Ep. 139: Does the Lexus IS350C have a big 'ol butt?
45:00

Ep. 139: Does the Lexus IS350C have a big 'ol butt?

Auto Tech
[ Music ] ^M00:00:02 >> The drum beat gets louder against driving while texting. And it's hybrid versus diesel for the upcoming green car of the year award. We'll tell you about that. Plus GM says selling on eBay was great except we're done with it. And we'll go for a ride in a new retractable Lexus. It's a fast ride, by the way. It's CNET's car tech live for Friday the 9th of October 2009. I'm Brian Cooley joined by Wayne Cunningham and Antuan Goodwin. Okay, folks, here's the news before we dive to our E-mail -- a lot of good E-mails from you this week, by the way -- and then go for a ride with Wayne and Antuan in the new Lexus IS 350 C. Sit tight for that. We keep telling you about the drum beat against driving while texting. I'm telling you, next year's going to be a watershed year for rules and laws that you've never seen saying stop driving while distracted. And one of the indications of that is that we now have two things happening in Washington. One, there's a new federal ban on federal employees driving while texting, whether they're in a federal car or their own car on official business. So a little more intrusive than it could have been. And that was an executive order from the President, so it didn't require any passage of any law because it only applies to federal employees while they're on the jobs. There are carve-outs, of course, for federal employees that are in national security or law enforcement and have to have gadgets in their hands while they're doing their job. But that's one of the little bricks from the wall that's coming toward driving while texting and coming out of that summit on distracted driving we told you about, about a week ago. The Department of Transportation now says it wants its division that does -- I think you call these common carrier -- trucks, buses all those commercial vehicles -- for those drivers to have a law, federal law, saying they cannot text, E-mail, or do just about anything else with a handheld phone while they're driving. This doesn't apply to the average driver, but it will be for those classes of commercial drivers that are doing trucks and buses and those kinds of things that are at a higher level of licensure and standards for safety. So this was an order from the U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood at the conclusion of that summit. Now, in terms of a law that's telling you and I at the federal level no driving while texting, no one has a real good handle on when that will be introduced or put into the books just yet; but you can tem the tide is turning very quickly against that kind of behavior. Now, along those lines, we saw an interesting -- and I take it with a grain of salt -- survey from leasetrader.com. They went out and surveyed 3,000 drivers. Now, they don't do this kind of thing for a living. Lease trader is a place that deals with tradebacks of leased cars. But it's an interesting survey here, 3,000 drivers and asked men and women separately what is the biggest distraction while driving. And, interestingly, people didn't say texting, didn't say calling. They said, in their opinion, from men, men for example, number one, road rage. Number two, eating and drinking. 15 percent said that. Number three they said was checking out other drivers, flipping them off half the time. Number four, kids in the car. Number five, chatting with passengers. Texting came in number seven, right ahead of playing with the radio and navigation. Women had a little different priority. They said kids in the car are the biggest distraction. 26 percent of them said that. Putting on makeup, number two. Messing with the radio for them was really high, number three. Fiddling with navigation, higher than for men, number four. And avoiding inclement weather, and I'm not quite sure what that is; but that came in number five for the women respondents. And, again, both of these gender categories said texting while driving in their opinion is way down the list as a distraction. So it either says that we have a very odd perception of how distracted we are or -- that's really what the says. ^*GM has done it. They pulled the trigger on selling Hummer. I don't think Hummer owners are going to like this. It's being sold to a Chinese heavy industrial company that has never made cars before, a company called Sichuan Tengzhong, if I'm getting that right. Heavy industrial machinery company. They make big excavators and that kind of equipment, as I understand it. They haven't talked about the terms; but, apparently, it was about $150 million for this. That, by the way, is considered fire-sale pricing for what would have been a much more valuable division a few years ago. They get the brand, they get the trademarks, they get the licensing rights to make Hummers, and they also are going to get manufacturing components and business help from GM for a period that has not been spelled out yet. So we don't know how long GM will keep making Hummers for this company and in partnership with them before they completely move over to being Chinese made. It's kind of like the recent deal where IBM ThinkPads became Lenovos and, for about a year or so, they were kind of co-made with IBM and then they became full-on Lenovo machines. They were excellent in both eras, but just to give you an idea of what this is like. So we'll see how this goes. We'll have more details on this. At this point, we understand that they'll keep making Hummers at the Shreveport plant, the H2 -- or the H3 and H3T. The H2 will also be made by GM until June 2011. But there's some extensions in there. It's a little fuzzy. So if you're trying to scramble and buy a Hummer, for whatever reason, that is still a true Hummer, as I'm sure a lot of the aficionados will say, you've got some time but not a lot. Another interesting story in the truck area, not tech related but interesting that Chrysler has decided that Ram is going to break out as a brand, not just as a model of cars. So it's going to be one of the Chrysler brands now is ram, alongside Dodge and Chrysler. This is one of the changes they've made in their reorganization now that Fiat is getting in there and rejiggering things. The finalists were announced for the 2010 Green Car of the Year Award. This is put out by a company called Green Car Journal, a publication online. The five finalists will be announced and then determined a winner at the LA Auto Show which, of course, we will all be at, CNET Car Tech Team, covering that show, which is starting up on December 3rd. The cars that are nominated, two diesels and three hybrids, which is interesting. The Audi A3 TDI, the baby Audi; the Honda Insight, which is a fresh model, of course. And giving it to the [inaudible] is pretty good. Mercury Milan hybrid, which we loved