December 2010

Although music has an impact on the mind there is little evidence in improves students success overall. However, it certainly does indicate the music does have some benefits in certain situations. Take your pick of the research and go your own study. In the meantime, here are some great sites that not only have music, but show students how it is created and even how to play certain instruments.

Best music link site

Everything here from sing-along songs to camp fire songs, to composing your own. Four pages of links.


Music for teaching


Music, instruments, and more

Creating Music

Great site where students can learn about most aspects of music, play games and create their own pieces.

Sing-Along Songs

Lost of lyrics in alphabetical order.

Free kids music in alphabetical order

You can play these songs for your class.

This site has both songs and lyrics from the PBS Store.

All free.

A great site for older students. It has folk music instruments, composers from the past, and even games. If you are in the Cincinnati area you can even have your own radio show.

Research about music in the classroom

A survey article on positive effects of music

Harvard Study with mixed results

Article saying it helps students in reading



Dodge Grand Caravan SXT: Family Friendly and TV Too

by The Car Family

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It isn’t difficult to find reviewers who want to cast stones at the Dodge minivan, but we didn’t find any from families. Here are the facts. The Dodge has the most family-friendly interior of all vans. Secondly, it has good crash scores. Finally, these vans are built with kids in mind even to a built in child’s seat.

The Dodge Grand Caravan comes in three trims of which only the SE and SXT are for a family and we highly recommend the latter. The smaller, 3.3 engine has flex-fuel capability and can run on E85 if you can find it. We don’t recommend this engine as it does not have enough power for a family traveling in the mountains or even pulling a small trailer. There is word that the 2011 version is going to have a sharper interior and more potent engines and with a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, it might pay to look into the new model. Of course, that also means there are going to be some bargains on the 2010 model.

Mom’s view: As soon as you drive this Dodge it gets smaller. It is fairly nimble, has good visibility in all directions except the rear, and the optional 4.0-liter V6 engine and a six speed automatic can get about 22 mpg in mixed driving. The Caravan has active front-seat headrests, antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, full-length side curtain airbags and you can order an integrated child booster seats with Swivel ‘n Go, rear parking sensors, a blind-spot monitoring system and Rear Cross Path. The latter is a must. When you are backing up it warns you of traffic coming. Great for crowded malls when you are parked beside gas hoggish, large SUVs that block your view. You also need to always consider the optional rearview camera when ordering any family vehicle. The crash test scores were excellent.

The interior is a bit drab, but with the stereo controls mounted high and the sliding door buttons also within reach. It is easy to get used to driving this Dodge. I especially like the optional seating choices. The standard Stow ‘n Go setup has two second row captain’s chairs that fold into the floor. The bench third row seat also folds flat into the floor. That leaves a very large, flat cargo bay. The optional Swivel ‘n Go seats turn so you can face the other passengers. A pole-mounted table can be moved between each row of seats, although I found it a bit wobbly. The center console has a hole near the bottom that makes a good place to place a purse, which is always nice. But make sure it is won’t roll into the pedal area. By the way, some models have adjustable pedals.

The interior is rugged, but really needs some upgrading in materials. However, this isn’t a show vehicle and so durability is my concern. The van we tested had 10,000 rough miles on it and there was no sign of wear on the seats or anywhere for that matter. A few rattles, but nothing that a screaming child can’t drown out.

The standard three-zone manual climate control works well, but has its fans full when the outside temperature gets into triple digits. Do get darkened windows. The optional Swivel ‘n Go rear captain’s chairs allow passengers to face each, which is fun for playing games, and there is a table available on some models to facilitate this. A rear entertainment center is available as well as Sirius Satellite TV. Yep, you can get television delivered to the back seaters.

The less expensive SE comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, three-zone climate control, cruise control, a tilt steering column, Stow ‘n Go second-row seats, a flip-down kiddie mirror and stereo/CD. The SXT model adds a larger engine, a power driver seat and remote-operated sliding side doors, and third-row power vent-style windows among other items. The optional SXT model features a4.0-liter V6, the SXT and a sport-tuned suspension. This is the van to order as it makes the Dodge more playful to drive and still retains its practicality.

