GirlDriver, USA

GirlDriver, USA
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Beetle Love-Redux

2.5 L 2014 Beetle
If I'm feeling alone in the world I just remind myself how many other VW Beetle lovers are out there.  We love Beetles.  I was even crazy enough to buy a 1962  to restore. But the new cars have the engine in the front and they are changed in so many other ways--like they have working heaters--and as far as I am concerned they are wonderful in a different--OK, better--way than previous incarnations.  I just drove the 2014 VW Beetle TDI diesel.  My love for the car is pulsating once again.  And here's a fact you might not know: in 2014, the Beetle celebrates 65 years in America.


It's tricky to quantify how many Beetles have been produced, but VW's latest figure as of a few years ago is 21.5 million worldwide and 4.8 million in the U.S.  It's the most successful single car design ever, having overtaken the Ford Model T in 1972.  With the 2011 all-new Beetle,Volkswagen has done a revitalization that taps into the Beetle's classic design cues.  In that way, it's different from the 1997 reintroduction New Beetle, which had more of a cartoonish quality to it--the defining lines in that car were all based on the circle.  While this Beetle has tapped into the retro feeling of the car, it is in no way a retro car. The balance needed to create a new car with nods to the past is very, very hard to achieve.  Previous attempts--vehicles like the PT Cruiser, the Chevrolet HHR and others haven't turned out very well.  But this Beetle is, to my eyes, great.

Our 2014 2-door hatchback Beetle was powered by an inline 4-clylinder TDI clean diesel engine that produced 140 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque (and remember, it's the torque that counts).  It was paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission.  VW uses electronic power steering that now has more feel to it than earlier incarnations.  It had a good on center feel to it and combined with the responsive engine, the car simply sails off the line.  It was just a blast to drive.

The Dune
It has a power sliding roof--I don't usually like the moonroof but this was an exception.  The navigation and Fender audio were a pleasure to use.  And the new VW comes with some features that I increasingly think belong in a car--at least in the northeast, like heatable seats and side mirrors.  No indication that the steering wheel is heatable, and that is another feature I would look for in a vehicle I'd buy.

The styling and roominess of the interior is surprising as we tend to think of Beetles as midgets--but the new models and especially the newest model provides plenty of space even for the long of leg and arm. I found the seats solid and comfortable.

VW has a maintenance program that provide scheduled, approved maintenance free for two years.  The Vehicle limited warranty is 3 years/36,000 miles and the power train limited warranty is 5 years/60 miles.  VW provides roadside assistance packages included for 3 years/36,000 miles.

Fuel economy is 29 city/39 highway/32 combined.  We did a lot of highway driving and got around 37 during the test drive.  The Beetle we drove cost $29,415 including destination and I think that's a good price for this fun, roomy, functional car.  If you want it in orange, get the Dune.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Saving Pennies When Gas Prices Go Up



It seems un-American that gas prices go up just as working families get a few days to drive their cars to have some fun.  But it’s not a conspiracy.  There are reasons why gas prices increase in the spring and summer.  Demand increases because of vacations and that stretches the supply.  When natural disasters occur the price increases because transportation is disrupted or refineries are damaged.  One consistent reason is that energy companies conduct maintenance on their refineries in the spring, shutting them down and limiting their capacity until late May.  This shutdown allows them to change the fuel supply. 

This change in the fuel supply, which happens twice a year in the U.S., is known as the seasonal gasoline transition and this is the biggest reason for the increase in price during summer months. Gas sold during the summer is different and more expensive to produce  because of the ingredients it contains and because the refineries close. 

The seasonal fuel change was initiated in 1995 as part of the Reformulated Gasoline Program (RFG), which was established through the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the program to reduce pollution and smog during the summer ozone season, which occurs from June 1 to Sept. 15.  Summer-grade fuel burns cleaner than winter-grade fuel, causing it to produce less smog and releases less toxic air pollutants.

The estimates of the actual difference in cost of production is hard to pin down.  Estimates exist of an increase of only one cent to two cents per gallon. Other estimates range from three cents to 15 cents per gallon. 

