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Cruising the Pacific Coast Highway in the Incredible New Bentley Flying Spur

Cruising the Pacific Coast Highway in the Incredible New Bentley Flying Spur


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The temperature was a cool 65 degrees and the mist lay curled around the peninsula as we pulled on our driving gloves outside the posh Inn at Spanish Bay on Pebble Beach's legendary 17-mile drive. The soft lambskin olive green gloves, purchased at a century-old leather shop in Florence, just happened to contrast perfectly with the plum Bentley Flying Spur we'd be driving down to Los Angeles. The new 2014 Flying Spur, Bentley's most powerful four-door model ever, managed to turn a lot of well-coiffed heads in Pebble Beach, which is no mean feat; during the annual Concours d'Elegance the roads are filled with more Ferraris and Lamborghinis than you usually see in a lifetime. Bentleys don't scream "look at me," but they still exude a powerful allure, an almost magnetic attraction sparked by the sweeping, supple lines of the super-formed aluminum exterior.
Much more than just a sedan version of the incredible Bentley Continental GT, the Flying Spur is the only car in the world that is as much fun to drive as any luxury sports car, yet encompasses enough limousine class, comfort and amenities to please the most demanding tycoon. The completely hand built interior alone features 10 square meters of sustainably sourced wood and veneers that have been hand-cured for 72 hours, while every seam in the A-Grade leather is individually sewn. The leather comes in 17 colors, and there are over 100 exterior paint colors to choose from. The car can have its very own Wi-Fi hotspot and a remote-controlled touch screen infotainment system, not to mention a 9-litre wine cooler in the rear console. Additionally, its 616 hp 6-litre W12 engine can propel the car from 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds and reach a top speed of 200 mph. Combined, the Spur's base price of $200,000 and some change seems like a bargain.
You might expect that a car with power like that would be slightly jumpy or at the very least a little noisy. Not in the least. No one does smooth acceleration quite like Bentley and unlike some other super-luxe models, the driver still retains full control of the action via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. You're not required to use them — set the Spur on full auto and it handles the job admirably — but when you want to have a little more fun a quick flick of the fingers will make you think you're at the wheel of a GT in no time. The cabin is at all times a serene retreat, however in large part because of the specially-designed soundproofing installed in the floor and doors. In the best Bentley tradition you could easily win a road race and chauffeur the Queen of England — a Bentley owner herself — in the space of an afternoon. And Her Majesty would be in absolutely no hurry to return to Buckingham Palace.
In Pebble Beach, our Flying Spur drive was the finishing touch on a perfectly curated weekend designed to showcase Bentley's many talents. Against the backdrop of some of the world's most exclusive automotive events, including the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, we were able to drive the beautiful brand new Continental GT Le Mans Edition and be on hand for the unveiling of Bentley's luxe new line of bespoke leather handbags alongside five-time Le Mans winner Sir Derek Bell at Clint Eastwood's jaw-dropping Tehama Golf Club, a private retreat for the rich and famous. There was also some first-class wining and dining at the Home of Bentley, a luxurious villa-turned-VIP retreat adjacent to the Concours grounds. Much Veuve Clicquot was consumed once the Continental keys had been laid aside for the day and chauffeured Flying Spurs were detailed to deliver us to our destination.
The perks only served to build anticipation for the journey to Los Angeles at the conclusion of the A-list festivities. The legendary Pacific Coast Highway, a section of California's State Route 1, winds along the sea for 123 miles, much of it hugging cliffs considered to be the country's most scenic coastline. From Monterey to Big Sur, past San Simeon and across the famed Bixby Bridge, it's one of the world's greatest scenic drives. To experience it at all is one of life's foremost pleasures, but to do it in a Bentley Flying Spur is a true slice of nirvana and is something well worth striving for. Known for its many hairpin turns, the PCH is also a perfect testing ground for a car with the Spur's capabilities. If Mr. Hearst was still holding court in his castle he would have cast an envious glance as we powered past; then he would have bought the local Bentley dealership.
At a couple of the most scenic spots we pulled over to take in the view, and immediately created a tourist attraction of our own. Road trippers flocked to fawn over the car, which lay quietly purring and ticking, licking its powerful paws if you will in preparation for the next stretch. Taking advantage of the Spur's Wi-Fi, we paused to post some pictures of the scene on Facebook and received the envious comments of our friends and acquaintances. Unwilling to leave the Spur's confines for the relatively bland quarters of a first-class jet cabin we drew the delicious drive out as long as possible and ended up barely making the plane. The smile on the VIP parking lot attendant's face when we finally dropped it off was as wide as the ocean of regret we felt at having to do so. Life isn't fair and the road can be rough, but if you're in a Flying Spur you can rise above it with ease.


Best, New and Latest cars, celebrities cars,Expensive and luxury cars

Hybrids largely come in two categories: the oxymoronic performance cars like the underwhelming Honda CR-Z, or pragmatic fuel-sippers with the allure of a Whirlpool dishwasher, like a Toyota Prius C. So it’s a delightful surprise that the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi not only satisfy behind the wheel, but also live up to its EPA figures (unlike Ford’s C-Max Hybrid).

Part of the obvious appeal is style: in a sea of midsize Ed O'Neills, the new Ford Fusion is a Sophia Vergara of grocery pushers. And those dreamy curves don’t come with exorbitant maintenance bills like an Italian exotic, or an unattainable price tag.

Moreover, the Hybrid and plug-in Energi are the most desirable of the Fusion line-up. Sure the 231-hp Titanium AWD trim has more immediate acceleration, but in city driving the gasoline turbo gets the mpg of a Mitsubushi Evo. Plus, the Fusion hybrid has one of the more rewarding fuel economy displays on the market. Unlike the hackneyed, touchy-feely user interface of its competitors like the Kia Optima Hybrid, which shows a plant blooming with frilly flowers when you’re saving gas, Ford just tells you the percentage of energy returned from regenerative braking, or your average fuel economy per trip.

Even without resorting to self-aggrandizing metaphors of saving a tree through your driving (imagery lost on me since I have a black thumb with plants), it feels like a video game when trying to maximize efficiency. The no-nonsense UI and tactile feedback clearly communicate how the hybrid system works, providing a sense of connection to the car. For example, you get a subtle tug when the brakes transitions to the conventional disc brakes. Conventional wisdom says it should be seamless, but because you feel the switch over, the car subconsciously teaches you to be soft on the left pedal to get the energy back.


And that’s behavioral patterning I haven’t embraced with any other hybrid. I found myself driving 60 mph in the slow lane for my daily commute, as opposed to barreling down the left lane — and enjoying it. The steering provides decent feedback, and although the batteries to the rear crimp on trunk space (especially the Energi, which barely fits a set of golf clubs), it provides better weight balance while still retaining a sporting character around the bends. If you need to romp on it, the combined 188 hp from the gasoline and electric motor is more than enough for passing on freeways, though I was content to keep it running in the electric mode whenever possible.

Choosing between the hybrid and plug-in comes down to daily driving habit: the hybrid is ideal for city driving, where it’s easy to hit 50 mpg even in snarled stop-and-go traffic. But on the interstate that efficiency can quickly dwindle to 35-40 mpg, especially when getting to speeds above 70 mph, or driving in cold weather. Whereas it’s easy to hit the EPA-rated figure (47/47 city/hwy mpg) around town, on the freeway it’s impossible to hit that number when going above 65 mph — mostly because the Fusion won’t use much of the electric motor. Hence the Energi is better suited for longer, higher-speed jaunts with its 21-mile electric range, and the higher throttle threshold for the gasoline motor to kick in means it feels more like a full-fledged electric car. That said, the additional 300 lbs. of weight in the plug-in does slightly dampen acceleration and the responsiveness through the corners.

Starting at $38,700 the Energi trim lands in luxury car territory, but it benefits from a $3,750 Federal tax credit, and for the Prius-loving Californians, an additional $1,500 CARB credit as well as the coveted HOV lane sticker. The hybrid starts at $27,200 which is a strong deal considering its combination of style, fuel efficiency and crisp dynamics. But you can’t go wrong with either — an engaging drive is a rarity in the appliance-minded segment of midsize cars.

April 22: Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, dies on this date in 1933

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

In the late 1980s, there were only 176 cars registered to private individuals in the entire nation of China. Those stats did not include the cavalcades of outmoded Hongqi limousines used to ferry about key Party members, which likely brought the total beyond the three-digit range. Still, contrast this with 2012 when, in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, nearly 20 million vehicles were sold.

That is a significant and rather abrupt increase and has not come without some concomitant (cough) havoc. It is also is nearly one car for every human living in Shanghai, which now ranks as the globe’s most populous city, and is the site of this week’s Chinese Auto Show, an honor it alternates, annually, with Beijing. Having attended the festivities in the capital last year, this sitting was beyond preferable. Alluring, cosmopolitan, and at once fiendishly diverse and monolithically immense, Shanghai is kind of like Haussmann’s plan for Paris, but with every block sprouting brightly illuminated seventy-story erection. In contrast, Beijing is more like 19th century Leeds, but with every block sprouting recalcitrant glandular growths and a rheumy pallor.

We could count about 11,000 constantly moving construction cranes from our perch on the 86th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and similarly ceaseless crowds at the block-square, seven-story Louis Vuitton store across the boulevard. Yet the mood among the American and European and Japanese auto manufacturers was cautiously sober. After a decade or so of ludicrous record-breaking growth, the free-range catbird days are, apparently, over. China, we kept being told, is maturing.

This means different things to different manufacturers.

It means that the ultra-luxury segment is no longer the market’s sole automotive focus, though it continues to churn inexorably toward its imminent position as global leader, as evinced by the ten-deep crush of spectators vying for an opportunity to be prevented from accessing the cordoned stands where the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Bentley Flying Spur made their Chinese debuts.

It means that there is room for a brand like Maserati, which introduces a new car about as often as the Canadians coronate a king, to show two all-new vehicles — its elegantly dilated Quattroporte, and its sharply aggressive E-Class-fighting Ghibli — both part of their China-fueled plan to increase global production ten-fold in the coming years.

It means that Audi can choose, after a quick-peek preview prior to the New York Show, to officially debut a pair of premium and super-premium small sedans, in the handsome, and positively B3 80-echoing A3 and S3.

It means that, based on the government’s ability to craft and enforce autocratic dictates — for worse, and occasionally for the environmentally better —a Lotus Elise-platformed, former Lotus executive-run, Motown-based, alt-power startup like Detroit Electric, can choose to world premiere their carbon fiber-bodied roadster here in the hopes of cashing in on the Party’s green-for-green initiative. Ditto for Porsche and their plug-in Panamera S e-hybrid. And Icona with its audacious Vulcano 950-hp hybrid hypercar.


The Nissan Friend-Me concept the Great Wall Olay
And it means that there is expansion enough in the needs and tastes of the vast middle of the market that home country manufacturers like Geely, BYD, Brilliance, Lifan, Gaima, and the aptly titled GAC, can move from creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of lifestyle-oriented success like the 2007 Lexus RS and 2007 Mini Cooper, to creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of crisp inanity, like the 2007 Hyundai Sonata.

Here’s what “maturing” doesn’t mean: aging. The youth/car conversation in the West is focused almost exclusively on our Millennials’ auto-averse predisposition for texting-while-remaining-in-virtually-connected-stasis-in-mom’s-basement to the far riskier texting-while-driving. Quite the opposite is true for the kids in the Axis of Sino Evil. Remember the One Child policy of the '70s and '80s? Well, it was effective. But when dealing with 500 million workers of child-bearing age, it still yielded the world’s largest demographic cohort: 250 million only children, now in their 20s and 30s. You may have noticed, without any sense of foreboding, that this is approximately the size of America’s entire population. Except these whippersnappers are all educated, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, employable, and raised up in an era of capitalistic plenty. And they’re hungry for cars.

Nissan is after a meaty chunk of this horde with their Facebook-is-not-available-in-China-taunting Friend-Me concept, which promises to bring these sibling-less youths together with their beloved peers in “a show-offy design that combines a cocoon-like interior with tech-savvy integration, allowing the constant sharing of mobile experiences,” whatever that means. If every picture tells a story, this one’s goes something like this: once upon a time there were some 370Z headlamps, and on their way to the Peach Forest, they met a grille shaped like the Boxster S exhaust outlet, a erratically distended flank that resembles a Leaf stretch limousine, some wheels last seen julienning zucchini on a LaMachine, and a set of Bangle-era BMW 6-series taillights that were bit by a rabid bat and sprouted prehensile wings. We smell a hit!

