2011 Ford F-150 Lariat SuperCrew Car Review

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost 4X4 Supercrew. Photo by David Arnouts.

Published on 5/26/2011

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EXECUTIVE EDITOR--AUTOWEEK.COM BOB GRITZINGER: Though I wasn't carrying a load of dirt, a posse of passengers or towing a boat or camper, it is still remarkable how well this twin-turbocharged V6 hauls this nearly three-ton behemoth known as the 2011 Ford F-150 Lariat down the highway. It's strong off the line, good in the mid-range, steady at 70 mph, and kicks down to run even faster if the need arises. What's not so good are some of the driveline clunks and turbo and transmission lag that sometimes give the truck a tentativeness that you wouldn't ever feel in a V8-powered F-150. If you're partial to trucks that get up and go like an SVT Lightning, this isn't your rig.

But if your sensibilities run to stylish hauling, stunning interiors (love that light wood trim in this one), all the amenities--and reasonable fuel economy, you'll absolutely want to give this boosted V6 version a whirl. It's pricey, yes, probably as much in this fully outfitted SuperCrew trim as you'd spend for a V8 version, but with the V8 you're committed to years of payments and the possibility of parking it because of $5- or $6-per-gallon fuel. If the V6 posts even close to the EPA numbers, you'll eventually see the payback at the pump over the V8. Just basic math says you'll save $4,000 to $6,000 on fuel over 100,000 miles.

Damn nice truck.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR ROGER HART: Amen to Bobby's “damn nice truck.” I can't imagine anyone buying this will really miss the V8, unless they're using their $50,000 truck to pull heavy loads or push a lot of snow. But even then, this thing has a boat-load of torque, and man, I was able to pass cars on a two-lane road that I don't think I would have attempted in a V8-powered F-150.

The power application is not quite as smooth as it could be, and the throttle is a bit twitchier than I'd like it. But there is no denying the potent wallop this thing has under the hood, especially in the 45- to 70-mph range. It is very strong, and frankly, a bit surprising. I think it will take some time in the truck world to convince traditional truck buyers that they want a new-fangled, twin-turbocharged engine. But driving is believing, and this is a very nice driving truck.

Having heaped all this praise, I think I'd still rather have a nice six-cylinder turbocharged diesel cranking away for me.

COPY EDITOR CYNTHIA L. OROSCO-WRIGHT: I had this 2011 Ford F-150 Lariat SuperCrew over the weekend to get some moving boxes and, we thought, to pick up our lawn mower from a family member. But it poured all weekend, so we aborted the lawn mower retrieval and made a trip to a home-improvement store for the boxes and other packing supplies. Everything fit with lots of room to spare in the back seats. We also met up with friends and their kids, and all were enamored by the “monster truck” and all of its bells and whistles.

So, what was the F-150 like to drive? Big, but not imposingly so for someone (me) who is not a big fan of big trucks. There was loads of power underhood that came on pretty smoothly and generally stayed strong, despite some instances of having to put my foot into it a little more for some more oomph. But the truck was solid on drenched roadways, and the brakes provided good stopping power, though I did notice a bit more pedal travel than I would like. We did bounce around some over crumbling and bumpy roads, but not terribly so. And passing was a breeze--yes, in a vehicle of this size.

The cabin was comfy and well appointed. I liked the light wood trim, and the Sync system was fairly simple to use. We took advantage of the navigation several times and it didn't once lead us astray. And, we were pleasantly surprised by the fuel economy. No, it's not hybrid level, but it was decent for a truck of this size.

DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Ford certainly knows what it has to do to market this truck. Turbocharged gasoline V6? That's what the specs say, but the engineers made the EcoBoost F-150 feel and sound like a diesel. The exhaust appears to have been carefully tuned to bellow at certain points just like a Powerstroke, and the torque curve is very much like a miniature version of what you'd find in a Super Duty oil-burner. There's no mistaking the difference between 420 lb-ft and 800 lb-ft of torque, though.

I agree with Bob: The smoothness isn't quite what I expected. There was noticeable driveline slop as though the engine and trans weren't quite communicating with each another, and it was most common during transitions when the transmission shift point and turbo lag (however minimal) overlapped.

Otherwise, this F-150 SuperCrew is a big, luxurious Texas ranch crawler complete with leather, the aforementioned woodlike trim and a comprehensive suite of infotainment technology. My kids sprawled out in back even from the confines of their car seats--my oldest calling out “Daddy, look at this!” I turned to find out what she was so excited about was the fact that, legs outstretched, she couldn't touch the front seat with her toes. A seemingly minor detail, but consider that this little girl has been in some big rides lately, including the Hyundai Genesis sedan, the Infiniti QX56 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. While there's no covered cargo compartment, the F-150 SuperCrew dwarfs them all for sheer passenger space.

NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: Dashing to and from work in this F-150 was enjoyable and eye-opening. I was fascinated by the EcoBoost V6, because it just seemed so alien to me. A turbo six in Ford's flagship pickup--it just took a lot of brain reconfiguration.

Once I got over my cylinder cynicism, I really enjoyed the 365 horses on tap. The power came on strong and stayed that way, no matter what I asked this big truck to accomplish. Revving to 3,000, 4,000 and even past 5,000 rpm was quick and energetic, and really, with this high of an output, who misses those two erstwhile cylinders. There was a good amount of torque and pull in this thing, and I was impressed with the feel of the power from launch and during passing maneuvers. Plus, check the numbers: This thing has way more power than Ford's old 4.6-liter and 5.4-liter V8s.

So, yes, I was fixated on the engine, but it's hard not to be. And this is an excellent execution of the F-150--no surprise since this is a stellar truck no matter the powerplant. The tuxedo black paint accented the blocks in the body styling, and the big wheels added confidence to the profile. Inside was plenty comfortable, with outstanding seats, easy-to-use controls and sharp gauges. The steering has a little more weight than that of the Ram, and this heft truck handles well. The chassis is very agreeable, not overly harsh even when rocketing over train tracks, and the brakes have immediate bite with a strong grabby feel.

Ford has a near-perfect execution with the F-150, and adding the EcoBoost mill is a smart move for 2011. I came away excited about the future of big trucks. I think there's always a place for a big V8, but this force-induced six-cylinder is a nice complement.

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I noticed the driveline slop, too, but it only happened once to me and I can't even remember the situation so I couldn't repeat it on command.

I miss the V8 growl, but that's about it. In terms of performance, this gives up nothing to a V8. Having said that, coming in this morning, the average mpg was 14.5, according to the in-dash instrument. I expected better. But there is plenty of power and it's a refined, smooth truck on the road.

I love the big chrome grille, and the interior was very nice.

ART DIRECTOR CHERYL L. BLAHNIK: As others mentioned, Ford has once again done an outstanding job with this truck. The F-150 has been the truck to beat for a long time, and it's sometimes scary when you hear that Ford made some bold changes such as offering a turbocharged V6 engine in an attempt to improve fuel efficiency.

