BlogMon, 10 Nov 2014 17:45:00 EST
Every three years, a half dozen or so teams of sailors embark on an epic eight-month, round-the-world sailboat race formerly called the Whitbread Round the World Race and known since 2001 as the Volvo Ocean Race. This year's event started a month ago in Alicante, Spain, and will end next June at the Swedish automaker's hometown of Gothenburg. And to mark the occasion, just as it has in years past, Volvo has launched a special edition of one of its roadgoing models.
The Volvo Ocean Race XC60 was launched this weekend at the Miami Auto Show. Based on the XC60 crossover we know well, the limited edition is distinguished by its Ocean Blue II paintjob, unique 18-inch wheels, a choice of black or light leather interior with orange stitching and a series of special badges inside and out.
Buyers will be able to choose between the T6 Drive-E and T6 AWD models, priced from $42,100 and $43,600 respectively. That represents a $1,200 premium over models on which they're based, on top of which, Volvo has confirmed in correspondence with Autoblog, the usual $925 destination charge applies.
Here's a vehicle that nobody saw coming. Unless Honda/Acura is keen to play tricks on us, our spy shooters recently caught what appears to be an Acura minivan fully camouflaged for testing on some back roads on a rainy day.
Details on the disguised minivan are rather scarce, but it certainly bares all the hallmarks of an Acura. The front grille alone gives it away with a look that mimics the latest MDX, and note that the orientation of the rear door handle heavily suggests that it slides to open. Moving inside, the tester appears to borrow some tech from the luxury brand's parts bin too, and the Acura logo seems to be covered in tape right in the middle of the steering wheel.
Mechanically, our spies believe that the production version of Acura's minivan might borrow the brand's V6, nine-speed automatic and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive - a similar layout to some trims of the TLX. The photographers also think that the vehicle is a little wider than the current Honda Odyssey to give occupants a bit more room. Given the more luxurious focus, the high-end model would surely carry seven people with a bit more opulence than the standard Odyssey, especially, we'd imagine, for second-row passengers. A launch for this posh hauler could be slated for the 2016 or 2017 model years.
Formula One got the drawn out Driver's Championship it wanted, which won't be decided until the last race in Abu Dhabi, and it didn't even need double points to do it. A trip below the equator turned around more than merely weather patterns, Nico Rosberg throwing his Mercedes AMG Petronas around the Interlagos track faster than teammate Lewis Hamilton every time it counted, beginning with Free Practice 1.
That's how the German lined up on pole, three-hundredths ahead of the Brit. Two-tenths behind them came the Williams duo, Felipe Massa ahead at his home race, teammate Valtteri Bottas following. Jenson Button made a surprising leap up the grid to put his McLaren fifth, after being "nowhere" during the Free Practice sessions. Sebastian Vettel drove the first Infiniti Red Bull Racing to sixth, ahead of the second McLaren of Kevin Magnussen, and Daniel Ricciardo in the second Infiniti Red Bull Racing in ninth split the Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso in eighth and Kimi Räikkönen in tenth.
When the pedal got put to the carbon fiber on Sunday, Rosberg did his best to make Hamilton earn his position.
It's been eighteen years since we last saw the Legend nameplate in Acura showrooms here in the US, but in Japan it's still very much alive as Honda's flagship sedan. And now the Japanese automaker has revealed the latest generation.
Set to go on sale across Japan on January 22 - 30 years since the nameplate was introduced - the new Honda Legend is essentially the same model we already know in the States as the new Acura RLX. Only by "essentially," we mean exactly. It is the RLX, only with Honda badges instead of Acura ones. The manufacturer hasn't even changed the grille or the wheels.
Although the RLX is being offered Stateside in two forms, the new JDM Honda Legend will only come in one form, equivalent to our Sport Hybrid, with Super Handling All-Wheel Drive and a hybrid powertrain pairing a 3.5-liter V6 to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission with integrated electric motor. For the privilege of owning the most luxurious car Honda makes, Japanese customers will have to pony up ¥6,800,000 - which about adds up to $59,950 we'd pay for an RLX Sport Hybrid.
