Exhaust Notes

Decision Guide


VP praises return of domestic automakers during tour of Detroit Auto Show.

By Douglas Newcomb Jan 20, 2014 9:21AM

While touring the Detroit Auto Show on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden expressed his gratitude to Ford with another one of his unfiltered zingers.

"Thank you for saving our ass," Biden told Bill Ford Jr.,  Ford's executive chairman and leader of its founding family, on the show floor. The comment, according to a press pool report, was in reaction to Ford denying government assistance during the 2009 financial crisis.

Biden said he felt like a “kid in a candy store” after spending 30 minutes eyeing the new vehicle introductions and concepts, and revealed an affinity for American muscle cars by sitting in a Ford Mustang and Chevy Corvette.


Kentucky city opens municipal fuel station to public, raising cries of ‘socialism’ from private stations.

By James_Tate 1 hour ago

The little city of Somerset, Kentucky, is a hotspot for vacationers headed to Lake Cumberland. To combat the city's higher gas prices during the summer vacation season compared to surrounding areas, Mayor Eddie Girdler enacted a bold solution for his 11,000 residents: a city-run gas station with below-average prices.

Predictably, the move has set off a firestorm of controversy in Somerset, with some praising the effort to bring overall area gas prices down and others decrying the move as “socialism.”

Last Saturday, the Somerset Fuel Center opened to the public, selling regular unleaded gasoline only at $3.36 per gallon. The effect of the Fuel Center on area pricing was immediate. The Associated Press reported that four nearby stations dropped their regular unleaded prices to $3.39 per gallon that first day from an average in the mid-$3.40s during the week.


New driver assist systems add extra layer of protection for occupants of upcoming all-new crossover.

By Douglas Newcomb 18 hours ago

Volvo run-off road protection. Image by Volvo.Driver assist systems ranging from active cruise control to lane-keep assist are making driving easier and safer, and are also becoming more common on a variety of vehicles. That means that Volvo, an automotive brand synonymous with safety for decades, has to go even further to stand out from an increasingly competitive and safer crowd of cars.

For the launch of its upcoming 2016 XC90 crossover, Volvo is debuting two new driver assistance systems: run-off road protection and auto brake at intersections.

“These two world-firsts are further examples of how new technologies target substantial real-life traffic problems,” Lotta Jakobsson, senior technical specialist for safety at Volvo Cars Safety Center, said in a statement.


What's at stake in reports and rumors on a possible Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler deal.

By James_Tate 23 hours ago

The German business magazine Manager set off a firestorm of speculation last week by reporting that not only was Volkswagen Automotive Group (VAG) head Ferdinand Piech interested in acquiring Fiat Chrysler (FCA), but that he had discussed the possibility with the Agnelli and Elkann families, who currently hold a 30 percent ownership stake in FCA.

For their part, all parties have denied any talk of a merger, but that isn’t stopping industry analysts from speculating on the whys and wherefores of such a deal as rumors of Piech’s motivations continue to spark intrigue.

What is commonly known is this: Piech’s grand vision for Volkswagen Automotive Group is no less than becoming the biggest auto builder in the world. Piech has publicly coveted Fiat Chrysler's sub-brand Alfa Romeo, most famously in statements at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, annoying FCA Chairman Sergio Marchionne enough to challenge Piech to a "showdown at dawn." Through a source within Piech’s inner circle, Automotive News claims his endgame is a resurrection of the Auto Union name for his theoretical behemoth. The source also says that Piech wants to put his plan into motion sooner rather than later -- whatever that means.


Surround view and side view cameras can help drivers into and out of tight spots.

By Douglas Newcomb 24 hours ago

Backup cameras are not new and they will soon be mandatory on all passenger vehicles. Using multiple cameras so the driver can get a view of different areas around a vehicle is also becoming more common.

For example, Nissan pioneered the overhead “bird’s-eye” perspective with its Around View camera system that was originally available only on its premium Infiniti brand vehicles. But now it’s offered even on the entry-level Versa Note.