Logically, you would think there would be some tradeoffs. Maybe it will be slower than and not as capable as a V8? I wasn't towing a trailer or anything like that during my night, but for my commuting needs, this EcoBoost V6 is impressive. I had no problems getting up to speed to easily merge onto the expressway, and passing was done with equal ease.

The interior is roomy, with lots of comfort offered by the heated/cooled leather seats. I wasn't a big fan of the woodlike interior trim, but layout of the interior controls is intuitive.

2011 Ford F-150 Lariat SuperCrew

Base Price: $40,590

As-Tested Price: $48,115

Drivetrain: 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6; 4WD, six-speed automatic

Output: 365 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 420 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 5,625 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 17/17.6 mpg

Options: Sony navigation radio ($2,495); Lariat chrome package including angular step bar, 18-inch chrome clad wheels ($1,495); power moonroof ($995); leather-trimmed, heated and cooled bucket seats ($975); Lariat plus package including universal garage-door opener, remote-start system, rearview camera and reverse-sensing system ($950); EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 engine, P275/65R-18 all-terrain tires ($750); max trailer tow package chrome including max trailer tow, power/heat/sig man tel/fold chr and trailer brake controller ($565); 3.73-ratio limited-slip axle, 7,650-pound GVWR package, select shift transmission and standard fuel tank ($300); Lariat premium discount (-$1,000)

Second Lamborghini Diablo GT-R up for grabs in California

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R  Photo by: Spencerberke.net

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R . Photo by Spencerberke.net.

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R  Photo by: Spencerberke.net

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R . Photo by Spencerberke.net.

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R  Photo by: Spencerberke.net

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R . Photo by Spencerberke.net.

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R  Photo by: Spencerberke.net

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R . Photo by Spencerberke.net.

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R  Photo by: Spencerberke.net

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R . Photo by Spencerberke.net.

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R  Photo by: Spencerberke.net

Monterey Blue Lamborghini GT-R . Photo by Spencerberke.net.

By DAVID ARNOUTS on 5/23/2011

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Not ready to pony up for the ultrarare, unraced Lamborghini Diablo GT-R that was for sale last week? As long as you didn't drop all of your change on rapture supplies, we've found you a second GT-R--albeit with racing history--for sale by the same owner.

This example, painted Monterey Blue by its previous Japan-based owner, has spent the past few years touring car shows and displays while remaining in a private collection.

The price hasn't yet been set (at least not publicly), but if you're interested, we're sure Symbolic Motorcars can tell you how many zeros to put on your check.

Want to know more? Check out the video review and test drive of the Diablo GT and the Diablo GT-R by Jay Leno.

Private Toyota Friend social network lets owners talk to their cars and each other

Toyota Friend social network Toyota
The new Toyota Friend network will allow owners to engage in verbal dialogue with their Toyota vehicles, like this Prius V.

By MICHELLE KOUEITER on 5/23/2011

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Toyota is launching a social-networking service that will enable owners to engage in verbal dialogue with their Toyota cars. They can share the exchanges in the network and broadcast them via Facebook and Twitter.

According to the Associated Press, Toyota is teaming up with U.S. Internet company Salesforce.com in San Francisco and Microsoft to launch the service, which it is calling Toyota Friend.

A Tokyo showroom demonstration showed a plug-in Prius owner receiving a cell phone reminder from his Prius--named “Pre-boy”--to remember to recharge his car overnight. When he plugged it in to recharge, the car said, “The charge will be completed by 2:15 a.m. Is that OK? See you tomorrow.”

The owner could choose to share the exchange with other Toyota Friend users and to make it public on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter.

The service works on open-source cloud platforms from Salesforce.com and Microsoft. It will launch in Japan in 2012 and later become available worldwide, first with electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

Toyota is spending $5.5 million on the project. Microsoft is investing $4.1 million, and Salesforce.com is footing $2.8 million.

“I hope cars can become friends with their users and customers will see Toyota as a friend,” Toyota president Akio Toyoda said.

Full press release below.

Salesforce.com and Toyota Form Strategic Alliance to Build 'Toyota Friend' Social Network for Toyota Customers and Their Cars

Toyota Friend to Be Powered by Salesforce Chatter

TOKYO, May 23, 2011—Salesforce.com [NYSE: CRM] and Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) [NYSE: TM] announced today that they have formed a strategic alliance to build “Toyota Friend”, a private social network for Toyota customers and their cars. Toyota Friend will be powered by Salesforce Chatter, a private social network used by businesses, and will be offered, first in Japan, initially with Toyota’s electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHV) due in 2012.

Toyota Friend will be a private social network that connects Toyota customers with their cars, their dealership, and with Toyota. Toyota Friend will provide a variety of product and service information as well as essential maintenance tips, creating a rich car ownership experience. For example, if an EV or PHV is running low on battery power, Toyota Friend would notify the driver to re-charge in the form of a “tweet”-like alert. In addition, while Toyota Friend will be a private social network, customers can choose to extend their communication to family, friends, and others through public social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The service will also be accessible through smart phones, tablet PCs, and other advanced mobile devices.

Regarding the alliance, salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said:

“Toyota and salesforce.com share a vision to take the auto industry into the future. Social and mobile technologies will transform the car ownership experience, and we are excited to be Toyota’s partner in this transformation.”

TMC President Akio Toyoda said:

“Social networking services are transforming human interaction and modes of communication. The automobile needs to evolve in step with that transformation. I am always calling for Toyota to make ever-better cars. The alliance that we announce today is an important step forward in achieving that goal.”

Salesforce.com is a fast-growing enterprise cloud computing company that has been in operation for more than 12 years. The company has nearly 100,000 customers worldwide, including large enterprises, small and medium-sized businesses, and government organizations. The company’s social, open, and mobile technologies represent the next generation of enterprise cloud computing.

To date, TMC has developed its own telematics services to connect people, cars and their surroundings. Through Toyota Friend, TMC aims to offer its telematics services worldwide. Moving forward, TMC plans to advance toward the realization of future mobility by teaming up proactively with global IT companies.

Although TMC and salesforce.com will launch their partnership with the building of Toyota Friend, in the future the companies plan to develop cloud services for TMC’s open platform and create new business opportunities leveraging their respective strengths.

Salesforce.com and TMC will each make investments in Toyota Media Service Co. (TMS), which oversees TMC’s global cloud platform development. Salesforce.com will invest 223 million yen and TMC will invest 442 million yen. Microsoft Corporation, which on April 6 announced a strategic partnership with TMC to build a global platform for next-generation telematics services, will invest 335 million yen.

VW launches 'Think Blue' campaign to pitch green initiatives

2012 VW Passat AutoWeek
The 2012 Volkswagen Passat is built in Chattanooga, Tenn., in what Volkswagen calls one of the world's greenest automobile factories.

