Thursday, April 29, 2010
It didn't take long for Beijing Automotive Industries Company (BAIC) to start making use of the old 9-3 and 9-5 tooling it bought from Saab last fall. After grafting on a new nose and taillights, both have been reborn as the C60 and C71.
It's not clear what's propelling the regular versions of these two reworked Saabs, however, there was a second ex-9-5 on display dubbed the C71EV. That version had a battery pack inserted into the floor and featured what BAIC was labeling as a fast battery switch system (ala Better Place).
The sign next to car claims a 90-mile range, but we think that's highly optimistic given the size of the sedan and the comparatively small battery pack. Of course, that's assuming this is actually a functional car.
The Beijing Motor Show is well under way, and Honda is showing off a new concept slated for the Chinese market. Called the Li Nian Everus, the car is the fruit of a partnership between the Japanese automaker and its Chinese partner, Guangqi Honda Automobile. We don't have too many details on the sedan other than the fact that at this point, it's nothing more than a concept.
Judging by the renderings, we're tempted to guess this thing has more than a little Civic DNA swimming around in its blood stream, though it looks like Honda raided the Acura design department for the car's less-than-traditional nose and rear-end.
Speaking of the Civic, it would make some sense if Honda swapped a little sheet metal and called it a day. Honda's compact is sold under the Dongfeng Honda banner, leaving Guangqi Honda Automobile without a comparable model. Our guess is that when the Everus comes to market, it will be slightly more upscale and boast more standard niceties than its sibling.
Measuring approximately 17.5 feet long, the 2011 Audi A8 L W12 is certainly quite grandioso. And while the 500-horsepower 12-cylinder engine and new eight-speed automatic transmission are certainly nothing to sneeze at, what's most impressive about the long-wheelbase A8 is the rear seat accommodations. Holy mackerel.
You want gobs of leather, a full-length center console, heated and cooled seats that massage you as well as a folding ottoman for premium comfort? You got it. The A8 L's 122.9-inch wheelbase means there's tons of legroom (duh), and we're seriously eager to get some R&R time in the back of this luxury barge.
As impressive of a vehicle as the seminal Volkswagen Phaeton may have been, the uber-luxe German sedan was an unqualified flop of an experiment here in the United States. In some other parts of the world, though, VW's BMW and Mercedes-Benz (not to mention VW-owned Audi) competitor is still going strong.
Hence, VW has seen fit to give the Phaeton a mild update for the 2011 model year, and it tellingly used the Beijing Motor Show as the platform to reveal its top-shelf sedan. In case you missed the exterior changes, take a closer look at the front and rear fascias, where you'll find tighter lines and new LED lighting.
It's inside the cabin where the Phaeton gets the bulk of its improvements. Included in the refresh is VW's latest navigation technology, along with a helpful seeing-eye camera that can monitor speed limit and no passing signs and inform lazy drivers of the data. There is also a lane-departure system that keeps the car between the proper lines and Dynamic Light Assist that adjusts the headlights to keep from blinding oncoming traffic.
Powertrain options remain the same as before, with a 450-horsepower 6.0-liter W12 engine taking top billing over a 335-hp 4.2-liter V8 and a 3.6-liter V6 that puts out 280 ponies. Finally, those looking to save a few bucks at the pump can opt for a 3.0-liter diesel V6.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
MG has its eyes set on the juicy Chinese small hatch segment, and the company's first crack at the market debuted in the form of Zero Concept at this year's Beijing Motor Show. At shave over 13 feet long, the pint-sized five-door is designed to offer up more style than space. MG says the vehicle was penned by Anthony Williams, the brand's British director of design, and offers drivers a unique interior loaded with your standard concept-tech. The Zero boasts a floating center console, complete with touch screen controls, as well as some kind of communication system on the rear of the vehicle. Yeah, we don't get that part, either.
