Subaru's magic buttons, and the Four Levels of Stability Control.

Reviews of cars, trucks, and other autos.
Sept. 19 2005 6:34 AM

Pushing Subaru's Buttons

The Four Levels of Stability Control, revealed!

(Continued from Page 2)

Saturn, in general, will have the same vehicles as Opel and Vauxhall.

"The difference between Opel and Vauxhall in Europe and Saturn in the U.S. was a difference that wasn't producing any benefits for us," Lutz said.

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The problem with this new approach, historically, was that Opels sucked. But the Saturn L-series, which was basically an Opel Vectra, bizarrely managed to achieve good reliability in its final years of production, according to Consumer Reports. Gearbox will therefore suspend its usual anti-Opel ranting . ... except to note that the zoomy future Saturn Vue (i.e., the Opel Antara) doesn't seem to have a whole lot of room inside. ...  9/14/05

Die Banglerdammerung: BMW sold 9,159 of its new, bigger, more powerful, redesigned bread-and-butter 3 series cars in August—but that's only 919 more than the August 2004 total for the old, smaller, less powerful, unredesigned 3 series. Granted, BMW moved a lot of the older-model 3 series cars in 2004 by offering favorable prices. But the pattern of contrived, pretentious Bangle-era BMWs—at least as exemplified by the Z4 sports car—is that they sell well enough at first but fall off rapidly once the shock of their radical styling fails to wear off.  If I were BMW CEO Helmut Panke, with the future of my company riding on the 3-series with its gracelessly clenched rear end, I'd want a bigger first-year cushion than 919. ... P.S.: Why does the new  Z4 coupe look better than the Z4 roadster? One theory: They made it look like it has rear haunches. Second theory: Hardtops have permission to be brutal ... 9/14/05

Skoda Yeti Roomster: "The critics call this car the answer for all active people looking for a car that can take them exactly where they want to be." 9/15/05

Certified pre-run items:

My Zeta Jones: This Autoweek report  suggests GM's decision to cancel its rear drive "Zeta" cars—only to later revive them in another form—has been more damaging than I thought. It's delayed their introduction by three years—from 2007 to 2010 ("at the earliest") in the case of Buick's Roadmaster. But, hey, with a gas crisis looming I bet GM is glad it chose instead to rush its new full-size SUVs to market! ...Update:Why is rear drive more fun? A couple of years ago I claimed that there were actually  five big reasons. I was wrong. There are six! The sixth is the superior steering feel of rear-drive, which Motor Trend attempts to explain here. It involves geometry, the "scrub radius," the "kingpin axis," and the interplay of the mechanical and "pneumatic trail." I'll take their word for it. 9/01/05 [originally published in kausfiles]

New Jaguar : It's astonishingly uninspired, as feared. If Jaguar were a separate stock, you could short it. ... 8/26/05 [from kausfiles]

Still the easiest way I can think of to become the richest person in the world: Buy one of the two weak U.S. brand names General Motors is reportedly thinking about killing off—that would be Pontiac or Buick—and start making Pontiacs (or Buicks) in China for sale in North America. ... Update: Malcolm Bricklin has a head start, without the brand name. But he's close—he plans to import a car called the "Chery," which GM is not happy about).[Via Autoblog] ... More: Ford may have half this strategy. The Detroit News reports Ford executive Mark Fields remarks that by 2010

50 percent of Ford's parts in Europe will come from low-cost countries—twice what it's buying today, according to a report by Merrill Lynch's John Casesa. [Emphasis added]

Fields has just been made head of Ford's North and South American operations. Presumably he will pursue a similar strategy here. [Thanks to reader S.B.] 8/15/05 [from kausfiles]

That Was Fast: Last year Ford introduced its long-awaited new big car, the Five Hundred, and a wagon/minivan variant, the Freestyle (advertised in Southern California TV spots featuring Brooke Shields). Now, after only 10 months in production, Ford has decided to discontinue the Freestyle, according to news reports. In the automotive world—where it costs a lot of money to build the tooling for a new model—this is a stunningly rapid demise. It may be the first time in recent memory that a major Detroit vehicle has been killed off like a movie because it 'didn't open.' Faster Flops!  I suppose that's progress of a sort. ... [link via Autoblog] 7/19/05 [from kausfiles]