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Buick Electra-L, Electra-LT concepts lead the Wildcat to production

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Buick Electra-L, Electra-LT concepts lead the Wildcat to production originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 26 Apr 2024 14:10:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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These are the slowest-selling new cars of 2024

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These are the slowest-selling new cars of 2024 originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 26 Apr 2024 10:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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These are the 10 worst U.S. cities for driving in 2024, ranked

How’s the commute where you live? Chances are, it’s not as bad as the daily drives experienced by people living in Oakland, Calif., or Miami, Fla. A new study from Forbes Advisor outlines the worst cities in the country for driving, and some of the names on the list likely won’t come as much of a shock.

The 10 worst U.S. cities for driving:

  1. Oakland
  2. Miami
  3. San Francisco
  4. Houston
  5. Philadelphia
  6. New York City
  7. Chicago
  8. Atlanta
  9. Dallas
  10. Portland, Ore.

Forbes ranked 47 metro areas by comparing data for 15 metrics that were grouped into four basic categories: driving experience, safety, cost of car ownership and access to car maintenance.  The study assigned points for gas prices, insurance rates, commute times and even weather to rank U.S. cities. While Oakland took the “top” spot overall, Boston was the worst for driver experience specifically, and Albuquerque was the worst for driver safety. New York City is the most expensive place to own a car, and drivers in Memphis have the worst access to car maintenance.

Looking through the lens of gas prices, it’s not surprising to see that two other California cities landed in the 20 worst for driving, including Los Angeles and Long Beach. According to AAA, the state’s average gas price today is $5.42, significantly higher than the $3.667 national average.

Drivers in the worst cities spent long periods lost in traffic congestion and had low average speeds during rush hour traffic. They also had longer drive times to travel six miles, and their downtowns had the lowest average speeds. Forbes included weather in its study, looking at the average number of days with precipitation, which can bring out the worst in even the most experienced drivers.

These cities also had poor showings for insurance rates. Drivers living in congested urban areas where accidents are common pay more for car insurance because of the greater risk associated with where they drive most often. These areas may also have higher rates of uninsured drivers and more injuries associated with crashes, driving up the costs for insurers, who always pass those costs onto customers.

For a deep dive into the rankings, the methodology behind them, and to see the full list of cities and an interactive map, check out the full report.

What is Flex Fuel? The pros and cons of flexible fuel vehicles

On the surface, Flex Fuel sounds like a great idea. Certain cars that are designed for it can run on a variety of blends of gasoline and ethanol. OK, we all know gasoline, but what is ethanol then? It is a type of alcohol derived from crops like corn or sugarcane. Ethanol fuel came about as a response to oil shortages, starting in the 1970s, and eventually became an important market for grain farmers. Flex Fuel engine technology didn’t really mature until the 1990s, and automakers, mostly the Big Three, began introducing flexible fuel vehicles.

What is Flex Fuel?

Specially equipped vehicles designated as Flex Fuel capable can operate on E85, a mix that can contain from 51% to 83% ethanol and just the remainder as gasoline. However, to a lesser degree, nearly all modern cars are already using a gasoline-ethanol mix. Most gasoline sold at pumps in the U.S. could technically be E10, a 10% ethanol blend, though it isn’t always.

The EPA has also approved E15, a 15% ethanol blend. However, in 2012 a coalition of automakers pushed back against the proposal to increase ethanol content by 50%. The EPA deems E15 safe to use in 2001 and newer cars, but there has been conflicting research on whether or not it is damaging. Many automakers said at the time that they would not honor warranties if owners used E15.

Flex Fuel pros

By stretching the amount of actual gasoline used, Flex Fuel seems like the perfect solution for extending a finite resource and reducing dependence on foreign oil. And since the ethanol was derived from renewable biomass, it was originally seen as a green solution as well.

In addition, E85 has an octane rating of about 110, higher than the 93 octane of premium fuel. That means the fuel can better resist earlier-than-expected combustion caused by compression and thus burns more completely, and a cleaner burn means fewer emissions at the tailpipe. While performance engines typically have higher compression ratios, the current crop of E85-compatible vehicles are not exactly sporting machines that can take advantage of the higher octane.