The good news is that hot weather can actually increase your fuel economy. A vehicle’s engine warms up to an efficient temperature faster; summer grades of gasoline can have slightly more energy; and warm air causes less aerodynamic drag than cold air.
However, keeping passengers comfortable in hot weather by rolling down the windows or using the air conditioning (AC) can reduce fuel economy.
The guilty party, of course, is the car’s air conditioner.  An air conditioner reduces fuel economy in hot weather.  Under very hot conditions, AC use can reduce a conventional vehicle's fuel economy by more than 25%.  The AC's effect on hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles (EVs) can be even larger on a percentage basis.  How much less efficient depends on the outside temperature, humidity and intensity of the sun.  Open windows can increase aerodynamic drag.  At highway speeds your vehicle needs more energy to push through the air.  But you can’t suffocate.  Here’s advice for improving fuel economy in hot weather: 

Roll the windows down at lower speeds; use the AC at highway speeds.
Don't use the AC more than needed or set the temperature lower than needed.
Drive with the windows open for a short time before using the AC. Letting hot air out of the cabin first will put less demand on the AC and help your vehicle cool faster.
Don't idle with the AC running before driving. Turn the AC on after you begin to drive or after airing out the cabin briefly. Most AC systems will cool the vehicle faster while driving.
Read your owner's manual. Most manuals explain how the AC system controls work and how to best use and maintain the AC system.
For plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, pre-cooling the cabin while plugged into the charger can extend your vehicle's range. Also, using a warmer temperature setting for the AC will use less battery power.
Park in the shade or use a sunshade so that the cabin doesn't get as hot.

While these tips may seem obvious, most consumers crank their air conditioner and often do the exact opposite of what is recommended.  If you’re looking to save a few pennies, a few conscious changes in the way you cool down may be the answer.  Happy summer!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Teens Biggest Killer

Teenagers think they know more than adults and consider themselves invincible. Convince them otherwise.  Today’s teens are so worldly, we’re sometimes fooled into believing they are more mature than they are.  But teens are still children and they still make stupid mistakes, some of which are fatal. But adults do stupid things too.  And children notice.

Reading the headlines it might seem that the biggest killer of teenagers is drugs.  But that isn’t the case. According to a study conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide and made possible by a $2 million grant from General Motors Foundation, more teens die in motor vehicle crashes than from any other cause of death.  (The second most common cause of death is homicide and the third is suicide according to Safe Kids data from 2010.)  The toll is about 2,500 per year or 8 out of every 1,000 teens. Fatalities are split between teen drivers (56 percent) and passengers (44 percent).  In half of these fatalities, teens were not wearing seat belts.  While the number of fatalities has decreased 56 percent since 2002, behavior has not changed much.

Safe Kids found that half the teen passengers and slightly less than half of the teen drivers who die in fatal crashes are not buckled up and that hasn’t changed over the last decade.  Only about ten percent of passengers and six percent of drivers are unrestrained in non-fatal crashes.

In interviews with about 1,000 teens between the ages of 13 and 19, Safe Kids explored behaviors and thoughts when they ride in cars with other teens.  They learned that teens start riding more regularly with other teens at around age 15.  About ten percent of the 13 year olds traveled in cars with other teens every day or a few times week compared to 23 percent of 16 year olds.  Three times as many 16 year olds die in crashes as 13 year olds.  Research has been done in the past that has shown that compared to teens who are not transporting any teen passengers, having one teen passenger in a car with a teen driver increases the risk of a crash by 44 percent.  Two passengers double the risk and three or more passengers increases the risk four fold.  

Using a seatbelt is one of the easiest ways to prevent fatalities. Safe Kids found that many of the teens who did not use seat belts every time are more likely to have parents who don’t always use them.

Their top reasons for not using seat belts were that they forgot or weren’t in the habit (34 percent), they did not use them if they weren’t traveling far (16 percent), they were uncomfortable (11 percent) or they were in a hurry (five percent).  Teens interviewed think the main reason why other teens don’t buckle up is because they aren’t going far.

Teens learn these habits from their peers, but they also watch their parents behavior.  Teens reported seeing their parents unbuckled, texting while driving, talking on the phone, speeding or under the influence.  While 49 percent said they felt unsafe driving with a teen driver, 31 percent said they felt unsafe driving with an adult. 

Parents can influence their teenagers’ behaviors by driving responsibly always in front of their kids.  That means always buckling up so that it becomes a habit with children before they ever start to drive.

