BlogMon, 27 Oct 2014
Perhaps more than any other vehicle currently for sale in the United States, the Jeep Wrangler is viewed by purist fans as a vehicle that simply must maintain the status quo. In this case, that means a body-on-frame design, solid axles, a relatively large engine sitting up front and a removable top. It's always been that way, and it always will be.
According to the most recent reports, the next-generation Jeep will continue to soldier forth with a full steel chassis underneath its stamped bodywork. The biggest change, reports Automotive News, will be that said panels will be hewn from aluminum instead of steel, a seismic shift of a transition not unlike what's happened with the new Ford F-150. Because it won't be a unibody, the SUV will likely continue to be assembled in Toledo, OH as it (almost) always has been - the latter has been a source of heartburn in recent weeks for the Northwestern city in the Buckeye State.
Have you been patiently awaiting an STI version of the Subaru Forester? Your wait may be over soon, good friend, as teaser images of just such a vehicle have surfaced online.
Set to debut on November 25, the 2015 Subaru Forester STI will reportedly feature more aggressive aero and cooling, upgraded rolling stock and brakes, and Subaru Tecnica International's signature bright-blue paint and red accents.
What we don't know is what will provide the motivation. There's a pretty big gap at present between the 250 horsepower offered in the top-of-the-line Forester 2.0XT and the 305-hp WRX STI, and we don't know where along the spectrum the Forester STI might fall. Nor do we know, for that matter, if it'll be offered Stateside. But we're looking forward to finding out.
The Bronco may be long gone from Ford dealerships back home, but down in Brazil its spirit lives on in the Troller brand. Founded independently in 1995, Ford do Brasil took over Troller in 2007 and has been teasing us with its rough-and-tumble SUVs ever since. So with the Sao Paulo Motor Show coming up, Troller has revealed this special version of the T4.
Looking even more rugged than the existing three-door sport-ute, this special T4 packs a snorkel, winch, upgraded bumpers and knobbier tires. We're not sure what to make of the "sophisticated" brown and tan paint job, but send it north and the Jeep Wrangler would have a new challenger on its hands... especially since the Toyota FJ Cruiser was discontinued.
Alongside the version seen here, Troller will also exhibit another T4 outfitted for rescue workers. Scope out initial details of both in the press release below, enclosed in both its original Portuguese and auto-translated into English.
The Toyota Avalon may not have the sportiest image on the market. Heck, it doesn't even have the sportiest image in the Toyota lineup. But the Japanese automaker is out to fix that perception, at least a little bit, with the launch of the new Touring Sport Edition.
Announced together with some minor updates to the entire Avalon line - consisting primarily of enhanced safety and infotainment systems - the Avalon XLE Touring Sport Edition celebrates the 20th anniversary of Toyota's large sedan line. Setting this special edition apart are a black paintjob, HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, 18-inch alloys (similar in design to those on the Scion FR-S) and an interior decked out with perforated leather with dark blue trim... plus, of course, the requisite special badges inside and out.
Only 2,500 units will be offered with a $37,170 sticker price that puts it near (if not quite at) the top of the Avalon range that's capped by the $41,700 Avalon Hybrid Limited. Pricing has increased on most models by around two percent, and you can scope out all the details of the updates to the full range in the press releases below.
Honda is getting ready to launch a new advertising campaign with Fred Savage of The Wonder Years (and The Princess Bride) fame, and in order to get his voice in game shape, Savage is taking to social media to get prepared. More specifically, he's apparently interested in adding some voiceover to fun videos provided by fans of the Honda brand, and all you have to do to be considered is to get his attention on Twitter using the hashtag #HondaPromo.
We have no idea how Savage or the Honda PR team plans to choose which videos will be turned into narrated works of art, but we do think it's a pretty fun idea. So, if you happen to have a video that could use some narration, and you think Savage would provide the perfect pitch, hit him up. Oh, be sure to read the terms and conditions first.
It may not be everybody's prickly cup of tea, but Citroën has reportedly found enough buyers for its kinda strange-looking C4 Cactus that it has found it necessary to boost production at its assembly plant in Madrid, adding shifts on Saturday to help meet demand. With more markets, including Australia, slated to get the C4 Cactus soon, Spanish newspaper La Tribuna de Automocion reported (via Australia's Go Auto) that facility director Jose Carlo Robredo expects production to increase by 20 percent.
The C4 Cactus competes against compact crossover-like vehicles that include the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur. With a relatively low starting price, offbeat styling and extreme efficiency - 141 miles per gallon on the European cycle, or two liters per 100 kilometers - it's a unique package that is apparently attracting plenty of attention from shoppers in Europe.
