Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sharing Your Ferrari, Bentley, Mercedes McLaren, Lamborghini, Etc.

The newest way to drive a beauty named Maserati, Aston Marton, Rolls-Royce, Porsche, and similar expensive exotic cars, is by joining a luxury car club.

It is certainly one of life’s great pleasures -- and luxuries, too -- to enjoy the throaty roar powerful purr, of a finely engineered, elegantly appointed performance car, which just might be the street-legal version of a racecar. Aah, but which one to buy, or even just daydream about?

Can't decide? Own a piece of many, instead.

Fractional ownership of a home or condo in a favorite resort or destination is a popular way to to take a vacation. The concept has spread to legendary vehicles.

Classic Car Club invented the luxury ride-share concept in London more than a decade ago; there are branches in several cities in Britain and Scotland. The New York City location stables more than 40 rare classics and modern muscle cars including a ‘72 deTomasso Pantera, a ’67 Chevelle Supersport, the “Steve McQueen” ’68 Porsche 911, and a current model Aston Martin DB9. Locations in Los Angeles Miami have different droolers.

Club Sportiva members include legendary race driver Mario Andretti. Like him, you can choose among a classic Morgan Plus 8 in British Racing Green and a 580hp V12 Lamborghini Murcielago. There are weekend track sessions at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with the chance to drive an authentic Formula One race car, and road rallies to Napa’s Wine Country. Club Sportiva’s main location is downtown San Francisco, with branches in Silicon Valley, Las Vegas and Munich. Have your car delivered to one location and picked up in another, so you can spend, say, a week wandering between Zurich and Geneva.

How much? Prices vary, depending on how many driving days you want with your annual membership. Rent-a-Wreck this is not.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Top Tips to Save Money at the Gas Pump

Gas prices are causing sticker shock, and perhaps indigestion, too. But there are some simple ways you can reduce your pain at the pump. You'll travel green and make your car more fuel efficient.

Slow down. Driving 65 MPH, rather than at 75 MPH, can increase your fuel economy by 15 percent. On the highway, use your cruise control setting -- it can give you two more miles per gallon.

Behave. Aggressive driving, such as 'jackrabbit' starts and slam-dunk braking, can reduce your highway mileage by a whopping 33 percent.

Keep your tires properly inflated. Under-inflated tires waste gas, and wear out the treads, too. Tire pressure changes one pound for every ten degree Fahrenheit change in the outside temperature, so if you haven't checked your tires since you stopped wearing winter mittens, you are wasting gas. And money.

Get rid of the junk in the trunk. Manufacturers are squeezing out every spare ounce from body parts to reduce weight and increase fuel efficiency. So why are you carrying around everything but the kitchen sink? Junk in the trunk reduces fuel efficiency.

No idling. Get in the car and go. Sitting there with the motor running gets you zero MPG. That's why hybrid cars are so much more fuel efficient than their comparable-sized gas only siblings -- when a hybrid is not moving, it switches to the electric motor, which doesn't use gas.

Get regular tune-ups. Just replacing your air filter can improve mileage by 10 percent.

Check your gas cap. Be sure there’s a tight seal, to prevent that high-priced octane from vaporizing. Nearly 20 percent of vehicles on the roads have gas caps that are damaged, loose or are missing altogether, wasting some 147 million gallons of gas every year.

Fill-up in the morning or evening, not mid-day. Why? Because gasoline expands with warmer temperatures. You'll get more gas and less air when the temperature is cooler.

Pump your gas slowly. Use the slow setting on the pump trigger to minimize the amount of money-wasting vapors you are putting into your gas tank.

Of course, you could also drive less, carpool, take the train, walk.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ford Sells Jaguar and Land Rover

Tata, Jaguar! Tata, Land Rover!

Tata Motors is buying the Jaguar and Land Rover brands from cash-strapped Ford Motor Company.

Pictures are the Land Rover LRX concept, on the left, and the all-new 2009 Jaguar XF sedan on the right.

Oh, the shame and embarrassment that British citizens must be feeling! First, these two iconic British brands were bought by a company based in one former colony, now called United States of America. Ford, of course, is headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan.

