Couple unknowingly drive 14 miles with drunk guy passed out on trunk lid

We’ve all been there. You and your better half climb in the car after an evening out, and as you’re cruising down the freeway … BAM! A cop pulls you over to tell you that a drunk guy is passed out on your trunk lid. Wait, what? That’s never happened to you? Well, it happened recently to a couple in Memphis, Tenn.

According to WHBQ, Carl and Hazel Webb left the Barbecue Fest in downtown Memphis on the evening of May 18. They had backed their late-model Ford Taurus into a parking spot, and when they returned the lot was pretty dark and the cars were packed in. The couple approached the car from the front, hopped in, and headed for home.

“We came down the aisle, walked right to the car, opened it up on both sides then we got in the car,” Webb told WHBQ. Unbeknownst to the Webbs, though, they had a stowaway aboard. Or rather, outboard.

About 15 minutes later, as the Webbs were cruising down the interstate toward home, a Memphis police officer pulled them over.

“The officer came up and he said, ‘Mister, are you aware there’s a body on your trunk?,’ and that did not register,” said Webb. “He goes, ‘Mister, I’m not messing with you. There’s a body on your trunk.’ So I got out. We walked around and sure enough, there he was still hanging on, still unconscious, just lying there.”

There, on the Taurus’ narrow decklid, was an extremely drunk guy in a Hawaiian shirt. He had apparently crawled up onto the Webbs’ car, curled up on his side, and passed out in the parking lot. He somehow managed to cling to the car for 14 miles at highway speeds.

Webb credits the slight lip on the trunk lid for holding the blotto man in place. Webb might want to give himself some credit for an exceptionally smooth driving style.

It took forever for the officer to wake up the stowaway, and when he eventually did the guy was still so drunk and confused that he briefly wandered off into oncoming traffic. The cop snatched him back to the shoulder before anything could happen.

The drunk guy was bundled into the MPD cruiser and taken away, but there’s no word on his identity or whether charges were filed.

Webb told WHBQ that he wasn’t angry at the drunk guy, but he did hope that the incident taught him a lesson.

“I hope he takes a good look at where he put himself and the hazard that he had open up to himself. It would’ve been death.”

[Source: Autoblog]

Mobile parenting tool | 2018 Honda Odyssey First Drive

Minivans are made for parents, and there’s something about having children that changes one’s perspective about minivans. What was once an embarrassment becomes an object of desire or a source of quiet pride. Even if one doesn’t have kids, certain minivans can be appealing, be they guilty pleasures or not.

Take the Chrysler Pacifica, for instance. We’re not ashamed to say we think it’s a fine vehicle for hauling baggage or bodies (alive ones, of course), or that we found the plug-in Pacifica Hybrid to be downright exciting. Pacifica set a standard for a new generation of minivans at a time when crossovers have nearly cemented themselves as the popular, less-embarrassing family vehicle. The new Honda Odyssey has its work cut out for it, then, despite being the best-selling minivan in the US for the past six years. A trip to the Big Island of Hawaii with wife and toddler (and car seat, and stroller, and various toys, and lots of spare diapers) in tow was our test case to see if the Odyssey has what it takes to win over parents.

The styling of the minivan is nothing too adventurous, though it’s more complicated than the Pacifica. Exterior lines have a number of curves and bends, making it more interesting to behold, if slightly less elegant than the Chrysler. That feeling carries over to the interior of the Odyssey as well. The angular central touchscreen and the controls below it form the visual focal point, giving the cabin a tech-forward feeling, as does the all-digital instrument panel. In the Elite trim level, a strip of mood lighting separates the upper and lower dash, accentuating the futuristic look. As busy as it appears, though, it all ends up being very intuitive to use, and the Odyssey contains a number of swell features that add to its functionality, as we’d come to learn over the course of our time with it on the island.

