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Cooley On Cars
Look who just beat Tesla to the punch (CNET On Cars, Ep. 105)Chevy Bolt sets the bar (for now), your speedometer needs a makeover, and the tricky path to CarPlay on your BMW.
[MUSIC] Forget Tesla for a minute, is this the champion of the electric car. Before cars can talk to each other, they're gonna need a radio and graphing CarPlay onto your older car or not. [SOUND] [MUSIC] Time to check the test We see cars differently. Nice. We love them on the road and under the hood. But also check the tech, and are known for telling it like it is. Ugly is included at no extra cost. The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is C|NET On Cars. Welcome to C|NET On Cars. The show all about high-tech cars and modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley. I can tell you already, here now in February, that the Chevy Volt is going to be the new car story of the year. In a nutshell? Because they beat Tesla to the punch with long-range, sub-$30,000 price, and it's actually in show rooms and you can buy it right now. But how does the whole package come together? Let's find out now as we drive the 17 Bolt EV and check the tech. [MUSIC] Do you hear that? Listen, that thumping sound. I know what it is. That's cadres of Nissan Leaf owners kicking themselves for not waiting. And buying this. [BLANK_AUDIO] The Bolt's competitive set is interesting. There's the massively preordered Tesla Model 3, the next Nissan Leaf, which they know has to join the 200-mile club, an expected new EV from Ford that might unveil as soon as late 2017, and then there's the Volt's sibling the Volt. We'll get to that later. [SOUND] First of all some semantics. what do you call a boot? Chevrolet will tell you, it is a small wagon or crossover. I'll be honest, that kinda surprised me up front, but their rationale is this, Significant cargo space for passengers and stuff in the back. A high ride height with high visibility. And the overall utility of the thing. Now, what's happening here is a car that was styled at General Motors Korean design studio, while in Michigan they were figuring out all the guts, all the power plant, power train and all the running gear By the way, though, with some Korean help, because LG Chem is their battery partner, and that big boy makes up almost the entire floor of the Bolt. [MUSIC] Now, under the snout, the Bolt is actually a very simple story. The front wheels are driven by an electric motor, and that's kind of it. There's no fancy modes, or ancillary technologies going on here. 200 horsepower, 266 pound-feet of torque There's a paddle on the wheel to add regenerative braking and there's a sport mode to kind of tap more power at a given amount of throttle. And no transmission to speak of, just seven to one reduction gear. 3,600 pounds of bulk gets up to 60 in Seven seconds. But as with all EVs, that doesn't matter so much. It has torquey instant response at any speed, that reminds you zero to 60 relates more to old school combustion engines that have to huff and puff to work up a head of steam. Now, inside the Bolt, one of the first things you notice is above me. [SOUND] Lots of room, and that's not common in many cars for me. So again, we're getting this idea that this is a roomy, spacious, and relatively vertical vehicle. Eight inch LCD in front of the driver. That's not optional, it's the only way that IP ever comes. And of course the ten inch screen over here also standard, laid this guy out as something premium and very modern the minute you get in. Android Auto, and CarPlay on the bold, it's kind of from the ground up, it's some fancy option. Along with WiFi in the car via an LTE connection. And by the way Chevy just cut the price on that data package, to 10 bucks a month for 1 gig, or 20 bucks a month for four. You know what to do. Shift by wire, there's no mechanical linkage to this shifter, allowing them to do this great big scooped out space down here. And same thing in the back. You see a flat floor, makes it easy to get in and across it. And this is borrowed out of the Cadillac CT6. It's one of those rear camera rearview mirrors. That's really cool stuff, especially at this price point. Lots of charging for mobiles, two ports here on USB, two in the back, wireless charging as well, and lots of great little bins for things. Of course, the Bolt's headline is simple. 238 miles of range for about 30k. I didn't have enough time to run the battery down several times and check that range but let's take it at face value, because a 60 kilowatts hour battery is pretty big. Charging it from flat takes nine hours on a 240 outlet, or put another way, 50 miles every two hours on the standard charger. But pay more for the fast charger, then you're putting 90 miles in the tank every 30 minutes Or fully charging the car in about two and a half hours. Now, some of you may know my theory, that electric cars drive more like each other than combustion engine cars. Let me know notice how it drives the least. I don't wanna hear motor or gear whining. And I wanted to be very linear underfoot, Volt sitting all of those very clean. We've also got this odd little deceleration