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In Gear

In Gear offers a fresh look at the world of cars – its technology, economics, and future – through the eyes of Monitor staffers and other automobile writers from around the world. 

Oil rig pumpjacks, also known as thirsty birds, operate near Long Beach, California. The U.S. now produces more oil than it imports. (David McNew/Reuters/File)

U.S. now produces more oil than it imports: Good or bad?

By Antony IngramGuest blogger / 11.18.13

It's official: The U.S. now produces more oil than it imports from foreign countries.

It isn't the first time that's ever happened, but it's the first time in two decades--and according to the White House, it's going hand-in-hand with lower CO2 emissions and growing GDP.

For those advocating greater energy independence, it's undoubtedly a good sign.

For too long, the U.S. has been at the behest of countries with dubious political processes. Importing oil from some regions--particularly those in the Middle East--has led to shortages, fluctuating prices and even war. Reducing those imports can only be a good thing.  ( Continue… )

The 2014 Chrysler 300S has been updated with even more 'blacked out' design elements and a new Ambassador Blue sport interior. (Chrysler Group LLC/PRNewsFoto)

2014 Chrysler 300S gets updates ... and new beat

By Viknesh VijayenthiranGuest blogger / 11.17.13

Chrysler’s range-topping 300S has received some updates for the 2014 model year, and will be shown for the first time in updated form at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show. Key among the updates are several black elements around the body, a blue theme for the interior and an exclusive Beats by Dr. Dre audio system.

Starting with the body, the 2014 Chrysler 300S features body-colored door handles and fascia inserts, a glossy black finish for the belt molding and light surrounds, and a new black chrome grille. Chrysler says it also plans to offer buyers the option of a glossy black finish for the roof, just in case the regular 2014 300S isn’t ‘blacked out’ enough for your tastes. Rounding out the list of exterior changes are a custom set of 20-inch wheels (19-inch on all-wheel-drive models) and an available Dark Ceramic Gray paint finish.

Inside, buyers will be able to opt for a new Ambassador Blue color for the trim. This special blue is used on the Nappa leather-lined seats and on the armrests. French seamed stitching in contrasting silver is used throughout. Piano black is used for much of the dash and gauge cluster, while matte carbon hydrographic accents and die-cast steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are also included.

For the tech heads, there’s Chrysler’s Uconnect 8.4 touchscreen interface and an exclusive Beats by Dr. Dre audio system consisting of 10 speakers and a 12-channel amplifier. Beats by Dr. Dre founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy lovine worked with Chrysler to develop the system specifically for the 300 line of cars. ( Continue… )

2012 Cayman S Black Edition. The 2014 model of the Porsche Cayman was named one of Motor Authority's best cars to buy in 2014. (PRNewsFoto/Porsche Cars North America, Inc/ File )

Best Car To Buy 2014 winners: Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, Porsche Cayman

By Nelson IresonGuest blogger / 11.13.13

Fast, stylish, compact, reasonably priced, and incredibly fun, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG is Motor Authority's Best Performance/Luxury Car To Buy 2014. But it was an exceptionally close race.

So close, in fact, that the CLA45 AMG didn't score an outright win. The 2014 Porsche Cayman is also our Best Car To Buy 2014. But only one car can truly be "best," right?

Not exactly. This isn't Highlander.

In fact, if they weren't all head-to-head, each of the eight nominees could have taken the Best Car To Buy title--2014 has given us an embarrassment of riches. But two cars stood out so strongly in our testing that we felt we had to give the nod to both. Three other cars were incredibly close: the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the 2014 Jaguar F-Type, and the 2014 Audi RS 7. In truth, you can't go wrong with any of the nominees.  ( Continue… )

Commuters take to the crowded LA freeways after work. VMT and traffic fatalities are on the decline this year, NHTSA data shows. (Robert Harbison / The Christian Science Monitor/ File )

Traffic fatalities down 4.2% in first half of 2013

By Richard ReadGuest blogger / 11.06.13

Highway fatalities have been on the decline in the U.S., reaching an all-time low in 2011. Unfortunately, that trend reversed course last year: when all the dust from 2012 has settled, analysts expect to see an increase in roadway deaths of 8.2 percent, which is significantly higher than initial estimates (though not quite the nine percent first feared). It's the first uptick America has seen in six years.

That's the bad news. The good news is that although official numbers for 2012 probably won't be released until December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is already forecasting figures for 2013. If NHTSA's predictions are correct, they'll bring the U.S. fatality rate back to near-historic lows.

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In the first six months of 2013, 15,470 people died on America's roadways -- slightly more than the 14,924 fatalities recorded in the first six months of 2011, but fewer than the 16,150estimated for the same period in 2012.  ( Continue… )

The company logo of car manufacturer BMW is seen on a wheel rim in Munich, Germany.The BMW 4-Series is among the nominees for Best Car 2014. (Matthias Schrader/AP Photo/File)

Best car to buy 2014 nominees

By Bengt HalvorsonGuest blogger / 11.04.13

The summer and fall months this year have been especially busy, as our High Gear Media editors have had to contend with another record year for vehiclelaunches. While other areas of the economy still might have been sputtering, the auto industry has been speeding confidently ahead—rolling out redesigned versions of familiar nameplates, as well as plenty of all-new entries.

