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XE will square off against the BMW 3-Series with style and efficiency.

By AutoWeek Sep 8, 2014 2:29PM




Jaguar expects the its all-new XE sedan to go head-to-head with the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and other luxury standbys when it goes on sale in 2016.


Our first impressions of the car unveiled Sept. 8 in London are positive: It's a clean, well-proportioned sedan with short overhangs, a long hood and a short deck. It will look familiar if you've seen the XF, but it's a tad shorter -- compare its 111.6-inch wheelbase to the XF's 114.5 inches -- and tauter. Rakish, even, especially from the rear.


Powertrain information and performance numbers remain incomplete for now, but we do know what sits at the top of the XE range: A supercharged 3.0-liter V6 good for 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Presumably, this is the raucus motor we know and love in the F-Type. Like the F-Type, it's backed by a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. There are paddle shifters. The 0-60 time is a stated 4.9 seconds. Top speed is 155 mph.

 

Pesky flower could provide an alternative to rubber-tree plants grown in Southeast Asia.

By Douglas Newcomb Sep 4, 2014 1:43PM

Photo by Flikr user Louise Docker
Dandelions may be an eyesore to homeowners who try in vain to eradicate the pesky plant from their lawns. But where some people see trash, Dutch biologist Ingrid van der Meer sees treasure -- and a potential alternative to rubber for tire makers.


"People just think of it as a horrible weed and ask, 'How can you get enough material for tires from just a small root,'" Van der Meer told Business Insider. She and her team as well as other researchers around the world are studying the potential of a type of dandelion native to Kazakhstan whose taproot produces a milky fluid that contains tire-grade rubber particles.


One of the reasons the dandelion is an attractive substitute to the rubber tree is also the reason it's so resilient: It can grow in poor soil. Another is that, unlike rubber trees that are tire makers' main source of raw material, dandelions can be grown in regions other than the tropics.


This would give the tire industry more control over rubber supplies. And it would mean the industry wouldn't be at the mercy of a fungus that could affect rubber tree plantations and severely impact rubber prices.

 

Plant will dramatically expand lithium-ion production

By AutoWeek Sep 4, 2014 6:55AM




Tesla Motors will construct its long-discussed Gigafactory, a plant that will construct lithium-ion batteries bound for electric cars, near Reno, Nev., according to local sources. We expect more information after a Thursday press conference.


Previous reports suggested that Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas were also in the running; details of what, if any, incentives Nevada may have offered the automaker remain unknown for now.


The Gigafactory’s goal, according to a Tesla statement from earlier this year, is to “by 2020, produce more lithium-ion batteries annually than were produced worldwide in 2013.” No small task, that. Another stated goal of the Gigafactory: Reducing the cost of Tesla’s automotive battery packs by 30 percent after just one year of operation.

 

Report claims automaker will incorporate eye-tracking technology in 500,000 vehicles.

By Douglas Newcomb Sep 3, 2014 9:18AM

Seeing Machines' Fovio device. Photo by Seeing Machines.Driver distraction is not a new problem. But these days more drivers are looking away from the road to glance at portable devices -- and increasing their chances of becoming distracted and a danger to themselves and others on the road.

 

While a furtive glance down at a device is now a common sight on roadways -- and if seen by law enforcement can cause a driver to be ticketed -- vehicles from General Motors may soon be watching whether drivers are distracted. According to The Financial Times, GM plans to incorporate head- and eye-tracking technology in 500,000 vehicles over the next three to five years to keep tabs on where drivers are looking.

 

The newspaper reported that GM's safety component manufacturing partner Takata has signed an agreement with the Australian group Seeing Machines to supply such tracking devices. GM is listed on Seeing Machines' website as a partner for the company's Fovio device, and so are Ford, Toyota and Volvo.

 

GM wouldn't be the first car company to incorporate cameras into cars, although it hasn't commented on the report.  

Study finds 31 percent increase in insurance claims for stolen tailgates; Texas tops list.

By Douglas Newcomb Sep 3, 2014 5:05AM

Photo by FordPickup truck sales are on the rise, and so are truck tailgate thefts. After analyzing insurance data for the past two years, the National Insurance Crime Bureau found that claims for stolen tailgates jumped from 831 in 2012 to 1,090 in 2013, a 31 percent increase.

 

The majority of claims (92 percent) involved personal vehicles, while only a fraction (8 percent) were attributed to commercial vehicles. But the NICB found that claims associated with commercial vehicles each involved the theft of multiple tailgates, indicating that the total number could be higher.