or regen paddle on the left. You can just about get by without using the brakes, once you really master this guy. It comes on pretty strong. It's a nice little control, and of course, the upside is, it puts juice back in the battery Let's price our little electric friend, $37,495 is delivered for a basic Bolt. THe Premier Package is 43 hundred bucks, it's the only one that's really chunky, it's a lot of niceties basically, but you do get Surround Vision, Blind Zone, and Cross Traffic Assist. Much cheaper is what they call the infotainment package, for under 500 bucks, of course you want that. Driver confidence is also about 500, and that gets you some advance things like forward collision alerts, lane keep assist, forward automatic breaking, that's a nice package for a nice price. And I'm gonna add 750 for the fast charger, I really like those charge numbers a lot better, absolutely worth it. Now as I mentioned earlier, we have to look at the intriguing sibling rivalry between the Bolt and its sibling, the Volt. Let's just break it down to base price. Both qualify for the same federal tax credit. The Bolt gets a little steeper state tax credit, at least here in California, leaving us with a very different effective price. Now, the Bolt can cost close to half as much to run compared to the Volt if you take advantage of off-peak rates. Still, if you're strictly looking at the numbers, the break even's out there a ways. And of course, as good as the Bolt's range is, there is still the possibility of range anxiety. The Volt will run as long as you have gas. Eventually, pent up demand will ease and we may see some pretty good discounting on the street. And GM may be less concerned about that than you think. It's estimated they already lose about $9,000 per Bolt sold, about in line with the industry average. And are more or less happy to do so, because each one sold earns them four zero emission credits that allow them to sell more of the profitable combustion models in the ten clean states. Like California and New York that require such a trade off. And of course the long term picture is important. Electrified cars are the future. You may as well establish leadership now. Bloomburg New Energy Finance says by 2025 [UNKNOWN] Cars like the Bolt will actually have a better total cost of ownership than combustion cars generally. That's a major line in the sand. And they expect by 2040, this kind of car will be selling in the tens of millions annually around the world. Both of which might get the skeptics and doubters to say nah. But drive one of these, and you start to believe it. By the way, if you want a deep dive on the motor and power pack of the new Bolt, our team did a great one waiting for you right now over at theroadshow.com. Well, cars have definitely gotten a lot smarter lately, certainly in connected cabin electronics. But in the biggest way, they still remain incredibly dumb because they're not connected to each other yet or to the infrastructure and what is standing in the way of that is of interest to the smarter driver. [MUSIC] Vehicle to vehicle or vehicle to infrastructure They're kinda summarized as V2X, vehicle to everything. And they're coming relatively soon. The idea is to connect cars to each other, to traffic signals coming up ahead, to master traffic control centers that every metro has these days, even to pedestrians and bicycles that are near you. It's about time. [SOUND] Bicycle coming from the left. Why does the smarter driver care? Well the US Department of Transportation says that if V to V was widespread, we could see an 80% reduction in car crashes, leaving out those that involve driver impairment. Put another way, that's saving 20,000 of the 37,000 annual auto deaths in this country. But all that talking is gonna require some kind of communication network wireless GBD, and it's a very big discussion these days. First there's 5G, and you know that 5G is coming to Powerarm Mobile, but it's going to be use in a lot of things. It operates in the 28, 37, and 39 gigahertz band. Very high frequencies, especially here in the US, and it's not doing any real, commercial Deployment until at least 2020. Then there's DSRC, Dedicated Short Range Communications. It's a cousin of WiFi, hence it's technical name, 802.11p. Notice the similarity to your 802.11 at home. It operates in the 5.9 gigahertz band. Much lower than 5G. And that's not too far from some five gigahertz stuff you probably already use and WiFi gear around your house. Unlike 5G, DSRC is just slightly here now. General Motors is offering it in the 2017 CTS already. There's not a lot for it to talk to. Now know the fundamental difference here, 5G is cellular, the kind that all ready covers wide areas in metro areas, DSRC being wi-fi, is a shorter range technology. Though when enough cars have it, it also has a lot of reach, because they have a mesh. Now these two are going to be judged on a lot of Interior, but there are handful I want you to think about. First is bandwidth. Bandwidth is when you've got a really big pipe of radio frequencies, a wide slice of them. That's particularly good for moving very large, rich data, like video of course. Or also Bit goal signals coming off a camera or a high resolution sensor. Now don't confuse bandwidth with speed. It's easy to do but it's a different thing. Speed is better measured by what's called latency. That is the amount of time it takes for a signal to be transmitted and then Seemed by a device on the other end. That can be very important in vehicles where a car ahead says I'm breaking and the cars behind want to know that right away. Then we get into this area of dedication. 