By DIANA T. KURYLKO, AUTOMOTIVE NEWS on 5/23/2011

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Volkswagen is trying to recreate the magic of its 1960s marketing of the Beetle by bringing its "Think Blue." marketing campaign to the United States to promote eco-friendly driving and green initiatives.

The campaign - under way in Europe since last year - launches to coincide with a VW partnership with the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and Tuesday's grand opening of its new factory in Chattanooga, Tenn.

VW calls the Tennessee plant "one of the world's greenest automobile factories."

" 'Think Blue.' " bears witness to our holistic understanding of sustainability," said Jonathan Browning, CEO of the Volkswagen Group of America. "On the one hand, the new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga demonstrates just how eco-friendly and resource saving automobile production can be today. And on the other, we are seeking to intensify our dialog with art and society on key issues of the future through our cooperation with MoMA."

"Think Blue." marketing will tout the automaker's eco-friendly products and technologies as well as efficient manufacturing processes.

"Volkswagen is also seeking to heighten broad public awareness for sustainable actions and encourage everyone to play an active part," the company said in a statement.

Revisiting the 60s

"Think Blue." print and on-line ads will debut today along with billboards placed near the Museum of Modern Art and the factory in Chattanooga. A national marketing campaign will follow.

"Think Blue." harkens back to the brand's "Think Small" slogan of the `60s used to pitch the VW Beetle.

Advertising Age -- a sister publication of Automotive News -- called "Think Small" the top ad campaign of the 20th century. The marketing touted the small features of the Beetle in an era of big and flashy, and powerful Detroit-made cars.

Volkswagen is expanding its "Think Blue." initiative with the Museum of Modern Art partnership to include social and cultural issues.

The program announced today includes development of an international contemporary art exhibition, sponsorship of the museum's online education initiatives, a series of installations in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden and the donation of two works by Belgian artist Francis Alÿs.

Artists give us food for thought and let us look at the world from new angles. MoMA is one of the world's leading institutions in the field of contemporary art. With its persuasive expertise and its educational mission, it is our partner of choice," Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG, said in a statement.

"This partnership expresses our corporate commitment to take responsibility for the environment and for society."

VW said the new campaign coincides with the development of environmentally friendly products and technologies under the "Blue Motion" label.

VW said one of the first futurist products that goes into production is the XL1that debuted as a prototype in January at the Qatar auto show. The carbon-fiber body car has a plug-in diesel-electric powertrain and gets more than 200 miles per gallon.

VW will begin producing a limited number of XL1s starting in 2013 and will sell the car for an undisclosed price in Europe, the United States and China.

VW said the XL1 emits only 24 g/km of carbon dioxide. VW said the Chattanooga plant that is producing a new Passat sedan designed for the U.S. market complies with the U.S. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - or LEED - standard for efficient factory and production processes.

Big sales goals

On Tuesday, Volkswagen will officially open the $1 billion U.S. factory in Chattanooga where it plans to build up to 150,000 Passats annually.

The U.S. Passat goes on sale in the fall. It will be priced at about $20,000 – about $8,000 less than the smaller European car with the same name. VW will announce Passat pricing on Thursday.

The car will play a major role in VW's plans to increase U.S. sales to 800,000 vehicles by 2018. Last year, VW sold 256,830 vehicles in the United States .

The factory is expected to increase production up to 500,000 vehicles a year and produce a second vehicle in the coming years, possibly a mid-size SUV and vehicles for VW's Audi brand.

Endora SC-1 marks the latest Corvette-based coachbuilt sports car

 Photo by: Endora

Photo by Endora.

 Photo by: Endora

Photo by Endora.

 Photo by: Endora

Photo by Endora.

 Photo by: Endora

Photo by Endora.

 Photo by: Endora

Photo by Endora.

 Photo by: Endora

Photo by Endora.

By JAKE LINGEMAN on 5/23/2011

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One-off coachbuilder Endora Cars has taken its (digital) scalpel and sheetmetal to the C6 Corvette. After the bandages were removed, the world was left with the Endora SC-1.

The SC-1 is ready for production, according to Endora, and will feature three engine choices, all Corvette-based. The first will be the 6.2-liter V8 making 437 hp. The next step up will be the Z06 engine, with 7.0 liters and 512 horses. And for the truly insane, the supercharged ZR1 engine, an LS9 with 647 hp in this application.

The Endora SC-1 uses an exhaust system with side pipes that exit just in front of the rear wheels. The suspension consists of cast-aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted leaf springs and monotube shocks at the corners.

Look closely and you'll see that Endora preserved a bit of the Vette shape we all know and love, but it's been heavily reworked. The rear quarters cover the tires, giving a retro look similar to an old Ford Thunderbird. There's a bit of 'Cuda in the rear and just a touch of Acura NSX in front.

Endora says it was channeling the concept cars of the 1950s and '60s with the SC-1, but without too much of a retro feel. Did it succeed? Not quite, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so let us know what you think in the comments section.

Full press release below.

Endora SC-1 – A Classic Sports Car-Design with modern technology

MUNICH – Presenting the brand-new SC-1. Endora-Cars® Germany proves what might be the best synergy of dynamic, elegance, individualism and lifestyle yet.

Dynamicly flowing body lines, a sporty sketched silhouette with a distinctive swing – the SC-1 picks up the looks and values of contemporary american and european Sports Cars once built in the sixties and early seventies and skillfully reinterprets it into the presence.

The Design

In its body shape the SC-1 among other things looks about the concept cars once built in the fifties, sixties and early seventies. Modern and timely interpreted without being too "retro" the SC-1 stands out due to its sharply patered front, holding high-intensity-discharge headlamps and LED-fog lights, a long engine hood, an upward designed belt line including a dynamicly shaped swing and a flowing rear end mit its extremly horizontally positioned back window.

The rear of the SC-1 houses two LED-taillights, optically accentuated through the black body part on which they were positioned. Below the beltline one can find an also black painted diffusor that contains the back-up- and fog-lamps.

A very special design cue is found on the side of the SC-1: Here a part of the body is formed in a contrasting color that somehow reminds of a design detail used on the classic sportscars once built in the fifties.

An amply dimensioned front spoiler not only lets the SC-1 be visually more to the ground, but also delivers a better compacting pressure to the front axle. Under consideration of all these details the car forms a harmonically designed, almost breath-taking entity. Uniqueness and polarization has a name – Endora SC-1.

The Technology

Under its flowing body lines SC-1-owners can trust on the modern technology of the current sixth generation of the Corvette. Therefore customers will get their Coupé equipped with a 6.2 Liter/376 ci Aluminum-V8 (437 hp, 424 lb-ft) already as the basic configuration. The second step in matters of power would be another eight cylinder, this time developing 512 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque out of its 7.0 Liter/437 ci engine. The top-of-the-line model will feature a supercharged version of the 6.2 Liter/376 ci V8, that will deliver an impressive 647 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque to the rear axle. Every engine is mated to a six-speed-manual gearbox, while an automatic transmission mit six gears and paddleshift is optional for the smallest V8.

