Monthly Archives: September 2013

Chrysler Celebrating 30 Years of Minivans with Special Editions

I personally loathed my Caravan, but they are priced right! This year has seen quite a few important automotive milestones. Aston Martin celebrated its centennial, and the Porsche 911 turned 50, as did the Lotus Elan.

Even Cunningham had a milestone to celebrate, with the marque founded by Briggs Cunningham turning 60. An anniversary you might not have heard about with all the hubbub surrounding the celebrations at Pebble Beach, Lime Rock and other venues is Chrysler’s minivans turning 30.

That’s right, it’s been 30 years since Chrysler hit a home run, at the 11th hour as per usual, and launched the Town & Country minivan, liberating millions of kids from the drudgery of riding in the back of the family station wagons to and from sporting events. And now that we’ve reached a point in time when people are actually nostalgic about riding in the cargo areas of faux-wood bedecked station wagons, Chrysler is debuting a special edition Town & Country and Grand Caravan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the launch of its Chrysler and Dodge minivans.

The Town & Country 30th Anniversary Edition will be based on the Touring-L model and will feature 17-inch wheels with polished faces, “30th Anniversary” badging and Granite Crystal paint as an option. This special edition will use the 3.6-liter V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, making 283 hp. Interior touches will include black Alcantara seat inserts with napa seat bolsters, piano-black steering wheel bezel, and a “30th Anniversary” logo in the gauge cluster. The Convenience Group options will be standard in this model, which means it’ll have heated first- and second-row seating, power adjustable pedals and a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, in addition to other luxury touches.
The Grand Caravan 30th Anniversary Edition will be available on the SE and SXT models, and will feature the same 3.6-liter engine as in the Town & Country.

The Dodge Grand Caravan SE 30th Anniversary Edition will have 17-inch polished satin carbon-aluminum wheels, body-color heated exterior mirrors and “30th Anniversary” badging on the front fenders. On the interior, arguably where it matters most, the 30th Anniversary Dodge Grand Caravan will feature silver accent stitching and piano-black accents, black cloth seats and a black leather-wrapped steering wheel, in addition to other luxury details. The SXT trim version of the anniversary model will have all the features of the SE, but with added luxury touches like chrome window trim moldings and roof rack, fog lamps and black Torino Leatherette seats with suede inserts and silver accent stitching.

By: Jay Ramey at

Man Arrested After Postng Video of Him Racing Through Manhattan

It seemed he picked the wrong thing to brag about! The problem with illegal street racers – besides the fact that they put others on the road at risk – is that they usually crave attention. And with the ubiquity of video cameras and the ease of posting a video for the entire world to see on YouTube, it’s easy and more tempting than ever to publicize dubious deeds.

Of course, in doing so, street racers also risk arrest, which is the case with Christopher Adam Tang, 20, of New York City. Tang recently beat the unofficial record for the “One Lap of Manhattan” by circling the densely populated island on its busy streets in his 2006 BMW Z4 in 24 minutes, seven seconds.

After posting a video of his record run on YouTube and speaking with Jalopnik about it, New York City’s finest feted Tang by arresting him on Thursday and charging him with reckless driving and reckless endangerment – and seizing his car.

Tang, who goes by the code name AfroDuckProduction in the video, said he made the 26.5-mile ring around Manhattan on Aug. 26 and broke the record even though he had to stop at several red lights. Rally racer Alex Roy is acknowledged as having made the first known illegal record lap of Manhattan with a 27-minute run in 2001, and a group called CBC eclipsed Roy’s record with a 26:03 run in 2010.

Tang drove down FDR Drive from 116th Street in Harlem to Lower Manhattan, and then back up the West Side Highway to the George Washington Bridge before turning back east across the island. The day after the video became public, police were on the case to catch the driver, using license plate readers to aid the investigation.

It probably also helped police that Tang talked to Jalopnik and thought that the dash cam he used would protect his identity. When the website asked why he published the video so close to when he did the deed – others have waited a year or longer to go public – Tang replied, “You frankly can’t identify who I am by just looking at the video, and records were meant to be broken. I’ll release my name a year from now.”

