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'Shop-Click-Drive' allows consumers to obtain a price, trade-in value and financing – and bypass the showroom.

By Douglas Newcomb Oct 14, 2013 2:26PM

GM's Shop, Click & Drive. Image by GM.With the goal of bringing car shopping out of the showroom and onto the Web – and with an eye on the pockets and purses of the tech-savvy millennial consumer – General Motors plans to expand an Internet-based new-car sales tool that could potentially bypass dealers.

The online application, “Shop-Click-Drive,” allows buyers to obtain the final price of a new car, get an estimate of the trade-in value of their used car, request financing and even set up delivery of the new vehicle, without ever visiting a showroom.

Currently 100 dealers are signed on to a pilot program that launched in January in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Arizona, and now GM plans to expand it nationwide. It’s seen as a test of whether an automaker with an established dealer network can sidestep existing showrooms to allow customers to complete the car-buying process entirely online – and a first cautious step around strict state franchise laws that exist to protect dealers.


$800,000 limo updates the Communist Party's ride of choice.

By AutoWeek 17 hours ago

China's oldest car company rolled out its first vehicle on Aug. 1, 1958; it was a chrome-lined black sedan designed -- like the pastiche of 1950s cars it resembled, including the Packard-esque Chaika -- to strike equal amounts of fear and inspiration into the revolutionaries.

In Chinese, "Hongqi" in means "red flag," the most potent symbol of the Chinese Communist Party, making it a fitting name for a company that supplied the apparatchik. A symbol of power, a sphere of influence, a four-wheeled Great Leap Forward! Curiously enough, it took Nixon's 1972 visit for Mao Zedong (who finally swore off the Soviets and their ZIS-110s) to get into a Hongqi.

But by then, the die was cast. Hongqi was the official car of the Party, a vehicle spoken about in hushed tones. Even if the sphere of influence may be eroding, the glassy, gleaming red flag still stands tall and proud, defending its occupants against bourgeois paper tigers.

Today, you can ride around in your own Hongqi; in lieu of loyal service to the Party, you can provide something even more valuable: cash, and tons of it. How shamelessly bourgeois, you might say, and you'd be pretty damn right.


Racing film to keep star's character, likely with some computer graphics.

By Clifford Atiyeh 17 hours ago
Detective Brian O'Connor will play out the remaining scenes of "Fast and Furious 7," thanks to late actor Paul Walker's two brothers and high-tech computer graphics.

The film's producers said on Facebook last week that Walker's brothers Cody and Caleb are helping to fill their brother's starring role as body doubles. A photo taken on set in Abu Dhabi by costar Ludacris and posted to his Instagram account showed Cody sporting the cropped haircut and beard style of Paul's leading character.

"We have resumed shooting and now welcome Paul’s brothers, Caleb and Cody, into our FAST family," the producers said. "Caleb and Cody are helping us complete some remaining action for their brother and fill in small gaps left in production. Having them on set has made us all feel that Paul is with us too."
An earlier report by the New York Daily News said the movie would digitally enhance Paul's face on the body doubles for certain unfinished scenes and would retain his voice as a narrator. Walker died in November from a fiery car accident in Los Angeles in which he was a passenger.

[Source: Facebook via Car and Driver]

Multifunction display allows endless tweaking; borders on information overload.

By Douglas Newcomb Mon 12:50 PM

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek HybridI’ve written before about Subaru’s elaborate multifunction display (MFD), which packs a lot of info and capability into a rather small 4.3-inch screen at the top of the dashboard. In the 2014 Subaru Forester, it shows everything from calendar items (such as birthday reminders wrapped with a virtual ribbon) to more obscure items such as “Accelerator Opening Ratio” and turbo-boost pressure.

Fuel economy stats are typical for these types of supplemental displays, and they are key in the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid I recently tested. The MFD in the XV Crosstrek Hybrid doesn’t add anything different than other hybrids, which is to say it has a graphic showing the power flow between the gasoline engine, electric motor, hybrid battery and regenerative braking.

But what stood out to me once again was the depth of adjustable features available through the MFD, and how it’s almost overkill. Accessing these features through steering-wheel buttons and the menu structure in the MFD can be awkward until you get the hang of how it all works.


Meant to echo the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Amphibicruiser combines off-road and on-water capabilities.

By Douglas Newcomb Mon 11:52 AM

Dutch Amfibious Transport Amphibicruiser. Photo by Dutch Amfibious Transport.The 1980s-era Toyota Land Cruiser 70 is legendary for tackling almost any type of terrain. But after a company called Dutch Amfibious Transport (DAT) is done building its Amphibicruiser around a Land Cruiser engine, the vehicle can take to the water as well.

