Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shameless Self-promotion

2014 Mercedes GLK 250 BlueTec 4Matic

You can find my Toronto Star coverage of this year's AJAC Canadian Car of the Year here. My assigned category at this year's TestFest was "Best New SUV/CUV ($35K-$60K)". The Mercedes GLK turbodiesel pictured above was among the entrants in this category for 2014, and counts as one of my favourites. Others included the GMC Acadia Denali, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Kia Sorento.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Shameless Self-promotion

2013 Chevy Malibu LT
Yet another tardy update for my blog. I'm going to blame it on having a busy life. It might also be from spending too much time watching entire seasons of TV shows on DVD with my family. Being too busy sounds better, so we'll go with that.

The car that you see above is Chevrolet's 2013 Malibu in LT trim. You can read my Wheels review of it here.

The gist of it is this: the last Malibu was a decent enough car*, and this one largely builds on that car's success. There are some problems though, not the least of which is a seemingly insignificant reduction in rear seat that occurs at a time when most of the Malibu's competitors are expanding that same dimension. It's also arguable that this generation's styling is nothing special, however changes have occurred for 2014 that help in that regard.

* (Keep an eye open for my future blog entry on one particular, very stupid shortcoming of the previous generation Malibu.)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Shameless Self-promotion

2013 Cadillac XTS Premiere AWD

Oops! Hadn't realized that I hadn't updated my blog to reflect the publishing of this article. You can find that article - my Toronto Star Wheels review of Cadillac's 2013 XTS - here.

As a side note, my shooting this car at the location of this photo (taken in the XTS' hometown of Oshawa, Ontario), was interrupted by a police officer (I had driven into this parking lot right past him as he sat in his Tahoe) who apparently felt that my picture-taking - in what was admittedly a private-property parking lot - was an issue, despite the fact that I was not in anyone's way, was not in anyone's spot, did not block a driveway, and was not shooting anything that could possibly identify the location or infringe on someone's privacy.

Officer, thank you for ensuring that at least one of the photos that I did get before you parked your Tahoe in front of this caddy got submitted, as that was the photo that my editor chose to run.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Shameless Self-promotion

Toronto Star Wheels - April 13, 2013
I'd love to link you to my latest contribution to the Toronto Star's Wheels section - my coverage of the 15 finalists for the inaugural Canadian Green Car of the Year Award - however it does not appear to be on their website,, at the present time. I guess you'll just have to check out some less than stellar photos of the paper until such time as I can properly scan it, or it gets uploaded. That's my photo of the Mercedes-Benz B 250, incidentally.

While not known in time to make the press, the overall winner was the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Sorry about the second-rate posting, folks!

Toronto Star Wheels - April 13, 2013

Toronto Star Wheels - April 13, 2013

When Engineers Get Bored (or, another small part of why GM went bankrupt...)

2009 Pontiac G5 and 2006 Chevy Cobalt

On its own, engineering a vehicle is no easy task. Every component has to meet conflicting goals of being able to fulfill its purpose (whether it's an exterior part that simply has to look good and not weather fade in six months, or a suspension part that has to survive a decade or more of repetitive salt immersion and continual structural loading) while costing a minimum to produce, and increasingly, it has to do it while being as light as possible while remaining durable enough that it won't fail during its anticipated lifetime. I get this.

Typically, each and every part in an automobile, from the lowliest little clip, to major components like an engine block or body panel, has a part number, and those parts have to be cataloged, inventoried, warehoused, shipped, and carried by their respective dealerships. Imagine the costs involved just in that alone.

So redundancies would seem to be a costly, wasteful proposition, right?

Please note the two cars seen in the photo above. The foreground car is a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt sedan. In the background is a 2009 Pontiac G5 coupe. Both of these cars are essentially identical, save for the body style (which just happens to vary in these two cars), and some minor trim and fascia parts. Both are built on the same version of GM's corporate platform known as Delta (first sold here as the Saturn ION), very probably in the same facility.

With so much commonality, you would expect that both of them would use identical parts, except where items specific to the two door/four door body and brand-specific differences came into play, right? That would just make sense.

Look a little closer. Notice anything?

One of these things is just like the other (but not)...

These two cars happen to feature an identical 16 inch wheel design (odd, as one is a Pontiac, and one a Chevrolet), fitted with the same 205/55/16 tires size, but they're actually not identical parts; count the wheel-nuts. They use two different bolt patterns. Which means that these cars will have, at the minimum, two different wheel hub/bearing assemblies - at each end, as front and rear are also different - and two different brake rotors (front) or drums (rear). Not to mention the wheels, which are not simply the same wheel with extra holes, as the back side of the casting is unique to each configuration.

Now, in fairness, this 2006 Cobalt has a marginally less powerful version of the same 2.2 litre four cylinder engine used in the 2009 G5 (which may actually have slightly larger rotors), but we're talking less than 10 hp and 5 lb-ft of torque, and in 2006, both four and five-bolt wheels were available in the Cobalt line using the same size brakes. (Later Cobalt SS/Sport and G5 GT models had yet again a different brake set-up, with even larger four-wheel discs.)

So it begs the questions: Who thought that it would be a good idea to engineer and produce two otherwise identical wheels with differing bolt patterns, and - this is the big one - why in hell would you spend the time and resources to create, produce, integrate into the production process, and stock two completely different sets of wheel-end components to meet the same engineering needs in a single vehicle line?

All non-supercharged IONs, even those with the Delta platform's "big" 2.4 litre engine, used four-bolt wheels, so I fail to see any engineering justification, other than perhaps to keep some engineers busy.

On its own, this pointless expenditure would be a drop in the bucket, but enough single drops together can break a dam, and there's little doubt in my mind that this and countless other questionable decisions contributed to GM's financial woes leading into the late 2000's recession and subsequent bailouts. While I'm just as certain that GM is far from being the only company to suffer from this kind of thing, these two cars illustrate the problem brilliantly.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Shameless Self-promotion

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL (2013 Canadian International Auto Show)

You can find my Wheels Special Section article on new crossover vehicles to look for at the 2013 Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shameless Self-promotion

Alfa Romeo 8C Spider (R) and 8C Competizione (L)

You can find my Wheels article about the most exclusive production car present at eh 2013 Canadian International Auto Show (Toronto) here.

At the time, my information said that the Spider - the white car seen above - would be at the show, however a still-stunning Coupe, in the same red seen above, was on hand instead.

Shameless Self-promotion

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, in a rare (for my blog) rear view shot. Much more interesting than the front.

You can find my Wheels article on the most interesting cars to be seen at this year's Canadian International Auto Show (Toronto) here.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Shameless Self-promotion

1903 Ford Model A - The oldest known Ford in existence
During the Detroit Auto Show itself, Wheels' Blog was second ranked in Google searches of the show only to the show's official site itself. Now that the buzz has died down and the media days are over, it's a little harder to find: you can find it here.

Shameless Self-promotion

2013 Toyota Tundra CrewMax

You can read about what I and my fellow Wheels journalists found interesting and impressive at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit here.

As you may have guessed, Toyota's Space Shuttle-towing Tundra truck was among the more interesting things (beyond the obvious choices of cool concepts and new sports cars) to be found on the show floor. Toyota has set up a mini site elaborating on the whole story that can be found here.

Shameless Self-promotion

Honda Urban SUV Concept - 2013 North American International Auto Show, Detroit

You can read my Wheels coverage of the new crossovers and production-ready concept crossovers introduced at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit here.