Could New Tech Make Drunken Driving a Thing of the Past?

By Matt Schmitz 

on July 7, 2015

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The technology is called DADSS, but for a motorist unconcerned with the dangers of drunken driving, it might seem like Big Brother. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, born of a cooperative effort by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and an alliance of 17 automakers, the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, could one day be as ubiquitous as antilock brakes and, researchers hope, every bit as effective in saving lives.

Related: Would You Welcome a ‘See-Thru’ Semi to the Road?

The project — begun in 2008 with the goal of “assessing the effectiveness and feasibility” of in-vehicle alcohol-detection technologies, according to NHTSA — has produced a pair of new systems that prevent drivers from starting their vehicles when their blood alcohol concentration exceeds the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Both were created in 2011; one uses touch-based sensors that measure the driver’s BAC through skin contact, and the other uses a breath measurement taken by sensors mounted in front of the driver.

Researchers designed the systems to be fast, effective and inconspicuous — so much so that the driver or passengers might not even know they’re being evaluated. That’s opposed to the obvious (and potentially embarrassing) method of requiring the driver to blow into a tube to start the car. DADSS technologies both measure BAC using infrared light when someone merely sits in the driver’s seat and breathes normally or touches a designated surface.

“In order to be considered for widespread deployment, the DADSS technology must be seamless, accurate, and precise, and unobtrusive to the sober driver,” NHTSA said in a statement.

According to USA Today, the technology could be car-ready within five to eight years, and the added cost is expected to be in line with other safety advances such as collision avoidance braking or lane departure warning. The new systems likely would be sold as optional equipment and could take the place of existing ignition interlock systems, USA Today reported.

“We have our sights set on inventing a world without drunk driving,” Rob Strassburger, CEO of the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, told USA Today.

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News Editor Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers.  Email Matt


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Written by: Matt Schmitz

2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel: Real-World Fuel Economy

By Aaron Bragman 

on July 7, 2015

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2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee;

Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

I’ve never understood why diesel engines aren’t more popular in the U.S. Our love of trucks and thirst for torque, towing ability, fuel economy and just plain old grunt seem to match up to diesel’s characteristics, yet such engines remain in the realm of either heavy-duty work trucks or expensive luxury SUVs. Thankfully,  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has started to take its light-duty diesel engine and pop it into more approachable products, such as the Ram 1500 light-duty pickup truck and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Related: 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Versus 2015 Nissan Murano

The turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V-6 makes just 240 horsepower but 420 pounds-feet of rock-climbing, boat-pulling, tire-smoking torque. Putting the diesel in FCA’s most popular SUV makes for a vehicle that provides both a measure of fuel efficiency and Hemi V-8 levels of grunt. The turbo-diesel delivers 30 pounds-feet more torque than the Grand Cherokee’s optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, but handily beats it on fuel economy.

A base gas-powered V-6 Grand Cherokee 4×4 is EPA-rated at 17/24/19 mpg city/highway/combined, while the Hemi drops that to a dismal 14/20/16 mpg. But substitute the turbo-diesel, which admittedly comes at an even higher price than the Hemi option, and fuel economy climbs to 21/28/24 mpg. That’s nearly on par with the Mercedes-Benz ML250 Bluetec’s 22/29/25 mpg rating; it uses a turbo four-cylinder instead of a V-6, however.

To find out if the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel could deliver on these fuel-economy numbers, I drove one from Ann Arbor, Mich., through the wilds of Detroit and the boredom of Ontario,to the city of Toronto. I made the trip with three passengers and luggage on the way out and two passengers and luggage on the return trip. The windows were kept up, the air conditioning on and my average highway speed was around 70 mph.

The journey’s first leg was a 280.3-mile jaunt past southern Ontario’s miles of empty fields and hundreds of power-generating windmills. The Jeep consumed 10.1 gallons of low-sulfur diesel fuel for a calculated fuel economy of 27.77 mpg (the Jeep’s trip computer was only slightly more optimistic, reading 28 mpg).

Considering that this leg included a fair bit of stop-and-go traffic crossing the border and battling downtown-Toronto construction, the result is pretty impressive. Around town, the diesel sounds like a delivery truck engine, but that adds to the “Jeepness” of the Grand Cherokee, the rugged yet refined image that the brand has successfully portrayed for several decades now.

The return trip saw less weight in the Jeep, but had us driving against a formidable 30 mph headwind as we battled massive thunderstorms during the entire 279.4-mile journey. Despite this, the Grand Cherokee consumed 9.76 gallons of diesel and returned 28.62 mpg (the trip computer read 28.4 mpg). For much of the return journey, the trip computer read more than 30 mpg for the estimated fuel economy, a number that steadily dropped as we continued to plunge through the weather front sweeping Ontario.

