GirlDriver, USA

GirlDriver, USA
Look! It's GirlDriver, USA.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Make Lots of New Friends--Drive the Jag XK

Amazing how quickly one's image can go from I'm-not-quite-sure-how-I-come-across to my-my-aren't-I-just-the-most-sought-after-person-on-the-street.  No I didn't lose 50 pounds or dye my hair or inherit a million dollars.  I drove a crystal blue Jaguar XK with a charcoal and ivory interior over the weekend.  Suddenly I'm getting invited to Saratoga for brunch and people are bringing over bunches of flowers and offering to help me with my errands.  I am the most popular girl in town for one whole weekend.

It was worth getting 16 city/ 24 highway to cruise Broadway, Saratoga's main street.  It was a beautiful spring day--unseasonably warm for early May.  The sun was shining.  The streets were packed with people and all heads--children, adults, seniors, women and men–– turned to look at us in the car.  Their eyes followed us as we passed and they kept looking as we slowly advanced.  The rear view of this car is so beautiful, you could not help staring. 

2012 XK
2012 XKR
Jaguar is so confident that it doesn't even have a V6 engine.  My XK had a 385 horsepower 5.0 liter V8 paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission.  The paddle shifters aren't ironic as they are in some vehicles.  They really fit the driving experience of the car.

There are many lux-o vehicles I don't want, not because they aren't great but they don't jive with my personality.  I would have these brake shoes under the bed, however.  Smooth, elegant ride.  Having problems with your image even if you got a bonus last year?  Here are two ideas:  go out and do something life changing for your community and go test drive the XK.  You'll be writing a check for this baby that will take about $91,350 (my vehicle as equipped with a base price of $84,500) out of your account.

"Approximately 50% of Jag buyers are concentrated in Metro New York City, southern
California and southeast Florida," says Stuart Schorr, PR chief for Jaguar/Land Rover.  "Probably 65% of our buyers are men, thoughthe percent of women drivers may be higher than purchasers."  That I think must be true.  Behind every car buying decision is a GirlDriver.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Toyota's Rav4

I forgot I was driving a crossover.  The 2012 Toyota Rav4 is so agile that I just forgot I had all that passenger room and storage space behind me.  I really enjoyed driving the Rav4.

For most of the people in my extended circle of friends, relatives and acquaintances, this vehicle would be enough.  Sure, I have about the same percentage of performance freaks in my circle as there are in the universe, but they are not the majority.

Underlying my recommendation is my belief that Toyota is a dedicated and reliable maker of vehicles.  And I'm not alone.  Despite a very challenging period in Toyota's history including the negative press regarding unintended acceleration, the natural disasters in Japan and Thailand, the strong yen, the customers have remained loyal.  Net revenues were down 2.2 percent for fiscal year ending March 31, 2012.

This 5-door, 4x4 is powered by a 3.5 liter DOHC (double overhead cam valve) V6 that produces 269 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 246 ft-lbs of torque at 4600 rpm.  It has dual variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) which optimizes the rpms and controls the valve lifts resulting in a more efficient engine performance.  The engine is paired with a 5-speed automatic transmission.  It has on demand 4-wheel drive, an electric power steering system and a sport-tuned suspension.

The cost of my vehicle with something called the extra value package MSRP discount (Basically, they threw in the delivery charge.) is $29,497.  I think its a handsome package for that money.

Fuel economy is 19 city/26 highway.  OK, not great.  Annual fuel cost is estimated at $2,500.  The 4-cylinder Rav4 has fuel economy of 22 city/28 highway.  Toyota, how about a turbo on that four?

One thing that annoys me in cars is the overly complex navigation/sound/ etc. systems.  Hats off to Toyota for keeping it simple.  I was able to check my fuel economy instantly and as an average by pressing a simple round button on the steering wheel.  It just proves that you can have your heart's desire without going through 50 steps to get a radio station.  I just hate that.

The cabin is very nicely appointed, comfortable seats, nice-to-the-touch use of materials. 

