Thursday, December 17, 2015

When you drive a Tesla, just about everything else on road is a piece of crap

In trying to keep my 2015 Tesla Model S ding free, I usually park far away from the entrance of stores, as I did when I shopped a one-day sale on wine at Whole Foods Market in Paramus, N.J., above.


On the way into Whole Foods Market the other day, I saw one of those enormous GMC Yukons that seemed to be wedged in between two other vehicles in the parking lot.

I wondered whether the overweight, middle-aged white guy behind the wheel of the gas guzzler could open the driver's door without dinging the far smaller vehicle next to him.

After I bought a zero-emissions Tesla Model S in April and started enjoying all of its great features -- including its exclusivity -- I started thinking of just about everything else on the road as so many pieces of crap.

What else can you say about gasoline- and diesel-powered cars that use antiquated technology to fill the air with fumes that are slowly killing people and noise that hounds them to their deaths?

I still have a lot of affection for the pioneering Toyota Prius, the gas-electric hybrid I drove from 2004-15 (I owned four, one of which we still have).

And I smile when I see a Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 or other all-electric vehicle. I've actually seen one Mercedes-Benz B Class with a Tesla drivetrain.

But I'm so disappointed the other German companies won't have any purely electric cars for another five years or more.

How arrogant.

Most of the controls and switches in the Tesla Model S are accessible on a large touch screen, which links the driver to the Internet.  And so is the owner's manual. Unlike a Mercedes-Benz I drove recently, you cannot turn off Tesla's back-up camera, but you can turn it on while driving, especially useful when you are changing lanes.

Too much noise

All of those shiny new Mercedes-Benzes, Audis, BMWs and Volkswagens, especially the performance models with loud mufflers, are so annoying.

And some of the biggest, priciest and most piggish Mercedes-Benzes earn poor marks from Consumer Reports when it comes to reliability.

Another thing that drives me crazy are all those TV commercials that show cars moving at insane speeds on race tracks or across desserts.

Did you see the Infiniti commercial showing a woman backing up the 400-horsepower, bus-like Q80 SUV over deep mountain snow?

Too bad it didn't go over the edge, and take the model behind the wheel with it.

I recently drove a Mercedes sedan, the $40,000 C300, and was shocked by the harsh ride and complexity of interior controls:

Levers, wheels, toggle switches and more, and a back-up camera that can be turned off! 

When I pulled the owner's manual out of the glove box, I learned that I would have to refer to a second manual to find out how to turn on the camera.

Near-silent running

You just can't beat a Tesla for its incredible speed from a standstill with no fuss, muss or noise. The Model S seems to just leap ahead.

Forget about the 0-60 mph time, which the automotive media obsess over.

In the suburban driving I do in northern New Jersey, 0-25 mph, 0-35 mph and 0-40 mph rule the road, and the Model S outperforms nearly everything else.

Is it my imagination that many other drivers want to race the Model S or just annoy me by tailgating?

I took advantage of a free-coffee promotion at a new Wawa in Hackensack, N.J.

Property taxes continue to climb for homeowners in Hackensack, where residents are saddled with three large tax-exempt entities, including Hackensack University Medical Center.

Boring Buick

On Tuesday, Tony DiSalle, U.S. vice president of Buick and GMC marketing, was scheduled to speak to members of the International Motor Press Association in midtown Manhattan.

I'm a member, but I skipped the program, which included free cocktails and a sumptuous buffet lunch, because what could DiSalle possibly say about the most boring car line in America?

Your father's Buick (a 1959 Electra 225 Riviera) was a knockout by the standards of the 1950s, but probably got 10 mpg and fell apart in a frontal crash, impaling the driver on the rigid steering column. 

'The charging regime'

I was struck by the accuracy of statements from Jeff Knight of the CAP Black Book in the United Kingdom on the lifestyle of a Tesla Model S owner.

As reported by EV Obsession and Gas2 blogs, Knight said:

"Many Tesla owners alter their lifestyle to fit the charging regime, because they are that passionate about the benefits of their vehicle.

"People clearly love this vehicle, which means it holds its value. 

