Sometimes car talk seems like a foreign language. The auto industry is full of jargon and obscure terms insiders toss around like they're as common as "brakes" and "steering wheel."
But honestly, who knows what a "refreshed model" is? Maybe one that just had a sip of sparkling water?
What's the difference between a supercharger and turbocharger—a cape?
Making it worse, many automakers use proprietary terms for items for features that could easily be covered by an industry-wide generic. The cynic in me figures they're trying to bamboozle buyers into thinking the feature is something only that automaker offers, not something you can get from any brand.
Ford, for instance, insists on referring to blind-spot alert—a common feature that warns the driver with a light or sound if there's a another vehicle just behind to the right or left—as "BLIS," a not-quite acronym for blind spot information system.
There's a move afoot to get automakers to use industry-wide names for safety features so shoppers can compare, but it's got a long way to go.
From "facelift" to DLO and CHMSL, here's a guide to obscure and sometimes infuriating terms that car fans, auto executives and even auto critics use.
The difference between loosening a rusty, stuck bolt from a nice new one is the difference between a lot of torque on the frozen bolt and a little to the slick new one.
Torque is the force that slowly but surely turns the wheels when you start moving pulling a heavy trailer. It's the most prized statistic for pickups: Having more torque is the first step toward being able to tow a bigger trailer.
Electronically controlled transmissions allow automakers to experiment with other layouts. The term PRNDL is commonly used for all of them.
Many people think "four-wheel drive" or "4WD" means the vehicle has extra gears that help a vehicle to get through deep snow, mud and over rocks. That's not true, but it doesn't keep marketers from using 4X4 and 4WD when they want to suggest a vehicle is has more off-road capability. There are no rules, so they can get away with this.
There are three basic types of AWD:
Full-time, when power from the engine always goes to every wheel.
On-demand, in which two of the wheels always get power. They're called the "driven wheels." Power automatically goes to the others when one or more of the driven wheels starts to slip.
Part-time, in which the driver uses a switch or button to go from two-wheel to four-wheel drive
There's no backup engine for longer drives. BEV also excludes fuel cell vehicles, which will turn hydrogen into electricity, if they ever become practical.
If somebody says "battery electric" or "BEV" to you, ask if they're taking about an electric car. If yes, ask them why they didn't just say so.
Early ACC systems shut off at low speeds, forcing the driver to resume control with little warning. That was a terrible idea. All good modern ones will bring you to a full stop.
Terms I hate
Not to be confused with ELO, which rocks.
A facelift or freshening changes the vehicle's appearance mildly, and costs much less than changing its shape with new metal panels like the hood or fenders.
Facelifts and midcycle updates typically come three to four years after a vehicle goes on sale and two to three years before a new model is due.
Not all of them are. Just about every vehicle gets some updates every year: new colors, upholstery, a few more horsepower, etc.
Automakers advertise them as new, which means they wanted a more extreme term when they introduce a vehicle that's entirely new from the ground up.
The usual development cycle calls for a vehicle with a new body, engines, etc. every five to seven years. The basic underlying structure of the body—think of it as a car's skeleton, the frame under the skin—usually lasts through two generations, around 12 years.