GirlDriver, USA

GirlDriver, USA
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Thursday, June 14, 2012


It was a day like this.  Rainy, overcast, depressing.  Or it would have been depressing but I got invited by good-looking biker and director of communications for the Motorcycle Industry Association, Ty VanHooydonk to join him along with The Recreational Off-highway Vehicle Association to ride ROVs on Randall’s Island under the Robert F. Kennedy (aka Triborough) bridge. David Alan Grier, who was nominated for a Tony this year for his role as Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess, was also along for the ride. Who could resist?
Randall’s Island is located on the East River between East Harlem, the South Bronx and Astoria, Queens.  The island has great views of the East River. Aside: Randall’s Island is where Robert Moses operated his fiefdom.    
The first thing we learn in our ROV session is that ROV’s aren’t ATVs.  ROVs have a steering wheel, acceleration foot pedal and a brake foot pedal and they are “driven.”  ATVs have a handlebar for steering, a throttle controlled by pushing a thumb lever next to the handgrip and a hand lever(s) for front and/or rear brake(s) and a foot pedal for the rear brake.  ATVs are “ridden” , not driven.  Unlike ATVs, which can be ridden by small children, ROVs are designed to be driven by those who are 16 or over.  ROVs have rollover protection, side panel doors or netting for protection, grab handles and can accommodate passengers and cargo.
Under a bridge in the middle of rain day in New York on an island other than Manhattan one could not help feeling very Schwarzeneggerish.  We are a small band of rov-ers practicing maneuvers—backing up, going over obstacles, cornering, turning.  It was very post-apocalyptic.  But fun, don’t get me wrong.  I loved every minute of it. 
We learned some rules of the road.  Safety is emphasized.  Wear the right gear including helmet, gloves, long pants, sturdy jacket.  Familiarize yourself with your vehicle.  Learn the capabilities of the different vehicles.  We did not have a steep incline to try, but the instructors assured us that they climb with ease.  Then we hit the trail and rode around Randall's Island. 
Several different manufacturers make these ROVs including Arctic Cat, BRP, Kawasaki,  Polaris and Yamaha.  There’s even an all electric, which allows you to enjoy the outdoors without the accompanying sound of a motor.  I love that!
The ROVHA offers a basic training course online (  Take the course if you are considering getting involved in this sport.  One can improve skills beyond basic but it takes some seat time.  No one should feel they know it all—ever.  When VanHooydonk and I chatted about motorcycle riding a few years ago he mentioned he’d be riding for over 20 years and was still learning.  That impressed on me the need to know your level and your limitations. 

The ROHVA is also a member of TreadLightly (, encouraging participants to take care of the environment they enjoy. 
Was it fun?  You bet.  Can you role play as you learn?  I did.  I’d love to know what role David Alan Grier was playing in his head, but I didn’t get a chance to ask him.  He had to get back to NYC for his evening performance in Porgy and Bess.  Talk about fun.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012



The only Clean Diesel offering in the compact coupe category goes on sale in August

• Volkswagen’s sixth TDI® Clean Diesel model available in the U.S.

Herndon, VA -  Volkswagen of America, Inc. today announced pricing for the Beetle TDI® Clean Diesel coupe. The Beetle TDI is the third model in the Beetle lineup and joins the 2.5-liter five-cylinder and 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline models, which launched to great acclaim in 2011. The Beetle TDI features VW’s 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injection Clean Diesel engine that produces 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. When equipped with a manual transmission, the model has manufacturer fuel economy estimates of 41 mpg highway and 32 mpg city.

Model Lineup
Three trims are available with the TDI® Clean Diesel powertrain. All models feature a standard six-speed manual transmission with Volkswagen’s acclaimed six-speed DSG® dual-clutch automatic transmission as an option. All three are very well equipped, with standard features such as power windows with one-touch up/down; cruise control; V-Tex Leatherette seating; front-center armrest; the “K√§eferfach” secondary glovebox; Bluetooth® technology; leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel with audio controls; three-color ambient lighting; auxiliary instrument package; Keyless entry with push-button start; SiriusXM Satellite Radio®; and a Media Device Interface with iPod® cable.

Manual $23,295
Automatic $24,395
The base TDI model comes standard with unique 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, all the equipment listed above, and an interior and exterior chrome package. The standard RCD310 audio system has an AM/FM radio, CD player, Bluetooth® technology, SiriusXM Satellite Radio® and eight speakers

TDI with Sunroof
Manual $24,895
Automatic $25,995
This model adds a panoramic tilt/slide sunroof and Volkswagen’s touchscreen Premium VIII radio to the Beetle TDI trim.