I must have been around Bar Mitzvah age when I was in the back of my parents' car on the highway as we passed a truck full of Volvo 850 T-5R wagons - half of them in black, half in banana yellow. It was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen: a whole gaggle of sleeper power wagons that were infinitely cooler than whatever minivan we were riding in. Hard to believe that was 20 years ago, but it was. And Polestar is understandably keen to mark the anniversary of the first overt Volvo performance wagon.
While Volvo's racing partner hasn't released some commemorative edition to celebrate that prototypical sleeper, it has shot a special batch of photos of the T-5R (based on the 850 wagon internally known as the 855 for its five doors) alongside its modern successor, the V60 Polestar. The images shot in Huntington Beach, CA, only go to show how much has changed in the two decades that separate them.
Whereas this front-drive T-5R packed a turbocharged inline-five driving 240 horsepower through a four-speed automatic propel the yellow box to 62 in 7.0 seconds, the turbo six in the svelter, Rebel Blue-clad 2015 V60 Polestar churns out 350 hp to all four wheels through a six-speed auto for a 4.9-second sprint. That's the kind of progress we can get behind. In fact, it's the sort of progress that everyone can get behind, really, because chances are whatever you're driving will probably have a hard time keeping up.
In the sixteen years since Daimler first introduced the Smart car, the micro city car market has grown significantly to the extent that the urban-oriented brand doesn't just have more competition to contend with these days than it did in the late 90s; for the first time it has real competition on its hands altogether. In other words, while the Smart Fortwo once had the micro city car market almost entirely to itself, new rivals have emerged to challenge its dominance.
It may be a long time, if ever, before slightly larger contenders like the Scion iQ and Volkswagen Up! catch up to the 1.6-million units Smart has moved since it first hit the market back in 1998, somehow never managing to turn a profit along the way. But the bottom line is that Smart's position in the market is far from assured, especially relying, as it has, on the same architecture for over a decade and a half.
So after strongly hinting at the way forward with a series of show cars, Daimler revealed the all-new Smart Fortwo and its bigger brother, the Forfour, in July ahead of its debut at last month's Paris Motor Show. With both the brand's future and its supremacy in the urban mobility market hanging in the balance, we boarded a flight to Barcelona to see what Daimler had up its short sleeve. What we found was a two-seat city car that's not just a substantial improvement over the model it replaces, but an altogether different beast- one which doesn't aspire to be everything to everyone, but just might be what drivers in the world's densest urban cores will need... and little more.
A Rolls-Royce is not what you'd typically consider to be "sporty." Luxurious. Stately. Even powerful, packed as they are with twelve-cylinder engines displacing in excess of six and a half liters. The Wraith set out to change that with a sportier package, more rakish profile and an even more potent version of the Ghost's 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12 to make it the fastest and most powerful Rolls-Royce ever made. But now it seems Goodwood is working on an even more aggressive version.
Spotted undergoing testing in parent company BMW's home country of Germany, this particular Wraith might strike you as the same one we've already seen, save for a few telltale details. It may be wearing the same rolling stock as the existing model, with what look like the same tailpipes protruding ever so elegantly around back, but at the bottom of the front bumper and atop the rear trunklid you'll notice more assertive spoilers added on.
To what end, we cannot be certain, but our spotters on the ground seem to think this is a prototype for a more extreme version of the Wraith - possibly inspired by the attention garnered by the Bentley Continental GT3-R. Could we be looking at a Wraith V-Specification like we saw with the Ghost? We'll have to wait to find out for sure, but in the meantime you can scope out the virtually undisguised prototype in the gallery of high-resolution spy shots above.
The Infiniti Q30 Concept signaled the Japanese brand's clear intentions to join the growing global compact premium segment. Now, as evidenced by these images, we can see development of the brand's first compact hatchback is proceeding apace.
Our spies point to the similarity between this camouflaged tester and the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class as further evidence to the cars' shared platform, although we'll admit, we don't necessarily see the similarities. The Q30's overall look, to our eyes, is like a scaled-down, lower-riding QX50, the model previously known as EX. Infiniti design elements, like its squat greenhouse, long hood and double-arch grille are all visible.