Dad’s view: The optional 4.0-liter V6 option and six speed transmission are as good as anyone’s. Don’t get any other version if you travel or tow as the 251 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque makes this one quick minivan. Driving the Grand Caravan was relaxing with good seats and a quiet ride. It is, dare I say, fast and the handling is okay, but not up to that of the more expensive models from Honda. The steering is light and the brakes feel overboosted, The handling was a surprise because it does corner well considering its mass. I liked this rig and wouldn’t mind owning one even for commuting.

Young working man’s view: Not yet. The upgraded sound package is worthwhile, but not first rate. The high-mounted audio controls are easy to reach and the television reception is fairly good in metropolitan areas even though you are limited to children stations. Driving a minivan is always interesting at first. You keep thinking someone is following you, but this Dodge is fairly responsive and easy to park. The low liftover makes loading simple and the interior lighting is adequate. The headlights are barely average. Overall, this is too much vehicle for my needs. I also felt that the interior needed to be refreshed and the option packages appealed to those kid prone. By the way, I am now engaged and am off the market, so to speak, in case you were interesting. So maybe in the coming years this Dodge may move up my desirability list.

Young working woman’s view: As usual with Dodge, the option packages are numerous and a buyer needs to spend time researching the packages before shopping. For example, you can order a 30GB hard drive for digital music storage, touchscreen controls, satellite radio and a rearview parking camera. Or you can opt for a rear DVD entertainment system with a nine-inch flip-down screen, remote control, two headphones and a 115-volt outlet. There are also a flashlight and a driver-side umbrella holder.

All of these are nice touches, but unless you have children or/and dogs, a minivan isn’t the best choice. A good sedan can do most things just as well and get better fuel mileage. But they don’t offer the variety of options that this Dodge does, especially for youngsters. For example, the Family Value Group adds second- and third-row sunshades, a sliding center console and remote engine start that help heat or cool the vehicle before you get enter. You can also get GPS, heated seats for the front and second row, and real time traffic. The Premium Group adds rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, a power-folding third-row seat, Bluetooth with an iPod interface, and nine speakers.

Buying this minivan reminds me of buying a house before it is built. You can have it anyway you want, but almost everything is an upgrade and adds to the cost. Keep it simple and you still have a house, but nothing to show-off to the family. The same goes for the Dodge. In basic form it is transportation, but with a few packages it can be an entertainment center or fun driver. And, Dodge is dealing.

Family conference: Quality statistics on the Dodge are a consideration, but we feel with the long warranty and the fact that Dodge has to do its best to keep every customer for leaving the fold well result in better ratings in 2011. The Volkswagen Routan is nearly identical to the Dodge, but has a better interior design and superior handling.

For a list of vehicle websites go to:

Best educational free resource site

These sites can provide teachers with free resources to help them reach children in a variety of subject areas. They also can help provide remediation and/or accelerated learning opportunities. There are a lot of Internet sites that offer such materials, but only a few that are directed at the k-12 educator and without charge.

A note, you may have to register for some of these sites. Always make sure that the registration is only for the site and won’t be sold. I have noted that was good to register on sites I frequent because they provided me updates that I would have missed otherwise. Either way, I suggest you create an email address for just such sites and not use your personal one.

If you have additional sites to recommend please do so.


Annenberg Media

Videos arranged by grade level and there are a lot of them. Good quality.

Awesome Stories

This is a site that has videos that relate to stories, especially trials and biographies. A good collection, but limited in range.

Khan Academy

About 1800 good quality videos mainly in science and math. Mainly for older students.

You Tube Educational

This link is supposed to be limited to videos that are related to teaching. Very large collection, but uneven quality and the meaning of education is truly challenged.

BBC Learning Zone Clips

Search by topic or subject. Has length of video in search engine, which is good. Since this is a British site the material is directed to that user group. A goodly amount of videos. Worth a look.


You can post your videos or access the collection. You can also upload videos. Lots of ads. Also has audio and photo sections.


This is also a non-profit site that offer videos. The difference in this site is that it also offers lesson plans and more. This is a large site that tries to offer a variety of services to teachers besides videos.

YouTube Education

This site does not offer a good enough category selection process for most teachers to find material quickly.

History Channel

First rate videos and well done, this site is excellent for science, technology, and history teachers. Search engine takes a while to master due to large number of videos.