DAT is no stranger to producing amphibious vehicles. The Dutch company also builds the Amfibus that’s used to conduct land-and water tours around Rotterdam. But the Amphibicruiser — which was originally created as part of a fleet of self-driving, all-terrain vehicles commissioned by a safari park in Asia — is more for personal land/water transports as opposed to a hands-off experience.

DAT decided to develop the Amphibicruiser into a series of production vehicles and started customer delivery last October. According to the company, the craft can be piloted with very little training since the steering and controls work in the water as they do on land. And to get the Amphibicruiser in and out of the water requires only a gently sloped bank.

"We wanted it to be as solid on water as the Land Cruiser is on land,” DAT co-founder Dirk Jan de Jong told Gizmag.


AT&T network will serve as data pipe for Volvo's connected infotainment, telematics.

By Douglas Newcomb Fri 8:17 AM

2015 Volvo XC60. Photo by Volvo.As the race to turn cars into mobile internet devices heats up, AT&T announced it will pipe cellular data into Volvo vehicles starting this summer. Certain 2015 Volvo models equipped with the company’s Sensus Connected Touch infotainment platform and On Call telematics system will use AT&T’s cellular network.


Sensus Connect offers an in-dash Internet connection that can also be used to create a Wi-Fi hot spot in a vehicle, cloud-based navigation, streaming music apps, live weather reports and more. Volvo On Call features automatic crash notification, roadside assistance and other telematics services and works with a smartphone app to remotely control vehicle functions such as door locking and unlocking as well as providing info including location and fuel level.


AT&T and Volvo have not announced pricing or availability.

“That will come a little closer to launch,” Chris Penrose, AT&T’s senior vice president of emerging devices, told MSN Autos. “You’ll begin to see vehicles rolling out and AT&T activating them this summer, and you’ll see that continue to roll out across vehicle lines. It’s a multi-year relationship with Volvo, not only for the U.S. but also Canada.”


Fit-based subcompact SUV will go on sale in the U.S. this winter slotted below the popular CR-V.

By AutoWeek Fri 7:54 AM

Honda has released images of the upcoming HR-V compact SUV, known globally as the Honda Vezel.

The HR-V will be based on the 2015 Honda Fit, though the model itself will not be debuting at this year's New York Auto Show. The HR-V is expected to go on sale at the end of 2014, though Honda has not released extensive details about this new entry into the crossover segment. The HR-V will be aimed at the Nissan Juke and the Chevrolet Trax, with the latter going on sale around the same time.

The Honda HR-V was last seen in concept form at the Detroit Auto Show last year, and this week company has released images of what they promise the production version will look like. The production version has carried over the tall ride height of the Urban SUV Concept, though its front fascia now resembles the CR-V more than the concept did.


New 1.0- and 1.3-liter units bring elements of hybrid power to standard gas engines.

By James_Tate Thu 7:31 AM

In a press release this week, Toyota unveiled a new pair of engines designed to improve fuel economy. Now there’s hardly anything new in that; all automakers are scrambling to improve efficiency as government standards and customer expectations increase.

What is new in Toyota’s 1.0-liter 3-cylinder and 1.3-liter 4-cylinder gas engines is the implementation of Atkinson cycle technology. Usually seen only in engines fitted to hybrid powertrains, the Atkinson cycle process increases the engine’s expansion ratio, reducing waste heat and improving thermal efficiency.

Toyota also modified the intake ports within the cylinder and a cooled exhaust gas recirculation system mated to its Variable Valve Timing-intelligent Electric technology maximizes combustion while minimizing waste. Toyota claims increased combustion ratios will preserve torque loss usually associated with Atkinson cycle engines.


Alfa-Romeo’s New York Auto Show reintroduction to America has us wondering about its prospects in the States.

By James_Tate Thu 6:10 AM

Among the 60 new vehicle reveals at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, one has generated an overwhelming degree of buzz — the Alfa Romeo 4C. That’s because this year’s New York show is Alfa’s big coming out party, signaling its reentry into the American market after nearly 20 years.

Alfa imports into the U.S. ceased in 1995; now under Fiat’s umbrella, Alfa Romeo plans on making a big splash with the 4C sports car. So where does Alfa go from here? And what can we expect from it as it tries once again to make it big in America?

Alfa Romeo is at a crossroads in its existence. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is reportedly unveiling a five-year plan for the "new" Alfa in May. Speculation suggests that the 4C will spearhead an influx of Alfa models targeting the Audi/BMW/Mercedes-Benz consumer base. Among those would be a new flagship sedan sharing underpinnings with the new Maserati Ghibli, intended as a competitor for the BMW 5-Series, and new all-wheel drive crossover/SUV offerings taking advantage of tech from Jeep. At this point, all we can say for sure is that whatever the new America-bound Alfa Romeo lineup will look like, we won’t be seeing any of it until 2015 at the earliest, and when it does arrive, it will bear the burden of great expectations and tough goals to meet.



  • 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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