2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata – Long-Term Road Test Wrap-Up

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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata – Long-Term Road Test Wrap-Up

Smart Fortwo under NHTSA Investigation for Engine Fires [UPDATE]

2008 Smart Fortwo Passion coupe

UPDATE 9/19/17: NHTSA has upgraded its investigation to an engineering analysis after receiving reports of at least 27 engine fires, 19 of which have occurred since January 2015. None of the subject vehicles were involved in a crash when the fires started.

A fire risk on early-model Smart Fortwo microcars has prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to open an investigation, according to agency filings.

Between 2015 and October 2016, eight owners of 2008 and 2009 Fortwo microcars reported engine fires—three of which occurred in October and November. No injuries were reported. Six owners reported they smelled smoke, saw warning lights on the dash, or saw flames coming from the rear where the three-cylinder engine is mounted under the cargo hold. Two fires occurred when the car was stopped, including one in Oregon where the owner parked the car, stepped inside a friend’s house, and was alerted by a neighbor that his car was erupting in flames, the report said. Most of the reports cited fires that completely engulfed the car and declared them a total loss.

NHTSA is currently conducting a preliminary evaluation, after which it can upgrade the case to an engineering analysis and request more data from Mercedes-Benz. At this point, it is unclear what has caused the fires, if there are in fact manufacturer-caused defects, and if so, what other models may be affected.

This story originally published on December 22, 2016.

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Smart Fortwo under NHTSA Investigation for Engine Fires [UPDATE]

Finally Plugging In: 2018 Acura MDX Adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

2018 Acura MDX

Nearly Honda’s entire lineup already offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the upscale Acura brand is just now getting around to rolling out these smartphone-mirroring functions to its lineup. The TLX sedan received them as part of its 2018 update, and now the MDX three-row crossover is getting an infotainment refresh of its own for 2018.

The 2018 MDX adopts the same freshened tech interface as did the TLX. While it retains the frustrating two-screen layout with a smaller touchscreen placed lower on the center stack and a larger display screen higher on the dashboard, at least the new system features quicker responses and more logically organized menus, according to Acura. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functions are standard on all trim levels.

2018 Acura MDX

The new features arrive alongside overall price increases of $140 to $150, depending on the model, with the base front-wheel-drive MDX now starting at $45,175. As you add options like Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), those prices climb, leading all the way to the MDX SH-AWD with Advance and Entertainment packages, which rings in at $59,625.

Two new red exterior colors, Basque Red and San Marino Red, round out the changes for 2018, and all of these updates will also apply to the 2018 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid model, which arrives later in the year. The nonhybrid 2018 model will be available sooner, with sales kicking off tomorrow.

2018-Acura-MDX-REEL

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Finally Plugging In: 2018 Acura MDX Adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Finally Plugging In: 2018 Acura MDX Adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

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Finally Plugging In: 2018 Acura MDX Adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Expect Used-Car Prices to Skyrocket in the Southeast Post-Hurricane

Flooded cars

Remember the 2009 Cash for Clunkers program? Some hated it. Others invested in this new form of government cheese. After eight weeks, the entire USA had spent nearly $3 billion in taxpayer money to supplement the purchase of almost 690,000 vehicles. It was a big deal, but not nearly as big as what’s happening right now in the Southeast thanks to hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Roughly a million vehicles have been totaled from Texas to the southern tip of Florida. When Superstorm Sandy hit the New York tri-state area in 2012, auto sales in metropolitan New York City skyrocketed 49 percent in a single month. Yet, as far as vehicle population is concerned, the aftermath of that storm represents a fraction of the damage Harvey and Irma have left from Houston to Miami. Industry trade paper Automotive News reported estimates that retail sales in Houston were up 40 to 50 percent over year-ago levels in the immediate aftermath of the storm, even as inventories were depleted by flood damage.

When extreme disasters strike, local car dealers at ground zero will fan out into surrounding wholesale dealer auctions to buy whatever they can to fulfill the surge in demand. Within a week of Harvey’s landfall, there were dealers throughout southeast Texas visiting mega auctions in Atlanta, Tampa, and Tulsa. These folks were loading up cars and trucks on transport vehicles that were headed out to places including Houston and Corpus Christi.

Bradley Williams has been a large-scale buyer for franchise and independent dealers, and he’s seen this invasion of demand at regional auctions before. “Everyone from Texas is up in Tennessee now, and it’s going to be like this for the next two to three months now that Florida got hit, too,” Williams said. “I have to go buy cars in Ohio for a Tennessee store at this point.” The spike in demand hits every level of the used-car market, from late-model cars and trucks with fewer than 50,000 miles on their odometers to runaround beaters that have been to the moon and back.

Auto auction

A spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas told Car and Driver earlier this month that about 15 percent of Texans generally drive without insurance. Of the Texan motorists that are insured, about 75 percent have comprehensive coverage, which would cover flood damage. I would venture to estimate that a substantial number of those who did keep comprehensive insurance coverage have older vehicles that aren’t worth very much. This level of loss on the low side of the market means that cheap cars will soon be in incredibly short supply for the next several months. Even up in the Northeast.

If there is one saving grace for the Southeast in terms of shopping for a vehicle, it is the timing of these natural disasters. Most major hurricanes take place during the late summer to early fall, a time when the used-car market is usually soft. Still, values have already been going up. “I watched an ’09 Focus with 115K [miles] do $4400 today at auction,” said Kristen Mauro, owner of Image Auto Sales in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, noting that the retail value is $4800. That suggests the wholesale price allows only a slim profit margin or that the buyer plans to sell the car at an inflated price. “I seriously don’t understand where people are going with these vehicles.”

The double wallop that hit the Southeast is going to have an impact on used-car prices for a long time. A natural disaster can bring out the price gougers and opportunists like little else. So if you live in one of the hurricane-impacted areas and already enjoy what you drive, keep it if you can. Deals won’t be happening any time soon.

Steve Lang has been an auto auctioneer, car dealer, and part owner of an auto auction for nearly two decades.

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Expect Used-Car Prices to Skyrocket in the Southeast Post-Hurricane

2017 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat In-Depth Review: Lord of the Horsepower War

2017 Dodge Challenger SRT / Challenger Hellcat

Billowing burnouts and thunderous emanations are standard equipment on the Challenger SRT siblings. Dodge’s devilish duo are fitted with an adaptive suspension and substantial brakes; the SRT 392 packs a 485-hp Hemi V-8, and the Hellcat summons 707 horses from its evil-sounding supercharged V-8. Both retro-styled coupes route power to the rear wheels through a standard six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic. While the stripped-down 840-hp Challenger SRT Demon dominates the drag strip, the SRT twins terrorize weekly cruise nights with a comfortable ride and snazzy standard features. Hard-core versions of Chevrolet’s Camaro (the 650-hp ZL1) and Ford’s Mustang (the 10Best Cars–winning Shelby GT350 and GT350R) have escalated the pony-car wars to DEFCON 1 with racetrack-capable handling. Dodge and SRT are instead banking on having the most powerful weapons of mass destruction. READ MORE ››

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2017 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat In-Depth Review: Lord of the Horsepower War

2017 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 / Challenger Hellcat – In-Depth Review

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2017 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 / Challenger Hellcat – In-Depth Review