The sections are not well defined and its takes time to find the right video from the collection. Limited selection.


Famous people past and present. Good material, but many are for older students.

BBC Learning Channel

There are videos and much more here. It takes time to navigate this site, but the materials, both videos and interactive lessons, and of quality.

Classroom clips

This site has a limited number of videos. It also has audio clips.


While not all the content on this site is free, teachers can still find some great animated videos on a wide range of topics on this site for use in the classroom.


This site has a limited amount of podcasts and interactive videos in the basic subject matter areas. Some videos have test questions.

Teachers’ TV

This site has a limited number of videos and categories based on subject matter, use in class, and grade level.

How Stuff Works

This site has a fair size collection of diverse videos from history to entertainment. A lot of ads. Also, the index is fairly simple and it takes a while to find what would be right for your grade level.


This site is for older students and contains some non-educational material that has little value. Overall, the strength is in science for Exploratorium. Only categorized by subject and title.

EASE History

A small, but interesting site with videos and photos of political campaigns and historical events among others. Limited content and weak search engine.

The Archeology Channel

Videos of activities using interactive map of the world. Very limited content and videos may be over ten minutes in duration.

Peoples Archive

Videos of a variety of people, some famous, some not so much. This site might be used to help students show how hard work can pay off or to help them learn to take notes for a biography. Autobiographies are listed.

Steven Spielberg Archive

A tremendous site that have footage of the German treatment of Jews and the Holocaust. Some videos don’t have sound. Spend time on this site and you are going to find unique and important videos to share with your students. Compelling,

Folk Streams

A small collection of collected folklore and history videos. Well worth a look for social studies and music teachers. Some films are very long, but worth a look.

Digital History

A large site for those teaching history, with some videos. The videos tend to be for older students.

History Matters

There are a few videos for older students here. The majority are very specific, such as the history of the Chinese in Tucson and there are a collection of images that might prove helpful.

Social Studies Video Dictionary from Georgia.

A nice, but limited collection, mainly history and geography related.

PBS Video

Public Broadcasting Videos

A great many videos with a variety of topics and well done.

National Geographic Video

A major collection of videos on geography and environmental related videos. All first rate.

The Discovery Channel

This site has a variety of good videos, but the site is difficult to navigate. First rate materials.


Mainly political videos and current issues.

Free Documentaries Site

This is very interesting in that teachers can play entire films or parts from exceptional documentaries about a variety of topics. A must visit for teachers of older students. Some content may not be appropriate.

Top Documentary List

This site also has a good variety of documentaries and a better search engine. Mainly for older students. Some topics may be too graphic for classes.

How To Videos

These are about five minutes in duration and cover a great many topics that could be useful to teachers from sports to science. They are all based on the idea of one does something such as hold a football or paint.

Wonder How To

Not many for the classroom, but some good ideas. Worth a look.

Howcast : If you want to know how to do something, this site is a great place to start looking for instruction.


This site has a few educational videos in the how to area.

Best 100 Teaching Videos

A lot of videos, but many are not good quality. The ones that are are worth a look.

Teachers Domain

Has a selection of videos in the main subject areas. Weak search engine so you have to work hard to find the video you are looking for. Quality appears good, but some sections are limited.


A majority of these videos are done by students and the quality is uneven. The site offers a great deal of help for teachers wanting to upload and/or make videos.

PBS Kids Video

More entertainment. There are a fair amount of videos here for very young children. Poor search engine and slow to load.


National Science Foundation

Science related videos for older students. Mainly interviews and explanations.

NASA e-clips

Not many, and as you would expect, they are space related, but very well done. Use the search engine to save time as the website is difficult to navigate. For all grade levels


Space related and well done.

A nice collection of videos on science for older students. Good quality. A fair amount are lecturers. The length of time of the video is also used in the search engine. Sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute so many videos are medical in content.


This site has a good selection of science videos, but is limited in other areas. Also has games.

Green Energy

This site has videos related to green technology. Some might be of value to teachers, but most are more technical in nature.


A nice site with lots of videos about animals and the environment. Great for adding depth to lessons on

endangered biodiversity. Interactive material, too. Snow tracks are good lesson on critical thinking.