 

Three states, all in the southwestern part of the U.S., had the highest number of claims and accounted for 67 percent of all claims during the period. Texas topped the list with 752, followed by California with 334 and Arizona with 207.

 

Texas also had the top three cities with the most tailgate theft claims, and six total in the top ten.

 

Proprietary streaming music service in the CLA 250 provides a cool soundtrack of curated music, but with lots of lag.

By Douglas Newcomb Sep 2, 2014 12:53PM

Mercedes-Benz Radio in a 2014 CLA250Streaming audio has become a must-have infotainment feature, with the popular service Pandora Radio becoming a standard in many vehicles. A 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 I recently tested uses TuneIn instead of Pandora as part of an optional apps package for the subscription-based mbrace Plus telematics system.


It also features Mercedes-Benz Radio, a music channel that provides “a hand-picked selection of music, all day long, every day of the week, commercial‑free.” The music “is based on the curated style and genres of Mercedes‑Benz Mixed Tape” assembled by the Mercedes-Benz online magazine mb!, and it’s also available as a music stream on a computer or via a mobile device.


I really liked the music provided by Mercedes-Benz radio, and that someone was playing deejay for me. Mercedes-Benz Radio also had a cool feature I haven’t seen in other cars, but was frustratingly slow to respond.

 

Rapid advances in passive and active safety systems are leading to fewer crashes.

By Douglas Newcomb Sep 2, 2014 12:50PM

Photo by Nissan.Deaths from car crashes reached record lows in 2009, thanks to safer cars, and since then the number of highway fatalities has held steady at around 30,000 annually. Now imagine what it would take to get that number to zero.


While this may seem like an unobtainable objective, experts think that many highway fatalities can be avoided due to recent improvements in passive auto safety such as  airbags, and that car crashes could even be eliminated through active safety technologies like driver assistance systems that prevent accidents before they happen.


"It's a tall order," Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, told CNBC. "But the goal is definitely feasible. We're already seeing this happen."


As proof, IIHS plans to release a new study next month that reveals no deaths occurred in a record number of vehicles from 2009 to 2012.

 

Study finds connecting devices to cars via Bluetooth is second biggest complaint among consumers.

By Douglas Newcomb Sep 2, 2014 8:24AM

As automakers add more connected features to their cars, using Bluetooth for making hands-free phone calls is by now a basic technology, and the connection for more advanced functions.


But according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates, the second biggest complaint consumers have about the technology in their cars is simply getting their phones to connect with a car via Bluetooth.


Similar to J.D. Power’s much-watched Initial Quality Study, the 2014 Multimedia Quality and Satisfaction Study queried more than 85,000 new-vehicle buyers after their first 90 days of ownership on the quality, design and features of their audio, communication and navigation systems. Issues with Bluetooth followed only voice recognition as the most reported problem.


While owners reported fewer problems overall with Bluetooth compared with last year — 5.7 problems per 100 vehicles in 2014, down from 6.3 in 2013 — Mike VanNieuwkuyk, J.D. Power’s executive director, global automotive, told Automotive News that this still a “very high level problem.” Especially given the prevalence of Bluetooth in cars and that even the most basic feature, phone pairing, is giving consumers fits.

 

Contributors

  • Cliff Atiyeh

    Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Raised in Volvos, he has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He is the senior news editor at MSN Autos and also reports for Car and Driver, Road & Track, The Boston Globe and other publications.
    In the garage: 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (not his)

  • Doug Newcomb

    Doug Newcomb has covered car technology for over 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Edmunds.com. In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and technology.
    In the garage: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, two 1984 Chevrolet Blazers, 2008 Honda CR-V

  • James Tate

    James Tate learned to drive stick at age 13 in a 1988 Land Cruiser - in La Paz, Bolivia. He's since been a mechanic, on a pit crew and has wrenched on every car he's owned since his first 1989 Honda CRX Si (and won't stop until the car is a 1973 Porsche 911 RS). His work has appeared in Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Automobile and others.
    In the garage: 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera, 1988 BMW M5

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Cars are cool, and here at MSN Autos we love everything about them, but we also know they're more than simply speed and style: a car is an essential tool, a much-needed accessory to help you get through your day-to-day life. What you drive is also one of the most important investments you can make, so we'll help you navigate your way through the car buying and ownership experiences. We strive to be your daily destination for news, notes, tips and tricks from across the automotive world. So whether it's through original content from our world-class journalists or the latest buzz from the far corners of the Web, Exhaust Notes helps you make sense of your automotive world.

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