MG hasn't said much about the vehicle's details, including powerplant options, fuel economy or when we might expect to see a production version crop up. While we aren't exactly smitten with the car's nose, the rest of the design would do well in a segment dominated by the drab. Though concrete information is suspiciously absent at the moment, the company says the Zero should be a clear indication of where the brand is headed in the coming years.
As promised, Geely brought its Englon TXN to this year's Beijing Motor Show. In the flesh, the intended successor to London's black cab throne looks more than capable of hauling drunken tourists from place to place. The car appears to have stuck pretty close to the renderings we saw earlier this month, though we have to say the exterior looks quite a bit better under the show lights than it did photoshopped among England's various landmarks.
The company also displayed its TX4 – a more spacious version also built just for taxi duty. Both cars are motivated by either a 2.4-liter gasoline engine mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox or a 2.5-liter diesel powerplant that can be had with a five-speed manual transmission. So far Geely hasn't released any power numbers.
We do know that the cars will command a price tag that should fall in the $30,500 range at current exchange rates – not exactly cheap by anyone's standards. Will British taxi companies will be willing to give up their old rides for these new, Chinese-built examples? Hard telling, but at least they look the part.
The shooting break (yes, it's 'break,' not 'brake', according to M-B's marketers) design isn't something new – we've seen it before in smaller vehicles like the original BMW Z3 M Coupe. Today, though, Mercedes-Benz takes the shooting break concept one step further with the addition of two rear doors and a healthy dose of next-generation style. It's the CLS Shooting Break Concept, folks. Think of this as the four-door coupe for the wagon segment.
The exterior design is awash with swoopy shapes that mimic both coupe and hatchback/wagon elements. Full LED headlamps and sharp 20-inch wheels round off the whole outside package, and if we're honest, we really like it.
Under the hood lies a direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 capable of producing 306 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque (the exact same output as a Cadillac CTS, for what it's worth). Mercedes-Benz hasn't released estimates, but the automaker says that the concept car "sets new standards among the competition in terms of fuel consumption."
While Chrysler has failed to find a way to update or replace the retro-styled PT Cruiser, we can definitely see this as a forthcoming replacement to the Chevrolet HHR. The Volt MPV5 is slightly larger than HHR, but fills a similar market niche. While Chevrolet hasn't announced a firm production commitment, it wouldn't be surprising to see the MPV5 built in both conventional and ER-EV forms to help jack up GM's light truck CAFE numbers. The roomy interior will likely find a bigger audience than the smaller Volt while still yielding a 32 mile electric range, and if we had to guess, we'd see the Orlando-inspired plug-in EV hit the market by 2013.
As we were checking out the new Ford Start concept at the Beijing Motor Show, we ran into the head of Ford's advanced studio in California, Freeman Thomas, and the mini car's lead exterior designer, Jeff Nield.
According to Nield, he wanted to create a vehicle that retained elements of Ford's "Kinetic Design" language while at the same time create something more subdued, able to stand apart from the noise surrounding the show. Thus the Start has a cleaner simpler shape that's slightly more serious than past concepts. Nield mentioned the Mini and how it's always had a cute, happy demeanor about it. He wanted to create something different – a thing of beauty injected with very natural, organic elements.
Thomas explained that the designers wanted to experiment with a hybrid construction consisting of a mix of aluminum, high strenght steel and composites. This allowed the creation of a very open, airy cockpit, with thin pillars for good visibility, while also providing occupants a feeling of safety with the high belt line.
One of the more interesting interior details is the monorail front seat tracks that have the thrones on a central pedestal, thus increasing foot room for rear passengers. There are no production plans for any of this right now, but some of the ideas could shine a light on where to go next – and that turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder is definitely finding its way to market.
Four-door coupes are nothing new these days, what with vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Volkswagen CC proving that these stylish sedans do, in fact, have a place in the automotive world. What's more, Audi's swoopy A7 is nearing its final stages of development, and higher-end coupe-sedans like the Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Panamera have indeed caught our attention in recent months. BMW is now jumping on that train, and the automaker has officially debuted its Concept Gran Coupé at this year's Beijing Motor Show.