Milan around here. Go check out our review at cars.CNET.com. The new Toyota Prius, the 2010 3rd Gen Prius, and the VW Golf TDI, turbo diesel. So two turbo diesels from the same basic family of companies, and then three hybrids in there. Remember, last year, the winner was so different from any of these. It was the 2008 Tahoe hybrid. So you can be sure that we're not going to have anything like that winning, because there's nothing of that type in list anymore. And that was one that raised a lot of eyebrows. Yeah, it did improve the mileage on that vehicle; but it's hardly what you'd call Green Car of the Year in most folk's opinions. ^*Speaking of green, BMW's released some new details on what's in their product pipe line And a lot of green themes are in there. Some of the ones that we spotted here -- and you can check out the full details over at the car tech blog -- this one series is going to be [inaudible] as perhaps a coupe and or a four-door in the U.S. We're also going to see a redesign on that. The 3 series may get a four cylinder engine for the first time in eons. I think the last time they did that was the kind of abortive little hatch version, the 318 TI. The 7 series, the active hybrid 7 that we've told you about, is now being firmed up in terms of its U.S. sales beginning next spring. So they've reconfirmed that. And the X6 as an active hybrid is also going to be going on sale this year, and they're talking about how it has a 20 percent better full consumption than the nonhybrid X6. So there are some of the green notes. And a lot of the other cars that they're talking about are just plain faster in the M series. Infinity also confirming they have an M version -- a hybrid version of the M car coming soon. So far, Nissan's only done an Ultima hybrid in their entire Nissan and Infinity product range. And they get that technology from Toyota, anyway. But, in this case, they're going to roll their own, their own hybrid technology that's in house and going to the M. But not that soon. It'll be coming out 2011, so year after next, as a 2012. So they've announced it but it's by no means imminent. Suzuki has been talking about a plug-in hybrid that'll role out at the Tokyo Motor Show at least in some concept form there; probably near production form because it's based on the Suzuki Swift, which is a production car. And this is going to be a hybrid car of, shall we say, diminutive horsepower and specs. But the interesting thing is it's sort of like a Chevy Volt. It's a series hybrid, a range extender engine, a 600 cc gas engine running a generator that powers the batteries that run electric motors that move the car. So they at least think the Volt idea is also a pretty good way to go. ^M00:07:45 ^*New news breaking out just before showtime here that Audi is, indeed, going to bring that e-tron electric sport supercar to the market -- eventually. They just confirmed out of Audi of America's office that they're going to bring that out in two or three years. So it's a little fuzzy, and anything could happen. But that was the car that we spotted for you at Frankfurt that looks a lot like an R8, totally electric underneath, totally concept. So to see them say it is definitely coming to market is certainly a little surprising to have them double down this soon on saying it is for real. The concept they showed -- this isn't necessarily production -- had four electric motors, one on each axle and then dedicated out to the corners to each wheel, although they were not wheel-mounted motors. They had a range they talked of, they speculated of 154 miles on a single charge with a big old lithium battery behind the seats where the engine goes in an R8. That's all the concept. We'll see what comes to the actual market in a few years. As you may have also heard, just in case you didn't here about this, and we have a few extra details. Saturn's done and it ain't coming back and no one's going to buy it. GM's going to turn the lights out on that one. This was about a week ago. But we've heard a little bit more on the details there. Penske, Roger Penske, who was trying to buy Saturn and have someone make the cars for him was talking to Renault which, of course, is part of Nissan. But they bailed out and said no, this isn't going to work for us to be your -- your OEM manufacturer of your cars. And so what's going to happen is they're going to wind down the dealership network through October of 2010. If you're a Saturn buff, and a lot of people are, your brand kind of lives on until October 2010 in some degree. In terms of their dealership network, customers and owners will be able to purchase and have their vehicles serviced there during the wind down but not necessarily any guarantees after that. So if you're looking for a drop-dead date, October of next year, one year from now is going to be the time when Saturn may become a little more than a memory with the exception, of course, of after market. The Napa and all those auto parts places will certainly have products and, to some degree, some support services for those cars. Speaking of things GM is ending, we told you about their eBay sales effort where you could go to a special GM area on eBay where dealers would offer cars and you could either buy them for a buy it now price or you could make a best offer. There was no true auction involved. Well, that came to an end. They extended it, in fact, an additional month. And it seemed like it was going really well. And GM just said it went really well, but we're not doing it anymore. Didn't go that well, apparently. GM says they have other nationwide initiatives going on that they've brewed in-house that are going to be their ongoing idea of reaching out in a national way. And remember, since they started that eBay GM partnership, GM has decided they're going to do very little under the GM umbrella brandwise. They're not going to push GM a lot. It's going to be Chevy. It's going to be Cadillac. It's going to be GMC. That's what their going to push. The GM brand, they're going to let it settle because it has the stink of bankruptcy all over it. And it doesn't mean much to the car buyers, anyway. So that's part of why they're also backing away from any more of the eBay store. Wayne got a good at the Acura ZDX, which is the other BMW X6, if you will, one of those big coupe-like crossover SUVs. It's based on the MDX. Go check out his write-up over at cars.CNET.com. And some of the technologies in there, if you option it up full all the way you can get blind spot warning, adaptive cruise, collision mitigating braking, a lot of things you've seen in Acura before. Hard drive on the audio and navigation rig, and also you're going to find traffic and weather information on there. And they also spotted iPod integration that let's you do voice command search and access of music, kind of like what Ford and Microsoft do with