Cars News and Reviews 2013 Turkey Award: Cadillac Escalade Hybrid- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Wednesday

This is the time of year when thoughts turn to birds of the kind that's loaded with tryptophan and side dishes. But earlier this week there was exciting news about the direct predecessor of birds: the dinosaurs. Fossilised remains have been found in Utah of a gigantic dinosaur which lived about 100 million years ago, in the Cretaceous period just preceding the era of Tyrannosaurus rex.

This dinosaur, named Siats meekerorum, was one ugly brother, if you believe the reconstructions. A giant carnivore, it looked much meaner than T. rex; in fact, it probably terrorised T. rex for millions of years. The specimen found in Utah was an impressive 30 feet long and weighed about 9,000 pounds - and that was a juvenile.

It wasn't until after Siats became extinct that T. rex developed into the late-Cretaceous giant we know today, one of the largest land carnivores of all time. An adult T. rex could reach a total length of about 40 feet, and weigh a massive 14,000 pounds. No wonder it was always hungry.

A similar story has unfolded in the automotive world. The late 1980s saw the gaining popularity of the SUV, modeled after the versatile Jeep used in the Second World War, but built on the chassis of a truck. I can understand the utility, but I still don't see the "sport" aspect of this oversised beast. It was large and always hungry and terrorised all the other personal vehicles on the road.

Cadillac developed the Escalade SUV at the turn of the millennium, in a competitive bid for a slice of the expanding SUV pie. Eschewing the trend for smaller size that saw the introduction of mid-size SUVs, "compact" SUVs and even "mini-SUVs", the Escalade was an unabashed "bling SUV", as it was called by a reviewer in Edmund's. I suppose it caters to people who confuse size with desirability.

This thing is HUGE: it's 203 inches (5.14m) long, or an incredible 222 inches (5.64m) for the extended version with the open bed in the back, presumably for moving Sub-Zero walk-in refrigerators during a home renovation. With a width of 79 inches (2.00m), it hogs the road. This is probably what the British comedian Sean Lock was thinking of when he said Americans drive "bungalows with windshields". No engine put into this vehicle was ever smaller than 5.7liters.

The curb weight is now about 6,000lbs, but can be loaded to a total weight of 12,000 pounds, which is only 14% less than the weight of an adult T. rex. Add to that the front lights, which manage to look like a few rows of teeth. It's a monster.

The current version comes with a 6.2L V8. Cadillac's website does not list its fuel efficiency, but the EPA lists it as 14 / 18 mpg (cty/hwy).

Sales of the Escalade have declined sharply since 2007. But Cadillac has jumped onto the hybrid bandwagon, because it seems that the mere word "hybrid" will make good a host of environmental insults, and nobody will look into the details too closely.

But the truth is that the Escalade Hybrid still has a 6.0L V8 engine that puts out 332HP. It gets 20 / 23 mpg (cty/hwy). So yes, it does 30% better than the non-hybrid version. But come: it matters little what the technology is called that you use to keep down your total carbon footprint - ultimately the only thing that matters is grams CO2 per passenger mile. At 21 mpg average fuel efficiency, the Escalade Hybrid still emits 418 grams, or nearly one pound of CO2 for every mile you drive it.

I'm sorry, but strapping a battery pack on the back of a dinosaur doesn't take away the fact that it is a dinosaur. The Escalade Hybrid gets CelloMom's 2013 Turkey Award.



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Cars News and Reviews Review: 2013 Mercedes E-Class Wagon- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Sunday

My brother had a housemate named Gregory, a gentle giant whose heart is even larger than his person. Gregory's three small dogs (named "The Pack" by my children) eat better than many people on a junk food diet, since their owner can't abide by bad food; not even for dogs. Gregory would treat us to amazing food that looks as beautifiul as it tastes, the whole complemented by his flower arrangements: he is an ikebana master as well as an outstanding cook.

I suspect my children think of him in some way every time they put some flowers in a vase or dig up the moss in our yard for stuffing into a hollow brick, perhaps with some maple blossoms. They loved going to the farmers' market with Gregory, who made us all laugh by legging it, from the flower stands to the organic vegetables, from the bakers to the local cheese makers, all the while making plans for dinner and the next ikebana class he's teaching.

