31 March 2007

4.0 HF Engine Coming To Cadillac?

An internal source is indicating that Cadillac and GM are couching a bit on the upcoming 2008 CTS. Everyone knows that the base engine will be the current 3.6 motor making 255 horsepower. Likewise, Cadillac and GM have announced that the uplevel motor will be the same engine with direct injection making about 300 HP. What hasn't been unveiled yet is that Cadillac will be receiving an exclusive High Feature variant with a 4.0 litre displacement for model year 2009, slotting above the 3.6 DI engine. It will make about 350 horsepower and will be a placeholder until the Ultra V8 can be slotted into the CTS as it moves upmarket to battle the BMW 5 Series.

What does this mean?

It means that someone has their head on straight at GM. The 2008 CTS is a porker and a half. This should help immensely.


The current 3.6 HF V6 is a sleeved 3.8 liter engine, and that would have been the obvious easy upgrade path for Cadillac in terms of getting this new motor out the door. However, an internal decision was made to move beyond the 3.8 liter size because of past associations that would come up with the soon to be extinct 3800 V6 which dates back to a time when many were still a twinkle in the eyes of their father. The same reasoning was used to preclude a 3.9 upgrade, which could possibly be confused with the 3.9 OHV found in the G6, Impala and Malibu.

29 March 2007

Infiniti Has Seen The Future, And That Future Doesn't Include Big Trucks

With the first shots of the forthcoming Infiniti EX35 hitting the net today, there has been some discussion as to what exactly Infiniti is doing with their range of vehicles.

Once the EX is officially in the fold, they'll have 3 trucks/crossovers to choose from, and only 2 passenger cars.

Weird combination right?

Well the future plan looks like this for Infiniti-

  • The EX35, which will be sporting the VQ 3.5, will be slotting underneath the FX series vehicles at a lower price point, but with almost the same amount of interior space. The VQ in this variation will be rated at 300 HP or more. There is talk of providing the 2.5 I4 engine from the Altima/Sentra SE-R as a possible EX25 entry level model. The range will compete against the BMW X3, the Acura RDX, and the smaller Lexus SUV due to come out in a few years.
  • The FX series will move up in size with their redesign, scheduled within the next 2 years, in order to combat the newly enlarged BMW X5, the Mercedes ML series, the Audi Q7, the Cadillac SRX and the Lexus RX. Two engine options will be available again, however the lower end engine will be the 3.7 liter VQ currently scheduled for the Infiniti G37 Coupe. The V8 will be an all new engine which will be also featured in the refreshed M series, and the all new...
  • Q50. The current 4.5 liter V8 is quickly being caught by the bored out VQ 3.7, so Infiniti/Nissan will be making a larger version for use in their premium models. Some thought had been given to using the powerplant in the GT-R, but it was quickly nixed as not being sporty enough.
  • The horrid QX56 is scheduled to be discontinued once the new lineups are in place. It will go back to being a Nissan only model.
So the Infiniti lineup will look as follows-

G37 Sedan/G37 Coupe

Leaner and more focused for the Japanese BMW competitor.

28 March 2007

The 10 Worst GM Vehicles Of The Past 25 Years.

The first of a series.

In no particular order, the vehicles that have brought out the worst in GM during the last 25 years, in no order:

The Chevy Cavalier that the Cadillac Cimarron was based on was a completely average car for its day. Ok, maybe a bit below average. And that works for a Chevy, especially when it tends to be cheaper than everyone else. The Cadillac Cimarron however, with its added 'Cadillac features', Caddy badge, and additional few thousand dollars in cost, was a complete joke. It would be like Lexus offering a Corolla based entry level sedan. This single product was enough to set back the 'entry level' Caddy market for years- some would say until the CTS debuted in the early 2000s.

Up first, the venerable Grand Am- specifically the most recent examples right before the name was axed from the lexicon of Pontiac. Sure, the generations preceding this one were probably worse cars, but in the end, they were dependable and ran pretty well compared to the competition. By the time this Grand Am rolled around, the world was filled with great midsize and compact sedans from Honda, Toyota, Nissan et al, and it was woefully overmatched. The first problem was that it took the Pontiac 'style' to embarassing extremes with body cladding everywhere (a problem rectified too late). The second problem was that the interior addressed the concerns about hard touch materials in GMs to a fault- it looked like the inside of a solitary confinement cell in a mental institution with it's puffy shapes and Fisher-Price design. The engine options were bleak, the quality even bleaker. Just a depressing effort in a key market.