The burned gasoline will be removed by sidepipes that end directly prior the rear wheel openings. The suspension of the SC-1 consists of cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite leaf springs and monotube shock absorbers on all four ends. An electronic traction control is as standard as the Active Handling-system that monitors the driving dynamics. All Endora SC-1 will be delivered with 19 inch alloy wheels in the front and 20 inch rims in the back. As an option there will be 20 and 21 inch rims available.

Free Ferraris! Pasadena concorso is truly a collector's dream

Ferrari John Van Osdol
The Ferrari Club of America's Southwest Region plays host to an awesome display of wares from the Prancing Horse.

By MARK VAUGHN on 5/23/2011

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There's no entrance fee at the Concorso Ferrari in Pasadena, Calif.

Every spring, the Ferrari Club of America's Southwest Region puts on one of the best free shows you'll see all year. Concorso Ferrari is a gathering of prancing horses held right down the middle of the busiest street in the coolest part of Old Town Pasadena.

This year, 120 Ferraris made the show. (It was 140 but 20 didn't show up. What's wrong with those 20 guys?) While some concours are held in parks, on private estates or on the shores of picturesque Italian lakes, here the cars were strewn all up, down and in the middle of three blocks of Colorado Boulevard. The Old Town section of Colorado is sort of like the Rodeo Drive of Pasadena. It's made up of high-end shops and nice restaurants and is usually pretty crowded on any given day. Needless to say, the tifosi had plenty of places to eat or to buy a really expensive shoe or two.

As for the cars, the show always includes Ferraris from all eras. Three 250GTs--two 1956s and one a 1960--won the club's coveted platinum awards, but platinums also went to Dinos, 308s, 328s, 348s, 355s, an F40 and a 512M.

“We tried to get an FF but nobody has one yet,” lamented chief judge Wally Clark.

Best of Show was no contest this year, going to David Sydorick's Zagato-bodied 250GT LWB. Sydorick himself was at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este in Italy, perhaps the only event this particular weekend that could rival the action in Pasadena. Over there, Sydorick was showing another Zagato-bodied car, an Alfa Romeo TZ2. So for Concorso Ferrari, Sydorick's friend Ed Niles brought the car to the show. Niles, something of a demigod in Ferrari circles, bought and sold this particular 250GT six times, which has got to be some sort of record.

“I made money each time I sold it,” Niles said with a smile. “Last time [when it went to Sydorick], I sold it for $180,000, which was a record at the time. Now it would go for, what, $6 million?”

Niles got to pick an award all by himself, the Best Car on the Street award. Naturally, he chose another 250GT, this one owned by Paul Colony.

This was the third time FCA-SW has put on this show. Look for it next year sometime in late May.

Famed 1931 Duesenberg Whittell Coupe on the block at Gooding Pebble Beach auction

1931 Duesenberg Whittell Coupe, a Model J by Murphy, interior. Photo by: Pawel Litwinski © 2011 Courtesy of Gooding & Co

1931 Duesenberg Whittell Coupe, a Model J by Murph. Photo by Pawel Litwinski © 2011 Courtesy of Gooding & Co.

1931 Duesenberg Whittell Coupe, a Model J by Murphy, top view. Photo by: Pawel Litwinski © 2011 Courtesy of Gooding & Co

1931 Duesenberg Whittell Coupe, a Model J by Murph. Photo by Pawel Litwinski © 2011 Courtesy of Gooding & Co.

1931 Duesenberg Whittell Coupe, a Model J by Murphy, side view. Photo by: Pawel Litwinski © 2011 Courtesy of Gooding & Co

1931 Duesenberg Whittell Coupe, a Model J by Murph. Photo by Pawel Litwinski © 2011 Courtesy of Gooding & Co.

By ANDREW STOY on 5/23/2011

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Gooding & Co. is set to auction what it claims is "America's most elegant automobile," a 1931 Duesenberg Model J by Murphy, at the company's 2011 Pebble Beach auction in August.

Not to be confused with any run-of-the-mill Duesenberg Model J, this particular car is known as the Whittell Coupe after its owner, California playboy Captain George Whittell Jr. Whittell worked closely with Murphy designer Franklin Q. Hershey to pen one of the most dramatic car designs of all time. Says Gooding's David Brynan, the Whittell Coupe is "one of the few automotive designs that is perfectly proportioned from every perspective." We're inclined to agree.

And that interior? Breathtaking. Quite possibly blinding too, especially in the California sunshine, with black patent-leather seating, Bakelite trim and half an acre of polished and engine-turned aluminum.

Enjoy the Duesenberg Model J Whittell Coupe shots in the gallery, and be sure to look for more in August when AutoWeek will be on the ground at Pebble Beach with a complete live report.

Full press release below:

America's Most Elegant Automobile, the Whittell Coupe, will be Presented at Gooding & Company's Prestigious Pebble Beach Auctions

A Duesenberg originating from a West Coast playboy's gilded past, the sensational Whittell Coupe returns to California to be offered at public sale for the first time at the world-renowned Gooding & Company Pebble Beach Auctions this August 20 & 21

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (May 23, 2011) – Gooding & Company, the world's leading auction house for collectors of rare and exceptional cars, is delighted to announce that it will be presenting “the most elegant American Classic ever created” at its Pebble Beach Auctions this summer. A bespoke Duesenberg Long Wheelbase Model J, the Whittell Coupe was originally designed by Murphy Coach Builders under the direction of one of America's outlandish Roaring Twenties bad boys, Captain George Whittell Jr. Beautifully-restored and boasting just 12,000 original miles, the automotive masterpiece captivates admirers with its striking and glamorous black, red and chrome livery. Originally purchased in 1931 for $17,000, the Whittell Coupe is now considered to be one of the most extraordinary and valuable Duesenbergs in existence.

“Historically, Duesenberg Model J owners were among the most powerful and worldly of America's pre-war elite and, with six model Js in his collection, George Whittell was Duesenberg's best customer of all time, even surpassing Clark Gable and Gary Cooper,” said David Gooding, President and founder of Gooding & Company. “In my opinion, the Whittell Coupe we are presenting in Pebble Beach is the most elegant custom-bodied American Classic ever created and among the finest automobiles built prior to World War II.”

Captain George Whittell Jr., a Wild Man of the Wild West

Captain George Whittell Jr. was heir to an impressive California Gold Rush and real estate fortune, and the ultimate playboy of his day, who famously liquidated his entire stock portfolio (approximately $50 Million at the time) just two weeks before the infamous stock market crash of 1929. A larger-than-life public figure in San Francisco society, Whittell engaged in numerous escapades with women, reckless street racing and outrageous public appearances, like the time he famously showed up to a local tavern with Bill, his pet lion. Whittell's love for exotic beasts, along with his appreciation of technology, influenced his many private collections and the creative design of his legendary 40,000–acre Lake Tahoe estate, Thunderbird Lodge.

