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BMW X1 SUV Confirmed For 2011 U.S. Launch

Posted by autotran on July 3, 2009

The next couple of years will be very busy for BMW as it launches a handful of new models including new versions of current top sellers and some models we have never seen before. The new X1 falls into the latter category and will take the automaker into the compact SUV market currently dominated by the likes of the Honda CR-Vand Toyota RAV4.


The X1 has been conceived with the flexibility to offer traditional RWD and xDrive AWD configurations, as well as a wide variety of gasoline and diesel powertrain choices. While we will be seeing the compact SUV for the first time in the metal at this September’s Frankfurt auto show, the new model is not scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. until 2011.

It’ll be released in Europe this fall, however, where it’ll be offered with a choice of four engines – one gasoline and 3 diesels–and will be available in both RWD and AWD.


Every X1 will also be available with BMW’s EfficientDynamics technology, helping to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. These will include brake energy regeneration, engine stop-start systems and a gearshift point indicator.


The initial model range will include the 258hp and 228lb-ft of torque xDrive28i 3.0-liter gasoline model, which can accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 127mph while returning fuel economy of 25mpg. This will be followed by a 204hp and 295lb-ft of torque xDrive23d, a 177hp and 258lb-ft of torque xDrive20d and sDrive20d, and finally a 143hp and 236lb-ft of torque xDrive18d and sDrive18d.

As for styling, BMW family traits can also be found in the design of the front and rear lights, which resemble those used on the recently revealed 2011 5-series GT and the 2009 7-series sedan, respectively. The shots also confirm that BMW designers have stuck closely to the lines of the Concept X1 showcased at last year’s Paris auto show.

Inside, 5 full-sized seats in an elevated position offer generous space, while the backrest in the rear is also adjustable for angle and folds down in a 40/20/20 split. Luggage compartment capacity may be increased from 14.7 cu ft to a maximum of 47.3 cu ft. An electrically operated Panorama glass roof is also available as an option.


Like the 1-Series BMW sedan, coupe and convertible, the X1 won’t be cheap by the time it comes to America. A base price around $30,000 is likely, as is a fully-loaded price above $40,000.



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Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari Breaks Ground on Project Funded by the Recovery Act in Wisconsin

Posted by autotran on June 9, 2009

Washington, DC – U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari, along with Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, broke ground today on the County Trunk Highway G Interchange construction project in Racine County, Wisconsin. The project, which received $19.6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, is currently the largest ARRA-funded project in the state.

“This project is what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is all about,”said Deputy Secretary Porcari. “It’s about putting Americans back to work as soon as possible, on projects that make a real difference in the quality of life for the folks who live and work in the area. Working together, we’re going to keep the Wisconsin economy moving, bring relief to middle class families, and improve transportation for the nation.”

“One of the best ways we can position Wisconsin for long-term growth is by investing today in the infrastructure that makes our cities and towns prosperous tomorrow,” said Governor Doyle. “A quality transportation system serves as the foundation of our state’s economy. And good roads are an extremely valuable economic asset that can play a vital role in determining where a business will locate or expand.”

Brandon Nesler, site Foreman on the Highway G project, was laid off from his construction job last year after 16 years of service. After several months of unemployment, Mr. Nesler was hired by Relyco, Inc., to oversee grading work on the recovery project.

“Whenever the government spends money to create work for people that are willing to strap on boots, pack a lunch and go to work, it’s a good thing,”said Mr. Nesler. “We need it; the state needs it; and so do all these men and women.”


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Mitsubishi launched electric car

Posted by autotran on June 5, 2009

Looking to gain an early lead in the emission-free vehicle market, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Friday launched a compact, 4-door electric car that it will market in Japan to corporate customers starting in late July.

The lithium-ion battery powered i-MiEV, which can travel 160km (kilometers) (99.2 miles) on a single charge, is the 1st step into the eco-friendly car market by the small Tokyo-based auto maker better known for its brawny SUVs like the Pajero.

By bringing its electric car to market this year, Mitsubishi is hoping to gain a lead over Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s 3rd largest auto maker by sales volume, which plans to mass market its own electric vehicle starting in 2010.

