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.