31st July 2011

News & Rants: Latest Reviews From MotherProof.com

Whether you’re considering the 2011 Lexus CT 200h, a hybrid hatchback, or the 2011 Toyota 4Runner, which has stayed true to its SUV roots, we have car reviews that will appeal to all kinds of families. Here are our latest reviews:

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31st July 2011

Los Angeles, California Red Light Camera Program Officially Canceled

Red light cameras are coming down in Los Angeles, California after midnight on Sunday. The city council yesterday voted unanimously to drop the program primarily over the county court system’s refusal to enforce unpaid tickets, depriving the city of millions in expected revenue. The council instructed the city attorney to work with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to decide the cheapest way to remove the systems and process all tickets issued through the end of the month.

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31st July 2011

Parking issues in Beijing

A report in today’s China Daily is a reminder of the overriding importance of being able to park your car when you get to your destination. Sure, you can drive for pleasure or for pose value, but the chances are high that you will also want to use your car to get from A to B and if there’s no parking available at B, you will eventually consider better – more ‘time efficient’ – alternatives. Driving around looking for a parking space or having to pay a big premium to park the motor is no fun (my own central London experience). Cities need transport strategies in order to avoid congestion and to make living with the car work for the population.

At a recent Frost & Sullivan event that considered urban mobility issues, BMW’s ‘Director of Project Mobility Services’, Dr Bernhard Blattel, described the BMW value proposition with regard to sustainability, stating that the consumer needs to “enjoy their way”, and therefore use a particular service because they like it, not because they are forced to. As such, he said, BMW is focusing on comfort and convenience in developing electric vehicles that satisfy this requirement, as well as removing the barriers between personal and public transport, with innovative car sharing schemes and connectivity.

The future, he said, will need to see a joint effort between both public and private transport in order to develop practical and sustainable solutions. Either side cannot afford to progress individually. Dr Blattel said: “As time runs out…we need to use every lever we have to get towards sustainable transport solutions…the future is more about a joint effort of these two means than having a battle between them”.

BMW also says that the growth of the ‘mega-city’ across the world will be a defining global societal trend in the coming decades. Finding room for the cars we want to drive will be a growing challenge, alongside making them more environment friendly and perceived as such, especially in urban areas. Places like Beijing are now hitting the buffers after a rapid surge in car ownership. Interesting that some car companies are putting plenty of thought into the connection between purchase of the car and its use.  

Something to ponder next time you are stuck in an urban traffic jam.

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31st July 2011

Manufacturing Troubles Remain a Drag on Recovery, Trade & Jobs

via The Seattle Times

by Jon Talton

Top of the News: The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index seems consistent with recovery, coming in at 53.6 for November; any number above 50 signifies expansion in the sector. Unfortunately, the reading sagged from 55.7 the month before, tripping up what economists had hoped would be a steady climb out of recession.

A deeper look shows that the index provides no relief for the biggest immediate problem facing Americans, unemployment. Only six of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in employment. Only 11.7 million Americans worked manufacturing as of October. That compares with 17.3 million in October 1999.

Not only do manufacturing jobs pay better than their counterparts in service industries, they tend to add real value to economic activity (as opposed to selling mortgage swindles). They are also twined with our trade issues. Even fewer manufacturing jobs are now in industries that export, a key part of our huge manufacturing trade deficit.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon was happening even before the Great Recession. A report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that manufacturing employment between 1965 and 2000 never dipped below 16.5 million. This even as manufacturing shrank as a share of the economy (take out Boeing and it would be much smaller). This changed as imports surged after China joined the WTO and other Asian factory centers upped their game. By 2004, the number was lower than any time since 1950.

“It is often claimed that declines in manufacturing employment stem entirely from productivity growth,” according to EPI economist L. Josh Bivens. “However, rapid productivity growth is the norm, not the exception, in manufacturing. What is new about the manufacturing job crisis of the last four years is the sharp downturn in the ratio of domestic production to demand.”

