Current Charlotte Auto News
Top 5
Snazzy Compact Cars for Driving in Charlotte, NC
Driving around Charlotte can be a fun way to spend the afternoon. From the winding country roads out near Union County to the fast paced I-95 that carries you right to the fun spots of downtown, nothing beats a sunny day cruising around the Queen City! One thing for sure is that Charlotte is a big city with lots of fun things to see and do, so if you’re going to enjoy all it has to offer, you better get yourself a fun and sporty compact car that gets great gas mileage! Here’s the Top 5 compact cars you’ll see around town:

Top 5 Compact Cars:

1. Ford Focus Great fuel economy, a sporty look, and a roomier, upscale interior has folks in the Charlotte area loving the Ford Focus. Offering 26/36 mpg city/highway, the Focus gets you to all your favorite places around The Queen City and leaves you with some money in your wallet for some downtown fun. The Focus ST comes with a powerful turbo-charged engine and superb handling, making it a top performer.

2. Chevrolet Cruze - If you’re looking for a high quality and high performance compact car, the Chevrolet Cruze definitely delivers. The interior is roomy and comfortable and the fuel efficient design will have you cruising all the way from the Charlotte Motor Speedway to Carowinds Amusement Park without even thinking about a gas station stop! Tons of options are available including remote keyless entry, rearview camera, rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, and more!

3. Honda Civic - The Honda Civic is a popular choice yet again this year. The smooth ride and excellent standard features keeps this fun to drive car at the top of reviewer’s lists. It offers a sound resistant cabin for a quiet ride and even boasts a new feature that reads your incoming text messages out loud for you allowing a safe trip to your favorite concert at the Time Warner Arena without missing important messages!

4. Mazda 3 Sporting a powerful engine with a fun to drive sporty feel, the Mazda 3 offers a lot of upscale options drivers will love. Cruise to the Carolina Panthers game in style and be prepared to enjoy the envious looks you will get when you arrive in this new sleek Mazda design! They’ll be even more jealous when they hear it gets 30/41 mpg city/highway!

5. Kia Soul This spunky little car comes loaded with cool features and offers up plenty of room for everything you want to buy at the Concord Mills Outlet Shops! The Soul provides a smooth ride, even on Charlotte’s country back roads and comfy seats for the long haul. Standard features include Bluetooth, satellite radio, steering wheel mounted audio/cruise controls and USB and auxiliary inputs for the tech savvy.

- Editorial Staff
The Smart Car Buyer
What to Bring With You When Car Shopping
If you are getting ready to buy your first car or to replace your current car, you have a lot of things to consider, including the make, model and color, and how much money you are willing to part with. Before you head on over the dealership, there are some items that you should bring with you to ensure that the transaction goes smoothly.

It almost goes without saying, but you need to remember to bring your valid driver’s license. This is something people forget sometimes, especially if they have been relying on other people to take them places. If you don’t have your license, you won’t be able to take any cars for a test drive or drive your new car home. You should also bring proof of insurance.

DO YOUR RESEARCH Unless you are fabulously wealthy and don’t care about losing money, you will need to do some research before going out car shopping. Looking up information online about the types of cars you are interested in will help you narrow your focus when you are out looking at available vehicles.

If you have a particular car in mind, research and print out the dealer’s invoice price and take it with you. This is invaluable information to have when you are negotiating with the salesperson. Put your printouts in a folder, along with the details of any incentives or rebates that you have discovered.

REVIEW THE REVIEWS Another useful thing to bring is a printout of trustworthy reviews of the cars you are most interested in. You can consult these pages while looking at particular cars, to refresh your memory about why you were interested in buying them.

If you don’t feel confident in your ability to properly evaluate a car, you should consider bringing a friend or family member who knows something about cars. If the dealer senses that you have no idea what you are looking at, there is a temptation to take advantage of you.

It’s also a good idea to bring the phone number of a trusted mechanic, in case you want to make an appointment to get a used car checked out. Your mechanic may even be willing to meet you at the location to do an inspection. This is particularly useful when you are considering buying a used car from a dealership you’ve never been to before or when you are evaluating a car being sold by a private party.

