McLaren 650S Spider goes Topless [video]

mclaren 650s spider

The McLaren 650S has now gone topless, just what guys like to see, at the Geneva Auto Show.  The McLaren team from Woking, England have shown off a slick McLaren 650S Spider convertible in Geneva this week.  As with it's cousin, the McLaren MP4-12C Spider, it shares a platform and features a nice retractable hardtop.  The top takes 17 seconds to take off and can be accomplished at speeds up to 19 mph.

What goodies will the McLaren 650S come packed with?  The same carbon fiber MonoCell chassis on the McLaren 650S coupe and it didn't require additionally support or engineering.  It only weighs 88 pounds more actually.  It also comes with the same lighy alloy wheels, carbon ceramic brakes, and Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires.

It also comes equipped with the 12C-derived 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 which has 641 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque.  Some how fast will the McLaren go?  It goes from 0-62 mph in 3.0 seconds, and can gom from 0-124 mph in 8.6 seconds.  Top Speed? 204 mph.

This isn't far behind the coupe meaning you won't sacrifice performance for going topless.  Your McLaren lady only look better.  🙂

You probably don't care but the McLaren wil also get 24.2 mpg apparently.  (That's European testing it will be lower when those EPA people get their hands on the McLaren 650S Spider.)

2014 CarNewsCafe Awards

The CarNewsCafe editors have decided to bestow a select group of cars and vehicles with “CarNewsCafe Awards” highlighting the best cars of the year.  We looked at the line-ups of cars in all available segments and categories and determined what we felt was exceptional in terms of price, features, and design for this year.  While we always feel there are a lots of great vehicles out on the market at any given time, the cars and trucks chosen here stand above the competition.  That's why they deserve an award from us.

Best Small Car – 2014 Kia Forte

While there is a lot of competition in the small car segment, and it is only getting more intense, Kia has managed to surprise the auto industry with some killer cars the past few years.  The 2014 Kia Forte is no exception and when you consider the value-for-money it's hard to beat it, which is why it earned CarNewsCafe's “Best Small Car” of 2014 award.  Read our 2014 Kia Forte Review to see why it's such a great small car.  It's small, zippy, comfortable, and snazzy enough to get compliments from your friends.  It comes in a range of body styles (coupe, sedan, hatchback) filling a wide variety of needs.  Sales of the 2014 Kia Forte have done well so far and we expect Kia to do even better in the coming year thanks to other great models in the line-up.

Notable mentions in the small Car Category go to the 2014 Chevy Sonic2014 Ford Fiesta, and the Nissan Sentra.  Read our 2014 Chevy Sonic Review, our 2014 Ford Fiesta Review and our Nissan Sentra Review.

Best Midsize Sedan – 2014 Mazda6

The 2014 Mazda6 exudes design and sexiness that you rarely see in midsize sedan.  The fact is the car looks beautiful and we believe it will likely be a future collector car.  In addition, for the value, you will not find anything better in the midsize sedan category.  Along with Mazda's SKYACTIV technology improving the entire efficiency, engineering, and design of Mazda's lineup, including the Mazda6, it's hard to think of another car we would have picked for our “2014 Best Midsize Sedan.”

We liked the 2014 Mazda6 so much we even wrote two reviews about the car on CarNewsCafe.  Check out Aaron's Turpen's 2014 Mazda6 Review and Nicolas Zart's excellent 2014 Mazda6 Video Review.

A notable mention for oust Best Midsize Sedan of 2014 goes to the 2014 Ford Fusion.

Best Small Crossover – 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO

If you want a fun rally car that can be used for hauling kids gear on the weekends too, the 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO is your best option.  While not on the top of  everyone's list for a good small crossover since the styling is quite polarizing, we think the Nissan Juke NISMO has a lot character and packs a punch, thus earning it our title of “Best Small Crossover”of 2014.  There is a lot of unexpected value and fun here.

Read our Nissan Juke NISMO Review.

Best SUV/Crossover – 2014 Subaru Forester

The 2014 Subaru Forester provides an all around great mix of affordability, off-road capabilities (if needed), reliability, and practicality; which is hard to beat in this segment.  In addition while other SUVs are not fun to drive, the Subaru Forester is.

Even though Aaron Turpen in his 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander vs 2014 Subaru Forester match up gave the Outlander the win, we feel that out of all the competition for 2014 Best SUV/Crossover the Subaru Forester wins overall.

Notable mentions go to the Toyota Rav4 (checkout our Toyota Rav4 Review) which just fell short of being our 2014 Best SUV/Crossover this year.  The 2014 Kia Sorento (also read our 2014 Kia Sorento Review) was another good contender for the category year.