It's not unusual to see a grown man hitch his pickup truck to another grown man's pickup truck in an attempt to, we assume, prove their chosen engine, brand or tires are better than the other as they face in different directions and start pulling. What is unusual, however, is to see one such pickup truck hitched up to a massive big rig.
We're not going to spoil the ending of this particular tug-of-war challenge, but we will say that we wouldn't be showing it to you if everything went exactly as you'd expect it to. To see who wins and how it all goes down, check out the video.
A vehicle as light and agile as the Lotus Exige is all about driver involvement, but those enticed by the nimble sports car's handling and performance who aren't keen on working a stick shift now have another option at their disposal.
Lotus has just announced the availability of an automatic transmission on both the Exige S and Exige S Roadster. For an extra couple thousand euros or pounds sterling, customers will now be able to order a six-speed automatic transmission. The two-pedal setup includes paddle shifters and Sport or Race modes that optimize shifting for "a more spirited drive."
Equipped with the slushbox, the Exige S Automatic is just as quick around Lotus' famous factory test track in Hethel, and even pips the manual version's 0-62 time by 0.1 second, now down to 3.9. Unfortunately, since the Exige isn't available Stateside anymore, however, American buyers can't get their hands on either version.
If you've been scratching your head wondering how - between Audi and Porsche - the Volkswagen Group could possibly support two rival top-tier LMP1 programs at Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship, but stay out of Formula One entirely, you're not alone. In fact, Porsche was said to have been eying an F1 entry if Audi had internally blocked aspirations to return to Le Mans. But according to the latest rumors, it's Audi that's now preparing to shift away from endurance racing and onto the grand prix circuit.
Word has it that, following internal pressures from within the VW Group, Audi is finally gearing up for a full assault on F1. It's said to be developing a new six-cylinder turbo hybrid power unit - potentially at its new racing headquarters in Neuburg - and, in an expanded partnership with Red Bull, either take Renault's and Infiniti's places with the Red Bull Racing team or take over the Toro Rosso team entirely.
Although Ingolstadt has not campaigned in grand prix racing since the pre-war days of the Silver Arrows, it was said to have been the impetus for the FIA's push a couple of years ago for new four-cylinder engine regulations until Audi bailed on the idea altogether and F1 went for six-cylinder engines instead.
Kia is getting all set for this year's SEMA Show in Las Vegas, and among its vehicles is something that seems pretty mean.
The Korean company is keeping details quiet about what's under the hood of what it calls the High-Performance K900, but from listening to this video it certainly sounds fantastic with quite a meaty growl. There might be some form of forced induction going on, though we can't say for sure. Elsewhere on the car, Kia isn't being so tight-lipped. The High Performance wears a custom shade of gray paint with a one-off body kit, featuring carbon fiber inserts. It also sports 21-inch gloss black wheels and black chrome trim.
Honestly, we were left scratching our head a little when LeBron James signed on to be the "luxury brand ambassador" for the K900. However, if he were driving this around Cleveland, the endorsement might make a little more sense. Check out the video above to glimpse the concept for SEMA, and read the little that Kia is saying about it in the release below.
With competition coming from the Ford Transit Connect, it's high time Chevrolet got in on the compact hauling action and took the fight to its cross-town rival... and it's doing so with a little help from Nissan. The Chevy City Express, a badge-engineered Nissan NV200, is now arriving at dealers, giving Bowtie fans a counter to Dearborn's compact van.
"Our existing customers will love getting behind the wheel of the City Express when it's at their Chevrolet dealership," Ed Peper, GM's vice president of fleet and commercial vehicles said in a statement. "But we're most looking forward to giving potential new customers the opportunity to experience one of many Chevrolet commercial vehicles that best fit their needs."
Prices for the 2015 City Express start at $22,950. Scroll down for the official announcement from Chevrolet.
Fri, 24 Oct 2014
"Tesla's quest to own its stores has brought to light issues that have long faced the industry." - Adam Jones
Tesla's fight to challenge dealer franchise laws moved to the home state of the American auto industry this week, as the governor of Michigan signed a controversial bill that excludes Tesla from selling its electric cars directly to consumers.
Years after its original debut, the Nissan GT-R remains a much-feared, well-regarded entry in the sports car landscape. Sure, many of its original competitors are onto new generations these days, but Nissan has continually improved the GT-R, giving it meaningful tweaks almost every year since it came to the US market for 2009. Reviewers also just seem to keep finding things to praise about the all-wheel drive, turbocharged coupe. In this episode of Epic Drives, the GT-R proves that in addition to being a quite pleasant road trip companion around the province of Alberta, Canada, in a pinch it can go off-road to herd some horses, too.