For moving friends, food and flowers, Gregory drives a Mercedes E wagon. It moves like a tank, but inside it gives a ride gentle enough for a baby, a delicate dessert, or the array of Japanese flower pots that Gregory needs to move when he has a show. His dogs ride in the back then they go to the park, and there's plenty of room for my brother's dog as well.

My children much preferred Gregory's car over my brother's Prius, mostly for the two extra seats that pop up in the cargo space, with a shallow well for legspace. They had their own private space with a great view out of the back window and not too much interference from the grownups in the two forward facing rows.

In the US, the E-Class Wagon is available with the 3.5L V6 engine, with 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Let us not speak of the E63 AMG, with its 5.5L V8 engine: I thought such engines had gone the way of the dinosaours in the late 1970s; they have no place in the carbon-conscious 21st century.

Let's rather take a look at the German site of the E-Klasse T-Modell. People who drive this car tend to be sartorially gifted, and if you select your clothes with as much care as they do, why not lavish care on the choice of your car? The brochure (download via this page) is a demonstration that true choice still exists, if you know where to look for it.

Mercedes-Benz offers the E-Class Wagon in six different diesel types and ten gasoline types: this is choice. Of these sixteen variants, six have 4MATIC all wheel drive, and four of the diesels have Mercedes' BlueTEC catalytic exhaust scrubbing technology.

And one is a sweet diesel hybrid with fuel efficiency specified as 53 mpg (see table below).

The Wagon is available in basic trim, Elegance and AvantGarde. Of course, you can get it in any colour you want, including ones that aren't on the Mercedes palette. In Europe, you can choose a standard or a panoramic sliding roof (check it out here: click on the "Panorama-Schiebedach" option).

But beyond the wheels (13 choices, ranging from sturdy to cathedral window), the customer specifies the car to the last detail, including the colour of the ceiling, leather on the pop-up seats in the back, and whether you want aluminum or walnut decorative elements in the interior. Not to mention a plethora of on-board entertainment options, including the cool Bang & Olufsen BeoSound system.

There is the memory feature, that remembers personal settings for front seats, mirrors and such, for up to three different drivers. This is great if you frequently share the car with drivers whose physiques are different from your own.

The sixteen in the E-Class lineup includes the E350 4MATIC: it is rated a "C" in the EURO5 efficiency classification. Of the ten gasoline versions, only two are rated "B" or better. The E63 AMG is unapologetically rated "F". To highlight its dinosaur status.

The diesels are rated "A", except the E350 4MATIC which is rated "B" under the stricter EURO6 schedule, and the E300 BlueTEC Hybrid which is rated "A+". Even that one can reach speeds up to 144mph.

Diesel hybrids are still rare, but are obviously the way to go for minimising carbon emissions in a car running on fossil fuels. The only way to better that is to go the way of the Volvo V60 plug-in diesel hybrid.


Mercedes E: gasoline, diesel, hybrid

Type E 350 4MATIC

E 200 CDI

E 300 BlueTEC

Hybrid T-Modell
Year 2013 2013 2013
Emissions rating ULEV/Bin5 Euro5 "A" Euro5 "A+"

$ 58,600
€ 43,643

($ 60,153)
€ 55,662

($ 76,720)
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 19 / 27 mpg 6.3 / 4.7 L/100km 8.5 / 5.4 L/100km
Avg. quoted  

5.2 L/100km

4.4 L/100km

Avg. actual      
Carbon emissions, quoted   135 g/km 116 g/km
Engine 3.5L V6 2.1L Diesel R4 2.1L Diesel R4
Power 302HP

@ 6500rpm
134HP @

201 HP

Torque 273 lbs-ft 265 lbs-ft 369 lbs-ft
Transmission 7spd Auto / shift paddles 6-spd man 7G-Tronic Plus (Auto)
Fuel Premium unleaded Diesel Diesel
Length, mm(in) 192.7 in 4905 mm  
Width, mm(in) 81.5 in 1854 mm  
Height, mm(in) 58.9 in 1474 mm  
Weight, kg(lbs) 4431 lbs 1845 kg 1955 kg
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 57.4 cuft 695 / 1950 L 650 / 1905 L
Turning radius, m(ft)   11.3 m 11.3 m
Top speed, kph(mph)   205kph

(127 mph)
232 kph




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Cars News and Reviews We Need Good News on Climate Change- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross

In a recent article in Yes! magazine, Sarah van Gelder makes the case for truly objective reporting in the media on the climate crisis. She makes the well-documented point that "false balance" in reporting gives too strong a voice to climate change deniers and is thus a distortion of the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming: that it is real, and that humans are the cause.