In addition, Safe Kids advocates for strong public policies.  The graduated driver’s license and night driving curfews have lowered risks.  Other best practices that need to be considered include zero tolerance for alcohol, a ban on texting and use of distracting technologies, limiting the number of teen passengers, no violations of mandatory seat belt laws for drivers and passengers, learner’s permit stage starting no earlier than age 16; full driving privileges at 18, at least 50 hours of driver’s education and adult-supervised driving.  Police should not be restricted from stopping drivers for these offenses.  Many states prevent them from doing so unless the driver is speeding or engaged in some other serious violation like running a red light.

Public policies will help.  But the buck stops at home.  Ask your kids to play it safe.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ford Mustang’s 50th birthday party swings at the World's Fair site in Queens

Here's my coverage of the New York Auto Show:


 Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/autos/mustang-50th-birthday-party-swings-queens-article-1.1761244#ixzz2zQOy3mtA

http://www.nydailynews.com/autos/auto-shows/50-years-running-horse-2015-ford-mustang-50-year-limited-edition-article-1.1758226

http://www.nydailynews.com/autos/auto-shows/2014-new-york-auto-show-tweaks-new-engine-2015-volkswagen-jetta-betta-article-1.1755799

There's tons more at the New York Daily News website.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

My Buddy-- The 2014 Kia Sorento

There was a girl in my high school who had a Nash Rambler and she called it her Buddy.  I think they were called "Buddies." She said she was going to live in her Buddy when she became an opera singer and travel around in it to her engagements.  Hey, she had dreams.

I thought of the classmate and her Buddy on my drive out to Detroit in the 2014 Kia Sorento for the North American International Auto Show.  The Sorento, redesigned in 2012, could not have been more accommodating on our solo road trip.  It was me traveling to an engagement in a vehicle that felt like my Buddy.  Malcolm Gladwell was on audio reading his treatise, Outliers--a blog for another day.  I had clementines and Pellegrino and a clear road.

We arrived at the Canadian Niagara Falls after dark.  I hit the roof when the hotel wanted to charge me $30 to park my Buddy.  So the desk said my other option was to self park at the Casino Hotel down the street for $5.  Seriously, how long did I need to weigh that decision? Niagara Falls.  January.  NYC parking rates.  No one there.  $30.  I had just had a amazing meal for $25 at Hillebrand Winery.  I got upgraded to a room with a great view of the Falls because of my wheel squeaking about the parking. Staring at the Falls at night with the fog and the light show is a great way to end the evening. I was rested and ready to roll to Detroit after visiting the Falls in person.


My Remington Red Kia is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual capability that produces 290 horsepower and 252 lb.-ft. of torque.  A four-cylinder engine is also available.  My Sorento had all-wheel drive, which I appreciated but ended up not needing.  There's ample power for passing and with cruise control I got on average 24.8 mph.  That's what Kia promises--18 city/24 highway/20 combined.  Most of my driving except for a night of roving in downtown Detroit, was highway.

I piled a lot into the cargo space--computer, suitcase, insulated bag, other bags, a little exercise equipment.
A couple of things made me sit up and take notice.  One:  I used the navigation system relentlessly and it was easy and it got me to the door of every event I was going to without a hassle.  The eight-inch navigation screen is home  navigation, traffic with real-time road information updates, a premium audio system, available subscription to Sirius XM radio, Bluetooth® hands-free connectivity, vehicle settings and UVO eServices, Kia's next generation of infotainment and services.  The screen has superb graphics and Kia's Uvo telematics seem to operate with a kind of simplicity that is hard to find.  I, who openly will admit that I dislike these systems and find them distracting, actually liked and appreciated this system.  (I can't tell you the number of places I went where I had no idea where I was going but it was right up there with the Amazing Race.)

I drove 1,500 miles solo.  I was completely comfortable throughout the trip.  And when I got back, yes, I was tired, but I didn't suffer back pain.   As a driver I didn't get to star gaze but the panoramic roof is fabulous.


It's always worth mentioning Kia's 10-year, 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty because it is one of the best in the business.  The basic warranty and the roadside assistance is 5-years, 60,000 miles.

The cost with $1,000 for the split folding third row seat with A/C for this Buddy is $38,550 including destination charge.