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Detroit automakers, unions urge Obama to fund customs plaza for new bridge
Posted by :freep On : June 30, 2014

Category: News

The Detroit Three automakers and top labor leaders are asking President Barack Obama to help get federal funding for a customs plaza on the Detroit side of a new government-owned international bridge between Detroit and Canada.

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — along with the UAW International Union and Michigan AFL-CIO — sent a joint letter to the White House late last week calling on the Obama administration to provide support and money for the plaza.

The letter, which included signatures of other Michigan businesses and labor groups, also asked the administration to have a point person for the bridge project and complete a procedural requirement for a cost estimate for the plaza’s construction.

Plans for a customs plaza, estimated to cost as much as $250 million, have been slow to take shape despite lobbying in Washington for it by Michigan and Canadian leaders.

“Detroit is in the middle of a fantastic rebound,” the letter reads. “The bridge will provide fuel to keep our economic engine moving forward, but it will also be a symbol of the rebirth of the city and the region.”

While Canada has agreed to front almost all of the money to build the $2-billion bridge in exchange for future toll proceeds, financing for the customs plaza is still up in the air due to budget cutbacks and shifting political attention to the Mexico border crossings with the U.S.

During a May visit to Detroit, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said his agency is “actively looking for ways to fund a potential customs plaza.”

The existing Ambassador Bridge is controlled by the family of Manuel (Matty) Moroun.

Over objections from the family’s Detroit International Bridge Co., the U.S. Coast Guard in June issued the final permit needed for construction of the proposed government-owned bridge, called the New International Trade Crossing.

A top Canadian official has warned that the bridge project could face delays if the customs plaza funding issue isn’t resolved by early 2015.

Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or Follow him on Twitter @JCReindl.

GM compensation fund could pay millions to victims, families
Posted by :freep On : June 30, 2014

Category: News

Families of those killed in crashes involving General Motors’ deadly ignition switches will be offered at least $1 million if they can prove the defective part caused their accidents.

GM victim compensation director Kenneth Feinberg, who also led the 9/11 compensation and BP oil spill funds, said today that people who suffered injuries or families of victims who died because of the defect qualify for settlements and can begin filing claims Aug. 1.

Feinberg said current and former owners of 2.6 million small cars potentially affected by the defect will be notified that they may be eligible for settlements.

GM has identified at least 13 deaths and several dozen injuries connected to the problem, although those figures are expected to rise. Feinberg declined to speculate on how many people might be eligible or how much GM might pay out.

■ PDF: FAQ on GM ignition switch compensation

■ Related: GM’s banned words: What’s wrong with using plain English?

The compensation fund is unlimited, he said. If Feinberg determines that the defect was the “substantial cause” of the accident, he will use actuarial tables and average medical cost data to calculate the size of a payout. The families of people who died will get at least $1 million.

Jayne Rimer‘s only child, Natasha, was 18 when she was killed in 2006 in a 2005 Cobalt where the airbag did not deploy. Stepfather Ken Rimer said he appreciates that GM is admitting its mistakes cost lives and is trying to make amends, but he doubts the compensation fund is sufficient in his family’s case.

Rimer said he plans to meet with his Texas lawyer, Bob Hilliard, later this week to discuss the settlement fund, but his initial sense is the family will pursue its ongoing lawsuit instead of accepting GM’s offer. That could require GM to pay punitive damages, he said.

Natasha was in a coma for 11 days and had a lengthy hospital stay costing $210,000 before she died. She had virtually no assets at the time of her death.

Under the Feinberg plan, Rimer said he believes his family would be eligible for $170,000 in compensation for medical costs. But the family would likely be owed millions because Natasha died.

“She was just getting started in life,” Rimer said.

Feinberg gave examples of payouts under his plan. The survivors of a 25-year-old deceased driver who was married with three children and earning $46,000 would receive about $4 million.

A 10-year-old passenger who became a paraplegic in an accident would be offered $7.8 million.

Compensation for people who needed outpatient treatment within 48 hours of the crash would be capped at $20,000.

“Money is a pretty poor substitute for loss,” Feinberg said. “It’s the best we can do.”

Victims must submit evidence substantiating their claim — such as police reports, hospital records, vehicle data, insurance information and even the car involved in the accident if it’s still around.

GM can provide evidence to dispute victims’ claims. But the company has agreed not to challenge the claims after Feinberg makes a determination.

A GM spokesman declined to say whether the company plans to submit evidence to fight any claims.

“We are pleased that Mr. Feinberg has completed the next step with our ignition switch compensation program to help victims and their families,” Barra said in a statement. “We are taking responsibility for what has happened by treating them with compassion, decency and fairness. To that end, we are looking forward to Mr. Feinberg handling claims in a fair and expeditious manner.”

Feinberg’s plan drew criticism from safety advocates and victims who said it requires a burdensome amount of documentation to reconstruct details about accidents that may have occurred more than a decade ago.

