I joined Warren Brown, Washington Post journalist since 1982, on his chat line Friday, July 1, 2011.
This is how it started:
Hey Warren and friends:
It’s been a busy two weeks, but I wanted to answer a couple questions from two weeks ago.
Dodge Neon engines in MINIs
I had the opportunity to talk to a powertrain platform manager from Chrysler that worked in Compo Largo, Brazil.
Between 2001-2007 Chrysler and BMW had a joint venture building engines in Compo Largo, Brazil.
They built 1.6-liter engines that went into Dodge Neon cars in Europe. The engines also went into MINIs.
When Daimler bought Chrysler the joint venture was dissolved. The plant was sold to – drumroll, please – Fiat Brazil. Fiat now owns Chrysler! Howe’ver, the engines assembled in that plant, E100, are flex-fuel and meant for the Brazilian market.
I then talked to some folks at MINI. They say the parts were from Brazil, but the engine was assembled in oxford, UK.
The Neon 16v engine was a 2.0 liter, and while it shared some architecture, none of the internal components were shared. Some external items such as coil packs, accessory drives and covers were used on both engines.
MINI’s finished engine was built to a quality and efficiency standard, as is expected of a premium small car.
MINI transmissions were all Midlands or Getrag sourced, which also differs from the Neon.
In either case this was the 1st generation engine for mini. Currently, MINI has a “Prince” engine in the vehicles. This engine is BMW designed, PSA (Peugeot) built.
Ford Flex going away?
I went to a “Ford forward” meeting and they showed an inflatable airbag in the second row passenger seat seatbelt. That new seat belt will come out in next years Ford Flex and Ford Explorer. So, for now, the Flex will stay a part of the Ford lineup.
Jeep Patriot and Jeep Compass
At the Chrysler event I drove a Jeep Patriot and a Jeep Compass. Both are based on the Dodge Caliber platform. They both have the same interior and the same competitors; Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage. While both are doing well in sales you can expect the two of them to be homologated into one vehicle in a year or two.
Cars I’ve driven:
Ford F150 4X4 Crew cab
I picked Norma up at the Sacramento, CA airport. Norma is 77 years old and used to take care of my 90 year old great aunt when she was alive. I flew her out for our July 4th party. Norma didn’t say anything about the truck at first, but we made a couple of stops to buy things for the party. By the third stop she commented that she really like the running board that comes out automatically when she opened the door and the location of the grip bar. As we made more stops she looked in the back seat and commented that there was “oodles” of room back there. And she loved the metallic brown color. Her 11-year old Chevy Malibu is having air conditioning problems, so she really appreciated a good running air conditioner.
The SYNC interface does allow for i-Pod use. When I initiated bluetooth on Ford I tried to call my husband. I could hear him, but he couldn’t hear me. My husband played with it and finally figured out that the microphone in the truck wasn’t working.
The backup camera is spot on when backing up. The backup camera is positioned so that when you back up with the tailgate down the camera sees the tailgate and the sensor keeps beeping. And there are no front sensors.
BTW – the F150 says it gets 14 city/19 highway miles per gallon. I ran all over the city and a little on the highway and got 15.4 miles per gallon combined. Not bad for someone who doesn’t drive a truck all the time.
Not everyone can afford an $80,000 car, but if you can this is a beauty. My favorite thing about this 402 horsepower 443 lb-ft or torque beauty is the extra grip the seat gives you when you go around the corner. Everything from the harman/kardon 14-speaker stereo to the Bluetooth system was easy to use and intuitive.