Category Archives: Car News

2017 Ford Transit Connect Wagon LWB: The Minimalist’s Minivan

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At Ford, the name Transit is a trunk from which many branches grow. It’s the core calling card for its multisize, multifunction vans. Transit Connect is the designation for the smaller series, of which there also are multiple versions separated into cargo-carrying work vans and passenger-ferrying “wagons.” The formula aims to provide a wide range of possibilities for how the van is used and who uses it, ranging from a contractor to a large family. But because of this van’s dual-purpose nature, our tested top-of-the-range 2017 Ford Transit Connect Titanium sits at an odd place in the market. READ MORE ››

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2017 Ford Transit Connect Wagon LWB – Instrumented Test

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Ford Recalls 400,000 Cars for Engine Fires, Door Latches, and Driveshafts

2013 Ford Escape Placement

Ford is recalling the current-generation Escape for engine fires, according to the company and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This is the fifth such recall, involving some 400,000 Escape vehicles in the United States, since the compact SUV made its debut for 2013.

The 2014 Escape, along with the 2014–2015 Fiesta ST, the 2013–2014 Fusion, and the 2013–2015 Transit Connect, have a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that, due to a leaky coolant system, can overheat, crack the cylinder head, and then leak oil. A total of 208,584 cars are affected in the United States.

A November 2013 recall addressed this same problem on 140,000 Escape models from 2013, the first model year of the car’s redesign and the first application of the 1.6-liter engine. A December 2012 recall, also on 2013 Escape models, addressed the coolant leaks. Ford recalled the 2013 Escape two more times for fuel lines on the 1.6-liter engine that could split and leak gasoline. The company said it is aware of at least 29 reported engine fires in the U.S. and Canada.

Ford previously modified the cooling system and installed new software to prevent overheating, but this time it doesn’t appear to have a fix to plug the leaks. Instead, Ford will mail instructions to owners reminding them to check their coolant levels, refill the coolant, and schedule service if the coolant “frequently” needs to be topped off. Later, dealers will install coolant-level sensors on all the affected cars.

Ford showed a bit of its wild side when it redesigned its Fusion sedan for 2013, melding the corporate DNA (and an Aston Martin face) with downright seductive body lines and an eager driving character. The result? People loved it.

Ford is expanding a September 2016 recall to fix door latches on another 191,432 U.S.-market cars, including the 2013–2014 Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, and the 2014 Fiesta. Pawl spring tabs in the interior door-latch pulls can break, which means the door may not be secured even if it seems to be closed, the company said. The door may suddenly open while driving, rebound while closing, or be difficult to close. Ford said it knows of at least one accident and three injuries within the 2 million cars it recalled in September. Ford has recalled nearly 2.9 million cars for these faulty door latches since 2015.

2017 Ford F-450 Super Duty

Certain 2017 F-450 and F-550 trucks need new driveshafts due to a “resonance frequency that may fracture transmission and/or driveline components.” The problem occurs at 75 mph and above, Ford said. A total of 509 trucks are affected in the United States. Dealers will swap out the two-piece driveshaft with a new three-piece driveshaft and install two center bearing brackets.

2017 Ford Edge SEL sport appearance package

Lastly, 84 brand-new 2017 Edge crossovers may not be completely welded across the top of their windshield headers. This may reduce the vehicle’s structural integrity in a side-impact collision, Ford said. It is not certain how the dealers will repair the headers as filings were not yet posted by NHTSA.

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Evolution Takes Its Toll: BMW 540i xDrive Tested

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Call it kismet, karma, or dumb luck, but practically every car line eventually enjoys a day in the sun. Twenty years ago, the planets aligned for the BMW 5-series. The fourth-generation E39 sports sedan arrived with beguiling powertrain, chassis, and aesthetic attributes and driving merits worthy of six straight Car and Driver 10Best awards between 1997 and 2002. Even Consumer Reports agreed with our assessment, naming the 530i its top sedan in 1996, 2002, and 2003. READ MORE ››

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2017 BMW 540i xDrive – Instrumented Test

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2017 Niro in Depth: Kia’s Hybrid Is a Viable Prius Alternative

2017-Kia-Niro-01-Placement

Designed from the tires up to be a hybrid, the Niro’s best feature may be that it doesn’t look like one. It pulls double duty as a small SUV and a Prius hunter, so you can save money on gas without anyone suspecting you of tightwad tendencies. With above-average interior space, city fuel economy of up to 52 mpg, and plug-in and pure-electric models in the pipeline, the Niro is a package that deserves consideration. Heavily de-contented in its base iteration and underpowered across the lineup, the Niro is not without flaws. But with crossover looks, an accessible price tag, and stellar fuel economy, it’s an exceedingly practical choice. Because of its dual citizenship in hybrid and crossover nations, we compare it to both types of vehicles in this review. READ MORE ››

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2018 Jeep Wrangler Possibly Exposed on a Forum Ahead of Official Debut

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If you assume a small batch of photos that landed on a Jeep Wrangler online forum today are legit, meet the all-new, fully redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler. As we ascertained from spy photos of the new Wrangler, the vehicle seen here appears to be a faithful rendition of the traditional Jeep profile. Can you spot the minor changes compared with the current JK-generation Wrangler?

