Edition: December 2003 - Vol 11 Number 12
Cell phones are good if you’re lost and know who to call for directions. But according to a report in The New York Times, drivers can do much better than that. Nextel Communications customers (using Motorola cell phones) can now subscribe to a navigation service that’s more reliable than the secretary at the office you’re driving to. With the service, TeleNav (available for $5.99 a month), drivers can call a number and talk to a computer that will tell them (by voice and on the screen) exactly how to get where they’re going. Customers’ phones must be equipped with Java software and Global Positioning System receivers. Navigation time does not count toward the subscriber’s allotted minutes.
Makers of dashboard navigation systems are also making changes to attract more buyers, according to the Times. Alpine Electronics of America and Blaupunkt are producing color maps, bigger screens, easier menus and better voice recognition for spoken commands. Alpine has been working with Honda and IBM to produce a more intuitive voice recognition system. For the 2004 model year, the most sophisticated voice-recognition system on the market is said to be in the Honda Accord, which will join the BMW 7 Series, the new Mercedes S-Class and the Infiniti Q45, offering systems with voice recognition.
Here are the EPA’s numbers on the best and the worst 2004 models in terms of fuel efficiency (expressed in city/highway miles per gallon):
Honda Insight (M): 60/66
Lamborghini Murcielago (M): 9/13
• Mini compacts
Mini Cooper (M): 28/37
Aston Martin Vanquish (A): 12/19
VW Beetle diesel (M): 38/46
Maserati Cambiocorsa (A): 11/17
• Compact cars
Honda Civic Hybrid (M): 46/51
Mercedes-Benz CL600 (A): 13/19
• Midsize cars
Toyota Prius (A): 59/51
Bentley Arnage (A): 10/14
Chevrolet Malibu MAXX (A): 22/30
Bentley Arnage LWB (A): 10/14
• Small wagons
VW Jetta diesel (M): 36/47
Audi S4 Avant 4WD (M): 15/21
• Midsize wagons
Ford Focus (M): 26/33
Mercedes E500 4matic (M): 16/22
Les Is More
You like to buy tires? Go to Les Schwab Tire Centers. You’ll love it.
The retail experience of more than 25 percent of Les Schwab customers is “substantially above expectations,” compared with 15 percent for all tire buyers, according to J.D. Power and Associates. In a recent consumer survey, Les Schwab topped the list of tire retailers for the fourth consecutive year, based on such criteria as retailer service, personnel, facility and product offering. Following Les Schwab are (in order) Discount Tire Company, Big O Tires, Goodyear Auto Centers, NTB and Price Club/Costco.
As for tires themselves, Michelin once again ranked highest among owners of cars, compact vans and light trucks. J.D. Power and Associates calculates overall tire product satisfaction based on five factors: tire ride, durability, handling, traction and appearance. Following Michelin in the car/compact van vehicle segment are (in order) Toyo, Cooper, Dunlop, Goodyear and Bridge-stone, respectively. Among light-truck owners, following the top-ranked Michelin brand are (in order) BFGoodrich, Cooper and Firestone.
West Marks the Spot
You date yourself by the name of the car you drive, particularly if it’s named after a geographical location, says an article in The New York Times. There’s a good chance that your mom, dad or grandparents drove a car named after an East Coast spot, possibly New York, such as the Kaiser Manhattan, Chrysler New Yorker (and Fifth Avenue), the Cord Westchester or the Mercury Montclair. In the 1950s and 1960s, California was the hot spot with cars names like the Hudson Hollywood, Chevrolet Bel Air, Pontiac Catalina and Ventura as well as the Chevy Malibu.
“But California, like New York, may be losing its appeal, because idealistic imagery is hard to reconcile with the diminished expectations that accompany traffic congestion, air pollution and budget crises,” says the newspaper report. Today’s place-names of choice (particularly for trucks, minivans and SUVs) appear to be those of rugged, sparsely populated areas: Chevy Colorado, Dodge Dakota, Pontiac Montana, Kia Sedona, Hyundai Santa Fe and the Subaru Baja.