The Legendary Designer, Franklin Hershey

The Whittell Coupe is the result of a unique collaboration between Captain Whittell and legendary automotive stylist, Franklin Q. Hershey, who began his career at Murphy Coach Builders just before Whittell commissioned the renowned Pasadena firm to create this Duesenberg. The Whittell Coupe was one of Hershey's earliest projects and its brilliance helped launch him on a successful design career. Recognized for his great influence in the automotive community, Hershey was elected to be an honorary judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 1988, a role he served for nearly ten years.

“The entire car is a masterpiece and one of the few automotive designs that is perfectly proportioned from every perspective,” adds Gooding & Company Specialist David Brynan. “And the interior, in and of itself, is a work of deco-era art, which is a key feature that makes the Whittell Coupe stand apart.”

The Whittell Coupe

The culmination of Whittell's visionary ideas of proportion and detail resulted in one of the most exquisitely-executed Classic cars of all time. Under his direction, the powerful two-passenger, sporting coupe was constructed atop a long-wheelbase chassis, which added a dramatic 11 inches to the standard Model J frame. The most distinguishing feature of the Duesenberg is its low-slung, brushed-aluminum roof, designed with a complete folding top mechanism and exterior “bows”, to mimic the closed fabric top of a convertible coupe. The car is enhanced with numerous unique characteristics including a chrome-plated gas tank, port and starboard lights inspired by the Captain's love of boats and a polished chrome “waterfall” adorning the rear deck. The Whittell Coupe also boasts a lavish black patent leather interior, decorated with a polished-aluminum and black Bakelite cockpit, as well as a brilliant red undercarriage, just as it did when Whittell took delivery in 1931. With the turn of its key, the Whittell Coupe's mighty 420 cubic inch, inline eight-cylinder engine springs to life with a low rumble, and the gentleman's car smoothly transitions from a still beauty to a powerful mechanical masterpiece.

The 2011 Pebble Beach Auctions will take place on Saturday and Sunday, August 20 & 21 at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, located at the corner of Portola Road and Stevenson Drive. Preview days will start on Wednesday, August 17 and will continue through Sunday, August 21. The auctions will commence at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Gooding & Company's Pebble Beach Auctions catalogues are available for $100 and admit two to the viewing and the auctions. General admission tickets to the viewing and auctions may be purchased on site for $40. Auctions are broadcast live from Gooding & Company's website on www.goodingco.com/auction. Bidder registration forms, press credentials and additional auction information are also available on http://www.goodingco.com or by calling (310) 899-1960. For additional vehicle information and up-to-the-minute results, follow Gooding & Company on Facebook and Twitter @GoodingCompany.

About Gooding & Company

Gooding & Company, internationally celebrated for its world-class automotive auctions, provides unparalleled service in the collector car market, offering a wide range of services including private and estate sales, appraisals and collection management. At its Scottsdale and Amelia Island collector car auctions earlier this year, Gooding & Company realized more than $52.85 million in combined auction sales while achieving 18 world records from 191 sold lots of 214 presented. In 2010, Gooding & Company was responsible for selling the world's top three most valuable cars at auction that year and setting ten world records. www.goodingco.com.

Fast cars, fast rise for Miami dealer

Lamborghini Gallardo
Miami dealer Brett David comissioned a graffiti artist to paint a Lamborghini Gallardo.

By DAVID BARKHOLZ, AUTOMOTIVE NEWS on 5/23/2011

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The top-selling Audi dealer in the United States is 23 years old--and he has been running the business since he was 19.

His name is Brett David, a wunderkind who took over Prestige Imports of Miami in 2007 after a tragedy.

David inherited the business when his father and automotive mentor, Irv David, died unexpectedly of a fourth heart attack at age 56.

He almost didn't get the chance. Some people around him thought he was too young for the responsibility.

And in a letter penned just six months before his death, Irv David instructed Brett to sell the dealership because of the strain it would cause. The letter was delivered to Brett after his father's death.

"My father said it was the stress of the business that had killed him," said Brett, who will be 24 next month. "He wanted me to sell the dealership."

That was one wish Brett said he couldn't honor. Given his concern for employees, his vision for the store and a streak of rebelliousness that manifested itself early in life, Brett David had to give it a go.

In 2010, Prestige Audi sold 1,610 new cars and was recognized as the national leader in sales volume.

"One part of it is that I would be conquering something that took my father's life," said David, who also operates Lamborghini Miami on the site.

Brett David
Brett David, 23, runs a Miami dealership in his own style.

In his first full year in charge of Prestige Imports, Audi sales jumped from 500 new cars in 2006 to 2,000 new cars in 2007, David said. It was at that point that the store became Audi's top-selling new-car dealership in the United States.

The key to growth was an emphasis on service, creative marketing -- including the hand-painting of a Lamborghini with a Sharpie pen -- and new bonus incentives stressing customer satisfaction, David said.

He said his father was old school, focusing on immediate sale and profit. "I believe service is what sells the second car. We set up a structure to reflect that."

David said he pegged bonuses to dealership scores on customer satisfaction and service satisfaction instead of on sales growth and gross. He knew from working at the dealership that customers would sometimes complain about cars with blemishes or other issues.

That was going to change. In one of his first acts as CEO, David called an all-employee meeting and told them he wanted them all to stay, but they had to buy into his vision. Vendors to the dealer received a similar message a few days later.

David's youthful exuberance led to a marketing coup. He shocked some Lamborghini and exotic-car enthusiasts by commissioning a South Florida graffiti artist to paint a pearl white $255,000 Lamborghini Gallardo with a Sharpie pen.

The Sharpie Lamborghini went viral on the Internet and made famous David's personal ride around Miami.

Don Stephenson, director of Audi of America Inc.'s Southern region, said David surrounded himself with skilled people in his father's organization.

"I give Brett credit. He knew he had a good team and good processes in place, and he let them move ahead," said Stephenson, who worked with Irv David as well.

Growth has come from a combination of a hot South Florida market for luxury vehicles, Prestige Imports' strong organization and attractive Audi vehicles. "That adds up to successful dealer," he said.

David also has been moving Prestige Imports away from traditional media to a greater emphasis on Internet sales, social media and events marketing.

The dealership likes to display cars outside hotels and art galleries to show how they fit with the South Florida lifestyle. "I want to get our logo out there," David said.

Among other changes he instituted was a call program that quoted a final vehicle price to customers for 24 hours. And he expanded his Audi loaner fleet from 10 vehicles to 30 so any service customer would have a loaner, he said.

