BlogWed, 29 Oct 2014
It's the showdown everyone's been looking forward to, the East versus West grudge match of the year. We're talking, of course, about the BMW M4 versus the Lexus RC F.
Although BMW uses a twin-turbo straight-six and the Lexus uses a free-breathing V8, the two are pretty closely matched on paper: a luxury coupe with over 400 horsepower channeled to the rear wheels.
The BMW has been doing these cars for longer, and the M4 boasts a higher power-to-weight ratio. But then the RC F has more power - and without forced induction to break up the rev range. So which is the better luxury muscle coupe? Watch the latest episode of Motor Trend Head 2 Head to find out.
Including all-wheel-drive models, there are ten versions of the 2015 Dodge Charger. The tenth variant - better described as the ten-tenths variant and the topmost model - is this Charger SRT Hellcat.
Superficially, you already know what it is: take the massively powerful Hellcat engine that's Frankensteined into the Dodge Challenger and stitch it into the recently facelifted Charger sedan.
Oh, but that would be superficial knowledge indeed. Russ Ruedisueli, vehicle line executive and head engineer for SRT, claims the Charger Hellcat is, "The industry's most irreverent four-door supercar." We looked up the word "irreverent" in the Oxford dictionaries, and it turns out the word doesn't mean "707 horsepower," nor "650 pound-feet of torque" nor "3.7-second 0-60 time, and seats five adults." It does mean, "Showing a lack of respect for people or things that are generally taken seriously."
The recently merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles empire has ambitious plans for growth, and it's going to need some big bucks in its coffers in order to enact them. Part of that cash injection is coming from the floating of its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, but now FCA has announced a further capital campaign to be based on the enormous asset that is Ferrari.
FCA's board of directors has just approved the separation of Ferrari from the rest of the group as a separate entity. Once that separation is complete, Ferrari will put 10 percent of its shares on the stock market "in the United States and possibly a European exchange" as well.
This isn't the first time that the idea of a Ferrari IPO has been raised. Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Chrysler, Fiat and Ferrari (pictured above), first raised the idea four years ago. Former Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo nixed the idea, but now that he's been discharged, it appears there's nothing to get in the way of Marchionne's desires.
Between GM's ignition switches and Takata's airbags, it's been a big year for recalls, but they keep rolling in. The latest comes from Chrysler, which has announced a pair of recalls for certain heavy-duty pickups and SUVs.
The first issue revolves around the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engine available in the 2010-2014 Ram HD trucks, including 2500 and 3500 series pickups as well as 4500 and 5500 series chassis cabs. In the affected units, "a terminal connector near the fuel heater may be subject to friction-induced corrosion," according to the first of the two announcements from Chrysler below.
The problem could result in overheating and fuel leakage. Chrysler launched its investigation following cases of overheating, none of which actually started a fire, much less an injury or accident. As a precautionary measure, however, Chrysler is instructing service technicians to replace the terminals on an estimated 381,876 Ram units around the world - the vast majority of those (314,704) registered in the US, another 59,432 in Canada, 1,803 in Mexico and 5,937 abroad.
It usually takes several years to figure out if a car's design is standing the test of time to become a future classic. When new, the Chevrolet SSR was derided at practically every turn, largely for its retrofuturistic styling and Trailblazer-based underpinnings, but now some time has passed. Maybe it's time for a revaluation.
This week Generation Gap aims to find out if the SSR's time has finally come, but it's putting the unusual pickup against the stiffest competition imaginable - a 1970 El Camino SS 454. They are both expressive Chevrolet pickups, but one of them is a better-regarded classic, and the other remains a bit of an automotive punchline.
A stock 2004 SSR would lose easily to the high-performance El Camino, and Generation Gap has attempted to even the odds just a little with an example tuned by Lingenfelter. Its 5.3-liter V8 features a supercharger to boost power to a claimed 385 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque. Getting on the throttle is greeted by a scream of blower whine from under the hood, which is actually rather impressive.