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Under the hood, Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 provides 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It doesn’t sound as macho as the Pentastar in the Chrysler Pacifica, but it does its job just as well. Most Odyssey trims mate the engine to a nine-speed automatic transmission, but Touring and Elite instead use a brand-new 10-speed automatic. We found that the 10-cog box in our tester makes the Odyssey easy to drive smoothly, as it finds the right gear without hunting around. The transmission knows when to hold onto a gear, which makes climbing several thousand feet up the mountains of Hawaii an easy, smooth task. It also drops to the correct gear for quick acceleration without having to poke the D/S button into Sport mode, though having that option is a nice touch, too.

For those who want to take control over swapping gears, the Odyssey is equipped with a pair of paddle shifters mounted to the back of the steering wheel. We found these useful when descending mountain roads, using lower gears to keep the load off the brakes, but with one flaw: in the amount of time it takes to get to a lower gear, the lack of resistance from the engine is long enough that gravity causes the Odyssey to accelerate. This gives the powertrain more momentum to overcome when the gear engages.

The Odyssey’s dual-pinion electronic power steering system has a tighter steering ratio than the outgoing model, with an 18-percent reduction lock-to-lock. The steering didn’t feel any quicker than we expected, but it did feel natural and appropriately responsive. There wasn’t much feedback beyond a progressive buildup of weight as we dialed in steering angle, but the Odyssey reacted smoothly to our inputs, again making it easy to drive calmly. Its suspension keeps larger body motions in check, maintaining composure over large bumps and swells, though the Pacifica feels better at soaking up some of the higher-frequency road irregularities. We found that not only was the Odyssey a breeze to drive, despite its size, it was sometimes even (dare we say it?) fun as we piloted it a few thousand feet above sea level through the scenic mountain roads of the Big Island. Furthermore, your author’s wife noted that it was the least carsick she has ever been as a passenger on curvy roads, in the heat, with the air conditioning on blast – a combination that usually adds up to a lost lunch and the remainder of the day completely ruined.

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Despite its size, the Odyssey is surprisingly easy to place within its lane, tracking straight and true on the highway to an impressive degree. The EX trim level (starting at $34,800) and above offer adaptive cruise control (with which we didn’t encounter enough traffic to offer an opinion on) and lane keep assist (which we had plenty of miles to use). While the latter is not quite as refined and precise as, say, Mercedes-Benz’s system, the Odyssey’s augmented driving helper does an excellent job of keeping this big brick of a car, full of your most precious cargo, right where it should be on the road. It’ll nag you if you it senses you’re not providing steering input – as it ought – but it does a fantastic job of aiming this car along a curvy highway. Not only does lane keep assist provide an extra margin of safety to an attentive driver, it reduces the already minimal amount of corrections needed steering through turns. Passengers prone to motion sickness will commend your driving abilities in the Odyssey, especially with the help of the line-watching aids.

A huge part of the Odyssey’s comfort is in its quietness. Very little road noise comes in through the chassis, and the acoustic glass (windshield on EX-L and above, plus the front side windows on our Elite) means wind noise is at an absolute minimum. With the radio off, the test kid asleep, and the Hawaiian panorama of lava fields and grazing wild goats whizzing past the windows, this car is downright serene. We’re hoping for a near-future test drive in a lower trim level, on Michigan’s crumbling roads, with Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast piped through the speakers to see how this scenario holds up outside of a tropical paradise. We think it still sounds like a fine Sunday drive – we can always find goats at the nearby petting zoo.

One of our favorite, most useful features in the Odyssey is the Magic Slide seating in the second row. You can remove the center seat, and then slide the outboard seats from side to side, and forward and backward. It allows easy access to the third row, especially if a child seat prevents you from folding the chair forward. It also lets second-row occupants sit together, or, in the case of fighting siblings, separately in outboard positions. For our time with the car, with just one test toddler in the back, we found the feature helpful for getting him in and out of his rear-facing car seat. We could slide the chair to the door to put him in, then slide him back to the center of the vehicle, where it’s safest, and easier to pass snacks back to him. Little guy loves snacks.