One thing David is not is shy. Just days after Irv David relented and allowed 17-year-old Brett to begin selling cars at the dealership after school, Brett found himself at a local gas station, where music star Missy Elliot was trying to start a stalled Lamborghini.

He invited her to come to the store to look for a new ride. A few days later, she bought the first Lamborghini he ever sold. He said she remains a good customer.

David said he learned much from his father, but they frequently failed to see eye-to-eye, especially over Brett's desire to start working at a young age.

At age 15, Brett started selling custom rims and wheels to Prestige customers behind the old man's back because Irv David refused to accessorize the already beautiful exotics.

Brett operated a tidy little business for a couple of years called 305 Imports until Irv caught him one day. A delivery man who couldn't get parts into the back of the store where Brett was processing them came around to the front of the store and left them there.

Irv was not amused, especially since two dealership employees were moonlighting to provide service to the son's customers.

But after cooling off, Irv David said Brett could start selling cars after school if he sold the accessory business. Brett David said he sold the operation, complete with a Web site, for $40,000.

As Brett David will admit, not everything he has touched has turned to gold.

In the teeth of the recession, he went ahead with construction of a Lamborghini store in Palm Beach that his father had planned. The building alone cost $5 million.

But he was subsequently worn out by the sales slump and the strain of constantly driving the 90 minutes to the store from Miami to oversee operations.

He said the pressure landed him a short stay in the hospital for exhaustion, during which he decided to cut bait. He sold the dealership a year ago.

While he skipped college to work at his dad's store, the Palm Beach struggle perhaps gave him a more meaningful education.

He said: "It cost me a helluva lot more than college would have."

Aston Martin Zagato, Alfa Romeo take honors at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este


By JAKE LINGEMAN on 5/23/2011

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A 1968 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale won the Trofeo BMW Group, given by the judges for the best in show at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como, Italy, over the weekend.

The Coppa d’Oro, for best in show as voted by the public, went to a 1942 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS.

The Aston Martin V12 Zagato, created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famous DB4 GT Zagato, won a design award for Best Concept Car or Prototype.

Check out the video showing some of the sights and sounds of the weekend’s festivities. Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and Jaguar were all well represented at the event, and the BMW 328 Hommage concept also made its debut. Finally, keep your eyes peeled for the Renault Desir concept from Geneva out enjoying the Italian sunshine.

Aston Martin Zagato, Alfa Romeo take honors at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este


By JAKE LINGEMAN on 5/23/2011

Related Articles

  • BMW 328 Hommage concept headed to Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este at Lake Como

  • Aston Martin V12 Zagato rolled out for the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este

  • One-of-a-kind 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero set for auction at Lake Como

  • Ferrari Superamerica 45: One-off 599 created for wealthy American customer

  • Selling Dreams on the Shores of Lake Como

Related Galleries

  • BMW 328 Hommage

A 1968 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale won the Trofeo BMW Group, given by the judges for the best in show at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como, Italy, over the weekend.

The Coppa d’Oro, for best in show as voted by the public, went to a 1942 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS.

The Aston Martin V12 Zagato, created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famous DB4 GT Zagato, won a design award for Best Concept Car or Prototype.

Check out the video showing some of the sights and sounds of the weekend’s festivities. Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and Jaguar were all well represented at the event, and the BMW 328 Hommage concept also made its debut. Finally, keep your eyes peeled for the Renault Desir concept from Geneva out enjoying the Italian sunshine.

According to Bob: How GM cars got better

Bob Lutz Car Guys vs. Bean Counters AutoWeek
In his new book Car Guys vs. Bean Counters, Bob Lutz discusses the Chevrolet Volt (shown) and his push to beat Toyota.

By PETER BROWN, AUTOMOTIVE NEWS on 5/23/2011

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Even before he rode into General Motors as the product-development savior in 2001, Bob Lutz found himself being recruited for plots to take over the company.

There was Heinz Prechter, the ASC sunroof king who proposed that Lutz and ex-Chrysler executive Steve Miller join with him as a pre-assembled management team to buy shares and get the board to clean out management.

There was J.T. Battenberg, the former GM executive who undertook the thankless and ultimately impossible task of making money at Delphi Corp., the spun-off hodgepodge of former GM parts operations. Battenberg, Lutz writes in his new memoir-cum-management book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters, "called me at work one day. His proposal: he would exert backdoor influence to have me elected CEO of GM" because he was concerned about the direction of the company.

Those are among the startling revelations in Lutz's book, which hits the bookstores next month.

The book is pure Lutz. Self-confident and self-congratulatory in way that could be repulsive with anybody else, it's funny, congenial and sometimes self-deprecatory. And honest.

The book gives the best-ever insider's view of a dysfunctional if polite GM culture that valued process, rules and hierarchy above all else, even above the product and the customer.

Lutz's book inadvertently raises the question: At GM, will Lutzism outlast Lutz? In his great success leading a top team at Chrysler in the 1990s, "I obviously failed to create a sustainable culture of customer focus and product excellence at Chrysler. But I believe the lesson will 'stick' at GM."

The jury is still out. And GM already has rearranged product development by installing a good organizer/manager, rather than an intuitive "car guy," at the head of the organization.

Lutz proudly wears his motto: "Often wrong, but never in doubt." (A disclaimer: I'm among those who give Lutz credit for revolutionizing GM's car lineup and turning dull appliances with tacky interiors into attractive, desirable vehicles that people would want to buy. Exhibit A: the Chevrolet Malibu.)

As a management book, Car Guys argues that intuitive and creative product people (like Lutz!) should be running things, not those analytical MBAs. He also argues that GM's fall was largely a result of a) terrible government policy on fuel economy, which basically gave the Japanese automakers a free pass, and b) a mean-spirited media that reveled in being unfair to GM and its Detroit peers.

Against outsiders like the media, Lutz is like the mother of the bad kid: protective. Then, after blaming others for GM's failure, he spends half the book with sometimes hilarious anecdotes about GM's stultifying culture, which almost guaranteed mediocre cars that consumers could blithely ignore. Never in doubt.

'A horror show'

Soon before he started as vice chairman in September 2001, Lutz had a look-around at GM's future products. He held his tongue about cars and SUVs that "were obviously doomed to failure."

At the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance that year, GM design chief Wayne Cherry invited Lutz to his suite and showed him photos of future cars: "It was a horror show."

To Lutz's surprise, Cherry said: "I don't like any of these either. Most of them are really awful."

The problem wasn't that Cherry and his team couldn't design. It was that GM's vehicle line executives determined everything, including design, and their main goal wasn't to create great cars but to meet all their cost targets and deadlines, in part to show that GM could develop cars just as fast as Toyota could. (Toyota is a tremendous bugaboo to Lutz, so irritating that he and his team created the Chevy Volt to try to leapfrog Toyota and what he considered its unwarranted reputation as the green company.)