Now, that former colony is selling them to a company based in another former British colony -- Tata is based Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, India.

But this is not about the history of the British Empire. It's about good, old-fashioned profits.

Ford has been bleeding money lately -- Ford has lost some $15 Billion (that's billion with a B) in the last two years, according to the New York Times. While Tata has enough spare change to be able to pay $2 Billion for Jaguar and Land Rover.

It's been a road filled with potholes lately for Ford, which invented the assembly line, with the legendary Ford Model T. And a superhighway for the upstart Tata, which is building a $2,500 small sedan -- but don't expect ABS, or even sideview mirrors for that price.

The official sale announcement is expected later this week, when Jag and Rover workers return from their Easter break. Surprise!

Now comes the guessing.

What will Tata do with the all-new Jaguar XF, the shining star of the brand's design and technology direction. And, what will Tata do about the Land Rover LRX Concept?

Perhaps, Tata will do for Jaguar and Land Rover what Germany's Volkswagen did when it bought the equally iconic Bentley brand -- VW poured zillions into Bentley design and manufacture, including a new factory in Crewe, England, and backing new models that have re-energized Bentley.

Just in case you are wondering about Rolls-Royce -- that's now owned by Germany's BMW, as is the Mini Cooper brand.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Stay at a W Hotel and Drive an Acura MDX

Two luxury brands -- Acura and W Hotels -- have joined forces, and it's a win for everybody.

The new partnership gives guests at W Hotels the opportunity to be chauffered in style in a 2008 MDX luxury SUV -- for when you want to arrive relaxed instead of rumpled to the theater or an important business meeting.

Since most W Hotels are located downtown, in cities such as New York and San Francisco, this is a thoughtful complimentary perk for hotel guests. Let's repeat that -- free -- just call the concierge and request a ride.

It's called the Acura Experience, and it includes the opportunity to get behind the wheel yourself to experience what it's like to drive the seven-passenger MDX vehicle.

The program begins April first -- no fooling -- and runs through January 31, 2009 for sure, and could be extended beyond that.

My gurus at Acura expect that some 100,000 W Hotel guests will take advantage of this program in the in the ten-month pilot program.

Both sides Acura and W Hotels -- hope the program will build brand loyalty. Acura, by getting potential new customers into their MDX. And W Hotels, by giving guests a complimentary service not available at other 'downtown' hotels.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More Top Ten 2008 Hybrids

Just like traditional cars, fuel efficient hybrid cars now come in all shapes and sizes, from small sedans to luxury performance sedans, plus minivans, SUVs and even crossovers. And just like traditional cars, the cost and -- more importantly -- cost savings of hybrids vary widely.

The top three hybrids for 2008, named by the website are -- in this order -- Toyota Prius, Saturn Vue Green Line and Honda Civic Hybrid. Here's the rest of the top ten list --

4. Toyota Camry Hybrid
MSRP $25,200
EPA-estimated mileage: 33/34
Not everyone wants a small, less-refined car like the Prius, which makes the Camry Hybrid the one for the masses. It costs one-third more than the base four-cylinder model, but gets significantly better gas mileage, which can pay back that higher buy-in price if you drive a lot.

5. Lexus RX 400h
MSRP: $41,280
EPA-estimated mileage: 27/24
This luxury model SUV costs just 10 percent more than its gas-only sibling, the RX 350. Combined with a 50 percent city mileage improvement and 4 percent highway bump, it's a value alternative to the gas-only model. With optional AWD, the RX 400h (26/24 mpg) is an even better deal, with mileage improvements of 53 percent and 9 percent compared to the all-wheel-drive RX 350.

6. Toyota Highlander Hybrid
MSRP: $33,700
EPA-estimated mileage: 27/25
The Highlander Hybrid comes only with AWD. The most efficient gas Highlander has FWD. In comparison, the hybrid costs 23 percent more but delivers 50 percent better city mileage, but only a 4 percent highway improvement. If you want AWD, however, the hybrid costs only 17 percent more than the gas-only model and boasts 59 and 9 percent higher mileage in city and highway driving, respectively.