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The aforementioned infotainment touchscreen features prominently on the center stack, jutting out from the dash to make it easy to reach with just a glance out of the corner of one’s eye. While its angular geometry isn’t the staid, conservative design some might expect from a family hauler, it provides a bit of character without sacrificing its usefulness. It’s certainly a more thoughtful layout that should help people like this guy keep from flipping their lid, even if having the drive select buttons on the center console takes some getting used to. There’s even a regular old volume knob within easy reach of the driver (the lack of which can actually be a deal-breaker for certain customers according to our own anecdotal evidence). The touchscreen is easy to use, and snappy in its response. It uses large, square tile icons for the various apps, and they can be dragged around to arrange them as the driver likes. Three of the apps can be moved to the top corner of the screen as more permanent shortcuts for the features the driver uses the most. If you hate that – and you won’t – just use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Our second favorite parent-focused feature, besides those sliding seats, lives within the touchscreen. It services that latent gene that triggers when a parent drives their newborn home from the hospital – you know, the one that makes you wish you had eyes in the back of your head, or at least one of those giant mirrors bus drivers use for glaring at kids. To satisfy this biological imperative to keep an eye on our young passengers, Honda offers the CabinWatch system in the Touring trim and Elite trim levels. This overhead camera offers a bird’s-eye view of the rear occupants – even rear-facing ones – displaying its images onto the infotainment touchscreen. Mom or Dad can pinch to zoom in on a specific kid, and it even has freakin’ night vision. If the kids are up to something, you can hit the CabinTalk icon (available on EX-L Nav trim and up) on the touchscreen to project your reprimands through the car speakers, or even through the Odyssey’s available wireless headphones. Our rear-facing test kid thought it was hilarious to hear his Papa’s voice through the speakers, so we used this function a lot on our drive trying to earn that belly laugh from the back seat.

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For those longer journeys, there’s also an app that lets passengers control rear entertainment and climate control through their mobile device, or even add songs to the car’s audio playlist (the driver gets a veto vote on the infotainment touchscreen). This all helps keep them from bugging Mom and Dad to change the music or the temperature while they’re driving. There’s also a trip-tracking feature that shows the progress to your destination on the rear entertainment screen, similar to the flight tracker airlines offer on their back-of-the-seat displays. That app is called, appropriately, “How Much Farther?” (Apparently, “Are We There Yet?” is already copyrighted.)

There’s a ton of room in the Odyssey, too. Even the rear cargo space behind the third row is huge. Some people prefer a flat load space that is even with the bumper to easily plop in heavy items. The Odyssey, however, has a deep load floor. While it might make it a little more difficult to unload that 40-pound bag of cat litter, it provides more vertical room for storage, and has the added advantage of helping to keep your groceries from spilling out as soon as you open the liftgate. We were able to pile in a medium soft-sided cooler, a beach umbrella, two folding chairs, a stroller, a couple of large tote bags, a few loose beach towels, and some other random odds and ends behind the third row without it creeping up into our rear view. That deep well also accommodates the folding third row to fold flat if you need the extra space more than the extra seating.

Once your friends and their kids realize how cool the 2018 Honda Odyssey is, though, you’ll probably need to make full use of all available row of seats. Sure, the kind-of-hip Chrysler Pacifica feels poised to win over new converts to the minivan fan club. For buyers who are already all-in on the minivan concept, though, the Odyssey could be the more compelling choice. Especially in its top-of-the-line Elite trim, it offers parents – especially the one behind the wheel – and their young passengers a ton of features to make life easier.

Here’s our first look at the next-gen Jeep Wrangler interior

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After 10 years on the road, the current Jeep Wrangler JK is finally being put out to pasture. As expected, the new Wrangler is going to look a hell of a lot like the current model. Surprise, surprise. Until now, all we’ve been able to do is glimpse the occasional spy shot or well-done rendering. Our spy photographers finally managed to capture photos of the much-needed update to the interior.

