The new standard for pickup automatics is having eight to ten speeds in their automatic transmissions; but one of the foremost engineering innovators for fledging General Motors beat Toyota by about one hundred years. While he was at it, he also introduced some suspension ideas that would become commonplace.
Alanson Brush was a respected technical innovator, despite having any formal mechanical training. He worked for Leland and Falconer Manufacturing in Detroit, following service in the Spanish-American War. That’s how he came to the attention of Henry Leland, who needed some key problems solved related to the drive trains of the first Oldsmobiles. That led to the founders of General Motors also seeking Brush’s advice on the Cadillac and Buick. He also did work for Oakland and Marmon.
Brush had become the chief engineer at Cadillac by 1905; but in October 1905, Brush left the Cadillac Company to start an experimental laboratory and private shop.… Read the rest
We’ve driven cars with tiny little engines and big turbochargers before, and few satisfy. Even the relatively costly Volkswagen turbo is rather obviously just that — a well-executed four-cylinder turbo, with a slight lag when you first take off, and a definite buildup in power as the turbo spins.
The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport could have a V6 under the hood, as far as most people could tell; its little turbocharged engine displaces just 1.6 liters, but generates 201 hp and more 195 lb-ft of torque from a rather low engine speed.
Big numbers from small displacements isn’t unusual, but making it all feel as linear as a larger engine is. The Hyundai doesn’t give away the game with turbo whine or surges, and has just a barely perceptible shift from launch to boost. This is, in short, the furthest you can get from a 2013 Dodge Dart Aero.… Read the rest
Known in most of the world as the Mazda Axela, the compact Mazda has that fine sense of being in touch with the road, without being punished by it; the engine balances acceleration with mileage nicely, and the light feel makes it a joy to drive.
Keeping things like banned acoustic glass and overdone sound insulation, so the Japanese sedan is noisier than some competitors, particularly with road noise, especially bearing the Blizzaks of our test car. Those also brought controllable, mild skids in some fast turns, which we believe would not happen (at least, not as often) with the stock tires. That’s not to say you should expect to be sliding all over the road; the handling is quite good. The ride is also comfortable, with broken roads well filtered.
The Mazda3 has been rightly praised for its fun factor, and it’s easy to drive, from the clutch to the steering.… Read the rest
The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport was recently refreshed, and it came out better for it. Well-equipped, smooth, and pleasant, we generally liked this compact and inexpensive crossover.
The 2.4 liter engine ( 168 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque) has an aggressive tip-in to make it feel more powerful at launch, which could require some dainty-footing; it was quick in daily driving, aided by a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that dropped the gear ratio on demand.
Automatic full-time all wheel drive put power to the ground; sticking to FWD did hurt launches. Once moving, it’s easy to drive gently or, um, sportily. The car slows faster than usual when coasting, and has a slow crawl when idling in Drive. Still, it is quite good at choosing ratios, and has both paddle and manual shifters make it pretend to be a six-speed.… Read the rest
The American-made Chevrolet Cruze boasts strong gas mileage, good handling, and just about ever safety and comfort item you can find on cars at twice the price. Buyers now have a single engine, a turbocharged 1.4, with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission; you can option up to an eight-inch center display and seven-inch trip computers. The top Premier model has a different rear suspension than the rest, a pricier multilink setup, and our review reflects the Premier experience.
The Cruze is surprisingly smooth on city streets, but almost uncomfortably firm on highways; we had the RS package and found we could whip around turns more than quickly enough for most people. That said, we consistently scraped the front on our driveway.
There was little wind noise, but a good deal of road noise on the highway (less around town).… Read the rest
2016 Mitsubishi Lancer: Fun, practical throwback The Mitsubishi Lancer has a lot of high tech under the hood, but it also brings some of what we’ve been missing in the race for “refinement” and noise reduction. It has a relatively simple interior, comfortable seats, sporty ride, and good responsiveness; but it also has 1990s-style road noise and a good deal of wind noise at highway speeds.
Our test car had the all wheel drive system, unusual at such low prices ($22,830, but even the base ES has an AWD option). The all-drive Lancers have a 168 horsepower four-cylinder, though the base front wheel car has a smaller 2.0 liter engine (the 2.4 is still optional there).
The CVT never takes the 2.4 engine past its peak power, so you never feel it lag as you go up to redline; it also never takes it up to the redline, stopping somewhere between 5,000 and 5,500 rpm in our experience (it varied).… Read the rest
The Beetle is based on the Golf and Jetta, mainly a reskin of the popular-in-Europe compact cars; and it won me over from the first block, never really letting me down. The Beetle is quiet (until you reach highway speeds), smooth, and agile.
While the Volkswagen Beetle is low to the ground, it didn’t scrape on sharp ramps — and I don’t think it’s just because the Dune is around half an inch higher than other Beetles.
There are two engines, a 170 horsepower 1.8 turbo-four and a 210 horsepower 2.0 turbo-four. The 1.8 runs on regular gas, and is hooked up to an automated manual transmission (dual-clutch). It’s easy to drive gently and reap good mileage, but you can also floor it and, after a brief lag (if you’re already moving and are not in sport mode), fly away; and it delivers good economy — 25 city, 34 highway.… Read the rest
This is an article about a particular brand of headlight bulbs — Eiko Clear Vision Supreme with SoLux™ Technology — but before we get there, some backstory:
Not too long ago, the word most used, abused, and misused in the world of automotive lighting was “Xenon.” Every marketeer slapped “Xenon” on the package in hopes it would distract you out of questioning the high price (and usually short life) of the bulbs. Pesky facts (such as all halogen bulbs containing some xenon gas in their fill mix) didn’t matter; what was important was capitalizing on a usually-undeserved association with the high-intensity discharge—HID, popularly called “Xenon”—headlamps that were new at the time.
But HID headlamps aren’t new any more; LED headlamps are the latest new thing, and there’s no easy way to hook a marketing line effectively from halogen bulbs to LED headlamps.… Read the rest