- Editorial Staff
Top 5 Mini Vans for Driving in Charlotte, NC
Nestled along the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlotte, NC offers more than a great view. Driving enthusiasts will appreciate the scenic byways, historical sights and natural beauty of the roadways in Charlotte. Take a drive in one of the top five minivans best suited for the nature of the roads in Charlotte.

2014 Kia Sedona

Driving through Crowders Mountain State Park in Charlotte offers plenty of pit stops. From hiking on mountain trails to climbing up natural rock walls, drivers who love an offroad adventure should drive along Route 1125 to Pinnacle Road where Montonia Road becomes 2292 and 1104. Drive along Route 2292 to Route 161 that heads north until you reach I-85 on exit 8. For such an adventurous drive, opt for the powerful yet sporty Kia Sedona. Featuring a V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, you'll be able to navigate the mountain roads with ease.

2014 Honda Odyssey

Take Route 1306 to the small town of Ophir on Lovejoy Road for a weaving drive through Uwharrie National Forest. Pass a cliff called Jumping Off Rock over blue waterways on your way into the old gold mining town of Ophir hidden in the mountain side and covered by majestic green trees. In the Honda Odyssey, spacious seating and an oversized cargo area will grant you the freedom to spend the day driving through this mountain village while having everything you need on hand. Combine that with the clever features of the interior, which include an optional vacuum cleaner, and you have a minivan that is built for function, as well as fun.

2014 Ford Transit Connect Van

Take the Grassy Island Crossing Byway for a historical haunt in the Pee Dee Lakes and Uwharrie area. Once you pass the Grassy Islands north of Blewett Falls Lake, you'll be in the remote and protected wildlife habitat of Pee Dee. Watch for waterfowl and enjoy fishing at Blewett Falls Lake before heading back onto the road. In the Ford Transit Connect Van, appreciate the wondrous beauty of the Grassy Island Crossing Byway while maintaining an affordable drive thanks to 21/29 mpg city/highway. A six-speed shiftable automatic keeps this minivan fun to drive.

2014 Nissan NV200

Continuing on the Uwharrie Scenic Road will take you along Carolina's Slate Belt full of geological history. Situated in the Uwharrie National Forest, a drive on this road will afford you plenty of scenic charm and road side stops. Check out Lake Tillery and Badin Lake located along Pee Dee River. Pack up the entire family along with picnic supplies and geo cashing equipment in the Nissan NV200. This spacious and stylish high end van affords drivers a 24/24 mpg city/highway. The front wheel drive capability of this compact cargo van will give you both space and functionality in one minivan.

2013 Chrysler Town and Country

If you are interested in the native American history of Charlotte, make the drive along the winding Pee Dee River. Stop at local haunts to learn about the local legends of the river and community. Follow the river all the way to the Atlantic Ocean in South Carolina if you are feeling froggy. Along the drive, you'll have maximum entertainment options for any passengers thanks to the recently upgraded rear seat system featuring a Blu Ray player and USB ports. Tack on a trailer with ease thanks to the trailer sway control and you'll have everything you need for a sporty and entertaining ride. Editorial Staff
Alternate Fuels for Vehicles: A Conundrum
The first annual Earth Day in 1970 was a yawner, as far as I was concerned at the time. As I looked over my shoulder to glance at the news headlines about Earth Day in Detroit, the automotive capital of the world, I shrugged and continued on to my next engineering class. Honestly, I didn’t think about it too much for the next 20 years.

By the early 1990’s, President George H. W. Bush pushed for and signed two sweeping bills requiring both government and private fleets to use an increasing percentage of alternately fueled vehicles. In those days there seemed to be two huge motivations in finding alternatives to using gasoline to power vehicles - cleaner air, and a reduction in the amount of crude oil the USA must import (the energy security issue). Those bills provided the impetus for billions of dollars of research and development on a wide range of fuels and technologies that could possibly be a substitute for gasoline.