Posted to JL Wrangler Forums by user FS90, these images are a little on the grainy side. This, purportedly, is the 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, the top dog of the Wrangler lineup. It’s unclear where the black-and-white images came from, but site admins of the JL Wrangler Forums believe they’re legit. Absent our independent confirmation of the images’ source, we remain skeptical, although the vehicle they portray seems to fit what we expect from the 2018 Wrangler.

The front grille seen here still features Jeep’s traditional round headlights, but they squeeze into the edges of the outer grille slots, a feature last seen on the Jeep CJ that preceded the Wrangler and ended production in 1986. The upper portion of the grille leans back in a kink, a design flair found on the original YJ-generation Wrangler of 1987 to 1995 that was softened for the TJ generation of ’97–’06 and disappeared entirely on the flat-faced JK that made its debut in 2007.

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As folks on JL Wrangler Forums have pointed out, the photos depict a fold-down windshield, as evidenced by the hinges at the bottom edge of the windshield frame. This model seems to have a flatter windscreen than the curved item on the current Wrangler, although it could be the image quality playing tricks; the glass is definitely more steeply raked, however. This four-door maintains the general shape and size of the current model’s doors, with slightly redesigned exposed hinges and a new horizontal character line running the length of the passenger compartment. A new pocket-style vent sits just behind the front wheels, presumably to help evacuate air from the Wrangler’s signature open-to-the-front fenders and lessen their aerodynamic drag.





The second image shows the same purported four-door Wrangler Unlimited with fully removable roof and doors, as well as a roll bar similar to that on the current model. The taillights feature a more wraparound design than today’s units, and while this slightly fuzzy image does not show a spare tire, the inset in the bumper seems to indicate that this vehicle retains the Wrangler’s classic tailgate-mounted spare.

2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Compare the alleged 2018 Wrangler’s design with the 2017 model shown above, and you might notice subtle changes. The rig shown in these black-and-white photos doesn’t stray too far from the familiar design of the wildly successful JK-generation Wrangler, but there are flourishes that freshen and modernize the design. Given everything we’ve heard so far about the all-new Wrangler, we expect it will maintain the off-road capabilities of the current model while dramatically improving its on-road manners, fuel efficiency, and comfort. We can’t wait to see, and drive, the finished product—and the long-promised Wrangler pickup truck that will be based on it.

This story originally appeared on Road & Track.

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BMW 740i Long-Term Test Update: The Soft, Silent Type

WHAT WE LIKE: Who says you need all-wheel drive to survive winter? As winter snow gives way to early spring rain, we can report that our rear-wheel-drive 740i sailed through the cold months and never struggled to find traction. It helps that we fitted our 7-series with Pirelli Sottozero Serie II winter tires, at a cost of $1556, but another factor is that BMW engineered an easily modulated, progressive throttle for dispatching torque. READ MORE ››

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Put Other People’s Junk in the Trunk: Roadie Pays Drivers to Take a Package Along for the Ride

Roadie-Gig-Detail

Roadie is a newish mobile app that, at first blush, appears to want to be the Uber of the shipping sector. With the app, you can post a “gig,” which amounts to paying to have an item sent across town or cross-country in a random person’s car or truck. Or you can take on a gig and get paid to transport an object for a stranger in the unused cargo area of your car or truck. To test out Roadie, I decided to try to send a bottle of homemade hot sauce to a friend in New Orleans. I posted the gig and waited.

A Billion Cubic Feet of Unused Space

Roadie launched in 2015 when founder Marc Gorlin of Atlanta needed to get some boxes of custom tile from a warehouse a few hours away to finish a bathroom renovation. When he realized there would be no possible way to get the tiles the same day through traditional shipping methods (not to mention the cost of same-day shipping), he had a eureka moment from which the concept for Roadie was born.

This kind of impromptu need is where Roadie hopes it can fill a niche. By its own estimates, vehicles traversing U.S. roads have about 1 billion cubic feet of unused cargo space. Company spokeswoman Jamie Gottlieb said the figure is based on the 252,700,000 light vehicles on U.S. roads in 2014 and figuring 15 to 70 cubic feet of cargo space in each car or truck.

Roadie aims to fill that space with items as small as a shoe box or as large as a couch. Gottlieb said using the app can save money on shipping clumsier items such as furniture or car parts across the country, and some small businesses, such as florists, can (and already do) use it to send smaller items around town the same day.