Vega Science

Videos of scientists, research projects and more. For older students.


Most of these videos are for older students and sophisticated. There are a lot of subject areas, but no classification by age.

Nova Teachers

Limited number of videos that are mainly science related. For older students. Nova Science.


Math TV

Excellent site with videos that help explain math concepts. Good for remediation and introduction.

Futures Channel

I am featured on some of these videos and so there may be a bias in my comments.

It is good quality applied math and science videos, but the search engine is poor. The videos are for middle school students and up in age.


Mainly math related videos, but some general ones, too. Limited number and uneven quality.


Short videos on various math concepts. A must visit for math teachers.

For Older Students and Teachers

Cosmo Learning

Courses, images, and videos are located here. Many lectures for older students.


Video lecturers for the main part.


A limited number of videos with older students in mind.


These are videos of lectures and they can be quite long and sophisticated and inspiring. For older students.

OV Guide

More of an online video guide for entertainment, this site also has educational video listings. Mainly for older students.

John Locker

This site has videos that are basically for older students. Some interesting titles, but limited in the number and range. Good quality,

Channel N

This really isn’t for students, but may be of interest to teachers as it deals with interesting aspects of behavior.

Academic Earth

University lectures on a variety of subjects. Some are very long. For advanced high school students.

This site has some videos on education and teaching. However, they are basically lecturer for educators.

Quest Gallery

A small number of videos about research and ideas about teaching.

Teachers TV

This site has videos about teaching. Fairly long videos ,and some deal with school wide concerns as well.


Some good videos here, but it takes time to find them and some are too difficult for younger students.

Teacher Training Videos

A small, but interesting collection of videos to help teachers with technology and other areas. This is the first site that had the Storybird site that I use in the classroom.

Free online movies

Public domain videos. Limited and uneven quality.

Best Mitsubishi SUV Yet

By The Car Family

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 Priced around $28,000, but with a lot of deals being offered, the Mitsubishi Outlander GT was a complete surprise to us. Not only did it get good fuel mileage, but it handled well, had excellent off-road abilities, and room for seven, sort of. The rear seats are quite small and difficult to reach, but the young ones would probably consider them an adventure.


Overall, the Outlander road well and was fairly quiet considering the all season tires and block like aerodynamics. The Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-7 are worthy competitors but they don’t have room for seven and we didn’t get nearly the fuel mileage when testing these two worthy vehicles. Undoubtedly, this is the best Mitsubishi SUV.

Mom’s view: The seats are supportive, but our basic tester had six-way manual adjustments that made if difficult to find a comfortable position despite the adjustable steering wheel. The cloth seat covering tended to grab any hair they could find and the door side panels were too scuffable. There is an abundance of room in the front two rows of seats. The jump seat style rear two seats are hard and not for those who are large of frame.

The controls were easy to master and easy to reach. The interior lighting is below average. There is a button between the front seats that controls the all wheel drive unit. There are three settings depending on how much traction is needed. We couldn’t find anything that came close to challenging the Mitsubishi so we can surmise that it won’t have much trouble staying on track in any situation this side of the Urls. The GT has a multi-color LCD instrument cluster, but why a 150 mph speedometer? A few chrome tidbits add a bit of contrast to the dark interior.

Unlike most SUVs of this size, I didn’t feel it was difficult to park, maneuver, and it easily fit in the garage. The GT weighs a tidy 4000 pounds and feels well connected with the road. I did have problems with the rear visibility, which is quite limited. It is essentially to order a back-up camera if you have kids. The visibility to the sides was good and the side view mirrors large enough to be useful in all situations. The low beltline of the GT provides a feeling of openness that is welcomed. I had some trouble reaching up to close the tailgate, which is a two piece unit, and the liftover is high. The second row of seats also require you do due diligence before moving them.

Safety wise the GT has an advanced dual-stage front airbags supplemental restraint system with occupant sensors, standard front-seat mounted side-impact airbags, and side curtain airbags with roll-over sensors for the front and second row. There are three-point safety belts all-around plus front load limiters/pretensioners and energy-absorbing interior pillars as well as a tire pressure monitoring system.