"For anyone looking to buy an executive car with green credentials, but can handle the charging regime, a Tesla is one of the smartest investments in today's market."


Monday, December 7, 2015

EVs and other green cars getting a smaller toll discount at Hudson River crossings

Drivers of gas-electric hybrid, plug-in and all-electric vehicles are getting less of a break after Sunday's hike in cash and EZ-Pass tolls at the Lincoln Tunnel, above, and all of the other crossings operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.


Owners of more than 40 all-electric, plug-in and gas-electric hybrid models still can save $3.50 each time they use the George Washington Bridge and other Port Authority crossings.

On Sunday, the off-peak toll for cars with a "Green EZ-Pass" went up to $7 from $6.25 in 2014 and $5.50 in 2013.

The off-peak EZ-Pass toll for drivers of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars jumped to $10.50.

The hike is the last of five annual increases approved in 2011 by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Drivers of green cars pay $12.50, the same EZ-Pass toll as everyone else, during peak travel periods.

Off-peak travel

On Saturdays and Sundays, off-peak hours are before 11 a.m. and after 9 p.m.

On weekdays, off-peak hours are before 6 a.m., between 10:01 a.m. and 3:59 p.m., and after 9 p.m.

An even bigger discount goes to any driver with three or more people in the vehicle under the Port Authority's Carpool Plan.

The toll is only $6.50 at all times 7 days a week.

The Green and Carpool plans require pre-registration.

For eligible vehicles, see the following list:

Green EZ-Pass Vehicles

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Cutting through the hype: Chevrolet Bolt EV price balloons to 'under$40,000'

This shot from a spy photographer is said to be a pre-production version of the Chevrolet Bolt EV that is scheduled to go on sale at the end of 2017 as a 2018 model.
The Chevrolet Bolt concept shown in January at the Detroit Auto Show.


You can forget about an all-electric Chevrolet Bolt with a 200-mile range and a starting price of $30,000.

Now, according to the Gas2 blog, the 2018 Bolt will go on sale at the end of 2017 for "under $40,000."

That means the automotive media have a full two years to again change their reporting on the Bolt EV, which was first shown as a concept at the January 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

The latest spy photos show a four-door hatchback with a cab-forward design.

None of the production date and price information appearing on the Gas2 blog or in other media can be found on Chevrolet's official Bolt site.

And Chevrolet has said nothing about a network of fast chargers for the Bolt that would allow the EV to stretch its legs on long trips.

The success of Tesla Motors' Model S is attributed to a nationwide network of free Superchargers.

Tesla Superchargers at Hamilton Marketplace, a shopping center near Trenton, N.J. 

Although the automotive media have talked about a Bolt-Tesla battle, the Chevy doesn't look anything like media images of a smaller all-electric luxury car from Tesla Motors that will be unveiled in March, and go on sale in late 2017 for $35,000. 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in early September the Model 3 will start production in "about 2 years," as long as a battery factory under construction in Nevada is fully operational.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Consumer Reports calls Land Rover Discovery Sport one of year's worst

Consumer Reports names only four vehicles to its "Worst Cars of 2015" list, and the Land Rover Discovery Sport is one of them.


How can you resist buying an SUV called the Disco?

That's how Consumer Reports magazine refers to the Land Rover Discovery Sport, which is on its short list of "Worst Cars of 2015."

Other "worst cars" are the Chrysler 200, Kia Sedona and Lexus NX 200t/300h.

"Its engine seems flat-footed and the transmission often feels in the wrong gear," the magazine's editors say of the Disco.

It gets worse: 

"Handling is lumbering, and the wheels ride as though made of concrete. The infotainment system seems dated."

The magazine's October 2015 issue notes, "Shoppers covet this eccentric English SUV brand for vanity reasons.... The Disco belongs to a family that includes the stately Range Rover."

The 2015 model started at $37,070.

Free lunch

Just a week ago, Jaguar Land Rover North America CEO Joe Eberhardt bought a big lunch for 60 members of the International Motor Press Association gathered in midtown Manhattan.

