Q. How do you feel about
“self-driving cars?” And is there any chance that
they will ever go on sale? – M.S., Denver
A. Federal safety officials are studying such autos. No real-world automated cars are being offered, but a few such autos are being tested in a couple of states that permit them, such as Nevada. Nobody knows for sure, but you might wait until maybe 2020 or 2025 to be able to buy a car with limited self-driving capability. Now, of course, you can buy cars that automatically stop at lower speeds without hitting objects without driver involvement. Also, vehicles are offered with such safety items as adaptive cruise control, which keeps a vehicle a safe distance from one ahead of it.
Q. Which is quieter a Lexus LS or the new Toyota Avalon? – P.C., (via internet)
A. I’ve driven both and can only guess that it’s the Lexus LS. You’d really need a sound meter to tell how much quieter it is than the Avalon.
Q. May I have the price of your Maserati 5000GT? — P.R., (via internet)
A. I never owned the rare, limited-production 1959-64 Maserati 5000GT. Once largely overlooked by collectors, only 33 were built on special order for millionaires from all walks of life. It’s valued at $425,000-$700,000, the last I looked. However, I’ve written about the 5000GT for the “Classics” section of this web site. No two 5000GTs were alike and many had custom bodies. I have, however, owned a used, classic 1968 Maserati Mistral, which cost considerably less than the 5000GT and wasn’t a limited production model.
Q. Your readers should know that a movie —“The Snake and Mongoose” — is scheduled to arrive at theaters this Sept. 6. It’s about the rivalry in the glory-filled dangerous formative years of organized drag racing. Specifically, it’s about competition between legendary drag racers Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, who are being portrayed by actors. – G.S., (via internet)
A. Thanks for letting us know. Organized drag racing long has drawn huge crowds, but has been largely overlooked by the media. Prudhomme flew from Los Angeles to my house in the Chicago area in the early 1970s to be interviewed for an article I was writing for Esquire magazine, which the magazine called “Drag Racing Goes Legit.” Prudhomme was a nice guy who acted as if the L.A.-Chicago trip for an interview was like a walk around the block.
Q. I thought that
vehicles (SUVs) were almost dead because of such things as high gas
prices. Now I read that Americans still are buying many of them.
– C.L., Arlington, Virginia
A. Americans are still buying a good number of SUVs, but they’re mainly no longer hulking, truck-based vehicles. Instead they’re car-based and get much better fuel economy. Many have luxury features. They often replace large or mid-sized cars.
Q. Does the new Mazda6 get better fuel economy with its manual or automatic transmission? It’s more fun driving the manual-transmission version. — P.R., (via internet)
A. Both the manual and automatic transmission versions of the Mazda6 are six-speed units. The automatic in the new Mazda6 is so good it virtually matches the manual in terms of performance and delivers nearly identical fuel economy. But the manual transmission does offer more driving fun—unless you’re stuck in heavy rush-hour traffic. See my review of the new Mazda6 in this web site.
Q. The interiors of many vehicles I’ve seen look as if the car is owned by slobs. Anybody know how many people keep the interiors of their vehicles neat? — J.C., Westchester, Illinois
A. The Hankook Tire Spring Gauge Index survey found that 78 percent of respondents claim they keep their vehicle “neat.” However, it was found that some cars still had everything from old breakfast sandwiches to a 15-year-old theater ticket. As an aside, it also was found that the most “classically” American road trip snack is potato chips.