Cost of a ground-up cross-platform redesign? Next-gen MQB architecture VW/Audi/Seat/Skoda = $65 billion

A little longer, lower, wider, better aero – and 50mpg

For many in the US, a first Volkswagen will be either a Jetta or Passat, both of which have pretty good trunks. But we just drove this all-new seventh generation Golf and it needs to be on that same consideration list because it is a nearly perfect, sensibly sized trunkless car…

But this Golf VII, introduced in September at the Paris Motor Show, is an all-new car, even though from the outside things look strictly evolutionary. The chief ingredient in making true this claim of being “all-new” is the use of a completely reworked architecture called MQB, which stands for Modularer Querbaukasten, or “modular transverse matrix.” New architectures for any company signify shockingly massive investments, and therefore the damned things had better be really good for the bottom line. In the case of MQB, company leaders estimate the price tag for its four years of development totals $65 billion, so the intent is that MQB will stick around for at least a decade before a replacement architecture is even talked about…

Making certain it earns its keep quickly, VW Group has announced that MQB will be used on everything with transverse engines coming from VW, Audi, Seat and Škoda, ranging from models the size of the next VW Polo on up to the next Passat – that is to say, a major percentage of all cars produced within VW Group. So far, we’ve driven MQB with the new Audi A3, and now here with the four-door Golf Mk VII.

For this event, we picked the upgraded 146-horsepower 2.0 TDI Golf in its top European Highline trim using an optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic with shift paddles. At this launch event, the TDI motor we chose was available alongside a revamped 138-hp 1.4 TSI gas engine with Active Cylinder Technology, but the latter is not on call for US deliveries, so we took the global diesel route…

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LA County sheriff accepts “appreciation” gifts worth $120,000

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has accepted gifts from executives seeking his agency’s business, individuals who later received special treatment from him, and even a pair of felons implicated in a massive money-laundering and fraud scheme, according to a Times review of disclosure records…

Since becoming sheriff in 1998, he has accepted more than $120,000 worth of gifts and free travel. In a recent three-year span, he accepted significantly more freebies than California’s 57 other sheriffs combined.

State law allows local officials to accept gifts, with some restrictions. But government watchdogs said Baca’s willingness to accept so many gifts creates potential conflicts of interest.

“Doesn’t he realize the appearance is terrible?” said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. “When you’re taking gifts from strangers, there’s only one reason. They only give gifts because they want something.”

Baca rejected the notion that donors were looking for special favors or treatment. “The implication of all these gifts is ‘Well, they’re influence-buying.’ Nothing could be more opposite than that,” he said. “What they’re expressing is appreciation for the respectful way we do business…”

RTFA. It’s long, almost as complex as the way the sheriff rationalizes away any sense of ethics while accepting gifts from people doing business with the county.

Enjoy a quiet round of golf – until you’re robbed and shot!

Melvin Philpart

Sitting in a cart just to the side of Deerfield Country Club’s 17th tee, the two golfers were still savoring their pars on the previous hole when they were confronted by two men wearing ski masks and flashing .38-caliber revolvers.

Melvin Philpart was playing golf in Deerfield Beach, Fla., with his cousin, Lataurus Randall, when they were approached by two gunmen who may have entered through a hole in a fence. Mr. Randall was fatally shot.

The gunmen ordered the golfers to the ground and demanded their money. One of the masked men then tussled with one of the golfers, Lataurus Randall, shooting him once in the back before both robbers fled, empty-handed, into a nearby stand of Australian pines bordering a low-income neighborhood.

Mr. Randall, a 35-year-old owner of a landscaping company who had a 9-year-old son, died in the hospital the next day. His golf partner and cousin, Melvin Philpart, who was unhurt, said he wished he had done more to help. But he said he was startled to see two masked men with guns on the golf course he has played most of his life.

“When these guys showed up, I first thought it was a joke,” said Mr. Philpart, 43, who does auto detailing in nearby Boynton Beach. “I said to one of them, ‘What do you think you’re doing out here? This is a golf course…’ ”

Golfers are frequently warned in some pro shops to be vigilant. Some golfers now say they carry their wallets and keys, rather than leaving them in the golf carts…

The shooting, on Jan. 13, has baffled the police and continues to attract interest in the local news media and among golf bloggers, who warn that the shooting is a reminder that players should always be on the lookout, even on the greens.

