Exhaust Notes

Decision Guide

Six dedicated or hybrid variations planned for 2012.

By Joshua Condon Sep 16, 2010 2:11PM
The Toyota Prius. (Photo courtesy of Toyota.)Toyota plans to offer six hybrid models across the globe in 2012, including a plug-in Prius model in the United States, according to The New York Times "Wheels" blog. The hybrid lineup will include both hybrid versions of existing models as well as dedicated hybrids.

One of the dual-powertrain variations will be a hybrid RAV4 built in collaboration with Tesla Motors and scheduled to be unveiled at the L.A. Auto Show in November. The plug-in Prius is expected to sell for $3,000 t $5,000 more than a gas-electric Prius, which can run from $23,000 to $33,000. 

By Bradford Wernle and Mike Colias, Automotive News

By AutoWeek Sep 16, 2010 12:58PM

The 2012 Dodge Viper concept looks a lot like the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. (Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo.)

The 2012 Dodge Viper concept resembled the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione with a Viper face, a source said. The Competizione is a limited-edition supercar that was sold in select Maserati dealerships in North America.

In 2009 Alfa Romeo brought 84 coupes and 35 Spiders to the United States for sale in seven Maserati dealerships. The cars were sold before they were delivered. At $299,000, the Spider version was the most expensive Alfa Romeo ever.


E-Fuel products let you create your own fuel.

By Joshua Condon Sep 16, 2010 12:12PM
The E-Fuel MicroFueler. (Photo from E-Fuel.)Thanks to a pair of devices from E-Fuel, it's now possible to make your own biofuel right at home.

The E-Fuel MicroFueler, around since 2009, can convert sugar-rich liquids such as waste alcohol into what's called E-Fuel100 ethanol -- a fuel you can put directly into your car (assuming, of course, your engine is configured to run on biofuel) or use in generators to provide household electricity. The MicroFueler can't handle cellulosic waste material, such as compostable organic matter, but E-Fuel's new product, the MicroFusion Reactor, can. It breaks down organic matter into lignin powder and sugar water within a couple of minutes; the sugar water can then be used in the MicroFueler to create E-Fuel100 ethanol. 

The insurance industry wants teens off the road, period. But there's a potentially deadly payoff.

By AutoWeek Sep 16, 2010 10:28AM

As part of a NHTSA campaign, posters at www.nhtsa.gov cite statistics about nighttime driving, texting while driving and teens driving with two or more teen passengers. (Via AutoWeek.)By J.P. Vettraino 

News that fewer teenagers are getting driver's licenses has been greeted with consternation in some corners, but it couldn't make the insurance industry happier.

There are lies, damned lies and statistics--and sometimes legitimate, measurable trends. While some experts have quibbled about how some states report their information, no one argues the basic point: More teenagers are forgoing a driver's license longer than at any time in at least 20 years.

The most recent federal data say that, compared with a just a decade ago, about 17 percent fewer 16-year-olds exercise their right to obtain a driver's license. Released by the Federal Highway Administration last spring, the figures compare the number of teens who obtained their licenses annually from 1999 through 2008. The downward trend extends beyond 16-year-olds.

Fewer 17-year-olds--16 percent fewer, as a share of all 17-year-olds--got licenses in 2008 than in 1999. In some states, fewer 18-year-olds got licenses, reducing the national take rate for that age by 8.4 percent. Put another way, the number of newly licensed U.S. drivers ages 16 to 18 declined by 161,000 between 1999 and 2008--even though the number of people in that age group increased by 1,051,000 during that time. A host of social, economic and regulatory issues might contribute to this trend, and one of them might be graduated driver licensing (GDL).


TTRS is the baby R8 we’ve all been waiting for.

By James Tate Sep 16, 2010 7:19AM
2011 Audi TTRSManufacturers can hold back interesting models from American shores for any number of reasons. Typically, it has to do with emissions or crash standards that would either cost too much to meet or be too much of a hassle to test. But occasionally, automakers keep hopped-up sports machines that are available in Europe off the American order sheet because they’re worried that the vehicle might snap up sales that would otherwise go to another important model in the showroom.

Until recently, we thought that’s why buyers in the old country could have their way with the 360-horsepower Audi TT RS, while in the States we were stuck the less than pulse-quickening, 265-horsepower TTS. With just 60 horses fewer than the mighty R8, the TT RS is capable of blasting off zero-to-60-mph runs in the 4.6-second range; the company’s midengine halo R8 can achieve the same in 4.3 seconds. We’re guessing that the average buyer won’t be able to tell the difference -- they will, however, notice the staggering disparity in price between the two cars. 

Automotive X Prize announces awards.

By Joshua Condon Sep 15, 2010 9:35PM
Two of Edison2's Very Light Cars (in silver and black) and one of the X-Tracer vehicles (in yellow) take to the track at the Michigan International Speedway during the finals of the Progressive Automotive Insurance X Prize. Edison2's Very Light Car No. 98, the car in the lead, won the top prize of $5 million, and the X-Tracer team won $2.5 million. (From MSNBC.)After months of evaluating 136 vehicles from 111 teams around the world, the $10 million in prize money has been divvied up among the three ultra-fuel-efficient winners of the Automotive X Prize.

The first prize purse of $5 million, in the mainstream category, was awarded to the Very Light Car from Edison2, a team of racing engineers from Lynchburg, Va. The vehicle had to meet several requirements: seat four; achieve a zero-to-60-mph time of 15 seconds or less; include a heater, air conditioner and stereo; carry 10 cubic feet of luggage; and a boast a driving range of at least 200 miles. Oh, and get at least 100 mpg; that part is important. The Very Light Vehicle, living up to its name at a mere 800 pounds, achieves all of this thanks to an extraordinarily low drag coefficient -- a definite necessity when your Yamaha 250cc internal-combustion engine running on E85 fuel puts out a mere 40 horsepower. 

A performance version of the Focus is headed to the U.S.

By Joshua Condon Sep 15, 2010 3:02PM
The Ford Focus ST. (Photo courtesy of Ford.)European badges take note: Ford believes America is a viable market for small, sporty cars -- which is why the company will unveil three new body types for the newest Ford Focus at the Paris Auto Show later this month and, thankfully, the company today announced that a performance version, the Focus ST, will indeed be headed to the U.S.

The new Focus will go on sale in Europe, the dominant market for hot hatches, later next year; the U.S. models will hit in 2012, probably as a 2013 model year vehicle.

The Focus ST will be a front-wheel-drive vehicle with a 250PS performance version of the 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine -- a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 250 horses. 

By Dale Jewett

By AutoWeek Sep 15, 2010 1:26PM

Ken Block smokes around l'Autodrome in the Gymkhana Three video. (Photo via AutoWeek.)

Rally star and DC Shoes purveyor Ken Block has delivered another piece of wild driving with his latest Gymkhana video--this time carving up the high-banked track at France's Linas at l'Autodrome.

If you can dream it, Block can do it--180-degree and 360-degree turns and figure eights in a custom-built, all-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta. There's even a shower of sparks at the end.

Block's Fiesta for the Gymkhana Three video is built by Olsbergs Motorsport Evolution and weighs 2,425 pounds. The Olsbergs engine can make up to 800 hp but was restricted to 650 hp for the video to give Block a fat torque band. With a six-speed sequential transmission, the car delivers 660 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm and can rocket from 0 to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds.

That's enough words. Let's watch:



  • 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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