Eberhardt talked about new models and other measures the automaker hopes will boost anemic sales of its sports cars and SUVs in the United States.

Joe Eberhardt, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America, based in Mahwah, N.J.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A heavenly marriage: Solar shining on the roof, Tesla Model S charging in the garage

COMING UP FOR AIR: On Nov. 4, my all-electric Tesla Model S made its first visit to a gas station since I drove it home in mid-April to fill the Michelin tires with air -- 45 psi all around.

FREE ELECTRICITY: Charging my Model S at home costs me nothing, because I have more than 60 solar panels on the roof.


My electric bill this month is exactly $2.43, a reduction from about $6 the month before.

With more than 60 solar panels on the roof of my home, charging my Tesla Model S costs me nothing.

In the past two months, the solar panels generated pretty much all of the electricity I needed to run appliances and lights, as well as charge the Model S crouching in the garage.

Unfortunately, I still have to choke on the fumes from huge SUVs and other vehicles that use fossil fuels, including those filthy, diesel-powered Volkswagens, Audis and Porsches.

OPEN WIDE: The hatchback in the Model S comes in handy at the hardware store or supermarket.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Jaguar Land Rover lays out big lunch, promises green cars in less than 5 years

Joe Eberhardt, right, president and CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America, answering questions from Scotty Reiss, president of the International Motor Press Association, after a lunch in midtown Manhattan on Thursday.


When I was a newspaper reporter covering auto importers based in northern New Jersey, Jaguar's luxury sedans and powerful sports cars were known as unreliable.

In fact, I recall writing a business story about Jaguar, based then in Leonia, identifying the car as the most accurate winter thermometer ever -- it would start at 33 degrees, but not below that temperature.

That was 30 years ago, but Jaguar Land Rover CEO Joe Eberhardt said on Wednesday the perception of unreliability still dogs the British marque.

That may be why Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles sell in such small numbers in the United States -- fewer than 68,000 units so far in 2015.

On Wednesday, Eberhardt bought a big lunch for 60 members of the International Motor Press Association, and announced new vehicles, lower MSRPs and other incentives to boost sales in the U.S.

And he said that to meet more stringent government gas-mileage standards on the horizon, the automaker plans to introduce such alternative power trains as hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles within five years.

They couldn't come too soon given all of those enormous, gas-guzzling Range Rovers that are driven so aggressively in North Jersey's suburbs, most with a single occupant.

Eberhardt was asked to compare the company's previous owner, Ford Motor Co., to the current owner, Tata Motors of India, once a British colony.

He said Tata has provided the cash Jaguar Land Rover needs to develop new models and stay competitive.

ESI and the Teamsters

One of the tables on Thursday was occupied by managers of Event Solutions International, a fleet-management company.

ESI drivers deliver complimentary press vehicles from Jaguar, Land Rover and most other carmakers to auto writers in the Northeast.

ESI, now based in Somerset, N.J., has battled the Teamsters for about two years after the union organized drivers and promised them higher wages.

But some of the drivers, blaming the union for inaction, petitioned successfully for dissolution of the collective-bargaining agreement.

The average pay for drivers remains at about $12 an hour.

Among new models are the Jaguar XE compact luxury sedan and the F-Pace performance crossover, both in the 2017 model year.

Jaguar Land Rover, now based in Mahwah, N.J., is owned by Tata Motors, India's biggest automobile manufacturer, so look for snarling Jaguars in Bollywood movies.

Jaguar Land Rover treated members of the International Motor Press Association to an open bar and a delicious lunch, including falafel, mozzarella and tomatoes, shrimp ceviche, asparagus, guacamole, fresh fish, roasted chicken, fruit and an array of rich desserts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Chevy Volt sales flop, VW diesel owners get crumbs, Mercedes controls from hell

A 2015 Chevrolet Volt, the plug-in gas-electric hybrid the news media insists on calling an electric car.


What's all the shouting about?

Since 2011, Chevrolet has delivered about 85,000 Volt plug-in gas-electric hybrids in the United States and about 5,000 more in Canada.

That sounds like a sales flop to me, not a cause for celebration.