But sales volume will be small. Mitsubishi expects to sell 1,400 vehicles in Japan in the fiscal year ending March 2010, raising sales to 5,000 vehicles next fiscal year when it starts individual sales in Japan. Worldwide, Mitsubishi plans to ship i-MiEV in limited quantities to the U.K., New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore starting this year. It has also agreed to supply i-MiEVs to PSA Peugeot Citroen SA in late 2010 or early 2011.By 2020, Mitsubishi says its expects electric vehicles will make up 20 percentages of its overall production volume.

For now, Mitsubishi’s ambitions are constrained by its production capacity and by the high cost of electric vehicles. Mitsubishi plans to produce about 2,000 electric cars in the fiscal year ending March 2010, ramping up to 30,000 vehicles by 2013, as its lithium-ion battery production operations are expanded at Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture run by Mitsubishi, G.S Yuasa Corp. and Mitsubishi Corp. Nissan, which is putting the finishing touches on its own lithium ion battery plant outside Tokyo, plans to roll out 50,000 electric cars in the 1st year of production.

With a 4.59 million yen price tag, i-MiEV may also struggle to find buyers during the worst recession to hit Japan since World War II. Mitsubishi is counting on generous government incentives to stimulate the market for the vehicles. The national government is currently offering subsidies of up to 1.39 million yen on “clean energy” vehicles like i-MiEV. Some local governments are also offering additional subsidies that could bring the price of i-MiEV down to as low as 2.2 million yen.
Still, many auto makers and analysts remain skeptical of the potential for large scale sales of electric cars because of their limited range and the need to build more recharging stations to support them.

The Mitsubishi Motors Corp. i MiEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle)

The Mitsubishi Motors Corp. i MiEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle)

Mitsubishi is selling its electric car to corporate customers in Japan first in order to allow more time for local governments and businesses to set up more recharging stations around the country to support electric car drivers.

Mitsubishi, however, is confident that the Japanese government’s commitment to promoting electric vehicles through various incentives will help the market here grow substantially. By 2020, the Japanese government expects next generation eco-cars like electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles, powered by both batteries and gas, will make up half of all new car sales.


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The electric sports car – Tesla Roadster review

Posted by autotran on June 5, 2009

The electric sports car is one of the stars of this year’s London Motorexpo.

The electric sports car is one of the stars of this year's London Motorexpo.

The electric sports car is one of the stars of this year's London Motorexpo.

It is a shame the Lucy Clayton Finishing School for young ladies are no longer in Knightsbridge. I understand they used to have a wooden door and car seat combo for teaching "the right sort of gel" to origami in and out of low-slung automotive exotica with dignity intact. Opening on June 25, the UK showroom for Tesla’s remarkable all-electric Roadster is right around the corner, and having just crumpled behind the wheel with all the dignity of a pantomime horse toppling into an orchestra pit, I could really use a lesson.

It is entirely apposite that the previous victim of my panzer approach to sports car access should have been an Elise, because Lotus and Tesla have much in common. Wishing to establish a performance DNA for its all-electric power train, Tesla took exactly 8 seconds to recognize that the Elise’s all-aluminums and glass-fibre construction offers just the required lightness to ping the Roadster at the horizon with all the alacrity of a bullet fired from a gun that steadfastly refuses to go “BANG”.

In the engine bay lurks a 248bhp electric motor no larger than the size of a KFC family bucket, 6,831 painstakingly temperature-controlled lithium-ion batteries and an electronic power-management system with the IQ of a small planet. By conventional, internal-combustion standards, this is the world’s simplest power train. Two bearings constitute the sum of motor moving parts subject to wear and tear, there’s only one forward gear and maximum torque of 276lb ft is delivered from a standstill…..

Thus armed, the Tesla will shift silently from 0 to 60mph in 3.9 seconds and on to a governed top speed of about 130mph. Claimed maximum range is some 220 miles, with a full charge taking 16 hours, or 4 if you happen to have a 3-phase generator lying around. The harder you use it, though, the shorter the range.