Because Flex Fuels use less petroleum, they are cheaper. At the time of this writing, the national average for E85 is about 80 cents less than E10, the most common type of fuel. Prices will vary by region, so check your local listings.

Flex Fuel cons

It may seem like a no-brainer to use E85 if you have a Flex Fuel vehicle in times of high gas prices. However, it should be noted that ethanol reduces fuel economy (miles per gallon) by as much as 25% to 30%. Depending on the vehicle’s mpg rating and the local price of E85, drivers will have to determine for themselves whether the reduced fuel economy negates any potential savings at the pump.

Perhaps an even bigger problem is that E85 might not even be as great for the environment as proponents claim. In the U.S. most ethanol is derived from corn, and the corn industry has an immensely powerful lobby. Filling stations in states like Iowa, where corn is a major industry, have a lot more E85 available, often with stickers touting its claimed environmental benefits.

Over the years, powerful corn lobbyists have won a lot of government subsidies, which in turn prompted many producers to grow the crop even though, according to a Stanford University study, corn-based ethanol is five to six times less efficient to produce than sugarcane-based ethanol.

Another study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that after taking into account the increased clearing of land to grow corn for ethanol production, the environment would be better off if cars just burned straight gasoline. And then there’s the fact that we’d be better off using the resources corn takes up to grow crops that feed actual people. Ethanol would be most beneficial if it could be economically made from biomass that would otherwise be discarded, like corn stalks and other cellulosic sources.

How to identify a Flex Fuel vehicle

Flex Fuel vehicles are designated by either a yellow fuel filler cap or a yellow ring on capless fuel tanks. They may also have labels on the inside of fuel filler doors, or special Flex Fuel badging on the vehicle. The U.S. Department of Energy offers a list of Flex Fuel vehicles on sale right now. Most are workhorses like the Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra, Ford Transit Connect, Transit, F-150 and F-250. The Ford Explorer is the only standard family car currently on the list, though you can find some older, discontinued Flex Fuel cars on the used market like the Chevy Impala and Ford Taurus.

Should I use Flex Fuel?

If your vehicle wasn’t built as a Flex Fuel vehicle, do not use E85. The high ethanol content will damage vital engine parts and the fuel system. As we mentioned above, it’s probably best not to risk using E15 if you have an older vehicle or are unsure if it’s compatible in your car.

Does ethanol damage cars?

Many sources, including the U.K.’s Royal Automobile Club, say that even E10 can be damaging to cars older than the 2002 model year. Ethanol is corrosive, and its use can damage fuel systems that weren’t designed for anything other than pure unleaded gasoline. Fuel tanks, gaskets and seals, and other rubber or plastic components could all be subject to damage.

It’s not a guarantee of damage, and how susceptible your vehicle is will likely depend on the age and model. If this is a concern for classic car owners, they can either use an ethanol conditioner and stabilizer or find one of the few remaining gas stations that offer ethanol-free fuel.

Finally, gasoline blends containing ethanol are widely regarded in the boating industry as potentially damaging to outboard motors, especially two-stroke motors.

Related video:

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The 10 car brands most expensive to maintain over 10 years

Car maintenance has got to be one of the least fun things you can do with your free time, right behind going to the dentist and filing your taxes. However, depending on the brand you buy, your time spent at the shop could be much more than you bargained for. Consumer Reports’ new study on the most- and least-expensive-to-maintain car brands found that European car companies are most likely to break your wallet with costs nearly five times that of the automakers at the other end of the spectrum.

Land Rover had the highest ten-year maintenance costs, at an average of $19,250. Porsche was second worst with $14,090 in costs.

10 car brands most expensive to maintain over 10 years:

  1. Land Rover: $19,250
  2. Porsche: $14,090
  3. Mercedes-Benz: $10,525
  4. Audi: $9,890
  5. BMW: $9,500
  6. Volvo: $9,285
  7. Infiniti: $8,500
  8. Acura: $7,800
  9. Mini: $7,625
  10. Subaru: $7,200

The Euro brands at the “top” of this list aren’t all that surprising. Land Rover has consistently landed as one of the most expensive vehicle brands to maintain for years now, though Porsche is generally viewed as being one of the more solid performance brands. That could suggest that some models don’t always require more repairs, but the fixes they do need are significantly more expensive.