Best Luxury SUV – 2014 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport

Hands down the best luxury SUV this year goes to the 2014 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport.  There's a reason this luxury SUV has stayed on top of the competition, it's the best in it's class.  It's got a sweet and smooth ride, great tech features for the price, and is sporty for an SUV.  Great for suburbanites or those living in the city that want a country “getaway vehicle” for long trips.

Read our 2014 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport Review and you will see why it was chosen as our “2014 Best Luxury SUV.”

Best Full-Sized Truck – 2014 Toyota Tundra

The 2014 Best Full-Sized Truck goes to the 2014 Toyota Tundra, which might surprise some.  Building trucks is not what Toyota is known for since their bread and butter is sedans and smaller cars.  However the 2014 Toyota Tundra shows they are in the truck game.  The 2014 Toyota Tundra gives you everything you would need in a truck, great towing capacity, nice features, good fuel economy, and comfort.  Perfect for buying a lot of lumber and tools for those house projects you will never finish.  Right guys?  Let us know when your wife stops nagging you about it.

Check out Tim Esterdahl's great 2014 Toyota Tundra Review and see why the Tundra earned our award for “2014 Best Full-Sized Truck.”

Best Mid-Sized Truck – 2014 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X

The Nissan Frontier Pro-4X is not a truck that Nissan has been marketing well, which we don't understand.  It's great for those that want a nice off-roading machine without having to do many modifications or buy aftermarket parts they need to install themselves.  If you are looking to spend about $35,000 for an off-roader, this is an excellent choice which is why it earned our “2014 Best Mid-Sized Truck” award.  Read our Nissan Frontier Pro4x review and to get a better idea why.

Best Green Car – 2014 Nissan Leaf

The Nissan LEAF is the best-selling electric car of all time and earns the CarNewsCafe “2014 Best Green Car” award.  Quite simply the 2014 Nissan Leaf is the most versatile and easily price-justifiable of all the available green and electric cars out on the market.  We like how it's a true electric car.  The Nissan Leaf is not a modified small car and wasn't built to be California compliant car.  It's engineering and design is around being an electric car.  If we wanted a “Green Car” we would buy the Nissan Leaf with our own money.

Best Sports Car – 2014 Jaguar F-Type

The Jaguar F-Type is a sexy beast, no matter if you choose the coupe or the convertible.  On top of being a great looking car it handles like a true sports car should and the design is meant to remind us of the heyday of the Jaguar E-Type.   The Jaguar F-Type was recently named 2014 Car of the Year by Playboy and it is coming off the heels of a successful marketing campaign from the Super Bowl “British Villains.”

If you've bought a Jaguar F-Type, when you drive you are likely not thinking of anything else.  If you buy a sports car, that's the way it should be.  That's why the 2014 Jaguar F-Type is gets the CarNewsCafe 2014 Best Sports Car award.

Best Chick Magnet – 2014 Fiat 500L

If you want to attract chicks, you better buy a Fiat 500L.  Aaron Turpen said this is likely a better chick magnet than VW Beetle Convertible Turbo.  What else do you need to know?  (I imagine many guys just stopped reading this and are already in their cars driving to a Fiat dealership.)  Read Aaron's 2014 Fiat 500L review so you get to know the features, like the button that makes girls come over and check out the Fiat 500L.

Best Car for a Date – Alfa Romeo 4C

Once you get a hot date, are you going to show-up at her house with a Fiat 500L?  No, you gotta show up with something that says you are stylish, sophisticated, and cool but not snobbish.  This stunning Italian machine says all of those things.  While the Alfa Romeo 4C is not available for sale in the U.S. yet, it will be eventually as Alfa Romeo is coming back.  (We even believe Dodge will get killed to make way for Ala Romeo in the states.)  It's sex appeal is through the roof, just look at it, which should help you accomplish your dating goals.

Article originally published on CarNewsCafe

How to Save Money on a New Car Purchase

Recent new car sales numbers have shown the auto industry is in a rebound. Even with the recession still hitting many people hard it seems some people still need to buy new cars.  The rise in consumer confidence may have triggered this growth in new car sales, which is good sign for the economy.

It is important to remember that when purchasing a car one’s own financial situation remain the most important consideration. Even if you are able to buy a brand new vehicle, it is important to be frugal and strive to strike the best possible deal whatever your financial situation.