Up next on the list is what should have been the highlight of the brand that was supposed to be the saviour of GM against the Japanese. When the Ion was released, it was to be indicative of a 'new' Saturn (haven't we heard that before?). It was bolted onto a new and better platform, and it was to be the perfect little runabout vehicle for Civic and Corolla owners. Instead, it got anemic powerplants, incoherent styling that looked like 3 different designers worked on it at once, and an interior that could arguably be the worst in the history of man. And I haven't even mentioned the center mounted gauges. Even the Redline couldn't save this baby.

In 2007, the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu is being touted as the saviour of the midsize segment for GM. Back in 1997, the 1998 Chevrolet Malibu was touted as the saviour of the midsize segment for GM. The parallels are chilling. After being thrashed about by the Camry, Accord and Taurus for years, GM decided to finally lift their snouts out of the SUV trough and fight back. Their solution was a vehicle that made the Toyota Camry seem like a Supra. The Malibu was atrocious in almost every way possible. The exterior was as dull as anything ever formed in metal in history. The interior was an ergonomic mess. The engines were dull and weak compared to the competition. GM basically tried to Xerox the Camry, and ended up with the equivalent of a 3rd grade tracing job.

One of the most amazing things about GM these past 25 years has been their utter inability to make a minivan that was competitive in the marketplace. Things have gotten so bad that they've more or less abandoned the segment. Everything started promisingly enough- the dustbuster minivans of the 90's were innovative in a lot of ways, and actually took the minivan paradigm in a lot of new and interesting directions. Sadly, somewhere along the way, someone at GM decided that copying was better than innovating, and we got the next generation, which were decent enough vans I suppose, but with horrific crash test scores. Predictably, vehicles meant for chauffering children around that had bad crash test scores did not play well with the soccer mom set, so a few years ago, GM refreshed their lineup and bestowed upon us the SV6/Terraza/Uplander/Relay combination of death. The elongated snouts made the crash tests scores reasonable again... but made them the most ungainly vehicles on the minivan market. It didn't help that GM called attention to the looks in their marketing, touting 'SUV looks, minivan utility'. Of course, even the latter portion of the advertising statement was a falsity, as the minivans had an interior seating arrangement from hell that made even removing the seats a chore. Add to that anemic powerplants and a chassis/platform that felt like it was from the 50s, and you had a recipe for disaster.

The next vehicle on the list is still out there. Amazingly enough the Lacrosse/Allure is still on lots. And it's being touted as 'improved' because GM is going to drop a V8 into it and call it a Super. Yeehaw. The Lacrosse doesn't make this list because it's an especially BAD car- it makes the list because it's an especially BAD car for the market it's supposed to cater to- which also explains why platform mates, the Grand Prix and the Intrigue, didn't make the list. Buick launched this thing as a Lexus ES competitor. They then proceeded to stick a 3800 V6 and a 4 speed automatic in the base models, and even offered a stripper model for the fleets. Inside had a pleasing dash shape surrounded by some of the cheapest feeling switchgear known to man and a floaty ride and handling that made you think of a mid 80s LeSabre. Even now, the notion of an OHV V8 equipped Lacrosse being a competitor to the Lexus ES350 is laughable.

The easiest vehicle to place on the list. In retrospect, the Aztek was a 'good idea too soon' vehicle- GM was on the right path with the crossover idea. It was the execution that stunk. The very first thing to note is how ugly the thing is/was. How it got past the focus groups of the time eludes me. Apart from the styling however, was just how unusable this vehicle was for its intended purpose- it was supposed to be a 'lifestyle' vehicle meant for people who liked nature, camping, etc... but the interior space wasn't utilized correctly, and in the end you were paying premium money for a funky looking minivan. And we know how well GM does minivans.

Before Art & Science, GM tried to take a different route to success with Cadillac. The idea was to use global design to save money for the company, and to import vehicles from other parts of the world for the North American market. Sound familiar? Anyways, when Opel sent over the Omega from Europe, there was a lot of hope for Cadillac as they tried to retake a market that had become dominated by the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, not to mention the market penetration achieved by upstart Lexus. The problem with all of this was that the Omega just wasn't a very good car. In addition, Cadillac saddled the first Cateras down the line with an underpowered and problem plagued V6 that turned off more customers than it turned on. In a market where Cadillac was trying to establish a foothold, they needed to come to market perfectly- with the Catera, they failed. It's interesting to note that the CTS, which came after the Catera, had a lot of the same problems, but because it didn't have anonymous styling, it succeeded in getting Cadillac back into this market as a player.