Tesla, Buick, and Toyota were the three cheapest to maintain car brands, with 10-year maintenance costs of $4,035, $4,900, and $4,900, respectively. Consumer Reports noted that these numbers could be slightly skewed due to the fact that some automakers offer free maintenance for the first few years of ownership, and all companies cover their new vehicles for at least a few years after the purchase.

Routine maintenance is a great way to avoid costly repairs over time, as it’s much cheaper to catch a problem before it starts causing other issues. Check your oil, rotate your tires, and avoid driving like a wild person, and you’ll likely fare much better than others, even if you own one of the scarier-to-maintain brands.

The 10 car brands cheapest to maintain over 10 years

Buying a car can be fun and bring a lot of freedom, but things can go sideways when it comes time for repairs. Some car brands are better than others, however, and Consumer Reports recently ranked the least- and most-expensive brands for owners to repair. There are few surprises on this list, but the cheapest new car and the runner-up might come as a shock. Tesla and Buick were the cheapest new car brands to maintain and repair over 10 years, followed by Toyota, Lincoln, and Ford.

10 car brands cheapest to maintain over the next 10 years:

  1. Tesla: $4,035
  2. Buick: $4,900
  3. Toyota: $4,900
  4. Lincoln: $5,040
  5. Ford: $5,400
  6. Chevrolet: $5,550
  7. Hyundai: $5,640
  8. Nissan: $5,700
  9. Mazda: $5,800
  10. Honda: $5,850

Consumer Reports noted that maintenance costs for some brands can look deceiving, as many offer free maintenance for a period after the purchase. New-car warranties also play a role, with the powertrain coverage spanning four or five years and 50,000 or 60,000 miles, depending on the company. It’s also worth noting that Tesla only sells EVs, which don’t require engine air filters, oil changes, and some other routine maintenance, lowering their average costs.

Related:

The most expensive brands to maintain might not come as a surprise, but the costs associated with owning them might. Land Rover was the worst, at $19,250 over 10 years, while Porsche came in second at $14,090. Mercedes-Benz’s average costs were $10,525 and Audi’s $9,890. While this suggests that these brands need more frequent repairs over the 10-year period, it also points to higher labor and parts costs for the European automakers.

If you own one of the more expensive brands to maintain and you’re worrying as you read this, there are a few things you can do to prolong your vehicle’s life and minimize unnecessary maintenance costs. The first is to follow the automaker’s suggested maintenance periods, changing your oil, rotating tires, and doing all the “boring” stuff before it becomes a problem. It’s also a good idea to take care with the way you drive, avoiding potholes, accelerating gently, and trying not to abuse your brakes. Finally, don’t modify your vehicle. Car companies spend billions on research and development, and most know better about how a vehicle is meant to operate than you do in your garage with third-party parts.

Next-gen GMC Terrain teased looking chiseled in AT4 trim

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Next-gen GMC Terrain teased looking chiseled in AT4 trim originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 18 Apr 2024 10:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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A Bolder, More Assertive Next-Generation GMC Terrain is Coming

A Bolder, More Assertive Next-Generation GMC Terrain is Coming

2024-04-18

DETROIT – Today GMC shared a preview of the upcoming, next-generation Terrain. The teaser shows off the Terrain AT4’s redesigned front fascia, illustrating the compact crossover’s bolder, more assertive design.

The redesigned Terrain will represent the third generation of the nameplate. Once launched, the Terrain will complete GMC’s enhanced crossover and SUV lineup — joining the all-new 2024 GMC Acadia, expected to hit dealer lots this spring, and the refreshed Yukon, which GMC teased last week.

GMC plans to reveal the next-generation Terrain later this year.