Dad’s view: When I read the drivetrain statistics I was disappointed. Here was a V6 with only 230 horsepower. I was wrong. The engine and the six speed automatic transmission worked very well together and although there wasn’t an abundance of power, there was enough to make passing easy and only the soft moan of the new 3.0 liter all-aluminum V6 lets you know that it is working to potential. You also get a paddle-shifters to help keep the transmission and engine on task. We consistently found ourselves driving into the 80 mph danger zone on level ground. Still the GT provided a consistent 25 mpg. In town look for 20 and in stop and go traffic the mileage could dip into the teens. This is more of an off-road, open road, family vacation vehicle rather than a stop and go commuter vehicle. For that the Mitsubishi Lancer is a better choice.

The steering is refreshingly weighted and works well with the fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar in front and a multi-link setup in back with another stabilizer. The brake feel is a bit wooden, but the 11.6 inch vented discs in front and solid 11.9in. solid discs in back are up to the task of holding the Mitsubishi in line even with a 3500 towing capacity. The 18X 7 rims have 225/55R18 tires that are remarkable subdued. A nice package.

The tires and gas charged shocks help the Outlander corner very well. I would rate it as good as any similar four wheel drive set-ups with only the more expensive Acura coming close. If you are willing to take the time to test drive this vehicle, you might join me in being surprised.

Young working woman’s view: The GT is good looking SUV that is has a distinctive look. The high step in makes it a bit difficult to enter wearing a short dress, but once inside it gives you a feeling of security and tidiness. There are several storage areas in the center console and door panels and plenty of room for your purse. Our test vehicle was not loaded, but it still felt well equipped. You can order a $3,000 premium navigation package that includes leather and other niceties, but the version we tested was good enough. Standard equipment includes stability and traction control, an electronic brake distribution feature, cruise control, power doors, windows and a variety of small things such as two 12-volt accessory plugs, leather wrapped/tilting, sporty steering wheel with audio controls, variable-speed wipers, rear privacy glass, anti-theft system, keyless entry, and aluminum gas and brake pedals.

The standard HID headlamps were above average in town, and there were redundant controls on the steering wheel. The tailgate folds flat should you want to use it as a bench. With a maximum cargo volume of 72.6 cu.ft there is room for pretty much everything, but with the second row seats in use you reduce the storage capacity by about half. The second row seats actually move over three inches forward and to the rear to easier access to the rear penalty box seats or to load larger items.

The warranty is a generous five years or 60,000 miles with five years of roadside assistance and seven years or 100,000 for rust issues.

What the GT needs is a larger fuel tank. The 15.8 gallon tank means that your driving range before nervous time is 300 miles. Overall, this GT is not my choice in this class, that belongs to Mazda, but certainly not one I wouldn’t mind owning. I simply don’t need the off roadability this Mitsubishi offers.

Young working male’s view: The standard 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate stereo has nine speakers with a 10 inch dual-voice coil subwoofer, digital signal processor, three-band equalization, speed compensated volume control and a hands-free calling system using Bluetooth. There is a USB connection for iPod and MP3 player interfacing, voice-activated commands, and an automatic phone book transfer. The result is respectable, but not great sound. However, it is enough for all but the audiophiles and is clearly as good as the competition for a standard unit. If you want spend a lot more try the optional 40-gigabyte HDD navigation system with real time traffic that includes what is happening in the high occupancy lanes. You also get a rear-view camera, leather heated front seats, and a sunroof.

Although the mileage was good, the Mitsi required premium fuel probably because of the need for more grunt should you want to play with the Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel-drive system that features an electronically controlled center differential and sensors that can move the power to where the most grip is happening. I like to snowboard and so this feature, the nice cargo space, the fold down rear hatch for me to sit on while putting on my boots, make it a desirable snowmobile.

I liked the GT, but it is really too much car for me, although it did attract a fair amount of eyes from the jaded crowd in Huntington Beach, California.

Family conference: This is a much improved Mitsubishi product and one that makes it competitive in the marketplace by placing the sport back into sport utility vehicle.