“It will be difficult, if not impossible, for a consumer to prove that ignition switch failure caused a crash if all they have is their statement that the ignition switch cut off,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. “At the very least, in processing claims Mr. Feinberg must apply a presumption that if there is record of stalling on a vehicle, the claim is valid. To do otherwise will be to deny most claims filed by consumers who cannot afford lawyers or experts.”

Feinberg acknowledged that substantiating claims will prove to be a “challenge.” In the 9/11 fund, 97% of eligible families accepted offers. In the BP fund, 92% of eligible claimants accepted offers. He does not expect to achieve those figures with GM.

The automaker has already collected information from about 3,500 people claiming to be victims, but Feinberg said some of those won’t qualify because the people don’t own GM vehicles.

If families accept a settlement, they must agree not to sue GM. If they choose to sue, GM plans to defend itself.

“People are not required to sign away any of their rights to sue until and unless they are satisfied with what the fund offers,” Feinberg said in an interview.

General Motors hired Feinberg for this mission in the wake of its February recall of Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions, Chevrolet HHRs, Saturn Skys, Pontiac G5s and Solsices mostly from the 2003 through 2007 model years. Those cars were equipped with ignition switches that can slip out of position and cut off power to the engine, steering, air bags and other electrical systems.

Engineers discovered the defect more than a decade ago, but a breakdown in communication, incompetence among engineers and a lack of urgency failed to fix the problem or order a recall, according to a 325-page investigative report conducted by outside lawyer Anton Valukas on behalf of GM.

No one injured or killed in GM vehicles not included in that recall will be compensated. No claims will be considered if the alleged damage was only economic, Feinberg said.

Feinberg, who outlined details of the fund this morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., said he alone will have discretion on whether and by how much a claimant is compensated. No GM executives appeared with him.

Eligible claimants include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, occupants of another car hit by one of the 2.6 million GM vehicles, and their surviving family members in the case of deaths.

■ Tom Walsh: Matt Lauer takes dopey route with mom questions to Barra

■ Related: Auto safety group questions GM’s ‘flawed’ report on recalls

Feinberg said he is not required to report the claims payouts to the GM board of directors, but he said he intends to give periodic updates to both GM management and the public. He said he expects payments to be made within 90 to 180 days of when they are filed.

“I suspect I will be sticking around (on this fund) through the first quarter of 2015,” he said.

Victims’ behavior that may have contributed to the accident, including intoxication, speeding or texting while driving, will not be considered, Feinberg said.

Those who settled cases arising from these specific defective ignition switches before the Feb. 13 recall may file either a new lawsuit or a claim to the fund.

Anyone seeking punitive damages against GM should pursue cases in the courts, Feinberg said. But he cautioned victims against suing GM to find out what really happened, saying that victims can trust the U.S. Justice Department and other investigators to deliver trustworthy conclusions.

“I’m here to compensate victims, not to punish General Motors,” he said. “If people want … to use litigation to go after General Motors, then voluntarily they should not submit a claim to me.”

Contact Nathan Bomey: 313-223-4743 or Follow him on Twitter @NathanBomey. Free Press Business Writer Alisa Priddle contributed to this story.

Bond reduced for men accused of assaulting Detroit driver
Posted by :freep On : June 30, 2014

Category: News

Two men accused of beating a motorist after a June 7 crash in Detroit were granted requests for bond reduction Monday, allowing for their release on the promise they’ll return for future hearings.

Toriano Williams, 20, and Demond Williams, 33, both of Detroit, are facing charges of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and aggravated assault in the beating of 34-year-old Nate Szczerbinski, of Grosse Pointe Park.

Szczerbinski, who was hospitalized two days with a severely-injured eye socket, was given a chance to oppose the bond reduction from $40,000 with 10% to $40,000 personal-recognizance bonds. He said he didn’t oppose it.

“I don’t want them to serve life in prison or anything, but what they did to me was horrible,” he said afterward. “I don’t want to make anybody more pissed off; I just want to keep things cool.”

The Williamses were scheduled for a preliminary exam Monday, but District Court Judge Joseph Baltimore gave them more time, as Demond Williams’ attorney Ray Richards II was recently appointed and needed more time to prepare.

The exam is now set for 9 a.m. July 8.

Demond Williams also has been charged with driving with an expired license.

According to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Szczerbinski allegedly was driving his vehicle in the wrong direction when he collided with the vehicle Demond Williams was driving. Toriano Williams was a passenger in that vehicle, prosecutors said.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the men exited their vehicles, and the Williamses assaulted Szczerbinski.

2015 Subaru Outback first drive: Subaru’s fifth AWD wagon refocuses on refinement
Posted by :Autoweek – Reviews RSS Feed On : June 30, 2014

Category: Reviews

Subaru’s fifth iteration is all about refinement
2015 Subaru Outback First Drive Subaru
Subaru’s new Outback is all about refinement.

By: J.P.Vettraino on 6/30/2014

What is it?

It’s the fifth major overhaul for a vehicle that started the so-called crossover craze in the mid-1990s.

The 2015 Outback is essentially all-new, and we can forgive Subaru for taking a conservative approach. This car has been a marketplace homerun by just about anyone’s standard. It remains one of the brand’s stalwarts, and nothing about gen V is radically different. The new Outback is all about refining, re-proportioning and chasing elusive MPG.