You'd have to add in sales in Europe and Australia through October to reach the 100,000-car milestone marked by the Gas2 blog and other media.

No one is saying how many hundreds of thousands of gallons of fossil fuel those cars burned or measuring how much pollution they poured into the atmosphere.

For a real success story, you have to look at Toyota, which sold more than 200,000 Prius gas-electric hybrids in each of the last three years.

From 2000 through December 2014, the Japanese automaker delivered nearly 1.5 million hybrids in the U.S. alone.

The Volt, including the redesigned 2016 model, represents the continuing failure of auto giant GM to answer Nissan and Tesla, leaders in all-electric cars.

A 2015 Volkswagen Beetle TDI powered by a turbodiesel, direct injection engine that is both peppy and far dirtier than the automaker acknowledged.

A real environmental disaster are the 11 million Volkswagen and Audi vehicles worldwide with the so-called clean-diesel engines that were rigged to cheat on government emissions test.

Now, Volkswagen of America is offering owners of 2009-15 vehicles in the U.S. two prepaid cards totaling $1,000.

That's just another way of saying, "Suckers."

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency said some Audi, Porsche and VW models powered by a bigger V-6 diesel engine also contained the emissions cheating software.

Back-up camera puzzle

I drove a 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 sedan on Tuesday, but was puzzled why no back-up camera went on when I put the transmission into reverse.

I fished out the owner's manual and found the page on turning on and turning off the camera, only to be referred to another manual I couldn't find.

Why in heavens would you want to turn off the camera?

I've driven Toyotas from 1986 through April of this year, when I took delivery of a Tesla Model S, and found the C300's interior controls a true nightmare when compared to those cars.

The Mercedes rode roughly over North Jersey's deteriorated streets, and all of the tossing motions made me more uncomfortable than I was in my 2010 Toyota Prius.

I feel sorry for the elderly woman who owns the car, because its advanced technology is almost totally inaccessible to her.

And to think the MSRP of this piece of crap is close to $40,000.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Nissan, GM and other big automakers can't keep up with revolutionary Tesla

At the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan promised to offer self-driving functions in a few years that are already available in Tesla Motors' Model S.


Automobile writers are so bored with the old technology being hawked at dealers worldwide they go bananas over concept cars and other fantasies that may never hit the road.

Take this week's reports from the Tokyo Motor Show, where Nissan showed an all-electric concept car that isn't likely to go into production for five years, if then.

The Associated Press story on Nissan's IDS (intelligent driving system) noted that by 2018, vehicles equipped with self-drive would be able to change lanes on the highway.

That's what owners of the Tesla Model S can do now, thanks to updated software downloaded to the all-electric cars this month.

To change lanes, all owners have to do is put on their directional signal when Tesla's Autopilot and Autosteer are enabled.

Volt or Dolt?

Meanwhile, a new version of the plug-in Chevrolet Volt adds about 20 miles to its "pure-electric range" for a total of 53, but remains chained to the gas pump.

That means it still pollutes and aggravates climate change.

It's still unclear whether the 2016 Volt will be available in all 50 states.

Chevrolet isn't expected to have the Bolt, an all-electric car with a range of 200 miles, available for another two years.

Is this really the best giant GM can do more than three years after the debut of the Model S, a luxury four-door hatchback from upstart Tesla Motors?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Detroit exec Bob Lutz (rhymes with putz) claims all-electric Tesla is doomed to fail

In the 1990s, hundreds of people died in accidents involving the Ford Expolrer and other vehicles equipped with Firestone tires, below.


There is no way to know how many defective cars were produced when Bob Lutz was a senior leader at GM, Ford and Chrysler or how many people died as a result.

Lutz is credited with bringing the first Ford Explorer SUV to market in 1990, leading to a series of fatal rollover accidents when the vehicles were equipped with defective Firestone tires.

The auto executive also served, until 2010, as vice chairman of General Motors, where he was instrumental in the production of the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid the news media incorrectly calls an electric car.

Now, in a column for Road & Track magazine, Lutz claims Tesla Motors is doomed to fail because the California company is losing money on every all-electric car it sells.