Not only did the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel provide impressive economy during my trip, but it also delivered a luxuriously appointed cabin; a smooth, well-controlled ride; and luxury-car levels of quietness at cruising speed. Spend the extra $1,205 above the price of the optional Hemi to get the EcoDiesel engine in the Grand Cherokee Limited or Overland trims; you won’t regret it.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 2015 Overland

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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich.   Email Aaron


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Written by: Aaron Bragman

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited: Car Seat Check

By Jennifer Geiger 

on July 7, 2015

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2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited;

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Jeep’s Wrangler has all the off-road chops you’ll need for an afternoon off the beaten path, and its four-door, five-passenger Unlimited version means you can bring the family along for the ride, right? Parents looking for a family vehicle should think twice before adding the Wrangler Unlimited to their shopping list due to questionable safety ratings and room issues with rear-facing car seats.

More Car Seat Checks

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

What We Like

  •  We’re conflicted on the Unlimited’s Latch setup. There are two sets of anchors in the outboard seats and we like that the anchors closest to the doors are exposed, but the inboard anchors were hard to access (more on that below). You’re also able to use the outboard seats’ Latch anchors to install a car seat in the center position as long as the car seat uses Latch connectors on straps and not rigid connectors that stick out of the car seat base itself.
  • Three top tether anchors sit at the base of the seatbacks, and we had no issues connecting the forward-facing convertible.

What We Don’t

  • The second-row head restraints are fixed and the seatbacks don’t recline, making it more difficult to get car seats situated at the correct angle.
  • The Latch anchors in the inboard positions were difficult to access with the convertible seat’s rigid connectors. We didn’t have a problem using the infant seat’s hooklike connectors.
  • Although the infant seat was easy to install, we needed to move the front passenger seat forward to fit the car seat behind it.
  • We had trouble installing the rear-facing convertible because of the tricky Latch anchor, and we also had to move the passenger seat forward to accommodate the car seat.  
  • The booster fit well on the seat, but the buckles are on floppy bases, which make it hard for kids to buckle up independently.

Grading Scale

A: Plenty of room for the car seat and the child; doesn’t impact driver or front-passenger legroom. Easy to find and connect to Latch and tether anchors. No fit issues involving head restraint or seat contouring. Easy access to the third row.  

B: Plenty of room. One fit or connection issue. Some problems accessing third row when available.

C: Marginal room. Two fit or connection issues. Difficult to access third row when available.

D: Insufficient room. Two or more fit or connection issues.

F: Does not fit or is unsafe.

About Cars.com’s Car Seat Checks

Editors Jennifer Geiger and Jennifer Newman are certified child safety seat installation technicians.

For the Car Seat Check, we use a Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30 infant-safety seat, a Britax Marathon convertible seat and Graco TurboBooster seat. The front seats are adjusted for a 6-foot driver and a 5-foot-8 passenger. The three child seats are installed in the second row. The booster seat sits behind the driver’s seat, and the infant and convertible seats are installed behind the front passenger seat.

We also install the forward-facing convertible in the second row’s middle seat with the booster and infant seat in the outboard seats to see if three car seats will fit; a child sitting in the booster seat must be able to reach the seat belt buckle. If there’s a third row, we install the booster seat and a forward-facing convertible. To learn more about how we conduct our Car Seat Checks, go here.

Parents should also remember that they can use the Latch system or a seat belt to install a car seat, and that Latch anchors have a weight limit of 65 pounds, including the weight of the child and the weight of the seat itself.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 2015

Car Seat Check

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Safety


Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Geiger is a reviewer, car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats, many of them while driving a minivan.  Email Jennifer


This article was not written by Michigan Lemon Law.
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Written by: Jennifer Geiger

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class Review

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“The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK’s small footprint and nimble, refined driving experience stand out, despite its otherwise dated luxury experience,” says Cars.com reviewer Joe Bruzek.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class Expert Review

Cars.com photo by Joe Bruzek

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Written by: Jennifer Geiger

Recall Alert: 2015 Hyundai Genesis

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Vehicles Affected: Approximately 24,400 model-year 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedans manufactured from Feb. 21, 2014, to Jan. 24, 2015

The Problem: Water may leak into the rear combination lamp assemblies and cause an incorrect gear to display on the instrument panel or cause a delay in engaging the selected gear when shifting from Park to Reverse or Drive. If an incorrect gear is displayed, the vehicle may move in an unintended direction, increasing the risk of a crash.

The Fix: Dealers will apply pads to prevent water from leaking into the lamp housing for free.

What Owners Should Do: Hyundai has not yet released an owner notification schedule; owners can call Hyundai at 855-671-3059 or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 888-327-4236.

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer.

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Written by: Jen Burklow

Recall Alert: 2013-2015 Nissan Altima

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Vehicles Affected: Approximately 625,000 model-year 2013-15 Nissan Altima vehicles manufactured March 1, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2014. This is an expansion of a previous recall and the number of vehicles affected could change. “Nissan is continuing to investigate the number of vehicles involved and will update the affected population when final numbers are available,” the automaker said in a statement to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Problem: In these vehicles, the secondary hood latch could remain in the unlatched position when the hood is closed. If the primary latch is released and the secondary latch is not engaged, the hood could unexpectedly open while driving, increasing the risk of a crash.

The Fix: According to NHTSA, the manufacturer has not yet provided a remedy plan.