None of its exterior dimensions increase more than a fraction of an inch, save one: Roof height rises 2.2 inches. There’s an infusion of new-age, high-strength steel throughout the unibody, helping increase torsional rigidity 59 percent and bending resistance 39 percent, according to Subaru engineers. New NVH mitigating features include more insulation, liquid-filled motor mounts and a windshield fashioned from acoustic glass. An aluminum hood helps even weight distribution, though minimum curb weight increases 170 pounds.

Styling is measuredly evolutionary. It’s an Outback—and still slightly gawky–for sure. Subaru’s designers have backed away from the rugged SUV look some by generally reducing the swathes of black vinyl cladding all around. Active grille shutters contribute to an increase in aero efficiency, and a corresponding contribution to fuel mileage, despite the taller roof. The bottom of the A pillars are pulled a couple inches forward, giving the windshield a faster rake.

All the massaging pay some of its biggest dividends inside. This Outback has two inches more cabin width, front and rear. Hip points rise, for something more like an SUV view out, without a decrease in headroom. Maximum cargo capacity increases two cubic feet to 73.3, or 35.5 behind the rear seat. Cargo lift-over height drops six inches, and the load floor is seven inches longer.

By the most obvious indications, the engines haven’t changed much. In the standard 2.5-liter boxer four, peak horsepower increases by two to 175, with 174 lb-ft of torque. Numbers for the upgrade 3.6 liter six are identical to its predecessor: 256 hp, 247 lb-ft. Subaru engineers nonetheless insist the engines are “80 percent new,” with new cylinder heads and internals–reworked to reduce weight, friction and operational noise, and to improve fuel efficiency. In any case, the Outback engines remain port injected, and specific output is not one of their strengths.

The manual transmission option is history, as is the conventional automatic in the six-cylinder Outback. All 2015s will come with a continuously variable automatic, programmed with six steps or “gears” for manual operation. The CVT is the single biggest contributor to improved EPA ratings: up 10 percent freeway and eight percent combined for the four-cylinder, to 25/33/28, and by 10 percent combined with the six, to 20/27/22

The single transmission also means one type of all-wheel-drive system, rather than three slightly different arrangements in the previous Outback. A continuously variable hydraulic clutch varies power front to rear, with new electronic management that accounts for more parameters than before. Subaru’s Xmode—an off-road control program introduced in the current Forester—comes standard. It optimizes throttle progression, torque split and transmission operation for off-pavement operation and adds hill-descent control. Active Torque Vectoring will brake the inside front wheel on pavement to help manage understeer.

A new rack-mounted steering-boost motor increases mileage 2 percent by itself, according to Subaru. The ratio also drops from 16.5 to 14.0:1. Suspension geometry is revised throughout, and the standard wheels increase one inch in diameter to 17. The Outback 2.5i gets larger brakes previously reserved for the six-cylinder, and all models now have vented rather than solid rear discs.

Safety is one of Subaru’s things, and the new Outback offers as many safety-themed features as any car south of a full-luxury brand. A rearview camera and eight airbags come standard, including two in the front-seat bottoms that inflate to prevent submarining under the belt.

Gen II of Subaru’s EyeSight optical accident-avoidance system is optional on all but the base Outback. It has 40-percent better range than the first EyeSight system, and it will stop the Outback from 30 mph without driver intervention. Its cameras are located at the front edge of the headliner on either side of the rearview mirror, with a third washer nozzle to make sure they stay clean. A radar package adds blind spot warning, lane keeping, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control. There are no visible sensors or nipples, and the radar units are packaged well above the bumper line to avoid being taken out by a minor ding.

At $23,795 plus $850 destination, the base Outback 2.5i comes well equipped, with HD radio, RDS, Bluetooth and a high-res touch screen with Aha, Pandora and a range of apps. The 2.5i Premium opens Outback to most of the trick options, and the leather-lined Limited adds high-watt Harman Kardon audio. The Outback 3.6i is offered only in Limited trim.

The original Outback was a trim package for the Legacy wagon. It helped Subaru re-establish equilibrium as a brand, and it’s been a steady climb since. The company has managed six consecutive record sales years in the United States—right through the Great Recession. The fourth-gen Outback (2010-14) sold 2.5 times more than the first (1995-1999). Sales are up again so far this calendar year, even as the current Outback trundles toward history.

Nothing about the new one suggests that it will impede Subaru’s ascent.

How’s it drive?

Like an Outback, only quieter–well sorted and appropriately tuned for its job, which could be just about anything anyone might demand of an automobile, except maybe logging track time. The 2015 Outback isn’t fun, exactly, but it’s never onerous or tedious, either–even with the CVT. It’s always pleasant, and it can be satisfying in a purpose-driven way. It’s generally more refined than before.

Better noise, vibration and harshness control might be its standout improvement. It’s smooth and impressively quiet in all circumstances—almost serene, except when the CVT is droning along with the radio turned down.