7. Ford Escape Hybrid (pictured above)
MSRP: $26,505
EPA-estimated mileage: 34/30
The Escape Hybrid's comparitively low rank in the top ten is surprising, given its impressive mileage, but it's hard to overcome the fact that it costs 40 percent more than the base, four-cylinder Escape. So, even with its 55 percent city and 7 percent highway mileage improvement, it's hard to pay back the gas savings. If you compare it to the thirstier V-6, however, this hybrid would be higher on the list.

8. Chevrolet Tahoe 2 Mode Hybrid
MSRP: $49,590
EPA-estimated mileage: 21/22
Does a full-size truck defeat the purpose of a hybrid, or do people who who want or need a large SUV have an even greater need than the rest of us to save money at the gas pump? The Tahoe Hybrid is tough enough to tow a boat, and gets a stunning 50 percent increase in city mileage and 16 percent bump on the highway. It comes in eighth not because of its size, but because of its added cost: 43 percent more than the lowest-priced gas-only Tahoe.

9. Saturn Aura Green Line
MSRP: $22,140
EPA-estimated mileage: 24/32
This hybrid delivers modest mileage improvements over the four-cylinder Aura - 9 percent in the city and 7 percent on the highway - but its price premium is a mere 12 percent.

10. Lexus GS 450h
MSRP: $54,900
EPA-estimated mileage: 22/25
This luxury comes in last because its cost increase outweighs the gains it gets in mileage. There's a 24 percent premium between it and its gas-only siblingthe GS 350, for a 16 percent city mileage improvement -- and a 7 percent decrease in fuel efficiency in highway driving. No, that is not a typo -- says the hybrid Lexus GS 450h guzzles more gas on the highway than its gas-only sibling. Hard to believe.

So, check the numbers carefully when choosing which 2008 hybrid to buy or lease. That includes price, fuel efficiency and tax credits.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

AAA on Your BlackBerry

AAA information and assistance is now available on your BlackBerry.

So, even if you don't have a nav system in your vehicle, you can get turn-by-turn directions, both visual and spoken instructions, by subscribing to AAA Mobile. The service is available to both members and non-members of Triple-A.

The service is available on the latest BlackBerry smartphone models, the 8830 World Edition and Pearl 8130.

In addiiton to directions to any destination in the U.S., the service will locate AAA approved points of interest (POIs), including Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants. Plus, it will direct you to more than 100,000 locations that offer AAA discounts.

Perhaps even more importantly, pressing a single button on the BlackBerry smartphone sends your GPS location to AAA reliable roadside assistance services. This safety service, though, is available only to AAA members.

So, no more excuses about being late because you forgot the address -- or even the name -- of that restaurant where you are meeting your best buddies.

AAA Mobile costs $9.99 a month.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Top Ten Hybrids for 2008

Hybrids are hot. It's as simple as that.

Which ones are the best? has just published its list of top ten hybrids for 2008. No surprise -- the Toyota Prius tops the list for fuel efficiency and value for price.

So let's take a look at the two others in the top three:

The number two hybrid on the market is the Saturn Vue Green Line, pictured here. says the current Vue Green Line costs just 14 percent more than the gas-only version, but the hybrid gets much better mileage -- 32 percent better in the city and 23 percent better on the highway. What's more, the hybrid costs less than the gas-only V-6 Vue, whose mileage it roughly doubles. Right now Vue is the only hybrid SUV that does not offer all-wheel drive, but this will change with the 2009 model.
MSRP: $24,170
EPA-estimated mileage: (mpg city/highway) 25/32

Hot hybrid number three is the Honda Civic Hybrid. says that even though it costs half-again as much as the base Civic is 51 percent, its city and highway mileage are 54 percent and 32 percent higher, respectively, than that already-efficient model. And that makes the payoff quite high. It happens to be an excellent car, too.
MSRP: $22,600
EPA-estimated mileage: (mpg city/highway) 40/45

So now back to the Number one hybrid -- the Toyota Prius, simply the most efficient and most affordable hybrid on the market. After seven years on the market, the Prius is still the best hybrid for people who just plain want to burn less gas and hope to save money in the long run, says The Prius was designed from scratch as a hybrid -- as compared with other hybrid models adapted from their gas-only siblings -- the Prius maximizes interior space. For example, there's a roomy cargo hatch instead of the bite-size trunks most hybrids have -- including luxury cousin Lexus 450h, which I test drove recently.
MSRP: $21,100
EPA-estimated mileage (mpg city/highway) 48/45

The rest of the top ten hybrid list in a future posting.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Saab 9-X Bio Hybrid is an Award Winner

The Saab 9-X BioHybrid has been voted “Best Concept” by the editors of AutoWeek. It's a hybrid that runs on E85 bio-fuel.