The Rav4 will debut later this year as an all-electric SUV has an expected driving range rating of approximately 100 miles and charging time of approximately six hours on a 240V/40A charger. The RAV4 EV’s driving performance, dynamics and cargo capacity are equal to or exceed the gas powered RAV4 V6. Arriving fully-equipped with an MSRP of $49,800 the RAV4 EV doesn’t compromise on performance, comfort or versatility.

Look also at the Mazda CX5, Honda Pilot, Chevy Equinox. Jeep Liberty, Nissan Pathfinder.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Jeep Patriot--Offroad Capability in a Crossover

The Jeep Patriot perked along in a 4x4 kind of way all weekend.  It's slightly updated for 2012 but no major improvements--a recalibrated continuously variable transmission CVT improves the performance.

With its available optional offroad option package the Patriot will hit the trail smartly because of its increased ride height, skid plates and 4-wheel drive with a transfer case that has dual-range gear ratios for low-speed crawling.

My test car, the top-of-the-line Limited, was $28,640 with options like the Customer Preferred Package and amped up sound system.  This vehicle as equipped is not going to gooffroad.  But, wait!  I do go offroad.  Whenever I can!

The Patriot's acceleration was on the sluggish side; it's powered by an 2.4 liter inline four-cylinder engine and the four may be just under what it needs.   But for those who want to take to the wilderness on weekends it's better to have a vehicle that isn't as polite as the Kia Sportage or the Honda CR-V on the highway.

The Patriot has a good seating position--riding up high really makes you feel in command of your ride--and the interior has a wonderful Jeep attitude--it's not trying too hard to be cool.  It just is cool.  In its three trim levels you can upgrade-- alloy wheels, leather wrapped steering wheel and remote ignition.

EPA mileage on my Patriot Limited was 21/26 city/highway.  I've been holding steady on my speed lately trying to get better mileage--mostly because I just wrote a story on ecodriving.    Look for it next week a

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The OIl and Gas Industry is Mindful. Yeah, right.

I picked this up from the API press clippings.  Like we don't have to watch every move they make.  I love that the CEO of American Petroleum is being "mindful."  The minute someone uses that word, I get hives.  I'm not at all convinced that fracking is going to end up with the bad rep it now has.  I think that we will figure out a way to extract gas from shale safely, but I am certain that the oil and gas industry is mindful--of profits and expansion at any cost.  This is one instance where we need the feds to babysit.

The US Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management improved their proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations before issuing them on May 4, American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard acknowledged. But the fundamental question of whether they’re actually necessary remains unanswered, he said on May 9.
“Let’s be thoughtful about this. Let’s be mindful of what’s already in place, and if it’s working, why try to duplicate it?” he told reporters during a teleconference. “Right now, energy states are taking action and making sure they have a robust regulatory regime that should be adequate to regulate industry without overlaid federal regulation.”
Many states already aggressively regulate fracing on federal, state, and private land, and others are improving their programs with help from the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, the Groundwater Protection Council, and the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER), Gerard noted. More significantly, producing states process permit applications faster than the year BLM often takes without compromising environmental protection, he added.
“We look at models like North Dakota and see they’re protecting their people, they’re protecting their environment, and they can issue a permit in 14 days,” Gerard said. “The feds should look at that model, instead of trying to overlay an additional layer of regulation that potentially duplicates or conflicts with it.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

VW Passat TDI Clean Diesel Gets 84.1 MPG with Hypermiling Taylors

If you're on the fence about clean diesel, here's more cool news from VW:  The car costs $26,765 including destination charge and is rated at 43 MPG.  But mileage experts John and Helen Taylor just completed a 1626-mile drive in Chattanooga-built Volkswagen Passat TDI®—without stopping for fuel.   Here are the details.  Twenty-six grand for this lovely package?  I'd buy it in a heartbeat over the Volt.  But that's just me.
  • Record set using a stock 2012 Passat TDI SE with six-speed manual transmission
  • Average of 84.1 miles per gallon during three-day trip
  • Shows mileage benefits of VW Clean Diesel technology
The world’s most fuel-efficient couple has done it again. John and Helen Taylor were determined to break the record for the farthest distance traveled on a single tank of fuel. They decided to attempt the record in the U.S. with a stock 2012 Volkswagen Passat SE TDI Clean Diesel vehicle equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. The previous record for the most miles covered on a single tank of diesel was 1526.6 miles, achieved with a VW Passat 1.6 BlueMotion® diesel in Europe.

