Exhaust Notes

Decision Guide

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

By James_Tate Aug 20, 2014 12:56PM

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 Aug 19, 2014 1:59PM

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 Aug 19, 2014 8:38AM

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 Aug 19, 2014 7:31AM

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 Aug 17, 2014 7:01PM
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.  

Diesel bike converted to run on biofuel made from bacon grease for Hormel promo.

By Douglas Newcomb Aug 15, 2014 11:21AM

Bacon-fueled bike. Photo by Hormel.When biodiesel was all the rage a few years ago, it was a running joke that you could get behind a car powered by cooking oil scavenged from the deep fryer at a local fast food joint and get a whiff of French fries. In the last few weeks if you were driving between Minnesota and California, you may have been passed by a motorcycle with an exhaust that smelled like fried bacon.

Hormel, the brand synonymous with packaged meat products, created a motorcycle fueled by bacon grease and sponsored a road trip from the company’s headquarters in Austin, Minnesota, to San Diego. The destination: the Hormel Black Label Bacon Fest that takes place over the last week of August.

But as any road-tripper knows, the real destination is the journey. Or in this case, the chance for Hormel to promote one of its premier products through a series of videos that document a "Driven by Bacon" publicity stunt.


Report looks at what to do with the EV batteries that are predicted to pile up.

By Douglas Newcomb Aug 15, 2014 8:16AM

Checy Spark EV battery. Photo by G<.Driving an electric vehicle is considered good for the environment since it doesn’t use gas and causes zero tailpipe emissions. But one question that EV naysayers ask -- and nags at the owners of these green vehicles -- is what happens to the battery pack when the car comes to the end of its life.

While the number of lithium-ion battery packs used by EVs is dwarfed by the prevalence of traditional (and highly toxic) lead-acid 12-volt car batteries, a recent report predicts that there will be between 1.3 million and 6.7 million used EV batteries in 20 years. Lead-acid batteries are currently one of the most recycled consumer products for environmental as well as economic reasons. But there isn’t a large-scale recycling program in place for EV batteries, except via individual automakers. 

The report by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University in California looked solely at the recycled value of EV batteries, which doesn’t appear promising from a business standpoint. But EV batteries could have a second life and further help the environment in the process.


Video shows driver climbing into the back seat as car barrels down the autobahn.

By Douglas Newcomb Aug 13, 2014 2:00PM

Image courtesy of YouTubeThe thought of self-driving cars operating on public roads scares some people, although they have no problem hopping on a passenger jet that will be on autopilot for most of the flight. They may also be startled to learn there are already several vehicles that can practically drive themselves on the highway, thanks to driver assistance features such as lane-centering and adaptive cruise control.

But they should be frightened to see what a careless daredevil driver did in an Infiniti Q50. The anonymous driver, who made a video to show off his stupid stunt, tried out the car's self-driving features while cruising on the German autobahn by not only taking his hands off the wheel, but also by climbing in the back seat.



  • 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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