Exhaust Notes

Decision Guide


Exterior upgrades -- and a performance modification for the Challenger -- darken the lineup.

By Car_and_Driver Nov 9, 2012 12:21PM

Encouraged by the success of last year’s Charger Blacktop edition—first previewed by the Blacktop Challenger concept from 2008’s SEMA show—Dodge has decided to expand the program to include the Avenger and the Challenger for 2013.

Comprised largely of signature exterior visual cues—and a few select performance mods in the case of the Charger and the Challenger—the Blacktop package allows buyers to get a slightly more aggressive appearance with a single check on the order sheet. Pricing, colors, and kit vary from model to model, so pay close attention.

Based on the SXT trim level, the Blacktop Edition Avengers come in Black, Redline Red 2, Bright White, Tungsten Metallic, and Billet Silver Metallic exterior finishes. Eighteen-inch aluminum wheels and the grille get treated to a coat of gloss black, which is accented by dark-tinted headlight bezels and a body-colored rear spoiler. When it’s all said and done, the Blacktop Avenger’s exterior modifications add $595 to the bill.


Federal prosecutors are now after a former Ford engineer for planting voice recorders in meeting rooms.

By Clifford Atiyeh Fri 1:41 PM
FBI agents have swarmed Ford headquarters this month -- and not to place bulk orders for new Police Interceptors.

The Detroit News said it received search warrants stating a surprise FBI search of the company's Dearborn, Mich., headquarters two weeks ago. Agents were there to find eight electronic voice recorders that a former Ford engineer was caught allegedly hiding under conference room tables.

Sharon Leach, 43, was fired in June after company security found the recorders and deemed her activities suspicious and potentially threatening its trade secrets, according to the News. While federal investigators haven't filed charges against Leach, they did search her home in June and took her computers, tax records and other documents.  

Base model starts at $15,670.

By AutoWeek Fri 12:30 PM

Toyota redesigned its Yaris subcompact for 2015. The new nose looks to be directly borrowed from the 2014 Corolla. It returns in both three- and five-door trim, with a fresh interior to match the new sheetmetal.


The new Yaris comes in three trims: L, LE and SE. Standard features include air conditioning, power windows, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, daytime running lights and 15-inch wheels. The upgraded LE trim adds cruise control, power mirrors, steering wheel audio controls and keyless entry. The top SE trim continues to pile on the options with projector headlights, fog lights, a rear spoiler and 16-inch alloy wheels. SE is also the sportiest trim, so it gets a solid stabilizer bar, “sport-tuned” suspension and bigger brakes in front.

Inside, the high-spec model comes with a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, its own unique sport fabric and gloss black accents. All models get a 6.1-inch touchscreen, USB port, Bluetooth and voice recognition. Navigation is also a dealer-installed option for the first time.


Motorized tank on wheels uses camera, software to analyze where a fish may want to go.

By Douglas Newcomb Fri 11:46 AM

Fish on Wheels. Photo by Studio Diip.Self-driving technology is developing fast. So fast that now even a goldfish can "drive" its tank just by swimming in a certain direction, thanks to a project by the Dutch design firm Studio Diip.

“We wanted to make something that showcases computer vision technology, but not in such an industrial way,” Diip co-founder Thomas de Wolf told Popular Science.

While the project is a gimmick to get attention for Studio Diip, the firm said on its website that it “wanted to show that computer vision technology is not just limited to the usual automation projects or information gathering. It can also create interactions that are so simple that they can empower animals. Fish on Wheels shows this by allowing fish to move their own fish tank, if they are smart enough to understand this.”

But they're probably not, since these commonplace aquatic pets supposedly have a memory of just three seconds.


Ferrari's first mid-engine V12 production car, a rare and unusual masterpiece, heads to auction.

By James_Tate Fri 9:16 AM

Of all the rare, exquisite vehicles up for auction next month at the Pebble Beach Concours, one stands out for its unique nature and provenance: the 1966 Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale, also known as "Tre Posti." Tre Posti earns its nickname for its unusual layout of three front seats.

