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Motorhome and trailermaker expands Sprinter-based RV line with new version; we say “road trip!”

By James_Tate Sep 11, 2014 5:18AM

If you hadn’t noticed yet, we love the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. We love it in all its forms: stock, all-wheel drive, and in fully-customized luxurious “balla’ status” trim. There’s another version of the Sprinter that bears mentioning — the Airstream Interstate, a motorhome built on the Sprinter platform. Our excuse for talking about the Interstate is that Airstream has just announced that in addition to the current base Interstate and long-wheelbase EXT variants, it will begin offering a new Grand Tour version beginning with the 2015 model year.


Based on the Interstate EXT, the 2015 Grand Tour offers roomier interior accommodations compared to the base Interstate trim, including a larger bathroom area, expanded galley (with additional counter space and storage), oversized refrigerator and freezer, a working desk, and standard power awning. There are optional dual screen doors for open-air outdoor stays.


ITS World Congress demos include technologies for self-driving and connected cars.

By James_Tate Sep 9, 2014 6:02AM

Honda is taking this week’s Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress in Detroit to reveal new automated driving and connected car technologies.

Manufacturers are in a rapidly escalating arms race to bring advanced driver assist systems to the market, and Honda is trying to make a big splash for the American debut of its Automated Highway Driving system.

Honda is sending cars equipped with the system around an eight-mile loop of Detroit’s freeways, demonstrating the Automated Highway Driving system’s automatic steering and braking capabilities, along with its ability to change lanes and enter or exit freeways on its own.


Although it debuted a car that virtually drives itself, the automaker will focus instead on active safety technology.

By Douglas Newcomb Sep 8, 2014 2:49PM

Toyota Automated Highway Driving Assist (AHDA) systemAfter debuting an autonomous car at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Toyota said last week that it's not developing a completely self-driving model like most automakers and Google. Instead, Toyota said it will focus on advanced safety and convenience features that can assist drivers by taking over braking and steering.

"Toyota's main objective is safety, so it will not be developing a driverless car," Seigo Kuzumaki, Toyota's deputy chief safety technology officer, said at a seminar outside Detroit last week, which MSN Autos attended.

But Toyota did give us a demo drive in a Lexus GS that virtually drove itself in a loop around downtown Detroit, if just for short stretches. The technology, called Automated Highway Driving Assist (AHDA), is similar to certain models from Mercedes-Benz.


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.



  • 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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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.

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