Traffic Tickets Have Become a Tax-Hack Pile-On

Michigan state flag

People with absolutely no friends in your state’s capital include terrorists, communists, smokers, and those cited for a driving offense. No politician with reelection on his or her mind would lift a finger to help out speeders and stoplight runners. Hey, they broke the law, they deserve whatever we give them, right? This political truth proved itself over and over again in the last decade as states rushed to patch holes in annual budgets by dumping more and more extraneous fees onto traffic tickets. As with a cigarette tax, a traffic-ticket surcharge generates little opposition from the assembled representatives, none of whom wants to be seen as representing the interests of lawbreakers. In Pennsylvania, fees have been tacked onto tickets for state police training, emergency medical services, the state’s judicial computer system, a fund to compensate people injured by medical negligence, and a program to provide legal services for the indigent. A $57 fine thus lands on your wallet as a $158.50 pile of random taxation. It’s worse in California, where a typical $100 fine pencils out to $490. Over the past 50 years, the State Assembly in Sacramento has run riot with traffic levies, the Los Angeles Times reporting that 80 percent of a traffic ticket’s bottom line has nothing to do with the actual offense. Among the add-ons: a fee to aid people with traumatic brain injuries, a fund to help victims of violent crimes, and a toll for the protection of state wildlife. Texas and Michigan have enacted “driver responsibility” programs that impose recurring fees above and beyond the initial fines for repeat offenders. In the Great Lakes State, drivers who amass seven points in two years are assessed a $100 fee each year and an extra $50 for any points accumulated above that. If you can’t provide proof of insurance by your court date, it’s another $400 in fees over two years. READ MORE ››

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2016 Toyota Prius Caught Totally Naked Just Days Before Official Launch

2016 Toyota Prius

If you, like us, were hoping Toyota might find some way to make its new, fourth-generation Prius hybrid less like an amorphous vehicular tadpole, prepare to be disappointed. New photos leaked by Prius Club Malaysia show a pair of 2016 Toyota Priuses seemingly in transit via air on their way to the official launch event. They are totally free of camouflage, but also alarmingly free of improved styling. Officially, we are to wait until next week’s formal debut for our first look at the new Prius, but the photos published by Prius Club Malaysia and publicized by DPC Cars, Green Car Reports, and others mean that the car’s time is now.

It appears that when Toyota’s designers went searching for inspiration for the new Prius, they looked across the studio at the homely Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell sedan and . . . couldn’t look away. Lines, angles, and bulbous elements intersect all over the Prius’s body, and while these images are far from flattering, we’ll wait until we see the car from all angles to render our final judgment. Hopefully the hybrid’s promising-sounding technical details make up for the seemingly uninspiring visuals.

2016 Toyota Prius

One thing’s for certain, though, and that’s that the new hybrid will slip through the air with a minimum of effort; Toyota is shooting for 60 mpg with this one. One upside? The front-bumper license-plate holders pictured on these Priuses look like tiny Fu Manchu mustaches. Hey, everyone should try the Fu Manchu at least once.

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The Unboring Minivan? 2017 Chrysler Town & Country Comes Into Clearer Focus

Chrysler 700C concept A fresh report from Automotive News has gathered many previous details on the 2017 Chrysler Town & Country and added some new tidbits to provide the clearest, most concise picture yet of the next-generation family hauler.

The industry paper expects the van to take styling cues from the 200-esque 700C concept, pictured above, which quietly debuted at the 2012 Detroit auto show with absolutely none of the typical PR offensive. If the new T&C does indeed look anything like the 700C, it would bring a radical look to a segment in which the Honda Odyssey’s “lightning-bolt” window line counts as outrageous.

Among the new bits: The T&C will receive hands-free, foot-operated side doors in addition to its liftgate (all falling under Open ’n’ Go branding); all three rows will offer USB ports for recharging; and Chrysler plans to add an onboard vacuum cleaner like that of the Odyssey. Offering lots of goodies will ensure the Town & Country is well-equipped to battle the Odyssey and Toyota Sienna when it becomes the only minivan in Fiat-Chrysler’s stable once the Dodge Grand Caravan—the van itself, not the nameplate—is discontinued after 2017.