Mercedes and BMW are gunning for these kids’ lonely aspirational dollars with Sportily Active-ish Vehicles. Benz cocked and shot off the 67th round in its semi-automatic assault on the niche marketplace: a handsomely snouty — and not excessively over-styled, for a change — CLA-based GLA high-rider. We generally hate crossovers, but we were captivated. Likewise for the Bavarians, who played the tree-frog card with an azurely anuran five-door sport-activity coupe-sedan-hatchback thingy: #mce_temp_url#the X4. As with goslings, or baby bok choy, there are times when hitting something hideous with Doctor Shrinker’s ray gun can render it adorable, and the Bimmer folks have proven this by downscaling their ug-duck X6 into this palatable fun-sized treat.
Just to make sure that China’s GenOne-Is-The-Loneliest-Number gets the (text) message, BMW plan to load the driver-centric screens of their vehicles with a network of social network-friendly apps like the Chinese Facebook (Tencent), the Chinese Twitter (Sina Weibo), the Chinese Pandora (Douban) and the Chinese YouTube (Youku). During a tour of these incipient integrations at BMW’s Connected Drive lab in Shanghai’s lovely French Concession district, we asked one of the marque’s tweengineers precisely who would be driving the car while she was raptly scrolling and scrawling networked connectivity upon the touchpaddy iDrive controller. She raised her hand proudly. We almost rolled our eyes and said, “(Chinese) kids today,” but then we remembered that there are 250 million of them, and they function with one communal hive brain, and reconsidered we don’t fancy that kind of enemy. Also, given the traffic in China, none of them will ever drive faster than 20 kph, so what kind of damage can they really do?

And what of Flint’s strutting Imperial Lion, the formerly dominant Buick? Well, in this ever-maturing market, the brand that has spent the past five years fleeing from its synonymity with maturity made a big noise by unveiling the latest iteration of its ancient Riviera personal luxury yacht concept. It’s not a production-ready car. And it’s not exactly ugly. But while 175 of those 176 privately owned '80s vehicles may have been Buicks, in a marketplace predicated on freshness, this fruit may be a bit over-ripe.


Best, New and Latest cars, celebrities cars,Expensive and luxury cars

Hybrids largely come in two categories: the oxymoronic performance cars like the underwhelming Honda CR-Z, or pragmatic fuel-sippers with the allure of a Whirlpool dishwasher, like a Toyota Prius C. So it’s a delightful surprise that the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi not only satisfy behind the wheel, but also live up to its EPA figures (unlike Ford’s C-Max Hybrid).

Part of the obvious appeal is style: in a sea of midsize Ed O'Neills, the new Ford Fusion is a Sophia Vergara of grocery pushers. And those dreamy curves don’t come with exorbitant maintenance bills like an Italian exotic, or an unattainable price tag.

Moreover, the Hybrid and plug-in Energi are the most desirable of the Fusion line-up. Sure the 231-hp Titanium AWD trim has more immediate acceleration, but in city driving the gasoline turbo gets the mpg of a Mitsubushi Evo. Plus, the Fusion hybrid has one of the more rewarding fuel economy displays on the market. Unlike the hackneyed, touchy-feely user interface of its competitors like the Kia Optima Hybrid, which shows a plant blooming with frilly flowers when you’re saving gas, Ford just tells you the percentage of energy returned from regenerative braking, or your average fuel economy per trip.

Even without resorting to self-aggrandizing metaphors of saving a tree through your driving (imagery lost on me since I have a black thumb with plants), it feels like a video game when trying to maximize efficiency. The no-nonsense UI and tactile feedback clearly communicate how the hybrid system works, providing a sense of connection to the car. For example, you get a subtle tug when the brakes transitions to the conventional disc brakes. Conventional wisdom says it should be seamless, but because you feel the switch over, the car subconsciously teaches you to be soft on the left pedal to get the energy back.


And that’s behavioral patterning I haven’t embraced with any other hybrid. I found myself driving 60 mph in the slow lane for my daily commute, as opposed to barreling down the left lane — and enjoying it. The steering provides decent feedback, and although the batteries to the rear crimp on trunk space (especially the Energi, which barely fits a set of golf clubs), it provides better weight balance while still retaining a sporting character around the bends. If you need to romp on it, the combined 188 hp from the gasoline and electric motor is more than enough for passing on freeways, though I was content to keep it running in the electric mode whenever possible.

Choosing between the hybrid and plug-in comes down to daily driving habit: the hybrid is ideal for city driving, where it’s easy to hit 50 mpg even in snarled stop-and-go traffic. But on the interstate that efficiency can quickly dwindle to 35-40 mpg, especially when getting to speeds above 70 mph, or driving in cold weather. Whereas it’s easy to hit the EPA-rated figure (47/47 city/hwy mpg) around town, on the freeway it’s impossible to hit that number when going above 65 mph — mostly because the Fusion won’t use much of the electric motor. Hence the Energi is better suited for longer, higher-speed jaunts with its 21-mile electric range, and the higher throttle threshold for the gasoline motor to kick in means it feels more like a full-fledged electric car. That said, the additional 300 lbs. of weight in the plug-in does slightly dampen acceleration and the responsiveness through the corners.

Starting at $38,700 the Energi trim lands in luxury car territory, but it benefits from a $3,750 Federal tax credit, and for the Prius-loving Californians, an additional $1,500 CARB credit as well as the coveted HOV lane sticker. The hybrid starts at $27,200 which is a strong deal considering its combination of style, fuel efficiency and crisp dynamics. But you can’t go wrong with either — an engaging drive is a rarity in the appliance-minded segment of midsize cars.

April 22: Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, dies on this date in 1933

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

In the late 1980s, there were only 176 cars registered to private individuals in the entire nation of China. Those stats did not include the cavalcades of outmoded Hongqi limousines used to ferry about key Party members, which likely brought the total beyond the three-digit range. Still, contrast this with 2012 when, in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, nearly 20 million vehicles were sold.

That is a significant and rather abrupt increase and has not come without some concomitant (cough) havoc. It is also is nearly one car for every human living in Shanghai, which now ranks as the globe’s most populous city, and is the site of this week’s Chinese Auto Show, an honor it alternates, annually, with Beijing. Having attended the festivities in the capital last year, this sitting was beyond preferable. Alluring, cosmopolitan, and at once fiendishly diverse and monolithically immense, Shanghai is kind of like Haussmann’s plan for Paris, but with every block sprouting brightly illuminated seventy-story erection. In contrast, Beijing is more like 19th century Leeds, but with every block sprouting recalcitrant glandular growths and a rheumy pallor.

We could count about 11,000 constantly moving construction cranes from our perch on the 86th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and similarly ceaseless crowds at the block-square, seven-story Louis Vuitton store across the boulevard. Yet the mood among the American and European and Japanese auto manufacturers was cautiously sober. After a decade or so of ludicrous record-breaking growth, the free-range catbird days are, apparently, over. China, we kept being told, is maturing.

This means different things to different manufacturers.

It means that the ultra-luxury segment is no longer the market’s sole automotive focus, though it continues to churn inexorably toward its imminent position as global leader, as evinced by the ten-deep crush of spectators vying for an opportunity to be prevented from accessing the cordoned stands where the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Bentley Flying Spur made their Chinese debuts.

It means that there is room for a brand like Maserati, which introduces a new car about as often as the Canadians coronate a king, to show two all-new vehicles — its elegantly dilated Quattroporte, and its sharply aggressive E-Class-fighting Ghibli — both part of their China-fueled plan to increase global production ten-fold in the coming years.

It means that Audi can choose, after a quick-peek preview prior to the New York Show, to officially debut a pair of premium and super-premium small sedans, in the handsome, and positively B3 80-echoing A3 and S3.

It means that, based on the government’s ability to craft and enforce autocratic dictates — for worse, and occasionally for the environmentally better —a Lotus Elise-platformed, former Lotus executive-run, Motown-based, alt-power startup like Detroit Electric, can choose to world premiere their carbon fiber-bodied roadster here in the hopes of cashing in on the Party’s green-for-green initiative. Ditto for Porsche and their plug-in Panamera S e-hybrid. And Icona with its audacious Vulcano 950-hp hybrid hypercar.


The Nissan Friend-Me concept the Great Wall Olay
And it means that there is expansion enough in the needs and tastes of the vast middle of the market that home country manufacturers like Geely, BYD, Brilliance, Lifan, Gaima, and the aptly titled GAC, can move from creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of lifestyle-oriented success like the 2007 Lexus RS and 2007 Mini Cooper, to creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of crisp inanity, like the 2007 Hyundai Sonata.

Here’s what “maturing” doesn’t mean: aging. The youth/car conversation in the West is focused almost exclusively on our Millennials’ auto-averse predisposition for texting-while-remaining-in-virtually-connected-stasis-in-mom’s-basement to the far riskier texting-while-driving. Quite the opposite is true for the kids in the Axis of Sino Evil. Remember the One Child policy of the '70s and '80s? Well, it was effective. But when dealing with 500 million workers of child-bearing age, it still yielded the world’s largest demographic cohort: 250 million only children, now in their 20s and 30s. You may have noticed, without any sense of foreboding, that this is approximately the size of America’s entire population. Except these whippersnappers are all educated, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, employable, and raised up in an era of capitalistic plenty. And they’re hungry for cars.

Nissan is after a meaty chunk of this horde with their Facebook-is-not-available-in-China-taunting Friend-Me concept, which promises to bring these sibling-less youths together with their beloved peers in “a show-offy design that combines a cocoon-like interior with tech-savvy integration, allowing the constant sharing of mobile experiences,” whatever that means. If every picture tells a story, this one’s goes something like this: once upon a time there were some 370Z headlamps, and on their way to the Peach Forest, they met a grille shaped like the Boxster S exhaust outlet, a erratically distended flank that resembles a Leaf stretch limousine, some wheels last seen julienning zucchini on a LaMachine, and a set of Bangle-era BMW 6-series taillights that were bit by a rabid bat and sprouted prehensile wings. We smell a hit!

Mercedes and BMW are gunning for these kids’ lonely aspirational dollars with Sportily Active-ish Vehicles. Benz cocked and shot off the 67th round in its semi-automatic assault on the niche marketplace: a handsomely snouty — and not excessively over-styled, for a change — CLA-based GLA high-rider. We generally hate crossovers, but we were captivated. Likewise for the Bavarians, who played the tree-frog card with an azurely anuran five-door sport-activity coupe-sedan-hatchback thingy: #mce_temp_url#the X4. As with goslings, or baby bok choy, there are times when hitting something hideous with Doctor Shrinker’s ray gun can render it adorable, and the Bimmer folks have proven this by downscaling their ug-duck X6 into this palatable fun-sized treat.
Just to make sure that China’s GenOne-Is-The-Loneliest-Number gets the (text) message, BMW plan to load the driver-centric screens of their vehicles with a network of social network-friendly apps like the Chinese Facebook (Tencent), the Chinese Twitter (Sina Weibo), the Chinese Pandora (Douban) and the Chinese YouTube (Youku). During a tour of these incipient integrations at BMW’s Connected Drive lab in Shanghai’s lovely French Concession district, we asked one of the marque’s tweengineers precisely who would be driving the car while she was raptly scrolling and scrawling networked connectivity upon the touchpaddy iDrive controller. She raised her hand proudly. We almost rolled our eyes and said, “(Chinese) kids today,” but then we remembered that there are 250 million of them, and they function with one communal hive brain, and reconsidered we don’t fancy that kind of enemy. Also, given the traffic in China, none of them will ever drive faster than 20 kph, so what kind of damage can they really do?

And what of Flint’s strutting Imperial Lion, the formerly dominant Buick? Well, in this ever-maturing market, the brand that has spent the past five years fleeing from its synonymity with maturity made a big noise by unveiling the latest iteration of its ancient Riviera personal luxury yacht concept. It’s not a production-ready car. And it’s not exactly ugly. But while 175 of those 176 privately owned '80s vehicles may have been Buicks, in a marketplace predicated on freshness, this fruit may be a bit over-ripe.


Best, New and Latest cars, celebrities cars,Expensive and luxury cars

Hybrids largely come in two categories: the oxymoronic performance cars like the underwhelming Honda CR-Z, or pragmatic fuel-sippers with the allure of a Whirlpool dishwasher, like a Toyota Prius C. So it’s a delightful surprise that the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi not only satisfy behind the wheel, but also live up to its EPA figures (unlike Ford’s C-Max Hybrid).

Part of the obvious appeal is style: in a sea of midsize Ed O'Neills, the new Ford Fusion is a Sophia Vergara of grocery pushers. And those dreamy curves don’t come with exorbitant maintenance bills like an Italian exotic, or an unattainable price tag.

Moreover, the Hybrid and plug-in Energi are the most desirable of the Fusion line-up. Sure the 231-hp Titanium AWD trim has more immediate acceleration, but in city driving the gasoline turbo gets the mpg of a Mitsubushi Evo. Plus, the Fusion hybrid has one of the more rewarding fuel economy displays on the market. Unlike the hackneyed, touchy-feely user interface of its competitors like the Kia Optima Hybrid, which shows a plant blooming with frilly flowers when you’re saving gas, Ford just tells you the percentage of energy returned from regenerative braking, or your average fuel economy per trip.

Even without resorting to self-aggrandizing metaphors of saving a tree through your driving (imagery lost on me since I have a black thumb with plants), it feels like a video game when trying to maximize efficiency. The no-nonsense UI and tactile feedback clearly communicate how the hybrid system works, providing a sense of connection to the car. For example, you get a subtle tug when the brakes transitions to the conventional disc brakes. Conventional wisdom says it should be seamless, but because you feel the switch over, the car subconsciously teaches you to be soft on the left pedal to get the energy back.