2014 Citroën DS Cabrio Racing
Do you like your forbidden fruit with an air of Francophile about it? If so, prepare for a juicy snack. Not only is today's review subject French, but it's a racing-tuned, hot hatch with a quasi-convertible top, too. Though you'll never buy one (legally) on our shores, you can get the lowdown on just how racy this Citroën hatch is by clicking through, here.
Cadillac ATS-V Coupe spied ahead of LA
Police officers certainly have a difficult job in keeping the streets safe, but as public employees in positions of authority, there is still a very real need for oversight. To that end, Ford is partnering with a tech company to offer a new system called Ford Telematics for Law Enforcement on its line of Police Interceptor patrol vehicles that could make cops safer, while giving cities a better idea of what its officers are doing.
The system streams live data about cruisers back to the home base to people like the police chief or shift supervisor. That info includes expected things like speed, location and cornering acceleration, but it gets incredibly granular as well, with records of things like if emergency lights are on, or even if an officer is wearing a seatbelt.
Ford Telematics for Law Enforcement "ought to protect officers as much as it protects the public," said Ford spokesperson Chris Terry to Autoblog. Constantly monitoring patrol cars offers cities a lot of advantages, too. First, it reduces potential liability because a department can prove where each vehicle is at all times. Also, officers know they are being watched and may potentially drive more safely.
Fiat Chrysler has announced a management change following the company's woeful performance in the latest Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability Survey. Of the 28 brands surveyed, FCA's marques occupied the five the seven lowest scores, while Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Fiat were the four lowest scorers.
Doug Betts, FCA's 51-year-old head of quality "left the company to pursue other interests," which, considering the aforementioned paragraph, means he was sacked. According to Automotive News, Betts joined Chrysler in 2007, defecting from Nissan, and, insiders report, had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with new boss Sergio Marchionne.
His replacement is the newly promoted Matthew Lidane (shown at inset), who was formerly VP of systems and components. Lidane has been at Chrysler since 1987 and was previously chief engineer of the Jeep product team as well as the vehicle line boss for the compact US wide platform which (ironically) underpins two of FCA's lowest scoring vehicles, the Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it's looking into Chrysler Group's handling of a pair of recalls affecting roughly one million Ram pickup trucks. Reuters is reporting that the regulatory agency is focusing on the availability (or lack thereof) of parts and "poor communications" from the automaker in its investigation.
"Customers have been advised in accordance with the regulations governing recalls," Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne told Reuters via email. "We are continually replenishing our supply of replacement parts. Chrysler Group regrets any inconvenience our customers may have experienced."
NHTSA disagrees, arguing that the recalls, which affect 972,000 trucks from 2003 to 2012, are being delayed by the lack of parts.
Episode #403 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Michael Harley, and Ronnie Fung of Autoblog Canada talk about the $5 billion investment Ford is making in Lincoln, the McLaren 650S, and the best apps for drivers. We start with what's in the garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Check out the rundown below with times for topics, and you can follow along down below with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!
Autoblog Podcast #403:
Cadillac is getting serious about revitalizing and expanding its lineup, and to that end, a new report claims that brand boss Johan de Nysschen has been showing plans for several new models to the marque's dealer body - among them, a new convertible.
The droptop which Cadillac reportedly showed its dealers in sketch form, would be based on the same platform as the ATS and CTS, those it's unclear to which (if either) of those model lines the new convertible would be added, or whether the design features a canvas or folding hardtop roof. One way or another, it would be the first time Cadillac would offer a convertible since the Corvette-based XLR roadster was discontinued more than five years ago.
Quoting an unnamed brand spokesperson, Cadillac would "like to introduce an open car to the portfolio at some point," however, "it's not likely to be one of the near-term portfolio additions."
The heyday of the first-generation Audi R8 is winding down, and the Four Rings already has a bespoke factory to start building the next model soon. In the meantime, the German brand is sending its supercar off with a bang at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show in the form of this limited-edition 2015 R8 Competition - the most powerful production vehicle ever made by the company.