At its heart, Epic Drives amounts to half travelogue and half driving review. So in between snaking the GT-R through some picturesque roads, host Arthur St. Antoine takes a tour of Alberta and the Canadian Rockies. If you're in the mood to take a drive in the Nissan through a landscape that blends the looks of a prairie, the Alps and fjords, then have a seat and check this video out.
2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack
The goodness of the 2015 Dodge Challenger isn't just limited to that 707-horsepower Hellcat model. As associate editor Brandon Turkus explains, there's plenty to love about the Challenger R/T with its Scat Pack kit, complete with a 6.4-liter V8, eight-speed automatic transmission, and more poise than ever before. Read all about it in today's Quick Spin.
Fiat-Chrysler SEMA lineup revealed
Sometimes, the stories that lead to cars turning up at auction are as interesting as the vehicles themselves. That's absolutely the case with the Peter Max (pictured above) collection of vintage Chevrolet Corvette models that are scheduled to cross the block in the spring of 2016.
Max is perhaps best known as a '60s pop artist who mixed vibrant colors with iconic imagery. However, classic car fans around New York City might know him better for storing a collection of 36 vintage 'Vettes in public parking garages for decades. The assortment is pretty special because it consists of one example of every model year from the original 1953 up until 1989, according to The New York Times.
Unfortunately, New York parking garages aren't really known for their cleanliness, and photos show the artist's Chevrolet collection neglected, caked in dirt and dust. After moving the collection around between several locations in the past few years, Max finally brokered a deal to sell them all off for an undisclosed price earlier this summer.
Porsche is best known for building very well-regarded sports cars and better-selling utility vehicles. Come to the company with a big enough bag of cash, though, and the Porsche Engineering division can create just about anything. The group's past projects include working with Harley-Davidson, Mercedes-Benz and corporate cousin Audi, but if rumors prove true, then its latest partner might be the last one you'd expect.
Russian website Wroom reports that Porsche Engineering is building the engine for the Project Cortege government limousine project for Russian president Vladimir Putin. The mill is supposedly a turbocharged V12 displacing between 6.0- and 6.6-liters and making around 800 horsepower. When complete, it will reportedly be built by ZMZ with Russian-sourced parts.
The limo is expected to debut in 2017, according to Wroom, but it's just the beginning of Putin's grandiose plans, which also goes by the name of the Motorcade Project. The same platform is also meant to underpin several vehicles for use by the government, including an SUV, a small bus and a sedan. All of them would reportedly have a longitudinally mounted engine and all-wheel drive.
Following positive third quarter financial results recently from General Motors, rival Ford took a tumble in Q3. The automaker posted pre-tax profits of $1.18 billion, compared to about $2.59 billion in Q3 2013, a drop of around 54 percent. Net income also suffered with $835 million made in the quarter, versus $1.272 billion last year, a decline of about 34 percent. The Blue Oval blamed the gloomy figures on three reasons in its release: "lower volume, higher warranty costs and adverse balance sheet exchange effects."
There were problems of one kind or another in practically every region. North America experienced higher warranty costs than expected, partially due to recalls. The sales volume for the quarter was 665,000 units, versus 725,000 in Q3 2013, and pre-tax results amounted to $1.41 billion versus $2.296 billion last year.
South America and Europe both posted worse pre-tax results than last year. On the bright side, European volume was up slightly to 321,000 vehicles, from 303,000 in Q3 2013. The Middle East and Africa also lost $15 million, but that was an improvement compared to the $25 million loss previously experienced in this region.
Swedish auto magazine Teknikens Värld has never been afraid to call out automakers when a vehicle fails one of its battery of examinations. Its famous Moose Test recently caught the Porsche Macan out, and a few years ago, there was a protracted argument between Teknikens Värld and Jeep over the performance of a Grand Cherokee in that evaluation.
This time, the 2015 Honda CR-V is raising the magazine's hackles, but it has nothing to do with avoiding a giant mammal. Snow is obviously an issue in Sweden, and Teknikens Värld has a test that challenges all-wheel drive systems in low-traction settings. On a slanted surface, the Swedes put the vehicles' front wheels on rollers with no traction and demands the rears accelerate away. The Honda couldn't do it. Teknikens Värld claims that it initially found the same result last year from the European CR-V, but Honda Sweden put out a software upgrade correcting the behavior in the test. This year, the CUV went back to failing.