And that’s behavioral patterning I haven’t embraced with any other hybrid. I found myself driving 60 mph in the slow lane for my daily commute, as opposed to barreling down the left lane — and enjoying it. The steering provides decent feedback, and although the batteries to the rear crimp on trunk space (especially the Energi, which barely fits a set of golf clubs), it provides better weight balance while still retaining a sporting character around the bends. If you need to romp on it, the combined 188 hp from the gasoline and electric motor is more than enough for passing on freeways, though I was content to keep it running in the electric mode whenever possible.

Choosing between the hybrid and plug-in comes down to daily driving habit: the hybrid is ideal for city driving, where it’s easy to hit 50 mpg even in snarled stop-and-go traffic. But on the interstate that efficiency can quickly dwindle to 35-40 mpg, especially when getting to speeds above 70 mph, or driving in cold weather. Whereas it’s easy to hit the EPA-rated figure (47/47 city/hwy mpg) around town, on the freeway it’s impossible to hit that number when going above 65 mph — mostly because the Fusion won’t use much of the electric motor. Hence the Energi is better suited for longer, higher-speed jaunts with its 21-mile electric range, and the higher throttle threshold for the gasoline motor to kick in means it feels more like a full-fledged electric car. That said, the additional 300 lbs. of weight in the plug-in does slightly dampen acceleration and the responsiveness through the corners.

Starting at $38,700 the Energi trim lands in luxury car territory, but it benefits from a $3,750 Federal tax credit, and for the Prius-loving Californians, an additional $1,500 CARB credit as well as the coveted HOV lane sticker. The hybrid starts at $27,200 which is a strong deal considering its combination of style, fuel efficiency and crisp dynamics. But you can’t go wrong with either — an engaging drive is a rarity in the appliance-minded segment of midsize cars.

April 22: Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, dies on this date in 1933

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

In the late 1980s, there were only 176 cars registered to private individuals in the entire nation of China. Those stats did not include the cavalcades of outmoded Hongqi limousines used to ferry about key Party members, which likely brought the total beyond the three-digit range. Still, contrast this with 2012 when, in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, nearly 20 million vehicles were sold.

That is a significant and rather abrupt increase and has not come without some concomitant (cough) havoc. It is also is nearly one car for every human living in Shanghai, which now ranks as the globe’s most populous city, and is the site of this week’s Chinese Auto Show, an honor it alternates, annually, with Beijing. Having attended the festivities in the capital last year, this sitting was beyond preferable. Alluring, cosmopolitan, and at once fiendishly diverse and monolithically immense, Shanghai is kind of like Haussmann’s plan for Paris, but with every block sprouting brightly illuminated seventy-story erection. In contrast, Beijing is more like 19th century Leeds, but with every block sprouting recalcitrant glandular growths and a rheumy pallor.

We could count about 11,000 constantly moving construction cranes from our perch on the 86th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and similarly ceaseless crowds at the block-square, seven-story Louis Vuitton store across the boulevard. Yet the mood among the American and European and Japanese auto manufacturers was cautiously sober. After a decade or so of ludicrous record-breaking growth, the free-range catbird days are, apparently, over. China, we kept being told, is maturing.

This means different things to different manufacturers.

It means that the ultra-luxury segment is no longer the market’s sole automotive focus, though it continues to churn inexorably toward its imminent position as global leader, as evinced by the ten-deep crush of spectators vying for an opportunity to be prevented from accessing the cordoned stands where the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Bentley Flying Spur made their Chinese debuts.

It means that there is room for a brand like Maserati, which introduces a new car about as often as the Canadians coronate a king, to show two all-new vehicles — its elegantly dilated Quattroporte, and its sharply aggressive E-Class-fighting Ghibli — both part of their China-fueled plan to increase global production ten-fold in the coming years.

It means that Audi can choose, after a quick-peek preview prior to the New York Show, to officially debut a pair of premium and super-premium small sedans, in the handsome, and positively B3 80-echoing A3 and S3.

It means that, based on the government’s ability to craft and enforce autocratic dictates — for worse, and occasionally for the environmentally better —a Lotus Elise-platformed, former Lotus executive-run, Motown-based, alt-power startup like Detroit Electric, can choose to world premiere their carbon fiber-bodied roadster here in the hopes of cashing in on the Party’s green-for-green initiative. Ditto for Porsche and their plug-in Panamera S e-hybrid. And Icona with its audacious Vulcano 950-hp hybrid hypercar.


The Nissan Friend-Me concept the Great Wall Olay
And it means that there is expansion enough in the needs and tastes of the vast middle of the market that home country manufacturers like Geely, BYD, Brilliance, Lifan, Gaima, and the aptly titled GAC, can move from creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of lifestyle-oriented success like the 2007 Lexus RS and 2007 Mini Cooper, to creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of crisp inanity, like the 2007 Hyundai Sonata.

Here’s what “maturing” doesn’t mean: aging. The youth/car conversation in the West is focused almost exclusively on our Millennials’ auto-averse predisposition for texting-while-remaining-in-virtually-connected-stasis-in-mom’s-basement to the far riskier texting-while-driving. Quite the opposite is true for the kids in the Axis of Sino Evil. Remember the One Child policy of the '70s and '80s? Well, it was effective. But when dealing with 500 million workers of child-bearing age, it still yielded the world’s largest demographic cohort: 250 million only children, now in their 20s and 30s. You may have noticed, without any sense of foreboding, that this is approximately the size of America’s entire population. Except these whippersnappers are all educated, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, employable, and raised up in an era of capitalistic plenty. And they’re hungry for cars.

Nissan is after a meaty chunk of this horde with their Facebook-is-not-available-in-China-taunting Friend-Me concept, which promises to bring these sibling-less youths together with their beloved peers in “a show-offy design that combines a cocoon-like interior with tech-savvy integration, allowing the constant sharing of mobile experiences,” whatever that means. If every picture tells a story, this one’s goes something like this: once upon a time there were some 370Z headlamps, and on their way to the Peach Forest, they met a grille shaped like the Boxster S exhaust outlet, a erratically distended flank that resembles a Leaf stretch limousine, some wheels last seen julienning zucchini on a LaMachine, and a set of Bangle-era BMW 6-series taillights that were bit by a rabid bat and sprouted prehensile wings. We smell a hit!

Mercedes and BMW are gunning for these kids’ lonely aspirational dollars with Sportily Active-ish Vehicles. Benz cocked and shot off the 67th round in its semi-automatic assault on the niche marketplace: a handsomely snouty — and not excessively over-styled, for a change — CLA-based GLA high-rider. We generally hate crossovers, but we were captivated. Likewise for the Bavarians, who played the tree-frog card with an azurely anuran five-door sport-activity coupe-sedan-hatchback thingy: #mce_temp_url#the X4. As with goslings, or baby bok choy, there are times when hitting something hideous with Doctor Shrinker’s ray gun can render it adorable, and the Bimmer folks have proven this by downscaling their ug-duck X6 into this palatable fun-sized treat.
Just to make sure that China’s GenOne-Is-The-Loneliest-Number gets the (text) message, BMW plan to load the driver-centric screens of their vehicles with a network of social network-friendly apps like the Chinese Facebook (Tencent), the Chinese Twitter (Sina Weibo), the Chinese Pandora (Douban) and the Chinese YouTube (Youku). During a tour of these incipient integrations at BMW’s Connected Drive lab in Shanghai’s lovely French Concession district, we asked one of the marque’s tweengineers precisely who would be driving the car while she was raptly scrolling and scrawling networked connectivity upon the touchpaddy iDrive controller. She raised her hand proudly. We almost rolled our eyes and said, “(Chinese) kids today,” but then we remembered that there are 250 million of them, and they function with one communal hive brain, and reconsidered we don’t fancy that kind of enemy. Also, given the traffic in China, none of them will ever drive faster than 20 kph, so what kind of damage can they really do?

And what of Flint’s strutting Imperial Lion, the formerly dominant Buick? Well, in this ever-maturing market, the brand that has spent the past five years fleeing from its synonymity with maturity made a big noise by unveiling the latest iteration of its ancient Riviera personal luxury yacht concept. It’s not a production-ready car. And it’s not exactly ugly. But while 175 of those 176 privately owned '80s vehicles may have been Buicks, in a marketplace predicated on freshness, this fruit may be a bit over-ripe.


Best, New and Latest cars, celebrities cars,Expensive and luxury cars

Hybrids largely come in two categories: the oxymoronic performance cars like the underwhelming Honda CR-Z, or pragmatic fuel-sippers with the allure of a Whirlpool dishwasher, like a Toyota Prius C. So it’s a delightful surprise that the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi not only satisfy behind the wheel, but also live up to its EPA figures (unlike Ford’s C-Max Hybrid).

Part of the obvious appeal is style: in a sea of midsize Ed O'Neills, the new Ford Fusion is a Sophia Vergara of grocery pushers. And those dreamy curves don’t come with exorbitant maintenance bills like an Italian exotic, or an unattainable price tag.

Moreover, the Hybrid and plug-in Energi are the most desirable of the Fusion line-up. Sure the 231-hp Titanium AWD trim has more immediate acceleration, but in city driving the gasoline turbo gets the mpg of a Mitsubushi Evo. Plus, the Fusion hybrid has one of the more rewarding fuel economy displays on the market. Unlike the hackneyed, touchy-feely user interface of its competitors like the Kia Optima Hybrid, which shows a plant blooming with frilly flowers when you’re saving gas, Ford just tells you the percentage of energy returned from regenerative braking, or your average fuel economy per trip.

Even without resorting to self-aggrandizing metaphors of saving a tree through your driving (imagery lost on me since I have a black thumb with plants), it feels like a video game when trying to maximize efficiency. The no-nonsense UI and tactile feedback clearly communicate how the hybrid system works, providing a sense of connection to the car. For example, you get a subtle tug when the brakes transitions to the conventional disc brakes. Conventional wisdom says it should be seamless, but because you feel the switch over, the car subconsciously teaches you to be soft on the left pedal to get the energy back.


And that’s behavioral patterning I haven’t embraced with any other hybrid. I found myself driving 60 mph in the slow lane for my daily commute, as opposed to barreling down the left lane — and enjoying it. The steering provides decent feedback, and although the batteries to the rear crimp on trunk space (especially the Energi, which barely fits a set of golf clubs), it provides better weight balance while still retaining a sporting character around the bends. If you need to romp on it, the combined 188 hp from the gasoline and electric motor is more than enough for passing on freeways, though I was content to keep it running in the electric mode whenever possible.

Choosing between the hybrid and plug-in comes down to daily driving habit: the hybrid is ideal for city driving, where it’s easy to hit 50 mpg even in snarled stop-and-go traffic. But on the interstate that efficiency can quickly dwindle to 35-40 mpg, especially when getting to speeds above 70 mph, or driving in cold weather. Whereas it’s easy to hit the EPA-rated figure (47/47 city/hwy mpg) around town, on the freeway it’s impossible to hit that number when going above 65 mph — mostly because the Fusion won’t use much of the electric motor. Hence the Energi is better suited for longer, higher-speed jaunts with its 21-mile electric range, and the higher throttle threshold for the gasoline motor to kick in means it feels more like a full-fledged electric car. That said, the additional 300 lbs. of weight in the plug-in does slightly dampen acceleration and the responsiveness through the corners.

Starting at $38,700 the Energi trim lands in luxury car territory, but it benefits from a $3,750 Federal tax credit, and for the Prius-loving Californians, an additional $1,500 CARB credit as well as the coveted HOV lane sticker. The hybrid starts at $27,200 which is a strong deal considering its combination of style, fuel efficiency and crisp dynamics. But you can’t go wrong with either — an engaging drive is a rarity in the appliance-minded segment of midsize cars.

April 22: Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, dies on this date in 1933

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

In the late 1980s, there were only 176 cars registered to private individuals in the entire nation of China. Those stats did not include the cavalcades of outmoded Hongqi limousines used to ferry about key Party members, which likely brought the total beyond the three-digit range. Still, contrast this with 2012 when, in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, nearly 20 million vehicles were sold.

That is a significant and rather abrupt increase and has not come without some concomitant (cough) havoc. It is also is nearly one car for every human living in Shanghai, which now ranks as the globe’s most populous city, and is the site of this week’s Chinese Auto Show, an honor it alternates, annually, with Beijing. Having attended the festivities in the capital last year, this sitting was beyond preferable. Alluring, cosmopolitan, and at once fiendishly diverse and monolithically immense, Shanghai is kind of like Haussmann’s plan for Paris, but with every block sprouting brightly illuminated seventy-story erection. In contrast, Beijing is more like 19th century Leeds, but with every block sprouting recalcitrant glandular growths and a rheumy pallor.

We could count about 11,000 constantly moving construction cranes from our perch on the 86th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and similarly ceaseless crowds at the block-square, seven-story Louis Vuitton store across the boulevard. Yet the mood among the American and European and Japanese auto manufacturers was cautiously sober. After a decade or so of ludicrous record-breaking growth, the free-range catbird days are, apparently, over. China, we kept being told, is maturing.

