finish in 14th.
- The first USGP in Texas was won by Lewis Hamilton, who won the last USGP in Indianapolis five years ago.
- The USGP is the first time World Champions Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso have shared a podium.
- Hamilton is behind just Prost and Senna on the list of most victories for a McLaren driver.
- Christian Horner, multi-championship-winning team principal, turned 39 on Saturday.
- Red Bull is the first constructor to win its first three Constructor's Championships consecutively (only three other teams have won three Constructor's Championships at all).

From AutoBlog.Com