Saving Money on your New Car Purchase: 3 Tips for Success

With this in mind, what practical steps can you take to shop frugally and make an affordable new car purchase? Consider the following: –

  1. Choose your Buying Resources Wisely: If you are motivated by finding an affordable new car, then dealerships should not be your source of information. Instead, you should visit online resources such as Exchange and Mart or Consumer Reports to access a wide range of vehicle information across a range of brands.  In addition to this, it is also easy for you to offer your existing car as a trade-in on the new model, which can drastically reduce the cost on your new car purchase.  Keep in mind dealerships make my money on used cars than new cars so be careful how they structural the deals. 
  2. Pay Attention to Financing Plans and Agreements: When buying a brand new car, the majority of consumers are forced to pay with a fixed financing agreement which may not be their best financial choice. While this spreads the cost of the car over an agreed period of time, you need to be able to commit to making regular payments. Failure to do this will trigger late payment fees and headaches. You should find a good car loan rate through a local bank or credit union. In addition to this, be sure to read the financing terms in full and review these carefully to make sure there are no hidden catches that will come back to bite you later.
  3. Choose a Medium or Low Trim model for you New Car: There are numerous Trim levels on certain car models, which cater towards a range of budgets and expectations. While each Trim is going to offer different features, there won't be that much difference in the overall car. Buying a car with all the “bell and whistles” won't necessarily keep the value if the car or automaker doesn't have a good reliability rating and depreciation outlook. It's best to choose a lower Trim model and pay a little more fore certain features you want without going over you budget on a car that is not that different.

5 Car Insurance Myths Debunked

car insurance myths

There is a lot of misleading information out there about car insurance that gets repeated so often people believe it to be true.  However, most of these so called car insurance myths neglect vital facts and more importantly facts that could save you money.  Since these misconceptions often influence what a person buys and drives for a car, which is a big decision, taking a closer look at car insurance myths is a good idea.

5 Car Insurance Myths Debunked

  1. Both New and relatively New Cars cost more to insure: While this is generally true as cars depreciate in value over time, there are many factors involved in determining rates for auto insurance for a given make or model and the replacement cost of a vehicle is a relatively small piece of that.  Better safety features and a steady insurance track record can potentially result in a new car having a lower rate than your current vehicle.  Living in a saving neighborhood with lower crime can also drastically lower car insurance rates. 
  2. The color of the car changes insurance rates: The truth is your insurance company does not know what color your car is and probably doesn't care.  They don’t ask and no, the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) does not indicate a color. Bright red or plain white, if the same make, model and driver are involved the same rate will result for insurance.
  3. Sports cars get more speeding tickets and will make rates go up: Not true, 9 of the top 10 models in terms of speeding tickets are non-performance vehicles. Insurers are interested in how many speeding tickets you have, not how many a type of car might get. Rates for sports cars are higher based on horsepower and insurance claims records, not the likelihood of picking up a ticket.
  4. Tickets in other states do not change insurance: Not only do insurance companies regularly find these tickets, but if they find them after the event has occurred you may be dropped from coverage completely or they may refuse to pay a claim as it was a fraudulently obtained policy. It is expensive regardless so make sure your insurance will pay if a claim needs to be filed by being above board to start with.  
  5. Full or comprehensive coverage insurance means they pay for everything: Full coverage insurance is a loosely defined term to mean both liability coverage and loss coverage. With comprehensive coverage damage to your car in an accident, theft, and fire are typically covered. Glass coverage, towing and rental coverage, theft of property in the vehicle, etc. are areas that may or may not be included. To compare policies and premiums you need to look at each of these things, not simply request a quote for full or comprehensive coverage as that definition can be very different from one policy to another.  

Policy limits also exist in every policy so even if the same things are covered but one insures for a total of $10,000 medical coverage (a 3 day stay or less sometimes in a hospital) and the other for $100,000 then the rates are different and rightly so. Often super cheap policies are dropping all coverage to the minimum legal amounts for a state. Saving $30 every 6 months is not a bargain at the risk $90,000 in medical bills if the situation would warrant the latter.

Most full service insurance agents will happily take the time to go over different options available to you in car insurance from ways to cut the cost down to ways maximize protection in the areas of coverage you need. AXA is an example of a website that allows you to tailor a policy online and then have an actual agent review the policy to address any questions. Many online insurance companies now will allow you to print all the policy details to compare accurately. Doing the investigation before shopping for your new car or used car can save you a lot of frustration with car insurance down the road,  Literally and figuratively speaking.  

Spark EV Photo Gallery

When I went up to GM's Baltimore operations in White Marsh, MD I took a lot of pictures of the Spark EV.  It took me awhile to go through my pictures and figure out which ones were good, and which ones could be moved to the trash.