Audi is earmarking just 60 examples of the Competition for the US, and this is more than just a trim package to say farewell. Power for the supercar comes from the usual 5.2-liter V10 that's massaged to develop 570 horsepower, an extra 20 hp over the already quite potent V10 Plus, and the only available transmission is the seven-speed, dual clutch S Tronic gearbox. The tweaks let this limited R8 rocket to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds and achieve a maximum velocity of 199 mph. To haul that speed to a stop, it also gets ceramic brake disks with red calipers.
Of course, having such a rare supercar means showing off a little. Audi takes inspiration from the R8 LMS Ultra racecar for the Competition and tries to bring some of its details to the street. The model wears matte carbon fiber pieces replacing the rear spoiler, mirror housings, side blades, front spoiler and rear diffuser. For an extra mean-looking touch, it also has high-gloss black paint covering the wheels and exhaust pipes.
Consumer Reports has released its Annual Auto Reliability Survey and the results are, in a word, interesting. While we already covered the score-damaging effects of infotainment systems, there's another big angle to the data that's getting some attention - the utterly dismal scores of the Detroit Three's small car offerings.
The turbocharged Dodge Dart and Chevrolet Cruze, as well as the Ford Fiesta were their respective brands' lowest-scoring models, a stat that's made worse by the fact that the American automakers finished 25th, 21st and 23rd, respectively.
That's not acceptable for The Detroit Free Press' auto critic, Mark Phelan, who has penned a scathing critique of the D3's small car reliability scores, arguing that GM, Ford and Chrysler are "out of excuses."
When the doors open at the LA Auto Show in a few weeks, Scion will be on hand to showcase its new iM Concept. But considering what little Toyota's youthful brand has revealed about the concept so far, it's led to rampant speculation. And the prevailing wisdom seems to point towards a production iM arriving as a Scion-badged version of the Toyota Auris.
For those unfamiliar, the Auris is to European (and other) markets essentially what the Matrix is (was?) to ours: a hatchback version of the Corolla. The model line was first introduced in 2006, looking in its first iteration like an overgrown version of the contemporary second-gen Yaris, and was replaced with the current model in 2012. It's available as a five-door hatch or wagon, with a range of gasoline, diesel and hybrid powertrains available.
If the rumors - spurred by the similarity of the iM concept's nose depicted in the teasers - prove accurate, and public reception to the idea ends up spurring Toyota to put it into action, it wouldn't be the first overseas Toyota brought over as a Scion. The Scion iQ was sold as the Toyota iQ overseas years before it arrived here.
Greetings from (cold and rainy) Petoskey, MI, where many Autoblog editors are testing 14 different cars and trucks that make up the finalists for this year's Technology of the Year Award. Our tech choices run the gamut from complete vehicles (BMW i3, i8) to engines, connectivity features, convenience niceties, safety systems, performance data functions and more. And it helps that many of these technologies are housed in some pretty hilariously fun vehicles.
Have a look below to see the full roster of what made the cut this year, and stay tuned as we crown a winner during the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show festivities in just a few weeks.
When you think of hot hatches, one French automaker comes to mind... but it's not Citroën. Maybe it should be, though, because some of the industry's best hot hatches are honed on the rally stage, and nobody has dominated the modern World Rally Championship like Citroën has. With the legendary Sébastien Loeb behind the wheel, Citroën won nine Drivers' and eight Constructors' titles between 2003 and 2012. And the last two were scored in the DS3 WRC. The 2014 Citroën DS3 Cabrio Racing you see here is the road-going version of that dominant rally machine.
Citroën first launched the DS3 Racing back in 2010 with a limited run of 1,000 examples, all clad in dark gray with (optional) bright-orange accents. Production was further extended to a total of 2,400 units, but after those all sold out, the French automaker followed up in 2013 with 200 additional examples, this time with an opening roof panel, a matte anthracite finish and metallic red trim. Since Citroën does not compete in the North American market, we recently took the opportunity to drive it at Millbrook Proving Ground in the UK to see what all the fuss is about.