The transmission works well in most circumstances, thanks partly to the built in steps. Manual operation allows compression braking from the engine on downhill stretches—a good thing for a vehicle of the Outback’s aspirations. All that said, and whatever the mileage advantage, we still have not encountered the CVT that is as aurally or operationally satisfying in the subjective sense as any good conventional automatic.

Maybe more significantly, this Outback seems a wee bit more top heavy than its predecessors, though still not as much as a truck-based SUV or taller crossovers. You’ll feel it if you carry a good head of steam through a sweeper. The upper half of the car wants to shift toward the outside first, even as the bottom stays unflinchingly planted. We’re not sure how to explain it, except perhaps for the higher roof, and we’re less sure how many Outback owners will notice.

That’s because, as road-going conveyance, the Outback remains one of the more planted, drivable CUV/SUV things on the market—car-like, to use the clich�. The steering is quick enough, nicely weighted and quite precise. Overall ride quality is excellent, as these vehicles go: never floaty, but comfortable and well-damped, and never clunky, either.

Engines? The base 2.5 isn’t buzzy, and it delivers adequate thrust for typical driving on relatively flat roads. On inclines, at altitude at the edge of the Cascade range in Oregon, it comes close to underpowered—and if we accept Subaru’s pitch, such locales are exactly where a lot of Outback owners will be driving their vehicles. The four-cylinder can actually add an element of engagement to the driving, as you might be motivated to use the steps in the CVT to squeeze out some scoot.

The 3.6 isn’t a screamer, but it’s much better across the board, with a deeper well of torque at any speed. There’s just more margin to play with. It also delivers a bit more towing capacity, though max ratings are up with both engines: 2,700 pounds for the 2.5, and 3,000 for the 3.6.

The Outback’s cabin feels as spacious as something ostensibly larger, like a Highlander or Grand Cherokee. The seams are perfect and the finish is richer than ever, with comfortably plush fabric on the cheap seats. There’s nothing seriously off-putting in the switch layout or touch interface, and there are well placed hard knobs—usually large—for the important stuff.

Then there are a bunch of standard convenience items—handy touches that make life easier. These include, but aren’t limited to: A removable, WeatherTech-style rear cargo liner; a cargo shade that stores in its own slot under the load floor; a roof rack with retractable, self-storing crossbars to reduce drag, and wide steps on the rear door sills to comfortably reach the rack. Outbacks equipped with proximity key feature a programmable pin-code button on the hatch that allows the operator to lock the key inside.

Subaru claims that, as a brand, it trails only Jeep and Ram in the amount of time its owners spend driving off pavement. The Outback as a model trails only the Jeep Wrangler. Good, then, that the new Outback is better for off-road purposes than its predecessor.

The improvement comes mostly in the stiffness built into the unibody. Drop opposite corners back and forth through a run of moguls, and there’s virtually no twist in the body. It’s impressively tight. The Xmode electronics make routine to mildly challenging off-road-ascents and descents a no-brainer. You just work the gas and go.

This car’s charm is not hard to pinpoint. The Outback oozes appeal in the pragmatic transportation sense, if not the car-folk sense. With palpable refinements throughout, the 2015 makes a solid case for ultimate automotive appliance

Do I want it?

If you’ve been waiting to trade your 2002 Outback, absolutely. The new one does everything a little better, a little more comfortably and a little more efficiently.

If you are looking for a do-it-all transportation unit that’s reasonably economical to operate, the 2015 Outback is absolutely worth a look. Except if you hate CVTs.

2015 Subaru Outback

Price: $25,645-$39,825 with destination

Available: July-August 2014

Layout: five-passenger front-engine all-wheel-drive wagon

Drivetrain: 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four, 175 hp @ 5,800 rpm, 174 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm; 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six, 256 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 247 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm; continuously variable automatic transmission

Curb Weight: 3,593-3,810 lbs

Performance: 0-60 mph, 9.4 sec (est), 25 mpg city, 33 highway (EPA, 2.5-liter); 7.3 sec (est), mpg city, highway (EPA, 3.6-liter)

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Is Alan Mulally Ford’s best CEO ever? Today is his last at automaker
Posted by :freep On : June 30, 2014

Category: News

On his last day on the job, will Alan Mulally go down in history as Ford Motor’s greatest CEO ever?

Possibly, although surpassing founder Henry Ford, one of the greatest innovators in American industrial history, makes the title nearly impossible for anyone else to ever achieve.

Still, having taken the helm in 2006, it’s easy to argue that Mulally has accomplished far more than any other automotive CEO in recent history. He’ll surely be a tough act for the next CEO, Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields, to follow. Here’s why:

■The plain-spoken Kansan had the guts to mortgage the entire company — right down to the big blue oval logo — to raise cash reserves in 2006. As a result, Ford pulled through the recession in contrast to General Motors and Chrysler Group, which didn’t beat the same path to lenders. Both filed for bankruptcy protection and received federal bailouts. Ford didn’t.

■Mulally straightened out a fractured team of managers. He created a “war room” at Ford’s headquarters where executives met each week to review progress. He turned ever-rosy reports into more realistic assessments.

