Consumer Car News: 9/15/02

September 15, 2002

Far from the madding crowds of Frankfurt, Detroit, and Tokyo, Paris is the auto-show equivalent of a breather. It’s rife with new product introductions, but against the romantic backdrop of Paris in the fall, even the high-revving Ferraris and exotics seem a bit more laid back. Paris is one of the most significant auto shows of the year, and beginning Sept. 26, TCC will be covering the Paris show with daily updates of concept and production-car launches. Today, though, we have a preview of what we expect will be announced at Paris. It’s inside now:
2002 Paris Auto Show Preview (9/8/2002)
2002 Paris Show Preview II (9/15/2002)


Ford will join GM and Chrysler in offering zero-percent on some of its 2003 models, the company said last Friday. The financing deal will apply to only seven of its vehicles for three-year loans; GM offers zero-percent financing on most of its vehicles except Saabs, Saturns and Hummers. Zero-percent financing and extended warranties helped fuel record August sales, where each of the American carmakers reported more than a 12-percent sales gain over August 2001. Ford also is offering zero-percent financing on many remaining 2002 vehicles to cut existing inventories.
August Sales: Big Boost for Detroit (9/8/2002)


Ford is taking GM’s zero-percent and blending it with programs offered by Mitsubishi to mint its new “Free Ride” campaign. The free ride offered by Ford? No interest on new 2002 vehicle loans — and no payments until next January. The delayed-payment plan also can be combined with available rebates on 2002 vehicles. GM reignited the zero-percent deals earlier this month, drawing Chrysler back into the fray and forcing Ford to offer no-interest loans on some of its brand-new 2003 vehicles. The Free Ride program, however, only applies to 2002 models; it stays in effect through Sept. 30.
Zero Percent a 9/11 Hero? by TCC Team (9/10/2002)



The updated ’03 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will introduce a new safety system designed to anticipate accidents and begin the process of protecting occupants ahead of time. Dubbed Pre-Safe, it relies on signals from various ride control sensors, such as Electronic Stability Control, to indicate when a vehicle is out of control and in high risk of an impact. When the threshold is crossed, Pre-Safe takes steps such as tightening up seatbelts, adjusting the passenger seat to an optimum position, and even closing windows and the car’s sunroof. Mercedes is pursuing a goal of making Pre-Safe even smarter by using radar and other active technology that would sense what is happening outside a car. That way, airbags and other safety systems could be triggered before an accident actually occurs. Pre-Safe will be launched on the redesigned S-Class and then rolled out on other Mercedes models, Roland Bachmann, senior manager of safety, told —TCC Team
Pre-Safe: Benz Preps For Crashes (9/15/2002)



Hyundai says that it inadvertently misquoted horsepower for engines used in 1.3 million vehicles built since the early 1990s. The company will offer compensation to buyers of some 400,000 vehicles with power overstated by more than four percent. A Hyundai spokesman told Reuters that the problems arose when horsepower quotes weren’t revised after emissions equipment was added to the engines; the problem, the news service reports, goes back to the 1992 model year. The compensation varies by model year; for 1999 vehicles and those sold earlier, Hyundai will offer five years of free roadside assistance. Owners of newer vehicles can opt for roadside assistance for 10 years or unlimited miles; an extended bumper-to-bumper warranty of six years or 72,000 miles; or powertrain warranty bumped to 12 years or 120,000 miles. The same issue affects some owners of the 2001-2002 Kia Optima, and those owners will be offered similar compensation.
2003 Hyundai Tiburon by John Pearley Huffman (2/25/2002)



The 2000-2002 Cadillac DeVille is being recalled for front seatbelt problems, GM said on Tuesday. About 280,000 DeVilles from those model years will be brought back after testing revealed the car’s seatbelts may not tighten enough before a crash. Neither GM nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has logged any complaints about the problem, which affects cars built between May 1999 and May 2002, some 269,000 of which have been sold in the U.S.


Escalade XS-500: The Most Powerful SUV?

2002 Cadillac Escalade XS-500

2002 Cadillac Escalade XS-500

2002 Cadillac Escalade XS-500

2002 Cadillac Escalade XS-500

2002 Cadillac Escalade XS-500

2002 Cadillac Escalade XS-500

Say you’re one of those NY Times faithful believers who hates SUVs, especially BIG SUVs. You’re going to have another excellent reason to hate this one when it blows by your effete Teutonic tourer on your favorite twisty two-lane!

Consider a supercharged 500-hp, 150-mph Cadillac Escalade that can blast from zero to 60 in 6.6 seconds, brake like a BMW and pull .88Gs on a skid pad, according to its builder, Dyno Proven Products of Mamaroneck, N.Y. Consider that it’s available (or could be soon) at a Cadillac dealership near you, complete with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.

About 200 XS-500 Escalades have been sold in the past year at prices ranging from $80,000 to $100,000, depending on additional options. The XS-500 package – which includes a zero-maintenance, noise-free “CoolCharger” system with high-flow air intake and dual “cat-back” exhausts, plus special engine control software, re-engineered suspension, oversize braking system, speed-rated tires and custom wheels — adds about $30,000 to the MSRP.

“The XS-500 is the most powerful SUV on any planet,” says Jack Doherty, President of Dimmitt Cadillac in Clearwater, Fla. “You can’t buy any other SUV that delivers the XS-500’s levels of performance, ride, handling, braking and luxury.”

“We can’t keep an XS-500 demo on the floor,” adds Ragnar Pettersson, President of Bellevue Cadillac of Bellevue, Wash., and Valley Cadillac in Olympia, Wash. “It’s the four-year/50,000-mile warranty that closes the deal.”

 The supplemental warranty “mirrors” the original GM factory coverage and will pick up any service not covered by it. Says DPP President Peter Bayer, “Working with Ace Ltd., one of the country’s largest and most respected warranty insurers, we have developed a program that allows new-car dealers to sell ultimate performance vehicles with the same warranty coverage as stock vehicles. We had to document reliability and durability before Ace would even consider writing warranty insurance, and they are now so enthused about our product line that they are offering optional seven-year, 100,000-mile extended coverage.”

According to DPP, extensive programming of the proprietary PCM (power control module) “maps” the correct air-fuel ratio, ignition advance curve and transmission shift points to the unique requirements of the supercharged engine. And, because it uses a CNC-machined A-365 aerospace aluminum housing and ceramic bearings, the CoolCharger requires no oil lubrication or intercooler. That means no oil lines connecting to the engine and no potential for oil contamination, heat buildup or heat transfer to the air supply caused by typical 200-250-degree oil temperatures.

The XS-500 package is exclusive to the AWD Escalade, which in stock form delivers 345 hp from its 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 engine. A similar XS-425 treatment is available on the 5.3-liter 2WD Escalade, boosting its output to 425 hp from the original 285. DPP also markets a full line of bolt-on, warranty-compliant upgrades, including CoolCharger Systems, for 2000-2002 Chevrolet and GMC full-size SUVs and light-duty pickups.

Systems are also available for pre-2000 5.7-liter V-8 GM models as well as Ford Motor Company SUVs and pickups. And one (tentatively called “450 Nitro Express”) is being developed for GM’s new Hummer H2.

Cadillac dealers offering XS-425 and XS-500 Escalades so far are mostly in western, northeastern, and southeastern states, plus a few in the Midwest, but DPP says dealers are calling every day for info and more will continue to sign on.

So if a humongous chrome Cadillac grille suddenly looms in your mirrors on your favorite sporty-car road one day soon, consider just letting it go and moving on with your life. —Gary Witzenburg

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