Archive for February, 2012

2012 Dodge Charger with the Blacktop package. What options would you choose for your car?

Choosing options and option packages for a new car can be a daunting task. Some manufacturers simplify the choices while others offer long lists of things; some that should be standard while others are more fantastic than ever.

For example, Honda makes picking the Civic that fits your needs very easy. You simply choose a trim level (DX, LX, EX, EX-L, EX – Nav, EX-L Nav), manual or automatic transmission and the color (no charge for metallic colors). There are no option packages, only accessories that are dealer installed. You can’t even choose the interior color as it’s preselected for you depending on the exterior color.

2012 Honda Civic EX-L Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation. Standard on this model is the leather interior, navigation and automatic transmission. There are no options, just a few dealer-installed accessories.

The top trim level is the EX-L with Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation – MSRP $23,445.  The “L” means it has a leather-trimmed interior and it obviously has Honda’s navigation system. When I built one, the only accessory I added was the $284 Automatic Day/Night rear view mirror.  Add the destination charge of $770 and the total price comes to $24,509. Slap that “Easy” button at Staples!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the new 2012 BMW 328i is a lesson in decontenting a car to come to a base price that the marketing department can advertise.

The base MSRP for the lovely, all-new 328i sedan is $34,900.   For 2012, you can choose from three “styles” to fit your personality: Sport (+$2,500), Modern (+$2,100) or Luxury (+$2,100) – or you can just build your own “base” sedan, which is what I did.

Metallic paint – $550; Dakota Leather – $1,450;   Cold Weather Package – $1,350 (includes heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, split-fold-down rear seats and retractable headlight washers); Premium Package – $3,600 (includes power front seats with driver’s side memory, auto dimming interior and exterior mirrors, lumbar support, keyless entry/ignition, universal garage door opener and a moonroof); Premium Sound – $950 (Harman Kardon  surround sound and Sirius Satellite Radio with a 1 year subscription); Technology Package – $2,550 (includes navigation and a head-up display); Rear-view camera – $400 which requires the addition of Park Distance Control – $750.

2012 BMW 328i Sedan. Base $34,900 + $895 destination. Just add $10,000 and you have a nicely-equipped car.

Throw in a destination charge of $895 and suddenly your car costs $44,945 – a cool $10,000 more than the base. And there are still many more options and packages available that easily push the sticker price over $50,000 – a far cry from $35,000.

I’d like to point out that a rear view camera should be part of the navigation package – it is on much less expensive cars. BMW makes you pay extra for folding rear seats, something standard on inexpensive subcompact cars. And why do I have to get four heated seats and a heated steering wheel as part of the Cold Weather package when all I wanted was heated seats. It’s maddening.

However, as I’ve railed about in the past, no one has more egregious prices or an option list longer than Porsche with its sports cars. These days, you’re lucky you get an engine, transmission and power windows for the base price.  Lime Gold Metallic paint? Ja – $2,580! Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) automatic transmission? Ja Ja – $3,200! Achtung, Baby, get ready to pay.

The 2012 Porsche Boxster in Lime Gold Metallic paint.

Below is my latest condensed list of options to consider or remember when you’re car shopping. (Option_List download)

1 All-wheel drive (if needed or plan to drive in snow/off road areas)
2 Aluminum alloy wheels (no wheel covers)
3 Ambient/outside temperature display
4 Auto-dimming rear and power folding side view mirrors
5 Automatic headlights
6 Bi-Xenon/HID headlights (high and low beam)
7 Blind spot and cross path detection
8 Cruise control – adaptive if available
9 Convertible top – fully-automatic operation
10 Cup holders – heated and cooled
11 Digital compass
12 Dual-zone, digital automatic climate control
13 Floor mats – color matched front and rear (should be included)
14 Fog lamps
15 Heated and cooled front seats
16 Heated steering wheel
17 Height adjustable tailgate (if a wagon or SUV)
18 Hill assist (no roll back)
19 Infotainment System:

( a ) App-enabled system – e.g., Pandora, Stitcher, etc.

( b ) Bluetooth 2.0 for hands-free phone & streaming audio

( c ) Backup camera

( d ) HD Radio

( e ) Hard drive music and media storage

( f ) iPhone/iPod/Smartphone integration

( g ) Navigation (hard drive), real-time traffic, TravelLink

( h ) SiriusXM Satellite Radio

( i ) Steering wheel-mounted controls

( j ) Upgraded power, speakers, subwoofer

( k ) USB charging port(s)

( l ) Voice control
20 Keyless entry and ignition
21 Lane Assist (watches for signs of driver fatigue)
22 Leather seats/interior or leather with Alcantara inserts
23 Mirrors – power side, folding, heated, auto-dimming
24 Mirror – rear view, auto-dimming
25 Parking Sensors front and rear
26 Power seats, 8+ position driver & passenger with 2+ memory settings
27 Power trunk/hatch/tailgage open and close
28 Power windows with one-touch up/down, all windows
29 Power folding rear seats (for SUVs)
30 Rain-sensing wipers
31 Rear HVAC vents
32 Seats, Power 8+ position, driver & passenger
33 Seats, 2+ memory settings
34 Seats with adjustable thigh support
35 Smart high-beam system
36 Spare tire – real, not run-flat tires
37 Split folding rear seats (if a coupe or sedan)
38 Sunroof, power open and close
39 Tilt/telescope steering wheel (power)
40 Universal garage door openers – HomeLink