But there is another way in which the media does not faithfully reproduce reality: the omission of stories about people working on solutions. While the stories about climate change must necessarily include grim reports on hurricanes, wildfires and ocean acidification, these very depressing and scary news items are not the whole story. Van Gelder writes:

"More truly objective reporting on the climate crisis and its systemic causes would be a huge improvement over what we find now. But still it would be just half the story. The other half is the solutions. We need much more reporting on solutions, and not just to keep despair from sending us screaming into those rising seas."

PV array atop the US Department of Energy

"... There is a climate justice movement happening that few know exists—a movement founded in the grassroots and especially in communities that are often ignored by the corporate media: Appalachia, indigenous communities, youth, farmers, fishermen, and small businesses. It's a movement that doesn’t separate environmental concerns from human concerns, but that recognizes that they are one and the same.

At the forefront of this movement are young people, ranchers, tribal leaders, people living near refineries, those resisting hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking), and others who are most affected by the fossil fuel industry. People are using their bodies to block the building of tar sands pipelines, to stop mountaintop removal, to prevent drilling in their communities—both to protect their land, water, and health, and to protect the climate."

This is really heartening stuff, and we all need to hear more of it. In particular, we need the inspiration, and the feeling that we are not alone in working to right the conditions on this planet. Van Gelder continues:

"The truth is that there is no shortage of solutions—whether it's Germany's turn to solar power or the carbon-storing power of restored soils. But given the shortage of stories about solutions, it's little wonder that so many people—once they understand the implications of the climate crisis—leap right from denial to despair. When stories of people taking action are censored, when the innovations that could help us tackle the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced go unreported, when the ordinary people and grassroots leaders working to build a sustainable future go unquoted, people are left isolated and feeling powerless.

That's what makes solutions journalism so important at this point in human history."

I'll do my bit: I've started a new Pinterest board called "Reasons for Hope". So yes, it's arranged right next to the "Alarm Bells are Ringing" board, but it's the juxtaposition that stirs us into action. If you find anything that belongs on that board, please let me know about it: no victory too small.

A larger collection of solutions that have been put into place can be found at the #itshappening page of 10:10, which reports the good news on all scales large and small, from Portugal achieving 70% renewable power generation, to the resurgence of bicycling in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to a homeowner proudly presenting the newly installed solar cells on his roof, to stories of urban gardening.

The 10:10 organisation proposes that we cut our carbon footprint, 10% at a time, and offers challenges, games and those inspiring stories from all around the world, to help us in our own efforts.

The Transition Network is another source of stories about how communities are re-thinking their energy generation and use. Communities can learn from each other through the Transition Town Network and the Sustainable Cities Collective.

It's a bandwagon. Jump on!



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Cars News and Reviews What the NASCAR-winning Hudson Hornet and my VW Golf have in common.- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross

I didn't know who or what the Hudson Hornet was, until I saw the movie Cars, where the gruff Doc Hudson plays mentor to the eager young racer Lightning McQueen. Lightning discovers that the sedate old Doc, now the village doctor, once had an illustrious career as the multiple winner of the coveted Piston Cup.

The car on which the character of Doc Hudson was modeled was even more illustrious than its screen persona. It was a powerhouse. It was a multiple winner of the NASCAR races, and I mean mega-multiple: The Hudson Hornet won 27 of the 34 NASCAR Grand National races in 1952, plus 22 wins in 37 races in 1953, and 17 of the 37 races in 1954. A serious track record.