The Mercedes-Benz connection should be clearer under the hood, though, as the Q30 is expected to be powered by the same 2.0-liter, turbocharged Mercedes four-pot that's been leading the charge throughout the brand's entry-level models, namely the CLA-, GLA- and C-Class.
Luca di Montezemolo may be 67 years old, but he's not quite ready to retire just yet. Not, at least, if the latest reports emanating from Italy are to be believed. According to Reuters, the longtime former Ferrari chief is due to be named chairman of Alitalia.
The troubled Italian airline is on the verge of being bailed out after years of financial difficulty, with Etihad Airways of the United Arab Emirates set to take a 49-percent stake in the company. While the reports have yet to be confirmed by the parties involved, Reuters cites multiple inside sources in revealing that the airline's board met last week and agreed to appoint Montezemolo as chairman, with current Etihad chief James Hogan to act as chief executive officer.
Montezemolo, of course, long served as chairman of Ferrari, having assumed leadership of the company not long after founder Enzo Ferrari died. He also served as chairman of the Fiat group for several years after the passing of Umberto Agnelli, and has headed numerous trade organizations and sporting bodies. But his tenure at Ferrari and the broader Fiat Chrysler Automobiles empire came to an end two months ago when clashes with Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne saw Montezemolo step down.
It's only been a couple of years since Mazda introduced its CX-5 crossover, so it's hardly in need of replacement just yet. But to keep it fresh, the Japanese automaker is apparently preparing to roll out a facelift for the compact crossover.
The facelifted model is expected to debut at the LA Auto Show later this month, but before it does, a handful of images - apparently scanned from a brochure - have leaked out online. From what we can see, it looks like the revised CX-5 features a new grille with horizontal bars, LED headlamps derived from those on the new Mazda2, new fog light surrounds, new taillight graphics and, of course, new wheels.
Unfortunately we can't see what's going on inside, but it'd be safe to bet that, along with the revised exterior detailing, Mazda's probably taken the opportunity to update the interior as well.
Former Evo editor Harry Metcalfe lives a pretty fantastic life when it comes to automobiles. When he's not in England driving around in a 1954 Land Rover Series 1 or a recently purchased 1987 Ferrari Testarossa, he's in the south of France with his 1993 Mercedes-Benz SL600, which is the focus of his latest Harry's Garage video.
It's hard to describe a convertible as 'understated' when it packs an ultra-smooth 6.0-liter V12 pumping out around 389 horsepower, especially when that same engine is also in early examples of the Pagani Zonda. However, this SL absolutely does it, somehow. Other than some badges, there's nothing about this droptop that screams about its performance potential.
Priced at nearly 100,000 British pounds when new, the SL600 is also a technological tour-de-force for its time. One absolutely absurd feature is that even the rearview mirror is electrically adjustable. However, despite the complexity, Metcalfe praises the over 20-year-old Mercedes' reliability.
Hyundai has taken the unusual approach of debuting a newly refreshed model - the refreshed 2015 Hyundai Azera - at the Miami International Auto Show instead of one of the larger usual suspects (the LA Auto Show is just around the corner). According to Hyundai, Florida is a large market for the Azera sedan, which surely had something to do with the decision to debut in Miami.
There aren't many big changes to the Azera for 2015, but what has been updated is meaningful, starting with redesigned front and rear fascias, standard 18-inch alloy wheels and LED fog lights on Limited models. Inside, an eight-inch display - all the better to work with Hyundai's latest Blue Link system - joins a new center stack design as notable improvements. On the safety front, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic alert and Lane Change Assist are now standard.
Power still comes from the well-regarded 3.3-liter V6 with 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. While none of the changes for 2015 are likely to make the Azera into a best seller in the highly competitive large-car market, where models like the Chevy Impala, Toyota Avalon and Buick LaCrosse live, not to mention Hyundai's sibling from Kia, the Cadenza, we're sure Azera buyers will be happy with the updates all the same.
The next BMW 1 Series Sedan has made another appearance following our last peek at it in September, and this time, the gallery of images even reveals part of the new car's interior.