Automotive News also re-asserts details we’ve heard before, such as the electric-motor-based all-wheel-drive system, the plug-in-hybrid variant that’s due by the end of 2016, and the new direct-injected V-6/nine-speed automatic combo that’s expected to dramatically increase fuel economy. The new minivan, AN says, will enter production next February in Windsor, Ontario, and we already know it will start at around $26,000. Expect to first see it at this fall’s L.A. auto show or in January at the Detroit show.

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The New Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Is Amazing, But Can It Autocross?

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 convertible

The Corvette Z06 and I go way back. A 2002 Z06 was the first test car I ever wrote about, back when having 405 horsepower warranted carrying a badge that read “405 HP.” Those early cars were voted “Most Likely to Have Their Titanium Mufflers Replaced With Glasspacks Because The Owner Thinks ‘Titanium’ Is That Thing Where You Have A Ringing In Your Ears.” The C5 Z06 was powerful, always entertaining, and just a little bit cheesy: the Hulk Hogan of cars. READ MORE ››

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How to Change a Flat Tire in 11 Easy Steps [Sponsored]

Sponsored: How to Change a Flat Tire in 11 Easy Steps
-Whether it’s the rattling that comes and goes with the moon phases, a timing belt that obeys only changes in barometric pressure, or the sudden flickering of that dreaded “check engine” light, certain car problems require the professional experience and honest technical knowledge only a mechanic can bring. This doesn’t mean you should be afraid to do maintenance on your own car, though. There are certain car fixes that every man should be capable of doing himself. Your mechanic might not thank you for learning them, but your wallet surely will.

How to Change a Tire

If you drive a car with any regularity, you’re going to get a flat. It’s not a question of if it’ll happen, but when.

1. Make sure you’ve got a proper jack, wrench and spare in your vehicle. When the inevitable happens, throw on your hazard lights and find a safe place to pull off—avoid steep hills and curves.

2. Pop off your hubcap if necessary. Now grab your lug wrench and get ready to flex your muscles. Start by loosening each lug nut (by turning counter clockwise) but not removing them altogether. Keep the car on the ground for this step as you might need some leverage—there’s no shame in using both hands and a foot if necessary.

3. Now it’s time to raise the car. A jack always comes with your car’s spare kit, but it’s not a bad idea to upgrade. Every make and model has a different recommended spot to put the jack so be sure to consult your owner’s manual. Raise the car to about six inches—or the length of a one dollar bill.

4. Finish removing the lug nuts. Keep each nut in a safe place (like your over-turned hubcap) because there’s no fun in a roadside lug nut scavenger hunt.

5. Remove the flat by pulling straight out and away from the car. Swap the flat for your spare.

6. Line up the holes in the spare with the lug nut posts on the car, then push the tire in toward the car as far as it will go.

7. Start replacing the bolts. Stop once each bolt is snug but not tight.

8. Using the jack, carefully lower the car back to the ground.

9. Tighten the lug nuts incrementally in a top-to-bottom, side-to-side pattern until each bolt is as tight as you can safely turn it.

10. Pop on the hubcap, place the jack, flat tire and all your tools back in your spare kit.

11. Go about your way, but first make a note to pick up a new spare.


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2017 Ford GT Ordering Process Requires Application, Will Be Special

2017 Ford GT

Interested in the new Ford GT? Well, better start getting your affairs in order, because you won’t merely be able to walk into your neighborhood Ford dealership and pick one up the same way you would, say, grab a new Focus. As first brought to light by Road & Track via Reddit, Ford will set up a process by which prospective owners may apply to purchase a 2017 GT; when accepted, these buyers will then be led through a special ordering procedure to be completed at a Ford GT–certified dealership nearest them.

The GT ordering process was confirmed to us by Ford. That means each customer, should their application be accepted (longtime Ford owners or those who bought the last GT will have an upper hand), will be paired with a specific car before being personally walked through a special ordering sequence. Details on that exact experience are forthcoming, but we imagine that it’ll be quite special, especially given how Ford plans to build just 250 GTs per year.