Sync. Plus the camera has views for normal, wide, and looking kind of down, kind of the God view. ^*AT&T CruiseCast, we told you about. We just did a video on this a few weeks ago. It's a satellite TV service using a relatively small kind of like a half a cantaloupe shaped antenna on the roof, which was quite a breakthrough. But it doesn't matter now, because they basically have pulled the plug. This week, AT&T says we're no longer taking orders for CruiseCast, which they just started doing a few weeks ago. We're not quite sure what happened there, but they have a partner called RaySat which does the satellite infrastructure. Maybe something going on between them. So that was a $1300 system, plus you had to add your own monitors. And then there was a -- I think it was $30 a month for the service to get the cable channels. It's all gone now, it's disappeared from most of the retailers. If we hear anything more about what happened to it, we'll let you know. It hadn't had a chance to catch on yet, but it was a notable technology we saw first at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. And then it just came to market, and now it apparently has gone poof. ^M00:12:05 ^*Do you use navigation on your smartphone? If you do, you're part of a rapidly growing crowd of people. Especially in cars, you can be sure. A company called Berg Insight just did some new research on the worldwide adoption -- it's not just U.S. but global adoption of navigation on handsets. And they found that it doubled from the first half of '08 to the first half of '09. It went flat up double in terms of the number of people who at least done it once to 28 million people. And they say that will grow to 160 million people users who are using smartphone nav by 2015. Those are big numbers. It's even a big number now. It'll be a really big number as we go down the next 5 years. So if you're wondering still if people are going to be naving on their smartphone, be pretty sure they are. We heard a lot about how car makers would like to have a Windows or a Mac [inaudible]. It's really a Windows for cars so they have a common platform to put technology in the dash on the screen that doesn't require they do home brew or custom things with their partners all the time. It would make tech come to the car faster. Well, QNX, a company that does a form of Unix and also does it for the car has just jumped on what's called the Open Screen Project, which is something that Adobe is doing. And the idea is it's a runtime environment like Java, for example, that is based on Adobe Flash, which we haven't seen on a car yet. We've seen Shockwave, but we haven't seen Adobe Flash specifically in the car. Jaquar's done some Shockwave stuff. And it'll allow the applications and video and media to have a common platform to run on. It's under the hood, for sure. Most car buyers won't care about this. But for those in this audience who know about this kind of thing, we're getting closer to some kind of common platform or maybe just a couple of platforms that car makers all have in common, allowing apps and such to be spread more rapidly the way they to on computers and smartphones and the like. ^*Ever use one of these GPS tracking devices, these sneaky little things like spot or Zoombak you can stick in your kid's backpack or in your car or basically to anything, and you can track where that thing is based on a web browser or smartphone or even text messaging? Well, it now seems that those are starting to get some real traction. The two companies that are best known for that, Spot and Zoombak, have announced that they've just shipped between a hundred and a hundred fifty thousand units each of those kinds of products, depending on which company you're looking at, which is getting into what in the CE business, the consumer electronics business, is considered notable stuff. And a lot of these are used for cars. People want to know where their car is if they have a teenage driver, and they want to know where the vehicle's going and make sure they're actually going where they said they were going to go or not too far from where they said. And these guys go for about 100 to 150 bucks. The service on them, I think, is a little on the pricey side: around 100 bucks a year, I think, for both of them. But, for what it's worth, they're getting some real sales numbers. If you're not aware of those, we have a couple of links in the show notes this week. ^*Ford's going to start using GPS a different way, to see if they can help cars avoid collisions even better than they already do. So think about the stability control system you have on your car which uses internal data from the wheels and from censors about whether it's yawing or rolling or doing something. But what if it also had GPS information to tell the car more with high resolution what it's doing if it's going here or there or making an attitude change that could be dangerous. Ford says there's something to be done with that, so they're working with Auburn University, they announced this week, to start using GPS data to research using GPS data that's not out on the market yet, as part of the stability system. So it just keeps getting more elaborate out there in terms of how stability is becoming one of the biggest areas of tech innovation on cars and, of course, very, very common. There's almost not a car out there now that doesn't have an elaborate stability control system on it. An interesting feature that Antuan found on the Toyota 4Runner, a little button that you can push on this 2010 if you get the SR5 and load it up with all the tech and entertainment stuff, little button that says party mode on it. Party mode. Now, to me, that opens up a little frig in the back with tequila. But that's probably not what it does. Antuan, what does party mode actually do on this SR5 forerunner? >> Well, basically, what party mode's going to do is -- I guess, more accurately, it's tailgating mode. It will shift the balance to the rear speakers and pump up the bass so the system should sound better with the rear hatch up for when your outback tailgating and basically running your battery down. >> Okay, right. Exactly. As you pointed out, tailgating wouldn't fit on the button; so they had to call it party mode. And I think the last little nugget I got for you in the news this week is one that is just a classic. I think it's been this way for a number of years. But number one color for cars? Used to be white for the longest time, but that was going back like a decade or so. It's silver, 25 percent of cars sold in 2009, 2009 model year cars were sold in silver. So if you've got a silver car, you're very -- well, in good company. Let's check out some of the latest cars in the CNET car tech garage. We've got the 650 i from BMW; convertible, by the way. We just did one of these, but it was an '09. The 2010 had some improved tech. You