BlogMon, 03 Nov 2014
It's been two decades since Toyota dominated the World Rally Championship with its Celica Turbo 4WD. But this past weekend, Toyota hit the rally stage in a very different vehicle.
That, as you can see, is the Japanese automaker's Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV), which is still in its prototype phase. We're still at least half a year away from seeing the FCV in production trim, but the model has already been pressed into duty as the "zero car" at the Shinshiro Rally, the last round of the Japanese Rally Championship.
The zero car, for those unfamiliar, is to rally what a pace or safety car is to circuit racing, driving the rally stage to check for signs of trouble before the competitors put their feet to the floor, so it's not as if the FCV needed extensive modifications. From the looks of things, it just needed some jazzy stripes, mud flaps, probably different rolling stock and an interior with racing buckets and harnesses, roll cage, radio equipment and maybe a bit more ground clearance.
Porsche has issued a "precautionary" and voluntary safety recall affecting some 4,400 sports cars across the globe. Here in the United States, the recall includes 1,382 911, Boxster convertibles and Cayman coupes, all of which are from model years 2014 and 2015.
Porsche will be replacing the lock bracket for the front cargo area (the frunk) after internal testing revealed that, while the vehicles meet "strength requirements," specific parts might not meet the company's quality standards throughout the vehicle's life. There have been no reports of accidents or injuries.
Owners of the affected cars will be notified within 60 days and will need to report to a nearby dealer for a free repair, which should take about 30 minutes.
We're set to record Autoblog Podcast #404 this evening. Check out the topics below or drop us your questions and comments via the Q&A module. And don't forget to subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven't already done so. To take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.
Discussion Topics For Autoblog Podcast Episode #404
BMW i8 and i3
Nissan's reality show/motorsports program, GT Academy, is set to return to Spike TV for its fourth season on Friday, and in anticipation, the Nismo team has issued a new video that gives some of its fans a taste of the racing lifestyle.
It all starts innocently enough, with fans test-driving a 2015 Nissan 370Z Nismo, only to have a sudden stop quickly transforms things into something a bit more exuberant and special. We won't spoil the details, so take a look at the video for yourself, and then head into Comments and let us know what you think.
GT Academy will air on Spike TV, Friday nights at 11:30 PM Eastern.
Mazda is reportedly set to introduce a Mazda2 with a four-door sedan body. Unlike the upcoming CX-3, which is debuting at the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show and is almost certain to be sold in North America, this other version's chance here are a bit more mysterious.
According to The Bangkok Post, the Mazda2 sedan will make its word debut at the Thailand International Motor Expo on November 28, and the traditional five-door hatch will be there as well. Both body styles will be built in Thailand with diesel engines and will be the first vehicles to adhere to the country's eco-car rules for oil-burners with a SkyActiv 1.5-liter diesel that will make 105 horsepower.
At this time, there's no indication whether the new sedan might also be sold in the US, but we're not holding our breath - remember, the previous Mazda2 sedan never made it Stateside, either.
Ford looks to have something really big planned for the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. The Blue Oval has released the first of five teaser videos on the brand's performance heritage, and aside from some great images of racers over the years, the video includes a series of teaser images, the last of which points to November 17, 2014.
That's the day before press days open in LA, and considering the propensity of global automakers to plan lavish debuts the night before a major international auto show, it's a virtual certainty that Ford will be showing off some sort of special vehicle.
That'd be news in and of itself, but based on the images shown in Ford's teaser video - which include an Alcantara steering wheel, a "Powered by Ford" valve cover, aluminum pedals, sticky tires, a big, round exhaust tip, a honeycomb grille and a serious set of wheels - it seems very likely that Ford will be showing something performance oriented.