What Owners Should Do: Nissan has not yet provided an owner notification schedule. Owners can call the automaker at 800-647-7261 or NHTSA at 888-327-4236 for more information.

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer.

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Written by: Jennifer Geiger

Toyota Cancels the Venza

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Well, our crystal ball was right. Toyota announced it is canceling the Venza, No. 6 on our list of vehicles we predicted wouldn’t see model-year 2016. Part wagon, part crossover, the Venza never really found popularity; in fact, it landed in last place in Cars.com’s $38,000 Midsize SUV Challenge. Sales of the model have been sinking for some time. It was introduced in 2008 and at its peak in 2009, Toyota sold 54,410 units. In 2014, the automaker sold just 29,991 Venzas.

Related: Research the Toyota Venza

“After careful consideration, Toyota has decided to wind down production of the Venza at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky (TMMK). No jobs will be lost at TMMK as a result of this move,” Rick Bourgoise, Toyota Midwest spokesman, said in a statement to Cars.com.

Instead of the Venza, the facility will manufacture the Avalon and Lexus ES, the first time a Lexus will be produced in the U.S.

Don’t worry, Venza fans, it looks like there’s still a decent amount of new models out there; there are more than 5,300 new Venzas listed in Cars.com’s inventory.

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

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Written by: Jennifer Geiger

VW Announces Cheaper e-Golf Limited Edition Trim

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Volkswagen has announced it’s adding a less-expensive version of its all-electric e-Golf compact hatchback EV to the lineup: the e-Golf Limited Edition. It will sticker at $34,270 (including an $820 destination fee), almost $2,000 less than the higher-spec SEL trim level. It will be available for lease at $229 per month, according to the company.

Related: Volkswagen Prices First Electric Car; 2015 e-Golf Will Cost $36,265

Like the SEL trim, the e-Golf Limited Edition will feature a 24.2-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, standard DC fast charger system, an 83-mile range and a host of standard features like navigation, keyless entry with push-button start, automatic climate control, an electrically heated windshield, rearview camera, and front and rear parking sensors. It will differ from the current e-Golf in that it will feature 16-inch steel wheels instead of aluminum ones, halogen headlamps instead of LED lights, cloth seats instead of faux leather and the deletion of a heat-pump system meant to speed cabin warmth on cold days.

These minor de-contenting changes should help the car find a few more buyers as it becomes more widely available, but one has to wonder what these changes might do to the car’s practical energy usage – LED headlamps consume less energy than incandescent halogen ones, and the lack of a heat pump could reduce the car’s cold-weather range considerably. When the e-Golf was first released, VW said that adding the heat pump increased the e-Golf’s winter range by nearly 20 percent, so eliminating it might be best suited to warm-weather climates.

Manufacturer photo

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Written by: Aaron Bragman

Gas No Longer Under $2 in Any State

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The national average for regular unleaded gas has increased 38 days in a row, the longest such streak in more than two years, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, and has climbed 41 cents per gallon during that period.

AAA said Thursday the national average for regular was $2.45, up 11 cents from a week ago. The average for premium gas was $2.85, 12 cents higher than last week, and for diesel it was $2.92, up 3 cents from a week ago.

Related: Research Fuel-Efficient Cars

The U.S. average for regular reached a low of $2.03 per gallon on Jan. 26 after dropping for a record 123 consecutive days. Prices have increased every day since. Whereas regular gas averaged less than $2 in 27 states six weeks ago, today the lowest statewide average is $2.14 in Wyoming. South Carolina and Utah are the next lowest at $2.16. Motorists who had their pick of stations offering gas for less than $2 may now have only a handful of choices — or none in many areas.

Prices have increased because of the rising cost of crude oil, seasonal refinery maintenance that reduces gasoline production and, on the West Coast, a recent explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, Calif., that has crimped the supply of gas.

The price of regular in California rose 34 cents the past week alone to $3.44 — the highest in the nation — and has soared 91 cents in the past month. Regular averaged $3.54 in the Los Angeles area, according to AAA, and $3.49 around San Francisco, 40 cents higher than last week.

Neighboring states also have been hit hard by recent price increases. Nevada’s statewide average for regular jumped 23 cents the past week to $2.85, and Oregon’s rose 32 cents to $2.87.

AAA said the average price of regular was $2.23 per gallon in February, the lowest February average since 2009. The average price was $3.34 per gallon in February 2014.

In its monthly report on gas prices AAA said the national average price of gas could rise by 20 cents per gallon or more in March as refinery maintenance season continues. Despite the expected increase, most regions should see prices remain much lower compared to recent years due to cheaper crude oil costs and above-average gasoline supplies. Domestic stocks of crude oil have climbed to record levels, which should help offset any price increases for crude oil in the near term.

“The good news is that most U.S. drivers should still pay less than $3 per gallon to fill up their cars this year,” spokesman Avery Ash said in a release.

Indeed, prices are still far lower than at this time last year. The national average for regular was $1.01 higher on March 5, 2014, and diesel was $1.09 higher at $4.01.

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Written by: Rick Popely