Of course, if these images prove anything, it's that manufacturers take camouflage of the interior just as seriously as they do the exterior. We can see in these images a fairly simple cabin, with what looks like a fixed central display. It's quite small, although the housing itself is rather large, so we could be looking at a more basic form of iDrive rather than the full-featured set. Overall, though, this cabin more or less confirms that the 1 Series Sedan will fit in with the rest of the BMW family quite nicely.
Outside of the interior images, though, there isn't a lot of new stuff revealed by these images. As for when we'll see both the interior and exterior fully undisguised, our spies continue pointing to a 2016 debut with a 2017 on-sale date.
Fiat has introduced a pair of special edition models at the 2014 Miami Auto Show, trotting out the 500 Ribelle and the 500L Urbana Trekking.
The smaller of the two, the compact 500 Ribelle, expands on the 500's retro-chic looks by adding a red roof, spoiler and mirror caps, which should contrast nicely with the limited color palette of Bianco, Billet Argento, Grigio and Nero Puro. Aside from the paint changes, Fiat has added gloss black headlight and taillight bezels and black wheels. The cabin comes with a choice of two upholstery colors: gray and red or gray and black.
The five-door 500L Urbana Trekking adds a few pieces of matte-painted trim, in the form of new mirror caps, side sills and body side molding. Matte-black, 17-inch wheels spice up the exterior and match the standard black roof, while Fiat's six selectable colors (Verde Bosco Perla, Rosso Perla, Giallo, Bianco, Grigio Scuro and Blue Tornado) add a degree of customization to the limited-edition five-door. For some reason, the pretty matte paint shown in the gallery was a one-off item for the debut car, and won't be offered to consumers. Gloss black interior trim pieces and a mix of black leather and leatherette change up the interior ever so slightly. Beats Audio and satellite radio are both standard features.
Mitsubishi's has been busily clawing its way back from the brink of irrelevancy in the US market for several years. One of its most important models in that mission is the Outlander CUV, and as we can see from these spy photos, it's upcoming refresh is coming along nicely.
The Outlander was last redesigned for model year 2014, so it does feel a smidge early for a refresh. That said, thanks to a rather polarizing front fascia, we aren't totally surprised that Mitsu has gone to work so soon. Based on these spy shots, we wouldn't be totally surprised if the new Outlander borrowed the more attractive face of Outlander PHEV Concept-S, which was shown back in September during the Paris Motor Show.
It's impossible to tell if the rear of the car will borrow the huge, vehicle-spanning taillights of the Concept-S, but like the front end, we'd expect a fairly significant change to the back of the new Outlander. Our spies also captured a few shots of the cabin, although we don't see any dramatic differences from the current vehicle, aside from some different trim pieces.
Fri, 07 Nov 2014 20:02:00 EST
"The truth of the matter is we have some pretty damn good quality." - Michael Sprague
Kia is on pace to post it best-ever sales year in the United States, yet executives admit the company is still hampered by the lingering memories of its old products, which were often viewed as cheap and unreliable.
We'll admit it, we're really looking forward to more time with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe. Compared to other high-dollar luxury coupes - we're looking at you Bentley Continental GT - it's more stylish, easily more affordable, and since it's a Mercedes, lacks the sense of fragility that comes with a more exotic name plate.
Auto Express has taken a whack at reviewing the new two-door S-Class, and for some reason, the British mag is comparing it with a Porsche Panamera. Now, while comparing the looks of an S-Class Coupe and a Panamera is a bit like holding a beauty contest between Kate Upton and Medusa, this isn't as bizarre a pair as you might think, particularly when you opt for the high-dollar S63 AMG Coupe and the Panamera Turbo S.
The two offer similar power outputs from their force-induced V8s - 577 horsepower in the Benz and 570 horsepower in the Porsche - and are even similar in terms of interior and exterior dimensions. The S-Class actually has an extra inch between the axles and is 1.2 inches longer overall (it's also about 300 pounds heavier). In the cabin, the S-Class also has a tiny bit more rear legroom, with 33.4 inches to the Panamera's 33.3.
