A4 Driving Challenge

For those of you that have an iPhone here is a new app for you. It’s the Audi A4 Driving Challenge. This is a free down-loadable app for the the iPhone that is a fun little video game. The view is top-down and you have to maneuver your A4 through the coned track. Steering is done by turning your iPhone horizontally to the left or right to make the car turn in the corresponding directions. You have a gas pedal on the right and a brake pedal on the left. Steering is a little sensitive but if you brake and steer it gives you a little more control. For a free down-loadable app, it isn’t bad.

The whole thing is more of an advertisement than a true video game but it is very clever. Audi is the first car manufacturer to use an iPhone app as an advertisement and I’m sure it won’t be the last. At least it’s free fun and a great way to pass a few minutes playing on ones iPhone.

Out of Park and into Drive!

Ford Flex

The era of the old truck based suv is over. With gas hovering around $4.00 a gallon and consumers ready to give up there big gas-guzzling, body on frame suv’s, the transition to car-based, unibody crossover suv’s is fully underway. There has been a major market shift and all of the big three auto makers are starting to produce vehicles that are meeting the consumers’ expectations and criteria.

One of Ford’s newest vehicles to arrive on the scene in this new market is the Ford Flex. The Flex is a car-based, crossover suv that seats six or seven people depending on which seating configuration the buyer selects.

After all, the main purpose of suv’s over the years has been to carry more people than a car without being a mini-van. A lot of consumers wanted a vehicle that could carry their parties of six or more people without the stigma of the “soccer mom” mini van and suv’s filled the bill. Now that it’s costing a lot more to carry those six or more people in style, consumers are flocking to suv’s that will still be stylish without the frumpyness of the classic mini-van. The Flex is definitely not short on style.

The Flex is a long vehicle that emphasizes the long and lean profile. The flex uses deep horizontal character lines along the side, the roof, the front grill and back tailgate. The shape actually recalls images of a Mini Cooper Clubman or Scion xB on steroids. The whole vehicle is very well proportioned and aesthetically pleasing.

The Flex drives very much like a car. The handling was very crisp and responsive. The steering was nicely weighted, not too light or too heavy. For a vehicle that is almost 202 inches long it felt a lot smaller than it is. The turning radius was tight for such a long vehicle. The Flex was very flat and stable in turning situations with very little squat or dip on sharp turns.

Acceleration from a standing start was brisk and powerful enough to merge into any type of traffic situation. Throttle control was great without too much tip in that causes some cars to lurch crazy with a small tap of the accelerator.

Braking was nicely controlled as well. The brakes were not over-boosted and there was just the right amount of pedal travel when the brakes were applied.

I must say that overall handling was tight and controlled without being overly sporty. The suspension had a tied down feel while giving a comfortable smooth ride at the same time. All in all a good balance of luxury and sport for the average driver of a people mover like this.

Ford also did their homework when it came to the interior fit and finish. The materials used in Flex, although mostly plastic, have an upscale feel and aesthetic to them. The graining on the dash and door panels is very rich looking and the faux wood trim looks pretty well done. It would have been nice to have real wood but then again the Flex is not considered a luxury vehicle. The leather in the limited model I test drove was nicely done in a diamond shaped pattern with the leather feeling very supple and soft. The seats were very supportive and comfortable from the front to the very back.

The switchgear was trimmed in chrome and had a luxury feel to it. The dash layout was logical and for the most part ergonomically pleasing. The Flex has a custom programmable lighting feature which allows you to customize the color of the dash lights up to 150 different colors or shades thereof. The Flex also features ambient lighting in the cupholders and in the footwell areas of the interior. All in all the Flex’s interior is a nice place to be with a nod toward luxury.

The base price for a Flex starts at nearly $29,000 and can be max’d out at just over $40,000 in the “limited” editions. There are plenty of options to be had on the Flex such as panoramic sunroofs over all three rows of seating, refrigerated cooler in the middle console, white painted roof, navigation etc. etc.. If you love all of the bells and whistles Ford will oblige you and add them at a cost.