Flick it into drive; remove foot from brake and the Tesla creeps just like any other automatic. There’s no power assistance to the helm but, to be honest, I never really noticed, not even in Knightsbridge. And the only real difference to driving a standard automatic in town is that you rarely seem to need the brakes. The retarding effect of a motor that serves as a generator to recharge the battery is so strong that for the first few miles I find myself inadvertently stopping well short in traffic, and then driving up to the car in front.
The other difference, of course, is the notable absence of noise – all you can hear is the sound of a very small executive jet taxiing beneath the bodywork. Ironically, however, settled at lorry exhaust height in traffic, there’s so much of a racket going on that the benefits of silence are completely lost?

Tesla Roadster review

Tesla Roadster review

Stamp your foot to the floor when pottering at 30mph and the result is little short of astonishing. The Tesla belts away with the seamless surge of a catapult launch, leaving you feeling almost short-changed at the absence of commensurate bellow. The ride is, however, rather more crash-bang than Lotus’s legendary blend of supple, subtle and taut. Maybe it’s the added weight. Despite entirely carbon-fibre couture, the Tesla is a good deal heavier than an Elise and, yes, you certainly do feel the effects of 300 bags of sugar stowed behind your head.

Once you get over having spent £90,000 on a car without an exhaust pipe, the range issue remains a problem. If this is ever to be anything other than a rich man’s toy, it will have to be addressed. Don’t get me wrong: 200 miles allied to this performance is little short of astonishing for an all-electric car, and the average commute won’t constitute a problem. That said, could you commute comfortably in a Lotus?

Fact is, if I wish to coax my popsy any real distance for a filthy weekend, we will be setting out on Wednesday and returning on Tuesday – the frequent overnight stops required for a 16-hour recharge are somewhat more taxing than the Tesla’s toothbrush and squishy grip luggage capacity.

Only 30 per cent of the energy generated by a combustion engine actually drives a car, compared with 85 per cent of that generated by an electric motor, and – assuming a fossil-fuel power station generates your electricity – the Roadster effectively returns CO2 emissions of just 63g/km and an overnight recharge costs less than £5 of cheap-rate electricity, so the Tesla still constitutes a huge step in an interesting direction. Daimler certainly thinks so and, eager to benefit from the unprecedented efficiency of Silicon Valley’s battery- and power-management technology, has recently acquired a 10 per cent stake in the company.

Moreover, with the impending Model S, a four-door saloon with a 300-mile range and a recharging time of as little as 45 minutes, Tesla is quick to point out that, in the context of a clear century of combustion engine development, it isn’t exactly dragging its heels.


  • Price/availability: £90,000. On sale June 25
  • Tested: Tesla Roadster, 375v AC electric motor powered by lithium-ion battery pack, one forward gear
  • Power/Torque: 248bhp@8,000rpm/276lb ft@0rpm
  • Speed top Level: 130mph
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph in 3.9sec
  • Fuel Economy: N/A
  • CO2 Emissions: N/A (63g/km well to wheel)
  • VED Band: A (£0)
  • The Verdict: Extraordinary. Needs an interior to match the engine-bay technology
  • Alternatives: Not really. But there’s a wealth of quick cars out there for 90 grand


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Disaster Assistance Grants Awarded to States to Cover Costs of Railroad Emergency Repairs Following Natural Disasters

Posted by autotran on June 1, 2009

Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo today announced the award of $15 million to nine states for emergency repairs to damaged railroad infrastructure resulting from natural disasters.

Funding from the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Railroad Rehabilitation and Repair Program (RRRP) will go to state Departments of Transportation to reimburse short line and regional railroads for the cost of repairs.

“Freight railroads are critical to local economies and we are committed to helping them restore rail service after a major disruption,” said Szabo. “This funding will help the carriers defray repair costs and keep the trains running.”

Funds awarded under the RRRP can cover up to 80 percent of the total cost of a selected project, with the remainder to be provided from non-federal sources. Grants may be used to repair bridges, signals and other infrastructure which are part of the general rail transportation system. The grant recipients are as follows:

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

* Flood repair for the Alaska Railroad – $637,440
* Flood repair for the Alaska Railroad – $945,680

Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department

* Emergency repairs to Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad – $737,292
Illinois Department of Transportation

* Flood control on the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad – $569,700

Kansas Department of Transportation

* Repair of flood damage to the Gorilla Subdivision on the South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad – $405,702

FRA 03-09

Indiana Department of Transportation

* Flood damage repair on the Indiana Southern Railroad – $1,244,217

Iowa Department of Transportation

* Flood damage restoration to rebuild a bridge and repair signals on the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway – $6,965,163