The revolutionary design was introduced at the auto show in Geneva earlier this month, and it's the latest in a series of bio-power concept vehicles from the Swedish auto manufacturer, which is a division of General Motors.

Clean, uncluttered lines wrap a package that features an ultra-efficient 200hp 1.4-liter BioPower turbo engine, mated to GM’s next-generation hybrid system.

The outside echoes Saab's roots as an aircraft designer. This is a truly aerodynamic design. No door handles or visible door mirrors stick out and break the flow. But, unlike those windows the size of postage stamps at 30,000 feet, this aero-design has a sweep of glass for unobstructed views of the great scenery of your great drives.

Inside, the traditional floor-mounted console, with its angled controls and displays, is gone. Instead, controls sweep out from the top of the door moulding, arching across the driver. Displays are visible as 3-D graphics which seem to be ‘frozen’ in ice, entirely appropriate for a company which also operates an ice driving school in Sweden.

There is a wireless hook-up for what Saab calls "nomadic" devices -- things like your iPod, BlackBerry, iPhone and Treo. Also new is that the wireless function lets passengers in the back use a different device than what's operating in the front. True multi-media on four wheels.

And heavier nomadic devices such as luggage, infant strollers, skis, kayaks and surfboards, slide in and out of the cargo area easily thanks to an electrically-powered slide-out floor, which is activated when the bottom half of the split tailgate drops down.

There's mood lighting, too. This concept lets you change the cabin light from bright and cold to warm and soft. The feature can even be programmed, for example, to reflect the pattern of the changing seasons, or if you want to set the scene for a hot date.

Monday, March 10, 2008

What a Concept! From Suzuki

Suzuki calls it the Concept Kizashi 3, and describes it as 'sleek and athletic'. Also shiny silver.

This is the newest addition to Suzuki's Kizashi concept series.

Why are concept cars important? Because they give us buyers, gawkers and lurkers a hint of what's to come from the company's designers and engineers.

This concept tells us Suzuki intends to offer a larger and more upscale sport sedan.

Suzuki says this concept series reflects "a dynamic athlete in motion, taking its design cues from a strong, honed physique while displaying the performance, strength and style befitting a flagship vehicle." So there.

The Kizashi 3 makes its formal debut next week at the New York Auto Show, where it will be on display along with versions #1 and #2.

Other concepts on display include models from Honda, Chrysler, Mazda, Saturn, Land Rover, Saab and Dodge.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Volkswagen 2009 Models Feature ESP as Standard Equipment

Volkswagen will be including its Electronic Stabilization Program as standard equipment on every 2009 model.

This is an industry first

Volkswagen is the first non-luxury manufacturer to include ESP at no additional cost on every vehicle it sells in the USA – passenger cars, sport utility vehicles, and minivans.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires all vehicles produded for the 2012 model year and after to have such systems. Volkswagen is beating the deadline by three years.

NHTSA predicts nearly 10,000 lives could be saved each year if all automakers included electronic stabilization systems as standard equipment.

Stability control systems help you keep control in dangerous driving situations -- what the car makers call 'dynamic conditions' Like systems from other manufacturers, Volkswagen's ESP works in conjunction with the anti-lock braking system (ABS), anti-slip regulation and additional sensors.

Just so you know -- Volkswagen of America, Inc. is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars and Europe's largest automaker.

Volkswagen models include the Rabbit, New Beetle, New Beetle convertible, GTI, Jetta, GLI, Passat, Eos, and Touareg SUV. And the luxury sedan Phaeton, which is not sold in the USA.