The engine is a 3.5 liter, 24 valve, V-6 that produces 262 hp. The Flex is a front-wheel drive vehicle with an all-wheel drive option available. The transmission is a 6-speed automatic. All of this hurtles the Flex forward from zero to sixty in approximately 8 seconds with an estimated fuel economy of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 24 miles per gallon on the highway. Those last two stats are average for a vehicle of this size and weight (4650 lbs.).

The Flex is also safety laden with front and side airbags and side curtain airbags, stability and traction control and anti-lock brakes.

Overall the Ford Flex is a complete package for those interested in people moving, especially for groups that are more than four people. With seating that is comfortable for up to seven people the new crossover suv Ford Flex is an attractive option for those people who want the utility of a mini-van without the stigma associated with it. The Flex is a cool-looking well put together vehicle that has a uniqueness that Ford hopes will resonate with consumers in this new market. I would recommend that you go test drive the Flex if you are in the market for a new suv. Detroit knows that things have changed and the Ford Flex is a product of the changing market. The Ford Flex might be just the thing that helps Ford pull out of the nose dive it has been in over the past five years. Let’s hope so because I would hate to see an American iconic company like Ford end up in the junk-yard. Come on Ford, “Flex” those muscles and sell some cars!

We Need The Big Three!

Here’s the low-down on the automotive industry here in the good ole’ USA. The market has changed. With oil reaching an all time high last month of almost $150.00 per barrel and gas breaking the $4.00 mark for regular unleaded for the first time in US history, Americans are clamoring for fuel-efficient, smaller vehicles. What does this mean for Detroit’s big three? Let me tell you what it means. Ford, GM and Chrysler do not have what consumers want so Americans are going to the import automakers in droves to fill their demands.

The shift in the US auto market is evidenced by last month’s sales and second quarter profits just released this week. GM’s sales were down last month by 32% with a loss of $15.5 billion in the second quarter, yes that is billion not million. Ford Motor Company’s sales were down last month by 19% and had a loss of $8.7 billion for the second quarter. Chrysler’s sales were down by 34% and Chrysler has totally stopped leasing vehicles in an effort to stem the tide of red ink at the new privately held company by Cerebus Capital Management. Let’s put this in a crazy perspective, looking at GM’s rate at which they are losing money.

$170,329,670 a day.

$7,069,069 per hour.

$118,284 per minute.

$1,971 per second.

That is just crazy. Either the big three will change with the market and give consumers what they want or they will cease to exist. After all how can a company, no matter how big they are, continue to absorb losses in billions measured in quarters of a year?

I must say I am rooting for the big three. The American automotive industry has literally shaped the industry ever since the car was invented and it would be a travesty if America’s big three were to go the way of the dinosaur. So get it together Ford, GM and Chrysler. Give us some cool new, fuel-efficient cars and you will be around for another century. The US needs you, no the world needs you!

Out of Park & in to Drive,

Auto Analyzer

Auto Analyzer

I am just a normal guy who happens to love cars. I always have and always will. This blog will primarily be focused on new cars and car news in general. All of the reviews of any cars that I might drive are purely my opinions and in no way represent a professional car review magazine or company. I figure sometimes it’s just good to hear from just a regular guy who is not wined & dined by the car manufacturers or lured by their advertising budgets.

Sometimes I will focus on a particular car that I have driven or have some intimate knowledge about. Other times I will blog about general car news or car related issues. Just whatever is on my mind about cars is what Auto Analyzer will be about.

I know that a lot of people feel passionate about whatever particular car that they like or drive. It is not my goal to change anyone’s mind about their car. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but there will be times when we will have to agree to disagree.  Anytime I review a car that I have driven I will be as objective as possible. But, it is still my opinion and it is what it is.

I hope you will find this blog fun, engaging and helpful.

Out of Park & in to Drive,

Auto Analyzer