The 2015 BMW 428i Gran Coupe I recently tested has about the same number of cameras and views as the Nissan Note, even though it’s a much more expensive vehicle. (And, of course, it’s much more luxurious and has much better performance.) While I’ve previously used all of the camera features found on the 428i in other vehicles, while testing the car I found myself in a situation that gave me new appreciation for the technology.

And during a tropical storm to boot.


Safety tech for new fortwo highlighted in offset test.

By AutoWeek Tue 6:08 AM

The newest versions of the smart fortwo and the smart forfour are just around the corner, and Daimler is set to reassure potential buyers that the diminutive hatches can take a serious hit and still allow its driver and passenger to emerge unscathed.

To this end Mercedes-Benz has pitted the upcoming ForTwo hatch against one of the largest cars in the Stuttgart-based manufacturer's lineup; the new S-Class.

Mercedes-Benz set up the crash test with 50 percent overlap between the S-Class and the 9-foot-long smart fortwo, with a combined impact speed of 31 mph. In creating the new fortwo, Mercedes-Benz's parent company Daimler says that it has undergone the same development program as the vehicle it's going up against, which in this case has more than double the curb weight of the still-small ForTwo (5,088 pounds versus 2,478 pounds).


Report says autonomous technology could benefit criminals.

By Douglas Newcomb Mon 10:44 AM

Lexus self-driving car prototype. Photo by Toyota.Like any technology, self-driving cars could potentially lead to more driver convenience -- and a lot fewer crashes -- but also to some unintended consequences. One of these, according to a recent FBI report, is the potential for criminals and terrorists to abuse autonomous cars to more easily do their dirty work.

In the unclassified but restricted report obtained by British newspaper The Guardian, the FBI said “the risk that distraction or poor judgment leading to collision that stems from manual operation would be substantially reduced” by self-driving cars. And it added that autonomous technology could be approved by the U.S. government within five to seven years.

But while the FBI believes that self-driving cars “will make mobility more efficient,” it said in the report that the technology “will also open up greater possibilities … for a car to be more of a potential lethal weapon.” It predicted that “bad actors will be able to conduct tasks that require use of both hands or taking one’s eyes off the road, which would be impossible today.”


Prototyping company builds a Viper ragtop without official factory approval.

By AutoWeek Mon 6:50 AM

That’s the thing about Americans -- when we don’t like something, we change it. When we want something that doesn’t exist, we simply build it. So is the case with the Medusa, the Prefix Corp.’s take on a drop-top fifth-generation Dodge Viper.

We haven’t seen an open-air model since the “Final Edition” run in 2010, and by the reaction of the crowd in Auburn Hills, Mich., the Viperati are ready for another one.

“It’s gorgeous,” said George Batejan, a Viper owner. “We have three Vipers already and may be in the market for a fourth.”

“Awesome, beautiful,” said ’96 GTS owner Jeffery Millek. “How could it not be a great design?”

Prefix says this prototype was built to gauge reaction, without Dodge's knowledge. Prefix owner Kim Zeile has 10 brand-new Vipers sitting in the shop right now, ready for the transformation. It would take about eight weeks, by conservative estimates, Zeile said.


While that number is five times what Maserati sold last year, it's supposed to ensure the Italian brand's exclusivity.

By Clifford Atiyeh Mon 6:40 AM
Maserati, despite a penchant for parts-sharing with cheaper cars and a new directive to be a volume brand, won't sell more than 75,000 models a year.

According to Reuters and Bloomberg, that's the limit the Italian automaker has self-imposed to keep its "exclusivity." Under the umbrella of Fiat Chrysler and the direction CEO Sergio Marchionne, Maserati has gone downmarket in an effort to boost sales and make the trident marque more popular against mainstream luxury competitors.

Last year, Maserati sold just over 15,000 cars worldwide and wants to ramp up to 75,000 by 2018. At that time, the Levante SUV, a new Alfieri coupe and an updated GranTurismo coupe and convertible will be available from Maserati, not to mention a host of diesel engines. By next year, Maserati plans to double its dealerships to 500. 


  • 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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