Strip away the rear doors, and the design of the Gran Coupé is awfully close to what we'll see on the next-generation 6 Series. The sporty, flat design of the concept is really stunning, and BMW points out that the Gran Coupé is actually 100 millimeters (four inches) flatter than both the 5 and 7 Series sedans. Combine that with frameless doors and LED lighting all around and what we have here is a rather stunning design.
BMW is one of the only luxury automakers not currently participating in the four-door coupe niche market, and we won't be surprised if a production version of the Gran Coupé hits the streets within the next couple of years. Even so, we're interested to see how this new design language influences the rest of the automaker's portfolio, even beyond the 6 Series.
Hyundai's fluidic sculpture design language has now spread to the smallest vehicle in its lineup, and the new sub-compact slated to take the place of the aging Accent was unwrapped on the floor of the Beijing Motor Show. We've been seeing spy shots of the next generation Accent for some time and it very clearly follows the same design path as its big brother the Sonata.
The little sedan, badged the Verna outside the U.S., has the same rounded coupe-like greenhouse and rising crease up the sides. Inside the Verna/Accent definitely has a more attractive, higher-quality feel than the current model, although calling it up-scale would be slightly disingenuous. We'll have to wait and see what kind materials the North American model gets before making a decision.
Power is slated to come from either a 1.4- or 1.6-liter inline-four, producing 106 horsepower and 120 hp, respectively, with a standard five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic. Expect the U.S. version to come packing the larger four-pot when it goes on sale early next year.
The rumored extended range electric crossover we saw revealed in General Motors' design patent drawings is now a reality. The Chevrolet Volt MPV5 concept will make its debut tomorrow at the Beijing Motor Show, and just as we suspected from seeing Volt design chief Bob Boniface's name on the patent, this five-passenger crossover rides on the same Voltec architecture as the Volt.
The new Chevrolet concept integrates design elements from the Volt, including the headlight, taillamps and grille, with a five-door hatch body style very similar to the larger Orlando and a length about four inches longer than the current HHR.
Propulsion comes from the same 150 horsepower engine and 16 kilowatt-hour battery used in the Volt. However, its larger frontal area and increased drag mean that this one only has a 32-mile electric range as opposed to the Volt's 40 miles. The Crossover has full seating for five and 30.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats. The dashboard appears to be lifted directly from the Volt, including the dual LCD displays. We wouldn't be at all surprised to see this as the second Voltec product in the GM North American lineup. If built, this would likely be classed as a light truck and do wonders for GM's CAFE numbers on that side of the business.
[Source: General Motors]
The fact that Ferrari chose Beijing as the official coming out party for its fastest ever front-engined road car is a clear signal of the importance of this market to the crew from Maranello. Whatever the reasons, we're always happy to finally get our first glimpse of the new 599 GTO, a proper Ferrari if there ever was one.
Only 599 GTOs are scheduled to be built and the entire run is reported to be sold out. However, we're pretty sure that anyone with the correct financial wherewithal will find a way to park one in their garage. And there's even bigger news about the 599 GTO's Nürburgring lap time. Stay tuned...
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Volvo and Polestar are set to clearly bare the C30 Polestar Performance Concept Prototype this weekend. Designed to be an exercise in what would appear if a chase aggregation was accustomed to do what they do best after the accountability of a authoritative anatomy looming over them, the abandoned bear is about as far from what's accessible at your bounded Volvo banker as you can get.
The abject C30 gets its ability from a 2.5-liter, 227-horsepower turbocharged five-cylinder, and the Polestar adaptation bumps that aforementioned comminute up to a adorable 405 ponies acknowledgment to a beyond turbo, massive intercooler and custom internals. The pistons, abutting rods and camshaft are all different units body aloof for the project.
The Haldex all-wheel drive arrangement stays in place, admitting automated differentials, advanced and rear, accept been adapted to add a little ascendancy to the chaos. Polestar additionally alone in a quick-ratio council arbor and an Ohlins suspension. Brake assignment gets handled by ballsy Brembo six-piston calipers up advanced and four-piston units out back.