Luckily I was the first group of journalists to get a chance to drive the Spark EV, but the sun wasn't out when I took pictures in the morning.  I later came back to take better pictures of the later in the day when the sun was out so the Spark EV could shine in all it's glory.  While it's not a style icon I don't think it doesn't seem to be a bad looking car.

If you would like to use any of these photos on your auto blog or auto news site, you are more than welcome.  However you must give credit and provide a link to the source (this blog) if you do so.  Please contact me first as well just so I know were the images are being used.

GM starts production of Spark EV electric motors in Baltimore

2014 spark ev

General Motors (GM) unveiled the start of production for electric motors that will be equipped on the 2014 Chevy Spark EV at the automakers' Baltimore facility in White Marsh, MD today.  (Ok, that is not technically Baltimore but it is close enough.)  This makes GM the first automaker to assemble and build electric motors in the US.  In addition the plant will also manufacture and assemble transmissions for the Spark EV.

The 2014 Spark EV will represent a big shift for GM.  While many point to the Chevy Volt's success, the company hasn't released a fully electric car that has been available to the public since the EV1.  We all know that the EV1 was a PR nightmare for GM and is it important to note that the EV1 was not available for the general car buying public to buy.  Oh, the times are changing though.

GM seems to be committed to building electric cars like the Spark EV and being environmentally friendly at the same time.  Not only will the GM Baltimore Operations be building electric car motors  and transmissions, but it also has a solar panel array on the Baltimore operations that generate 1.25 megawatts of electricity.  I was told this provides roughly 9% of the energy for the plant, which isn't a lot but that is not bad either.  The Baltimore facility is also 100% landfill free.  Materials are either burned for energy, recycled or reused for other projects.

Larry Nitz, GM's global electrification director, mentioned that the through the whole process of designing the Spark EV that GM was, and is, customer focused.  “Quiet, reliable, fun.” is how he described the Spark EV.

Having driven the Spark EV around the closed Baltimore operations facility, I do agree it is all three of those things.  It is surprisingly smooth and has good pick-up but certainly is not fast.  (Some fit and finish could use a some work though.)  It is hard to tell from a drive that only lasted 5-10 minutes and was not on real roads though.  As well you need to have a GM engineer making sure you aren't doing burnouts or anything.  That is something a particular auto writer might have suggested.

GM has not announced official pricing for the 2014 Spark EV but has said it should be under $25,000.  With a tax credit of $7,500 it should be affordable for the average consumer putting it right in the electric car market with the Nissan Leaf.  While the Spark EV seems like it will be fighter against the Nissan Leaf, Nissan has sold 50,000 Leafs since the car's introduction.  This makes the Nissan Leaf the best selling electric car of all time and most likely will be hard to catch-up with in terms of sales.  (The Prius does not count since it is a hybrid, which has a gas motor, in case you were thought “What about the Prius?.”)

GM has also not confirmed the exact date when the Spark EV will be available for sale.  Larry Nitz did say during lunch that only a select amount of Chevy dealerships will be selling the Spark EV.  This is the similar strategy that GM used for the Chevy Volt launch.  No word on how many GM expects to sell or what the electric motor output for the Baltimore plant is.  (I asked they didn't say or budge a bit.)

Since this was a big announcement for GM and the area as a whole.  Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley was on hand, as well Baltimore county executives, today to show his support for GM and the push to electrify the nations's vehicles.  Governor O'Malley even took a spin around in the Spark EV exclaiming as he got in, “I haven't done this in 13 years!”  I guess that shows how pampered politicians are! 🙂

You can see my video of Governor O'Malley taking the 2014 Spark EV for a spin.  I need to work on my video editing skills a lot though.  (Btw Windows Live Movie Maker sucks!)

One surprising guest I noticed at the event today was Debbie Phelps, Michael Phelps mom. I guess Debbie Phelps is now a celebrity in Baltimore so she gets invited to events like this Spark EV gathering.  My guess is that Michael Phelps, Baltimore's most famous and beloved athlete, could easily buy his mom a 2014 Spark EV (well probably like 20) without affecting his wallet too much.  She didn't drive a Spark EV, she just rode along in one, so I am unsure if she will be buying one in the future.

All in all it will be interesting to see what is next for the Baltimore facility in terms of manufacturing capabilities for electric motors and transmissions and if this will extend to other parts of the US.  As well what is next for GM and their electric car future.

Stay tuned for more articles about the Spark EV and Baltimore GM plant.