■He created a movement within the company that he called One Ford, pulling together Ford units around the world to eliminate waste through duplication. No longer would similar vehicles be created entirely separately for different markets around the world. In an industry that’s all about scale, One Ford is probably saving millions.

He leaves Ford with a popular line of small and midsize cars, an array of alternative-power offerings and two key products, both radically redone — the 2015 Mustang and the 2015 aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup.

He’s retiring, but he hasn’t discounted the possibility that he’ll show up as CEO somewhere else. We’ll see.

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ Crew Cab review notes: Chevy’s heavy hauler is now much more comfortable
Posted by :Autoweek – Reviews RSS Feed On : June 30, 2014

Category: Reviews

Chevy’s heavy hauler is now much more comfortable
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ

The diesel V6 in the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ produces 397 hp with 765 lb-ft of torque.
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ

The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ while in our fleet received 13.6 mpg overall.
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ

The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ is equipped with a 6.6-liter turbocharged diesel V6.
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ

The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ comes in at a base price of $49,325 with our tester topping off at $61,235.
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ

Chevy’s heavy hauler is now much more comfortable.
By: Wes Raynal on 6/30/2014

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: The HD Silverado takes all the light duty truck’s improvements and applies them to the big rig. That means a much stiffer frame and cab, more sound deadening and better materials inside, better sealing from wind noise…

I love the new look of the 2015 Chevy Silverado HDs, especially the big chrome front end. You can definitely see this baby coming.

It’s a brute for sure, but now a more refined one. Driving is greatly improved. For a HD truck, the steering feels good, quick and accurate (compared to other HD pickups) and the ride might be the best part. The light duty Silverado’s quietness and ride control are good enough for us to name it Best of the Best (“on the freeway it drives like a luxury car,” we said), and this is close. HD pickups can heave and hop over broken pavement. This one does, too, but not nearly as much as the outgoing model — or the competition. Unsprung weight flailing around and structure shimmies are cut dramatically. On the freeway it’s as quiet as the normal Silverado thanks to the aero work and insulation.

If I was going for a HD I’d definitely pick the diesel and enjoy the 765 lb-ft of torque. This beauty would pull my mom’s 22-foot bowrider around like it wasn’t back there. Want to move your house 6 inches to the left? Here’s your rig.

The interior looks to me straight from the light-duty truck and that’s fine. Refinement is the key here. Like the standard Silverado, this cockpit is well built from quality materials, and the seats are comfortable for long hauls. For Best of the Best testing, we spent days behind the wheel with nary a complaint, and I’d have no trouble doing that here as well.

From the BoB logbook: “If you’re in the market for a truck, the question isn’t whether you want a Silverado; the question is which one you should get.” The decision just got harder.
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ Crew Cab review notes rear
The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD comes in at base price of $49,325 with our tester topping off at $61,235.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: The owner of a Honda Ridgeline– which I described, not entirely negatively, as a crossover with a bed — recently wrote to complain about my testosterone-fueled propensity for unnecessarily large trucks.

He had a point: Most people probably purchase trucks that are, by any metric, far more capable than they’ll ever need them to be. Unless fuel prices plummet and stay low forever, the market for right-sized/mid-sized pickups is only going to get broader in the years ahead. That’s why the GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado are on their way (with updated smaller trucks from Japanese manufacturers supposedly in the works), and not a moment too soon.

But some people need 765 lb-ft of torque from 1,600 rpm and the corresponding 13,000 pounds trailering rating (that’s 17,100 pounds with a gooseneck hitch). Some people want all that plus the ride comfort and amenities of a modern crossover, too. The Ridgeline just isn’t going to cut it for them. And that’s why there’s the 2015 Chevy Silverado 2500HD LTZ Crew Cab.

Depress the accelerator — power is instantaneously, smoothly delivered, all the way up to highway speeds. I didn’t load the truck up this time around, but I have no doubt it would be able to carry a mighty payload without shrugging.

From the moment you hop up and in, though, you’ll never forget you’re in a heavy duty truck. As Wes notes, this truck doesn’t have quite the smooth ride of the non-HD Silverado. Car-length patches of potholes/decayed pavement are the biggest and most unsettling obstacles I came across. When taken at highway speed, these post-apocalyptic stretches of roadway come closest to spoiling the pickup’s composure. But this is characteristic of other heavy duties on the market now — and it’s a subtle reminder that this is as much a tool as it is conveyance.

Then there’s the thirsty 36-gallon tank. Manufacturers don’t publish fuel economy numbers for HD trucks, but I dumped nearly 20 gallons into the tank; I pulled away with a theoretical range of 500 miles and a wallet that was about $80 lighter.

But for people living the Truck Life, this is the cost of doing business. I’d hesitate to pick this over the Ram 2500 out of hand — the Ram packs a few more lb-ft but is costlier, at least in Laramie Limited trim. And I haven’t had a chance to sample Ford’s newest HD offerings. I think the only way to settle this is some kind of three-way heavy-duty shootout complete with tumbling tumbleweeds, an Ennio Morricone soundtrack and that one red-tailed hawk sound effect. You know the one.