Like the exterior, the new interior isn’t a huge departure. The overall design, unsurprisingly, is a mix of Jeep Renegade and outgoing Wrangler. All the switches and knobs are still on the center stack, necessary when the doors aren’t permanently attached. There are four auxiliary buttons in the bottom-right corner and what looks like electronic controls for the four-wheel-drive system and detachable sway bar on the left. The materials look to be a higher quality than the one in the current model, but a full judgment will have to wait until we literally get our hands on it.

A presumably body-colored panel runs the width of the dash, with big, round vents flanking the latest version of FCA’s wonderful UConnect infotainment system. The steering wheel appears to be an even newer design than what’s currently inside Jeep products, with a large, thick rim and the usual smattering of buttons. A tight close-up shot gives us a glimpse of the removable roof, though it’s not enough to show how it works.

There isn’t much new to see on the exterior. The Wrangler’s front and rear are still heavily camouflaged, and the entire body is covered in a detail-hiding wrap. The debut is drawing ever closer, so look for a full debut sometime in the next few months.

US fleetwide MPG reaches highest level in almost a year

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After years of promising gains, fleetwide fuel economy hit a three-year plateau for model years 2014 through 2016. The last few months of 2016 continued this disappointing trend as gas prices mostly remained low and large-vehicle sales remained strong. But 2017 may be the year overall fuel efficiency edges upward, as last month marked the highest fleetwide fuel economy for new vehicle sales in 11 months.

In April, new vehicles averaged 25.3 miles per gallon, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute’s (UMTRI) Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle.

That number for April 2017 is up 0.1 mpg from March. It equals last May’s figure, and is tied for the highest fuel economy since fleetwide numbers reached an all-time record 25.5 mpg in August 2014.

The increase may reflect the boost in sales for advanced-powertrain vehicles such as hybrids and plug-ins. Last month, US sales of such vehicles were up about 6.5 percent from a year earlier to about 38,000 units, while plug-in sales alone surged approximately 33 percent. A monthly record 1,292 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles were sold while Tesla continues to increase its deliveries of electric vehicles each quarter. Throughout the first four months of the year, US sales of hybrids and plug-ins have jumped about 18 percent from a year earlier.

The uptick may also reflect slightly higher gas prices. At the end of April, US fuel prices averaged about $2.39 a gallon, which was up about 8 percent from a year earlier, according to AAA. Notably, last month’s sales of Ford’s world-beating F-Series pickup trucks actually dropped slightly from a year earlier after advancing 10 percent for the first three months of the year. Ford’s April sales of almost 71,000 F-Series trucks were still almost double sales of hybrids and plug-ins from all automakers combined.

Last year was the third straight year model-year fleetwide fuel economy checked in at 25.1 mpg.

[Source: Autoblog]

Jeep and Ram could be spun off from FCA, says Marchionne

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Jeep is surely the biggest single feather left in the cap of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles portfolio. Under Sergio Marchionne’s leadership, Jeep went from fewer than 500,000 annual sales in 2008 to 1.4 million in 2016, and is on track for 2 million by 2018. Add in the brand’s legacy, status as one of the most recognizable nameplates in the world, and rabid fan base, and Jeep has extraordinary monetary value to its parent company.

Investors and analysts have certainly noticed Jeep’s inherent value. According to The Detroit Free Press, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas asked FCA chief Sergio Marchionne if he would ever consider spinning Jeep and Ram, FCA’s dedicated truck brand, into a separate corporate entity, and he responded with a simple “Yes.”

Jonas estimated Jeep’s worth in January of this year at $22 billion. Ram was valued at $11.2 billion.