Today, after 20+ years of aggressive research, alternate fuel vehicles continue to be a conundrum, a disappointing small niche, while the auto industry is investing heavily in lighter, cleaner vehicles that are gasoline and diesel-based. Why?

Here are some highly summarized versions of what has happened to various major alternate fuel strategies over the last 20years:

Compressed Natural Gas Vehicles
In the early 1990’s these were deemed the “go-to sweetheart” of all the alternative fuel possibilities. After initiating and managing the natural gas vehicle (NGV) programs at GM, this writer left GM to become the NGV General Manager at the nation’s largest natural gas distributor, Southern California Gas Company. This fuel is very clean and very plentiful in the US. Unfortunately, it is costly to store compressed natural gas (CNG) onboard the vehicle, and also very costly to build a nationwide network of public refueling stations for CNG.

These factors, combined with winter price spikes for natural gas, made it difficult for consumers to adopt. Consequently, the biggest users have been buses and trucks that consume a lot of fuel and are re-fueled and maintained in a large centralized depot. With the help of the federal government, the transit bus industry has widely adopted natural gas, resulting in a significant improvement in air quality in many major cities. However, it remains a fuel that is not widely marketed to the general public.

Electric Vehicles
In the late 1980’s, GM’s Chairman Roger Smith made a decision to develop the EV-1, a pure electric vehicle. Despite the awareness that advanced battery chemistry technology was needed, GM opted to develop the EV-1 with heavy, old technology - lead-acid batteries. This seemed to be a cost and risk decision, as the batteries were cheaper and had been “tried and true” for many decades as a reliable technology. The results, in the consumer’s hands, were an embarrassment.

In southern California, for instance, the advertised range of travel of was well over 100 miles; however, this soon dropped to 50 or even 40, as using the A/C or going up a small hill proved to greatly impact the range. By the late 1990’s, the EV-1 had been reduced to a novelty.

Since the EV-1, many automakers and startup companies have spent billions in search of a lighter-weight, higher-energy, longer-lasting vehicle battery chemistry. Although much improvement has been made, mass appeal on a large volume scale is still elusive.

Although 100% clean on a vehicle basis, the pollution from making the electricity is still with us. This, combined with a lack of recharging infrastructure, vehicle costs, and battery replacement have prohibited wide-scale adoption. However, this is improving in some urban centers.

Propane-Powered Vehicles
Propane, as a vehicle fuel, is cleaner than gasoline, much easier to store than natural gas, and widely available. Only recently, however, have fuel-injected technologies for propane-powered engines been developed by major automakers. As with natural gas, these are being marketed to operators of fleet vehicles, such as school buses or utility trucks. There are publically accessible propane fuel dispensers, but they are still not nearly as convenient as gasoline stations. Filling up must, by necessity, require careful planning lest you become stranded.

Ethanol-based Fuel
E85 is 85% corn-based alcohol and 15% gasoline. It is cleaner than gasoline and must be used only in an automaker-certified “Flex Fuel” vehicle. The engine and fuel system components have been changed since the fuel is corrosive. Although E85 may seem cheaper at the pump (in major cities), an E85 vehicle gets worse gas mileage than gasoline, resulting in higher costs per mile of driving.

Farmers in the US have done a good job of lobbying for more corn-based fuel for vehicles, although some have argued that this success has resulted in a negative impact on food prices for consumers. The US government has just recently announced that E10 (90% gasoline/10% ethanol) can be used without having the flex fuel option from the automakers. However, the technical community among automakers has quickly announced that use of E10, in non-Flex Fuel” vehicles, will void the warranty. So proceed with caution.

Hybrid Vehicles
Hybrid means that the vehicle is using an assortment of technologies combined with a smaller gasoline engine to conserve energy, while still providing the performance and convenience that consumers desire. Hybrid vehicles will deliver a cleaner footprint compared to a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle, but the trade-off is cost and maintenance.