* Flood damage restoration for the Keokuk Junction Railway Yard – $459,200

* Replacement of the Waterloo Bridge over the Cedar River for the Iowa Northern Railway – $2,174,880

Missouri Department of Transportation

* Flood damage repair on Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad – $353,600

North Carolina Department of Transportation

* Repair of washouts and debris removal On the Carolina Coastal Railway – $11,101

Wisconsin Department of Transportation

* Repair of flood damage and washouts on the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad – $354,006

Under the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009, FRA was authorized to make $20 million available for grants to repair and rehabilitate railroad infrastructure damaged in areas declared by the President as a major disaster.

The FRA intends to issue another solicitation for the remaining $5 million in funds through a Notice of Funding Availability to be published in the Federal Register that will be available on a competitive basis.

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First Drive: 2010 Lexus HS 250h hybrid

Posted by autotran on May 27, 2009

2010 Lexus HS 250h

2010 Lexus HS 250h

Just because The Cold War is over does not mean that all cold wars have come to an end. Two protagonists in the auto industry – once again, West  vs. East – are currently embroiled in an in car safety & technology arms race that is beginning to look more like Roskosmos vs. NASA than a battle between luxury sedans. The latest master weapon comes from Lexus in the form of its Lexus HS 250h hybrid, claimed to be not only the world’s 1st hybrid-only luxury sedan, but also the most fuel-friendly luxury vehicle extant. If Lexus has it, they put it on this Lexus car. Our question was: Would we want to put one in our driveway? Follow the jump to find out.

Frugal hybrids, sports car hybrids are here, and luxury hybrids are dipping wheels in the waters. This Lexus car marks the first luxury-only hybrid to make its acquaintance with the public. During the launch, Lexus was at pains to make sure we did not confuse this Lexus car with the Prius, informing us that the HS’ closest sibling is the Euro-market Toyota Avensis. Fitting in between the IS, ES and GS in brand placement, the HS 250h “was developed as an answer to customers looking for an environmentally conscious premium vehicles.”


What about the LS 600h and GS 450h? In addition to the HS 250h being hybrid-only, it’s the 1st Lexus hybrid tuned with the primary goal of delivering superior economy. While Lexus’ LS and GS hybrids are meant to provide power above their weight class with the same fuel efficiency, the HS is meant to provide economy with a decent dollop of power.

It does so via a DOHC 2.4-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. The engine alone puts out 147 horsepower, but adds some juice from the 245-volt battery behind the rear seats and the system is good for 187 horsepower. Torque comes to 138 lb-ft, and you can have it all on regular 87-octane gas. The car isn’t just frugal on gas; it’s equally parsimonious with emissions: 70 percentages fewer smog-forming emissions find their way out of the tailpipe compared to conventional vehicles & evaporative emissions are close to zero.



The mpg tally? According to Lexus, you’ll be the proud owner of 35 cities, 33 highways, 34 combined. That easily beats other car in the entry luxury segment, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. It even beats the One Series. Heck, it even beats a Mini Cooper (except for the diesel, which you can not get here yet). Mind you, the HS is not really competition for those cars, which all stress sporting splendor as opposed to frugal hybrid luxury.

A shift-by-wire system operating through a CVT (continuously variable transmission) gets the grunt seamlessly to the ground. The console-mounted shifter engages Reverse, Drive, Neutral, and a “B” setting that actuates an engine braking feature when going downhill, which helps use gravity to refill the battery & keep your feet off the brakes. Oddly, Park is a button next to the shifter – if you do not use the button, the car will remain in neutral when you get out. As the gentleman from Lexus University explained, “If you do not press the button, the car’s going to leave.”

