Tag Archives: Aluminum Engine

Plymouth Prowler

1999 is the first year you can order Plymouth Prowler in something other than purple. Yellow is already available. Prowler Red and Prowler Black are due later.

Prowler’s 3.5-litre V6 also powers Chrysler 300M and Chrysler LHS. Both debuted this year in new-generation formats, so Chrysler used the occasion to re-work the all-aluminum engine; it now makes 253 hp (up 39) and 255 lb.ft of torque (up by 24). For Prowler duty it’s tuned to run on premium fuel, and customized with a quicker throttle cam, retuned intake and exhaust, and re-programmed engine management system. As last year the only tyranny is an automatic fitted with AutoStick. While it looks intimidating, the Prowler is easy and fun to drive, with great seat-of-the-pants acceleration and neat engine burble. But with its massive rear tires and smallish front ones it under-steers – like a pig.

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Sonata Plays New Tune

It used to be the Japanese who kept upping the ante in the mid-size car segment – now it’s the Koreans. To be specific, it’s Hyundai and the new 2011 Sonata, which has just aced the opposition in the high-stakes midsize market that still accounts for 20% of all new vehicles sold in North America.

In their publicity materials, carmakers often get carried away, but I think Hyundai has it right when it says, “Taken to a new level of style, luxury and refinement, the all-new Sonata will undoubtedly be the sedan against which others in its class will be measured.”

Our test car is Sonata GL. And, while at the low end of the Sonata lineup, it’s far from a “base” model. The GL can be ordered with either a six-speed stick or a six-speed automatic, which also adds heated front seats. No options are available on GL, but standard equipment includes air conditioning, power locks/windows/heated mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, cruise control, anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, six airbags and electronic stability control with traction control.

So you get a lot for your money. But to keep it under $25,000 a few corners had to be cut. For instance, there’s no keyless ignition (which Toyota even offers on the compact Corolla) and the driver’s seat lacks power adjustments.

If you can’t live without those things, there are better equipped GLS  and Limited models. And moving up to get more equipment doesn’t cost a bundle – a loaded Sonata Limited with touchscreen navigation, leather, heated rear seats, push-button start and sunroof lists at just $30,999.

Unlike many of its competitors, the new Sonata does not have an optional V6. Across the lineup, power is provided by a peppy DOHC 2.4- litre inline four with direct fuel injection. The all-aluminum engine produces 198 hp, which Hyundai says is best in its class. And thanks to the best power-to-weight ratio among four-cylinder family sedans, the Sonata wins the 0-100 km/h sprint against its competition with a time just over 8.0 seconds.

Still, this is much more of a family sedan than a sports car, with Hyundai engineers – properly, I think – putting a premium on smoothness, predictable handling and a quiet cabin.

A turbocharged version as well as a hybrid will join the lineup later. With a shape that looks fresh out of a wind tunnel, this is the best looking Sonata ever, with none of the bland sameness that resulted from everyone in this segment copying the Camry and Accord.

Instead, the Sonata makes its own fashion statement (inspired perhaps by the Mercedes-Benz CLS – another four-door sedan with coupe-like styling). Outwards vision hasn’t been impeded by the design, nor has rear seat passenger room or trunk space, with a capacity of 462 litres.

The car’s quiet, comfortable ride is amazing considering its low price and the fit and finish – both inside and out – and the use of quality materials is impressive.

Controls are ergonomic and easy to use and there are so many places to stash stuff I may have missed one or two. The driver and front passenger have access to three storage trays, a large bin under the centre binnacle big enough for an SLR camera, a two-tier bin under the centre armrest, and the usual twin cupholders, glove box and door pockets with bottle holders.

The old Sonata was good, and offered great value for the money. But the new one is better, with the bonus of a stunning new shape Hyundai calls Fluidic Sculpture.

No doubt about it: with the 2011 Sonata Hyundai has dealt itself another winning hand.

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North American Automotive Industry

Are there vehicles that the “American Auto industry ”  (Aka Detroit)  ,  or the “North American Auto industry” , ( that is less foreign owned auto makers with screw driver automotive assembly plants) manufacture ?

It might be said that North Americans – be they from the US, Canada or Mexico , have been somewhat shortsighted in buying “foreign cars”  , even if the cars are assembled say in the American south or at a Toyota plant in Cornwall Ontario or perhaps in the Canadian Province of Quebec.

Did these consumers not think that by buying these products that the end result would not come back to bite them ?  While it may be true that at one point the domestic North American car industry was not putting out the product that North American’s wanted – that was small cars that were good on gas and downright economical.  The refrain from the domestic North American car industry ( automotive)  was either that “we don’t want to make econoboxes”  or “there is no money or that”  or maybe it was just a question of ego.

Regardless the most or best the industry would put out was poor products like the Chevy Vega ( with an aluminum engine block without sleeves for any engine durability in percentages), or the Ford Pinto – whose missing protective back plate over the gas tank, was in short supply, and was moved and removed from finished product on the lot to be recycled onto product coming off the auto assembly line so that they could be sold onto the market promptly without sales delay.  The end result were the cases of exploding Pintos when rear ended.  Or was it a case of producing a poor product to better bump up , and talk auto buyers , out of the lower end , smaller auto, into a larger and more expensive , more conventional and more profitable – for the dealer and auto maker , product or products ?

On top of that between the auto execs and their unions they were in bed together at the expense of the ultimate consumer and buyer of those autos.  Did the union execs and their members not realize that ultimately that they should be considerate and grateful for the consumers who were buying their product and provide them with good value in their auto purchases ?  Instead the unions , and their williung members always beleived that they had a hard on for the company.  It was not the company who was ultimately paying the shot – it was the consumer and purchaser fo their automotive products out in the real world and the roads and highways of Canada and the US.

However ultimately in our economies – be it the US or Canada the pivot and base of our economies all goes back to cars.  Be it Detroit , Ontario or Windsor Ontario “it all comes back to the car automotive industry”.  These are the high paying jobs that start the ball rolling.  If you do not work directly in the automotive industry – you do indirectly.  Whether it is an auto assembler themselves ,  the restaurant they eat or dine at , the workers at the subsidiary plants that make components or supplies for the auto industry , or even a dentist filling a tooth  for an automotive worker or their family on the benefits plan of Ford, G.M. or Chrysler its all the same.

The problem is that even if jobs are still created with screwdriver assembly plants , from foreign auto makers and manufacturers – the real high paying jobs- be it execs or designers are “back home”  not here in our North American economy be it Canada or the US.  We all lose out when we lose our national auto industry.

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