While that's the magazine's side, Honda Sweden doesn't see the test as fair. In a statement to Teknikens Värld, the company explains the way the CUV's all-wheel drive system works. It also claims that the test isn't simulating a realistic situation. "In real conditions, regardless of the surface, there is a certain amount of friction always available for both front and rear wheels," the announcement says. "A scenario like the roll test with such a high difference in grip between the front and the rear wheels is highly unlikely."
Harry Metcalfe, of Evo fame, got our attention earlier this week with a review of the 1954 Series I Land Rover. Today, he's gone a bit more... '80s.
Yes, this is a 1987 Ferrari Testarossa, one of the most vulgar cars from a decade synonymous with vulgar design. While your author might not be keen on its square rear end and cheese-grater doors and fenders, Metcalfe seems to like it quite a bit, giving a detailed walkthrough of his Rosso Corsa subject. That walkthrough includes some time on a subject we can certainly get behind - the TR's flat-12 engine.
Take a look at the latest from Harry's Garage.
The incredible rise of Tesla's stock price has done little to now stop two major shareholders from ditching their stake in the American EV manufacturer. First, Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, ditched its four-percent stake, and less than a week later, Toyota is doing the same thing, selling off an undisclosed bit of its Tesla investment.
The move comes as Toyota winds down sales of the RAV4 EV, which gets its batteries and electric motor from Tesla at the company's Fremont, CA factory.
"We have a good relationship with Tesla, and will evaluate the feasibility of working together on future projects," Toyota spokesperson Kayo Doi told Bloomberg via email.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles already previewed its 2014 SEMA show lineup with some slick renders. Now, the automaker has finally showed us the actual cars, and among the group there are definitely some that stand out more than others.
Dodge is really showing off its muscle at this year's show with four concepts that all pump up the power of the brand's models. Perhaps most interesting among them is the Challenger T/A Concept (pictured above) in striking Sublime Green and matte black. It's meant to resemble the classic Trans Am racer from the '70s. Under the hood is a 6.4-liter V8, and to fit the vintage style there's a pistol-grip gearshift inside.
The Charger R/T also gets some attention with the Mopar concept that shows off what FCA's aftermarket performance arm can do. Mods include an updated body kit, cold-air intake for the 5.7-liter V8 and a coil-over suspension kit. Beyond that, the Dart R/T Concept looks a lot meaner with a black hood with duct work that leads straight to the air intake. The rest of the compact sedan is dolled up in O-So-Orange paint and is fitted with upgrades to improve handling like a coil-over suspension and big brake kit from the Mopar catalog.
When it comes to game shows, The Price Is Right is about as mainstream as American TV gets, beaming lust for fancy new prizes into millions of homes every day. Recently, the show held its annual Dream Car Week, which this year included a Tesla Model S along with a Porsche Cayenne, a Land Rover Range Rover Sport, a Maserati Quattroporte and an Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
The contestant invited to come on down an take a crack at the bright-red Model S was Vanessa Ansoorian, who told host Drew Carey that she had originally promised her brother a car if she won one, but once she saw what it was, she began rethinking her stance. Of course, before being able to drive away with the electric car, she needed to win the game, which in this case was One Away. That means that she got a string of numbers - 6-8-4-1-1 - and needed to move each digit up or down one to find the car's price. Can you get it? We won't give away the right answer, or if she won the car, but we look forward to your guesses in the comments below, where you can also watch the tense video clip.
In 2010, The Price Is Right also offered up a Tesla (in that case, a Roadster) on Earth Day. You can see how that attempt went here.
We all knew That Kid. As a freshman, he was a big kid, overweight but surprisingly strong. Still, he was often picked on for his size. Then, he chatted with the football coach, who convinced him that his true calling was on the team's offensive line. After a season on the freshman squad and a summer of two-a-days, this mild-mannered, husky high schooler returned for his sophomore year as a big, imposing, solid piece of muscle. Needless to say, the same bullies that picked on him were praying he'd forgotten about them as a 10th grader.
That's the V8-powered 2015 Dodge Challenger. It arrived on the scene with a max of 425 horsepower and a bit of a weight problem. It completed its proverbial freshman year with a nice 2011 refresh, where the SRT8 was bumped up to 470 hp, but it still had some work to do.
Enter 2015, and fresh off three months of constant burpees and wind sprints, the newest Challenger is as big and powerful as it's ever been, but it's now got poise and potential, and my goodness, it's fun in a way that Dodge's muscle car has never been.