In this brief Short Cut, Autoblog's Steven Ewing demonstrates Line-Lock on the 2015 Ford Mustang GT. Accessed through an on-screen performance menu, the feature temporarily locks the front brakes to help you heat up the rear tires for better traction, as you would for drag racing. The result? A 15-second smokescreen.Mon, 03 Nov 2014
With the original TT, Audi arguably valued style over substance. The equation reversed - at least to an extent - with the second-generation model. But with this latest MkIII version, the German automaker appears to have finally imbued its compact sports car with the performance to back up its runway looks.
That is, at least, what the team at Xcar has to say, having driven the latest Audi sports coupe on the rainy roads of Scotland - taking in its crisp lines, sharp handling, nippy performance and impressive technology along the way. But don't let us spoil it for you: Watch for yourself to see how the new TT measures up against its stylish forebears.
With a name like Carmichael, you'd figure Ricky over here would be into cars. The championship motocross rider is actually more into two-wheeled vehicles than four, but that doesn't mean he can't show some enthusiasm for the automobile. Last year he worked with Chevy on a special Sonic concept for the SEMA show in Las Vegas, and now they've rekindled the partnership for the special truck you see here.
Called the Colorado Performance Concept, the show truck was made to demonstrate "the lifestyle-supporting capability of Chevy's new midsize pickup truck," jam-packed as it is with class-leading technology and stuff. It's based on the Colorado crew cab with six-foot, two-inch cargo bed, with a tailgate extender and GearOn system that help the ten-time AMA Motocross Champion secure his bikes and a CornerStep bumper to help get at 'em.
The truck has been decked out in matte grey with silver and yellow accents, 17-inch wheels wearing Goodyear Duratec rubber, a sport bar over the bed and a complementing yellow-trimmed interior and a performance exhaust system to enhance the available 3.6-liter V6 engine. Scope it out in the press release and pair of videos below and in the high-res image gallery above for a closer look.
If you've been waiting for Chrysler to shoehorn its new Hellcat engine into the Ram 1500 pickup, you may be waiting a while. Our compatriots at Car and Driver spoke to Ram CEO Bob Hegbloom about the prospect of a Hellcat pickup, and his answer was less than promising: "At this time, I would say no."
That doesn't mean it'll never happen, but does suggest that such a project is not currently in the cards. Which is a bit of a shame, considering how the last Mopar muscle truck turned out. The Dodge Ram SRT-10 was powered by essentially the same V10 engine as the Viper, channeled (in the short-cab version anyway) to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual. The supercharged, 707-horsepower Hellcat engine now available in the Challenger coupe and Charger sedan is even more powerful, and would make one heck of a performance truck - the kind that, long-travel suspension aside, might make some enthusiasts forget all about the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor.
In the meantime, we're still holding out hope that the Trackhawk name registered by Chrysler recently will point the way towards a Hellcat-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Where would you most like to see the Hellcat engine pop up next?
Mon, 03 Nov 2014
This amount includes $100-million in civil penalties, the largest such fines in EPA history.
Hyundai and Kia are getting more than a slap on the wrist for overstating the fuel economy of an estimated 1.2-million vehicles in their 2011-2013 model ranges. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice and the California Air Resources Board are hitting the automakers with collective penalties valued at around $300 million for Clean Air Act violations. This amount includes $100-million in civil penalties, the largest such fines in EPA history. Specifically, Hyundai is paying a $56.8 million penalty and relinquishing 2.7-million greenhouse gas emissions credits. Kia is paying $43.2 million in penalties and giving up 2.05-million credits.
Think of the electric motor in the facelifted 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid as the cream filling in an Oreo cookie. Under the hood of this plug-in hybrid crossover is a 333-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with a 95-hp synchronous electric motor sandwiched between it and an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. The clutched powertrain allows pure combustion, pure electric or a combination of both to drive all four wheels through Porsche's permanent all-wheel-drive system.
Differentiating itself from the Panamera S E-Hybrid sedan, which shares the same basic powertrain and stores energy in a 9.4-kWh battery, the Cayenne crossover is fit with a more robust 10.8-kWh lithium-ion battery that delivers an estimated pure-electric driving range of up to 22 miles at speeds of up to 78 miles per hour.