Let’s talk car technology for a moment, shall we? Here are some of the systems on the HS 250h:

  • A Pre-Collision System: You get when you check the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control option. If your HS thinks you are going to hit someone, it will ring the warning bells & add brake pressures if it doesn’t detect you are pressing the brake hard enough. The driver monitor will also be working to make sure you are still at work behind the wheel. If you do happen to have a boo-boo, you will be protected by 10 airbags.
  • A heads-up-display this projects not only speed, but nearly any input you give the car, including navigation instructions and audio system commands. The steering wheel buttons are touch sensitive, so that when you rest your finger on one, it appears dimly in the HUD display, and is illuminated if you actually press it. You also get Pre-Collision and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control warnings shown to you in the HUD.
  • The wide-view front monitor is the same feature you get on a Rolls-Royce Phantom. If, for some reason, you can not see what you are about to nudge the Hess’s 4-foot nose into, turn on the front monitor and you will get a 190-degree view from the grille-mounted camera?
  • An infrared-cut, acoustic glass windshield that reduces IR waves by 30 percentages, and side glass with a water-repellent coating for better wet weather visibility and defrosting.
  • Intelligent high-beams use a camera in front of the rear view mirror and automatically switch between low and high headlight levels. They can also shorten the distance of the beam depending on whether traffic is approaching you or you’re pulling up behind someone.
  • Lane Keep Assist helps you stay in your lane in 2 ways. When the lane departure warning system can clearly make out lane markings, the steering wheel will vibrate and if you stray, the car will apply an ever-so-subtle amount of steering input to get you back in the lane. The 2nd feature is essentially the car keeping itself in the center of the lane. Once the HS 250 knows where the lane markers are, it’ll gently provide steering inputs on its own to keep the car going right down the middle. Not that you would – but you can take your hands off the wheel and watch the car keep itself between the lines. Of course, this feature does not work on switchbacks, and it is not an auto pilot, but it does appear to be the way things are going these days.
  • Casual voice command capability (as on the IS convertible) that let you blurt out “I need a gas station” and “Make it cooler” instead of dictating your way in clipped tones through menus.



When you are not inputting commands through the steering wheel and watching buttons light up in the HUD, you will be doing it on the Romulan center console via the Remote Touch Controller – which is, simply, a mouse – introduced earlier this year on the RX crossover. If you can navigate a MacBook or PC, you can navigate the Lexus’ menus. The controller provides user-adjustable feedback when it rolls over a clickable option, so once you have memorized the options on a screen you can click your choice without looking. Although it could appear gimmicky – and a tad large – a couple of points-and-clicks soon had us saying “Hey, that’s all right!” If it had a ‘Back’ button it would be absolutely perfect, but that’s an opportunity for Lexus to have something new to introduce on next year’s model.

Now to the technological main event: whereas Mercedes has Tele-Aid and GM has Onstar, the HS 250h introduces Lexus Enform with Safety Connect. This is actually 2 different subscription services: Safety Connect will be available on all cars; Lexus Enform will be available on those with navigation.

Safety Connect notifies a command center if you have been in an accident, alerts tracking authorities to the vehicle’s location, can make calls for emergency assistance, and adds GPS location data when you make calls to Lexus’ roadside assistance program.




Enform can be thrown on top of that services and has 2 offerings. Destination Assist is like calling 411 for navigation – command center agents will help you find what you are looking for by name or type of business, at which point it’ll send the directions to the navigation system.

EDestination lets you go on the Lexus site at your home computer (or any other iPhone or computer – no Blackberry capability yet) and save up to 200 destinations in 20 different personalized folders. You can even annotate each destination with your own comments. Then you can send that entire packet to the car and download them all into the navigation system. Purchase an HS and you will get the first year of Lexus Enform and Safety Connect for free.

If you just can not get enough of Lexus, there’s Lexus Insider, a free opt-in service. Go to the Lexus Insider screen and you will find audio messages from the company that can provide anything from useful vehicle tips to event information and owners’ benefits.


The last sprinkle on the gizmo cake is XM Sports, Stocks for cars with navigation and an XM subscription. With XM Sports you can program schedules and results for five teams from the NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL. XM Stocks keeps track of 10 companies in your portfolio and can read the day’s activity to you.

The car’s trimmings have not been left out of the technofest, either. Bioplastics derived from kenaf make up 30 percentages of the hybrid’s interior and luggage area – in upholstery, foam, and injection-molded and board parts – with the result that the car is 85 percentages recyclable. Elsewhere, leather abounds in the seating areas and there’s a sheaf of rawhide over the dash cluster and lining the center console.



