2018 Mercedes-Benz E-class Diesels – First Drive Review

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An Illustrated Look at the Assembly Line That Makes Ram Trucks

An Illustrated Look at the Assembly Line That Makes Ram Trucks

Here’s an inside look at Fiat Chrysler’s stamping and truck plants in Warren, Michigan, where parts for the Ram 1500 Quad and Crew Cabs are made and the trucks are built. The two factories cover more than 5.4 million square feet and produced 332,830 trucks in 2016. That’s a brand-spanking-new pickup truck every 94.8 seconds. READ MORE ››

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Meet the Man Who All But Invented Serious Car Spy Photography

Meet the Man Who All But Invented Serious Car Spy Photography

From the December 2017 issue

Jim Dunne modestly dismisses the idea that he is the father of automotive spy photography, noting that various newspapers in the 1950s had printed snapshots of development prototypes from time to time before he elevated the game to a professional level. But in 1964, Dunne and modern spy photography got serious.

Employed at the time by Popular Science as its Detroit editor, Dunne had been augmenting his reports with photography of new cars as they were rolled out at official press previews. Dunne’s shots of the second-generation Chevy Corvair were different; they were snapped from a covert vantage point overlooking the fence of the secured General Motors proving grounds in Milford, Michigan—a hideout later dubbed Dunne’s Grove. The car was months away from its public reveal.

Dunne sent the shot to his Pop Sci editor and waited for a reaction. The editor wrote back: “Jim, it’s electrifying. Can you send us more?”

Dunne was off and running. During his career with Pop Sci and later with Popular Mechanics, he expanded his client list and range of lurks. From standing hip deep in snow near Bemidji, Minnesota, in the middle of winter to enduring triple-digit heat in the Arizona desert, Dunne chased engineering drives and prototypes with dogged determination. To make his life a little easier, he acquired a parcel of land abutting Chrysler’s Arizona proving grounds with a convenient view of the test track. It took a while before Chrysler caught on and erected a fence.

Since trespassing is against the law, if Dunne was confronted while working his camera in a place he couldn’t legally shoot from, he avoided arrest by beating a hasty retreat. Dunne admits that he received occasional tips from carmakers as to where certain cars might be. But the tips were rare. Within the industry’s public-relations operations, he was regarded as a sort of charming nuisance, tolerated but somewhat less than revered. GM captured the nature of this relationship with a jokey “Wanted” poster of him in the ’80s.

While spy photography was always a professional sideline for Dunne—he never thought of leaving his day job as an editor—it became an exceptionally lucrative one. Dunne claims his extracurricular snapshots helped him put his seven kids through college.

It’s rare for any successful new enterprise to continue as the sole province of its creator, and spy photography was no exception. After a few years, Dunne found himself surrounded by competition. And today, a smartphone makes anyone an amateur spy photographer. Now retired, Dunne, who turns 86 this month, still gives his cameras occasional workouts. But his days of hiding behind bushes, climbing trees, and being harassed by security guards are behind him.


The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Shooting prototypes requires the patience to wait in the cold and heat. Dunne’s reward for spotting a disguised 1984 Corvette outside GM’s Milford proving grounds was our June ’81 cover. Here’s some of the big game nabbed by Dunne:

1984 Chevrolet Corvette

1984 Chevrolet Corvette

1997 Jaguar XK8

1997 Jaguar XK8

2004 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

2004 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

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Mini Cooper Owners Can Design Custom 3D-Printed Parts

 

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Mini Cooper Owners Can Design Custom 3D-Printed Parts

We’re nearing the point where clicking “File > Print” will bust out a custom dashboard in our basements. We’re really not there yet, but Mini is close.

Owners of current-generation Cooper Hardtop two-door, four-door, and convertible models can now order custom 3D-printed trim pieces, laser-etched door sills, and LED puddle lights with their own personal designs. While the John Cooper Works GP Concept included 3D-printed door panels and instrument-cluster parts, Mini is not going that far for production models. Known as Mini Yours Customized, the faux air vents on the front fenders (called side scuttles), dashboard trim on the passenger side, illuminated door sills, and door light projectors all can be patterned, labelled, textured, and colored to taste, or any lack thereof.

3D Printing MINI

Beyond all the regular Mini accessories, these parts can display the owner’s name, signature, and other favorite graphics or shapes for an as-yet-unnamed price. Mini will let owners configure their designs from pre-selected themes or go wild into the unknown, either online or at a Mini dealership. Weeks later, after a Mini-approved 3D printer opens the file and readies the plastic (for the fender and dash trim), aluminum (for the laser-etched door sills), or those little LED slide covers (for the projected puddle light images up to 20 inches in diameter), the custom parts arrive fresh from Germany ready to snap or stick onto the car. They’re easily detachable and and can be swapped for the standard parts, so long as you’re comfortable with reattaching a few wires here and there.