TDI with Sunroof, Sound, and Navigation

Manual $26,195
Automatic $27,295
In addition to the above features, the top model includes the RNS 315 navigation system and the award-winning Fender® Premium Audio system.

All prices exclude a destination charge of $770.

2013 Beetle TDI Pricing
2.0L 140 hp TDI® engine, six-speed manual transmission; 17-inch alloy wheels; power windows with one-touch up/down; cruise-control; V-Tex leatherette seating; trip computer; front center-armrest; auxiliary instrument package; keyless access with push-button start; RCD 310 eight-speaker sound system with aux-in and Media Device Interface with iPod® cable; SiriusXM® Satellite Radio; three-color ambient lighting
+ Six-speed DSG® transmission
TDI w/ Sunroof
(Includes Beetle TDI features)
+ Panoramic sunroof with power tilt and slide
+ Six-speed DSG® transmission
TDI w/ Sunroof, Sound, and Navi
(Includes TDI w/ Sunroof features)
+ RNS 315 touchscreen navigation, Fender Premium Audio System
+ six-speed DSG® transmission
$     770
All Prices Exclude Destination Charge

About Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen’s operations in the United States include research and development, parts and vehicle processing, parts distribution centers, sales, marketing and service offices, financial service centers, and its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Volkswagen is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars and Europe's largest automaker. Volkswagen sells the Beetle, Eos, Golf, Golf R, GTI, Jetta, Jetta SportWagen, Passat, CC, Tiguan, Touareg and Routan vehicles through approximately 600 independent U.S. dealers. Visit Volkswagen of America online at or to learn more.

“DSG”, “TDI”, “VW”, “Volkswagen”, all model names and the Volkswagen logo are registered trademarks of Volkswagen AG. “Bluetooth” is a registered trademark of Bluetooth SIG, Inc. “Fender” is a registered trademark of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. “iPod” is a registered trademark of Apple, Inc. “SiriusXM” and “SiriusXM Satellite Radio” are trademarks of SiriusXM Radio, Inc.

Where stated, fuel economy values (mpg) are EPA estimates. All other fuel economy values are forecast manufacturer values for the USA; those EPA estimates were not available at time of release.

MSRPs exclude taxes, title, options, and dealer charges.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kia Optima Hybrid

Love those foxy 17" wheels.
Call it fuel economy (FE) if you want but I'm calling it an elegant little package.  The Kia Optima Hybrid did fine on the FE front at an average of 37 mpg.  I was able to keep my eye on the energy indicator on the dash--a green bar--without taking my eyes off the road.  Psychological support for virtuous driving.
How green is my instrument panel?
My car was powered by a 2.4 liter 4 cylinder hybrid engine paired with a 6 speed sportmatic transmission.  The electric power steering left me a little cold--not much feel there but this is a universal complaint about electric steering.
I love the looks of this car.  The design of the Optima doesn't scream hybrid (meaning that I think we're over mere posturing and getting down to some serious personal environmental decision making).  The overall look is low and sloopy--making it one sexy sedan.  The low sloopy business creates a headroom problem in the front so my tall tester (architect Rob Whitlock 6'4") won't be buying this one.  But those of us who do fit under the headliner find the interior design and appointments from fabric to instrument panel very pleasing.  This is just me, but I'd rather be pleased than polarized by my daily driver. 
One thing we did notice is that the batteries cause serious weight gain.  Gross vehicle weight (which includes the curb weight plus passengers and cargo) is over 4,000 pounds!

Nifty seats.

Government safety rates this as five star for frontal, rollover and side rear seat crash.   It has only a three star rating for side front seat crash.

As equipped my hybrid Optima cost $32, 620 including delivery charges.  That also includes $5, 350 for a premium technology package.  The base price without the bells and whistles is $25,700.  The Optima competes with the Toyota Prius, which has a base price of $24,000 and gets better mileage, 51 city/48 highway.  I'm in awe of the Prius and its new "c" model, but I have to say I like the package on the Optima better.

One thing you can count on with Kia.  They are determined, which means they don't want to give you any reason to say no.  The cars are packed with content, they're great cars and the warranty––10 years, 100,000 miles––can't be beat.  I talk cars with a lot of people.  Many of them still say, "Really?" when I recommend they test drive a Kia.  Stop already.  Yeees, really.