To be one of the very first US media members to sample Porsche's latest fuel-efficient crossover, the automaker flew us to Frankfurt, Germany, to test the five-passenger Cayenne S E-Hybrid on its home turf.
Mercedes-Benz is in the midst of overhauling its SUV and crossover lineup in both makeup and name, with a new GLC model slated to replace the GLK, a GLE to replace the GL and even a new G-Class to cap it all off. But it's not just the production utilities which Benz has been working on.
Presented at the opening of the German automaker's new R&D center in Beijing, this new Vision G-Code concept takes the form of a Sports Utility Coupe that - at 161 inches long - is even shorter than the GLA that's currently Mercedes' smallest crossover. But despite its compact form, the G-Code is packed with cutting-edge technology.
For one, it uses multi-voltaic silver paint that transforms the body into one continuous solar panel. It fuels the electric portion of the otherwise unspecified hybrid powertrain that offers through-the-road all-wheel drive and the option of pure electric mobility. There's even a holographic grille at the front that indicates what mode the vehicle is in, similar to what we saw recently on Mercedes' Future Truck 2025 concept. The grille is flanked by LED headlights, with another strip of LEDs around back and tiny cameras that pop out of the hidden a-pillars to act as rearview mirrors (this is a concept, after all).
Thankfully, the weekend's Formula One dramas all concerned events that happened off the track, with both Caterham and Marussia going into administration, after which a rumored boycott by the small teams was avoided. That gave the 18 drivers left on the grid freedom to focus on making the most of the Texas sunshine for Sunday's US Grand Prix.
Having finished two Free Practices behind teammate Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Lewis Hamilton, the second one just .003 behind, Nico Rosberg said he had speed in hand and proved it during qualifying, beating Hamilton to the top spot by four-tenths of a second. Williams drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa came behind, followed by Daniel Ricciardo in the Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari, the McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen, Kimi Räikkönen in the second Ferrari, and little-team Sauber bursting out of the storm clouds into tenth, Adrian Sutil making the team's first-time Q3 appearance all year.
When it came time to race, the carbon-fiber fisticuffs began on the first lap.
Okay Honda, you've won the Internet for the week. This cool "double-sided" video, featuring the new Civic and Civic Type R Concept, is one of the more interesting YouTube spots we've seen.
On the surface, "The Other Side" shows a regular dad, simply going about his day and picking his daughter's up from school. But press the "R" key while watching the video, and it transitions into an alternate video. The dad is now in a Civic Type R Concept, and he's not on the school run. Instead, he's involved in something... a bit more devious.
We won't spoil the ending, but suffice it to say, you'll want to watch this video through to its conclusion. Also, because of the unique nature of this video, we can't embed it here, so you'll need to hop over to Honda's UK YouTube channel.
Ford rolled into the Sao Paulo Motor Show with some pretty cool crossovers in tow, the awesomest of all being the EcoSport Storm concept shown above, which draws its inspiration directly from the F-150 SVT Raptor. It packs a lower grille clearly derived from the now-famous muscle truck, as well as a Blue Storm paint job, black and silver trim, special graphics, lower body cladding and 215/75 R15 off-road tires. Don't go holding your breath for a supercharged V8, though; made locally in Brazil, India and Thailand, the tiny EcoSport is typically powered by a three- or four-cylinder engine.
The Storm isn't the only specially prepared Ecosport on show, however, joined as it is by another pair called Beauty and the Beast. Beauty is decked out in matte copper with a black roof, LED fog lamps, 18-inch wheels with low-profile tires and an interior complete with four individual bucket seats, leather upholstery and a full multimedia suite. The Beast, meanwhile, takes a sportier approach with a white pearl finish, blue and orange trim and three-bar grille. It also wears 18-inch wheels and LED fog lamps, but its interior swaps out its rear seats for a bike rack.