In this On Location, Autoblog Senior Editor Seyth Miersma heads to Pahrump, NV to check out new performance parts for the 2015 Chevy Camaro and accessories for the 2015 Chevy Colorado. While there he watches a man fly over a truck, and preps for the SEMA show.Fri, 07 Nov 2014 17:45:00 EST
The Acura Integra (pictured above in Type R trim) was one of the definitive vehicles of the Acura brand in the US, having joined the Legend at the marque's birth here. However, since the retirement of the RSX, the luxury arm of Honda has lacked a compact, sporty coupe to fill that niche. There appears to be a chance of that absence possibly coming to an end in the coming years, though.
Acura lead designer Dave Marek spoke to Car and Driver during the SEMA Show and said, "A performance brand needs a flagship and it needs an accessible sport car. Not a sports car, but a sport car." However, he also suggested that a new model wouldn't be spinning its tires too soon, at least not before 2017 by his indication.
While the vague possibility of a new sports coupe is still years away, Acura is taking its early steps in a brand revitalization campaign that includes spinning the luxury arm further away from Honda. The strong initial sales of the TLX are certainly a good start, but the work appears to just be beginning, according to Marek. "There are changes coming, and then there are more changes coming," he said to Car and Driver.
It's a good thing senior editor Seyth Miersma doesn't live in Japan, or he wouldn't have been able to snap a photo like the one you see here, of a fresh-off-the-line Lexus RC F on hand at a first drive for media. That's because Toyota's Japanese arm has outright canceled its RC press launch. Sure, we've heard about events being delayed, but canceled? That's rare. Even worse is the reason: according to Automotive News, the event was nixed due to lack of interest. Wow.
In an email to media, Lexus said the event "has been canceled due to insufficient attendance," according to AN. The News posits that perhaps it would have just been better to hold the event anyway, in an attempt to save face, and that this is another example of the Japanese culture (especially youth) becoming less and less interested in cars. Of course, there's also the thought that local media just didn't want to drive out to Yokohama to drive the RC on a not-so-sexy press launch, which, if you ask us, is an incredibly lame excuse (do your jobs, folks!).
Either way, will this bode well for the Lexus RC's public launch? Will it receive the same lukewarm response when it arrives at Japanese dealers? We'll see.
Fri, 07 Nov 2014 12:45:00 EST
Carmakers assign engineers to be in charge of developing bespoke camouflage for each new model.
We've all see those photos of hotly anticipated upcoming models wrapped in black padding and crazy checkerboard and swirl patterns, and maybe wondered if all that is really necessary.
In this installment of The List Shorts, Formula Drift driver Michael Essa demonstrates two versions of the classic donut in his BMW E36 3-Series. Host Jessi Combs attempts to replicate his technique in a Ford F-150 Tremor.
Watch as Jessi checks "perfect a donut" off of her list.
Fri, 07 Nov 2014 10:44:00 EST
"We are excited to see Jim and Stephen take on these new roles as they bring unique skills, experience and fresh perspectives to these critical positions." - Mark Fields
Ford marketing chief Jim Farley is taking over the company's troubled European operations as part of an executive shuffle confirmed on Friday morning.
The net enveloping vehicles in the Takata airbag inflator recall just seems to keep widening. Honda is now updating its previous campaign to revise the status for even more models that were ever registered in (or originally sold in) 13 high-humidity US states and territories.
All of these vehicles were included in the company's earlier repairs. However, at the time this fix was titled "a safety improvement campaign." This latest action upgrades that condition to "a formal recall," according to Honda's official statement. The models include: the 2003-2005 Honda Accord, 2001-2005 Civic (pictured above), 2002-2005 CR-V, 2003-2004 Element, 2002-2004 Odyssey, 2003-2005 Pilot, 2006 Ridgeline, 2003-2005 Acura MDX and the 2005 Acura RL. All of these need to have their passenger-side, front airbag inflator replaced, and the recall affects Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Saipan, Guam and American Samoa.
As with the rest of these affected vehicles, it's possible in a collision for the inflator to rupture spraying metal shrapnel at occupants. There are at least 139 injuries attributed to this problem from a variety of automakers so far. Among this latest population of vehicles, Honda says there have been no confirmed injuries or fatalities related to these exploding inflators.