Until then, it’s worth trying out all three to see which of these comfortable, capable trucks best suits your needs. You’ll have to weigh the benefits and the drawbacks of diesel power yourself, though. My knee-jerk reaction would be to recommend the oil-burners on feel alone, but whether they’re worth the hefty upfront premium (and the ongoing cost of pricey diesel fuel) will depend on what you do with your truck.

So choose carefully, but choose confidently — you’ve got options, and this is a good one.
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD is equipped with a 6.6-liter turbocharged diesel V6.

EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR KEN ROSS: It never fails: When you get a pickup truck you have to move something. My weekend moving project was a new bed for my now 16-year-old daughter who, in her words, is much too mature for a twin bed. Something I find interesting because I slept in a twin-size bed until I was married. Her old bed is a sort of dorm-room presswood bunk-and-drawer modular setup — very heavy. So the truck was perfect for hauling all of the pieces off to the dump.

Project two: A buddy of mine has been after me to come get some firewood from him, so one half-hour later, I have half a bed full of firewood stacked in the back.

The third and final task was to pick up the new mattress for my kid, which was the easiest part of the day because the queen mattress and bed frame fit like a glove and required only one strap. Twenty minutes later it was home and ready to be set up.

The utility of this truck is clear, and I’m sure anyone with a pickup will attest that it is a work horse, and there is always something you could be doing with it. But Chevy has done an excellent job of making the interior much more comfortable. The cab is spacious and much quieter than I expected with the V8 diesel under the hood.

My only complaint about the truck is that I have to work way too hard when I have one for the weekend.

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ Crew Cab

Base Price: $49,325

As-Tested Price: $61,235

Drivetrain: 6.6-liter turbocharged diesel V8; 4WD, six-speed automatic

Output: 397 hp @ 3,000 rpm, 765 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm

Curb Weight: 7,549 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): N/A

AW Observed Fuel Economy: 13.6 mpg

Options: Duramax plus package including Duramax 6.6-liter V8 turbo-diesel, Allison six-speed automatic trans, Chevrolet MyLink audio system with 8-inch diagonal color touch and navigation, LTZ plus package with power adjustable peals, Bose audio system, front and rear park assist ($9,905); 20-inch forged polished aluminum wheels ($850); heated and cooled driver and front passenger seats ($650); spray-on bed liner ($475); driver alert package including lane departure warning, forward collision alert, safety alert seat ($450); seats, front full feature leather appointed buckets ($325); dual alternator, 150 amp each ($295); 20-inch all-terrain blackwall tires ($200); heated steering wheel ($150); power outside camper mirrors with heat and turn signal ($55); radiator cover ($55)

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Mark Phelan: Tips on saving gas for summer driving season
Posted by :freep On : June 29, 2014

Category: News

As the summer driving season begins in earnest, keeping an eye on your fuel economy can put dollars in your pocket.

The folks behind the invaluable website — the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency — offer some new tips.

First is a new feature that lets you get a detailed cost estimate of your trips and compare the cost of different routes and vehicles. Called My Trip Calculator (, it’s full of surprises.

■ Related: Holiday weekend gas prices to be highest since 2008

For instance, fuel for a family trip from Birmingham to Cedar Point would cost $14.93 in a 2014 Honda Accord, $20.77 in a 2014 Chrysler Town & Country minivan and $12.34 in a 2014 Chevrolet Cruze diesel compact.

There’s one surprising omission in the site’s calculations: It expects you to estimate what percentage of your trip is highway versus city driving, rather than using the mapping database for specific figures. (Based on the route directions, I told it to assume 85% highway for the Cedar Point trip.) Despite that oversight, the site allows you to compare the cost of different vehicles and routes.

You can also program multiple stops. If you continued from Cedar Point for a weekend at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, for instance, the cost rises to $47.93 in the Accord, $66.70 in the minivan and $39.66 in the Cruze diesel. also offers tips to maximize the miles per gallon of hybrids, electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

Among the suggestions:

■ Keep EV and plug-in batteries fully charged. Contrary to popular opinion, frequent charges to top off lithium-ion batteries do not reduce a battery’s storage capacity or shorten its life. Full charges also maximize the distance plug-ins cover before their gasoline engines take over.

■ Avoid hard braking. Steady, gentle braking maximizes the amount of regenerative energy that’s pumped back into the batteries.

■ Use the economy mode. It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t. The econ mode affects other systems, particularly climate control and acceleration, but you won’t know if the change bothers you unless you try it.
So that’s what the little picture of a tire is for

Few things a driver does have a bigger effect on fuel economy than proper tire inflation. The tire pressure monitors that have been mandatory on all new vehicles since model year 2008 should make that easy, but a whopping 42% of drivers have no idea what the tire pressure warning means, according to Schrader International, a supplier of sensors.