It’s not a total free-for-all, as Mini still has design and quality standards it’d like to maintain. The Countryman and John Cooper Works models are excluded, while Clubman owners only can order the LED door sills. Other necessities, such as a bracket for the dash trim that allows a quick, tool-free swap, are required if your Mini is to truly be this custom cool. Currently, Mini USA sells several accessory door sills for up to $345, fender vents for up to $270, and patterned dash trim for up to $350. Expect to pay a bit more for one-off parts.

REEL

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More Power, Higher Redline: 2018 Ford Mustang GT Tested!

2018-Ford-Mustang-GT-PLACEMENT

The arrival of the 2016 GT350 made the Mustang GT the middle child of the family overnight. We praised, doted on, and rewarded the GT350, giving it two 10Best awards. But we will admit that its exotic-sounding 8250-rpm 5.2-liter V-8 made us a little neglectful of the rest of the brood. Here we are, in a Mustang GT review, and we still can’t shut up about its big brother. Middle children hate this. READ MORE ››

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2018 Ford Mustang GT Manual – Instrumented Test

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P.J. O’Rourke Revisits the Back Porch with an Engine, the Pickup Truck

P.J. O'Rourke Revisits the Back Porch with an Engine, the Pickup Truck

From the December 2017 issue

Thirty-five years ago, occasional C/D contributor P.J. O’Rourke penned an essay titled “High-Speed Performance Characteristics of Pickup Trucks.” O’Rourke, inspired by an early-’80s surge in pickup-truck popularity, closely examined the phenomenon and wrote: “A pickup truck is basically a back porch with an engine attached. Both a pickup and a back porch are good places to drink beer because you can take a leak from either one standing up.” In the intervening decades, pickups have become even more popular. So we asked O’Rourke to check in on the state of the once humble pickup truck. Here’s what he sent in:

Pickup trucks have died and gone to heaven. The unwashed and battered farm, ranch, and loading-dock fetch-and-carry is a celestial being now.

The prices certainly are sky-high. A 2018 Ford Super Duty F-450 Limited Crew Cab dualie runs $87,100. In 1955, when Car and Driver was founded (as Sports Cars Illustrated), the most you would pay for a Ford pickup truck—a stake-bed F-350— was $1824 (which is equivalent to $16,660 in today’s dollars).

Dealers are in paradise, too. The three most popular vehicles in America are the Ford F-­series, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram pickups. Together, they outsell the fourth-place Toyota Camry, an actual car, by almost five to one.

Today’s pickups have interiors that make the inside of a Bentley look like a $35 motel room. They have four doors. They are commodious enough for your yoga class, even if the namaste makers want to turn the climate control up to global-warming panic and practice Bikram inside the truck.

But there’s nothing effete about these pickups. Their styling is aggressive enough to make Peterbilts hide behind interstate weigh stations. So is their size. Move your family into the three-car garage; you’ll need the McMansion for the truck. And you’ll need airline-passenger boarding stairs to reach the pickup’s doorsill.

Angels from on high, pickups are Dominions, Virtues, and Powers. Power especially—the Ford F-150 Raptor has 450 horsepower. Pickup trucks replaced farm horses beginning with the 1917 Model T roadster pickup. Imagine going to town in an unsprung “Democrat wagon” pulled by 450 horses.

But so nimble and quick is the modern pickup that NASCAR has a Truck Series. Too bad it wasn’t founded until 1995. How wonderful it would have been to see the pickups of yore on a racetrack with feed and grain and bales of hay blowing over their tailgates and spectators covered in timothy and alfalfa.

Just one part of the pickup didn’t go to heaven. The cargo bed went to hell. It’s an afterthought these days, a tea tray on a Cowboy Cadillac trunklid.

You can’t put a pair of happy black Labs back there, ears flapping in the wind. There’s barely room for a Shih Tzu. And Shih Tzus are lousy at retrieving ducks.

How do you haul a busted refrigerator to the dump? Where’s the loam for the yard your dogs dug up go? How do you carry a load of gravel for the driveway you wouldn’t drive on in your Super Duty F-450 Limited for fear of stone chips?

Come back to life, pickup trucks. You used to have an earthly purpose.