want to check that out over at cars.CNET.com. The video is up now at CNETTV.com. We'll also be jumping on the Lincoln MKZ. And that is, of course, a very dressed up Ford Fusion. Is it dressed up enough to be worth the money and the Lincoln brand? We shall see about that one. Coming up next, we've got a look at the IS 350 C with Wayne and Antuan, and that reveal will be coming up in a few days on CNET car tech. Plus we have a 370 Z Roadster, which is the new drop top of the heavily refreshed 370 Z that just came out recently. And remember to go check out Wayne's look at the new Acura ZDX over at cars.CNET.com if you're looking for one of those coupe-like SUVs. It's a CNET car tech live show. I'm Brian Cooley. Let's get into our E-mail now. This is where we all get into the conversation and talk about what you're asking us about. Remember, E-mail us, cartech@cnet.com, and it goes to all three of us at once. Wayne, Antuan, and myself all get those E-mails. It'll hit one of us for sure and dive into somebody's expertise. All right, guys. Our first E-mail question this week comes from Barry who says, I'm in the market for a new car in the next 18 to 24 months, so he's going to take forever. He says, I wouldn't call myself a greenie, but I want good mileage. I prefer a small tossable car compared to a land yacht. And I've always been a fan of diesels. The 2010 Golf TDI coming to the U.S., so I'm intrigued by that. What I'm not sure of is the long-term cost of maintenance on a diesel engine. Do you guys have any indication that diesels are more expensive in the long run for maintenance? I like to work on my own car, he says, but I presume the newer diesels are much more complex than my pre-OBD cars that I have now -- the onboard diagnostic cars, which means pre-1996. Yeah, they're much more complex. Thanks for advice. And, by the way Cooley, you need more [inaudible] on BOL. Pissing off the Frenchies and the space nuts is right up my alley. Right on. That's Barry. So what do we know about cost of ownership of diesels that might be higher than gas? >> Well, something like the Jetta TDI isn't going to have much more or -- I mean, I don't think there's going to be any more maintenance on that than a gas car. And you've got the high pressure fuel system, but you've got a high pressure fuel system with a direct injection. >> Right. Those are all really high pressure. >> Yeah. You get into more expense with the new BlueTech engines from Mercedes-Benz which have that Urea injection stuff. >> Right. >> Because you have to refill that tank -- I think it's like 5,000 miles. >> It's every -- minimal service interval, yeah. >> Yeah. >> Which means that those cars have pretty rapid oil changes, because a lot of cars go a lot longer than that between intervals. But, for whatever reason, they've got it calibrated to 5,000, I think it is. I don't think that stuff is very expensive, but it is an additional cost. >> And it'll probably be included with the initial warranty with the car so they'll probably -- >> Oh, right. >> Somebody like Mercedes-Benz will probably replace that stuff for free for a while. >> Well, it's under warranty, yeah. >> But he mentioned he wanted something small and tossable, and that's exactly what I've heard about the Jetta TDI since it came out, since the new one came out recently. >> Yeah. I drove a Golf TDI in Europe about a year ago and just loved it. And then, the next trip, I had a Mercedes C 230 turbo diesel; different, different kind of car. Calibrated differently; much more comfortable. That Golf TDI was just too much fun. I just wanted to drive. >> You're talking about 18 months from now you may -- we may be getting the Golf GTD, which is basically a diesel version of the GTI. >> Really? >> So it's going to be a high performance diesel, so it's going to be about 170 horsepower as opposed to 140. >> And like 400 foot pounds of torque. >> Yeah, exactly. >> It's got that kind of horsepower. >> In 18 months, that may be here. So if you're looking for something small and tossable and fun to drive. >> Now we're definitely talking tossable. We had that little Z -- or that little BMW 1 series diesel and -- >> Oh, yeah. >> -- 123 D, which was an immense amount of fun. I mean, you shift a lot and really fast in that car. >> Yeah. Red line was 4300 something. >> Yeah. It's like first gear, second gear, third gear, fourth -- >> Di di di di di. Yeah. But it was really cool, because that torque, you can't get over that. And in a small car, it's even better. >> Oh, yeah. >> And in a small diesel like that -- that was a four-cylinder diesel? >> Yeah. 123 D, yeah. >> Okay. 2.3 liter diesel, right. That's a really efficient engine. So you'd get great mileage on that. I don't recall what the mpg was on it, but I'm sure it was really good. But, remember, the diesel's more expensive because it's ultra low sulfur. It's got higher refining cost. And, depending where you live, you have to -- you didn't say where you're from, Barry. I don't know if you're from California. California is particular pricey on all fuels. I don't know if we're that much pricier on diesel. Diesel tends to be expensive nationwide because it is a new nationwide low sulfur formulation. But you've got to check all that in. But, over all, to answer your question, a diesel, if it's a well-made engine, it shouldn't have any more maintenance costs to speak of than a gas engine. There are no spark plugs in a diesel. That's always been the case. And, generally, these motors are pretty low maintenance, as the auto industry has been going for years. It isn't just a diesel thing. Maintenance intervals and what has to be done on a maintenance check has gotten way down. Do check, though, on the oil changes. Diesel's tend to have -- they used to always have a lot more oil in the crank case, which means they're going to charge you for a few more quarts. That's not a lot of money. And also find out what the warranty is on the exhaust system, because the diesels today have a triple-stage scrubbing catalyst system. I've heard that's $3,000 in and of itself of the cost of a typical diesel today. So if that ever goes out, you've got to replace that at a large amount of cost, whatever part goes out. But that's usually got the longest warranty on it per federal rule. The emissions gear has to be very well warranted. ^*Our next one comes in from Kevin who wants to know here about the muscle cars we've driven lately. He says he's looking at one of the three retro classics: the Mustang, the Camaro, or the Challenger. Out of the three, which do you guys think has the best cabin tech, and which is an all around great car? In other words, which is your favorite of the three? All right, Kevin. We can easily side off on this. I think we all have very strong opinions of these cars. >> Yeah. I kind of think that, you know, especially if you grew up in the 70s