Indeed, American steelmakers are shrinking yet again.

The Back Story: The official unemployment rate including discouraged workers and part-timers seeking full-time work is 17.5 percent. But Shadow Government Statistics, a provocative and reliable site, argues even this underestimates the problem. Try…22 percent.

Complete Article

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31st July 2011

Dukes of Hazzard “Replacement” Star Dies

Christopher “Chip” Mayer enjoyed a brief run of celebrity in 1982 as Vance Duke on the top-rated TV series after stars Tom Wopat and John Schneider staged a contract holdout.
| July 29, 2011

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30th July 2011

2012 Mercezes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series

Source: Mercedes-Benz

The new C63 AMG Coupé Black Series

MONTVALE, NJ – Spectacular design, technology transferred from the world of motorsport and the very best in driving dynamics; the new 2012 Mercedes- Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series represents the new AMG brand claim, Driving Performance, like no other AMG model. The new high-performance vehicle is the most powerful C-Class of all time, boasting a maximum output of 510 hp and a maximum torque of 457 lb-ft. The high-revving AMG 6.3-liter V8 engine delivers stunning pulling power and exceptional performance – the 2012 C63 AMG Coupe Black Series accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds (all data provisional).

The driving experience is further enhanced by the adjustable AMG coil-over sports suspension, AMG high-performance composite (two-piece) braking system and superb functionality of the standard equipment. The AMG Track package with ultra high-performance tires and active cooling for the rear axle drive unit is available as an option for even better dynamics, while the AMG Aerodynamics package includes exterior winglets and an adjustable carbon- fiber rear spoiler.

Wide, low-slung, muscular and ready to pounce – the 2012 C63 AMG Coupe Black Series cuts an impressive figure. From the very first glance, it is abundantly clear that the C63 AMG Coupe Black Series is made for spirited driving on a closed track. Visually reminiscent of the SLS AMG GT3 customer race car, the new high-performance vehicle stands clearly for technology adopted from motorsport – something that has been a core philosophy of Mercedes-AMG GmbH for 44 years.

With its new C63 AMG Coupe Black Series, AMG is presenting an exciting sports car for enthusiasts with a passion for performance cars that are big on horsepower – it also marks the impressive continuation of the Black Series strategy, which began back in 2006. AMG, the performance brand of Mercedes-Benz Cars, is once again showcasing its expertise in the design and development of emotion-packed, high-performance cars.

“AMG has its roots in international motorsport. The new C63 AMG Coupe Black Series showcases the ongoing transfer of technology from the race track to the road. Great success in the DTM, the customer sport program featuring the SLS AMG GT3 and our commitment to Formula 1, where we have been providing the Official F1TM Safety Car and the Official F1TM Medical Car for the past 15 years, are an ongoing source of inspiration for our engineers and technicians. The C63 AMG Coupe Black Series embodies the new AMG brand claim, Driving Performance, like no other AMG model”, comments Ola Källenius, CEO of Mercedes-AMG GmbH.

Whichever way you look at it, the new C63 AMG Coupe Black Series proudly displays its motorsports ties. The arrow-shaped front end with the central Mercedes star in the radiator grille is the visual expression of its forceful forward thrust. The air intakes in the distinctive front valance direct a continuous air flow through the large cooling modules, while two openings in the aluminum hood aid the outflow of heat from the engine. The angled struts in the front skirt emphasize the vehicle’s width and the black front splitter beneath provides aerodynamic balance.

The distinctive design continues through to the side view. The newly developed front axle with wider track is accommodated by new fenders, extended by 2.2- inches. “6.3″ badges indicate the sheer power of the large-displacement, eight- cylinder, high-revving, naturally aspirated engine beneath the hood. The impression of air outlets behind the wheel arches is evocative of powerful racing cars, while the newly designed AMG sills bear black trim elements that continue the visual of the front splitter. The rear fenders have also been widened by 3.3- inches to house the track of the rear axle. Virtual air vents ahead of the rear wheels complete the picture.