The vehicle will have more engineering and advanced components, thus resulting in a higher vehicle price and more expensive long-term maintenance programs. Engineers indicate that the total energy efficiency from the original source to the wheels of the vehicle is degraded, due to the involved process of providing “sufficient clean and convenient power to the wheels”.

Hydrogen is the most abundant substance in the universe. For vehicle applications, researchers have studied both compressed hydrogen (similar to the natural gas vehicle strategy) as well as hydrogen-based fuel cells. In the case of fuel cells, 20 years of research have indicated that each vehicle would need a “miniature refinery” on board in order to make and store hydrogen sufficiently.

To date, these efforts have not resulted in the identification of cost-effective solutions for consumers. However, it is an area in which advanced research is occurring on inexpensive ways to “crack” the H2O (water) molecule to allow cost effective processing and use of hydrogen to power a vehicle….and all you would need to do is fill up with your garden hose. I, for one, can’t wait!

What about gasoline and diesel?
It is very interesting to follow the logic of an engineer. Automotive engineers have long indicated that very effective clean air and fuel economy strategies are available at our fingertips. There are a small number of factors in auto design that materially impact fuel consumption and efficiency. Among those are aerodynamics, weight, stickiness of the tires, engine efficiency and transmission gearing. By optimizing these factors for gasoline of high technology diesel-powered vehicles, very significant gains could possibly be made.

My personal view is that the engineers knew this all along, but with all of the alternative fuel research over the last 20+ years focus on improving these basics has largely been ignored. I have personally heard engineers say: “Yes, internal combustion engine technology has been with us for over 100 years, but we have yet to realize the full potential of efficiency gains that are possible”.

In 2012, the Federal government signed a historic agreement with automakers providing aggressive fuel economy targets by 2025. Average fuel economy will need to be 54.5 miles per gallon for cars. Within this context we are now starting to see aggressive new fuel economy technologies within the gasoline and clean diesel power systems.

A prime example is the emerging onslaught of 8, 9 and even 10-speed transmissions. Automakers are realizing as they manage the gearing, they can match performance and economy needs of consumers with smaller, higher-technology engines.

The need for clean alternatives will always be with us and continues to drive engineers to research, invent, develop and production-ize. What the last 20 years has taught is that:

  1. 1. We all must be good stewards of natural resources, that
  2. 2. Engineering breakthroughs can and do occur, that
  3. 3. Investors are willing to take chances, that
  4. 4. Needs and wants for personal transportation functionality, convenience, cost and design are strong (i.e. the voice of the customer), and
  5. 5. When the customer’s needs and wants are met, investors are rewarded.

Let’s all hope that 2014 will a year of great developments in personal transportation.

About Author John Weber

John Weber-Author

Offering a true insider’s perspective, John has provided automotive-related insight to the corporate conference rooms of General Motors Corporation, Isuzu Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, J.D. Power and Associates and others, covering a wide range of topics involving product policy and strategy, product development, quality, manufacturing and customer satisfaction.

A member of the Society of Automotive Engineers boasting degrees in both mechanical engineering and business, John is additionally recognized as an automotive industry expert by the US Department of Energy. When not providing valuable expert content to, he enjoys traveling with his wife around the globe.

Cleaning Your Car CD-Player
The whole experience of traveling in the auto changed with the introduction of the CD-player. For the previous generation, a similar experience came about with the introduction of cassettes and the infamous 8-track players. These products represented the first time someone could tailor their listening pleasure in the auto.

Technology continues to evolve, of course, and people have many ways to enjoy their own tunes while on the move. The CD-player is in millions of cars, however, and many individuals continue to use it as a daily source of pleasure. There is the issue of both the CD and the player getting dirty and needing periodic cleaning to get the best music quality.

PERIODIC MAINTENANCE Taking a few moments for periodic maintenance will extend the life of the CD while improving the listening experience. Some players are mounted in a manner that requires professional cleaning. If, however, you can easily unmount the player you use, the process is simple and follows a series of steps that anyone can use. For the project you need WD-40, Q-tips, ethanol and some dry rags. The steps to follow include:

- Remove all CD's from the player and carousel. Once the trays are empty, extend the tray and remove the fuse. This leaves the optics accessible for cleaning.