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Four Egregious Cases of Automaker Flim-Flammery Uncovered by C/D

Four Egregious Cases of Automaker Flim-Flammery Uncovered by C/D

We’ve seen a fair bit of carmaker sleight of hand over the years. READ MORE ››

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How Korea Became a Global Carmaking Giant in Just 30 Years

How Korea Became a Global Carmaking Giant in Just 30 Years

Starting at $4995 for ’86, the Hyundai Excel (’88 shown) boasted a Giugiaro design and a 68-hp engine capable of calling up 60 mph in 16.3 seconds.

From the December 2017 issue

Korea as it relates to the auto industry is largely a story about industrial conglomerate Hyundai. Founded in 1967, Hyundai (Korean for modernity) began assembling Ford Cortinas under license in 1968. The company’s first vehicle of its own design, the Mitsubishi-powered Pony, arrived in Korea in 1976. But it wouldn’t be until the 1980s that Hyundai would sell a car in our market. Although the media of the ’80s celebrated yuppies and their brand-conscious consumption of BMWs, there was then, as now, a vast population of price-driven Americans who were receptive to a new-car bargain, never mind its source. So when the 1986 Hyundai Excel—essentially a Giugiaro-bodied Mitsubishi Precis—burst onto the scene at the low, low price of $4995 (versus $6699 for a Honda Civic DX), Americans snapped up more than 150,000 of them. And the heretofore unknown nameplate sold more than 250,000 cars annually in its second and third years in the United States.

Three years, though, was all it took for Excels to start falling apart. Sales collapsed in 1989 and flatlined through much of the 1990s. In 1998, Hyundai’s then president, Finbarr O’Neill, introduced a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty (5 years/ 60,000 miles, bumper to bumper) to assuage quality concerns. Sales of the now four-model lineup—Accent (the irredeemably tarnished Excel’s replacement), Elantra, Sonata, and Tiburon—jumped a staggering 82 percent.

Meanwhile, fellow Korean automaker Kia followed Hyundai to the States in 1993, selling its $8495 Sephia sedan at select dealerships in the West. It achieved nationwide distribution within a few years, offering the Sephia and the compact Sportage SUV. Hyundai acquired Kia in 1998 but maintains separate marketing and sales operations for the two brands to this day.

Reading from Toyota’s and Honda’s playbooks, Hyundai established in 2005 a U.S. factory in Montgomery, Alabama; Kia opened a plant in West Point, Georgia, five years later. The two brands shared powertrains and platforms, but their positioning relative to each other was unclear. To change that, Hyundai brought in VW/Audi’s Peter Schreyer as design chief in 2006. Schreyer made Kia styling a differentiator and a key to the brand’s success. He now oversees design for both brands.

Hyundai XG300

Hyundai XG300

More critically, the decade-long push toward redemption that started in the 1990s helped Hyundai vanquish its quality woes. In 2006, the brand topped all other nonpremium makes in J.D. Power and Associates’ Initial Quality Study, and although that study measures design and ergonomics as much as it measures vehicle defects, it still holds sway over many buyers’ perceptions. Hyundai’s increasing legitimacy enabled it to poach U.S. executive talent—though the ambitions of its Korean bosses often led to short tenures.

Those ambitions extended to the luxury segment, as first indicated by the 2001 XG300, then by the Toyota Avalon–like Azera five years later. Hyundai got serious with the 2008 addition of the Genesis sedan, built on the company’s first modern rear-drive platform and powered by a newly designed V-8. A rear-drive Genesis coupe followed. Then came the larger and even pricier Equus—the $58,900 Lexus LS competitor included an iPad with the owner’s manual preloaded on it along with an app to schedule service (with complimentary pickup and delivery, naturally).

Genesis is now its own luxury brand, its existing sedan assuming the G80 nameplate. It’s joined by a new range-topping G90 sedan, with a G70 entry-luxury car on the way. And Hyundai continues to branch out in other directions. The new Ioniq, available as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and an EV, clearly targets the Toyota Prius. Hyundai also has announced a performance subbrand: N.

The easy market-share gains may be in the past, as Hyundai’s U.S. sales topped 750,000 cars last year, and Kia’s neared 650,000. But 31 years after its arrival, Hyundai is now as ensconced in the U.S. as aging yuppies and BMW.


Hyundai’s U.S. Sales, 1986 to 2016

In its first seven months in the U.S., Hyundai sold 100,000 Excels. Quality woes caught up with the brand, and sales throughout the ’90s were consistently less than half of 1988’s peak. A massive push to improve quality, an industry-leading warranty, and a stream of new products paid off with an impressive resurgence in the 2000s.

Hyundai’s U.S. Sales, 1986 to 2016

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