Ep. 139: Does the Lexus IS350C have a big 'ol butt?
[ Music ]
>> 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.
^*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.
^*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,
firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
>> Because you have to refill that tank -- I think it's
like 5,000 miles.
>> It's every -- minimal service interval, 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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.
>> 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,
>> 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
>> 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.
>> 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.
>> 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
>> That's the Transformers' influence.
[ Laughing ]
>> 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.
>> 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.
>> And it turns out that, for every one mile per gallon
UK, the American gallon is about 8. -- I mean .832.
>> 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
>> 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.
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 --
>> -- 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
>> It'll -- I think it lowers the volume.
>> Or, more specifically, mute the volume.
>> And it's not really, like, seamless but, you know,
the music continues to play. You don't have to keep
>> 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
>> 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
>> You can't find the stuff to turn it off once you've
>> Exactly. You've got to open your Task Manager to
>> That's one of -- more of a letdown than it is a
>> 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
>> 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, email@example.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.
>> 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 --
[ Engine revving ]
>> [Inaudible] the power on that 3.5 liter V 6. Boom!
>> 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
[ 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?
>> No manual.
>> Yeah. A manual is available on the 250, the IS 250.
>> 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
>> 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.
>> 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,
>> It's a pretty soft suspension.
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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,
>> 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
>> Yeah. Just that one option alone, if you do nothing
else, get the upgraded tires and wheels; and it might
make a big difference.
>> 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
>> It is kind of pretty.
>> 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
>> So you're still in the same boat.
>> 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.
>> 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
>> 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 --
>> -- 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
>> -- 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> And none of that damn active thing.
[ Laughing ]
>> 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.
>> 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
[ Music ]