Joining the EcoSport show cars was an Edge crossover equipped with all the latest technologies and done up in bright red with three-bar grille, bulging hood, and an interior featuring 10-inch touchscreens and leather upholstery. Feel free to read more in the press release below.
Chevrolet is paying tribute to its outgoing, fifth-generation Camaro with a new Commemorative Edition, which will debut at next week's SEMA Show in Las Vegas. This particular muscle car, while being shown as a convertible, will also be available with a fixed hardtop.
Available in both V6 and SS V8 varieties, the Commemorative Edition Camaro follows in the well-established tradition of the fifth-gen's many special editions by adding a flurry of aesthetic treatments without much in the way of performance changes. That said, it looks pretty good.
Unique 20-inch wheels that remind us of some of Hurst's classic efforts for GM, a body-color front splitter, the rear spoiler from the ZL1, a bespoke stripe pack and, of course, Commemorative Edition emblems spice up the Camaro's exterior, while the cabin is home to eye-searing Adrenaline Red-and-black leather upholstery, with red contrast stitching and other accents scattered throughout the interior. A leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel is a nice touch, as well.
Why should you buy a Chevrolet pickup? Well, aside from technology and stuff, you'll want to park a bowtied truck in your driveway because it makes you look more handsome, more resourceful and more likely to own an awesome pet (your author, who drives a Mini Cooper S and owns the world's best mutt, disputes this last finding). Or, that's at least what the maker of the Colorado would have you believe.
How did Chevy come to these conclusions? Well, they assembled many groups of people and showed them pictures of the same guy. The only difference was the vehicle in the background, with one pic showing a badgeless, silver Toyota Corolla and the other showing the new Chevy Colorado.
Take a look at Chevy's focus group testing.
It seems like auto buyers throughout the whole world outside of the United States and Canada have a plethora of small pickups to choose from to fit their needs. In fact, there's one just south of the border that might be perfect for many American consumers - the 2015 Ram 700.
The little, front-wheel-drive pickup is a badge-engineered version of the Fiat Strada, which is also sold in Mexico. The powertrain is limited to a 1.6-liter four-cylinder making 115 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque with a five-speed manual gearbox. However, buyers can choose between either a two-door, two-passenger body or a three-door, four-person version (pictured above and right) that's also available with a locking front differential. While the 700 isn't big, the two-door version still offers a cargo capacity of up to 1,554 pounds, and opting for the three-door still allows for 1,433 pounds of goods.
Prices for these little trucks aren't bad either. The two-door is priced at 182,900 Mexican pesos ($13,576 at current rates), while 241,900 pesos ($17,955) gets customers the three-door.
If you're going to this year's SEMA Show in Las Vegas, it's going to be tough to miss the Ford booth, simply for its size. The Blue Oval is bringing over a dozen customized examples of the 2015 Mustang and a quintet of modded Transits. The latest announced addition is a trio of upgraded 2015 Expeditions showing different takes on the recently refreshed SUV.
Any vehicle tuned by Dub Magazine needs to ride on massive wheels, and the Expedition (pictured above) that it has for SEMA is no exception. The SUV has 26-inch Dropstars wheels wrapped in Pirelli tires, and, making them look even larger, the suspension is also lowered. The rest of the custom has some mild upgrades like mesh grilles in front, tinted windows, an integrated radar detector and new upholstery inside.
Tijn wants to boost the performance of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 for its take on the Expedition. The company claims to add 40 horsepower to bring total output to a claimed 405 by upgrading the engine with a charge cooler from Vortech Engineering, a custom side exhaust and a custom tune. To match the extra grunt, the SUV also gets bigger brakes, an Air Lift suspension and 24-inch, copper-colored wheels with custom fender flares.
With his shock of white hair and penchant for wearing gloves and black sunglasses, fashion mogul Karl Lagerfeld isn't a hard guy to pick out of a crowd. But while he is best known for designing haute couture, Lagerfeld also has a passion for photography and his cat, Choupette. Both of them are being featured in bizarre advertising for the Opel Corsa in Europe, and a new, making-of video makes the whole process look even weirder.