with originals of these cars, you sort of fall into one camp or another, depending on which is the first car you got driven around in or got a chance to drive. >> Back in those days, people were Chevy people, Ford people, or Mopar people. >> Oh, yeah. >> You know? >> Came down clear lines. And, you know, the Camaro, the Challenger, the Mustang are all, I mean, they all have, like, really definite aesthetic -- you know, aesthetics to them; and they appeal to people for that. For me, it's the Challenger. I mean, I've always -- I don't know. I've always had an affinity for Dodge. It's a sad brand now, but. >> You've always been fringe, anyways. >> Yeah. >> So that's not unusual. >> But the new Challenger, I think that is just a beautiful looking muscle car, and it's practical too. >> That was the first one we got in of this whole family when they started to bring these retro cars back. The Camaro came to us much later. >> Except, you know, Mustangs. Those have been around for a while. >> It's been around. We've had Shelbys. We haven't had a plain Mustang in for a while, so we can't really comment on the 2010 specifically or the 2009, even. We had a six-cylinder in like a couple years ago, a rag top, I think. >> Yeah. That was a convertible Mustang we had in, and then there was the Shelby too. You know, that's big engine; and doesn't say Mustang anywhere on it because it's technically not a Mustang. >> But so is. >> Yeah. But the 2010s, actually, and talking about tech, the 2010 Mustang is going to come with a full suite of Ford cabin tech, and that's great stuff. So far, it's pretty unparalleled. >> Some of our favorite, yeah. >> Yeah. >> Some of our absolute favorite. All right. Antuan, where do you go, Mustang, Camaro, or Challenger? >> I want to go with the Camaro, just because I like the way it looks. But, if I were spending my money, it'd be the Mustang. >> That's the Transformers' influence. >> Yeah. ^M00:23:44 [ Laughing ] ^M00:23:45 >> Well, I mean -- >> He's the youngest, so that fits. >> Also, I think the Camaro like dollar for dollar, if you discount tech, it's less expensive than the Mustang. But the Mustang's got the better tech. And once all of the hype blows over, I mean, and the Camaro's not the new thing anymore, I mean, the Mustang still kind of stands as the better car, in my opinion. >> Yeah. The Mustang is absolutely the most real seller of these two. The other ones are relatively boutique cars. The Mustang's been a major bread-and-butter car from day one for Ford. It's had a lot of ups and downs, but it's never become a niche car. As you could argue, the Camaro and the Challenger are and probably will remain. They're not intended to be big sellers for these guys, whereas the Mustang is a big part of Ford's business. But I would have to say -- this is -- I'm not trying to just take up the one that's been left here abandoned. But I actually would consider the Camaro, even though it doesn't have nav at all, right? You can't even get it. It's got that crappy stock sound system, really kind of cardboard sounding. But I thought that car was a great value, because it has a -- the base V6 as a direct injected fuel -- direct fuel injection engine I thought was amazingly good. When I get in the car here, I never look at the spec sheet till I've driven it for a while; because I want to figure out what do I think it has for an engine. And I thought that car had a V8. Absolutely no way. A small one and a basic one, but I thought it had a V8 for sure. And then I pull out the sheet and I go, you're kidding me. >> That's the same power train as the Cadillac CTS. >> That's right. >> So. >> That's right. Which is a great engine. So I'm a big fan of the Camaro as a value. Antuan points out, it's a great value. The handling on it was really good. The road -- the ride quality was good for this kind of a car. It wasn't the harshest by any stretch. I thought it was like a bunker inside. The roofline was really low. That drove me nuts. And, again, you can't get indash nav. But I wouldn't, anyway. I think indash nav is a rip off. I'd go get a really good portable or start using my smartphone so I have choices. Because you're going to have the car for years. You know, that indash nav is going to be long in the tooth way before you want to sell that car. So we each have a different opinion on these muscle cars, but they've all got things going for them. Bear in mind, the Challenger got an editor's choice from us. The Camaro did not. It got a very good, about a 7.3, 7.5. And we haven't had a Mustang in for a while, but that story's well known. ^*Let's get to our next E-mail here which comes from Kip who says, Are the fuel economy specs for European cars corrected for the volume difference between a U.S. gallon and a UK imperial gallon? When I hear a spec on Top Gear or on the CNET podcast, I often wonder. I've heard specs on the diesel Golf getting 70 miles per gallon, but the U.S. EPA rates it around 50. I believe the conversion factor from imperial gallons to U.S. gallons is about .8, which would just about explain it. Just wondering. Antuan, you do a calculation. There's a program you use. >> Yeah. I have a unit calculator on my iPod. >> Yeah. >> And it turns out that, for every one mile per gallon UK, the American gallon is about 8. -- I mean .832. So -- >> There it is. >> A little bit difference. Also, on some cars, you also have to understand that the EPA fuel economy, their test cycle is different from the EPA. So there's a little bit of variance there. It's not exactly. You can't just always just punch in a number in a calculator. Sometimes there's a little bit of variance there. >> Yeah. So the actual where they test it with the circuit they use, how many miles it has to drive at what speeds over what kind of terrain, that kind of thing, that's all prescribed by the authorities in each of these nations or governing bodies. EPA's got their own. The one that they changed in 2008, that dramatically lowered the mileage on a lot of cars, like the Prius. The Prius got a huge mpg haircut when the EPA revised their test cycle, which they hadn't done for a number of years. So that can be a difference also. But good point, Kip. There is a difference between imperial and U.S. gallons. So when you hear that about a UK car that is also sold here or a UK market car that's also available here, bear in mind, if the mileage sounds really good in the UK or if you're watching Top Gear or something, when it comes to the U.S., it might be a different number because of the imperial gallon and the different EPA rating cycle. ^M00:27:38 Here's one that comes in -- it's more of just a note, not really a question -- from Jay who says, Hey, guys. I've found a cool little feature about my radio connecting to my iPhone and doing turn by turn. I have a Clarion DX 785 USB head unit. And when connecting my iPhone using the