CNET on Cars: The Cadillac ATS shines


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So glad Cadillac got the ATS to market largely as expected. This company has been trying to do a small
car that doesn’t strike a false note for decades. The ATS may be my favorite Cadillac because, thanks to its market segment, it has the least amount of all that Caddy gilding that has always spelled Tommy Bahama to me — which is not a compliment.

We’ve been getting some great ideas from you for Car Tech 101 segments, and in this episode we have a user-suggested topic: code readers, what they are and how to use one. It’s a topic that may seem sort of esoteric or of interest to the shade tree mechanic, but I can make the case that almost every owner of a modern car should have one. Watch the piece; you’ll be fascinated if you don’t already know code readers.

By the way, the code reader I am using in the video is my own, an Actron 9580 I got on Amazon, not a unit that was supplied for promotional consideration. I also own an Innova 3120, which is great for older cars that use proprietary data buses.

I get a lot of e-mail from many of you about buying used cars, which are the only kind of car I would get with my own money. The key to researching one is to do VIN-based history checks, but those can get pricey fast. In our Smarter Driver segment, we’ll show you reliable, cheap alternatives — even a free database that the folks at State Farm turned me onto which is a great place to start.

Fun Top 5 this time around: technologies that are rapidly going obsolete in your car! I’m looking at you, CD player. And coming up in an episode or two will be a head-to-head test of the Lexus LS460 against the BMW 750, so if you (or your well-heeled friend) are in the market for a high-tech flagship sedan, stand by for that. We also have the new Accord teed up and on the way.

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Buzz: Vince Carter (sick) out vs. Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY – An illness will prevent Mavericks sixth man Vince Carter from playing in Monday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That eliminates one of the Mavs’ most effective offensive weapons over the last month. Carter averaged 14.7 points on 45.2 percent shooting in January, including a season-high 29-point performance in an overtime loss to the Thunder.

“We lose a lot of our play-call opportunities without Vince, but we’ve just got to have other guys step up and play their butts off,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

The Mavs hope that Carter will be out only one game.

Starting shooting guard O.J. Mayo and small forward Shawn Marion will likely have their workload increase due to Carter’s absence, although Carlisle wants to be cautious with their minutes.

“I’d like to stay away from heaping heavy, crazy minutes on those guys,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got other guys who can play, so they’re going to have to be ready.”

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Bloomberg: Facebook once more building a friend-tracking mobile app

Facebook Find Friends Nearby

Facebook briefly dallied last year with the idea of letting us track our friends while on the road, only to be spooked off for reasons unknown. It might have developed enough nerve for another shot, according to Bloomberg. The social network is purportedly building a smartphone app that would locate nearby contacts and, unlike last year’s Find Friends Nearby, would run in the background where it’s supported — making it more useful, if not very comforting to privacy advocates. Not much else is mentioned besides features that would “help [Facebook] profit” from its growing mobile base. The company itself certainly isn’t saying anything official at this stage. If the app arrives in mid-March as claimed, however, Apple’s Find My Friends and Google’s Latitude won’t have our attention (and location) to themselves.

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Canadian penny bites the dust. Is the nickel next?

An obsolete coin for your thoughts: paid tribute to the Canadian penny, which was first struck in 1858.


We Canadians love innovating our money. We’re printing plastic banknotes and chucking out useless coins.

Last March I said I wouldn’t mourn the passing of the Canadian penny.

And yet today, as the Royal Canadian Mint officially stopped distributing the cent to banks, I have mixed feelings. I saw the animated doodle honoring the coin and felt a tad nostalgic.

So I fished out a few pennies from my pockets and considered the brazen image of Queen Elizabeth and the maple leaf.

There’s something a little Dickensian in these worn coppers. The oldest on my desk is from 1977. The surface is dull and the queen looks a lot younger.

That coin passed through many hands only to wind up in mine. It’s got a real-world history that makes it special.

Electronic money, and e-books for that matter, don’t have that historicity, that unique physical existence through time.

While I’m glad to see the penny go, I also feel like I’m losing a tiny link to my fellow human beings, a connection I only really thought of now. Not to mention all those folksy idioms like “the penny drops.”

For those who get dewy-eyed over its demise, the mint is offering 20,000 commemorative 50-cent rolls of the last million pennies manufactured.

Meanwhile, 99-cent sales could go out of fashion, since prices for cash sales are being rounded to the nearest nickel. Prices that end in 1 or 2 are rounded down to zero, those ending in 3, 4, 6, or 7 are rounded to 5, and those ending in 8 or 9 are rounded up to 10.

The mint was spending 1.6 cents on every penny it made until production ended last May; axing the coin is expected to save some $11 million. Canada follows New Zealand and Australia in stopping production of the penny.

While the billions of Canadian pennies still in circulation will be legal tender indefinitely, some are calling for the nickel to go too, though there has been some pushback with that idea.

“It shouldn’t be as tough as a slog now because the case has been made that life as we know it isn’t going to end if we eliminate the lowly penny,” NDP member of Parliament Pat Martin was quoted as saying in the National Post.

Life hasn’t ended, but I feel for all those penny pinchers out there.

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Convertible Toyobaru concept to debut in Geneva


It looks like Toyota’s looking to rebuild buzz for one of the hottest
cars launched in 2012 by dropping the top on a convertible concept variant of the GT86 coupe at the 2013 Geneva Auto Show.

custom Scion FR-S @ SEMA 2012

We’ve seen open-topped Scion FR-S customs at the SEMA show, but now Toyota’s getting in on the drop-top fun.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

The FT-86 Open revives the “FT” concept designation and hints at a possible, future open-air version of the GT86 coupe. The 2.0-liter, RWD coupe (which is sold in the US as the Scion FR-S and has been nicknamed the “Toyobaru” thanks to its co-development with Subaru) has been compared on many occasions to Mazda’s MX-5 Miata, which boasts a similar power-to-weight ratio and emphasis on handling, so a roadster variant does make a bit of sense. We’re expecting a power-retractable top, because (unlike the Miata) the GT86 has a back seat to reach over. However, it is unclear if the retractable roof will be a hard or soft type.

According to Toyota, “The show car will help Toyota gauge public reaction to the idea, at the same time as it carries out engineering tests on a prototype.” Will the automaker build the FT-86 Open? Do you want a convertible version of the Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ for the North American market? Sound off in the comments and stay tuned for more details when our coverage of the 2013 Geneva Auto Show kicks off on March 5.

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Dirk Nowitzki out with right adductor strain

Dirk Nowitzki will miss Thursday’s game at Golden State with a right adductor strain.

Nowitzki, who had arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 19, missed the Mavs’ first 27 regular-season games.

Read more here.

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