Choupette, which has its own Twitter page, is moved around the Corsa, and Choupette going from looking vaguely scared to occasionally bored and even just angry at everything that's going on. It's hard to imagine pictures of a kitty selling many Opel hatchbacks. However, everyone here appears to be taking the photo shoot very seriously, and the stern mood just makes the proceedings seem that much more absurd.
Of course, if the Internet has proven anything, people love looking at cats, and getting Lagerfeld to shoot the car makes sense. He has done similar advertising before but has moved down the price ladder with each new job. In 2007, he shot a calendar of the Audi R8 exclusively for owners of the supercar. The designer returned a few years later with Volkswagen to advertise German special editions of the Polo, Golf and Golf Plus.
Fri, 31 Oct 2014
Don't let the glare from all that chrome blind you or distract from a buttoned-downed reality: the SEMA show is big business.
The SEMA show in Las Vegas is where automakers and tuners roll out some of their gaudiest wares. It's a feast for the senses - especially if you like huge wheels, crazy paint jobs and over-the-top performance. But don't let the glare from all that chrome blind you or distract from a buttoned-downed reality: the SEMA show is big business.
'Tis the season of chocolate, and as we sit at our desks eating entirely too many Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, we're left salivating over this particular Audi TT. Aside from the fact that it's the new, third-generation model, which is a darn desirable in and of itself, it's also covered in chocolate. Yes, chocolate.
There are 27,000 individual pieces on this two-door coupe, and they've been affixed courtesy of Belgian chocolatiers Joost Arijs. The sweet car was developed for a lifestyle and design exhibition in Kortrijk, Belgium.
Take a look at the confectionary-covered coupe in the video from WOW TV.
Super spooky cursed and haunted cars!
It's Halloween, you guys! So naturally, the internet is full of stories about ghosts and goblins and pumpkins and witches. But there are plenty of spooky things to talk about in the automotive space, and we've put together a list of five cars that have strong evidence to support them being cursed or haunted, if you believe in that sort of thing. Check 'em out, here.
The BMW i8 causes a scene in northern MI
Automotive parts maker Takata is having a rough year with millions of vehicles equipped with its airbag inflators being recalled. However, it looks like there might still be problems with the company's quality control, if a new recall by Infiniti is any indication.
The Japanese luxury brand is recalling 1,912 total units of the 2013 Infiniti QX56 and 2014 QX80 in North America because of a manufacturing flaw with their Takata-supplied inflators for the driver's side front airbag. Of those, 1,848 are in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Specifically, the outer baffle could be the wrong component and cause too much pressure to build up inside. According to documents submitted to NHTSA, it's possible in a crash for the part to rupture spraying metal shrapnel at occupants. At this time, Infiniti has not had any reports of this actually happening to drivers.
While this problem sounds nearly identical to the issue affecting millions of earlier vehicles, it must be noted that this is a different fault. According to the notice being sent to dealers on NHTSA's website: "This particular Voluntary Safety Recall Campaign is unrelated to two earlier campaigns that involved Takata passenger front air bag inflators on some older model Infiniti vehicles. This issue involves a much newer inflator and is a different, more isolated, Takata quality control issue."
BMW obviously builds motorcycles, and Volkswagen Group owns Ducati. Now, fellow German automaker Daimler is hopping into the two-wheel game by buying a 25-percent stake in Italian sportbike maker MV Agusta for an undisclosed price.
According to Daimler's press release, its Mercedes-AMG division is actually the one that's going to be working with MV Agusta in a "long-term partnership," including coordinated marketing and sales. The automaker is also appointing a member to the motorcycle company's board of directors. At this time, there's no mention of actually co-developing models together, though.
