Edmunds.com tweaks its car-shopping website
Edmunds.com, a website popular with car shoppers, is preparing a new home page and layout. I was recently directed to the site as a randomly chosen test subject.

I hated it. Unlike most guinea pigs, though, I have the number for Edmunds' chief of public relations.

Here's what I learned and what you should know when the new site goes live in mid-October. Edmunds reworked the site to make it easier for shoppers to see exactly what cars are available at nearby dealers. My attempt to research the model line and price range for the 2014 Fiat 500L a recent review took me instead to a couple of specific vehicles at my local dealer.

That's great, if you've already decided to buy the car and want to find a specific one, as some of Edmunds users do. It's infuriating if you're still shopping and want to see the whole model line to figure out if any of them might be right for you.

I use Edmunds to check prices and research competitive models for the vehicles I review. It's the kind of basic research many shoppers do before they lock in on a specific model.

After a few minutes on the phone with Edmunds' tech team, I learned that, in addition to directing you to specific cars at local dealers, the site still allows you to research prices and the full range of models, trim levels, engines and transmissions.

Here's what to do: After you choose the brand, vehicle and model year you're interested in, a list of cars at nearby dealers pops up. If you see something you like, great. If you're still shopping and want to see prices for all the trim levels and drivetrains of the Honda Civic, for instance, scroll down to the blue box called "Build your own." That'll let you do the basic research. You can compare prices and features on as many cars as you like before you lock in on a specific vehicle and check local dealers' inventory.

The new site makes it easier to find some other information, including technical specifications and Edmunds' straightforward and concise description of each vehicle.



HIGH-END CAR AUDIO: There's a new player in high-end automotive audio. Systems from Burmester Audiosysteme GmbH, a boutique firm based in Berlin, have begun showing up on some of Germany's top vehicles.

Burmester's automotive work got an auspicious start when it provided the audio system for the $1.5-million Bugatti Veyron 16.4. Founded in 1977 by engineer and guitar player Dieter Burmester, Burmester makes home theatre systems that can top $100,000.

That makes the $6,730 system in the 2014 Porsche Cayman S I recently tested look like a bargain. That price includes a navigation system and other features.

The Cayman S's system has 12 channels, 12 speakers and 821 watts.

High-end car audio was born when Chevrolet, Cadillac and Bose got together in the '80s and offered the first manufacturer-installed system good enough for true music lovers. Bose continues to offer some of the industry's best systems, but other audiophile brands, including Bowers & Wilkins and Mark Levinson, have scrambled to cash in on the business.

I enjoyed the Cayman's Burmester system on a long drive that included fast highway runs and twisting Smoky Mountain roads. I look forward to evaluating it in the interiors of other cars that put a higher premium on interior sound isolation.


Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at mmphelan@freepress.com.

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