Saturday, December 27, 2003

Comparison 2: Pontiac Aztek vs. Nissan Murano
Don't laugh. If you look at the specs, these cars are very close on paper. The AWD versions are within 50 lbs of each other in GVW. Interior dimensions are within an inch or two for most purposes. I picked on the Aztek when it came out because it was so ugly. It is still ugly, but less so, after GM facelifted it last year. The Murano isn't exactly a beauty queen itself. GM may have mostly just been ugly first.

The biggest difference is in horsepower 180 for the Pontiac and 240 for the Nissan. But in torque, it's a lot closer, 210 ft/lb vs 245.

The price isn't close at all. Considering GM is paying its dealers to practically give away the Aztek. For the difference of a second or two 0-60 (and image) you could take a nice vacation for two to Hawaii and buy a big screen television.

FYI, if you get any GM 3.4 liter vehicle, try a K&N air filter. Word on the net is that this engine responds well to the extra airflow.;jsessionid=1uKIy42y13S5feOPhotIM1jiybu3G2PeLEQuEEEksvJfa3Q2NTPa!-1105064615?styleid=100305229&styleid=100305230&styleid=100366707&refid=&maxvehicles=5&op=3&tab=printable
GM Closes the Gap: Buick Rendezvous Ultra vs. Acura MDX

It was always apparent to me how similar in concept the Acura MDX was to the Buick Rendezvous. Now the paper similarity is even closer because GM has made available a new 3.6 liter DOHC V-6 in the Rendezvous.

Below is a comparison that I printed up on

The biggest difference? The Buick is $7000 cheaper.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

One-handed and unconventional keyboards

A few years ago I had a bout with carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndromes. At that time I became interested in alternative keyboard designs including one-handed "chordal" keyboards. But where to get them? Ck out

Keyboards, Index
For the hard-to-buy-for this christmas: Mammoth Tusks

Canada Fossils: Mammoth Tusks
For the hard-to-buy-for this christmas: Mammoth Tusks

Canada Fossils: Mammoth Tusks

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Before you buy that Big Screen TV . . .

Before you buy that big plasma, LCD or rear projection HDTV that you have your eyes on, you might want to read the article linked below about Intel entering the LCoS television market.

The natural progression of this is a single chip high resolution television. How would you like to buy a high resolution 50" television for under $300.00? Check in about 2006 or 2007. Front projection systems should also become commodities about that time.

I need a new television for my basement. I'm not even considering a big heavy unit that not be worth fixing three years from now. Right now, I'm leaning toward a front projection unit, the InFocus X-1 which retails for around $1000 and has received excellent reviews. The X-1 is based upon a TI DLP engine. With the X-1 you have the big-screen effect, but not a huge price. Plus when it breaks or is obsolete, you don't have to haul a 200 lb hunk of junk out of the basement.

New Intel digital TV chip could remake the market | CNET

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Honda flies Business Jet

For a half dozen years, Toyota has been making a big stink about entering the general aviation market. There was talk of modified Lexus passenger car engines for small aircraft. Last year, Toyota flew its own small aircraft design, but with an engine from another supplier. Since then Toyota has been quiet about its aircraft plans.

That's why it was a surprise to me to find out that Honda has two announcements on the aviation front. The most surprising of those was the announcement that Honda has test-flown it's own home-grown 6-seat business jet. This jet is Honda from the ground up, including twin 1700 lb jet turbines. The test flight was in North Carolina of all places.

Honda, in its usual quiet way, has not yet released any photos. The link below includes a sketch.

Honda denied any plans to market the jet, but come on, why develop a 6-place business jet unless you plan to do something with it? Most likely Honda is waiting for the right deal from a potential manufacturing partner.

