Exhaust Notes

Decision Guide

Oscar-winning actor will do whatever he feels like in several unscripted commercials for the new MKC.

By Clifford Atiyeh 15 hours ago
Just months after Matthew McConaughey scored his first-ever Oscar for "Dallas Buyers Club," the actor has now signed a multiyear contract to be Ford's "authentic" pitchman for Lincoln.

Like many of McConaughey's film characters, Lincoln has been dazed and confused with its own image as a luxury brand. At this point even Cadillac, a brand that once seemed doomed to obsolescence, doesn't consider Lincoln to be a real competitor. Its miniscule sales and average products have taken a turn since Ford began marketing it as "The Lincoln Motor Company" in 2012 and put John Slattery from "Mad Men" as its leading man. But Slattery, as with Magic Johnson before him, didn't stay too long.

What Lincoln hopes to do now is channel McConaughey's inner Texan and easygoing, pensive personality into a series of commercials and web videos, some of which will be unscripted.  

Automaker to test safety systems at new 500-acre facility in Sweden that mimics real road conditions.

By Douglas Newcomb Thu 12:27 PM

 AstaZero proving ground. Photo by Volvo.Volvo has set an ambitious goal: building vehicles in which “no one should be killed or seriously injured” by the year 2020. While the automaker, like others, can perform a variety of crash tests and trials in labs and other facilities, real-world scenarios are more difficult to replicate. So the next best thing is to build that world.

The automaker is getting help on this from its Swedish neighbor AstaZero, which has just opened what Volvo calls “the world’s first full-scale proving ground for future traffic safety solutions.” Along with help from universities and suppliers, as well as the Swedish government, it’s where Volvo will develop and test new active safety “driver assistance” systems such as its City Safety with pedestrian and bicycle detection that prevent accidents before they happen -- and will help achieve Volvo's no-death goal in six years.

The AstaZero proving ground is located near Volvo’s world headquarters outside Gothenburg, Sweden, and will allow the creation of a multitude of environments, from urban to rural roads to multilane highways. “You can simulate all types of real-world traffic scenarios,” Pether Wallin, CEO of AstaZero said in a statement. “At most proving grounds, the options are more limited.”


Feature of car’s Performance Data Recorder locks storage compartments, disables the radio and videos joy rides.

By Douglas Newcomb Wed 1:18 PM

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Valet Mode. Photo by Chevrolet.It’s a typical question in the minds of many car owners -- and especially those with high-performance cars -- when they hand the keys to a parking valet: What will they do with my car that I won’t know or see?

You have some clues if you get back in your car and the radio station has been changed and the stereo is cranked or there’s extra miles on the odometer. But you don't always know if they’ve pilfered items from storage compartments or took your car for a joy ride.

Now owners of 2015 Chevrolet Corvettes can keep their cars safe and also capture most of what happens with the Valet Mode that’s part of the optional Performance Data Recorder. It not only locks the car’s storage compartments and disables the radio, but also records video, audio and vehicle data even while the owner is away from the vehicle.

“Think of it as a baby monitor for your car,” Harlan Charles, Corvette product manager, said in a statement. “Anyone who has felt apprehension about handing over their keys will appreciate the peace of mind of knowing exactly what happened while their baby was out of sight.”


VW’s super Golf is faster than a GTI -- but is it more fun?

By James_Tate Wed 12:56 PM

You’ve probably seen the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R in photos by now, which means you know it looks a heck of a lot like the 2015  Golf GTI. There are a few visual tweaks here and there, granted, but does the Golf R bring something like 10 grand more goodness than the GTI?

Volkswagen hasn’t announced pricing, but the previous R was around $35,000 and the GTI starts at around $10,000 less than that. See, the GTI is a hell of a good car by any standard, and as you may have expected, the Golf R and the GTI share a lot in common -- even the engine is a couple ticks short of the same.