The final MSRP for the car is still up in the air—as is the number of dealerships selected to sell the GT—but we know the new supercar could cost as much as $400,000. We asked Ford whether customer fitment to the car (the GT will have fixed seats) will be part of the ordering process, and were told no; the adjustable steering column and pedals will be sufficient. Even so, the ordering experience should live up to the expectations of those shelling out huge sums of cash for an incredible car. Of course, we remain fixated solely on driving the new, apparently 700-hp-plus GT ourselves, something that won’t happen until closer to (or perhaps after) customer ordering begins early next year.

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2017 Smart Fortwo Cabriolet: Is Going Topless Enough to Get Noticed?

2017 Smart Fortwo cabriolet
-Whether you want it to happen or not, you’ll soon be inundated with coverage of Miley Cyrus’s performance as the host of the MTV Video Music Awards. No, we won’t be watching that particular spectacle either, but being among the vast population of Facebook users, we wholly expect to see that the event will be “trending,” likely because someone whose name rhymes with “smiley” will go topless or do something equally outrageous. Should you look? READ MORE ››

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2017 Smart Fortwo Cabriolet Debuts: New-Gen Car, Four Percent More Roof – Official Photos and Info

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2016 Smart Fortwo Fuel Economy Released, ED Model to Arrive for 2017


The new 2016 Smart Fortwo is better in pretty much every way—except one: fuel economy, which is roughly the same as last year, at 33/39 for the automatic. (The newly available manual version checks in at 32/39 mpg city/highway.) Considering it has upgraded power and performance, this is somewhat of a win, although we’re sure that some folks—greenies in particular—might be disappointed that the Fortwo didn’t break the 40-mpg mark.

For its part, Smart seems content with these numbers, and it isn’t even offering a diesel model in Europe anymore. It also says that a new Electric Drive model—which was the best version to drive in the car’s previous generation—is on the way for 2017, but won’t actually arrive until late next 2016 at the earliest. In the meantime, Smart will introduce the sunny new cabriolet model at the Frankfurt auto show next month; that one goes on sale early next summer.

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Future Past: This Modern 1930s Grand Prix–Style Sports Car Needs to Happen

Kahn Designs Speed 7 profile

British designer Afzal Kahn must hate sleep. Reigning over a mini-empire that includes namesake concerns Kahn Automobiles, Kahn Styling, and Kahn Clocks and Watches, he recently added the Chelsea Truck Co., to his portfolio, a London-based retail outlet where the well-heeled can browse off-road offerings such as the wonderfully bizarre Land Rover Defender–based Flying Huntsman 6×6. Now, in an attempt to squeeze every spare second out of 2015, Kahn has announced plans to begin producing a retro-style racing car called the Speed 7 before the calendar year is over.

The third major vehicle project from Kahn, the Speed 7 takes its inspiration from the Grand Prix racers of the 1930s while offering improved performance. All the retro cues are in place: the side exhaust, copious louvers, and a vestigial windscreen. Slated to be designed and hand-built in Britain, Kahn says the Speed 7 will use “modern materials” and hints that they may include aluminum and composites. The car also is described as a retro thoroughbred that can be enjoyed on the track without reservation. Potential engines or transmission options have yet been announced.

Kahn clearly knows his demographic well, and suggests the Speed 7 will be ideal for those “looking to set up their own race team; don their driving goggles, gloves, and helmet; and get out on the circuit to recreate the feel of 1930s racing.” To help facilitate the gentleman-racer vibe he envisions, Kahn is planning to produce a complementary range of period styled clothing and accessories under the Speed 7 brand.

ahn Designs Speed 7 profile overhead

As is to be expected, each car will come equipped with a plaque listing the names of the individuals involved in the build, as well as a unique owner’s book detailing each stage of the design and manufacturing process.

While we’re intrigued by the design drawings and admire the unbridled passion the project embodies, the fact that no powertrain details have been revealed and that Kahn is, according to the website, looking for collaborators “in the areas of infrastructure, manufacturing, and associated services,” leads us to question if the Speed 7 will ever see the light of day, never mind by the end of 2015. Still, given Kahn’s track record of turning designs into in-the-metal realities, it could happen after all. And better late than never, right?

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