At his first meetings with GM's top strategy boards, Lutz found "the notable absence of any focus on the thing that matters most: the company's products."

When he got into the GM brands, Lutz found silly pictures of "homes, furniture, watches, sunglasses, pens, pots and pans and (almost without fail) a golden retriever or two, all indicative of the mood, or soul, of the brand."

"It was unmitigated hogwash."

At Buick, GM's experts had decided that to cater to the elderly, the cars would have no instrument panel but would instead be run by voice controls. Lutz drove a prototype with an engineer.

"At his urging, I asked for 'more cold air.' 'No, no!' he said. 'You have to scroll verbally! First say 'climate control.' When the car says 'climate control,' you say 'blower. When the car repeats 'blower," you say 'up one.' Same with temperature.'"

The next morning, Lutz killed the system.

He found a mind-numbing array of standards, many of which led directly to unappealing vehicles: a standard for tire robustness that required small wheels and plump tires; a standard meant to combat paint chips that required tucking the wheels too far inside the wheel well, guaranteeing a wimpy stance; an ashtray standard (must work at 40 below) that made openings uniformly hard to work.

Giving design back to design

Lutz's first initiative was to give design back to design. He empowered Wayne Cherry to make attractive cars. He lectured his people regularly on fit and finish, comparing GM's mediocre offerings to the quality of cars from Audi to Hyundai.

Lutz discovered that GM had people who could do great things. But the culture had demanded something else.

He also graciously identifies heroes at GM:

-- Former manufacturing chief Gary Cowger, who created a high-function relationship with the UAW and brought manufacturing into a global system.

-- Former engineering chief Jim Queen, who energetically standardized and globalized engineering.

-- The "beleaguered, brave Anne Asensio," the French designer who "was fighting a battle with all the 'best practices' folks from all the functional areas." She won her lonely fight for high-quality interiors.

-- Joe Spielman, the hulking, brash head of "Metal Fab," who, once given clear direction by Lutz, quickly turned GM's wide body-panel gaps into world-class fits and finishes.

-- Ed Welburn, who, in "my finest personnel decision" replaced the retired Wayne Cherry as head of design and who "has taken GM Design back to a level exceeding the halcyon days of the 1950s and 1960s."

-- Jon Lauckner, a vehicle line executive who ran the first global vehicle program, and who later conceived and ran interference for Lutz's "Hail Mary" to overtake Toyota in environmentalism, the electric, extended-range Chevy Volt. "With a sharp wit, an argumentative nature, and a very un-GM propensity to recognize bad performance and do so out loud, Jon was respected more than loved."

Neither hero nor villain is the man who hired Lutz to improve GM's vehicles: CEO Rick Wagoner. "Rick was a kind, intelligent CEO of spectacular human qualities," Lutz writes. Lutz's Wagoner is brilliant, congenial, well-intentioned. He made many good decisions, such as going global with product-development and buying the remnants of Korea's Daewoo. But he was a product of the GM culture.

Whitacre and Wagoner

Lutz contrasts Wagoner's "democratic" leadership with the "brilliant despot" at Volkswagen Group, Ferdinand Piech, and with one of the three Wagoner successors after the Obama administration fired Wagoner.

The Texan Ed Whitacre focused on results, especially sales results. And the company adopted as its mission statement "to design, build, and sell the world's best cars and trucks."

"Understanding the beauty and efficiency of the simple message was Ed's genius," Lutz writes. "Whitacre is much smarter than he wants you to believe, but in a battle of IQs, I'm sure he, as almost all of us, would succumb to the intellectual powerhouse that resided in Rick Wagoner. Who has the better leadership style? Who was a more effective CEO? Whitacre's term was too short to draw any meaningful conclusions."

Lutz recounts the horrors that ultimately led to GM's failure: the collapse of GMAC over residential mortgages; the spike in fuel prices in 2008 that made it impossible to sell trucks; and then the global financial collapse. (Even as he rails against people who think humans have anything to do with global warming, Lutz has long argued for gradually greater taxes on gasoline, as a way to bring demand for fuel-efficient -- and global -- vehicles in line with rising fuel economy.)

When GM came under the thumb of the Obama administration's task force, Lutz the Happy Warrior writes, "they were expecting the situation I had found seven years earlier. Happily, they were amazed by the spirit, skill, dedication and speed of GM's product creators and our laserlike focus on developing best-in-class vehicles."

Often wrong, but never in doubt.

Bob Lutz's book is wonderfully readable, insightful, funny and, of course, sometimes self-serving. Just as Bob Lutz was the most human of automotive executives during the past three decades, Car Guys is human in a way that few business books are human.

And it leaves hanging the question: Will the product-development revolution that Lutz personified at General Motors outlive the outsized Lutz?

"My effort to instill into the organization a drive for perfection and customer delight in all things was successful," Lutz concludes. "And still I wonder -- was I right? Did I change the core of the product development culture by teaching, or did I rely too much on my own will and my considerable influence to get what I wanted? If the latter, excellence will soon be lost again, and 'value engineering' and 'Let's see how much we can cut before the customers start complaining' will rear their ugly heads again.'"

It's a big question, far from answered. The executives running the new GM ought to keep a copy of Car Guys handy to remind themselves what happens when process, rules and hierarchy trump common sense and a focus on the customer and the product.

2011 Lexus CT 200h Premium Car Review

2011 Lexus CT200h

2011 Lexus CT200h.

2011 Lexus CT200h

2011 Lexus CT200h.

2011 Lexus CT200h

2011 Lexus CT200h.

2011 Lexus CT200h

2011 Lexus CT200h.

2011 Lexus CT200h

2011 Lexus CT200h.

2011 Lexus CT200h

2011 Lexus CT200h.

2011 Lexus CT200h

2011 Lexus CT200h.

2011 Lexus CT200h

2011 Lexus CT200h.

Published on 5/17/2011

NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: I had a decent night in this sporty hybrid, running an errand on the other side of town and then lapping back into work the following day. In sport mode, this is a respectably fun little hatch with tight steering that picks up quickly off center. The power is adequate considering that total output is just 134 hp. There's a nice amount of response through maneuvers via the wheel, and the leather and stitching present well. The engine is a bit raspy, but again, we're talking about a four-banger here.

Normal mode lived up to its name, not really inspiring me either way. In eco setting, things slowed down a bit and the steering is the loosest of the three modes. Power was still adequate. I merged onto a busy expressway in rush hour, but adequate is the best you can say about this unit. Really, it can feel quite slow. The CVT is fine; it's a CVT. I think paddles would make this car much more fun and would help it reach an enthusiast market looking for some interaction. There's a ton of technology going on in here, and the mouse control was different but sort of cool.