This means different things to different manufacturers.

It means that the ultra-luxury segment is no longer the market’s sole automotive focus, though it continues to churn inexorably toward its imminent position as global leader, as evinced by the ten-deep crush of spectators vying for an opportunity to be prevented from accessing the cordoned stands where the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Bentley Flying Spur made their Chinese debuts.

It means that there is room for a brand like Maserati, which introduces a new car about as often as the Canadians coronate a king, to show two all-new vehicles — its elegantly dilated Quattroporte, and its sharply aggressive E-Class-fighting Ghibli — both part of their China-fueled plan to increase global production ten-fold in the coming years.

It means that Audi can choose, after a quick-peek preview prior to the New York Show, to officially debut a pair of premium and super-premium small sedans, in the handsome, and positively B3 80-echoing A3 and S3.

It means that, based on the government’s ability to craft and enforce autocratic dictates — for worse, and occasionally for the environmentally better —a Lotus Elise-platformed, former Lotus executive-run, Motown-based, alt-power startup like Detroit Electric, can choose to world premiere their carbon fiber-bodied roadster here in the hopes of cashing in on the Party’s green-for-green initiative. Ditto for Porsche and their plug-in Panamera S e-hybrid. And Icona with its audacious Vulcano 950-hp hybrid hypercar.


The Nissan Friend-Me concept the Great Wall Olay
And it means that there is expansion enough in the needs and tastes of the vast middle of the market that home country manufacturers like Geely, BYD, Brilliance, Lifan, Gaima, and the aptly titled GAC, can move from creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of lifestyle-oriented success like the 2007 Lexus RS and 2007 Mini Cooper, to creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of crisp inanity, like the 2007 Hyundai Sonata.

Here’s what “maturing” doesn’t mean: aging. The youth/car conversation in the West is focused almost exclusively on our Millennials’ auto-averse predisposition for texting-while-remaining-in-virtually-connected-stasis-in-mom’s-basement to the far riskier texting-while-driving. Quite the opposite is true for the kids in the Axis of Sino Evil. Remember the One Child policy of the '70s and '80s? Well, it was effective. But when dealing with 500 million workers of child-bearing age, it still yielded the world’s largest demographic cohort: 250 million only children, now in their 20s and 30s. You may have noticed, without any sense of foreboding, that this is approximately the size of America’s entire population. Except these whippersnappers are all educated, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, employable, and raised up in an era of capitalistic plenty. And they’re hungry for cars.

Nissan is after a meaty chunk of this horde with their Facebook-is-not-available-in-China-taunting Friend-Me concept, which promises to bring these sibling-less youths together with their beloved peers in “a show-offy design that combines a cocoon-like interior with tech-savvy integration, allowing the constant sharing of mobile experiences,” whatever that means. If every picture tells a story, this one’s goes something like this: once upon a time there were some 370Z headlamps, and on their way to the Peach Forest, they met a grille shaped like the Boxster S exhaust outlet, a erratically distended flank that resembles a Leaf stretch limousine, some wheels last seen julienning zucchini on a LaMachine, and a set of Bangle-era BMW 6-series taillights that were bit by a rabid bat and sprouted prehensile wings. We smell a hit!

Mercedes and BMW are gunning for these kids’ lonely aspirational dollars with Sportily Active-ish Vehicles. Benz cocked and shot off the 67th round in its semi-automatic assault on the niche marketplace: a handsomely snouty — and not excessively over-styled, for a change — CLA-based GLA high-rider. We generally hate crossovers, but we were captivated. Likewise for the Bavarians, who played the tree-frog card with an azurely anuran five-door sport-activity coupe-sedan-hatchback thingy: #mce_temp_url#the X4. As with goslings, or baby bok choy, there are times when hitting something hideous with Doctor Shrinker’s ray gun can render it adorable, and the Bimmer folks have proven this by downscaling their ug-duck X6 into this palatable fun-sized treat.
Just to make sure that China’s GenOne-Is-The-Loneliest-Number gets the (text) message, BMW plan to load the driver-centric screens of their vehicles with a network of social network-friendly apps like the Chinese Facebook (Tencent), the Chinese Twitter (Sina Weibo), the Chinese Pandora (Douban) and the Chinese YouTube (Youku). During a tour of these incipient integrations at BMW’s Connected Drive lab in Shanghai’s lovely French Concession district, we asked one of the marque’s tweengineers precisely who would be driving the car while she was raptly scrolling and scrawling networked connectivity upon the touchpaddy iDrive controller. She raised her hand proudly. We almost rolled our eyes and said, “(Chinese) kids today,” but then we remembered that there are 250 million of them, and they function with one communal hive brain, and reconsidered we don’t fancy that kind of enemy. Also, given the traffic in China, none of them will ever drive faster than 20 kph, so what kind of damage can they really do?

And what of Flint’s strutting Imperial Lion, the formerly dominant Buick? Well, in this ever-maturing market, the brand that has spent the past five years fleeing from its synonymity with maturity made a big noise by unveiling the latest iteration of its ancient Riviera personal luxury yacht concept. It’s not a production-ready car. And it’s not exactly ugly. But while 175 of those 176 privately owned '80s vehicles may have been Buicks, in a marketplace predicated on freshness, this fruit may be a bit over-ripe.


Best, New and Latest cars, celebrities cars,Expensive and luxury cars

Hybrids largely come in two categories: the oxymoronic performance cars like the underwhelming Honda CR-Z, or pragmatic fuel-sippers with the allure of a Whirlpool dishwasher, like a Toyota Prius C. So it’s a delightful surprise that the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi not only satisfy behind the wheel, but also live up to its EPA figures (unlike Ford’s C-Max Hybrid).

Part of the obvious appeal is style: in a sea of midsize Ed O'Neills, the new Ford Fusion is a Sophia Vergara of grocery pushers. And those dreamy curves don’t come with exorbitant maintenance bills like an Italian exotic, or an unattainable price tag.

Moreover, the Hybrid and plug-in Energi are the most desirable of the Fusion line-up. Sure the 231-hp Titanium AWD trim has more immediate acceleration, but in city driving the gasoline turbo gets the mpg of a Mitsubushi Evo. Plus, the Fusion hybrid has one of the more rewarding fuel economy displays on the market. Unlike the hackneyed, touchy-feely user interface of its competitors like the Kia Optima Hybrid, which shows a plant blooming with frilly flowers when you’re saving gas, Ford just tells you the percentage of energy returned from regenerative braking, or your average fuel economy per trip.

Even without resorting to self-aggrandizing metaphors of saving a tree through your driving (imagery lost on me since I have a black thumb with plants), it feels like a video game when trying to maximize efficiency. The no-nonsense UI and tactile feedback clearly communicate how the hybrid system works, providing a sense of connection to the car. For example, you get a subtle tug when the brakes transitions to the conventional disc brakes. Conventional wisdom says it should be seamless, but because you feel the switch over, the car subconsciously teaches you to be soft on the left pedal to get the energy back.


And that’s behavioral patterning I haven’t embraced with any other hybrid. I found myself driving 60 mph in the slow lane for my daily commute, as opposed to barreling down the left lane — and enjoying it. The steering provides decent feedback, and although the batteries to the rear crimp on trunk space (especially the Energi, which barely fits a set of golf clubs), it provides better weight balance while still retaining a sporting character around the bends. If you need to romp on it, the combined 188 hp from the gasoline and electric motor is more than enough for passing on freeways, though I was content to keep it running in the electric mode whenever possible.

Choosing between the hybrid and plug-in comes down to daily driving habit: the hybrid is ideal for city driving, where it’s easy to hit 50 mpg even in snarled stop-and-go traffic. But on the interstate that efficiency can quickly dwindle to 35-40 mpg, especially when getting to speeds above 70 mph, or driving in cold weather. Whereas it’s easy to hit the EPA-rated figure (47/47 city/hwy mpg) around town, on the freeway it’s impossible to hit that number when going above 65 mph — mostly because the Fusion won’t use much of the electric motor. Hence the Energi is better suited for longer, higher-speed jaunts with its 21-mile electric range, and the higher throttle threshold for the gasoline motor to kick in means it feels more like a full-fledged electric car. That said, the additional 300 lbs. of weight in the plug-in does slightly dampen acceleration and the responsiveness through the corners.

Starting at $38,700 the Energi trim lands in luxury car territory, but it benefits from a $3,750 Federal tax credit, and for the Prius-loving Californians, an additional $1,500 CARB credit as well as the coveted HOV lane sticker. The hybrid starts at $27,200 which is a strong deal considering its combination of style, fuel efficiency and crisp dynamics. But you can’t go wrong with either — an engaging drive is a rarity in the appliance-minded segment of midsize cars.

April 22: Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, dies on this date in 1933

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

In the late 1980s, there were only 176 cars registered to private individuals in the entire nation of China. Those stats did not include the cavalcades of outmoded Hongqi limousines used to ferry about key Party members, which likely brought the total beyond the three-digit range. Still, contrast this with 2012 when, in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, nearly 20 million vehicles were sold.

That is a significant and rather abrupt increase and has not come without some concomitant (cough) havoc. It is also is nearly one car for every human living in Shanghai, which now ranks as the globe’s most populous city, and is the site of this week’s Chinese Auto Show, an honor it alternates, annually, with Beijing. Having attended the festivities in the capital last year, this sitting was beyond preferable. Alluring, cosmopolitan, and at once fiendishly diverse and monolithically immense, Shanghai is kind of like Haussmann’s plan for Paris, but with every block sprouting brightly illuminated seventy-story erection. In contrast, Beijing is more like 19th century Leeds, but with every block sprouting recalcitrant glandular growths and a rheumy pallor.

We could count about 11,000 constantly moving construction cranes from our perch on the 86th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and similarly ceaseless crowds at the block-square, seven-story Louis Vuitton store across the boulevard. Yet the mood among the American and European and Japanese auto manufacturers was cautiously sober. After a decade or so of ludicrous record-breaking growth, the free-range catbird days are, apparently, over. China, we kept being told, is maturing.

This means different things to different manufacturers.

It means that the ultra-luxury segment is no longer the market’s sole automotive focus, though it continues to churn inexorably toward its imminent position as global leader, as evinced by the ten-deep crush of spectators vying for an opportunity to be prevented from accessing the cordoned stands where the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Bentley Flying Spur made their Chinese debuts.

It means that there is room for a brand like Maserati, which introduces a new car about as often as the Canadians coronate a king, to show two all-new vehicles — its elegantly dilated Quattroporte, and its sharply aggressive E-Class-fighting Ghibli — both part of their China-fueled plan to increase global production ten-fold in the coming years.

It means that Audi can choose, after a quick-peek preview prior to the New York Show, to officially debut a pair of premium and super-premium small sedans, in the handsome, and positively B3 80-echoing A3 and S3.

It means that, based on the government’s ability to craft and enforce autocratic dictates — for worse, and occasionally for the environmentally better —a Lotus Elise-platformed, former Lotus executive-run, Motown-based, alt-power startup like Detroit Electric, can choose to world premiere their carbon fiber-bodied roadster here in the hopes of cashing in on the Party’s green-for-green initiative. Ditto for Porsche and their plug-in Panamera S e-hybrid. And Icona with its audacious Vulcano 950-hp hybrid hypercar.


The Nissan Friend-Me concept the Great Wall Olay
And it means that there is expansion enough in the needs and tastes of the vast middle of the market that home country manufacturers like Geely, BYD, Brilliance, Lifan, Gaima, and the aptly titled GAC, can move from creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of lifestyle-oriented success like the 2007 Lexus RS and 2007 Mini Cooper, to creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of crisp inanity, like the 2007 Hyundai Sonata.

Here’s what “maturing” doesn’t mean: aging. The youth/car conversation in the West is focused almost exclusively on our Millennials’ auto-averse predisposition for texting-while-remaining-in-virtually-connected-stasis-in-mom’s-basement to the far riskier texting-while-driving. Quite the opposite is true for the kids in the Axis of Sino Evil. Remember the One Child policy of the '70s and '80s? Well, it was effective. But when dealing with 500 million workers of child-bearing age, it still yielded the world’s largest demographic cohort: 250 million only children, now in their 20s and 30s. You may have noticed, without any sense of foreboding, that this is approximately the size of America’s entire population. Except these whippersnappers are all educated, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, employable, and raised up in an era of capitalistic plenty. And they’re hungry for cars.

Nissan is after a meaty chunk of this horde with their Facebook-is-not-available-in-China-taunting Friend-Me concept, which promises to bring these sibling-less youths together with their beloved peers in “a show-offy design that combines a cocoon-like interior with tech-savvy integration, allowing the constant sharing of mobile experiences,” whatever that means. If every picture tells a story, this one’s goes something like this: once upon a time there were some 370Z headlamps, and on their way to the Peach Forest, they met a grille shaped like the Boxster S exhaust outlet, a erratically distended flank that resembles a Leaf stretch limousine, some wheels last seen julienning zucchini on a LaMachine, and a set of Bangle-era BMW 6-series taillights that were bit by a rabid bat and sprouted prehensile wings. We smell a hit!

