AUTOS: Superexpensive Tune-Up

During the first few months of each year, Detroit's auto manufacturers stage a strange and well-guarded ritual at their test sites. Using cars equipped with the following model-year's engine, test drivers go through an endless automotive pentathlon of starts and stops, cruising and idling, turning and backing up. Even so, company engineers must wait four months to get the results they want: a series of cars that have clocked 50,000 miles each of simulated commuter driving on Los Angeles freeways with almost no repair work. Only after the exhaust emissions from vehicles thus tested have been measured can the...

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