- Depending on how the player is mounted, remove it and unscrew the cover. Make sure you place the screws in a safe place.

WD-40 AND BEYOND - Spray some WD-40 on a Q-Tip. Use this to lubricate the laser rails. Never use excessive force, but you can gently remove the laser by moving the plastic cog wheels. This allows the entire rail to be lubricated.

- Put some ethanol on a fresh Q-tip. Use one of the dry rags to squeeze out the excess, you want the swab to be damp but not dripping.

- Very gently clean the lens of the laser optics with the damp swab. Use a steady, soft stroke to cover the surface several times.

LET IT DRY - Allow the lens to dry. Check from several angles to ensure that there is not smearing or streaking.

- Once dry, replace the lid and tighten (but don't over tighten) the screws.

- Once the player is back in place, replace the fuse but don't insert a CD. Power the unit up and listen for the laser and optics to re-seat and slide into place. If there is any problem, don't force anything. In some cases, you may need to remove the fuse and unit and reseat the laser optics on the rail. Repeat as above.

FINISHING TOUCHES - Select a freshly-cleaned CD and insert it on the rack.

- Turn on the system and enjoy fresh quality sounds.

The journey is always more enjoyable when you have your favorite tunes playing along. Taking care of your CD-player will give you many years of musical pleasure.

- Editorial Staff
Car Clubs, Auto History and More in Charlotte, NC
Charlotte, NC, best known to drivers as the Home of NASCAR, is located along the southern edge of North Carolina and the border of South Carolina. As a result this is a popular city for drivers cruising along the mountain roads of the southeast. As the largest city in North Carolina, and one of the least walkable metropolitan cities in the U.S., expect to find an elaborate maze of roads, bypasses and highways with plenty of pit stops along the way.

A visit to Charlotte for a driver should begin with the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This museum gives honor to the best NASCAR drivers with an induction into the Hall of Fame. Just a few of the drivers to achieve this status include Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Sr., Junior Johnson, Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett. Drivers in Charlotte are most likely to see NASCAR officials and hosts eating lunch on a weekday or cruising home from work as offices of more than 75 percent of NASCAR employees are located here.

If you prefer to experience drag racing, either as an amateur performer or a bystander, take note of the NHRA dragstrip and zMAX Dragway in and around Charlotte. Enjoy a restful night sleep at an upscale hotel located in the Metrolina Speedway and Sports Center. In addition to accommodations, this speedway rebuild includes an outdoor racing track, roof top state park and shopping opportunities. You'll be surrounded by all things speed with a stay at this Sports Center.

Consider taking a drive over to the Universal Technical Institute branch of the NASCAR Technical Institute. Located in the bordering town of Mooresville, which is best known as Race City USA, this educational institution regularly hosts campus events. Check out their calendar on your ride into Charlotte to see if you can catch programs, such as the Monster Jam Open House featuring the Grave Digger monster truck or the Top Tech Challenge in which high school students compete in automotive tests to win scholarships to the school. With some luck, some of the institute's supporters, such as NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace, may be at a NTI event.

After a long day of driving through the racing city of the southeast, if you want to fill your stomach check out the local food trucks. Ideal for eating on the run, simply park your car and walk up to these gut busting and tasty restaurants on wheels. If you are in town for the weekend, take note of Food Truck Friday and Sizzlin' Saturday that are regularly held throughout the year. On these evenings, you can experience the heart of Charlotte culture while rubbing shoulders with the locals. In addition to a wide range of food options from spicy barbeque to fried foods worthy of fairs, you'll enjoy live entertainment that will keep you going long after you are weary from a day of driving.

- Editorial Staff


2014 Audi RS 5 Review
Ever since it was first introduced as a two-door coupe at the Geneva Motor Show in 2010, the Audi RS5 has been the car to beat in the sub-$100,000 performance car segment. The German automaker looks all set to maintain its dominance in this space with the 2014 version of the RS5 as well.