Mercedes and BMW are gunning for these kids’ lonely aspirational dollars with Sportily Active-ish Vehicles. Benz cocked and shot off the 67th round in its semi-automatic assault on the niche marketplace: a handsomely snouty — and not excessively over-styled, for a change — CLA-based GLA high-rider. We generally hate crossovers, but we were captivated. Likewise for the Bavarians, who played the tree-frog card with an azurely anuran five-door sport-activity coupe-sedan-hatchback thingy: #mce_temp_url#the X4. As with goslings, or baby bok choy, there are times when hitting something hideous with Doctor Shrinker’s ray gun can render it adorable, and the Bimmer folks have proven this by downscaling their ug-duck X6 into this palatable fun-sized treat.
Just to make sure that China’s GenOne-Is-The-Loneliest-Number gets the (text) message, BMW plan to load the driver-centric screens of their vehicles with a network of social network-friendly apps like the Chinese Facebook (Tencent), the Chinese Twitter (Sina Weibo), the Chinese Pandora (Douban) and the Chinese YouTube (Youku). During a tour of these incipient integrations at BMW’s Connected Drive lab in Shanghai’s lovely French Concession district, we asked one of the marque’s tweengineers precisely who would be driving the car while she was raptly scrolling and scrawling networked connectivity upon the touchpaddy iDrive controller. She raised her hand proudly. We almost rolled our eyes and said, “(Chinese) kids today,” but then we remembered that there are 250 million of them, and they function with one communal hive brain, and reconsidered we don’t fancy that kind of enemy. Also, given the traffic in China, none of them will ever drive faster than 20 kph, so what kind of damage can they really do?

And what of Flint’s strutting Imperial Lion, the formerly dominant Buick? Well, in this ever-maturing market, the brand that has spent the past five years fleeing from its synonymity with maturity made a big noise by unveiling the latest iteration of its ancient Riviera personal luxury yacht concept. It’s not a production-ready car. And it’s not exactly ugly. But while 175 of those 176 privately owned '80s vehicles may have been Buicks, in a marketplace predicated on freshness, this fruit may be a bit over-ripe.


Best, New and Latest cars, celebrities cars,Expensive and luxury cars

Hybrids largely come in two categories: the oxymoronic performance cars like the underwhelming Honda CR-Z, or pragmatic fuel-sippers with the allure of a Whirlpool dishwasher, like a Toyota Prius C. So it’s a delightful surprise that the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi not only satisfy behind the wheel, but also live up to its EPA figures (unlike Ford’s C-Max Hybrid).

Part of the obvious appeal is style: in a sea of midsize Ed O'Neills, the new Ford Fusion is a Sophia Vergara of grocery pushers. And those dreamy curves don’t come with exorbitant maintenance bills like an Italian exotic, or an unattainable price tag.

Moreover, the Hybrid and plug-in Energi are the most desirable of the Fusion line-up. Sure the 231-hp Titanium AWD trim has more immediate acceleration, but in city driving the gasoline turbo gets the mpg of a Mitsubushi Evo. Plus, the Fusion hybrid has one of the more rewarding fuel economy displays on the market. Unlike the hackneyed, touchy-feely user interface of its competitors like the Kia Optima Hybrid, which shows a plant blooming with frilly flowers when you’re saving gas, Ford just tells you the percentage of energy returned from regenerative braking, or your average fuel economy per trip.

Even without resorting to self-aggrandizing metaphors of saving a tree through your driving (imagery lost on me since I have a black thumb with plants), it feels like a video game when trying to maximize efficiency. The no-nonsense UI and tactile feedback clearly communicate how the hybrid system works, providing a sense of connection to the car. For example, you get a subtle tug when the brakes transitions to the conventional disc brakes. Conventional wisdom says it should be seamless, but because you feel the switch over, the car subconsciously teaches you to be soft on the left pedal to get the energy back.


And that’s behavioral patterning I haven’t embraced with any other hybrid. I found myself driving 60 mph in the slow lane for my daily commute, as opposed to barreling down the left lane — and enjoying it. The steering provides decent feedback, and although the batteries to the rear crimp on trunk space (especially the Energi, which barely fits a set of golf clubs), it provides better weight balance while still retaining a sporting character around the bends. If you need to romp on it, the combined 188 hp from the gasoline and electric motor is more than enough for passing on freeways, though I was content to keep it running in the electric mode whenever possible.

Choosing between the hybrid and plug-in comes down to daily driving habit: the hybrid is ideal for city driving, where it’s easy to hit 50 mpg even in snarled stop-and-go traffic. But on the interstate that efficiency can quickly dwindle to 35-40 mpg, especially when getting to speeds above 70 mph, or driving in cold weather. Whereas it’s easy to hit the EPA-rated figure (47/47 city/hwy mpg) around town, on the freeway it’s impossible to hit that number when going above 65 mph — mostly because the Fusion won’t use much of the electric motor. Hence the Energi is better suited for longer, higher-speed jaunts with its 21-mile electric range, and the higher throttle threshold for the gasoline motor to kick in means it feels more like a full-fledged electric car. That said, the additional 300 lbs. of weight in the plug-in does slightly dampen acceleration and the responsiveness through the corners.

Starting at $38,700 the Energi trim lands in luxury car territory, but it benefits from a $3,750 Federal tax credit, and for the Prius-loving Californians, an additional $1,500 CARB credit as well as the coveted HOV lane sticker. The hybrid starts at $27,200 which is a strong deal considering its combination of style, fuel efficiency and crisp dynamics. But you can’t go wrong with either — an engaging drive is a rarity in the appliance-minded segment of midsize cars.

April 22: Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, dies on this date in 1933

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

In the late 1980s, there were only 176 cars registered to private individuals in the entire nation of China. Those stats did not include the cavalcades of outmoded Hongqi limousines used to ferry about key Party members, which likely brought the total beyond the three-digit range. Still, contrast this with 2012 when, in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, nearly 20 million vehicles were sold.

That is a significant and rather abrupt increase and has not come without some concomitant (cough) havoc. It is also is nearly one car for every human living in Shanghai, which now ranks as the globe’s most populous city, and is the site of this week’s Chinese Auto Show, an honor it alternates, annually, with Beijing. Having attended the festivities in the capital last year, this sitting was beyond preferable. Alluring, cosmopolitan, and at once fiendishly diverse and monolithically immense, Shanghai is kind of like Haussmann’s plan for Paris, but with every block sprouting brightly illuminated seventy-story erection. In contrast, Beijing is more like 19th century Leeds, but with every block sprouting recalcitrant glandular growths and a rheumy pallor.

We could count about 11,000 constantly moving construction cranes from our perch on the 86th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and similarly ceaseless crowds at the block-square, seven-story Louis Vuitton store across the boulevard. Yet the mood among the American and European and Japanese auto manufacturers was cautiously sober. After a decade or so of ludicrous record-breaking growth, the free-range catbird days are, apparently, over. China, we kept being told, is maturing.

This means different things to different manufacturers.

It means that the ultra-luxury segment is no longer the market’s sole automotive focus, though it continues to churn inexorably toward its imminent position as global leader, as evinced by the ten-deep crush of spectators vying for an opportunity to be prevented from accessing the cordoned stands where the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Bentley Flying Spur made their Chinese debuts.

It means that there is room for a brand like Maserati, which introduces a new car about as often as the Canadians coronate a king, to show two all-new vehicles — its elegantly dilated Quattroporte, and its sharply aggressive E-Class-fighting Ghibli — both part of their China-fueled plan to increase global production ten-fold in the coming years.

It means that Audi can choose, after a quick-peek preview prior to the New York Show, to officially debut a pair of premium and super-premium small sedans, in the handsome, and positively B3 80-echoing A3 and S3.

It means that, based on the government’s ability to craft and enforce autocratic dictates — for worse, and occasionally for the environmentally better —a Lotus Elise-platformed, former Lotus executive-run, Motown-based, alt-power startup like Detroit Electric, can choose to world premiere their carbon fiber-bodied roadster here in the hopes of cashing in on the Party’s green-for-green initiative. Ditto for Porsche and their plug-in Panamera S e-hybrid. And Icona with its audacious Vulcano 950-hp hybrid hypercar.


The Nissan Friend-Me concept the Great Wall Olay
And it means that there is expansion enough in the needs and tastes of the vast middle of the market that home country manufacturers like Geely, BYD, Brilliance, Lifan, Gaima, and the aptly titled GAC, can move from creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of lifestyle-oriented success like the 2007 Lexus RS and 2007 Mini Cooper, to creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of crisp inanity, like the 2007 Hyundai Sonata.

Here’s what “maturing” doesn’t mean: aging. The youth/car conversation in the West is focused almost exclusively on our Millennials’ auto-averse predisposition for texting-while-remaining-in-virtually-connected-stasis-in-mom’s-basement to the far riskier texting-while-driving. Quite the opposite is true for the kids in the Axis of Sino Evil. Remember the One Child policy of the '70s and '80s? Well, it was effective. But when dealing with 500 million workers of child-bearing age, it still yielded the world’s largest demographic cohort: 250 million only children, now in their 20s and 30s. You may have noticed, without any sense of foreboding, that this is approximately the size of America’s entire population. Except these whippersnappers are all educated, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, employable, and raised up in an era of capitalistic plenty. And they’re hungry for cars.

Nissan is after a meaty chunk of this horde with their Facebook-is-not-available-in-China-taunting Friend-Me concept, which promises to bring these sibling-less youths together with their beloved peers in “a show-offy design that combines a cocoon-like interior with tech-savvy integration, allowing the constant sharing of mobile experiences,” whatever that means. If every picture tells a story, this one’s goes something like this: once upon a time there were some 370Z headlamps, and on their way to the Peach Forest, they met a grille shaped like the Boxster S exhaust outlet, a erratically distended flank that resembles a Leaf stretch limousine, some wheels last seen julienning zucchini on a LaMachine, and a set of Bangle-era BMW 6-series taillights that were bit by a rabid bat and sprouted prehensile wings. We smell a hit!

Mercedes and BMW are gunning for these kids’ lonely aspirational dollars with Sportily Active-ish Vehicles. Benz cocked and shot off the 67th round in its semi-automatic assault on the niche marketplace: a handsomely snouty — and not excessively over-styled, for a change — CLA-based GLA high-rider. We generally hate crossovers, but we were captivated. Likewise for the Bavarians, who played the tree-frog card with an azurely anuran five-door sport-activity coupe-sedan-hatchback thingy: #mce_temp_url#the X4. As with goslings, or baby bok choy, there are times when hitting something hideous with Doctor Shrinker’s ray gun can render it adorable, and the Bimmer folks have proven this by downscaling their ug-duck X6 into this palatable fun-sized treat.
Just to make sure that China’s GenOne-Is-The-Loneliest-Number gets the (text) message, BMW plan to load the driver-centric screens of their vehicles with a network of social network-friendly apps like the Chinese Facebook (Tencent), the Chinese Twitter (Sina Weibo), the Chinese Pandora (Douban) and the Chinese YouTube (Youku). During a tour of these incipient integrations at BMW’s Connected Drive lab in Shanghai’s lovely French Concession district, we asked one of the marque’s tweengineers precisely who would be driving the car while she was raptly scrolling and scrawling networked connectivity upon the touchpaddy iDrive controller. She raised her hand proudly. We almost rolled our eyes and said, “(Chinese) kids today,” but then we remembered that there are 250 million of them, and they function with one communal hive brain, and reconsidered we don’t fancy that kind of enemy. Also, given the traffic in China, none of them will ever drive faster than 20 kph, so what kind of damage can they really do?

And what of Flint’s strutting Imperial Lion, the formerly dominant Buick? Well, in this ever-maturing market, the brand that has spent the past five years fleeing from its synonymity with maturity made a big noise by unveiling the latest iteration of its ancient Riviera personal luxury yacht concept. It’s not a production-ready car. And it’s not exactly ugly. But while 175 of those 176 privately owned '80s vehicles may have been Buicks, in a marketplace predicated on freshness, this fruit may be a bit over-ripe.


Best, New and Latest cars, celebrities cars,Expensive and luxury cars

Hybrids largely come in two categories: the oxymoronic performance cars like the underwhelming Honda CR-Z, or pragmatic fuel-sippers with the allure of a Whirlpool dishwasher, like a Toyota Prius C. So it’s a delightful surprise that the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi not only satisfy behind the wheel, but also live up to its EPA figures (unlike Ford’s C-Max Hybrid).

Part of the obvious appeal is style: in a sea of midsize Ed O'Neills, the new Ford Fusion is a Sophia Vergara of grocery pushers. And those dreamy curves don’t come with exorbitant maintenance bills like an Italian exotic, or an unattainable price tag.

Moreover, the Hybrid and plug-in Energi are the most desirable of the Fusion line-up. Sure the 231-hp Titanium AWD trim has more immediate acceleration, but in city driving the gasoline turbo gets the mpg of a Mitsubushi Evo. Plus, the Fusion hybrid has one of the more rewarding fuel economy displays on the market. Unlike the hackneyed, touchy-feely user interface of its competitors like the Kia Optima Hybrid, which shows a plant blooming with frilly flowers when you’re saving gas, Ford just tells you the percentage of energy returned from regenerative braking, or your average fuel economy per trip.