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The new BMW 1 Series M Coupé  has  widened wheel arches, 19-inch Y-spoke M alloy wheels, and dual chrome tailpipes. A discreet spoiler lip generating additional downforce and a rear apron with side openings echoing the look of the front air intakes ensure the look of sporting intent matches the model’s sporting ability. L-shaped rear light clusters with two light banks fed by LED units complete the M car look. Exterior paint finishes are Alpine White non-metallic, Black Sapphire metallic and the exclusive Valencia Orange metalic. The BMW  is fitted as standard with twin corona bi-xenon headlamps, and LED-fed positioning lights. The look is a combination snow plowish and boy racer. Regardless, the BMWphiles are going to line up to buy it despite the small interior and looks because it is fast, fun, and is probably going to retain its value very well. 

The standard sports seats in Boston leather feature Kyalami orange stitching with an M leather steering wheel and the use of Alcantara with Kyalami orange contrast stitching on the door trim, door inserts, handbrake and gear lever gaiter and instrument binnacle cove. The M logo is also embossed in the front of the headrests.

The heart of this new BMW is the  in-line six-cylinder engine with twin turbocharger, direct injection technology and double VANOS variable valve timing to develop a maximum output of  about 340hp. Such performance equates to a highly desirable car that takes just 4.9 seconds to accelerate from zero to 62mph. The BMW M tuned twin-turbocharger technology used consists of two relatively small turbos which, because of their low inertia characteristics, are active at low engine speeds and a peak power  at 5,900rpm.

The engine control system of the car allows two differing performance curves: in standard mode the BMW 1 Series M Coupé offers a more torque-orientated, flexible character to the engine’s performance delivery, while in M Dynamic Mode (MDM), activated by a button on the steering wheel, engine speeds rocket instantly, accessing the highest power levels as quickly as possible.

The cooling system of the BMW 1 Series M Coupé has been designed for constant high load, high speed track driving, through the use of an additional separate radiator and a specific air duct to deal with the increased thermal stress which can occur when driving in a particularly sporty style on the race track.

The efforts made in optimising performance and efficiency are also reflected in a newly developed dual-mass flywheel. Its lightweight construction benefits the engine’s efficiency and it also has an increased solidity which is able to cope with the six-cylinder engine’s high level of torque.

In addition, EfficientDynamics measures such as brake energy regeneration and needs-based control of auxiliary units ensure that recorded combined fuel consumption is 29.4mpg and CO2 emissions are 224g/km.

The BMW 1 Series M Coupé is only offered with a six-speed manual transmission, specially designed to work with high-torque engines. This newly developed transmission is operated using a very short-shift M gearshift lever.   

The chassis of the BMW  has a double pivot front axle and the five-link rear axle are made almost entirely of aluminium. Tubular stabilisers, axle links made of forged aluminium and aluminium shock absorbers round off the lightweight construction concept. With chassis technology derived directly from motor racing, a power-to-weight ratio of 227hp/tonne has been achieved. The footprint of the car is bigger than a standard BMW 1 Series Coupé with it being 55mm wider than the BMW 135i Coupé. As standard, BMW 1 Series M Coupé comes with Variable M differential lock, compound brakes, DSC with MDM and M Servotronic. The Variable M differential lock responds to differences in rotational speeds in the rear wheels, redirecting torque within a fraction of a second for optimum traction and maximum thrust on slippery surfaces and when accelerating out of bends.

The M-specific compound high-performance brake system of the BMW 1 Series M Coupé uses inner-vented and perforated discs with a diameter of 360mm at the front and 350mm at the rear.

Rack-and-pinion steering is fitted with Servotronic hydraulic power steering while the Dynamic Stability Control system that includes elements such as an anti-slip control function (ASC), the brake assistant Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), a drive-off assistant, Cornering Brake Control (CBC), an anti-fading function and a dry brake function is also standard. The driver can activate M Dynamic Mode (MDM) on the instrument panel, raising the point at which the driving stability control system intervenes.

The BMW 1 Series M Coupé comes standard with  two-zone air-conditioning, cruise control, BMW Radio Business with MP3-capable CD player and six speakers and a Boston leather interior with Alcantara trim. Optional equipment includes Comfort Access, Harman Kardon Surround Sound System, Professional Navigation system with hard drive storage, Adaptive Headlights and High beam Assistant.

The price is the sticking point on this four seater. Figure about $50,000 is our best estimate. Not too bad for a 3200 pound coupe. If you love to drive order one now.

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