Like its predecessors, the 2014 RS5 is pure muscle. The car’s main claim to fame continues to be its monstrous, naturally aspirated 450 horsepower V8 engine. The RS5’s seven-speed S tronic transmission, Quattro all-wheel drive system and finely tuned adaptive suspension help propel the car from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a zippy 4.2 seconds.

The exterior of the 2014 R5 maintains the look and feel of previous year models. The car has the same front and rear fascia accents and flared fenders of previous models. It features a honeycomb grill, deep front air dams, aluminum finish mirrors, and dual oval exhaust pipes. The interior comes standard with adjustable sport seats, fixed headrests and a sport steering wheel with a flat bottom. As befits a car with a starting price tag in excess of 60,000, the Audi RS5’s available features include a high-end Bang & Olufsen sound system, a GPS navigation system, reverse camera and ceramic brake rotors.

The Audi RS5 comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, xenon headlights and wide body exterior panels that give the car a lean muscular look. The car also features an automatic rear spoiler that deploys when the vehicle hits 75 miles per hour. The vehicle comes standard with 4-wheel antilock brakes, a rear differential system, stability control, a blind-spot alerting system and a cornucopia of other safety features including eight airbags.

The 2014 Audi RS5 delivers a decent 16 miles per gallon in city driving conditions and 23 mpg in highway driving conditions. In terms of rivals, the car’s main competitors continue to be the BMW M3 and the Mercedes Benz C63. All three cars are V8 models and deliver more or less the same performance at around the same price range. But with BMW looking poised to drop its M3 next year, the Audi RS5 could soon find itself the sole player in the V8 class of performance cars.

- Editorial Staff
2013 Lexus LS 600h L Review
The 2013 Lexus LS 600h L is a full-size luxury sedan that has many similarities to the 2012 model, but does contain many cabin changes as well.

Among the changes are more aggressive styling on the exterior, due to chassis reinforcements. There is also a new full-time all-wheel drive system that is available on the hybrid. It still has 438 horsepower and can go from zero to 60 miles in just five and a half seconds. And--most importantly--the fuel economy is just the same: 19 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles on the highway.

With a 5.0-liter V8 gas engine, that has two electric motors with a large battery pack in the trunk. Thanks to the low emissions that it puts out, the 2013 Lexus LS 600h L meets the Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II certification. This new model features an over-sized grille and a reworked rear, which has a chrome strip running down the license-plate area and connecting to the taillights.

The inside has a completely new dashboard that integrates a 12.3-inch navigation LCD screen. The infotainment systems are controlled by the Remote Touch system, and you can change the temperature, steering wheel, seats, radio station or connect to your phone with a few touches of the controller. There is plenty of passenger room, especially in the back seats. The seats are made from high-quality leather and wood trim is used extensively in the cabin.

Some of the other standard features of the 2013 Lexus LS 600h L include: heated seats and steering wheel, 19-inch speakers, Bluetooth connectivity, USB/AUX input jacks, XM satellite radio, HDD navigation, a 450-watt Mark Levinson sound system that includes a six-disc CD changer, a Parking Guide System, automatic dual-zone climate control and a sunroof. The Premium Package upgrades your new Lexux to a four-zone climate control, a DVD rear-seat entertainment system, wireless headphones, rear-seat audio controls and heated and ventilated rear-seats.

For those wanting the full experience, upgrading to the Executive Class Seating Package will get you a fixed console in place of the middle rear seat while the right seat reclines and has a multifunction massager with leg rest. The rear-seat entertainment system has dual screens and a wood-rimmed table with a cooling box is added so that passengers can have a refreshing beverage at their fingertips.

- Editorial Staff

Charlotte Car Dealers

Top 5 04 Snazzy Compact Cars for Driving in Charlotte, NC The Smart Car Buyer File000530964878 What to Bring With You When Car Shopping Local 01 Top 5 Mini Vans for Driving in Charlotte, NC National Gas Alternate Fuels for Vehicles: A Conundrum Tip File00058871808 Cleaning Your Car CD-Player