The chassis is tight, and it's a well-mannered car that holds lines through curves. The interior is reasonably quiet, though some wind noise does pervade. I found the seats extremely comfortable and supportive; they offered an excellent road view and everything was within reach. I feel the center console is a bit busy, and one of the first things I did was rip off the iPod holder, which looked cheap and seemed likely to break off when reaching across the car. I wasn't a fan of the door-panel materials but the rest of the cabin was well done. The backup camera is one of the clearest I've seen in any car.

I like the looks and have been consistent on that since I saw this car revealed in Geneva in 2010. Frankly, I think it could be sauced up a little more, but it's a nice silhouette.

My verdict: In sport mode the CT 200h can be fun, especially with the tight steering. But the sticker is a little too high for me, even with all of these options and goodies.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Lexus has really been pushing this 2011 CT 200h hard lately. I've seen tons of commercials proclaiming this as the "dark side of green." So I guess if Darth Vader was in the market for a hybrid, he would be at a Lexus dealer plunking down for this? Doubtful.

What we do know is that Lexus is targeting a younger demographic with this car and is trying to sell it on the notion of being fun to drive, which sadly isn't all that true. Blame the hybrid powertrain for that, which is the same one found in the $24,280 Toyota Prius with a net horsepower output of 134 connected to a dreaded continuously variable transmission.

It's a little disappointing that the CT 200h, which starts at $29,995, doesn't pack at least a little more power. I mean, couldn't the Toyota engineers find at least another 10 hp or 15 hp somewhere to help warrant the $5,715 price difference? OK, I guess the Lexus badge and more upscale interior does do a fair amount to make up for the price difference. Oh, and there is a rear double-wishbone suspension instead of a torsion beam, which is also worth something.

The sad part is that I wanted to like this car. It looks sharp with an attractive hatchback silhouette. The interior is also passable for an entry luxury vehicle with soft touch points throughout, deeply side-bolstered front buckets that keep you locked down and comfortable and a thick-rimmed steering wheel.

But the drive is disappointing because you're essentially buzzing around in a more upscale Prius. I had sport mode engaged the entire time, bringing up the tachometer in place of the hybrid power indicator on the cluster. Even with the "sharper" throttle, the CT 200h still felt slow (0 to 60 mph comes in 9.8 seconds, according to Lexus), but steering response is respectable.

I will say this, though: This car could be an entertaining entry-level Lexus with the right powertrain. The suspension with MacPherson struts in front and the double wishbones in the rear can certainly handle more power. Once up to speed, this car does ride comfortably and quiet, and through corners it feels solid and stable. Lexus should really consider putting a regular four-cylinder in this car with 200 hp, mated to a traditional automatic transmission (or do one better and offer a manual) to make it an alternative to the Audi A3.

However, as it is with this hybrid powertrain and CVT, I'll have to pass. Also, it is scary how fast the price can climb on this thing. Our Premium trim tester, which adds a standard moonroof, heated front seats, optional navigation and more over the base CT 200h isn't worth $38,000-plus in my book. Give me an Audi A3 TDI, which starts at $33,125 with the dual-clutch sequential manual transmission instead. It probably gets better real-world mileage and you'd have a lot more fun doing so.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR--AUTOWEEK.COM BOB GRITZINGER: I want to like this sporty-looking little Lexus, but the powertrain just won't play along. Like Honda's CR-Z, I want Toyota to build the same car, but with a nice, fuel-injected, high-revving four-cylinder engine hooked to a nice stick (or at least a paddle-shifted autobox). I really like the looks of the car, from the chunky, big-hatchback exterior styling to the sharply upholstered interior with its perfectly positioned driver's seat. Everything is laid out for ease of use, but I could do without the odd shifter.

As Greg notes, putting the car in sport mode helps (and activates the tachometer in place of the eco gauge on the instrument panel), but sliding the shifter over into "B," regenerative braking mode, also helps with powertrain and car control.

Overall, this could be a lot of fun, but a CVT and hybrid powertrain add mpg, just not enough zip.

COPY EDITOR CYNTHIA L. OROSCO-WRIGHT: This Lexus looks great from the outside, with its hunkered-down stance and nice sheetmetal. It looks sporty, even a bit racy. But, the cabin and the drive turned me off. The seats were quite uncomfortable, and you can't position the seatback into anything that resembles upright. I'm not one of those people who like to be reclined in my seat, so I drove with my back not touching the seat. Uncomfortable. Also, there was little space between my head and the headliner. I felt as if I was sitting on top the car, not in it. And, I would like the steering wheel to be more adjustable height-wise. On top of all of that, there was the contorting and ducking to get into and out of the car.

In either eco or power mode there's not much go, and sport mode does little to improve the situation. You have to put you foot into it a bit to move the car off the line or to merge into expressway traffic. Once up to speed, there's OK power, to the CT 200h's credit.

The center stack is pretty busy but all of the controls are at hand, which is nice. And the materials are good.

I can see this car appealing to people who want to be green but also keep a sporty edge. But to me, this just isn't the package.

MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: I could like this car on its own with a conventional powertrain. As a small hatch, it has some swagger to its appearance, and if I absolutely had to drive one or the other, I'd much rather drive this Lexus than the Prius from which it cannibalizes its hybrid powertrain. I also liked the seating position, the steering wheel feel (which is not the same as the bland actual steering feel) and the interior in general quite a bit. I still hate this nav/audio interface, though. Call it a pointing stick. Call it a mouse. Call it garbage.

Goodness, this car is indeed a dog. Is it presented as a sports car? Certainly not, but it's almost painfully slow, with slow-motion response to throttle commands and a concession go-kart feel under acceleration (in case that's a little-known term, a concession kart is what you find at your local mini golf course, not a fun, indoor-racing kart). In fact, it's so the opposite of quick that I found it hard to project what the suspension as is could handle. It feels at times as if there's perhaps a bit of playfulness on-hand here, but the utterly unsatisfying powertrain ruins any attempts at enthusiastic cornering.

There are so many significantly less expensive options that equal or exceed this car's real-world mileage performance that I can't see anyone who doesn't place a premium on their image within their relatively well-to-do neighborhood thinking this makes any kind of sense--from either a financial or an enthusiast point of view.

2011 Lexus CT 200h Premium

Base Price: $31,775

As-Tested Price: $38,239

Drivetrain: 1.8-liter I4 hybrid; FWD, continuously variable transmission

Output: 98 hp @ 5,200 rpm (134 hp net system output), 105 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,130 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 42/32.8 mpg

Options: Navigation system including backup monitor, Lexus enform with destination assist and edestination, voice command, satellite radio with weather, traffic, sports and stocks ($2,445); leather package including perforated leather seats with driver's memory seat, rain-sensing intermittent wipers with mist cycle and auto-dimming out mirrors with memory ($1,330); LED headlamps including auto-leveling and headlamp washer ($1,215); premium audio package including 10-speaker premium audio system, in-dash six-disc CD changer, auto-dimming electrochromic rearview mirror and universal garage-door opener ($1,100); illuminated door sills ($299); cargo net ($75)

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