Vsport versions of the CTS and XTS sedans are all well and good, but what Cadillac enthusiasts have really been looking forward to is the arrival of the next full-on V model. And here we have it.
Spied in the nude during an apparent photo shoot ahead of its anticipated debut at the fast-approaching Los Angeles Auto Show, the upcoming new Cadillac ATS-V Coupe is set to pick up where the old CTS-V left off, only in a more compact form. Unlike previous spy shots of heavily disguised prototypes, this final version is showing a chrome-framed mesh grille, along with a deep lower air dam with what looks to be a carbon-fiber front splitter. That bulging hood with heat extractor vents is tipped to be packing a twin-turbo V6 engine, breathing out of quad exhaust tips.
The aggressive aero kit also encompasses side skirts, a reshaped rear bumper and a lip spoiler on the truck, while the upgraded rolling stock wears serious low-profile rubber and the brakes appear to be carbon-ceramic units. Peer through the window and you can even see the sport bucket seats with slots for racing harnesses. All of which suggests a serious American challenger to the BMW M4 and its ilk, and we're looking forward to seeing the vehicle in the metal in LA next month.
Toyota has released the first images of its brigade of concepts for the 2014 SEMA Show, introducing a trio of TRD-fettled off-roaders, a pair of DUB-inspired models, a race-ready pickup and a Sienna minivan with 48 inches worth of subwoofers.
Four of the vehicles being shown by Toyota will take part in the grueling Baja 1000 off-road race. The star of that effort will be a race-prepared Tundra, which will actually be competing from November 12 to 16 in the 47th running of the desert race. It'll be supported by a trio of vehicles, which mimics Toyota's TRD Pro Series production vehicles, with the 4Runner, Tacoma and Tundra all acting as support vehicles.
Each of these vehicles has been fabricated by the off-road specialists at N-Fab and comes loaded down with communications and guidance equipment, additional lights and off-road body modifications.
The Sao Paulo Motor Show only comes around once every other year, and Nissan - an automaker deeply vested in the Latin American market - isn't missing out on the opportunity to showcase a new crossover concept.
Called the Kicks concept, the crossover seems to slot in size-wise in between the Juke and the Rogue. Nissan isn't saying much about it, though, aside from its having drawn its inspiration from Brazil with a "satin titanium" finish and bright orange trim - the former taking its cues from Sao Paulo and the latter from Rio.
While emphasizing its Brazilian character, Nissan also stresses that the concept's creation was "a product of global collaboration." So while it isn't saying anything about production feasibility, it is seemingly suggesting that if it were put into production - and as we stated previously, we think it just might - it could stand to be a global model and not confined strictly to South America.
The Mazda booth at this year's Los Angeles Auto Show will showcase some new crossovers. In addition to the refreshed CX-5 that we're expecting, the Japanese automaker has announced plans to unveil its new CX-3 compact crossover.
According to Mazda, the brand's entry into the compact CUV market will feature "the full range of SKYACTIV technology and KODO - Soul of Motion design." We take that to mean lightweight chassis and body architectures along with fuel-sipping gasoline and, perhaps, diesel engines.
The CX-3 will have to take on a slew of upcoming competitors, including the Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax and Jeep Renegade, and reports indicate it will share a platform with the Mazda2, which is just starting production in Mexico. We don't yet know if it will be front-wheel drive only or if all-wheel drive will be optional. The CUV is also likely to share the Mazda2's engine, which isn't yet revealed for the North American market. Japan gets the 2 with either a 1.3-liter gasoline engine or a 1.5-liter diesel.
There have been plenty of movie stars who've been into cars, but few genuine aficionados like Steve McQueen. The legendary King of Cool was known for driving his green Mustang and Porsche prototypes on the big screen, but in his private life, he loved his Ferrari.
There was, of course, his iconic 250 GT Lusso, but back in 1967, the actor and sometimes racer also bought a rare 275 NART Spyder. Sadly, that car was totaled a mere two days after he took possession, and there were no replacements available. So he bought this hardtop 275 GTB/4 instead.
