Exhaust Notes

Decision Guide

Next plug-in hybrid may cost as little as $30,000 with a reduced electric battery range.

By Clifford Atiyeh Apr 10, 2014 11:57AM
The next Chevrolet Volt will offer two cheaper model variants that General Motors hopes will boost demand for its plug-in hybrid sedan.

Reuters reports that when the next Volt debuts in 2016, Chevy will offer a lower-cost version with less features and possibly reduced battery range that will put the price closer to $30,000. The current Volt costs $34,995 after debuting at $39,995 in 2010, during which its only real competitor was the all-electric Nissan LEAF. GM cut the Volt's price last year after many automakers did the same on their electric cars.

That's no longer the case, as Ford, Honda and Toyota have brought new plug-in hybrids to the fold and Chevrolet itself has offered a full-electric Spark EV for the West Coast at just under $28,000. Even the electric Tesla Model S — with a base price starting at more than $70,000 — is one of the top-selling plug-in cars on the market. 

Previewed on the Mulsanne, headed to production in a new SUV.

By AutoWeek Apr 10, 2014 10:09AM

Bentley is using the Beijing motor show to reveal its new Hybrid Concept. It will preview the company's first plug-in model, with the powertrain expected in a Bentley SUV debuting in 2017. The technology will be demonstrated in Beijing on the flagship Mulsanne.

Right now you should be thinking, “It's Bentley: Does the company really need a hybrid model?” CEO Dr. Wolfgang Schreiber explained why the answer is “yes.”

“There is no doubt that plug-in hybrid technology is true to Bentley's values of outstanding luxury and effortless performance,” said Schreiber. “Combining our renowned engines with electric power reinforces and enhances both principles, and so we will gradually introduce this powertrain across our model range. By the end of the decade, at least 90 percent of our production will be available as a plug-in hybrid. We are proud to be pioneering these developments in the luxury sector.”


Smartphone-based infotainment platform brings navigation, messaging and social media to the dash.

By Douglas Newcomb Apr 10, 2014 7:04AM

Windows in the Car. Image by Microsoft.Now that rivals Apple and Google have made a move into the car dashboard, the question has been what will Microsoft do next? For years, the company (which owns MSN) has provided a majority of the software for automakers’ infotainment systems, and it became a major part of the branding for the Ford Sync system.

But as automotive infotainment has evolved toward integrating smartphones to bring cloud-based content and services into a vehicle, Microsoft wants to move beyond supplying embedded software. Its Windows Phone-based solution, yet unnamed, was previewed as a concept at last week’s Microsoft Build Developer Conference.

Like Apple’s recently announced CarPlay, which extends features such as navigation and music from a connected iPhone into the dashboard using the device’s familiar interface, the new Windows system replicates the experience found on a Microsoft-based PC, tablet or phone on a vehicle’s screen. Also like Apple CarPlay, Windows does this using a “projection mode,” so that it’s much faster and easier to update compared with a car’s onboard connected infotainment system. Since the car's stock system remains in place, think of the Windows version as a separate desktop.


Cameras allow driver to peer through the front and underside of the vehicle to look for obstacles.

By Douglas Newcomb Apr 9, 2014 10:30AM

Automakers continue to find new and innovative ways to integrate camera technology into cars to make driving easier and safer. Now Land Rover's Discovery Concept SUV is taking automotive image processing to new heights -- or rather, new lows.


The vehicle, which will debut at next week's New York International Auto Show, features what Land Rover calls "Transparent Bonnet virtual imaging technology" to enhance driver visibility in tight spaces and while traveling the type of off-road terrain that helped the Discovery (named LR4 in the U.S.) earn its reputation for toughness. Cameras placed under and in front of the vehicle are combined with image processing to send a virtual see-through view to a full-width head-up display in the lower portion of the windshield.

Land Rover's Transparent Bonnet technology not only allows the driver to view otherwise invisible obstructions underneath and directly front of the vehicle for safety reasons, but also the angle and position of the front wheels and how they make contact with the terrain or asphalt.


Land Rover hinted that it could also be the first step in autonomous off-roading. 

Four cars were turned on their sides and rear this week.

By AutoWeek Apr 9, 2014 8:10AM

San Francisco Smart cars are being tipped over under cover of darkness.

Reportedly a group of six to eight hooded miscreants (we'd assume either teens or frat boys) have been flipping the diminutive cars on their sides, backs and roofs. A few witnesses have seen the suspects but have not approached them.

One woman interviewed by NBC Bay Area news thinks it could be a case of have-nots having fun with the haves, though we're not sure about the logic of labeling a Smart car owner a "have."


Analysis shows car companies with least number of recalls over the past 30 years and which ones alert owners the fastest.

By Douglas Newcomb Apr 9, 2014 8:07AM

Auto recallsIf you at all follow the news, you know that the massive number of recalls at General Motors has sparked three federal investigations and a landmark $1.2 billion fine has been leveled against Toyota for misleading consumers about safety defects.

This might make car buyers more concerned about the problems they may encounter down the road with a new vehicle and, specifically, how automakers rate when it comes to recalls. To help answer these questions, as well as how responsive individual automakers are to recalls when a problem is detected, the website iSeeCars.com took a closer look at federal recall data going back 30 years.


iSeeCars analyzed recall rates between 1985 and 2014 for each automaker, and compared it with sales data from 1980 to 2013. The website said it studied recall data starting in 1985 since recalls occur after a vehicle is sold and has been on the road for a few years. iSeeCars said that factoring in total automaker sales versus recall rates allows for an “apples-to-apples comparison across larger and smaller manufacturers and to ensure a fair assessment is being done of automakers of differing sizes.”


More than 1.7 million cars affected in US; three other problems affect non-US models.

By Exhaust Notes Apr 9, 2014 5:49AM
Toyota is recalling 6.39 million cars worldwide for five problems, according to statements by the automaker.

Of the 27 models, eight are affected in the U.S. totaling more than 1.7 million cars. On 1.3 million cars, the driver's airbag could be deactivated due to a cable connecting the airbag module in the steering column that can be damaged when the driver turns the wheel. The 2009-2010 Corolla, Matrix and Tacoma, 2008-2010 Highlander, 2006-2008 RAV4 and 2006-2010 Yaris are affected.  The Pontiac Vibe, an identical model to the Matrix, is also affected and included in this total.

An airbag warning light should illuminate if this occurs, Toyota said. There are no reported injuries or deaths and Toyota did not say when the recall would begin. Dealers will replace the airbag's spiral cable with a new one. 

Trion Supercars' 'Nemesis' is slated to never hit showrooms.

By James_Tate Apr 8, 2014 1:49PM

There’s a new supercar maker out there. Or, to be more precise, a new company that says it will make a supercar.

That company is called Trion Supercars, and the car it’s promising is called the Nemesis. According to founder Rich Patterson, his supercar will go 270 mph and take just 2.8 seconds to reach 60 mph, thanks to a twin-turbocharged 2000-horsepower V8 engine. It will have an 8-speed sequential transmission, and hybrid and electric versions will also be offered. Oh, and the body will be partially composed of Inconel (a nickel-chromium alloy) and sit on a chassis made of carbon fiber.


There's no word on whether the Nemesis will run on unicorn dreams, but we have our fingers crossed that this could be the first supercar to run on the promising new fuel. What the supercar will offer is “predator mode,” which affects interior illumination, ride height, suspension characteristics, rev limit, exhaust and, of course, active aerodynamics. To quote the website: “Equipt with active aero-dynamics that are programable to suit the drivers mood! [sic]”



  • 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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