Too late. The video he posted on Aug. 28 did give Tang the notoriety he sought. It also earned comments from some commending his accomplishment and other condemning him for putting others on the road at risk. One opposing comment on his YouTube page, for example, read, “For anyone thinking this is a great idea, understand that this moron is one sneeze away from killing a family.”

By: Douglas Newcomb at


Time Alert for the 2014 Pathfinder

Hey, you! Wake up! Drowsy driving results in more than 100,000 vehicle crashes a year, causing an estimated 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Since the cause is underreported, these figures may even be much higher.

In response. automakers have developed sophisticated technology to help combat drowsiness behind the wheel and the accidents it can cause by alerting drivers when they are becoming fatigued.

Mercedes-Benz’s Attention Assist, for example, analyzes dozens of parameters in the first minutes after the engine is started to learn each person’s driving style. It then looks for specific steering inputs that suggest driver drowsiness. The system also takes into account crosswinds, road smoothness and how often a driver accesses a vehicle’s switches and controls to uncover fatigue, at which point it sounds an alarm and suggests a rest.

Volvo’s Driver Alert Control uses a camera to monitor the car’s movements relative to road markings to determine “whether the vehicle is being driven in a controlled way.” It also uses a graph of five bars similar to those that show cellular-signal strength to indicate the driver’s alert status. If driver alertness drops, an alarm sounds and, like, Mercedes-Benz’s Attention Assist, a break from driving is suggested via a coffee cup icon in the instrument panel.

I noticed a much simpler (and cheaper) method in a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum Edition I recently tested.

The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder has a Timer Alert that allows a driver to set an alarm to sound at intervals from 30 minutes to six hours. The feature is accessed through the instrument panel display via steering wheel switches and can be found in the Alarms menu.

It doesn’t work automatically like the systems from Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, and it’s much more low-tech. And, of course, the driver has to remember to set it beforehand. But if you’re on a long drive and you think that you may get drowsy, it’s better than relying on the radio or an open window to keep you alert. Conceivably, the Timer Alert could also be used for other purposes, but since it’s not meant to sync with your daily calendar, I figure this is an inexpensive way to stay awake.

By: Douglas Newcomb at

Toyota Recalling 781k Lexus Models

This looks to be a painful and expensive pill for Toyota to swallow! Toyota is recalling nearly 781,000 cars to fix suspension components that can break loose, according to filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This is the second time that the same 780,584 cars have been recalled in the United States — the 2006-2011 Toyota RAV4 and the 2010 Lexus HS 250h — for loose nuts that attach the rear suspension arm to the wheels.

If the nuts are loose, the threads on the arm can rust and cause the entire arm to fracture or separate, which in turn can hamper the vehicle’s alignment and cause it to leave the desired lane. Toyota initially recalled the vehicles in August 2012 following a two-month NHTSA investigation which included at least 470 complaints and warranty claims alleging failure of the rear suspension arm. At least nine crashes and three injuries are related to the problem.

The earlier recall was “not adequate” and “portions of the repair procedure may not have been performed correctly,” according to Toyota. The latest recall will require dealers to replace the rear lower suspension arms and seal them with epoxy, effectively making the alignment permanent. Toyota’s first fix involved tightening the bolts and attaching labels to the suspension components to alert technicians to the proper tightening procedure. The company says repair shops are to blame and that all bolts were properly tightened at the factory.

Dealers have limited parts and may not be able to complete the repairs until February. Check page 12 of this dealer letter to find out when parts may be available in your state. Additionally, owners can visit​​l or​​​, or call Toyota at 1-800-331-4331 or Lexus at 1-800-255-3987.

On Sept. 4, the automaker recalled about 369,000 Toyota and Lexus models to fix problems that could cause the vehicles to shut down while driving. Part of the recall expanded on an earlier recall of Highlander Hybrid SUVs that did not properly address the problem. In June, Toyota recalled 242,000 Prius and Lexus HS 250h hybrids to fix weakened brakes, including about 87,000 vehicles in the United States.

Source: NHTSA and