Ferrari's Classiche department recently restored the car to pristine condition and RM Auctions sold it for over $10 million, but there's more to its story than its celebrity provenance and high hammer price. Listen to the guys who worked on it for McQueen tell the car's story in this latest video from the Aficionauto.
Every once in a while, we come across a car video narrated in a foreign language and subtitled in English. They usually center on foreign-made automobiles, but this latest series of videos comes straight from Detroit.
Airing for the first time during's NFL broadcasts, these four commercials for the 2015 Chrysler 200 were produced by Wieden + Kennedy Portland - the same advertising firm that created the now-legendary Eminem spot for the last-generation 200.
Each clip in the "Ready to Take on the World" campaign highlights a different aspect of the American sedan and is narrated in Japanese, German or Swedish - each with English subtitles - associating the 200's Japanese level of quality, German performance and Swedish safety standards. But while the clips are ostensibly set in Japan, Germany and Sweden, Automotive News reports that they were actually filmed at home in the US.
Tesla Motors is offering an enticing deal for potential buyers who might not be entirely sure whether they actually want to own a Model S for the long term. A deal through US Bank not only lowers the cost to lease the EV but also turns leasing the brand's electric sedan into a long-term rental.
Curious buyers who lease a Model S are now able to return it in the first three months with no penalties and with the remaining payments waived, something Tesla is calling the "happiness guarantee." CEO Elon Musk announced the deal on the company's blog, and he said the payments were also as much as 25 percent lower because US Bank "has a much lower cost of capital than us." Currently, a Tesla lease starts at around $800 and can be up to $1,300, with down payments around $6,500. Tesla leasing is available in 38 US states (full list below).
Of course, there is a catch for the offer. If people turn in their Model S within three months, they can't immediately lease another one. Musk doesn't say how long the wait is.
Not unlike some other motor racing disciplines, the World Rally Championship tends to be ruled by dynasties. The late 1980s were dominated by Lancia, Toyota won a succession of titles in the early 90s, Mitsubishi and Subaru traded top spots in the late 90s and Citroën dominated from 2003 through 2012. But these days its all about Volkswagen.
The German automaker jumped into the WRC last year with the Polo R WRC and proceeded to win ten out of the thirteen rounds, losing only three to Citroën and clinching the championship by some margin. And now, with the Wales Rally still to be contested, VW has already claimed the 2014 title as well.
With their win at Rally Spain this past weekend, the defending duo of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia put themselves so far in the lead that the title is safely in their hands. And over whom, exactly, have they extended their lead? Matti Latvala and Miika Anttila, who also drive for... you guessed it: Volkswagen. So does the duo of Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene, who currently sit in third place.
We're set to record Autoblog Podcast #403 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 #403
Ford investing $5B in Lincoln
Mercedes-Benz is still hard at work developing a refresh for the M-Class, a model that is rumored to change its name to the GLE-Class in the process. This is hardly the improved model's first time testing, but the latest shots reveal Mercedes' plan for a plug-in hybrid version for one of its luxury crossovers.
These new photos of the refreshed M-Class clearly reveal a charging port in the rear bumper like its brand siblings, but the bigger question is the drivetrain underneath. At this point, it's not known whether the M-Class hybrid will share the rumored four-cylinder powertrain with the C-Class PHEV that is also testing or the S500 Plug-in Hybrid with its turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 and an electric motor.
Being a refresh rather than an all-new model, the M-Class' styling receives only a few apparent tweaks. The front end is heavily camouflaged here, but there appears to be some changes to the shape of the headlights. At the rear, the exhaust layout has been modified, and the taillights have their backup lamps at the bottom, rather than in the middle.
The Consumer Reports Annual Auto Reliability Survey (right) is out, and the top two spots look much the same as last year's list with Lexus and Toyota in first and second place, respectively. However, there are some major shakeups for 2014, with Acura plunging eight spots from third in 2013 to 11th this year, and Mazda replaces it on the lowest step of the podium. Honda and Audi round out the top five. This year's list includes six Japanese brands in the top 10, two Europeans, one America and one Korean.