The development of gas Turbine technology fits with a growing segment of Honda's business - small scale electrical generators and cogenerators. Honda has good market share for small generators with piston engines, but gas turbine technology is more efficient the larger you go. In addition, gas turbines could possibly be the engine technology of the future for hybrid cars. Volvo had a turbine-electric hybrid a decade ago that looked promising. When Chrysler test-marketed turbine cars in the 1960s, the lack of torque was a big problem. With electric motors turning out tons of torque, lack of torque would not be a problem for a hybrid.

Gas turbines have a number of advantages over piston engines. For a given power output, turbines can be made lighter, and potentially with fewer parts (but some parts must have high heat tolerance.) They can run on just about any type of fuel. When optimized and operated within their target output range, turbines can be more efficient.

In separate news, Honda has developed a piston engine for the broader light aircraft market. This engine, co-developed by Continental, has not been a secret, but has not been touted. It looks like the Honda piston engine may be on the verge of being marketed.

AIN Alerts Weekly News

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Ford Focus PZEV

Ford is getting good reviews for its 2.3 Liter Ford Focus PZEV. PZEV stands for "partial zero emissions vehicle". The engine is a modified version of the engine that powers the Mazda 6. In the Mazda 6, it makes 160 HP. In the Focus, it makes 145, but the 149 lb/ft of torque is much higher than the standard or optional 2.0 liter engines. I've seen conflicting information regarding the future of the Focus PZEV. According to the USA Today article linked below, the 2.3 liter engine will be replaced by a less powerful 2.0 liter low-emissions engine when the 2005 model year cars come out in March 2004. Will 2.3 liter foci still be available then? We'll see. At any rate, the 2.3 liter engine is just a $115 check-off option on the Focus, and it seems like a good deal. Ford must need the emissions credit to sell more profitable (and more polluting) vehicles. - New, fast Focus doesn't drive like an eco-car

Friday, December 05, 2003

Lots of news from The 12-5-03

There's lots of interesting stuff in today's installment of's TCC Daily Edition

There are pictures of General Motors' upcoming "crossover sport vans" that replace their minivans.

News that Ford Focus Hatchback production is moving from Mexico to Wayne Michigan. Also news on improved quality ratings for the Focus. (Good news for UAWLSP attorneys who want a fun-to-drive hatchback that they can drive to work.)

There are photos of the new Volvo V50 station wagon, probably the most stylish station wagon I've ever seen.

The Car Connection [ The Web's Automotive Authority ]: "crossover sport vans"

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Best Deals of the Month

With media coverage saying rebates on vehicles are starting to diminish, I was surprised to find that there are $4,500 rebates on the Dodge Intrepid and the Dodge Stratus.

According to, with the rebates, you can get a Dodge Stratus SXT for just a little under $14,000, and an Intrepid SXT for just over $19,000. We might be able to do a little better with our A-Plan (or whatever Chrysler calls it).

I've always liked the Intrepid. I like the swoopy stying. I think the Intrepid is a lot nicer looking than the bloated tank (the Magnum) that will replace it next year.

Last year I rented a Stratus. I found that it was a pleasant, capable family car. It was roomy. The base 2.5 liter 4 cylinder gives sufficient pep for every day driving. It is a little loud, but not as loud as some reviews would have you believe. The most significant negative in my opinion is the real-world fuel economy. In a week with the car, I averaged a little over 18 mpg, about the same as my minivan, and 10 miles per gallon less than my turbocharged Volkswagen Passat, which weighs virtually the same as the Stratus.

The knock on both these cars is that they sell so many to fleets that the resale value is awful. True, but the cars themselves are pretty good, so let's say you buy a Stratus for $15,000. You drive it for 3 years, use up the factory warranty then sell it for $7000. That's an average depreciation of $222 per month. Not a bad deal, and it gets better the longer you hold onto it.

Let's compare to a Honda Accord. Buy it for $22000. Sell it in three years for $12,000 and it cost you 278 per month in depreciation, plus, because the initial sales price was higher, all else being equal, your finance charges would be higher too.

Best new auto prices from Edmunds TMV