And that brings us, at long last, to the most quotidian aspect of the car: sitting in it. The HS is roomy and comfy, and the truncated center console keeps everything wide open inside. The thin, shaped front seatbacks leave plenty of room in back for real, human-sized men, so it is a good thing that the trunk is roomy, too. At 12.1 cubic feet, it can swallow more than any other Lexus hybrid (beating the LS 600h by 0.5 cubic feet), which means four and their golf clubs should go nicely. Any seat in the house is a nice one to have.


We have spent so long discussing the bounty of what’s inside the car because we are still not taken with what’s outside the car. The HS 250h is a lot of things and has a lot of things, but we would not put exceptional looks on that list. It has a Cd of 0.27, making it as slippery as it is bland. Of course, we understand why it looks like it does. But that does not change the fact that, well, it looks like it does. At one point, we pulled up next to a Toyota Corolla S, the one with the aero bits, and the resemblance was uncomfortable. We would not have minded a little drop in gas mileage for a bit more bite in the HS’ design.

19th-century French author Guy de Maupassant said he ate in the restaurant at the base of the Eiffel Tower because that was the one place where he did not have to see the tower. Once inside and moving in the HS, you won’t think about the way it looks. The driving experience is pretty close to awesome, this being a hybrid that will seat four grown men with luggage and get you at least 34 mpg combined, probably more with a conservative right foot.



Turn the car on and you probably won’t hear a thing, which is not unusual for a Lexus. But in this case, there might actually be nothing happening – if the car does not need anything other than electrical power, even though you are about to pull away, it’ll remain silent. The only indication that all systems are go is a green “Ready” light in the gauge cluster. The car can operate at up to 20 mph on electric power alone for about 5 minutes, so if you are putting through a severely speed restricted area, you can do it within a cloak of aural invisibility (pedestrians, beware!).

When the engine finally does come on, it is the standard Lexus protocol of quiet. When urging the HS on, you can hear its exertions, but it is nothing out of place. Lexus spent a lot of time balancing the car’s weight and shape against the sound profile that passengers would experience inside, and the results speak for themselves – or rather, they don’t.

There are four drive modes when you get up to speed: EV, Eco, Normal, and Power. If you have bought a hybrid and you want a Power mode, perhaps you should buy the GS hybrid, but the setting does give you slightly increased throttle response. Normal mode was actually just fine for us as far as power was concerned. The car gets up to 60 in 8.4 seconds, which strikes us as plenty of pace for a model like this.



The HS never feels slow, not even in Eco mode, which was our favorite & coincidentally the slowest driving mode possible. Eco mode slightly retards the throttle response so that not only do you get the best possible gas mileage, but you begin to learn how much throttle you should give the car in order to achieve it. It does not rob you of your ability to give the car a whipping – if you mash the throttle, the car will understand that you want everything it is got. In Eco mode, the thriftiest Lex will build its way up to 35 mph much more fuel efficiently. This will usually result in some tarmac space growing between you and the folks stabbing at their accelerators, but it is not nearly as intrusive as it might sound. And we saved the life of a baby whale every time we used it.

You can also select EV-only mode, provided you know you are going to be going under 20 mph and the battery is more than 50 percentages charged.


But what about pushing in and out of corners? After driving it in the hills surrounding Los Angeles, the handling gets a thumbs-up from us. The HS uses MacPherson struts up front (with all of its parts completely different to the Prius) and a double wishbone rear suspension. The steering rack is not mounted on rubber bushings to keep the line of feedback undulled, and the electric power steering is speed sensitive. If you get the Touring Package, the suspension is tuned for even sportier handling. And if the truth be known, the package added up to a car that we thought handled better than the rear-drive IS Convertible. In fact, we drove them back-to-back just to make sure. We are not saying it could outperform the IS 350C, but in terms of meeting our expectations for cornering, steering, and feedback – sheer handling enjoyment– the HS wins.

We’ve no problem recommending the Lexus HS 250h because it certainly gets 2 out of 3 things exactly right: the cabin experience sets a fine mark for what a luxury pure hybrid can be and the driving is enjoyable. Our V8-loving enthusiast hearts never really felt cheated when tooling around in the car – in fact, we liked it. It is only the styling that gives us pause long enough to say that we’ll let other beholders judge that beauty for themselves.