I though it would be a good idea to aggregate the 2012 Super Bowl “Big Game” XLVI (46) commercials from the car companies. So far, there are a few clear winners.  Before “The Big Game,” these were the top three commercials that “went viral” ensuring a good return on investment:

  1. Acura NSX (a car that won’t be available for 2-3 years) – “Transactions” with Jerry Seinfield and Jay Leno
  2. VW Beetle Prequel – “The Bark Side” featuring an amazing chorus of dogs barking out the Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme Song) from Star Wars.  John Williams is probably laughing and cashing the check with earplugs firmly in place.
  3. Honda CR-V – “Matthew’s Day Off” in which Matthew Broderick reprises his immortal role from 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The all-new Toyota Camry is so important to Toyota’s recovery after a disastrous 2011 that it earns itself two excellent commercials.  “It’s Reinvented” is decidedly un-homophobic and refreshing while “Connections” tugs at the heart strings. Toyota wants to steal Chevy’s theme, “Chevy Runs Deep” and “Connections” is as close as it gets to remind Generations X and Y that they grew up with 7 million Camrys and it’s part of their DNA.

Volkswagen is back with two great ads for the 2012 Beetle (just don’t call it the “New Beetle”).  “The Dog Strikes Back” takes doggie aerobics to a new level with a tinge of Darth Vader while its prequel, “The Bark Side” needs a few seconds to warm up before you catch the tune.

I love the new Chevy Sonic “Stunt Action” spot not just for its amazing stunts but for its use of the  infectious anthem to youth, “We Are Young.”  It targets more than 70 million Generation Y/The Boomerang Generation/The Millennial Generation (~1982 – 2000) that automakers so desperately are courting.  The song sort of burst out from nowhere on the December 7, 2011 episode of Glee, as the song was used to end the episode in anthem form.  The YouTube clip has been viewed more than 4.6 million times.  Since GM/Chevrolet is a big sponsor of Glee, the tie in makes perfect sense. The Sonic commercial uses the original song from an album to be released on February 21, 2012 by the previously-obscure group, Fun.

Chrysler had to come up with a follow up to last year’s sensational “Born Of Fire” feel-good, edgy ode to the Motor City featuring hometown rap superstar Eminem.  That didn’t happen.

However I think “It’s Halftime In America,” (below) featuring Clint Eastwood, was a fitting tribute to the American auto industry and that it hit the right tone for a reborn Chrysler.  Here’s a portion of Mr. Eastwood’s narration:

This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do the world is going to hear the roar of our engines.

I’m a big Eastwood fan – both his acting and directing – and I liked his gritty, aged voice that called for unity and moving forward.  In his simple, beautiful, powerful 2008 film Gran Torin, Mr. Eastwood played a retired Ford auto worker who felt out of place in his hometown, Detroit, once the center and symbol of America’s industrial worldwide dominance. He not only directed himself, but wrote the music for this tragic and touching story.

The haters are already filling the blogs with disdain and jeers; but I’m in the mood to be sentimental about the vital importance of a domestic auto industry with good, middle-class wages and benefits. It may not last, but I’ll hang on to that fantasy for a little bit longer.

Acura NSX: Transactions (Extended Version)

Audi: Vampire Party

BMW 3-Series: The Close Call

BMW 3-Series: The Big Grab

BMW 3- Series: The Perfect Seat

BMW 3-Series: The Entertainer

BMW 3-Series: The Twins

BMW 3-Series: The Score

Cadillac ATS: Green Hell

Chevrolet Corvette: Chevy Driving Academy – Man to Driver

Chevrolet: Half Suit – Rainn Wilson

Chevrolet Cruze: Long Day

Chevrolet Camaro: Happy Graduation

Chevrolet Silverado: 2012

Chevrolet Silverado: 2012 – Rainn Wilson Commentary

Chevrolet Sonic: Stunt Anthem (“We Are Young)

Chevrolet Sonic: Joy

Chevrolet Volt: Aliens 1 – Come on

Chevrolet Volt: Aliens 2 – Who told?

Chrysler: It’s Halftime in America (Clint Eastwood)

Fiat 500 Abarth: Seduction

Honda CR-V: Matthew’s Day Off (Extended Version)

Hyundai: All For One

Hyundai Genesis Coupe: High Power Business Tips – Gaining an Edge

Hyundai Veloster Turbo: Cheetah

Hyundai Genesis R-Spec: Faster Acting

Hyundai Genesis Coupe R-Spec: Think Fast

Hyundai Elantra: Victory Lap

Kia Optima: A Dream Car. For Real Life. [Extended Version]

Lexus GS350: Beast

Mazda: Revolution

Suzuki Kizashi: Sled

Toyota Camry : It’s Reinvented

Toyota Camry Hybrid: Two Worlds

Toyota Camry: The Camry Effect: Connections

Volkswagen Beetle: The Dog Strikes Back

Volkswagen Beetle: The Bark Side (Teaser for The Dog Strikes Back)