Roady app, which is an open source navigation app, it plays through fine. The downside was the music would not play in the background; but, if I hit the play pause button, I could get it to play. Just thought you guys would want to know. Because a lot of people are asking us how can I do nav on my phone but also stream audio from -- with a Bluetooth A2DP. Now, Antuan, you were talking before the show about a Garmin unit that you use -- >> Right. >> -- to get it all done. >> Yeah. We actually use the 765 T, which has Bluetooth. And nine times out of ten, this works with any sort of device that does A2DP audio streaming. The Garmin has turn-by-turn directions. It also has a media player built into the firmware. So if you stick an SD card with a bunch of mp3s on there, it'll play them. Just based on -- just because of the way the Garmin handles audio files, if you're listening to music and streaming it over A2DP, it will automatically butt in and cut down the music. >> Does it lower the volume or pause the music for a second? >> It'll -- I think it lowers the volume. >> Okay. >> Or, more specifically, mute the volume. >> Okay. >> And it's not really, like, seamless but, you know, the music continues to play. You don't have to keep intervening. >> So the device handles that. >> Yeah. So if you've got something like Clarion MiND and you're doing it that way, or if you've got some smartphone app, so maybe your BlackBerry will work. I've never try it with that. If you're using -- >> I haven't, either, on my BlackBerry, no. To do nav and streaming at once, I don't think I've done. I don't -- I did know a lot of these phones could do that. Because isn't that technically multitasking, which I thought only the 3G -- only the Palm Pre can do so far? They say the Palm Pre's the only smartphone that can do true multitasking. >> Windows Mobile multitasks. >> And, yet, Palm says in their marketing agreements or marketing materials, we're the first smartphone that can multitask. So someone's pulling our leg here. >> Yeah. Windows Mobile multitasks to a fault, though; because, you know, it's kind of -- you have to go into a specific -- >> You can't find the stuff to turn it off once you've got Windows. >> Exactly. You've got to open your Task Manager to [inaudible]. >> That's one of -- more of a letdown than it is a feature. >> But, yeah. If you had, for example, an application on Windows Mobile that was using the audio out and it was A2D audio streaming, then, theoretically, yeah. You should be able to get the music to butt in when it needs to. >> All right. But at least there's a Garmin and some others. I'm sure other makers that do it since they have both functions in one device, they've worked out it sharing and the -- >> It's not like a supported feature but, I mean, if you try it and it works, it's usually a nice bonus. >> Yeah. It's a nice way to integrate a lot. Okay. Our last question before we get into our On the Road segment is coming out of Stuart who's an engineer at WMCA and WYM radio in New York. And he writes in, How long's it been? Maybe it was going book to my '58 Chevy convertible that had one, but I'm still mourning the loss of the left foot dimmer switch. Yeah, you're going back a ways, Stu. I think having that, in addition to the pain in the ass one on the directional signal would be a huge help. My left foot just sits there doing nothing, anyway. Well, on a '58 Chevy, it was an automatic, probably. So, yeah, probably doing nothing. And most cars today are automatics, anyway. So you're right; you've got a spare foot doing nothing. We looked into this a little bit, and I hadn't ever thought about it. But, yeah, what happened to the high beam foot switches? You know, I've got a bunch of old '60s cars and I -- they've all got a high beam switch on the floor. The first one was in 1927. I don't know what kind of car it was. And that was, of course, the way it was done until around the early '80s it started to quickly go to the stocks. And the last vehicle to have a foot-mounted headlight dimmer switch was a '91 F series. That's not that long ago. We dug into the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, which is the bible on how car makers must make their cars to pass all the standards for sale in the U.S. Section 108 is what covers lights and switches, and there's no regulation against a foot switch in there. It says, specifically, Each vehicle must have a means of switching between lower and upper beams designed and located so that it may be operated conveniently by a simple movement of the driver's hand or foot . So it's okay to do a foot-mounted switch. No one does it. It's extra wiring. They've already got wiring up the column. Why run wire around the floor for a feature that no one's asking for? It's another 10 cents times 500,000 cars is real money. Another switch, another what, dollar, times 500,000 cars. A lot of money. And it's also a wet part of your car. Especially if you're in one of the climate areas where you got a lot of snow and slush part of the year. You're getting in and out of the car; you've got a big, old, snowy boot. You're getting in there and you're putting snowy, salty water on an electrical switch that, in theory, could have high current going through it, though it's usually a relay switch. So it's a dumb place to put anything electrical on the floor. So it goes into the column. So that's why it's there. There's no rule against it, but I don't think any car maker's going to go back to the floor-mounted foot switch, because it's a really kind of old feeling thing at this point. It would not be something they'd brag about. So that's our E-mail. Thanks, folks. Keep them coming, cartech@cnet.com. You get to all three of us with one easy E-mail address. ^*Okay. Now, it's time to go on the road as we do every week with Wayne and Antuan. We got a bunch of convertibles in the garage lately: 370 Z Roadster down there. We just had the 650 i convertible. That review is coming up shortly on the videos up at CNETTV.com. And, by the way, I'll be out in a 370 Z Roadster this weekend. So follow me on Twitter for updates and photos from some of the most beautiful roads in northern California. I promise you that. Just Brian Cooley on Twitter, B-r-i-a-n, C-o-o-l-e-y. If you're interested in that car, I'll lots of picks for you. Well, we've got something really fresh with Wayne and Antuan this week. It's the new Lexus IS 350 C, C for convertible. Let's get to know it as they take us out on the road. ^M00:33:01 >> We've got a power retractable hardtop here, and it's going up pretty quickly and quietly. >> Yeah. Drops into place. The power hardtop's nice, because that gives you the full-on wind and rain protection, which you don't really get from a soft top. >> Unfortunately, you can't actually do anything with the top while the vehicle's in motion. So you're going to have to wait