Q. Have you seen the new
Volkswagen Beetle? — K.C., Dallas, Tex.
A. Yes, it was displayed at the recent New York International Auto Show in New York City. The new Beetle is a bit larger and sleeker, but retains the basic styling and shape of its predecessor, although it has Porsche 911 styling touches. There’s more rear-seat room, but, being six feet tall with long legs, my knees still touched the back of the driver’s seat when that seat was pushed back a reasonable distance.
Q. Will gasoline prices increase this summer maybe at much as $1 over the current $4 per gallon level now found in various parts of the country? – E.N., Chicago
A. They likely will go higher, especially in the Chicago and Los Angeles areas. Note that Chicago and its surrounding suburbs have high gas taxes that add a lot per gallon. Gasoline shortages also will contribute to higher fuel prices—across the country. Unlike 1973, when there were lines at gas stations, mainly because of fuel misallocations, there now is surging demand for gasoline from China, India, and Brazil, among other countries.
Q. Is it worthwhile buying a hybrid gasoline/electric car with the soaring gasoline prices? What about an all-electric car? – J.S., New York City
A. I’d wait on an electric and see what happens with gas prices. Otherwise you may be making a poor long-term financial decision by getting an electric. Mass-produced electrics now come from only two major automakers—Chevrolet and Nissan—and they’re costly. Also the the Nissan Leaf electric isn’t backed up by an onboard gasoline engine, such as the one in the Chevy Volt. The Volt is essentially an all-electric car, but that “backup” engine gives it a much longer driving range than the Leaf’s. A hybrid is a better bet. It’s not as costly as an electric and there are very roomy hybrids autos, crossover vehicles and smaller SUVs out there.
Q. I don’t want an electric or gas/electric hybrid auto. So what do I buy? — T.S., Urbana, Ill.
A. An increasingly large number of very fuel-efficient gasoline-engine cars are being offered. Gas engines now have fuel-enhancing features such as direct fuel injection. And cars and passenger trucks are being made more fuel-efficient with lighter materials and better aerodynamics, not to mention new tire technology. . In fact, gas-only vehicles will account for most vehicle sales for decades.
Q. I love high-performance cars. But how can automakers continue to make them if they must meet stringent upcoming federal fuel and emissions standards? — J.W., Los Angeles
A. Large automakers who build high-performance autos even now have found ways to make them more fuel-efficient with, for instance, smaller turbocharged engines and transmissions that have more gears that let an engine loaf at highway speeds. Beyond that, most regular vehicles they sell also will be more fuel-efficient. Automakers thus will meet federal fuel economy and emissions standards on a total annual production basis.
Q. Mechanics tell me my
2006-model Jaguar sedan should have its oil changed every 1,000 miles
because it’s driven about 5,000 miles a year, about half the time
in stop-and-go traffic. Others tell me to wait until it’s driven
at least 5,000 miles. — E.N. Seattle,
A. You shouldn’t have to change oil every 1,000 miles with such a modern car. But follow oil change information in your owner’s manual. Stop-and-go driving is considered “severe” driving by most automakers, and calls for more frequent oil changes. Still, you should be able to safely drive far more than 1,000 miles between oil changes.
Q. I hear that “original” old sports and muscle cars in good condition are worth more than ones that have been “restored.” Why is that? — J.W., Los Angeles
A. Some feel a non-restored car is “original only once” and thus is more valuable. On the other hand, it’s got a bunch of worn-out parts that will need replacing unless you don’t drive it. But then it deteriorates. One problem with “restored” cars—even those restored correctly—is that they may have many non-original parts and thus aren’t the “real thing.”