5G obviously will not be dedicated just to car use. It's gonna be used by everything wireless once it rolls out. DSRC could be used over could be used only by cars. Right now, that's how it's been envisioned, but I can tell you the wireless industry of mobiles and such, they wanna share that with cars because it's really good spectrum. It works really well. There's a discussion, a battle going on right now between those industries and regulators. Then there's reliability. You want to have absolute reliability in vehicle-to-X communications. Now sometimes your phone has no bars, sometimes it has five bars but still nothing's happening. That's not acceptable in the vehicular area. Now solving this involves a lot of technical considerations that are beyond our scope. But know that this will have to be the most reliable wireless platform ever rolled out to a consumer product. And, of course, it always comes down to cost. Now, it's hard to cost compare 5G to DSRC right now. This is really early days. But the cost of putting it in a vehicle is not just going to be the price of those modules for each standard, but also how soon do you move? If a car maker is putting in DSRC modules now, like a couple we mentioned, but then later finds that 5G won the day and they've Have now got dual fleets and have to deploy a whole new standard that may have higher costs of both engineering, the actual hardware, and of educating consumers and dealers what to do with it. [MUSIC] Now when I come back, we're gonna dive into your emails. Got a bunch of great ones this week, including why your speedometer needs an overhaul pretty badly and the awkward marriage of a stick shift And automatic braking, when CNET, On Cars, returns. [MUSIC] Okay, here comes my favorite part of the show, I hope yours too, where we take some of your emails. Gotta bunch of good ones this week. Let's get started with Rich R, who asks, I'd like to know why cars seem to put more emphasis on the RPM gauge, the tach, And not the speedometer. For example, it says if you look at the Mazda3, the tack is large and in the center, with a digital speedometer small. In an automatic shift car, what's the point of even knowing the RPM. Also, he says why don't more cars use digital speedometer. Okay Rich, there's a lot of things going on here. Let's unpack it as they say. First of all Speedos and tachometers are so much part of marketing cars, and not just telling you what's going on with the car. Let's start off right off the bat here with this idea of these big central tachometers. A lot of that is what they call driver focused engineering, to make you think that whatever car you're in is some kind of incredible road car and you're some kind of incredible driver. You may be, but in many cases you're just going to work. And you don't really need this giant tach in the middle. But it's a lot of marketing BS, to be honest. And let's face it, we often fall for it. Cuz watching a tach go up and down is more interesting than watching a fuel gauge move, right? It's the most interesting gauge in your car that you have a lot of control over. Now, this gets into an interesting area where we talk about what do you have to do in a car in terms of tach and speed. What do the government regulators say? Almost nothing. I dug into some of the federal regulations on this and there wasn't much to dig into as you can see. It basically says a car or truck must have a speedo, and that's about it. Tach they don't care. It's not even in the federal regulations. And they don't say much about how big it is what size numerals it has to be where does it have to sit. And I'm okay with that you don't wanna tell car designers how to do their thing but There's surprisingly little regulation for an area that is usually so regulated. Now there is an argument for a speedo or a tach that has a needle versus you asking about digital speedometers, and that is a sense of ballistics. When you've got an analog gauge, with the needle going up and down, you don't just see the information it's pointing at but, you also get this analog feel of the rate of change of speed, or of engine rpm's, of rpm fall, things like that. And, I buy into that, I get a better feel of a car from analog gauges, personally, than watching numerals click over, I think that's just how the human machine is engineered. Now, if we take a look of this idea of speedometers, I have a gripe with what I call speedo machismo. Notice how many speedos now have an incredibly high top-end speed. A Honda Accord, the top setting a 160 miles an hour on its speedometer. Really? A Fiat 500, that goes up to 200 kilometers per hour. When? When it's in neutral, being pushed by a Viper? These are aspirational speedometers, if I can be