until -- ^M00:33:24 [ Engine revving ] ^M00:33:25 >> [Inaudible] the power on that 3.5 liter V 6. Boom! Ha ha. >> And that 60 before the jump. There's a -- the tachometer has an LED ring in the middle of the -- I guess in the middle of the bezel that is usually off. But as you approach red line, when you're in manual mode, it lights up yellow to let you know it's time to slap that paddle. If you don't slap the paddle, it won't shift for you. It'll just go into red line, and it'll hit the fuel cut and it'll flash red, that little shift light will. So it's kind of a -- that's a cool little performance nod there. >> Another one of those rings on the speedometer and it lights up when you hit about 77, 78 miles per hour, letting you know that you're probably over the speed limit. In fact, I think in the U.S., you are definitely over the speed limit. >> I would consider that light a challenge, not a warning. [ Laughing ] >> I mean, I just love the interior of this car, as far as luxury goes. The material's are just really nice. And we've been in a bunch of different cars recently, BMWs, Fords, whatever; and, I don't know. This is definitely one of my more favorite interiors because, on the two front doors, we have almost like a tower of speakers on either side. There's a speaker at the bottom, there's a speaker at midlevel, and then there's a tweeter at the A pillar. >> Yeah. I really like that A pillar tweeter how it's kind of like sitting on the door just kind of pulling it a little bit closer to the driver. And also, when you let your windows down, they're aimed straight at your head. So when you have the windows down or the top down, you can still hear the high. You don't really lose too much of the music unless you're, you know, on the freeway. And there's also two different modes that the system can be in. It knows if you're top's down or the top's up. So it'll adjust the equalization curve and presumably give you a little bit more of a boost to the high end bass. So that when you are actually riding with the top down, that's part of why it sounds so good, top up or down. >> Okay. So 350 C, you guys only mentioned the swatting of the paddles for the transmission. That's the only way it's available, right? >> Yeah. >> No manual. >> Yeah. A manual is available on the 250, the IS 250. >> Yeah. >> But not on the IS 350. And, Antuan, do you know if there's a convertible IS 250 or is that just the 350? >> I don't remember. >> A good question, yeah. Let's check it out. We can go to their site right now while we're thinking about that. >> I kind of think they do have the convertible IS 250. But then, who knows if they actually offer the manual with that, as well. It was kind of a criticism of the IS 350 when it came out, that it only had the automatic; because they were sort of positioning it as a BMW 3 series competitor. And if you can only get an automatic, well, it doesn't quite compete. >> I'm thinking back to the press launch, and I don't remember seeing a single one with a manual transmission. So even if they do have a 250, I don't know if the convertible will get the manual. >> Yeah. I think the convertible is only a 350, it looks like. When you go to build one, it just defaults to a 350 C. >> Yeah. >> So that would mean the manual and drop top can't be had together. You can't have it all. >> Well, they need that extra power to power the car with all that extra -- >> [Laughing] All that extra bulk. >> The hardtop gear, retractable hardtop gear, which ads a few pounds. >> How [inaudible] is a 250 C? Hang on. Okay. It's a 250 C, and -- all right. So you can get manual transmission presumably and convertible top all in one car. Now, this car was -- how was the ride on it? Because you talked about some of the F options you could put on it, but this car was pretty much straight ahead, right? >> It's a pretty soft suspension. >> Yeah. >> Not -- I mean, it kind of goes more towards the luxury side than the sports side. You don't get a hard, jolting ride. You just feel it's kind of softness. And as we were plowing over some bumps in our little ride -- >> I think flying is a better word here. >> Yeah. Antuan commented on some of the travel he could feel in the suspension. >> Yeah. It's like the whole car, when you'd come over a crest and the car would feel like it was lifting off the road, but then the wheels are just still down on the ground. >> That think were you get the droopy suspension feel. >> Yeah. They're still, you know, kind of maintaining some sort of traction. It's not sporty; but, I mean, there is grip. I think that the thing about it is that it's deceptively safe. >> It's a Lexus. >> Yeah. You feel like your jumping over hills and stuff, but the wheels are still in contact with the ground because you've got all that travel. >> Which I'm sure frustrated you to no end. >> I'm trying to get -- >> You've got to get some air. >> I need to do my Dukes of Hazard [laughing]. >> Yeah. When I first [inaudible] into that car, I mean, the engine is great. It gives you a lot of power and you get that -- you know, when you stamp on the accelerator, you get that nice growl. >> Yeah. It sounded good. >> And it's great in a straight line. But I was throwing that pretty hard on some mountain corners, and it was losing it. It was just a lot of understeering when it was really getting at the edge, and everything just lost composure. >> So it needs some of the F options to really tighten it up. >> F accessories, and that's, you know, something Lexus just started offering last year. And you could really improve the suspension with that. >> Because we had a 250 hardtop in a few months ago. >> 350 with some F accessories. >> With some F accessories. And it handled pretty well, I thought. >> Yeah. Also, another part of that is -- I just thought about this -- the F kit comes with bigger wheels and stickier tires. So better tires go a long way towards making a car feel better. So, I mean, perhaps even just, you know, putting some stickier rubber on that car could actually maybe improve some of the [inaudible]. >> Yeah. Just that one option alone, if you do nothing else, get the upgraded tires and wheels; and it might make a big difference. >> Yeah. >> Well, here's the question that begs from all that, and maybe this isn't politically correct. But do you think that car is at risk of becoming known as a chick car? >> It is kind of pretty. >> Right? >> Is it kind of like a VW Eos in terms of its looks a little bit. And it's a Lexus, which no one in performance ever takes seriously. >> I don't think so. I think it's -- I think for -- it's still in the same area of somebody who would be looking for a BMW but not looking for a manual BMW. Like, I feel like the BMW -- people who would pick up a 3 series convertible aren't usually looking for a hard-core sharp driving experience. >> Right. It's a convertible. >> They're