U.S. government statistics say underinflated tires lead to 660 deaths and 33,000 injuries annually. Correct tire pressure improves fuel economy 3.3%, but American drivers waste 3.5 million gallons of gasoline a day because of under-inflated tires.
Mini’s big idea

Meanwhile, Mini delighted many observers by dropping a few clues about how the retro small car brand may end the lookalike nature of its current cars and SUVs.

Minis offer great handling and impressive fuel economy, but it’s tough to offer seven or eight different models when your brand’s identity relies on copying the look of a single classic design.

Imagine if every Chevrolet had to look like a ’57 Bel Air, or if Porsche forced the Cayenne SUV and Panamera sedan to look like the 1963 911 sports car. On second thought, don’t.

Mini’s new idea appears to hinge on building a range of small cars with retro looks borrowed from a variety of sporty old models.

The charming Mini Superleggera concept roadster explores the idea. The little convertible’s headlights and grille recall the original Mini, but it’s clearly a new and different car. The stretched hood, long wheelbase and a trunk all break new ground for the brand.

Credit the concept’s Italian flair to Touring Superleggera, the independent design house Mini worked with. Mini hasn’t announced any plans to build the Superleggera, but executives seem enthusiastic about the new vision.

Contact Mark Phelan: 313-222-6731 or Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan.

Children’s Hospital comes to Troy; MEDC grants $987,850 for upstarts
Posted by :freep On : June 28, 2014

Category: News

Children’s Hospital comes to Troy

The Troy Planning Commission has approved preliminary site plans for Children’s Hospital of Michigan at the Detroit Medical Center to build an outpatient facility. The new facility will be at 350 W. Big Beaver Road, Troy.

Groundbreaking is planned for early fall 2014 on the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Specialty Center—Troy. It is expected to be finished by year-end 2015.

The project will provide a $42-million investment, 100 full-time health care jobs, and 60 on-site construction jobs over the 13-month building of the 63,000-square-foot, three-story facility.

MEDC grants $987,850 for upstarts

The Michigan Venture Capital Association has been awarded $987,850 in grant funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. for its Venture Upstart programs.

Venture Upstart programs funded by the MEDC grant include:

■ Venture Fellows Program, designed to increase the number of venture professionals in Michigan, which matches emerging professionals with Michigan-based venture capital or high-growth companies for two years.

■ Executive Connect sources senior advisers for early-stage companies in need of board, mentor, and adviser leadership.

More research on the growth of the angel and venture industries in Michigan can be found at

Technology’s role in economy to be explored

Techonomy Detroit, a conference that explores the role of technology in the economy and society, returns in September for its third annual gathering.

Organizers said this week that the conference will begin Sept. 15 with a reception at the Detroit Institute of Arts, followed by a full day Sept. 16 at Wayne State University.

Confirmed speakers include Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square; industrial designer Brooks Atwood; urban affairs expert Jennifer Bradley of the Brookings Institution; Stacy Brown-Philpot, chief operating officer of Task Rabbit; Joel Gurin, open data expert, author and senior adviser to the Governance Lab at New York University, and Harvard Business Review executive editor Justin Fox.

To register for the conference or get more information, go to

Utility, union open educational center

Consumers Energy and the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) marked the opening of a 10,000-square-foot training center in a Potterville office building.

The new facility at 4815 Lansing Road includes seven classrooms and related labs where employees can receive training in meter reading, gas appliance repair and other service fields, the company and union said in a news release.

The UWUA represents about 2,500 of the company’s 7,500 employees. It took on the responsibility for training its members at Consumers under an agreement signed last year.

Dark Horse to install solar electric farm on roof

Dark Horse Brewing Co. of Marshall will install what it calls the largest solar electric farm of any brewery east of the Mississippi River.

Dark Horse purchased 140 solar panels from Contractors Building Supply Solar of Copemish to cover 6,000 square feet of its production facility roof. The panels will produce about 49,000 kilowatt-hours of power, or about 10% of the energy needs of the brewery and taproom, equivalent to the power needed for five average households.

Free Press staff and Gannett news service reports

2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited review notes: Toyota’s cool old-school SUV
Posted by :Autoweek – Reviews RSS Feed On : June 27, 2014

Category: Reviews

Toyota’s cool old-school SUV
2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited review notes

The 2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited receives an EPA-estimated 18 mpg combined fuel economy.
2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited review notes

The 2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited is equipped with a 4.0-liter V6.
2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited review notes

The 2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited comes in at a base price of $44,260 with our tester ringing in at $46,380.
2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited review notes

Toyota’s cool old-school SUV.
By: Wes Raynal on 6/27/2014

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I’ve always liked 4Runners. In fact, it might be my favorite Toyota over the years. Or at least among my favorites — I dig the Land Cruiser, too. Still body on frame (when most competition has gone to unibody), they seem like tough workhorses to me. A bit old school. I like that. The 2014 version’s facelift was needed. The redesign works for me. I like the more aggressive front grille and the Limited’s chrome snout. The market seems to like it, too, or at least something about it: Toyota moved 6,300 4Runners in April, almost double last year. So far in ’14, 22,000 have found homes. The Jeep Grand Cherokee — another sort of old-school off-roadie-type SUV — still beats the 4Runner like a drum though, with 56,400 sold this year so far.

