15 January 2007

Ask A Mechanic: January 5, 2007

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More mechanical wisdom from Bob Weber

Classic gas

Q–You look too young to know but here goes. I have purchased a 1948 Pontiac Silverstreak with a straight eight in it. The problem is, it will idle fine, but when feeding fuel it wants to sputter, pop through the carb, and backfire. Although once above the idle range, maybe 800 to 1000 rpm, it seems to do okay for a while. I just got it and replaced the distributor cap, wires, and plugs. I do know the heat riser is frozen and I will free it up tomorrow, but it seems to be in the open position for I have good exhaust flow. What else should I be looking for?

A–The most likely problem is a bad accelerator pump in the carburetor. I have a hunch they originally had leather seals and it has probably dried out. If it only acts up whenRead the rest of this entry

14 January 2007

Mazda: More Miata for the Money

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Editor’s Rating: star rating

The Good: Value, short gear shifts, driving experience, power hardtop, quiet cabin, trunk space, styling

The Bad: Interior is long on looks and short on substance

The Bottom Line: The once and future king of affordable roadsters

Up Front

The affordable two-seat roadster is the new black. It’s also the old black. And, frankly, it’s likely to be the next new black, too. So goes fashion in the auto industry. The cheap-but-fun sports car has been a perennial favorite since the late 1980s as a low-volume, high-energy image maker that can cast a zippy aura on less exciting but more practical models on the same lot.

General Motors (GM) breathed resuscitating life into its flagging… Read the rest of this entry

14 January 2007

The Audi A4 Cabriolet Gets an A

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Editor’s Rating: star rating

The Good: All-wheel drive option, sporty handling with a smooth ride

The Bad: Lack of a stick shift, no retractable hardtop

The Bottom Line: Nice car, but faces a stiff challenge from BMW’s new convertibles

Up Front

Back in the late 1990s, when I was a foreign correspondent based in Germany, a lot of the demanding driving enthusiasts I met were switching from BMWs to Audis, which had fresher designs and comparable performance and handling. My guess is that these days those same people are having a tough time deciding which to buy.

Some think an Audi is just a glorified Volkswagen, but they’ve probably never been behind the wheel of the new A4 Cabriolet. It’s a quick, beautifully designed coupe with a convertible soft top so artfully constructed you’ll hardly know it’s there (until, of course,… Read the rest of this entry

14 January 2007

Detroit Thoroughbred

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Editor’s Rating: star rating

The Good: Looks, performance, price, interior, feeling like a football team captain and valedictorian

The Bad: Cramped seats, drop-top locking system

The Bottom Line: Some American dreams are still affordable

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Up Front A patriotic—and likely fierce—rivalry is brewing in Detroit. General Motors’ (GM) announcement that its muscle-bound Chevrolet Camaro concept is in fact headed for production has set the stage for an automotive battle royal. Ford’s (F) fiery Mustang, the reigning muscle champ, helped kick off the retro renaissance and has been a rare beacon of hope for the embattled U.S. auto manufacturer.

But how will the Mustang fare with serious competition, not only from Chevrolet but also from DaimlerChrysler’s (DCX) Dodge Challenger? That’s the question many in Detroit and around the country are excitedly… Read the rest of this entry

14 January 2007

The Dawn of the VW Eos

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Editor’s Rating: star rating

The Good: Quickness, ingenious retractable hardtop with built-in sunroof

The Bad: Cramped, hard-to-access rear seat, blind spot

The Bottom Line: A sporty, refined convertible at a (relatively) low price

Up Front

There’s a minor revolution going on right now in car design—and the new Volkswagen Eos convertible is at the forefront. Increasing numbers of cars are coming out these days with retractable hardtops, which give you the convenience and durability of a regular top during winter months and the option of al fresco driving when the weather is warm.

In addition to the Eos, General Motors’ (GM) (see BusinessWeek.com, 8/16/06, “Pontiac Converts”)Pontiac G6, Mazda MX5 Miata, Volvo C70 and new BMW 3-Series convertibles due out next March all have retractable hardtops (see BusinessWeek.com, 10/17/06, “BMW’s Super Coupe”).

The little VW, however,… Read the rest of this entry

14 January 2007

Rowdy Audi

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Editor’s Rating: star rating

The Good: Standout performance, safety, exhilarating DSG gearbox

The Bad: Weird parking brake, available options expensive

The Bottom Line: Utility, sex appeal, and performance united

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The constant, writhing—and most likely terminal—agony of today’s midsize SUV market is bringing with it plenty of utility-minded alternatives from major luxury auto makers, spanning the range from Mercedes-Benz’s “it’s not a minivan, we swear” R-Class to Audi’s brilliant, utilitarian, and, yes, ultimately worthy A3 hatchback.

It’s become fashionable in the auto press to stop and stutter over the concept of so costly a hatch—our test A3 totaled $42,285. But, a sky-high sticker on a petite package is something space-squeezed Europeans got over a long time ago. Instead, the Old World has heartily embraced the notion that something so small could indeed be worth so large a chunk of… Read the rest of this entry

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