getting an automatic anyway. >> Right. But you're adding lots of flex and lots of weight. >> So you're still in the same boat. >> Yeah. >> You've still got the -- >> You're a poser, anyway. You're just a BMW poser versus a Lexus poser. >> So, I mean, so now you're a poser with an extra 10 grand in your pocket. >> Right [laughing]. That's a smart poser. >> Yeah. >> I don't really like the profile of that car, too, compared to the standard hardtop. I think the convertible -- that extra convertible just adds a weird little bump to the rear and -- >> With the top up? >> Yeah, with the top up. With the convertible, obviously, it looks like a convertible. >> It's still got a little bit of a bump on the top in the back, because there's that little rise there. It's a little bit chunky looking. >> You've got to also understand -- >> It's got a big, old butt on it. I mean, there's no two ways around it. When the top's down, it's a big, old heavy rump on that car, you know? That's a lot of mass back there. >> But it doesn't have any trunk space when the top's down. >> Oh, it does? It really eat it up? >> There's like maybe a foot of trunk space. >> So the luggage goes in the back seat -- >> Yeah. >> -- you know? Golfing in this car, not going to happen, right? Not with the top down. >> Oh, no. There is no room for golf clubs >> Really? >> -- in the back with the top down. >> Yeah. See, that's weird; because this is a lifestyle car. A lot of people are going to want to put stuff in there to go, you know, golf or whatever. You're going to take up tennis because the gear takes less room, you know? >> Yeah. Two people, two golf bags in the rear seats, top down. That works. >> Got a manicured Shih Tzu in the back [laughing], one of those. The tech in there, the cabin tech is stuff we've all seen before, right, in terms of nav and audio and all that? Nothing breakthrough in that area? >> Well, it's updated for the IS. I mean, from the initial ISs we've seen, this actually has iPod integration, which previous ISs have not had. So that's good. That's definitely a plus. We've got traffic in here and with an avoidance feature too. It'll warn you of congestion on your route. >> Oh, good. >> And, although you have to go through a couple of buttons to actually have it reroute around that traffic. But it works. And once you do the three or four button presses to make it reroute. >> But the thing you said at one time per destination to reroute or just set up your car that way? >> What it'll do is it'll warn you about something. Then you have to hit the route button, which is just a standard soft button on the navigation panel. Then you've got an option to click -- to push the detour button. Then it'll say detour -- then it'll ask you if you want to detour around the traffic and it -- >> Yeah. It's a bit of work, right? >> It'd be nicer if that was just one button, just like, yeah, I just want to get around the traffic. Come on. >> Yeah. Go around traffic, you know. Because every time it gives you an alert, you can say, Got it, now go around it. >> Right. Other cars do that. They just say, here's the traffic problem. Avoid? >> Right. Yeah, right. >> This is something I'd like to avoid. >> Yeah. No, I want to go into it. In terms of the -- the luxury inside, you were very impressed by the interior, Wayne. What was so good about it? >> Well, it's nice, you know. And it definitely kind of just brought back to me, the IS 350 was actually one of the first cars we got in once we started this car tech channel. And one of the early cars we got in for review. And it just kind of reminded me it was such a nice car, especially for the money. I think it's -- I think the base hardtop was probably around 35; convertibles, probably about 40. >> 40, yeah. >> And it's just a really -- I mean, Lexus knows how to do a luxury interior. And I guess I was thinking about this, too, in relation to the Lincoln we had in, which, you know, what makes a Lincoln a Lincoln? Well, not the MKZ. >> Yeah. You could -- yeah. A low cost Lincoln's an oxymoron, you know? I mean, it just -- yeah. That car, it's a lot nicer than a Fusion; but it's not like it's a different car. And, you know, the Lexus interiors, they are very -- what's the word? They're not just plush, because plush sounds like excess. >> They're high quality. >> They're high quality. They're very delicate, in a way; and they feel very refined to me. Not that I'm going to wear out, but they feel very refined, you know? Like you're going to a really nice restaurant. And they have furniture that's almost too good for commercial use. And you go, Wow. They actually make these beautiful little silk cushions or whatever? This is amazing. It's just a really nice -- you know, that's what I mean by delicate. It's like they really trust you to take care of this car. >> Yeah. And I was thinking of the seats in that car, too, minus 350 C, they do have kind of a -- they have sporting bolsters on them, and they feel like they're good sport seats. But they're also comfortable. There's a lot of padding on there. That's going to make a difference. >> And none of that damn active thing. ^M00:43:25 [ Laughing ] ^M00:43:26 >> Was it Mercedes that does that? [ Inaudible response ] >> Yeah. When you've got them set to three in a packing lot and they're grabbing you right and left. Yeah. >> It's kind of like -- >> For a minute. >> It's part of the massage system [laughing]. Just keeps turning the wheel back and forth. >> Feels great. >> Little shiatsu thing going on there. All right. Any last thoughts on the IS convertible? I mean, is it a hit, you think? >> I don't know. I mean, I would still go for a BMW 335 convertible if I had to get a convertible. >> Spend more, though. >> Wouldn't be my first choice. >> Yeah. >> Unfortunately, it's kind of parked next to the 370 Z Roadster right now, and that's my car [laughing]. >> All right. Well, that's the IS 350 C. And we've got the review coming up shortly on that, right? >> Should be mid next week. >> Okay. So middle of the next week. This is obviously the October 9th episode, so the week of the 10th, 11th, 12th, we'll have that review up there for you. And we'll obviously be doing a video on that, as well. We're shooting that on Monday. So if you're catching this show, right about the time we post it, you know, just a few days away from getting a full dose on the IS C. All right, folks. That takes care of the CNET car tech live show for this week. You know how to reach us. E-mail cartech@cnet.com. Show notes are at cartech.CNET.com and past episodes, as well. CNET car tech blog, cars.CNET.com, because we like lots of URLs around here. Follow us all on Twitter. I'm Brian Cooley, B-r-i-a-n, C-o-o-l-e-y; Wayne is Wayne C underscore SF; and Antuan is antgoo, a-n-t-g-o-o. We'll see you next week. Bye. ^M00:44:56 [ Music ]

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