The result? A new record of 1626.1 miles, achieved on one tank of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel under real world driving conditions. That’s an incredible 99.5 miles better than the old mark. Over the course of three days and driving through nine states, the couple averaged 84.1 miles per gallon, spending only 4.65 cents per mile. The three-day drive commenced on May 3, 2012 in Houston, TX and ended on May 5, 2012 in Sterling, Virginia. To make the drive as realistic as possible, the couple included 120 pounds of luggage and drove during daylight hours to experience normal traffic situations. Additionally, the couple took turns driving and didn’t travel more than 14 hours per day.

The Passat’s 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel inline four-cylinder engine produces 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque and with a manual transmission delivers an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 43 mpg on the highway. The TDI engine is equipped with a Selective Catalytic Reduction System (SCR) that fulfills emissions requirements in all 50 states. The Passat—built at the world’s only LEED Platinum certified automotive factory in Chattanooga, TN—was named Motor Trend’s 2012 Car of the Year.

Prior to the drive, the speedometer and odometer were calibrated by a state certified testing station in Houston, Texas. Law enforcement officers from the city of Houston, Texas oversaw validation of mileage, fuel fill-up, and gas tank sealing at the beginning of the drive. A Loudoun County, Virginia Sheriff’s Deputy verified completion of the drive and mileage prior to removing the fuel tank seal.

The Taylors have made a career out of driving efficiently and conducting workshops globally on fuel-efficient driving techniques. They have collected more than 90 world fuel economy and vehicle-related records from drives around the globe.

VW's Partnership with MOMA's PS1

The Museum of Modern Art draws a cool crowd.  Even cooler is PS1, MoMA's exhibition-only space in Queens that is dedicated to contemporary art, experimental and adventurous work. It's the place where the "beyond edgy" happens.  Last week we attended a press conference about an upcoming VW-sponsored exhibition.

The evening included a sampling of the Kraftwerk Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, which was also sponsored by VW.  It was great fun to listen to the music of this influential electronic band, who were pioneers in technopop. I was with two Kraftwerk enthusiasts.  One friend, Fred Staab, had actually done a recording session with the band.  We stood in the dome outside of the museum and listened to the music, and were surrounded by big screens that displayed incredible Kraftwerk graphics.  The retrospective took place on eight nights in April at PS1. It was an exciting evening, listening to music in this portable dome and following room by room the incredible range of art installations by artist Lara Favaretto.  Favaretto has a playfulness and a seriousness about her work that is impressive--worth the trip to see the automated car wash brushes expand and contract in a syncopated ballet of movement.  Making me think harder about opening that carwash, drive-in thing I've been thinking about. 

PS1 is working on a major survey of international contemporary art, called "New Information: Art at the Beginning of a New Now" that is scheduled to be presented in the spring of 2013 and will tour the globe.  VW is sponsoring this major undertaking. "New Information," says Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1 and Chief Curator at Large of MoMA, "is an exhibition engaging artistic practices that are dealing with the aesthetic, political and ecological challenges between the wish to innovate and the wish to preserve."  I think the underlying core of this exploration is the our age of too much information.  For the first time in history, we're asking, "how do we manage TMI?"

VW also sponsors MoMA's online courses.  Beginning June 4, you can take Experimenting with Collage, Materials and Techniques of Postwar Abstract Painting, Modern Art, 1880–1945, Modern and Contemporary Art: 1945–1989.  These courses cost $300/350 for an eight or ten week course with access to other students and instructors, weekly online discussions and forums or $200/275 for self-guided, which you can access at anytime.

There are free course for teens but they are held at the museum. I wish they had free online access for the teen programs.  I know so many kids who can't get to NYC who would benefit from these classes.