If you are looking for a hybrid-only luxury car, this is the only place you can go for now. If you are looking at any entry-level luxury car, then the Lexus HS 250h is a fine place to start comparing the present choices with one possible future.


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Statement of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on House Passage of FAA Authorization Bill

Posted by autotran on May 25, 2009

I congratulate the House for its quick action in approving a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill, H.R. 915. Moving forward with reauthorization will support our important aviation programs, including aviation safety and NextGen, the FAA’s program to modernize our nation’s airspace. I urge the Senate to act quickly and look forward to working with Congress on legislation that will continue our progress in improving the safety and efficiency of the U.S. aviation system.


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TIGER Discretionary Grants Will Target Major-Impact Transportation Projects, Job Creation

Posted by autotran on May 18, 2009

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the availability of $1.5 billion in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grants for capital investment in surface transportation projects. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region or metropolitan area and can create jobs and benefit economically distressed areas.

“TIGER discretionary funding will open up the door to many new innovative and cutting-edge transportation projects,” said Secretary LaHood. “This is exciting news and I believe that these projects will promote greater mobility, a cleaner environment and more livable communities.”

The grants can range from $20 million up to $300 million to support high impact transportation projects. Secretary LaHood can waive the minimum grant requirement for beneficial projects in smaller cities, regions or states. The U.S. Department of Transportation will require rigorous economic justifications for projects over $100 million. To ensure responsible spending, the department will require all fund recipients to report on their activities on a routine basis.

The solicitation published in the Federal Register today provides clear criteria for the department to make merit-based decisions on the new discretionary program.

Primary selection criteria include contributing to the medium- to long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improving the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, improving the quality of living and working environments through livable communities, improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the safety of U.S. transportation facilities.

The Department will also give priority to projects that are expected to quickly create and preserve jobs and stimulate rapid increases in economic activity, especially projects that will benefit economically distressed areas.

Applications for TIGER discretionary grants must be submitted by September 15, 2009, from state and local governments, including U.S. territories, tribal governments, transit agencies, port authorities and others. Comments on the criteria must be received by June 1, 2009. The Federal Register notice can be accessed by clicking here.

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Honda Jazz hatchback To Drive In With ‘India Specific’ Engine

Posted by autotran on May 12, 2009

The Honda Jazz hatchback from Honda Siel Cars India

The Honda Jazz hatchback from Honda Siel Cars India

The Honda Jazz hatchback from Honda Siel Cars India, which is all set to grace Indian roads shortly, will now drive in with an India specific engine. It has been confirmed that the Jazz will feature a 1.2 litre i-VTEC unit that has been designed for optimal drivability and efficiency.

The powertrain for the Jazz is a four cylinder, 1198 cc state of the art i-VTEC engine that features Programmed Fuel Injection which allows the unit to develop a healthy 90PS @ 6,200 rpm and a decent torque figure of 112Nm @ 4800 rpm. As per ARAI test data, the Jazz is capable of returning a fuel efficiency of 16.1 kmpl, however real world test conditions will give a clearer picture on this front once the car is tested. Like all Honda engines today, the 1.2 i-VTEC unit is also E10 compatible and meets Euro IV emission norms.

Honda engines

Honda engines

Like all Honda engines, which are truly gems in their own right, the 1.2 litre i-VTEC is also expected to live up to the refined and frugal nature that Honda is known for producing. The Jazz is set for a June debut and is expected to be priced around the Rs 7 lakh price bracket. It might sound expensive, but as of right now its more of a wait and watch game to see just what Honda packs into this hatchback to make it worth the moolah.


Number of Cylinders/ Layout 4 Cylinders/ In-line
Fuel Type Petrol
Cubic Capacity 1198cc
Fuel Efficiency (ARAI tested) 16.1 km/l
Maximum Power 90 PS @ 6200 rpm
Maximum Torque 112 Nm @ 4800 rpm


Posted in Auto Shows | Leave a Comment »

Car thief caught on tape!! with Train Horn Alarm System

Posted by autotran on May 7, 2009

Here’s a security video of some crazy car thief trying to break into my ride right in front of my shop!!

He got what was coming to him though

97 Land Cruiser
Factory RS3000 Alarm System
Nathan Airchime K3HA
ViAir 450c compressor
Twin 5G/7P tanks

Posted in Safety | Leave a Comment »