Santa Tracker: OnStar Keeps Tabs on the Big Guy

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He's sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when your awake, but the spying can go both ways. For the sixth year in a row, OnStar will again be able to help customers keep tabs on Santa this Christmas.

Related: How to Transport Your Christmas Tree

OnStar is teaming up with North American Aerospace Defense Command's (NORAD) Tracks Santa program; U.S., Canada and Mexico subscribers can follow the big guy's whereabouts across the globe Christmas Eve with a press of the blue OnStar button. Customers can request a "Santa Update" between 7 a.m. Dec. 24 until 5 a.m. EST Dec. 25 and get Santa's location based on NORAD's official Santa Tracker Map.

Motorists with more pressing OnStar needs shouldn't be affected by the added Santa-tracking requests; OnStar says it's adding additional staff to accommodate the higher volume of calls. OnStar can't however, help you get a line on that sold out Elsa doll you've been searching for.

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By Jennifer Geiger | December 18, 2014 | Comments (0)

Ford Expands Airbag Recall

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In November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urged automakers to expand a recall of Takata-manufactured airbags, and Ford has announced it's doing just that. Following Honda and Mazda, Ford has decided to expand its Takata airbag recall nationwide. The affected airbags when they deploy can launch shrapnel into passengers; incidents were observed in high-humidity areas, prompting 10 automakers to issue regional recalls affecting scores of 2000s-era models registered in states such as Florida.

Related: What Cars Are Included in the Takata Airbag Recall?

Ford says the nationwide recall expansion affects 502,489 vehicles, an addition of 447,310 vehicles, bringing the automaker's total count of affected vehicles to 538,977. Vehicles included in the expansion are the 2005-08 Ford Mustang built between Aug. 18, 2004, and June 25, 2007, and the 2005-06 Ford GT built between Feb. 11, 2005, and Jan. 30, 2006. 

The automaker is aware of one injury that may be related to the recall, it said in a statement. Ford has not yet issued an owner-notification schedule, but dealers will replace the airbag inflator for free. Customers with questions can call Ford at 866-436-7332 for more information.

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By Jennifer Geiger | December 18, 2014 | Comments (0)

2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport: Car Seat Check

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Can something fast and stylish also be roomy and comfortable? The Lexus IS 350 with the F Sport Package is the perfect example; it nails the first two, but parents might not get enough out of the backseat in the room and comfort departments. Excellent Latch anchor exposure made installing child-safety seats a breeze, but our rear-facing seats took up more than a comfortable amount of room in back.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

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By Jennifer Geiger | December 18, 2014 | Comments (0)

Night Drivers Need This Button

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It seems that the older I get, the more sensitive I am to driving at night, whether its lights on the roads or the light coming from test cars' multimedia systems. And I'm not alone.

Related: More Safety News

Most adults have trouble adjusting to bright lights as they age. "The pupil shrinks from a diameter of about five millimeters when we're young adults to about three millimeters in old age," according to an article on night vision in Harvard Health Publications. "A smaller pupil means less lights can enter the eye ... and [is] part of the reason older eyes have a harder time adjusting to changes in light — going from darkness into bright light and vice versa."

Pair this phenomenon with the increasing size of electronic screens in cars and it's a recipe for difficulty driving at night. Chrysler's Uconnect system features an 8.4-inch screen; the new Volvo XC90's touch-screen is iPad sized and inspired, and the Tesla Model S features a mac-daddy 17-inch screen. These screens emit a continuous glow, and it can be difficult to see after looking at a tablet-sized glowing screen and then back to the dark road ahead while driving at night. Want to turn the glow down while its in night mode or even turn it off? With many systems, you'll have to stare directly into the glowing embers, so to speak, long enough to toggle through several menu screens to turn off the screen.

By Kristin Varela | December 18, 2014 | Comments (3)

Honda, Acura Announce Auto Show Reveals

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The 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit is less than a month away, and the planned reveals are starting to trickle out. Acura just announced it will unveil the production version of its NSX super car and Honda will show off a new fuel-cell concept, the FCV.

Related: More 2015 North American International Auto Show News

Although Acura only released veiled teaser images, the NSX should look somewhat familiar. The concept version debuted in Detroit in 2012 and then showed up again at the 2013 show. Acura says the one at the 2015 show is the real deal. The production version of the mid-engine supercar will use a three-motor, twin-turbocharged Sport Hybrid power unit and go on sale in 2015. It will meet the press on Jan. 12. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld should be happy.

By Jennifer Geiger | December 17, 2014 | Comments (2)

Five Unexpected Family Cars

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Most people opt for a minivan or three-row crossover when shopping for a family car, especially when two or more kids are involved. Parents willing to color outside the traditional car-class lines, however, will be pleasantly surprised by what they find.

Read More #FamilyCarAdvice

As a mom of a preschooler and twin infants, just about every vehicle I drive has to pull some sort of family duty. Some excel, some flop in spectacular fashion.

Regardless of what I test, the must-haves stay the same: It has to be safe, comfortable and roomy enough for the kids, their child-safety seats and all their gear. Depending on your family's size and needs, a lot of vehicles might meet that criteria. If sliding doors aren't a must-have, check out our minivan-free list; these five vehicles and their family-hauling chops might just surprise you.

By Jennifer Geiger | December 17, 2014 | Comments (2)

Low Gas Prices Could Save Families $550 in 2015

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A government report released Tuesday predicts that the current drop in gas prices could save the average U.S. household $550 in 2015 versus this year. The $1,962 spent in 2015 will be the least spent on gas since 2004 when fuel cost families $1,598 a year.

Related: What's the Most Affordable Car in 2014?

U.S. oil prices closed Tuesday up just 2 cents to close at $55.93 a barrel but is down 50 percent since June. Read more here.

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

By David Thomas | December 16, 2014 | Comments (0)

Toyota Social Safety Campaign Aims to Keep Kids Safe

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Despite my desire for a more meaningful Christmas, my family usually goes down to the wire frantically trying to fill shopping carts and stockings. I'm probably not alone with this hectic holiday hullabaloo, but even with all the activity there should be enough time to take part in Toyota's child safety campaign.

Related: How to Transport Your Christmas Tree

Toyota's #BUCKLEUPFORLIFE campaign uses social media to buckle up many children who otherwise would be without child safety seats this holiday season.

By Kristin Varela | December 16, 2014 | Comments (0)

Tested: Clickit Sport Car Dog Harness

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Earlier this year we tested Sleepypod's Clickit Utility dog harness, the top performer in the Center for Pet Safety's 2013 crashworthy study. CPS now conducts voluntary certification tests of pet safety harnesses, and Sleepypod's newest harness — the Clickit Sport — is the first harness to achieve certification. The Clickit Sport earned CPS' top rating of five stars for each size in which it is offered (CPS ratings are assigned by size categories and not across a brand).

Related: Tested: Clickit Car Dog Harness

Since the Clickit Sport is significantly different from the Clickit Utility, we took it for a test drive and found the new harness to be more dog and human friendly.

By Jen Burklow | December 16, 2014 | Comments (1)

2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class: Car Seat Check

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Kids bring so much joy into their parents' lives. They also bring a lot of mess. Whether its mud-caked shoes or the constant debris of cracker crumbs and sticky fingerprints they leave in their wake, kids and messes go together like peanut butter and jelly. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a luxurious sedan, may be too nice to put kids in, especially considering its $93,825 price tag (including destination); our test car cost $122,895. If that price didn't make you blink, keep reading. The good news is the five-passenger S550 earned top marks across the board in our Car Seat Check.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

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By Jennifer Newman | December 16, 2014 | Comments (0)

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