Now, among all that is new, it's time to pick the best—with The Car Connection's Best Car To Buy 2014.

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We've rated and road-tested upwards of 280 new vehicles, assigning scores for styling, performance, utility and comfort, safety, and features—and we even include a mileage-minded green take on each vehicle. 

And the Best Car To Buy showcases the results of those ratings; they aid us in choosing the single new-for-2014 model that car shoppers should at least consider before getting their next new vehicle. ( Continue… )

The Tesla Motors Model S electric car is shown in Boston. (Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor/File)

Apple co-founder buys a Tesla Motors Model S

By Stephen EdelsteinGuest blogger / 11.03.13

The Tesla Model S has become quite the automotive celebrity, and now one Model S has a new celebrity owner.

Apple co-founder and Silicon Valley luminary Steve Wozniak picked up his own Model S electric luxury sedan Thursday.

The news came via a tweet from the man himself, noting that he and two other new owners were taking delivery of their cars at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California.

The tech guru known as "Woz" had wanted a Model S electric car for some time. In an interview with ValueWalk earlier this year, Woz said he'd been dropping hints to his wife, hoping she'd get him a Model S for his birthday( Continue… )

An image released by Tesla Motors, shows a conceptual design rendering of the Hyperloop passenger transport capsule. (Tesla Motors/AP/File)

Elon Musk's 'hyperloop' gets new company

By Antony IngramGuest blogger / 11.01.13

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk cemented his image as a cross between Tony Stark, Steve Jobs and Hank Scorpio when he revealed his plans for Hyperloop back in August. The high-speed, pod-based transportation system is designed to take passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just half an hour--hitting speeds of around 800 mph. But while the idea resonated around the internet, Musk confirmed he was too busy with other projects to take it on himself.

Now, reports Fox News, the reins for the open-source plans have been taken by Patricia Galloway, who heads up Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc--a company aiming to put Musk's plans into reality. Together with former SpaceX mission operations director Marco Villa, Galloway wants to revolutionize ground transport in the same way Concorde did for air transport.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has already moved from feasibility studies, independently analyzed by ANSYS, to conceptual design. The company aims to have an updated whitepaper ready by March, detailing how a prototype would be built--and from there, an actual prototype could arrive before the end of 2014.  ( Continue… )

A visitor runs past the logo of Nissan Motor Co at the company's showroom in Yokohama, south of Tokyo. Nissan car sales grew 14.2 percent in October. (Yuya Shino/Reuters/File)

Car sales rebound in October despite government shutdown

By Marty PadgettGuest blogger / 11.01.13

Car sales rebounded in October from September's lull, despite the government shutdown.

Most of the major automakers represented in the U.S. market posted big gains year-over-year in October, though not as strong in some cases as hoped.

Among the Big Six automakers, the domestic brands--GM, Ford and Chrysler--all posted double-digit gains. Nissan sales grew 14.2 percent, while Toyota was up only 4.8 percent, below expectations.

Other highlights of October's sales report: Audi was up yet again, this time 11 percent--but sister company Volkswagen was off 18 percent.  ( Continue… )

A sign is painted on a parking space for electric cars inside a car park in Hong Kong. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters/File)

British Columbia to get Canada's first electric car fast-charging network

By John VoelckerGuest blogger / 10.31.13

The West Coast "green highway" will expand from Oregon and Washington states into British Columbia, under a plan announced today that will site DC quick-charging stations for electric cars along heavy-traveled roads and at popular destinations.

BC Hydro, the province's electric utility, said it will install 13 DC fast chargers, made by both ABB and Eaton, in greater Vancouver, in the Fraser Valley, along the so-called "Sea to Sky Corridor," on Vancouver Island, and in Kamloops.

The fast-charging stations will be leased to local governments in each location.

The complete network will be managed by GreenLots, a San Francisco company whose Sky network provides open access to electric-car charging equipment and networks via smartphone app or credit cards without requiring prior registration, subscriptions, or access fobs.  ( Continue… )

Lines of cars are seen stuck in a traffic jam along Alanpya Pagoda road in Yangon, Myanmar. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters/File)

9 must-have tools for your car

By Nelson IresonGuest blogger / 10.31.13

When you're on the road, you're out in the world, and the world can get dangerous when you least expect it--especially if your car breaks down or runs into trouble. So what can you do about it? You're (probably) not a mechanic, after all.

Fortunately, you don't have to be a mechanic to give yourself a much better chance of getting home or to the nearest repair shop with a small kit of essential tools and equipment--and in the event of an accident or other emergency, you'll even increase your odds of survival.

This short list of items encapsulates some of the most functional and likely items you'll need, while requiring minimal mechanical or other knowledge to employ. They're the basics. You could load your car up with dozens of other tools, of course, but you could also do a lot worse than keeping these nine inexpensive core items with you at all times.

(Note: The items linked are merely offered as examples; there are many options within each item category, varying in quality, price, and application.)   ( Continue… )

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