Even without resorting to self-aggrandizing metaphors of saving a tree through your driving (imagery lost on me since I have a black thumb with plants), it feels like a video game when trying to maximize efficiency. The no-nonsense UI and tactile feedback clearly communicate how the hybrid system works, providing a sense of connection to the car. For example, you get a subtle tug when the brakes transitions to the conventional disc brakes. Conventional wisdom says it should be seamless, but because you feel the switch over, the car subconsciously teaches you to be soft on the left pedal to get the energy back.


And that’s behavioral patterning I haven’t embraced with any other hybrid. I found myself driving 60 mph in the slow lane for my daily commute, as opposed to barreling down the left lane — and enjoying it. The steering provides decent feedback, and although the batteries to the rear crimp on trunk space (especially the Energi, which barely fits a set of golf clubs), it provides better weight balance while still retaining a sporting character around the bends. If you need to romp on it, the combined 188 hp from the gasoline and electric motor is more than enough for passing on freeways, though I was content to keep it running in the electric mode whenever possible.

Choosing between the hybrid and plug-in comes down to daily driving habit: the hybrid is ideal for city driving, where it’s easy to hit 50 mpg even in snarled stop-and-go traffic. But on the interstate that efficiency can quickly dwindle to 35-40 mpg, especially when getting to speeds above 70 mph, or driving in cold weather. Whereas it’s easy to hit the EPA-rated figure (47/47 city/hwy mpg) around town, on the freeway it’s impossible to hit that number when going above 65 mph — mostly because the Fusion won’t use much of the electric motor. Hence the Energi is better suited for longer, higher-speed jaunts with its 21-mile electric range, and the higher throttle threshold for the gasoline motor to kick in means it feels more like a full-fledged electric car. That said, the additional 300 lbs. of weight in the plug-in does slightly dampen acceleration and the responsiveness through the corners.

Starting at $38,700 the Energi trim lands in luxury car territory, but it benefits from a $3,750 Federal tax credit, and for the Prius-loving Californians, an additional $1,500 CARB credit as well as the coveted HOV lane sticker. The hybrid starts at $27,200 which is a strong deal considering its combination of style, fuel efficiency and crisp dynamics. But you can’t go wrong with either — an engaging drive is a rarity in the appliance-minded segment of midsize cars.

April 22: Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, dies on this date in 1933

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

In the late 1980s, there were only 176 cars registered to private individuals in the entire nation of China. Those stats did not include the cavalcades of outmoded Hongqi limousines used to ferry about key Party members, which likely brought the total beyond the three-digit range. Still, contrast this with 2012 when, in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, nearly 20 million vehicles were sold.

That is a significant and rather abrupt increase and has not come without some concomitant (cough) havoc. It is also is nearly one car for every human living in Shanghai, which now ranks as the globe’s most populous city, and is the site of this week’s Chinese Auto Show, an honor it alternates, annually, with Beijing. Having attended the festivities in the capital last year, this sitting was beyond preferable. Alluring, cosmopolitan, and at once fiendishly diverse and monolithically immense, Shanghai is kind of like Haussmann’s plan for Paris, but with every block sprouting brightly illuminated seventy-story erection. In contrast, Beijing is more like 19th century Leeds, but with every block sprouting recalcitrant glandular growths and a rheumy pallor.

We could count about 11,000 constantly moving construction cranes from our perch on the 86th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and similarly ceaseless crowds at the block-square, seven-story Louis Vuitton store across the boulevard. Yet the mood among the American and European and Japanese auto manufacturers was cautiously sober. After a decade or so of ludicrous record-breaking growth, the free-range catbird days are, apparently, over. China, we kept being told, is maturing.

This means different things to different manufacturers.

It means that the ultra-luxury segment is no longer the market’s sole automotive focus, though it continues to churn inexorably toward its imminent position as global leader, as evinced by the ten-deep crush of spectators vying for an opportunity to be prevented from accessing the cordoned stands where the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Bentley Flying Spur made their Chinese debuts.

It means that there is room for a brand like Maserati, which introduces a new car about as often as the Canadians coronate a king, to show two all-new vehicles — its elegantly dilated Quattroporte, and its sharply aggressive E-Class-fighting Ghibli — both part of their China-fueled plan to increase global production ten-fold in the coming years.

It means that Audi can choose, after a quick-peek preview prior to the New York Show, to officially debut a pair of premium and super-premium small sedans, in the handsome, and positively B3 80-echoing A3 and S3.

It means that, based on the government’s ability to craft and enforce autocratic dictates — for worse, and occasionally for the environmentally better —a Lotus Elise-platformed, former Lotus executive-run, Motown-based, alt-power startup like Detroit Electric, can choose to world premiere their carbon fiber-bodied roadster here in the hopes of cashing in on the Party’s green-for-green initiative. Ditto for Porsche and their plug-in Panamera S e-hybrid. And Icona with its audacious Vulcano 950-hp hybrid hypercar.


The Nissan Friend-Me concept the Great Wall Olay
And it means that there is expansion enough in the needs and tastes of the vast middle of the market that home country manufacturers like Geely, BYD, Brilliance, Lifan, Gaima, and the aptly titled GAC, can move from creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of lifestyle-oriented success like the 2007 Lexus RS and 2007 Mini Cooper, to creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of crisp inanity, like the 2007 Hyundai Sonata.

Here’s what “maturing” doesn’t mean: aging. The youth/car conversation in the West is focused almost exclusively on our Millennials’ auto-averse predisposition for texting-while-remaining-in-virtually-connected-stasis-in-mom’s-basement to the far riskier texting-while-driving. Quite the opposite is true for the kids in the Axis of Sino Evil. Remember the One Child policy of the '70s and '80s? Well, it was effective. But when dealing with 500 million workers of child-bearing age, it still yielded the world’s largest demographic cohort: 250 million only children, now in their 20s and 30s. You may have noticed, without any sense of foreboding, that this is approximately the size of America’s entire population. Except these whippersnappers are all educated, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, employable, and raised up in an era of capitalistic plenty. And they’re hungry for cars.

Nissan is after a meaty chunk of this horde with their Facebook-is-not-available-in-China-taunting Friend-Me concept, which promises to bring these sibling-less youths together with their beloved peers in “a show-offy design that combines a cocoon-like interior with tech-savvy integration, allowing the constant sharing of mobile experiences,” whatever that means. If every picture tells a story, this one’s goes something like this: once upon a time there were some 370Z headlamps, and on their way to the Peach Forest, they met a grille shaped like the Boxster S exhaust outlet, a erratically distended flank that resembles a Leaf stretch limousine, some wheels last seen julienning zucchini on a LaMachine, and a set of Bangle-era BMW 6-series taillights that were bit by a rabid bat and sprouted prehensile wings. We smell a hit!

Mercedes and BMW are gunning for these kids’ lonely aspirational dollars with Sportily Active-ish Vehicles. Benz cocked and shot off the 67th round in its semi-automatic assault on the niche marketplace: a handsomely snouty — and not excessively over-styled, for a change — CLA-based GLA high-rider. We generally hate crossovers, but we were captivated. Likewise for the Bavarians, who played the tree-frog card with an azurely anuran five-door sport-activity coupe-sedan-hatchback thingy: #mce_temp_url#the X4. As with goslings, or baby bok choy, there are times when hitting something hideous with Doctor Shrinker’s ray gun can render it adorable, and the Bimmer folks have proven this by downscaling their ug-duck X6 into this palatable fun-sized treat.
Just to make sure that China’s GenOne-Is-The-Loneliest-Number gets the (text) message, BMW plan to load the driver-centric screens of their vehicles with a network of social network-friendly apps like the Chinese Facebook (Tencent), the Chinese Twitter (Sina Weibo), the Chinese Pandora (Douban) and the Chinese YouTube (Youku). During a tour of these incipient integrations at BMW’s Connected Drive lab in Shanghai’s lovely French Concession district, we asked one of the marque’s tweengineers precisely who would be driving the car while she was raptly scrolling and scrawling networked connectivity upon the touchpaddy iDrive controller. She raised her hand proudly. We almost rolled our eyes and said, “(Chinese) kids today,” but then we remembered that there are 250 million of them, and they function with one communal hive brain, and reconsidered we don’t fancy that kind of enemy. Also, given the traffic in China, none of them will ever drive faster than 20 kph, so what kind of damage can they really do?

And what of Flint’s strutting Imperial Lion, the formerly dominant Buick? Well, in this ever-maturing market, the brand that has spent the past five years fleeing from its synonymity with maturity made a big noise by unveiling the latest iteration of its ancient Riviera personal luxury yacht concept. It’s not a production-ready car. And it’s not exactly ugly. But while 175 of those 176 privately owned '80s vehicles may have been Buicks, in a marketplace predicated on freshness, this fruit may be a bit over-ripe.


Best, New and Latest cars, celebrities cars,Expensive and luxury cars

Hybrids largely come in two categories: the oxymoronic performance cars like the underwhelming Honda CR-Z, or pragmatic fuel-sippers with the allure of a Whirlpool dishwasher, like a Toyota Prius C. So it’s a delightful surprise that the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi not only satisfy behind the wheel, but also live up to its EPA figures (unlike Ford’s C-Max Hybrid).

Part of the obvious appeal is style: in a sea of midsize Ed O'Neills, the new Ford Fusion is a Sophia Vergara of grocery pushers. And those dreamy curves don’t come with exorbitant maintenance bills like an Italian exotic, or an unattainable price tag.

Moreover, the Hybrid and plug-in Energi are the most desirable of the Fusion line-up. Sure the 231-hp Titanium AWD trim has more immediate acceleration, but in city driving the gasoline turbo gets the mpg of a Mitsubushi Evo. Plus, the Fusion hybrid has one of the more rewarding fuel economy displays on the market. Unlike the hackneyed, touchy-feely user interface of its competitors like the Kia Optima Hybrid, which shows a plant blooming with frilly flowers when you’re saving gas, Ford just tells you the percentage of energy returned from regenerative braking, or your average fuel economy per trip.

Even without resorting to self-aggrandizing metaphors of saving a tree through your driving (imagery lost on me since I have a black thumb with plants), it feels like a video game when trying to maximize efficiency. The no-nonsense UI and tactile feedback clearly communicate how the hybrid system works, providing a sense of connection to the car. For example, you get a subtle tug when the brakes transitions to the conventional disc brakes. Conventional wisdom says it should be seamless, but because you feel the switch over, the car subconsciously teaches you to be soft on the left pedal to get the energy back.


And that’s behavioral patterning I haven’t embraced with any other hybrid. I found myself driving 60 mph in the slow lane for my daily commute, as opposed to barreling down the left lane — and enjoying it. The steering provides decent feedback, and although the batteries to the rear crimp on trunk space (especially the Energi, which barely fits a set of golf clubs), it provides better weight balance while still retaining a sporting character around the bends. If you need to romp on it, the combined 188 hp from the gasoline and electric motor is more than enough for passing on freeways, though I was content to keep it running in the electric mode whenever possible.

Choosing between the hybrid and plug-in comes down to daily driving habit: the hybrid is ideal for city driving, where it’s easy to hit 50 mpg even in snarled stop-and-go traffic. But on the interstate that efficiency can quickly dwindle to 35-40 mpg, especially when getting to speeds above 70 mph, or driving in cold weather. Whereas it’s easy to hit the EPA-rated figure (47/47 city/hwy mpg) around town, on the freeway it’s impossible to hit that number when going above 65 mph — mostly because the Fusion won’t use much of the electric motor. Hence the Energi is better suited for longer, higher-speed jaunts with its 21-mile electric range, and the higher throttle threshold for the gasoline motor to kick in means it feels more like a full-fledged electric car. That said, the additional 300 lbs. of weight in the plug-in does slightly dampen acceleration and the responsiveness through the corners.

Starting at $38,700 the Energi trim lands in luxury car territory, but it benefits from a $3,750 Federal tax credit, and for the Prius-loving Californians, an additional $1,500 CARB credit as well as the coveted HOV lane sticker. The hybrid starts at $27,200 which is a strong deal considering its combination of style, fuel efficiency and crisp dynamics. But you can’t go wrong with either — an engaging drive is a rarity in the appliance-minded segment of midsize cars.

April 22: Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, dies on this date in 1933

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

In the late 1980s, there were only 176 cars registered to private individuals in the entire nation of China. Those stats did not include the cavalcades of outmoded Hongqi limousines used to ferry about key Party members, which likely brought the total beyond the three-digit range. Still, contrast this with 2012 when, in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, nearly 20 million vehicles were sold.

That is a significant and rather abrupt increase and has not come without some concomitant (cough) havoc. It is also is nearly one car for every human living in Shanghai, which now ranks as the globe’s most populous city, and is the site of this week’s Chinese Auto Show, an honor it alternates, annually, with Beijing. Having attended the festivities in the capital last year, this sitting was beyond preferable. Alluring, cosmopolitan, and at once fiendishly diverse and monolithically immense, Shanghai is kind of like Haussmann’s plan for Paris, but with every block sprouting brightly illuminated seventy-story erection. In contrast, Beijing is more like 19th century Leeds, but with every block sprouting recalcitrant glandular growths and a rheumy pallor.