The Toyota’s V6 with 270 hp won’t win you any drag races. Step on the gas and eventually things happen. The powertrain overall feels a bit agricultural, but I suppose once rolling, it does the job for the most part and gets decent mileage. The five-speed transmission (a five speed! Talk about old school) is smooth — that’s got to be one of the tallest shift levers in the car biz. The ride is mostly good, though I did feel the slightest shuddering over potholes. Didn’t go off-road but would like to — I suspect it would shine there.

There’s a nice high commanding view out, and the interior is well configured and logical if a little hollow sounding when doors are shut and such. There are a lot of hard plastic surfaces in there, though.

The 4Runner is 30 this year, and according to, 90 percent of ‘em sold in the last decade are still going. Impressive.
2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited review notes
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited comes in at a base price of $44,260 with our tester topping off at $46,380.

ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Like Raynal, I’ve always liked Toyota 4Runners a lot. There’s purity to this body-on-frame SUV that I respect, and for Toyota to continue to still be producing it is cool. While most of the competition has migrated over to unibody structures, the 4Runner sticks to its truck roots with a full frame. The Ford Explorer made the transition to unibody a few years back, and the Nissan Pathfinder became a watered-downed crossover when the latest generation debuted. It’s not that I don’t agree with the decision to go unibody, because the sales number show, as Wes points out above, that to sell real well you need the more comfortable ride quality that a unibody platform affords. For the masses, Toyota leans on the Highlander. The 4Runner is for the hardcore off-roaders or people like me who like trucks that drive like trucks.

For 2014, Toyota did give the 4Runner a mild facelift. There’s a new front fascia with altered grille design, headlight housings and redone LED lamps out back. Our Limited model has a chrome grille insert and chrome front bumper. On the inside, the Limited model gains ventilated front seats and memory settings.

In previous 4Runner generations, you could get a V8, but it’s only offered with the 4.0-liter V6 now, and I’m OK with that. It’s powerful enough and makes for a smooth pairing with the five-speed automatic transmission. When you boot it, there is quite a bit of engine noise getting into the cabin, but it’s not annoying. Instead I consider it part of its trucky character.

For a full-frame vehicle, this 4Runner Limited rides real well with the X-REAS suspension system that uses a center control absorber to cross-link shocks on opposite corners. According to Toyota, it automatically adjusts the shock’s damping force to help the 4Runner corner flatter, smoother and reduce pitch. Of course, it doesn’t eliminate roll through corners, but what is there isn’t bad. Steering has some play on-center, and the brakes don’t start clamping down a lot until about a quarter of the way through the pedal stroke, which takes some getting used to. Again, these are things that I put in the trucky-character category.

The interior is simple with large buttons on the center stack to control radio and HVAC functions. There’s an upright seating position. It’s a just-right-sized vehicle that offers comfortable seating for five passengers and enough cargo room to handle 90 percent of your moving needs. Again, there’s nothing fancy inside. It’s just straight forward, which is nice to see.

So the 4Runner certainly isn’t for everyone, and I think that fact is one of the things makes me like it so much. That, and the 1998 SR5 model that was part of the Wong family fleet for more than a decade and had north of 300K miles on it. Sadly, a car accident ended its run, but that thing was a champ.
2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited is equipped with a 4.0-liter V6.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Until the company redesigned the Avalon, the 4Runner was the only car with a hint of style in Toyota’s lineup. This 2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited looks muscular from the sides, imposing from the rear and futuristic up front. Actually, the more I look at that grille, the more it reminds me of the Mitsubishi SUVs, though they were never that big. I think it looks cool.

Inside, there’s obviously plenty of room. The thick steering wheel feels reassuring in the hand, and I love the big twist knobs for the radio, volume, heat and four-wheel drive system. They’re easy to find without looking and easy to control with a little tactile feedback. I want other manufacturers to know you can still use knobs and have a touchscreen. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

I don’t mind the look of the dashboard and central controls, but I could see someone saying it has an ’80s feel to it. It’s sort of futuristic, but also plasticky. But it all works, which is the main concern. I didn’t have my iPod cord, so I can’t comment on how the controls for that work.

I thought it was surprisingly loud in the cabin. The 4.0-liter V6 has a five-speed automatic and some sort of paper mach� for the firewall. I heard a lot of engine noise, though not much from the wind and the road. The 4Runner still feels like a truck over bumps.

Power is average, but the truck’s not annoyingly slow. Throttle sensitivity is great. I had no trouble getting in front of anyone at a red light, which makes for a less stressful commute.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited

Base Price: $44,260

As-Tested Price: $46,380

Drivetrain: 4.0-liter V6; 4WD, five-speed automatic

Output: 270 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 278 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Curb Weight: 4,805 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 17/21/18 mpg

AW Observed Fuel Economy: 17.2 mpg

Options: Automatic running boards ($1,500); special color blizzard pearl exterior paint ($395); carpet floor mats and cargo mat ($225)

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