With 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque pumping out of a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 and starting at $78,995, the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is a performance powerhouse for its price. However, not everyone wants to drop that much cash on a sports coupe, especially when the base 2015 'Vette is a pretty potent package already... for tens of thousands of dollars less. However, for buyers wanting a taste of the Z06 in their regular C7, the Chevrolet Performance catalog might be more than ready to help in the near future.
According to Car and Driver, Chevy displayed one of these kitted up C7s at SEMA, although the brand still wasn't sure whether it would go through with actually offering the components. The parts included many of the Z06s special suspension bits that sharpen its handling like the shocks, anti-roll bars, control arms, carbon-fiber underbody bracing and the whole transverse leaf spring rear suspension. For better stopping, the quicker coupe's larger brakes and calipers were also available. To keep things running cool during hard driving, there was the high-flow radiator and rear transaxle oil-cooler. Finally, to get a little of the Z06's look, the model's front brake ducts, rear spoiler and rear vents were available, as well.
Bringing the parts from a limited-edition model down to something a touch more plebeian isn't a new move for Chevy. The company also offered some bits of the Camaro Z/28 to customers, though on a restricted basis. Even more components from the ZL1 could be ordered to hop up a lower-tier Camaro, too. So while adding the Z06s parts to the Chevy Performance catalog might just be an idea for now, it would hardly be a shock to see them for sale in there eventually.
Production of the new, third-generation Nissan Murano has finally kicked off at the company's Canton, MS factory, marking not only the eighth vehicle built on the facility's lines, but also the first global product to be built there since it opened in 2003.
"The strategic investments that Nissan has made in Canton serve as a testament to the flexibility, efficiency and talent of our workforce and suppliers," said John Martin, Nissan's boss for manufacturing, supply chain management and purchasing. "In Canton, we build high-quality vehicles that compete and win globally, and the bold new Murano will build on that reputation."
The addition of Murano production, which joins Altima, Armada, Titan, Frontier, Xterra and NV, brought a further 1,300 jobs.
In this German-language video, we see a batch of Audi engineers wiring up an A3 Cabriolet with a network of small cameras. The goal? To help identify where and how stone martens - small, ferret-like animals - attack cars. The idea is to observe the animals' behavior around the vehicles, see where they go, what they chew on, and work to develop solutions.
So why go to all this trouble? Cars and trucks are easily the single-most complex consumer good, and they're subject to the widest variety of conditions, regulations and usage cases that one could possibly imagine. They also come with very high consumer expectations for reliability. Thus, it's up to automakers to vet their vehicles for just about every possible scenario and threat - including weasels. And if that means Audi has to go hire Walter Simbeck, animal trainer to the stars, and string up a bunch of GoPros on an A3, well, they're game.
In speaking with Autoblog, Mark Dahncke, senior product manager at Audi of America said it best:
We drive the 2016 Audi A6
The Audi A6 has long been one of the best mid-level luxury cars for sale in the United States. For 2016, it's back and better than ever with a new, more powerful engine, a much-improved new transmission and more style both inside and out. We traveled to Germany to hit some high-speed roads to see what Audi's newest A6 is really made of.
Tesla delays production of Model X
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 18:31:00 EST
"For sure, these two companies have a natural attraction to each other." -John Krafcik
Honestly, this is really hard to even imagine, but what if the Volkswagen Group merged with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles? Aside from being easily the largest automaker on the planet, it'd bring the following makes under one roof: Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat, Skoda, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Fiat, Fiat Professional Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, Jeep, Maserati and Ram. Product overlap aside, this arrangement would, in the estimation of former Hyundai Motor America boss and current TrueCar President John Krafcik, be "highly profitable."
Toyota has announced a rather small voluntary recall, affecting 5,650 Avalon and Camry sedans from model year 2014. Both gas and hybrid models are included in the action.
This recall focuses on the left front lower suspension arm, which may have a bad bolt connecting it to the ball joint. If the car hits a big enough pothole - a real concern as we head into winter - or suffers a major impact, the two components could separate, at which point steering control would more or less vanish.
According to Toyota, there have been no crashes, injuries or deaths due to this problem. Toyota is notifying owners, who will need to report to dealers for a free replacement lower suspension arm.