The Golf R makes substantially more power thanks to a larger turbocharger, different pistons and a revised cylinder head design, and unlike any other Golf, it comes standard with all-wheel drive. There are a few styling cues that set it apart from the GTI both inside and out, but it hardly feels like a completely different car when you swing the door open and plop buttocks in the seat. The shift action is shorter and more positive, and there are blue things smattered about, like the gauge needles and the ambient lighting. There are gigantic quad exhaust pipes, a lot like those that can be found on Audi thundercars (I already miss the center-exit system of the previous R).


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration takes first steps toward mandating V2V technology on new vehicles.

By Douglas Newcomb Tue 1:59 PM

Image by NHTSAFollowing a yearlong, 3,000-car trial of vehicle-to-vehicle communications, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is taking the first steps toward mandating the crash-prevention technology on new vehicles.

NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation have released a proposal and extensive research report on V2V technology that includes analysis of the yearlong field trial in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and other findings in the areas of technical feasibility, safety benefits, privacy, security and estimates on costs.

NHTSA said it would issue another report this month before DOT officials "begin working on a regulatory proposal" to be issued before President Obama leaves office in just over two years. NHTSA is also seeking public input on its research “to support the Department’s regulatory work to eventually require V2V devices in new light vehicles.”


Automaker’s 'hacker princess' heads to Def Con to hire 20 to 30 security researchers

By Douglas Newcomb Tue 8:38 AM

Tesla Model S. Photo by Tesla.As cars become more connected and potentially leave their electronics exposed to hackers, Tesla is using the time-honored "if you can't beat them, join them" approach to battle the threat. Or, more specifically, have them join you. That’s why the cutting-edge electric vehicle automaker was at the recent Def Con security conference in Las Vegas to recruit hackers.

The annual event is where the world’s top network security experts and good-guy “white hat” hackers gather to network, discuss the latest security flaws and devise ways to keep malicious “black hat” hackers at bay. It was also the site of the release of a much-publicized list of the top 20 most hackable vehicles by a team of security researchers.

Tesla felt it was fertile ground for recruiting people to help to keep its cars from being compromised, especially after white hat hackers at the SyScan 360 security conference in China last month revealed that they were able to bypass the security protocols of a Tesla Model S to remotely operate the door locks, sound the horn and open the sunroof.


Ultra-high-end S-class gains a foot in length.

By AutoWeek Tue 7:31 AM

Maybach is on its way back -- though as an ultra-high-end trim level for the new S-Class sedan rather than a stand-alone marque. And this clip of what appears to be a Maybach sedan testing on the Nürburgring, courtesy of the dedicated ’Ring videographers at TouriClips, shows just how close to reality this Bentley Mulsanne competitor really is.

Based on what we can see in the video, the car will look more or less like our early rendering -- except the additional length (about a foot) seems to sit behind the rear doors in the area covered by black camouflage. The result is a more elegant roofline than we guessed at, but the overall proportions are more or less spot-on.

Unlike the Maybach 57 and 62, which were based on the architecture of the Mercedes-Benz W140 -- a sturdy platform, but one that the S-class had already replaced by the time the Maybachs went into production -- this new luxe sedan will share its underpinnings with the current W222 S-class.


To no surprise, '90s-era Accords and Civics were the most stolen cars, along with domestic pickups

By Clifford Atiyeh Sun 7:01 PM
It's not easy to steal a new car. Anti-theft key codes, engine immobilzers and satellite tracking systems with the ability to slow or shut down a stolen vehicle are widely available -- and they work. So it's no surprise that year after year, the most stolen cars on American roads are early to mid-'90s Honda Accords and Civics.

According to the latest theft data reported by law enforcement and compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a nonprofit insurance organization, most of the stolen cars reported to police in 2013 were hot-selling models built before 2000. Final numbers have yet to be announced by the FBI, but the NICB expects a 3.2-percent drop in thefts versus 2012, at under 700,000 cars. That would be a record low not seen since 1967 and a 50-percent drop since a high of 1.66 million cars were stolen in 1991.

On average, a car is stolen every 45 seconds and equates to $4 billion in losses each year. Here are the 217,151 cars (of the roughly 700,000 in total) that popped up enough to make the NICB top 10 list of most stolen models.  


  • 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

MSN Money

About Exhaust Notes

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.

Have a story idea? Tip us off at exhaustnotes@live.com.