We could count about 11,000 constantly moving construction cranes from our perch on the 86th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and similarly ceaseless crowds at the block-square, seven-story Louis Vuitton store across the boulevard. Yet the mood among the American and European and Japanese auto manufacturers was cautiously sober. After a decade or so of ludicrous record-breaking growth, the free-range catbird days are, apparently, over. China, we kept being told, is maturing.

This means different things to different manufacturers.

It means that the ultra-luxury segment is no longer the market’s sole automotive focus, though it continues to churn inexorably toward its imminent position as global leader, as evinced by the ten-deep crush of spectators vying for an opportunity to be prevented from accessing the cordoned stands where the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Bentley Flying Spur made their Chinese debuts.

It means that there is room for a brand like Maserati, which introduces a new car about as often as the Canadians coronate a king, to show two all-new vehicles — its elegantly dilated Quattroporte, and its sharply aggressive E-Class-fighting Ghibli — both part of their China-fueled plan to increase global production ten-fold in the coming years.

It means that Audi can choose, after a quick-peek preview prior to the New York Show, to officially debut a pair of premium and super-premium small sedans, in the handsome, and positively B3 80-echoing A3 and S3.

It means that, based on the government’s ability to craft and enforce autocratic dictates — for worse, and occasionally for the environmentally better —a Lotus Elise-platformed, former Lotus executive-run, Motown-based, alt-power startup like Detroit Electric, can choose to world premiere their carbon fiber-bodied roadster here in the hopes of cashing in on the Party’s green-for-green initiative. Ditto for Porsche and their plug-in Panamera S e-hybrid. And Icona with its audacious Vulcano 950-hp hybrid hypercar.


The Nissan Friend-Me concept the Great Wall Olay
And it means that there is expansion enough in the needs and tastes of the vast middle of the market that home country manufacturers like Geely, BYD, Brilliance, Lifan, Gaima, and the aptly titled GAC, can move from creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of lifestyle-oriented success like the 2007 Lexus RS and 2007 Mini Cooper, to creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of crisp inanity, like the 2007 Hyundai Sonata.

Here’s what “maturing” doesn’t mean: aging. The youth/car conversation in the West is focused almost exclusively on our Millennials’ auto-averse predisposition for texting-while-remaining-in-virtually-connected-stasis-in-mom’s-basement to the far riskier texting-while-driving. Quite the opposite is true for the kids in the Axis of Sino Evil. Remember the One Child policy of the '70s and '80s? Well, it was effective. But when dealing with 500 million workers of child-bearing age, it still yielded the world’s largest demographic cohort: 250 million only children, now in their 20s and 30s. You may have noticed, without any sense of foreboding, that this is approximately the size of America’s entire population. Except these whippersnappers are all educated, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, employable, and raised up in an era of capitalistic plenty. And they’re hungry for cars.

Nissan is after a meaty chunk of this horde with their Facebook-is-not-available-in-China-taunting Friend-Me concept, which promises to bring these sibling-less youths together with their beloved peers in “a show-offy design that combines a cocoon-like interior with tech-savvy integration, allowing the constant sharing of mobile experiences,” whatever that means. If every picture tells a story, this one’s goes something like this: once upon a time there were some 370Z headlamps, and on their way to the Peach Forest, they met a grille shaped like the Boxster S exhaust outlet, a erratically distended flank that resembles a Leaf stretch limousine, some wheels last seen julienning zucchini on a LaMachine, and a set of Bangle-era BMW 6-series taillights that were bit by a rabid bat and sprouted prehensile wings. We smell a hit!

Mercedes and BMW are gunning for these kids’ lonely aspirational dollars with Sportily Active-ish Vehicles. Benz cocked and shot off the 67th round in its semi-automatic assault on the niche marketplace: a handsomely snouty — and not excessively over-styled, for a change — CLA-based GLA high-rider. We generally hate crossovers, but we were captivated. Likewise for the Bavarians, who played the tree-frog card with an azurely anuran five-door sport-activity coupe-sedan-hatchback thingy: #mce_temp_url#the X4. As with goslings, or baby bok choy, there are times when hitting something hideous with Doctor Shrinker’s ray gun can render it adorable, and the Bimmer folks have proven this by downscaling their ug-duck X6 into this palatable fun-sized treat.
Just to make sure that China’s GenOne-Is-The-Loneliest-Number gets the (text) message, BMW plan to load the driver-centric screens of their vehicles with a network of social network-friendly apps like the Chinese Facebook (Tencent), the Chinese Twitter (Sina Weibo), the Chinese Pandora (Douban) and the Chinese YouTube (Youku). During a tour of these incipient integrations at BMW’s Connected Drive lab in Shanghai’s lovely French Concession district, we asked one of the marque’s tweengineers precisely who would be driving the car while she was raptly scrolling and scrawling networked connectivity upon the touchpaddy iDrive controller. She raised her hand proudly. We almost rolled our eyes and said, “(Chinese) kids today,” but then we remembered that there are 250 million of them, and they function with one communal hive brain, and reconsidered we don’t fancy that kind of enemy. Also, given the traffic in China, none of them will ever drive faster than 20 kph, so what kind of damage can they really do?

And what of Flint’s strutting Imperial Lion, the formerly dominant Buick? Well, in this ever-maturing market, the brand that has spent the past five years fleeing from its synonymity with maturity made a big noise by unveiling the latest iteration of its ancient Riviera personal luxury yacht concept. It’s not a production-ready car. And it’s not exactly ugly. But while 175 of those 176 privately owned '80s vehicles may have been Buicks, in a marketplace predicated on freshness, this fruit may be a bit over-ripe.


Best, New and Latest cars, celebrities cars,Expensive and luxury cars

Hybrids largely come in two categories: the oxymoronic performance cars like the underwhelming Honda CR-Z, or pragmatic fuel-sippers with the allure of a Whirlpool dishwasher, like a Toyota Prius C. So it’s a delightful surprise that the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi not only satisfy behind the wheel, but also live up to its EPA figures (unlike Ford’s C-Max Hybrid).

Part of the obvious appeal is style: in a sea of midsize Ed O'Neills, the new Ford Fusion is a Sophia Vergara of grocery pushers. And those dreamy curves don’t come with exorbitant maintenance bills like an Italian exotic, or an unattainable price tag.

Moreover, the Hybrid and plug-in Energi are the most desirable of the Fusion line-up. Sure the 231-hp Titanium AWD trim has more immediate acceleration, but in city driving the gasoline turbo gets the mpg of a Mitsubushi Evo. Plus, the Fusion hybrid has one of the more rewarding fuel economy displays on the market. Unlike the hackneyed, touchy-feely user interface of its competitors like the Kia Optima Hybrid, which shows a plant blooming with frilly flowers when you’re saving gas, Ford just tells you the percentage of energy returned from regenerative braking, or your average fuel economy per trip.

Even without resorting to self-aggrandizing metaphors of saving a tree through your driving (imagery lost on me since I have a black thumb with plants), it feels like a video game when trying to maximize efficiency. The no-nonsense UI and tactile feedback clearly communicate how the hybrid system works, providing a sense of connection to the car. For example, you get a subtle tug when the brakes transitions to the conventional disc brakes. Conventional wisdom says it should be seamless, but because you feel the switch over, the car subconsciously teaches you to be soft on the left pedal to get the energy back.


And that’s behavioral patterning I haven’t embraced with any other hybrid. I found myself driving 60 mph in the slow lane for my daily commute, as opposed to barreling down the left lane — and enjoying it. The steering provides decent feedback, and although the batteries to the rear crimp on trunk space (especially the Energi, which barely fits a set of golf clubs), it provides better weight balance while still retaining a sporting character around the bends. If you need to romp on it, the combined 188 hp from the gasoline and electric motor is more than enough for passing on freeways, though I was content to keep it running in the electric mode whenever possible.

Choosing between the hybrid and plug-in comes down to daily driving habit: the hybrid is ideal for city driving, where it’s easy to hit 50 mpg even in snarled stop-and-go traffic. But on the interstate that efficiency can quickly dwindle to 35-40 mpg, especially when getting to speeds above 70 mph, or driving in cold weather. Whereas it’s easy to hit the EPA-rated figure (47/47 city/hwy mpg) around town, on the freeway it’s impossible to hit that number when going above 65 mph — mostly because the Fusion won’t use much of the electric motor. Hence the Energi is better suited for longer, higher-speed jaunts with its 21-mile electric range, and the higher throttle threshold for the gasoline motor to kick in means it feels more like a full-fledged electric car. That said, the additional 300 lbs. of weight in the plug-in does slightly dampen acceleration and the responsiveness through the corners.

Starting at $38,700 the Energi trim lands in luxury car territory, but it benefits from a $3,750 Federal tax credit, and for the Prius-loving Californians, an additional $1,500 CARB credit as well as the coveted HOV lane sticker. The hybrid starts at $27,200 which is a strong deal considering its combination of style, fuel efficiency and crisp dynamics. But you can’t go wrong with either — an engaging drive is a rarity in the appliance-minded segment of midsize cars.

April 22: Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, dies on this date in 1933

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

In the late 1980s, there were only 176 cars registered to private individuals in the entire nation of China. Those stats did not include the cavalcades of outmoded Hongqi limousines used to ferry about key Party members, which likely brought the total beyond the three-digit range. Still, contrast this with 2012 when, in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, nearly 20 million vehicles were sold.

That is a significant and rather abrupt increase and has not come without some concomitant (cough) havoc. It is also is nearly one car for every human living in Shanghai, which now ranks as the globe’s most populous city, and is the site of this week’s Chinese Auto Show, an honor it alternates, annually, with Beijing. Having attended the festivities in the capital last year, this sitting was beyond preferable. Alluring, cosmopolitan, and at once fiendishly diverse and monolithically immense, Shanghai is kind of like Haussmann’s plan for Paris, but with every block sprouting brightly illuminated seventy-story erection. In contrast, Beijing is more like 19th century Leeds, but with every block sprouting recalcitrant glandular growths and a rheumy pallor.

We could count about 11,000 constantly moving construction cranes from our perch on the 86th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and similarly ceaseless crowds at the block-square, seven-story Louis Vuitton store across the boulevard. Yet the mood among the American and European and Japanese auto manufacturers was cautiously sober. After a decade or so of ludicrous record-breaking growth, the free-range catbird days are, apparently, over. China, we kept being told, is maturing.

This means different things to different manufacturers.

It means that the ultra-luxury segment is no longer the market’s sole automotive focus, though it continues to churn inexorably toward its imminent position as global leader, as evinced by the ten-deep crush of spectators vying for an opportunity to be prevented from accessing the cordoned stands where the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Bentley Flying Spur made their Chinese debuts.

It means that there is room for a brand like Maserati, which introduces a new car about as often as the Canadians coronate a king, to show two all-new vehicles — its elegantly dilated Quattroporte, and its sharply aggressive E-Class-fighting Ghibli — both part of their China-fueled plan to increase global production ten-fold in the coming years.

It means that Audi can choose, after a quick-peek preview prior to the New York Show, to officially debut a pair of premium and super-premium small sedans, in the handsome, and positively B3 80-echoing A3 and S3.

It means that, based on the government’s ability to craft and enforce autocratic dictates — for worse, and occasionally for the environmentally better —a Lotus Elise-platformed, former Lotus executive-run, Motown-based, alt-power startup like Detroit Electric, can choose to world premiere their carbon fiber-bodied roadster here in the hopes of cashing in on the Party’s green-for-green initiative. Ditto for Porsche and their plug-in Panamera S e-hybrid. And Icona with its audacious Vulcano 950-hp hybrid hypercar.


The Nissan Friend-Me concept the Great Wall Olay
And it means that there is expansion enough in the needs and tastes of the vast middle of the market that home country manufacturers like Geely, BYD, Brilliance, Lifan, Gaima, and the aptly titled GAC, can move from creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of lifestyle-oriented success like the 2007 Lexus RS and 2007 Mini Cooper, to creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of crisp inanity, like the 2007 Hyundai Sonata.

Here’s what “maturing” doesn’t mean: aging. The youth/car conversation in the West is focused almost exclusively on our Millennials’ auto-averse predisposition for texting-while-remaining-in-virtually-connected-stasis-in-mom’s-basement to the far riskier texting-while-driving. Quite the opposite is true for the kids in the Axis of Sino Evil. Remember the One Child policy of the '70s and '80s? Well, it was effective. But when dealing with 500 million workers of child-bearing age, it still yielded the world’s largest demographic cohort: 250 million only children, now in their 20s and 30s. You may have noticed, without any sense of foreboding, that this is approximately the size of America’s entire population. Except these whippersnappers are all educated, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, employable, and raised up in an era of capitalistic plenty. And they’re hungry for cars.