AMG alloy wheels featuring lightweight forging technology

Mighty 255/35 R 19 and 285/30 R 19 wheels grace the C63 AMG Coupe Black Series at market launch. Mounted on 9 x 19 (front) and 9.5 x 19 (rear) AMG alloys, the wheel/tire combination fills out the fenders to stunning effect and has a significant impact on the dynamic appearance of this new AMG sports car.

Painted in titanium gray, the polished alloy wheels are made using extremely lightweight forging technology – as on the SLS AMG. Compared with conventional wheels, these forged wheels are a total of 24.2 pounds lighter overall. The lower weight results in reduced unsprung masses, which improves both suspension characteristics and steering precision.

Broad rear end with diffuser insert

The rear of the Black Series coupe also underlines its performance potential. The new rear valance with its distinctive black diffuser insert creates visual breadth. Similar to the SLS AMG GT3, it extends beyond the profile of the rear valance. The black mesh on the upper edge of the diffuser insert is just as much of an eye- catcher as the AMG sports exhaust. Both of the chromed twin tailpipes integrated into the rear valance feature an angular cross-section. The spoiler lip on the trunk lid is painted in body color and reduces lift at the rear axle, resulting in greater stability at high speeds. The AMG logo with its discreet “Black Series” lettering is reserved exclusively for the C63 AMG Coupe Black Series.

Engine with high-tech components from SLS AMG

A displacement of 6.3 liters, a maximum output of 510 hp and torque of 457 lb-ft from eight cylinders – one glance at the technical data and it’s clear that the technology behind the C63 AMG Coupe Black Series is every bit a match for its sensational appearance. The high-torque M156 naturally aspirated engine was fine-tuned specifically for the new two-door model. Its forged pistons, connecting rods and lightweight crankshaft all come directly from the SLS AMG and are complemented by a new engine control unit. As a result, the sprint from 0 to 60 mph takes just 4.2 seconds (all data preliminary).

High revving, agile road manners and phenomenal pulling power – the qualities of the large-displacement AMG high-speed naturally aspirated engine are every driver’s dream. The jewel in the crown is the inspiring AMG eight-cylinder sound from the AMG sports exhaust system.

The optimized engine oil cooling delivers more performance even under harsh race-track conditions. With the aid of components from the SLS AMG, engineers added 50 percent to the cooling surface of the oil cooler. Power transmission is handled by the highly acclaimed, innovative AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed sports gearbox. Four transmission modes, the rev-matching function and RACE START deliver maximum driving fun and a high degree of versatility. In the “Sport plus” and “Manual” modes gear shift takes a mere 100 milliseconds.

AMG coil-over sports suspension with an AMG rear-axle differential lock

The AMG sports suspension is a sophisticated new development. Conceived as a coil-over suspension — as is the norm in motorsport and a typical feature of Black Series models — it offers a range of setting options, and allows the driver to create an individual set-up. Track has been widened by 1.57 inches (front) and 3.11 inches (rear). In conjunction with modified anti-roll bars, the C63 AMG Coupe Black Series delivers impressive dynamics, tenacious grip and minimal body roll. The AMG speed-sensitive sports steering facilitates superb vehicle control, with modified mapping of the power assistance for maximum steering precision.

The AMG rear-axle differential lock is standard equipment and responsible for reliable traction, especially under race track conditions. The 3-phase ESP® is the ideal solution for all driving situations – using the ESP® button, the driver can choose from “ESP ON”, “Sport Handling Mode” and “ESP OFF”. As a result of the increased dynamics the AMG high-performance brake system and the anti-lock functionality was reprogrammed. The larger braking system features discs with race-proven composite (two-piece) technology at the front (15.35 x 1.42 inches) and integral discs at the rear (14.17 x 1.02 inches). Red-painted six-piston fixed calipers at the front and four-piston fixed calipers at the rear provide reliable stopping power to the perforated, fade-resistant rotors, which are ventilated at all four corners.