Fri, 24 Oct 2014
"As Prius represents by far the biggest chunk of the hybrid marketplace, where Prius goes, the segment goes," - Ed Kim, Autopacific
Fuel prices in the US have been tumbling for the last several weeks, with the average price of a gallon of gas at $3.120 as of October 20, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That price reflects a serious recent drop from $3.299 on October 6. Reports have even suggested that those low numbers might not change for a little while, perhaps as long as years. While drivers certainly love paying less at the pump, the change may be hurting the market for more fuel-efficient models, including the Toyota Prius.
Jason Vines, former head of communications at Ford among other automakers, is accusing the Blue Oval of bugging his company phone and his car during the Firestone tire recall for the Explorer in 2001. The allegations have come to light in Vines' upcoming book What Did Jesus Drive? Crisis PR in Cars, Computers and Christianity.
According to The Detroit News, which has an advance copy of the book, Vines (pictured above) claims that after leaving the company, someone with security within Ford advised him that he had been bugged around the time of the recall. The allegations don't stop there, though. Vines further contends that he might not have been the only one to get this treatment, noting that then-general counsel John Rintamaki also believed he was being listened to.
According to The Detroit News, even if it had been a company phone, recording Vines without his knowledge still would have been a felony under Michigan law.
Believe it or not, between the 918 Spyder, the Cayenne and the Panamera, Porsche offers more plug-in hybrid models than any other brand. Yes, Porsche. But don't expect that trend to continue. At least, not in the immediate future.
According to Top Gear, the E-Hybrid powertrain in the Cayenne and Panamera is too big to fit into the smaller Macan. A future hybrid system could be small enough to fit, but with the current technology still fresh, that'd still be some ways down the twisting road.
It stands to reason, then, that if the system wouldn't fit in the Macan, it wouldn't fit in the Boxster or Cayman, either. But what of the 911? Surely Porsche would like to stick it to BMW and its new i8, and proved it could do a hybrid 911 when it rolled the GT3 R Hybrid (pictured) out onto the race track over four years ago. But Zuffenhausen is reportedly in no rush to put that idea into production - not for the current 911 and not for the next one, either.
Mazda has officially kicked off production of the next-generation Mazda2 at the company's new factory in Salamanca, Mexico. Alongside the auto assembly plant, operations have also commenced at the facility's engine machining factory.
"With the start of production of the all-new Mazda2, operations underway at the engine machining plant, and an increase in our annual production capacity, we now have an even stronger production framework capable of supplying global markets with Skyactiv products of the same high quality level as those made in Japan," Mazda de Mexico Vehicle Operation's President Keishi Egawa said in a statement. "At the same time, we are pleased to be able to make a contribution to Mexico's further economic growth."
MMVO joins Mazda's Hofu Plant in Japan and the Auto Alliance factory in Thailand, which commenced Mazda2 production in July and September, respectively.
A couple of months ago, Subaru rolled out a series of minor enhancements for the Impreza, and now it's performed a similar upgrade to its more rugged counterpart, the XV Crosstrek. For 2015, the XV benefits from available EyeSight driver assistance suite, steering-responsive fog lights and a new 6.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with a seven-inch version on higher-spec models).
Otherwise the 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek and XV Crosstrek Hybrid are essentially the same as the 2014 models they replace. The requisite 2.0-liter boxer four drives to all four wheels as always, with or without hybrid assist, through either a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. Look for the updated model to reach dealers this December, and in the meantime, feel free to peruse the press release below.
Quick Spin: 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
Toyota might not be able to keep up with American pickup manufacturers in terms of sales, but that doesn't mean its fullsize Tundra isn't a wholly baked, tough truck. In an effort to attract new buyers, Toyota has released this off-road-ready TRD Pro variant for 2015. Senior Editor Steven Ewing takes one for a quick spin to see what's what.
Is Hyundai's new Sonata in a sales slump?
Generally, the best policy in life is to admit when you're wrong and just accept the consequences. However, that attitude generally seems to be a bit less common in the world of business - at least without some government or legal prodding. So, it's especially surprising to learn that top Honda executives in Japan are taking a pay cut for the next three months following the fifth recall of the Fit Hybrid (pictured above) in the last 12 months.
According to Reuters, Chief Executive Takanobu Ito is taking a 20-percent pay cut to make amends for the quality issues. Also, 12 other high-ranking executives are taking 10 percent drops in their salaries. In addition to those temporary changes, Honda is creating a new position in charge of monitoring vehicle quality.
The latest recall fixes "noise-related defects," according to Reuters, on both the hybrid and naturally aspirated versions of the Fit, both variants of the Vezel (the sibling to the future HR-V in the US) and the N-WGN. There have also been three recalls for problems with the hybrid's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. None of them have caused reported injuries or deaths, and these issues haven't affected US models.