Nissan is after a meaty chunk of this horde with their Facebook-is-not-available-in-China-taunting Friend-Me concept, which promises to bring these sibling-less youths together with their beloved peers in “a show-offy design that combines a cocoon-like interior with tech-savvy integration, allowing the constant sharing of mobile experiences,” whatever that means. If every picture tells a story, this one’s goes something like this: once upon a time there were some 370Z headlamps, and on their way to the Peach Forest, they met a grille shaped like the Boxster S exhaust outlet, a erratically distended flank that resembles a Leaf stretch limousine, some wheels last seen julienning zucchini on a LaMachine, and a set of Bangle-era BMW 6-series taillights that were bit by a rabid bat and sprouted prehensile wings. We smell a hit!

Mercedes and BMW are gunning for these kids’ lonely aspirational dollars with Sportily Active-ish Vehicles. Benz cocked and shot off the 67th round in its semi-automatic assault on the niche marketplace: a handsomely snouty — and not excessively over-styled, for a change — CLA-based GLA high-rider. We generally hate crossovers, but we were captivated. Likewise for the Bavarians, who played the tree-frog card with an azurely anuran five-door sport-activity coupe-sedan-hatchback thingy: #mce_temp_url#the X4. As with goslings, or baby bok choy, there are times when hitting something hideous with Doctor Shrinker’s ray gun can render it adorable, and the Bimmer folks have proven this by downscaling their ug-duck X6 into this palatable fun-sized treat.
Just to make sure that China’s GenOne-Is-The-Loneliest-Number gets the (text) message, BMW plan to load the driver-centric screens of their vehicles with a network of social network-friendly apps like the Chinese Facebook (Tencent), the Chinese Twitter (Sina Weibo), the Chinese Pandora (Douban) and the Chinese YouTube (Youku). During a tour of these incipient integrations at BMW’s Connected Drive lab in Shanghai’s lovely French Concession district, we asked one of the marque’s tweengineers precisely who would be driving the car while she was raptly scrolling and scrawling networked connectivity upon the touchpaddy iDrive controller. She raised her hand proudly. We almost rolled our eyes and said, “(Chinese) kids today,” but then we remembered that there are 250 million of them, and they function with one communal hive brain, and reconsidered we don’t fancy that kind of enemy. Also, given the traffic in China, none of them will ever drive faster than 20 kph, so what kind of damage can they really do?

And what of Flint’s strutting Imperial Lion, the formerly dominant Buick? Well, in this ever-maturing market, the brand that has spent the past five years fleeing from its synonymity with maturity made a big noise by unveiling the latest iteration of its ancient Riviera personal luxury yacht concept. It’s not a production-ready car. And it’s not exactly ugly. But while 175 of those 176 privately owned '80s vehicles may have been Buicks, in a marketplace predicated on freshness, this fruit may be a bit over-ripe.


Best, New and Latest cars, celebrities cars,Expensive and luxury cars

Hybrids largely come in two categories: the oxymoronic performance cars like the underwhelming Honda CR-Z, or pragmatic fuel-sippers with the allure of a Whirlpool dishwasher, like a Toyota Prius C. So it’s a delightful surprise that the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi not only satisfy behind the wheel, but also live up to its EPA figures (unlike Ford’s C-Max Hybrid).

Part of the obvious appeal is style: in a sea of midsize Ed O'Neills, the new Ford Fusion is a Sophia Vergara of grocery pushers. And those dreamy curves don’t come with exorbitant maintenance bills like an Italian exotic, or an unattainable price tag.

Moreover, the Hybrid and plug-in Energi are the most desirable of the Fusion line-up. Sure the 231-hp Titanium AWD trim has more immediate acceleration, but in city driving the gasoline turbo gets the mpg of a Mitsubushi Evo. Plus, the Fusion hybrid has one of the more rewarding fuel economy displays on the market. Unlike the hackneyed, touchy-feely user interface of its competitors like the Kia Optima Hybrid, which shows a plant blooming with frilly flowers when you’re saving gas, Ford just tells you the percentage of energy returned from regenerative braking, or your average fuel economy per trip.

Even without resorting to self-aggrandizing metaphors of saving a tree through your driving (imagery lost on me since I have a black thumb with plants), it feels like a video game when trying to maximize efficiency. The no-nonsense UI and tactile feedback clearly communicate how the hybrid system works, providing a sense of connection to the car. For example, you get a subtle tug when the brakes transitions to the conventional disc brakes. Conventional wisdom says it should be seamless, but because you feel the switch over, the car subconsciously teaches you to be soft on the left pedal to get the energy back.


And that’s behavioral patterning I haven’t embraced with any other hybrid. I found myself driving 60 mph in the slow lane for my daily commute, as opposed to barreling down the left lane — and enjoying it. The steering provides decent feedback, and although the batteries to the rear crimp on trunk space (especially the Energi, which barely fits a set of golf clubs), it provides better weight balance while still retaining a sporting character around the bends. If you need to romp on it, the combined 188 hp from the gasoline and electric motor is more than enough for passing on freeways, though I was content to keep it running in the electric mode whenever possible.

Choosing between the hybrid and plug-in comes down to daily driving habit: the hybrid is ideal for city driving, where it’s easy to hit 50 mpg even in snarled stop-and-go traffic. But on the interstate that efficiency can quickly dwindle to 35-40 mpg, especially when getting to speeds above 70 mph, or driving in cold weather. Whereas it’s easy to hit the EPA-rated figure (47/47 city/hwy mpg) around town, on the freeway it’s impossible to hit that number when going above 65 mph — mostly because the Fusion won’t use much of the electric motor. Hence the Energi is better suited for longer, higher-speed jaunts with its 21-mile electric range, and the higher throttle threshold for the gasoline motor to kick in means it feels more like a full-fledged electric car. That said, the additional 300 lbs. of weight in the plug-in does slightly dampen acceleration and the responsiveness through the corners.

Starting at $38,700 the Energi trim lands in luxury car territory, but it benefits from a $3,750 Federal tax credit, and for the Prius-loving Californians, an additional $1,500 CARB credit as well as the coveted HOV lane sticker. The hybrid starts at $27,200 which is a strong deal considering its combination of style, fuel efficiency and crisp dynamics. But you can’t go wrong with either — an engaging drive is a rarity in the appliance-minded segment of midsize cars.

April 22: Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, dies on this date in 1933

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show

In the late 1980s, there were only 176 cars registered to private individuals in the entire nation of China. Those stats did not include the cavalcades of outmoded Hongqi limousines used to ferry about key Party members, which likely brought the total beyond the three-digit range. Still, contrast this with 2012 when, in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, nearly 20 million vehicles were sold.

That is a significant and rather abrupt increase and has not come without some concomitant (cough) havoc. It is also is nearly one car for every human living in Shanghai, which now ranks as the globe’s most populous city, and is the site of this week’s Chinese Auto Show, an honor it alternates, annually, with Beijing. Having attended the festivities in the capital last year, this sitting was beyond preferable. Alluring, cosmopolitan, and at once fiendishly diverse and monolithically immense, Shanghai is kind of like Haussmann’s plan for Paris, but with every block sprouting brightly illuminated seventy-story erection. In contrast, Beijing is more like 19th century Leeds, but with every block sprouting recalcitrant glandular growths and a rheumy pallor.

We could count about 11,000 constantly moving construction cranes from our perch on the 86th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and similarly ceaseless crowds at the block-square, seven-story Louis Vuitton store across the boulevard. Yet the mood among the American and European and Japanese auto manufacturers was cautiously sober. After a decade or so of ludicrous record-breaking growth, the free-range catbird days are, apparently, over. China, we kept being told, is maturing.

This means different things to different manufacturers.

It means that the ultra-luxury segment is no longer the market’s sole automotive focus, though it continues to churn inexorably toward its imminent position as global leader, as evinced by the ten-deep crush of spectators vying for an opportunity to be prevented from accessing the cordoned stands where the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Bentley Flying Spur made their Chinese debuts.

It means that there is room for a brand like Maserati, which introduces a new car about as often as the Canadians coronate a king, to show two all-new vehicles — its elegantly dilated Quattroporte, and its sharply aggressive E-Class-fighting Ghibli — both part of their China-fueled plan to increase global production ten-fold in the coming years.

It means that Audi can choose, after a quick-peek preview prior to the New York Show, to officially debut a pair of premium and super-premium small sedans, in the handsome, and positively B3 80-echoing A3 and S3.

It means that, based on the government’s ability to craft and enforce autocratic dictates — for worse, and occasionally for the environmentally better —a Lotus Elise-platformed, former Lotus executive-run, Motown-based, alt-power startup like Detroit Electric, can choose to world premiere their carbon fiber-bodied roadster here in the hopes of cashing in on the Party’s green-for-green initiative. Ditto for Porsche and their plug-in Panamera S e-hybrid. And Icona with its audacious Vulcano 950-hp hybrid hypercar.


The Nissan Friend-Me concept the Great Wall Olay
And it means that there is expansion enough in the needs and tastes of the vast middle of the market that home country manufacturers like Geely, BYD, Brilliance, Lifan, Gaima, and the aptly titled GAC, can move from creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of lifestyle-oriented success like the 2007 Lexus RS and 2007 Mini Cooper, to creating blatantly mimetic rip-offs of iconic exemplars of crisp inanity, like the 2007 Hyundai Sonata.

Here’s what “maturing” doesn’t mean: aging. The youth/car conversation in the West is focused almost exclusively on our Millennials’ auto-averse predisposition for texting-while-remaining-in-virtually-connected-stasis-in-mom’s-basement to the far riskier texting-while-driving. Quite the opposite is true for the kids in the Axis of Sino Evil. Remember the One Child policy of the '70s and '80s? Well, it was effective. But when dealing with 500 million workers of child-bearing age, it still yielded the world’s largest demographic cohort: 250 million only children, now in their 20s and 30s. You may have noticed, without any sense of foreboding, that this is approximately the size of America’s entire population. Except these whippersnappers are all educated, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, employable, and raised up in an era of capitalistic plenty. And they’re hungry for cars.

Nissan is after a meaty chunk of this horde with their Facebook-is-not-available-in-China-taunting Friend-Me concept, which promises to bring these sibling-less youths together with their beloved peers in “a show-offy design that combines a cocoon-like interior with tech-savvy integration, allowing the constant sharing of mobile experiences,” whatever that means. If every picture tells a story, this one’s goes something like this: once upon a time there were some 370Z headlamps, and on their way to the Peach Forest, they met a grille shaped like the Boxster S exhaust outlet, a erratically distended flank that resembles a Leaf stretch limousine, some wheels last seen julienning zucchini on a LaMachine, and a set of Bangle-era BMW 6-series taillights that were bit by a rabid bat and sprouted prehensile wings. We smell a hit!

Mercedes and BMW are gunning for these kids’ lonely aspirational dollars with Sportily Active-ish Vehicles. Benz cocked and shot off the 67th round in its semi-automatic assault on the niche marketplace: a handsomely snouty — and not excessively over-styled, for a change — CLA-based GLA high-rider. We generally hate crossovers, but we were captivated. Likewise for the Bavarians, who played the tree-frog card with an azurely anuran five-door sport-activity coupe-sedan-hatchback thingy: #mce_temp_url#the X4. As with goslings, or baby bok choy, there are times when hitting something hideous with Doctor Shrinker’s ray gun can render it adorable, and the Bimmer folks have proven this by downscaling their ug-duck X6 into this palatable fun-sized treat.
Just to make sure that China’s GenOne-Is-The-Loneliest-Number gets the (text) message, BMW plan to load the driver-centric screens of their vehicles with a network of social network-friendly apps like the Chinese Facebook (Tencent), the Chinese Twitter (Sina Weibo), the Chinese Pandora (Douban) and the Chinese YouTube (Youku). During a tour of these incipient integrations at BMW’s Connected Drive lab in Shanghai’s lovely French Concession district, we asked one of the marque’s tweengineers precisely who would be driving the car while she was raptly scrolling and scrawling networked connectivity upon the touchpaddy iDrive controller. She raised her hand proudly. We almost rolled our eyes and said, “(Chinese) kids today,” but then we remembered that there are 250 million of them, and they function with one communal hive brain, and reconsidered we don’t fancy that kind of enemy. Also, given the traffic in China, none of them will ever drive faster than 20 kph, so what kind of damage can they really do?

And what of Flint’s strutting Imperial Lion, the formerly dominant Buick? Well, in this ever-maturing market, the brand that has spent the past five years fleeing from its synonymity with maturity made a big noise by unveiling the latest iteration of its ancient Riviera personal luxury yacht concept. It’s not a production-ready car. And it’s not exactly ugly. But while 175 of those 176 privately owned '80s vehicles may have been Buicks, in a marketplace predicated on freshness, this fruit may be a bit over-ripe.


Watch the video: DT Test Drive Новый Bentley Flying Spur 2020 (June 2022).


Comments:

  1. Macray

    It is a pity that I cannot express myself now - there is no leisure. I will be back - I will absolutely express the opinion.

  2. Gasida

    Well done, your idea will be useful

  3. Yayauhqui

    I have a similar situation. Let's discuss.

  4. Anfeald

    Thank you for choosing information.



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