Interior with a functional motorsport atmosphere

The inspiring high-tech components and the spectacular exterior design both find their logical continuation in the interior of the C63 AMG Coupe Black Series. Finished in black with red accents, the interior of the C63 AMG Coupe Black Series displays the functional atmosphere of a true race car combined with outstanding quality and meticulously crafted details. Two AMG sport seats provide the best levels of lateral support and thus optimum vehicle control on the race track. The black DINAMICA microfiber upholstery on the center panels of the seats and doors is a new type of synthetic fiber characterized by its high fade resistance. The omission of the rear bench underlines the vehicle’s sporty character and reduces its weight. The C63 AMG Coupe Black Series is also available as a four-seater incorporating the AMG sports seats familiar from the C63 AMG Coupe, with individual seats for the rear.

The AMG performance steering wheel in nappa leather/DINAMICA microfiber with its rim flattened top and bottom features aluminum shift paddles for manual gear shifting. Red seat belts and red contrasting topstitching on the steering wheel, seats, door trim, door armrests, center console and shift lever add eye-catching accents. An exclusive “Black Series” logo adorns the trim on the dashboard, which is finished in high-gloss black piano lacquer. The dashboard with separate dials has a three-dimensional TFT color screen, which displays the AMG logo when the vehicle door is opened. Integrated into the AMG main menu are display options for engine oil temperature, ESP® mode and gear selection. The rotary control for the C, S, S+ and M transmission modes and RACE START is located on the center console next to the selector lever, which is finished in DINAMICA microfiber.

The C63 AMG Coupe Black Series is clear proof that outstanding dynamics and excellent active and passive safety need not be mutually exclusive. Airbags, belt tensioners and belt-force limiters for all seats are part of the standard equipment, as are the ABS anti-lock braking system, the 3-stage ESP®, the tire pressure monitoring system and electronic cruise control.

AMG Track package and AMG Aerodynamics package

AMG has two special packages to offer for even further enhanced dynamics. The AMG Track package comprises 255/35 R 19 front and 285/30 R 19 rear sports tires from Dunlop. They were developed exclusively for the C63 AMG Coupé Black Series and dramatically increase grip. Active cooling on the rear-axle drive unit improves performance under tough race-track conditions. Its cooling module is located in front of the diffuser insert in the rear valance for optimum airflow.

The AMG Aerodynamics package includes exterior winglets made from genuine carbon-fiber on the front valance. There is also a fixed carbon-fiber spoiler at the rear with adjustable aerofoil. Both components not only increase the downforce at the front and rear axle, they also optimize the vehicle’s aerodynamic balance.

Four stunning Black Series models since 2006

Despite its race track dynamics, the new C63 AMG Coupe Black Series offers all the characteristics of a true Mercedes-Benz – everyday drivability, durability, safety and quality.

The most powerful C-Class of all time is the fourth Black Series model to be launched since 2006. The first one was the SLK55 AMG Black Series (not offered in the U.S.). The AMG 5.5-liter V8 engine in the thoroughbred two-seater boasted a maximum output of 400 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. Just 120 units were produced between between July 2006 and April 2007. The CLK63 AMG Black Series followed directly in its footsteps. The two-seater coupe was powered by an AMG 6.3-liter V8 engine with 500 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. Just 700 units of this very exclusive model were built between April 2007 and March 2008.

The highlight until now was the SL65 AMG Black Series, unveiled in July 2008. The high-performance coupe remains an attention grabber to this day with its spectacular appearance, unique performance data, lightweight design and high- end exclusivity. The AMG 6.0-liter V12 biturbo engine with a maximum output of 661 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque made the SL65 AMG Black Series the most powerful AMG vehicle ever to enter series production. A total of 350 units were built from September 2008 through August 2009.

The C63 AMG Coupe Black Series celebrates its world premiere at the Formula 1 German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring (July 23 – 24, 2011). U.S. market launch will follow in early 2012.

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