Acura isn't the only one taking a tumble, though. Infiniti is the biggest loser this year by dropping 14 spots to 20th place. Other big losses come from Mercedes-Benz with an 11-place fall to 24th, and GMC, which declines 10 positions to 19th.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's not traditional mechanical bugs hauling down these automaker's reliability scores. Instead, pesky problems with infotainment systems are taking a series toll on the rankings. According to Consumer Reports, complaints about "in-car electronics" were the most grumbled about element in new cars. Problem areas included things like unresponsive touchscreens, issues pairing phones and multi-use controllers that refused to work right.
With features like lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and moving object detection bundled into its Safety Shield suite, Nissan touts the Versa Note as among the safer vehicles on the road. And to highlight that, the Japanese automaker has taken its diminutive hatchback Zorbing.
Zwhat now, you ask? Zorbing. It's a sport (really more of a recreational activity, if you ask us) that involves getting into a giant inflatable ball, rolling down a slope and, well... that's about the extent of it. It's the same thing we did on hills as kids, only with more plastic. And ridicule.
The CarZorb which Nissan had crafted for the Note measures 60 feet around and weighs a metric ton. Nissan tested the device, which took two months to make, at a "top secret military training facility in the UK," then placed the hatchback inside and rolled it down a hill, all for the sake of the two-minute video clip below. So we hope you enjoy.
It's no secret that Lincoln has received short shrift from the Ford Motor Company for years, and former CEO Alan Mullay even wanted to kill the whole thing off when he ran things. Today, things appear to be trending in a different direction. Fresh investment has helped enable a sizable marketing push for its well-regarded MKC compact crossover, a couple of awards for the company and plant the seeds for a major expansion into China. While the situation is still in the early going, it looks like Lincoln is on a tentative (if long) path towards a turnaround. If new reports are accurate, the brand is poised to build on that momentum with its largest investment in new products in years thanks in large measure to a new modular platform codenamed D6.
According to four unnamed insiders speaking to Reuters, FoMoCo is investing over $5 billion over the next five years, partially to create a new modular platform to underpin multiple Lincoln vehicles - and possibly some Ford products, too. Development is reportedly being overseen by the division's new boss, Kumar Galhotra. At the moment, specific details about the D6 chassis aren't yet known, but it's rumored to have the flexibility to support front-, rear- and all-wheel drive vehicles. According to Reuters, the first model using the framework could be an MKZ replacement and seven-passenger MKT successor in 2019.
Until the D6-based models hit, expect to see continued expansion from Lincoln. Ford management isn't trying to turn around the division overnight and is planning "in terms of generations of products," according to current CEO Mark Fields. The strategy unsurprisingly includes a production version of Lincoln's recent MKX Concept, as well as an all-new Navigator using aluminum-intensive architecture. Reuters also claims the MKS is due for renewal in the meantime, including with a longer-wheelbase version to appeal to the brand's new Chinese buyers.
At this point, making fun of the Lincoln MKC ads starring Matthew McConaughey is getting pretty old, though apparently Lincoln loves it. The commercials have been airing for over a month, but Conan O'Brien, Ellen DeGeneres and even South Park have all taken their swipes at the spots with the smooth-talking actor monologuing about his new luxury crossover. Saturday Night Live might have finally killed the joke in its recent episode featuring Jim Carrey.
The problem certainly isn't that Carrey does a bad job in the spoofs, and he actually pulls off a pretty good McConaughey impression. They start out as pretty direct mimicry and slowly evolve into the absurd, including cracks at McConaughey's acting career and the way he rubs his thumb and finger together. Carrey certainly raises at least a chuckle at times, though.
However, the comedian's engaging performance can't take away from the fact that SNL has arriving to this mocking party pretty late in the game. The jokes just don't feel fresh anymore, so hopefully these ads put the final nails in the coffin for the riffs - at least until the next batch of Lincoln ads arrive.