polite. And I don't like them because they crowd all the speeds we do need to look at way down in the bottom third or bottom half of the gauge, making them much harder to notice at a glance and get a reading of what speed I'm doing. I think it's really bad design. But again, It's good marketing nonsense. That crowded layout is a problem because gauges are fixed. The way that's going to be changed is as we move very soon to digital LCD instrument panels. A few cars have this now. The new Mustang is going to offer one as an option. Audi's TT virtual cockpit was perhaps the first out there. And you can do amazing things. You can move gauges around. Change their size. Change the magnification of what range they are showing you at a time. Volvo's done some great stuff here as well. This is where we see a major evolution coming where you'll be able to pick and choose layouts, and if you like a big central tag go for it. If I don't want to see it that big, and push it to the side, I can do that as well. Last note, you asked about tachometers An automatic transmission. Yeah. Pretty stupid. Although automatic transmissions these days do have a lot of good shiftable manual moods, and in those cases prehaps you'd care about your RPM. Although honestly if you're that much of an enthusiast I'll bet most of your RPM checking is done with your ears not your eyes. Okay, next one comes in from Ryan who really has a question that goes to the heart of interesting change in high tech cars these days. He says can you tell me how automatic emergency braking works in a car with a manual transmission. He says I own a Subaru Outback with iSight technology. However, I recently hired a VW Golf in London last year with automatic braking and wondered does the car come to a complete stop without stalling, with the menu transmission. Apparently, you didn't get those situation were have to complete stuff because you would found that empirically. And it might have been a little nerve rattling, Ryan. Here's the bottom line. Now, there are not a lot of cars out there that have automatic full to stop emergency braking and offer a manual transmission. Mazda3 is one example. If you look at their owner's manual about how it works, the car will come to a complete stop. And if it's in a manual transmission gear and the clutch is not depressed, it'll just shut the engine down, and you've gotta restart it. Now, I can tell you The car makers and regulators are not going to be necessarily happy with that in the long term. That can lead to some confusion and some bad situations on the road. So that's why automatic emergency braking and a stick, I think, is rare and is going to remain rare, if not get more so. They're kind of sort incompatible. That is not the case while busy with an automatic or one of the manumatics or dual clutch transmissions. They all have the logic, they can unengaged, disengage when the car comes to a full stop without you having to intervene. Now, in 2022 automatic emergency breaking is going to become universal by agreement of car makers. This is not a law. The reason the feds went for this here in the US is because they believe they'll get there faster with an agreement than if they had to do formal rule making. Three years faster. So 2022, virtually every car out there will offer or have automatic emergency breaking. I believe this is going to put pressure even more on manual transmission cars. Because of that awkward marriage between the two technologies. And this also, being an agreement and not a regulation, means that car makers can play in different ways. So may say, you know what, in a manual transmission car automatic emergency breaking never brings to a full stop. It just reduces your speed to reduce the collision. That's one way to do it. Or we don't offer it with a manual. Or we do and it stops the car and shuts the engine down like Mazda does. We'll have a lot of ways to interpret this so I can't give you one answer. And to be honest I think may put a little more pressure on the manual transmission to leave the market. That's because as cool as manuals are to offer to the enthusiast, car makers sell far more vehicles on safe Then they do on enthusiast cred. Safety will always trump the clutch. Coming up, how to get CarPlay in your older BMW. And is diesel done? When CNET on Cars returns. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] [MUSIC] Okay, this one comes in from Belgium. Kevin W. writes in and says, How can I upgrade my 05 BMW 530d which has iDrive, pretty early iDrive. He wants it to have CarPlay but he doesn't want to do any surgery. Put in a new different or other screen in his dash board. This is kind of a thorny one, I'm afraid. The short answer, Kevin is you can't. You can't do it. Let's take a look at that dash board of that 055 series. See that layout, there, that is completely proprietary. There is nothing in there. that even speaks to heavy surgery, where you could put a Double DIN head unit in there. It's just a non-starter. So instead, what you've got to deal with are the following considerations. First of all, BMW now does support CarPlay, and they were a late-comer. As of November 2016, they announced that they're