Lutz apparently doesn't address why two of the successful auto companies he was involved with, General Motors and Chrysler, only exist today because of federal bailouts.

Nor does he explain why the Big Three consistently produce defective cars that kill hundreds of people every year.

Keep in mind that Lutz rhymes with putz.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Warning to Tesla owners: Don't follow N.Y. Times guide to autonomous driving

On Route 80 west in northern New Jersey on Saturday, I briefly engaged the autonomous-driving features of my Tesla Model S, allowing pedal-free and hands-free driving. But a recent New York Times article erred on how the system works.


New York Times reporter Aaron M. Kessler made two big errors in reporting on high-speed autonomous driving in the Tesla Model S, and one of them could land owners off the road.

In an Oct. 15 article in the paper's Wheels newsletter, Kessler said a software update gave owners Autopilot, "a semi-autonomous feature that allows hands-free, pedal-free driving on the highway under certain conditions."

But the business-automotive writer made no mention of Autosteer, the other shoe that has to drop for the car to "drive us, rather than the other way around," as Kessler put it.

I had the same incomplete understanding on Oct. 16, when I first tried Autopilot on Route 80 west, near my home in northern New Jersey.

I blame some of that on an Oct. 15 email from Tesla -- "Your Autopilot has arrived" -- that didn't fully explain how to engage Autopilot and Autosteer.

After reading the email and Tesla's blog, I asked my wife to accompany me on our first attempt on Route 80, and figured pulling back on the cruise-control stalk would engage the self-driving functions.

I soon found out that wasn't enough, as my Model S didn't start turning as we entered a curve on the highway. I grabbed the wheel.

I turned around in Paterson, and headed for the Tesla dealer on Route 17 in Paramus, where one of the product specialists accompanied me on my second attempt.

I was told I had to pull back once on the cruise-control stalk to engage Autopilot and a second time to engage Autosteer, lighting up speedometer and steering-wheels symbols that flank the digital speed display.

Second error

Kessler's second major error was reporting "Autopilot is not free (the download costs $2,500)."

That's not the case. 

Tesla Version 7 software with self-driving functions is free, but only to owners who paid for an option called Autopilot Convenience Features when they ordered their car ($2,500 or $3,000 after delivery).

When I ordered my 2015 Tesla Model S 60 early this year, the option was called Tech Package with Autopilot and cost $4,250.

Kessler also didn't mention Tesla's Autopark, which scans for a parking space, alerts you when one is available and parallel parks on your command.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Consumer Reports editors discount Tesla's potential for slowing climate change

Tesla's Model S is a large, premium all-electric car, but it is dwarfed by some of the behemoths produced by General Motors and other U.S. automakers, such as this gas-guzzling Buick Roadmaster from the 1990s.


The editors of the Consumer Reports have been knocking themselves out in recent years, urging food shoppers to buy chicken raised without harmful antibiotics.

Consumers Union, the magazine's advocacy arm, has even tried to shame Trader Joe's into banishing from its shelves any meat or poultry raised on the growth promotant.

But on other important global issues, such as climate change, and air and noise pollution, the editors of Consumers Reports have failed us completely.

That's the only conclusion consumers can draw from the magazine's unexpected decision this week to drop its recommendation of the zero-emissions Tesla Model S.

Consumer Reports surveyed 1,400 Model S owners -- perhaps 1 in 10 -- who listed "a range of problems" involving "its drivetrain, power and charging equipment, body and sunroof squeaks, rattles and leaks," The New York Times reported.

I've owned a 2015 Model S 60 for more than 6 months, and have experienced none of those problems.

I didn't order a sunroof after hardly using the one in my 2010 Toyota Prius.

The Tesla logo.

Clearing the air

Responding to the survey -- "Tesla's reliability doesn't match its high performance" -- company CEO Elon Musk said "a lot of early production cars" were included, and problems have already been addressed "in new cars."

Musk also noted the magazine has said 97% of owners would buy another Tesla -- the highest satisfaction rating of any car it has ever tested.