About GMC
GMC offers a range of premium trucks and SUVs designed and engineered to the highest standard. With vehicles like the compact Terrain and full-size Yukon, all-new Canyon and Sierra light-duty, as well as the world’s first all-electric supertruck the GMC HUMMER EV, our trucks and SUVs deliver GMC’s signature combination of intuitive technologies, precise engineering and premium execution. Built on a strong foundation of manufacturing trucks since 1902, GMC now sells in a dozen countries across the world. Details on all models are available at gmc.com.

 

NHTSA upgrades investigation into braking issues in 3 million Hondas

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Wednesday it had upgraded its probe into reports of unexpected activation of automatic emergency braking systems in around 3 million Honda Motor vehicles to an engineering analysis.

An engineering analysis is a mandatory requirement before the auto safety regulator can potentially demand a recall. The probe includes the Japanese automaker’s popular Accord sedans and CR-V crossover SUVs.

The NHTSA said it had received 2,876 consumer complaints, and reports of 93 injury incidents and 47 crashes involving Honda cars with unique vehicle identification numbers that may be related to the issue.

The regulator had opened a preliminary evaluation into about 1.7 million Honda vehicles in February 2022 to assess claims that the automatic emergency braking system activated with no apparent obstruction in the vehicle’s path.

While the preliminary evaluation covered 2017-2019 Honda CR-V and 2018-2019 Honda Accord vehicles, the NHTSA has expanded the probe to include 2020-2022 models of the Honda CR-V and Accord vehicles as well.

Honda did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Honda’s Autonomous Emergency Braking works by using a radar and camera, and applies strong braking pressure if the accident becomes unavoidable, but gives drivers visual and audible alerts before kicking in.

The 10 best features in new cars

We go through many vehicles at Autoblog, so we’re exposed to a vast array of automotive features. Some of them are great, some of them are terrible. Sometimes we tend to fixate on those problematic features, but this time, we’re celebrating the best stuff you can get in a car. They’re not necessarily make-or-break, nor are they necessarily that unusual. But when we find them in a car, we’re happy to see them, and would definitely check the option boxes if they’re not included from the start. So, in no particular order, let’s get to it.

1. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

It may seem a little silly to bring up a feature that’s seemingly standard in everything now, but firstly, it’s not, especially with wireless functionality. Secondly, it really is that good. Now, a lot of OEM Bluetooth systems without the phone mirroring apps are actually better than many give them credit for, but the seamlessness of accessing your phone’s maps, hands-free calling and texting, and other apps like music streaming make CarPlay and Android Auto wonderful additions to any car. And we want to especially highlight the wireless versions, which allow you to have all that convenience with the added convenience of either leaving your phone in your pocket, or charge it wirelessly if your vehicle is so equipped. We would potentially add wireless device charging to this list, but a lot of those chargers have rather poor design that let the phone slide off the charging pad, making them a bit useless.

2. Seat base extensions

We’re going from a feature that’s nearly universal to one that we’re stunned isn’t yet. On some cars, including darn near every BMW product, the seat base can be extended in length. This can provide additional support for one’s legs, specifically the thighs, and for the long-legged amongst the Autobloggers, this can be a huge benefit for comfort. And in many modern cars that have rather short seat bases, the lack of the feature is particularly noteworthy. We’re also not even requiring the feature to be powered. In a lot of base BMWs and Minis, the extension is completely manual, but still very effective, and actually much quicker to position.

3. Heated steering wheel

I long thought this was a silly, indulgent feature for total softies. Then I lived with it. Being able to hop in the car and quickly warm your hands in winter is such a joy, and provides such a great warming sensation all the way through. Plus, you’re not just warming up your hands, but the whole wheel, so no cold spots. There are even practical reasons to have features like the heated wheel as well as seats. Directly heating touch points is more energy efficient that heating air to warm yourself. That’s especially significant in EVs, where you can get away with less aggressive climate control settings by relying on your heated seats and wheels. They’re not superfluous, they’re sensible!