offering it as a ala carte option. option just about every case on '17 and forward models, as I understand it. So, nice to have BMW finally supporting CarPlay as opposed to just iDrive. But it's not going to apply to your car, your '05. That's a really early iDrive. There's not going to be anything retro going on there, I can that I assure you. Now, here's another way to do it. On the Android side, they do have a mode called "Android Auto- Phone Only", where the phone is the car screen. Everything happens on the phone. Its a clever work-around for vehicles that don't have an LCD on the dash. Unfortunately, Apple does not support it, that I know of, as of right now. They don't have a phone only mode. There is apparently a jailbreak way to jailbreak your phone and then add in something called Ignition, that'll apparently give you on phone only CarPlay, you can consider that So if we're gonna home brew this idea since there's no really good legitimate satisfying path for a double din or a retrofit of iDrive, let's look at it this way. You want to slap your phone somewhere where it's in a good solid mount, but legal which means basically not in the windshield in most jurisdictions. Luckily for you a 055 series does have a panavise mount made for it. And I like these mounts. They're bent metal, they're really sturdy, they **** down into your dash board, require no cutting and hacking. We got one here at the Crown Victoria and it's a really good mount, especially if you add a separately purchased magnet to it and then slap a steel plate to the back of your phone case. And that easily just sticks right there, holds really well. And you just snag it when you get out of the car. Then, also get a good FM modulator to bring your audio, calls, and streaming over to your car. We did a video on this, a how to a few months ago, you can check out at cnetoncars.com. I don't normally recommend specific products, but the one that we used in that particular video really stands head and shoulders above the rest. Most fm modulators are crap. This one is actually really good. It'll give you a nice audio channel and now we've got the audio and the mount both covered. That's kind of the best way you can go with a car that is never gonna have car play supported in it from BMW. or App. Okay, our last email of this show comes in from Toronto, from Paul J. who says, "I'm just about to take delivery of a '17 BMW X5-D. The dealer said this is likely the last generation Diesel X-5 that they expect to see in their showroom. Certainly partly because of the American EPA that is not happy with diesels right now. Now because of you know who. He says I heard that Mercedes, Porsche and Audi have all cancelled diesel trucks and truck based SUVs, altogether. He asks what do I think of the future of diesel? Well Paul, in a word, dim are the prospects for diesel right now, and I like diesels. I like them a lot. I love the way they drive. They're smooth and quiet now, and have been for years. They're really durable, they're really built tough cuz they have to be. But I think diesel might be hearing the death knell right now, and here's why. A lot of things are going on. First of all, high upfront costs. Diesel engines still cost more To get into the showroom, that's the engine itself. And on top of that, they've got about $1,000 or more of diesel scrubbing tech, that has to be installed on the downstream exhaust system. This is that urea catalyst and secondary scrubber technology. This just adds a lot of cost upfront that a lot of savvy car owners realize they're never really gonna Gonna make back. No matter how efficient the vehicle is. And specially because gas prices at least in the US have been historically low, for a number of years now, and I don't know any predictions of them skyrocketing anytime soon. That kills Diesel as well. We also have a lot of states, 10 or so in the States that demand a certain and growing percentage of ZEV cars. Zero emission vehicle. And carmakers get there by doing plug-ins and electrics, obviously, not by cleaning up diesel. Diesel doesn't play in ZEV markets. It doesn't get you anywhere. So that's a problem. And they already know that electrification is much more the future than dieselifcation. Now, the other big factor is the EPA. They're pissed, because VW and their group pulled the wool over a lot of eyes in a big way on the environment in a cynical way. And they are not approving diesels for sale in the US right now. They will eventually, but there is such a ground stop on diesel in the United States, a market that already was never really in love with them that this could be the end of the line. Now that's it, the Ford F-150 and the Mazda CX-5 are both getting long over-waited diesel soon. But I have to wonder if that's mostly out of tradition and inertia, respectively. [NOISE] As usual, thank you so much for watching. Hope you enjoyed this episode, and keep the emails coming cuz we build so much of the show around those. It's OnCars@cnet.com, and everyone comes right to my inbox. I read everyone, reply to as many as I can and get as many in the show as we can as well. You guys have great ideas. I'll see you next time. We check this out. [MUSIC]