Still, the bigger omission is that Consumer Reports still evaluates cars on the basis of their performance, and doesn't give them an environmental rating -- this more than 15 years after the first gas-electric hybrid was brought to the United States.

Reliability problems experienced by a minority of owners are one thing:

What about the potential of a growing number of Teslas and other all-electric cars to slow climate change?

Air and noise pollution also will be eased as more Americans buy EVs.

The fixation of the automotive media, including Consumer Reports, on 0-60 times is ill-suited at a time when many drivers spend a good deal of their day in horrendous traffic, choking on fumes from other vehicles.

The charging port on a Tesla Model S.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Now with a video: Tesla's Autopilot and Autosteer make highway driving a dream

When the driver of a Tesla Model S enables Autopilot and Autosteer, as I did today on Route 17 in northern New Jersey, the car drives itself, slows and accelerates, stays in lane, and follows curves in the road as well as lane shifts.

The speedometer and steering wheel symbols flanking the digital speed display indicate the driver has turned on Autopilot and Autosteer by pulling back twice on the cruise-control stalk.


No one can claim driving in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area is fun.

But now Tesla Motors has introduced Autopilot and Autosteer, the ultimate cruise control.

Just two quick movements of the cruise-control stalk in a Tesla Model S enables both auto-drive functions.

In stop-and-go traffic on Route 17 south in Paramus today, I took my hands off of the steering wheel and my foot off of the accelerator, and let my Model S drive itself:

The car slowed and accelerated, and followed a lane shift in a construction zone near the Garden State Parkway.

Take a look at a brief video my wife made as we drove past the Tesla Showroom and Service Center on Autopilot and Autosteer:

Self-drive Tesla defeats Route 17

To change lanes, you simply push down or up on the turn-signal stalk.

Relaxing behind the wheel

I have been using cruise control in my Toyota Prius hybrid on the parkway and turnpike for more than a decade as a way of relaxing.

Speed freaks, tailgaters and other aggressive drivers can just go to hell as I maintain a steady speed to the beat of jazz or soothing classical music.

Now, with Autopilot and Autosteer in my Model S, the North Jersey driving experience just got a whole lot calmer.

The software update I received early Friday includes a simplified digital display, above.

At a Tesla Supercharger on the New Jersey Turnpike in East Brunswick. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

In the Catskills, you could hear the death rattle of those infernal gas, diesel engines

If you aren't a speed freak with the mentality of a high school student, you couldn't help but enjoy driving a Hyundai Sonata gas-electric hybrid over winding country roads draped in fall colors.


In the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, automobile writers who gathered for their annual race-track ritual served to focus attention on the environmental damage caused by the antiquated internal-combustion engine.

The emphasis at Test Days is speed, though members of the International Motor Press Association are warned repeatedly they are there to "test" the latest production models, not "race" them.

I attended Wednesday's session at Monticello Motor Club, which bills itself as "North America's premier automotive country club and private race track" just 90 minutes from New York City. 

TV commercials show cars being driven at 100 mph or more, appealing to the male race-car driver fantasy, and then the manufacturers bring their most powerful -- and loudest -- models to Monticello.

There, auto writers and other IMPA members, who pay $100 each, can drive some of the fastest, most expensive cars made over the challenging 4.1-mile race track, loud mufflers echoing off of the surrounding hills.

But course workers were ready to report over-enthusiastic drivers who put a wheel off the track or wiped out traffic cones meant to slow them down. 

The penalty: Cutting of the wristband all IMPA members had to show to get on the track. 

More green leaves than cars

IMPA sold more than 230 tickets, but the turnout of green cars was disappointing, as it was last year.

Nissan didn't bring its all-electric 2016 Leaf, and Toyota didn't show up with the highly anticipated 2016 Prius, the next generation of the world's best-selling hybrid.

Oh, BMW did make available, only for driving on public roads, the noisy, overpriced i8 plug-in hybrid sports car that debuted last year.

The only all-electric car there was the 2015 Tesla Model S I drove from my home in New Jersey.

