Saturday, May 21, 2016

Driving a bland second-gen Chevy Volt, cramped Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe

The International Motor Press Association's annual cruise-and-schmooze shatters the silence of Bear Mountain State Park with performance cars such as this 485-horsepower Dodge Challenger with a Hemi V-8 engine and Shaker Hood.


The first-generation Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid bombed, selling only 100,000 units in five model years.

On Thursday, I drove a second-generation Volt with a longer electric range than the original, and thought this is the car to buy while you're saving up for the ultimate EV, Tesla's Model S, or the upcoming Model 3.

A Volt and a 2016 Toyota Prius were the only green cars available at the Spring Break event at Bear Mountain State Park in Harriman, N.Y.

Writers, publicists and other members of the International Motor Press Association got to drive about 70 new models over the winding roads of the park under the watchful eyes of police, who have been known to issue $450 speeding tickets. 

One of the most disappointing cars I drove was a Mercedes-Benz AMG C-Class Coupe that was too small to accommodate four adults comfortably.

I thought this flashy but cramped car -- with an MSRP of around $58,000 -- would be faster, having been souped up by the German automaker's in-house speed shop, AMG.

But when I hit the gas pedal, not much happened.

One car I didn't get to drive is the 50th anniversary edition of the Ford Shelby Hertz GT350 "rent a racer."

But a friend who rode shotgun with another writer said the highly modified V-8 powered Mustang was the most impressive of the day.

This breathtaking view includes the Hudson River in the distance.

The 2017 Chevrolet Volt is quiet and bland.

Mazda's new Miata sports a grille with a shit-eating grin -- just like the one on the driver's face after he throws the sports car around on the park's winding two-lane roads.

The loud snap, crackle and pop of the dual exhausts on Jaguar's F-Type certainly entertain the driver, above and below, but probably annoy the hell out of bicyclists and other park users.

As someone who has owned four Toyota Priuses and now owns a Tesla Model S, I loved the opportunity to drive the new generation of the world's best-selling gas-electric hybrid. The 2016 Prius seems peppier and handles beautifully on two-lane roads. The interior was free of the squeaks and rattles that developed in our 2010 Prius.

The center console's wireless charging pad for cellphones is a terrific feature.

For decades, Toyotas have been known for easy to see and use controls -- a marked contrast to the notoriously unfriendly interiors of more expensive models from Mercedes, BMW and other manufacturers.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tesla appeals to the next EV generation with battery powered Model S for Kids

Radio Flyer, the company that makes the Little Red Wagon, and Tesla are offering a battery powered Model S for kids.


Tesla Motors is pinning its future on a smaller, more affordable EV -- the Model 3.

Now, with hundreds of thousands of Model 3 orders in hand, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is trying to persuade the younger set to adopt their parents' EV lifestyle.

Tesla is collaborating with Radio Flyer on a Model S for Kids that allows them to choose the paint color, performance and accessories, and to personalize their EVs.

The Model S for Kids starts at $499, and is intended for ages 3-8 (maximum weight of 81 pounds).

The kids' Model S has a top speed of 6 mph, and the lithium-ion battery can be recharged in 3 hours. (It plugs in just like the big Model S.)

The Model S for Kids has a Frunk (trunk in front) like the real Model S.
Working headlights.
Sound system.

Mini-test drive track

The children of Tesla owners are invited to experience Radio Flyer's eco friendly Model S at a mini-test drive track set up in the parking lot of Tesla Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., on May 21.

See a video of the Model S for Kids on the Radio Flyer Web site:

Pre-order Model S for Kids

May shipments are already sold out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Revisions to the Tesla Model S include full LED headlamps, medical-grade air filter

Tesla's Model S with a revised front bumper and grille on display at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey's biggest mall.
My 2015 Tesla Model S with the original grille, which is reminiscent of a 1950s Ferrari.


Changes to the front of Tesla's all-electric Model S are more than cosmetic.

Tesla's Web site says Model S now features full LED adaptive headlamps and a medical-grade HEPA air-filtration system.

"Fourteen three-position dynamic turning lights improve visibility at night, especially on winding roads."

The HEPA air-filtration system "removes [from cabin air] at least 99.97% of particulate exhaust pollution and effectively all allergens, bacteria and other contaminants."

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said 53,000 people die every year from auto emissions.

"The bioweapon defense mode creates positive pressure inside the cabin to protect occupants," according to Tesla Motors.

And Model S now comes standard with Autopilot, Autosteer and Autopark.

The new "Summon" feature lets you call your car from your phone "so it comes and greets you at your front door in the morning." 

Features are enabled with software updates.