Photo Greg Gjerdingen

Look at it: more than half the length of this car was dedicated to the engine compartment. Its engine was a six-cylinder in-line titan with a total volume of 308 cubic inches, which is also known as 5.0 Liters, the largest 6-cylinder engine in its time. This thing was an icon of power and speed. Vroom!

Its giant engine generated power of 145HP and a torque of 257 lb-ft, and roared the Hornet on, at speeds up to 85 mph. It could be coaxed to 112 mph when tinkered up for stock car racing. No-one would dare ask the fuel efficiency of a car of such prowess, but it did around 10 mpg.

Enter my car.

I'm sorry to disappoint you, it's not the pretty blue Porsche of the Cars movie (I couldn't move two cellos around in that, could I?). It's a 2012 Volkswagen Golf with a turbodiesel engine. And no, the ride is not as cushy as that in a Hornet, which was a luxury car. I mean, an electric clock was standard.

Photo M93

For one, my car is quite a bit smaller than the Hudson Hornet - in all three directions. But it is brave anyway. Its predecessor, a 2001 Golf, cheerfully carried two parents, a toddler and a baby in their car seats, plus one grandparent (it was the era before cellos). With the back seat down, it can carry a few hay bales, and once, memorably, two bales of rare 20-inch fiberglass wall insulation.

Our current Golf will carry two adults, two older children, and two cellos. If that isn't brave I don't know what is.

It has a snub nose: Its 2.0L engine doesn't need a lot of space. But - and there's progress for you - it puts out just about the same power: 140 HP compared to the Hornet's 145 HP. And it has nearly the same torque as the Hornet, 236 lbs-ft.

So there you have it: under its diminuitive hood, my Golf harbours the same power as the NASCAR super-winning Hudson Hornet.

But because it's lighter, my Golf will accelerate faster: 0-100 kph in 8.6 seconds, compared to the Hornet's 13.9 seconds. In a race, my Golf will be quicker off the start line, and once going, can get up to 134mph. After all, it was built for the German Autobahn. I don't know that a Golf has ever participated in a NASCAR race. I do know that, if pressed, it could leave the Hornet in the dust.



Hudson Hornet

VW Golf
Engine Volume 5.0 L 2.0 L
Cylinders 6 4
Power 145 HP 140 HP
Torque 257 lbs-ft 236 lbs-ft
Maximum Speed 85 mph 134 mph
Fuel Efficiency ~ 10 mpg 38 mpg


All this is not to brag what my car could do at NASCAR, but rather to show that it has way too much under the hood. Anyway, what would a cello-toting mom do with a NASCAR-ready car? The full-sized cello is rented: I need to return that in one piece. The 3/4 cello is now mine, so if anything I'm even more careful with that.

My car licks the Hudson Hornet in another way: its fuel efficiency is nearly four times higher than the Hornet's. This is all due to the progress on the technology of internal combustion engines. But that progress has not ended. Europeans are moving to smaller and smarter engines and getting better fuel efficiency than Americans, who have been staying with large engines for decades.

One version of my Golf, which you and I can't buy here, is the 1.6L TDI with BlueMotion efficiency enhancing technology. It has a 1.6L turbodiesel engine, 20% smaller than the 2.0L in my car. But that smaller engine (105HP) still allows acceleration 0-100kph in 10.7 seconds, and still takes the car to 119 mph which is rather more than the speed limit on most US highways. Even that wimpier version of the Golf would still beat the Hudson Hornet.

On the other hand, the fuel efficiency of the 1.6L TDI is around 49mpg, and its German price tag is € 2,575 ($ 3,550) lower than that for the 2.0L TDI. There is no question in my mind: I'd rather drive this 1.6L TDI than my current 2.0L TDI. Its smaller carbon footprint is better for the planet, and its smaller price tag and higher efficiency is better for my budget.

I don't need a car that could be in a NASCAR race. And neither do you, despite car manufacturers' earnest attempts to make you think you do. So next time you need to buy a car, why not ask how much horsepower you really need?

See my post on horsepower to do the estimate. Spoiler: to drive a car the size of a Toyota Camry on the US Insterstate highway system at 65mph, you need about 76 HP. Go ahead, check my math.



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