4. Heated and ventilated seats

As great as a heated steering wheel is, heated seats are more significant to comfort overall, and still aren’t as broadly available as we would expect at this point. Even less common is ventilation in seats, which circulates air from behind to provide some cooling power. We in the office were split as to which was the better feature, and your locale will probably help determine your preference. So we’ve combined them on this list, as automakers typically do on higher trim levels. And there are a handful of automakers, usually German, that allow running both the heat and the ventilation simultaneously for drier heat.

4. Remote start / climate functions

Continuing on climate comfort, we’re putting remote start and climate control on this list. Go through a few Michigan winters (or Northeast, or Midwest in general), and you’ll develop an appreciation for being able to get some heat through the car before having to actually venture outside. It can also be great for getting a head start on defogging and defrosting. It can be handy in the summer, as well, to get the car a little cooler. And with EVs, the function is smarter and more environmentally friendly, since you can program times and temperatures ahead of time, it can operate inside your garage safely, and can activate while plugged in so you don’t use any of your battery charge while sitting or while cooling down/heating up on the road. Managing Editor Greg Rasa notes that some cars let you remotely open all the windows on a hot day by holding down the unlock button on your key fob, and that’s excellent for summer, too, although we haven’t seen/tried it recently (automakers who don’t have this feature, there’s a free idea for you). 

5. Adaptive cruise control

Arguably even more than highway driving assist that includes automatic lane-keeping and light turning, simple adaptive cruise control can make a long highway journey more relaxed and easy. Cruise control is great as it is, but having to adjust it periodically when the car ahead keeps fluctuating in speed or is set to a speed just ever so slightly different than yours, it can be a bit annoying. Adaptive cruise eliminates that, and it can make cruise control far more useful on highway runs that feature significant speed changes due to heavy traffic. Some even have stop-and-go, allowing for use in gridlock. It’s increasingly more available, too, which is great.

6. Head-up display (HUD)

We talk a lot about keeping information and controls close to the driver’s line of sight out the window. Doing so helps keep the time your eyes are off the road to a minimum. And it doesn’t get much better than with a head-up display. It’s wonderful having your critical information just the easiest glance down the windshield. And it’s usually set up to keep your eye’s focus farther ahead than your standard instrument cluster. It’s comfortable, and adds safety. They’re getting more elaborate and larger, incorporating more information, but even just a basic small one is useful. It’s not the worst thing to keep the info to the most important, either, just to keep the clutter down.

7. Surround-view camera and parking sensors

With cars getting bigger and with worse rearward visibility, assistance with parking and generally tight spaces are more useful than ever. Parking sensors have been around awhile, but are still far from ubiquitous. They’re also still very effective for front and rear positioning. More recent are surround-view cameras, offering simulated overhead views of your car to make it extra easy to position your vehicle in a tight spot. Both of these are great to have, and they often accompany other useful cameras such as forward cameras for off-roading and rear cameras for trailer assistance.

8. Power seat memory settings

If you’re sharing your car with at least one extra driver on a regular basis, you’ve probably run into the issue of having to fiddle with the seat controls to get everything back to where you want. But with memory settings, you can bypass all of that with a single touch of the button. We certainly can appreciate it when swapping vehicles amongst ourselves, so you’re sure to appreciate it, too.

9. Blind-spot monitoring

Related to cameras and parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring is useful for similar reasons: Rear visibility is getting worse. But even on vehicles with good visibility, blind spots are still an issue. We also consider ourselves pretty attentive drivers, but we all like having this extra layer of safety, especially as it isn’t usually intrusive. Hyundai and Kia go an extra step with their blind-spot systems by offering pop-up camera views for the relevant blind-spot, provided the vehicle has an instrument screen for said camera views.

10. Auto-dimming mirrors

We round out the list with another long-time feature that just isn’t as common as it should be. With taller and taller trucks and SUVs, and ever-brighter headlights, glare is getting worse. And at least from the rear, auto-dimming mirrors can reduce that significantly. Some side-view mirrors can auto-dim as well. It’s great not to be blinded from the rear. Plus it’s dead simple to use. It’s a shame it’s not standard on everything.

Those are what we think are the 10 best car features you can get today. Tell us what you think of our choices below, and let us know what ones you think should’ve made the cut.