If you post a gig, the app calculates your price based on distance, urgency, and size. Your delivery can be tracked on the mobile app, and the goods you’re sending are automatically insured up to $500, with the option to buy additional coverage up to $10,000.

How Does It Stack Up Pricewise?

I got some estimates for non-urgent shipments of items from the Detroit area to New Orleans, about a 1050-mile trip. Roadie quoted me at $274 for a “huge” item (such as a sofa), $249 for an “X-large” item (such as a bicycle) and $234 for a “large item” (such as a television). Pets could be sent by preapproved drivers for $299.

The same kind of casual solicitation for a 200-pound shipment—a conservative estimated weight for a piece of furniture—was quoted by UPS at $372 and by FedEx starting at $588. However, for a 50-pound, medium-size package, both UPS and FedEx gave me a quick quote for about $50 for ground shipping, while express and next-day shipping, as expected, were both significantly more expensive.

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So Roadie does appear to be cheaper, especially for bigger items, and you don’t have to worry about packing the item. In fact, Gottlieb said the company insists that items are left at least partly unpacked as part of an “open-box policy,” so that drivers are not unwittingly ferrying illicit items across the country through the mobile app.

Roadie’s unique nature gives it the air of a disruptor, but the company does not see itself as upending shipping companies such as UPS or FedEx. In fact, UPS is an investor in Roadie, and Roadie gets its shipping insurance through UPS Capital.

Not-So-Big Payday

How much does one get paid to transport something? When I looked at the app, there was an offer to take two chairs from Merrillville, Indiana, to Miami—a 1360-mile trip—for $267. If your car gets an average of 25 mpg, for example, you’d need 54.4 gallons of gas to get there. Estimating fuel prices at $2.50 a gallon, the trip would cost about $136. So when factoring in gas costs, the job would pay a net of $131.

But apparently that’s not the way Roadie is supposed to be used. The idea is for someone already going from Merrillville to Miami to use extra space in their vehicle to take these two chairs and get $267 for it. Although Roadie looks to fill needs that can be immediate or impulsive, in the same way people use Uber or Lyft, it actually is not intended to function in the same way in terms of employing smartphone-based contractors.

Roadie drivers are subject to a rating system, similar to mobile-app-based chauffeurs. But where ride-sharing apps act as a secondary or even primary source of income for drivers, Roadie driving is not intended to be a full-time gig, according to Gottlieb. “Roadie’s a little different—we’re on the way instead of on demand,” she said. In other words, anyone planning on quitting a day job in favor of becoming a full-time Roadie driver would be in for a sporadic and unreliable source of income.

roadie gig 1

My 1050-mile Gig Promises a $40 Payout

Meanwhile, speaking with Gottlieb helped me see how flawed my approach to this whole thing was. My hot-sauce gig was posted and would cost me $51 while promising to pay the Roadie driver $40, as the company takes about a 20 percent cut.

Who on earth would want to drive a bottle of hot sauce for some stranger, who demands that it be kept refrigerated or at least on ice, more than 1000 miles to New Orleans for a mere $40? It became clear to me that shipping small items long distances is not what this startup app is geared for. Not yet, anyway.

But even if my initial approach to Roadie was a bit backward, posting the gig made it clear there is still another hurdle the company needs to overcome, at least in the upper Midwest: There are very few gigs. At press time, my hot-sauce post was the only solicitation for a courier in the state of Michigan. Zooming out geographically, at least eight states in the middle of the country appeared to offer no gigs.

Gottlieb said Roadie has had tens of thousands of gigs posted to the community since its launch and has been downloaded some 300,000 times. Its legitimacy was underwritten financially by $15 million in Series B venture funding last June. But it’s still working to get the word out that it exists. It has enlisted rapper Ludacris for promotion and has embarked on partnerships with companies including Waffle House and Goodwill.

Media coverage certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Speaking of, if anyone is headed from the Detroit area to New Orleans, you’re welcome to take a bottle of hot sauce along for the ride. Roadie will pay you $40, and I’ll pay them $51.

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2017 Audi S6 Quick-Take Review: Aging, and Well

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Overview: Audi’s S6 is the hotter, more powerful version of the brand’s everyday A6 sedan. It has been around in its current incarnation since the 2012 model year, having benefited from only a single update last year that brought a bump in horsepower and mild cosmetic tweaks. Every S6 comes standard with Quattro, Audi’s all-wheel-drive system, as well as the A6 lineup’s only twin-turbocharged V-8. (Regular A6s make do with a turbocharged inline-four or a supercharged V-6.) The only visual telltales include trim-specific wheels, aluminum mirror caps, quad exhaust outlets, and a tiny S6 badge in the grille. READ MORE ››

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