This remarkable Ferrari was built for Luigi Chinetti Sr., a legendary figure in Ferrari history who was the first, and for many years the only, Ferrari factory dealer in the United States. Chinetti was instrumental in making Ferrari the iconic brand it is today, not only as a dealer but also as a racing driver, winning Ferrari’s first and last LeMans races (in 1945 and 1965) along with two victories at the Spa 24 Hours.

In keeping with Chinetti’s racing history, Enzo Ferrari and legendary designer Sergio Pininfarina built the Tre Posti as a prototype derived from the 365 P2 race car of the era, one that Chinetti's North American Racing Team had been racing successfully.


Tensions between countries lead to request about Grand Prix.

By AutoWeek Fri 7:40 AM

With political tensions running high between Britain and Russia, at least two British politicians have put on pressure on Formula One to cancel the Russian Grand Prix, which is scheduled to take place in Sochi on Oct. 12.

The F1 event was thrust into conversations after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in Ukraine, killing 298 people.

According to the Telegraph, David Davis and Sir Menzies Campbell are both calling for the race to be cancelled.

“If Russia continues as they have been doing, then the Grand Prix is one of many things that they should be denied,” said parliament member Davis, who is a former minister in the Foreign Office. “F1 already had a problem in the past with Bahrain. While I’m not particularly in favor of cancelling sports events at the drop of a hat, I think that Formula One should reflect the global outrage. It would be an important and appropriate response to cancel the race.”


Prototype intrusion-detection device to debut at upcoming computer security conference

By Douglas Newcomb Thu 11:36 AM

Car anti-hacking device. Courtesy Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek.Last year, digital security experts Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek made headlines by hacking a Ford Escape and a Toyota Prius and publicizing the results.

Now the pair are proposing a possible a solution to keep car hackers at bay via a prototype intrusion-detection device that they plan to debut at the Black Hat USA security conference in Las Vegas next month.

Using a laptop plugged into the data port under the dash of the two vehicles, they demonstrated how hackers with similar access could wreak havoc, ranging from honking horns to disabling brakes.

Their car hacking experiments were part of a military-funded project completed while the two were on sabbatical from their day jobs, Miller as a security researcher for Twitter and Valasek as director of vehicle security research for the consulting firm I/O Interactive. Their goal was to show how cars are vulnerable to digital attacks, although they acknowledge that a hacker would need the same unfettered access to accomplish the same sort of mischief. 

Analysis finds most ragtop purchasers are over 45 and have annual incomes above $175,000.

By Douglas Newcomb Thu 8:44 AM

2015 Ford Mustang Convertible. Photo by Ford.Think of convertibles and the image that typically comes to mind is of a carefree young person, couple or group of friends driving with the top down, sunglasses on and the wind whipping through their hair. But in reality, most convertible drivers are graying, empty-nest baby boomers wearing prescription lenses and considering the returns on their 401(k) accounts.

That’s the picture that a recent Experian Automotive analysis paints of people who purchased convertibles in the first quarter of this year. By looking at vehicle registrations between January and March, the credit reporting agency found that more than 72 percent of consumers buying a ragtop during that period were more than 45 years old, whereas only 60 percent of all average new car buyers were of the same age.

And given the age of these convertible buyers, it’s not surprising that Experian also found that those who purchased a drop-top this winter in anticipation of warmer weather ahead were also wealthier, better educated and had no kids at home when compared to all other new car shoppers.


Mid-engine hybrid sports car destroyed in Germany, no one hurt.

By AutoWeek Thu 8:10 AM

There's a reason manufacturers extensively test new models, and the incredible fire damage seen on this Acura NSX prototype offers a glimpse at what can go wrong.

We don't know the circumstances surrounding the fire, which occured during testing on the Nurburgring, but the driver reportedly made it out of the NSX unscathed. It's safe to say the car will be a writeoff, however.

"Acura can confirm that an NSX prototype experienced a fire today while testing at the Nurburgring. We make safety a top priority, and fortunately no injuries occurred," the company said in a statement. "We are investigating the cause but as the vehicle is still under development, we're not in a position to share details.  While an incident like this is unfortunate, the development of the NSX continues its progress toward its highly anticipated launch."



  • 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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