Early today, Tesla downloaded new software to all owners who bought their Model S four-door hatchbacks after October 2014, giving them Autopilot, Autosteer and Autopark, a huge step toward a fully autonomous driving experience.

One owner reported commuting to Manhattan on the Long Island Expressway this morning, and using Autopilot, which he said worked flawlessly both at 60 mph and in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

One of the cars in high demand on Wednesday at Monticello Motor Club was this 645-horsepower Dodge Viper.

Burning rubber and gasoline

The horsepower race at the track usually is won by the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, which packs a ridiculous 707 horsepower.

IMPA members who drove it on the road course were accompanied by an instructor who made sure they didn't go completely crazy.

Before the track opened on Wednesday, writers attended a so-called drivers meeting.

Test Days Coordinator Paul Licata scolded unnamed members who were doing "burnouts" in the Hellcat on public roads.

Licata recalled that was something he did in high school, and called those who did the burnouts now "dumb."

But can you blame them?

The auto writers are accustomed to having the world's fastest and most expensive cars provided to them free for a weekend or a week, ostensibly to evaluate them for reviews.

They are delivered to their home or office -- and picked up -- by a small army of low-wage workers employed by ESI, STI and other companies that clean and service the press and marketing fleets maintained by all of the major domestic and foreign automakers.

If the writers or VIPs damage the cars, they aren't held responsible, though the fleet-management companies will insist that any one of their drivers who scratches or dents a car pay for the repairs. 

Few, if any, of the auto writers and bloggers are worried about climate change or the number of people killed by air pollution, and if they are, you never see that reflected in media supported by ad revenue from the major automakers.

VW's so-called clean diesel

These are the same writers who helped Volkswagen pull off one of the greatest scams in automotive history, the so-called TDI Clean Diesel Engine (turbocharged direct injection).

When VW unveiled what it claimed was a cleaner diesel engine in 2009, the automotive media merely regurgitated the company line, even though they should have known a diesel could never be cleaner than a gasoline engine or a gas-electric hybrid.

Now, after admitting that 11 million Volkswagen and Audi diesel engines worldwide were rigged to fool government emissions testers, VW says it will invest more money in plug-in hybrids and purely electric cars.

Still, will the company's reputation or the environment ever recover?

Don't forget, this is a company that was born in 1937 at the behest of Adolf Hitler, who directed engineer Ferdinand Porsche to design a "People's Car" or Volkswagen.

It won't happen in my lifetime, but I can envision a day when production cars equipped with internal-combustion engines of 200, 300, 400, 500 and more horsepower are banned from public roads, and can be driven only on a race track like the one at the Monticello Motor Club.

This Dodge Challenger with a 392 cubic inch V-8 engine is what the company calls a Scat Pack Shaker Model.

Options on this 503-horsepower 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GTS include $9,900 for Solarbeam Yellow Paint and $8,500 for an AMG Carbon Ceramic Braking System. Total retail price is $171,900.

Pro race-car driver Andy Pilgrim, who works for Cadillac, gave me and my wife the ride of our lives around the 4.1-mile circuit on Wednesday. Pilgrim said he was doing 110 mph through the S curves; my wife, who sat in the back seat, said she had her eyes closed most of the time.

Pilgrim drove a stock Cadillac ATS.

To me, the onetime owner of a 1966 Fort Mustang GT, the new model is noisy, heavy and not much of a thrill, even on a race track.

The most entertaining car I drove on the track Wednesday is this 380-horsepower 2016 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe with a manual, 6-speed transmission, above the below.

Jaguar calls this color Italian Racing Red. The car's MSRP is $91,145.

Jaguar's 6-speed manual transmission. 

The 707-horsepower Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. When I drove it on the track, an instructor gave me tips on turn in and braking.

IMPA Test Days Coordinator Paul Licata reminding automobile writers they were at a private race track on Wednesday to "test" cars, not to "race" them.

I took a spin on public roads in a Fiat 500 that was similar to the one Pope Francis rode in when he visited the United States.

One of the public road loops marked with IMPA signs included Dingle Daisy Road in Monticello, N.Y., connecting Sackett Lake Road and Route 42.