"MV Agusta and Mercedes-AMG are a perfect brand fit: Two complementary companies that stand for design, high performance and excellence. Mercedes-AMG will help MV Agusta to further expand globally and to accelerate our growth," said MV Agusta president and CEO Giovanni Castiglioni in Daimler's announcement.
Unfortunately, for many people, a ride in the back of the hearse is the last chance they ever get to be in a car. In the case of "Madness" from AMS Performance, it could get folks to their final resting place faster than anything else around.
Based around an actual hearse from a 1996 Chevrolet Caprice originally converted by Superior Coaches, Madness has been the ongoing project of AMS Performance Vice President Arne Toman for years. The idea was partially inspired when he saw the Guinness Record for the fastest hearse was a a 13.72-second quarter mile, and that seemed quite beatable.
In the video above, under the hood of this beast is a Chevy LQ4 6.0-liter V8 out of a van with light mods like new cams and valve springs. However, it also has a turbo running at around 23 psi that brings power to around 1,000 horsepower. It makes this hearse go like a bat out of hell, It can hit 60 miles per hour in about 2.3 seconds at the strip, but the interior still has air conditioning, a stereo and all of the original equipment to carry a casket in the back.
Like few other cars we can remember, people want to talk about the 2015 BMW i8. Drive one, and you'll soon find out what we mean. They stop you at gas stations. They accost you in Walgreen's parking lots. They stream out of neighborhood bars, beers in hand.
At least, that was our experience this week during Autoblog's Technology of the Year testing. We had the pleasure of driving the plug-in hybrid BMW sports car up to and around Petoskey, MI, a resort town where seeing such exotics is rare enough, let alone in the off season. It made for some interesting conversations - so we began writing down some of the comments the butterfly-doored coupe inspired. Here's a sampling:
"Wanna race for pinks? I'll go easy on you." - Acne-covered teenage pizza delivery driver in a sad-looking Ford Taurus parked at a Valero gas station near Grayling (which incidentally didn't actually have gas).
The Toyota Prius is the undisputed king of the hybrid market, but Hyundai and Kia are hoping to challenge its reign in the coming years with their own dedicated model. However, in all likelihood this is the same technology being shared between them. "We will take the lead in the future by raising the competitiveness of our environment-friendly cars like hybrid-only cars, plug-in hybrid cars and fuel cell hydrogen cars," Hyundai Motor CEO Kim Choong-ho said to Reuters, during the launch of another vehicle in South Korea.
While Kim didn't say when the model would be ready, Autocar in Europe spoke to people at Kia, who said that the company's own hybrid was two years away and codenamed the DE. The initial vehicle is reportedly a five-door hatchback that's about 169-inches long, with more conventional styling than the Prius. Its powertrain is reportedly based around a 1.6-liter engine with electric assist. A plug-in version might follow later, and other bodystyles on the platform are possible. A recently spotted test mule might show the current state of development on the project (pictured above).
According to Reuters, the decision for the new vehicle comes in order to meet tighter emissions in some markets. However, it seems like a challenging move for the US market. Hyundai already sells its Tucson fuel cell in limited quantities and the Sonata hybrid, and Kia has the Optima hybrid and Soul EV. Industry analysts are also predicting that hybrids might have a hard time versus internal combustion engines in the coming years. In addition, Toyota is rumored to get fuel economy close to 60 miles per gallon for some versions of the next Prius. All of these factors make selling the models here a potentially difficult undertaking.
Mopar is heading to the SEMA show in Las Vegas with a fleet of customized vehicles that appeal to enthusiasts of all stripes. There's a Dodge Viper ACR concept that follows in the lineage of the supercar's great road racing past, and a custom Ram ProMaster that might just be the ultimate outdoor party machine.
We got an inside look at Mopar's cars that will be on display at the show, which also include a Dodge Challenger T/A concept, two crazy Jeeps and a Ram 2500 Outdoorsman that could change the way you camp. While these are some of our favorites, Mopar is bringing plenty to SEMA, so let us know your top choices in the comments section.