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McBlog: Making Fuel Economy Numbers Add Up

Don't always trust what you’re told – especially about mileage.

by on Feb.14, 2011

The new Fiat 500 only" gets 38 mpg, so should that knock it out of the box?

Numbers have a specificity that is irresistible to our embattled minds. That’s why cops give you a ticket for 87 mph in a 75 mph zone and not to someone else for “unimaginably idiotic attempts to maneuver an automobile in the presence of others.” The mildly observant might well see more of the latter but a radar gun communicates in numbers and not judgments.

The absence of judgment when it comes to dealing in numbers is also commonly evident in the fascination with such statistics as 0-60 times and miles-per-gallon.

The latter I’ll deal with at length but first a word about the sad young (I’m assuming) car buffs who write to magazines saying: “you rated XCar over YCar yet your own statistics show YCar did 0-60 in 5.9 second and XCar couldn’t even get under  6 seconds”.

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Would that the real world were so simple.  Do I need to go into the variables inherent in registering a 0-60 time? Start with driver, weather, altitude, density…?  Most of those factors also matter in what is now the numbered statistics under constant discussion on the Web these days…miles per gallon. As If this number is now the major deal breaker when it comes to deciding which small car to buy.

Indeed, maybe it is. But should it be?


McBlog: On Connecting With Transits

Why our intrepid columnist has begun a love affair with Ford’s Transit Connect.

by on Nov.29, 2010

Flexibility was a major reason for the Ford Transit Connect's 2010 North American Truck of the Year win.

Odd though it may seem, I am smitten with the Ford Transit Connect.

First, there’s the name. Two words with individual meanings that seem rather specific. “Transit:” getting from one place to another. And “connect:” hooking up, joining. But together they seem like one of those oddly printed word pairs you run across on the internet — decipher and type it correctly in a box and you gain the access you seek. A sly metaphor maybe?

Then there’s the look of Ford’s Transit Connect. High in the brow. Purposeful. Busy. Replete with elfin usefulness. Over-achieving (seeming to say “I may be small but look what I can do!”). I like that in a vehicle.

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And versatility. It’s a chunk of balsa wood – make what you want of it. Versatility, changeability. Those are the appealing traits of another vehicle I am drawn to, ex-Dodge now Mercedes — or Freightliner – the Sprinter. Similar character, different sizes.

The two beg you to bend them to your specific needs. Create a mobile office in their interior. Or a living space. Or tote specific things carried in specific ways. The Sage Bakery in Santa Fe, after running through a variety of tricked-out minivans and trucklets with purpose-designed interiors for wide-flung deliveries of their unique and special breads are now delighted with their new Ford van-truck transiting connectors. A perfect fit. (Mm. Think I’ll go connect with a cinnamon bun.)


McBlog: GM, the Volt and What I Really Want

Columnist Denise McCluggage weighs in on the rush to “electrify”

by on Oct.22, 2010

A "brilliant" bit of engineering, but is the Volt really the right solution?

The General has done so many things with a ham-fist and a diverted eye that it’s easy to pick on anything America’s automotive giant does. But the Volt is not one of General Motor’s clumsy enterprises. Repeat; not. (Although press relations surrounding the introduction of the car had some avoidable ackwardness.)

Electric. Ah, the American driving public, one of the most ignorant – well, stupid — when it comes to car matters (except for me and thee, of course), has been lit up by that word, “electric,” as if plugged into a damp socket. That and “hybrid” seem to trigger both the “I-Me” gene and the altruistic love of planet at the same time. Whee! I get to use the Diamond lane. And I’m kind and caring to my environment. Also patriotic about avoiding foreign oil. (Though that really means Canada and Mexico and not the dreaded Mideast they envision.)

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That rising clamor for cars that plug-in and/or are weighted with batteries plus the related eagerness for state and nation to throw money and privileges at the folks who acquire such cars, have overridden some sober business calculations that might – if considered in quiet repose – militate against plunging so forcefully into the act of building electric cars for profit.