Marchionne has a history of spinning off brands while keeping them part of FCA’s corporate umbrella. The most noteworthy example of this value maximization was with Ferrari, which now trades on the New York Stock Exchange and rakes in $3.4 billion in annual revenue and close to $435 million in net income, reports the Free Press. Marchionne still serves as chairman and CEO of Ferrari, and Fiat heir John Elkann owns 22 percent of the Italian marque’s shares.

Even if the offloading of Jeep and Ram into a separate entity would amount to little more than a profit-driven ownership change on paper, it would be huge news to the brands’ loyal fanbases. In any case, such a move would likely take years to actually happen and probably wouldn’t mean much at all to the products that Jeep and Ram produce. In other words, Jeep fans can keep the pitchforks in the shed … for now.

[Source: Autoblog]

Ford CEO Mark Fields’ pay, pensions, perks up 19 percent

Ford Motor Co CEO Mark Fields’ salary, bonus and stock awards rose 8 percent to a total of $18.8 million in 2016, Ford said on Friday, while profit dipped a bit. Including pensions and perks, Fields made $22.1 million, up nearly 19 percent from $18.6 million the previous year.

His pension award was nearly $2 million higher in 2016.

The company said the compensation increase stemmed partly from performance bonuses based on a single-year target for 2016 and a portion of a goal for the three years through 2018.

Fields, 56, became CEO in summer 2014.

The company earned a pretax profit of $10.4 billion in 2016, down slightly from $10.8 billion in 2015.

Last week, the automaker said it expected lower earnings per share in the first quarter and a drop in pretax profit in 2017 to $9 billion due to increased spending on commodities, warranties and investments and a drop in sales volume.

After a strong run in sales for automakers since they emerged from the Great Recession earlier this decade, investors are watching to see whether the boom cycle is losing steam.

U.S. sales of new cars and trucks hit a record high of 17.55 million units in 2016. Automakers are set to release sales for March on Monday.

Ford also said on Friday that Executive Chairman Bill Ford, 59, received a salary, bonus and stock awards totaling $11.1 million in 2016, up 10 percent from 2015. His pension award rose about 5 percent to $1.45 million.

Last month Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said CEO Sergio Marchionne received $11.6 million (10.83 million euros) in pay and benefits for 2016.

[Source: Autoblog]

2017 Ford Focus EV’s range should grow by 45%

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The good news is that the 2017 Ford Focus Electric vehicle will likely have a longer single-charge range than the automaker previously indicated. The bad news is that the projected range is still substantially short of what a new EV like the Chevrolet Bolt will manage. The Focus will likely be a fair bit cheaper, though, so anyone who wants to trade dollars for miles will continue to have that option.

According to a spec sheet secured by Inside EVsthe Focus EV will feature a 33.5 kilowatt-hour battery, compared to the 23-kWh version for the 2016 model year. With capacity jumping by about 45 percent, the Focus EV’s single-charge range should grow from its current 76 miles to 110 or more. That would put the Focus EV on par with the single-charge range of the new Hyundai Ioniq Electric as well as the Nissan Leaf. Note that the Leaf is due – some would say overdue – for an upgrade, though, and so its range should jump as well.

“We don’t have any other news to share today until after EPA certification,” company representatives told AutoblogGreen. The company reiterated that the car would offer DC fast-charge capability, though.

Ford executive Kevin Layden, speaking at the SAE World Congress in Detroit in April, estimated that the 2017 Focus EV would have at least a 100-mile range, though the Blue Oval has bigger plans for future EVs. It pledged last December to invest $4.5 billion in electrification technology and CEO Mark Fields said this spring that the automaker would eventually develop an EV that can go 200 miles on a charge, kind of like the Bolt.

The Focus EV remains a fairly low-volume vehicle, though. Through July, Ford has sold only 504 units this year, down 47 percent from a year earlier. As for the 2017 Focus EV, no price tag was disclosed, though it’s likely to stay tethered to the $30,000 mark before federal and state rebates kick in. The Bolt will have an MSRP of $37,500.

[Source: Autoblog]