The Chevy Cavalier/Pontiac Sunfire twins are perfect examples of how GM has gotten to the point they are at in the market. Built off of old platforms that were outdated a few years prior to their introduction, they were bound to fail from the start. Oh, they sold well- very well. But almost all of those sales were the worst kind- heavily discounted, heavily rebated, and to customers looking for bare bones transportation who didn't care about their vehicles. By selling these pieces of junk on wheels, GM reinforced their image as a maker of thrift store vehicles, and that's probably the greatest damnation of these vehicles that I can conjure up.

Last but not least is the Hummer H2. Yes, it provided a lot of media exposure for GM. Yes, it was featured in every rap video of the last 5 years. Yes, it's distinct. Yes, it's a pretty good offroader. The reasons the H2 is on this list are two fold- first, it absolutely destroyed the idea of GM as a green company, and in effect allowed Toyota to take the position of a green company, and second, it truly is/was an awful machine. To the second point, it's an underpowered beast burdened by too much weight and far too high a center of gravity- not to mention the second worst interior in a vehicle ever (only behind the Ion). To the first point, the Hummer H2 brought in sales, yes, but it was also the final nail in the coffin for the image of GM as a company that cared about the environment or fuel economy. The juxtaposition of a Prius and an H2 should haunt GM execs forever, especially as they try to jumpstart the Volt project.

That's it for GM- up next, who knows. I'll take requests.

Eddie Griffin- Future Academy Award Winner?

Everyone and their mother has seen this right?

Well, this is what TMZ has to say-


Roll the video and take a close look at the guy standing next to the concrete barrier. He doesn't even flinch as the car comes near. Also, it's pretty interesting that after the crash, Griffin joked it up, saying, "Undercover Brother's good at karate and all the rest of that, but the brother can't drive." This isn't the first time that one of Daniel Sadek's high-priced cars have been wrecked. During production of his movie, "Redline," two of the producer/real estate investor's expensive Porsche Carrera GTs were totaled during filming. One of the collisions was designed as a stunt. The other was an accident.
If it was a hoax, it's the greatest range Eddie Griffin has ever shown as an actor in his life.

The 2008 Cadillac STS, aka The 2008 Cadillac 'We Don't Care About This Market Segment'

Wow. Cadillac has really outdone themselves this time. After actually deciding that the luxury buyer deserves a luxury interior, and appointing the 2008 CTS and 2007 Escalade/SRX with interiors that at least look like they belong in the segments they are competing in (and in the case of the SRX, exceeding them), Cadillac has now gone and lifted their hind leg on the their flagship luxury sedan.

They've managed to make it look more boring and generic, while also making it look more geriatric via the DTS clone front end. Save me the platitudes about the familial resemblance to the CTS in the front end. It's a tenuous connection at best. Following the lead of younger brother CTS, Cadillac designers have done almost nothing rear of the A-pillar as well. But wait you say- the interior was what always needed work done in the past STS.Well there you have it. The piece de resistance. An MCE so thorough and so exciting that the entire earth is trembling beneath our feet. Surely, a new steering wheel, and a bit more brightwork was all that was needed, no? Oh wait, how could I forget the new dash shapes, that somehow make it look like Cadillac is trying to emulate the horrific new Lincoln interiors?

What's most sad about all of this is that Caddy has a perfectly good and modern new STS interior... but they're using it overseas in China right now.


After all the brouhaha about a 'new' GM, the 'old' GM rears its head again. Add in the 'new' Buick lineup, which is essentially a bunch of V8s thrown into subpar vehicles along with huge and garish grilles, and NYIAS is not exactly turning out to be a game changing show for General Motors.

26 March 2007

The 2008 BMW/ Mercedes/ Chrysler/ Acura/ Nissan/ Infinti/ Toyota/ Lexus/ Hyundai Genesis

Well, another embargo bites the dust. Apparently with the blessing of the manufacturer this time.

The real question is- when will Hyundai make a vehicle that has some sort of exterior styling that isn't blatantly cribbed from everyone else? Apparently they've hired a long lost brother of Chris Bangle to design the Genesis, who then proceeded to stare at pictures of every mid-range luxury vehicle on the market, and came up with this.

Things to like? A great feature set- all the luxury goodies, RWD, an available V8. No way you can scoff at that.

Things not to like? Styling that makes the term 'derivative styling' seem unique.

Not like they don't have a history of this, but with the Genesis, they're at a new low. The Sonata was a carbon copy Accord. The Amanti and XG were carbon copy Mercedes. The mini-SUVs have a lot of RAV-4 and shockingly enough Infiniti FX in them. The company simply has ZERO design credibility.

But it'll still probably sell.

Bob Lutz To The World- No Really, We're Serious, I Promise!


I knew it wouldn’t be long before the naysayers came out.