“Clearly, no one should play golf in fear,” Bart Pfankuch, a Southwest Florida golf blogger, wrote. “But it is worth a reminder to keep an eye out, and your instincts plugged in, whenever approached by someone who does not have a clear reason to be on the course.”

Life in these United States.

No, I’m not kidding.

Har – They found the Cigar Guy!

The mystery “cigar guy” who upstaged Tiger Woods at the Ryder Cup and became an internet sensation is a city analyst from south London called Rupesh Shingadia, it has been disclosed.

The 30-year-old, from Wallington, near Croydon, said he was amazed at the response his stunt had attracted around the world after he became an internet sensation.

Mr Shingadia, an investment analyst at Threadneedle Asset Management, caught the public’s imagination after appearing in the background in one of the most memorable sports photographs of recent times.

It captures the moment a split second before the world No 1 sent a ball smashing into the lens of a Mail on Sunday photographer at Celtic Manor in south Wales last week.

But the presence of a man in an orange wig and Groucho Marx-style moustache, standing nonchalantly while chomping on a cigar in the background soon attracted more attention than the main subject of the extraordinary shot.

The image was soon photoshopped in into pictures of the most dramatic moments of world sport a while bloggers posted mock-ups of famous album covers and film posters to feature him.

He confirmed at the weekend that the costume was a light-hearted tribute to Miguel Angel Jimenez, the Spanish golfer, as an unusual way to show his support for the European team…

Mr Shingadia, who is single and lives with his parents, said he was embarrassed by the attention but pleased it he had made people laugh.

He told the Mail on Sunday: “I’ve never done anything like this before, I’m just an ordinary guy who loves golf and follows Arsenal.

He had to be an Arsenal fan. I didn’t think anyone in Finance admitted to following football.

Body found encased in ice on golf course pond – UPDATED

In warmer weather…

The face of a man’s body encased in ice startled groundskeepers working near the 16th hole of a north metro golf course Friday.

While checking conditions of the Majestic Oaks Golf Course in Ham Lake at about 1:15 p.m., they discovered what appeared to be a face sticking out of the ice covering a pond, said Lt. Paul Sommer of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.

Initial reports indicated that the head had been severed, but the body appears to be intact, Sommer said Friday night. Because the body was contorted, with its head partially above the ice and body below, along with the apparent toll animals had taken, authorities were initially misled. Most of the face and head appeared to have been eaten at, exposing the throat, Sommer said. It is too early to determine an age of the victim or cause of death, although authorities suspect foul play. Other than damage to the face, the cold appears to have preserved the remainder of the body, Sommer said.

Only a portion of the body was exposed when the workers found it. The remainder was trapped in 2 feet of ice. Authorities used a steamer from the Anoka County Highway Department to remove the body from the ice so as not to damage it.

There’s no straight protocol for removing a body encased in ice, so we used the steamer rather than chipping it out,” Sommer said.

I guess if you don’t find bodies encased in ice – very frequently – you don’t need to establish a standard protocol.

UPDATE: He’s been identified as Jeffrey Scott O’Donnell, homeless. No autopsy results yet for COD.

Playing golf can be bad for your health. Har!

Keen golfers are being warned by doctors that they could be risking their hearing for their sport.

Players who use a new generation of thin-faced titanium drivers to propel the ball further should consider wearing ear plugs, experts advise.

Ear specialists suspect the ‘sonic boom’ the metal club head makes when it strikes the ball damaged the hearing of a 55-year-old golfer they treated. The man had been playing with a King Cobra LD titanium club three times a week for 18 months and commented that the noise of the club hitting the ball was “like a gun going off”.

It had become so unpleasant that he decided to ditch the club, but by this time he had already suffered some hearing loss.

Doctors at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital carried out tests on the keen golfer after he attended their clinic with unexplained tinnitus and reduced hearing in his right ear.

Lead researcher Dr Malcom Buchanan, an ENT specialist and a keen golfer, said: “Our results show that thin-faced titanium drivers may produce sufficient sound to induce temporary or even permanent cochlear damage in susceptible individuals.”

He said golfers should be careful when playing with these thin-faced clubs as they make a lot more noise, and suggested they could wear earplugs for protection.

Har! Would’ve made Sam Clemens happy to hear this.