We’re not unplugging anything. We revealed the Chevrolet Volt, our electrically driven concept vehicle, to much praise at the Detroit show in January. We said we knew we had a tough challenge to see it through, but that we’re committed to the program.


I’ve said before that this is not a publicity stunt, but it’s as if people don’t want to believe it if we give them anything short of a guarantee of Volt delivery… with an exact date, time and sticker price.
So speaketh Sir Bob The Magnificent, so proclaimeth the nattering masses that call themselves GM diehards.

When Lutz gets defensive like this, one has to laugh. For all of his business acumen and past creative genius, the man has a serious chip on his shoulder. What were the odds that he would portray the reporting of the words of HIS OWN PEOPLE as being some sort of biased mandate by the journalists of this world? Slam dunk guaranteed, and the man didn't disappoint. It's become the new mantra at GM- us against the world, even when we're the ones who've gotten ourselves into this mess.

Bob- no one would have demanded build dates and such from GM if YOU AND YOUR STAFF hadn't opened your traps about a 2010 target. No one would have reported about GM backing off of their Volt hype if you all hadn't told the press to temper their Volt expectations. See where this is going?

Sometimes the answer is right in front of you Bob. I suggest you look there first. There is not witch hunt against GM- make a decent product like the Lambdas, or a spectacular product like the Z06, and the witch hunt somehow ceases. Flap your gums in the wind like a flowing American flag, and you'll get called for it.

25 March 2007

How GM May Have Muffed Up An Easy Win.

Concept cars are always an interesting gamble for a manufacturer. Sometimes they're legitimate sneak peaks at future vehicles. Sometimes they're pie in the sky exterior design exercises covering humdrum mechanicals. Sometimes they're purely engineering exercises. And sometimes they portend a revolution.

At NAIAS in Detroit this year, GM portended a revolution. Somehow evading the embargo breakers, they unveiled a concept that actually caught a lot of people by surprise- the Chevrolet Volt. Not only did it have concept styling, but it had one hell of a futuristic premise- the kind that portends a revolution: a purely electric vehicle charged every so often by an internal combustion engine. Such a simple premise, and yet one that hadn't been broached by the industry yet.

Theoretically, a vehicle like the Volt would erase gasoline needs for anyone travelling less than 60 miles in day. Drive it less than that, and all you'd have to do is plug it in when you got home. Easy, quick, painless. Heck, drive it 100 miles, and you'd only be using the small and economical gas generator for 40 miles. 40 miles for 100 miles is a great tradeoff no?

The problem with all of this was that, well, GM didn't preview a revolution. Yet.

Rather, they previewed a possible revolution. If things went perfectly the way they wanted them to. If battery technology got to a certain capacity point. If the battery technology got cheaper. If the battery technology increased the amount of recharge cycles it could endure. That's a lot of ifs. It's an especially large amount of ifs when you realize that in the last 100 years or so, battery capacity and flexibility has only increased 8-fold, which is rather piddling considering we've been trying to extract more power from batteries for some time now.

Of course, GM did nothing to dissuade the positive press. And why would they? The Volt did evreything they could have imagined, and more. In one fell swoop, GM became the darling of NAIAS and a feel good old fashioned example of American ingenuity once again leading the world. And read carefully- that is EXACTLY what they wanted. The press, enamored with their story, buried the news about how this was not feasible at all unless a lot of ifs were satisfied in the middle of their stories. Headlines sprung forth that inferred that the Volt would be ready quickly. Again, GM did NOTHING to dissuade this. Bob Lutz even gave interviews saying that the battery technology was 90% there and that GM should have the vehicle by 2010.

But things seem to have hit a snag.

Instead of being forgotten and relegated to the dustbins of auto shows past, the Volt idea has lived on. It's a testament to how good of an idea it is really.

And now, after all the thunder and lightning, GM is trying to cool down expectations.

From the Detroit News:
The enormity of GM's challenge was evident last week when it called journalists to a backgrounder to explain the technological hurdles facing the Volt project -- and reiterate that it can't guarantee the futuristic car will ever hit the road.
Isn't that a pile of BS? Two months ago, they had no problems letting imaginations run wild. Now, they're backing up quickly. So if Toyota/Honda/InsertBrandHere comes to market with a plug-in hybrid before GM, they will have basically advertised the idea for free at NAIAS this year. And with rumours of the next gen Prius being a plug-in, this may very well be the case. And don't even try to imagine the backlash against GM if they don't get this thing to market at or close to 2010- after the EV1 debacle, they'll be crucified. And they will have done it all to themselves.

At the very least, this whole situation continues to exhibit just how much trouble GM really is in- with no united message, and the same old 'wait till next year' approach to both their vehicles AND now their concepts, has GM changed?