Chrysler just released its first financial report since emerging from bankruptcy last year. The company announced that while it's still operating at a net loss of around $197 million, it somehow managed to create $1.5 billion in cash during the first three months of 2010. That cash, along with an additional $7.4 billion from past cash reserves, went toward putting a dent in the company's remaining debt.
The smallest of the Big Three also managed to increase its market share one percent compared to the last three months of 2009. What's more, it produced a whopping 56 percent more vehicles in North America from January to March than it did during the same period last year, despite seeing sales decline by 5.3 percent. That bump in production is largely thanks to the fact that Chrysler idled many of its plants through 2009.
The company says that despite the loss, it's still on track to meet its goals and return to profitability by the end of this year. That's due to the fact that revenue increased by around $300 million from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010 and that the company is continuing to reduce its debt. At the same time, a rash of new models, including the long awaited 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee will be hitting the market soon.
[Source: Chrysler via Freep]
Much like parent company Hyundai, Kia has been working hard to revive its brand image. New products like the Soul and Forte have been relatively well received so far, and with new stunners like the 2011 Sportage and Optima on the way, Kia should benefit from a healthy boost in sales. But strip away the sleek new designs and clever interior packaging, and you'll find that Kia's core value of crafting extremely safe vehicles is still holding strong, especially now that the 2010 Forte sedan has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Forte received ratings of "Good" (the highest achievable) in front, side, rear and rollover impact crash tests – something that safety-minded buyers will surely appreciate. What's more, this gives the Forte more ammo to compete head on with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, its two main competitors, which have also been dubbed as Top Safety Picks by IIHS. Curiously, only the sedan was mentioned in the IIHS study, so we can't say if this prestigious honor carries over to the two-door coupe Koup.
One of the last details concerning the Volkswagen Amarok, its price in euros, has been filled in: €26,203, or $35,260 U.S. in the ever misleading straight-up conversion from euros to dollars. Subtracting the 19 percent duty folded into that price in Germany, you're still left spending €21,224, or $28,555 U.S. That's what you call "Holy smokes!"
If we want to make the admittedly difficult attempt to put some context around that without diving into European taxes and price structures, let's take the Golf. The most basic two-door version is €16,650, or $22,399 U.S. Subtract that 19 percent duty and you're at €13,487, which is $18,144. That matches up quite nicely with the U.S. price for the base two-door model: $17,620.
Back to that bog-standard Amarok – at $28,555, you're just a grand short of a Ford F-150 XL Super Cab, which decimates the 122-horsepower Amarok in everything but gas mileage. By the time you get to the Amarok in Highline trim, you're up to 163 hp and you've added four-wheel-drive, but you've also got a €37,169 ($50,022 U.S.) bill before taxes and fees. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why there will be zero VW Amaroks sold in these fifty states. For the rest of you, start saving.
Monday, April 19, 2010
The moment Lexus GX owners have been waiting for since Consumer Reports first blacklisted the SUV last week has finally arrived – Toyota has recalled the vehicle. According to The Detroit News, the Japanese manufacturer will announce the move later this afternoon, and the recall is expected to cover around 5,000 vehicles currently on the road. As expected, Lexus dealers will install new traction control software to correct potentially dangerous handling characteristics.
Last week, Consumer Reports branded the Lexus GX with its infamous "Do Not Buy" rating after the vehicle failed a standard test. During hard downhill braking, the traction control would allow the vehicle's rear-end to step out much farther than normal. On a public road, CR says, that could lead to a rollover.
The GX recall joins a flurry of others that have cropped up over the past few months. From stuck accelerators to rusting frames and corroding spare tire carrier cables, Toyota has had to deal with one problem after another. At least this time the company acted swiftly enough to comply with department of transportation regulations. The carmaker recently agreed to pay a $16.4 million fine for failing to recall 2.3 million vehicles in a timely enough fashion.
*UPDATED: Official Toyota press release added after the jump. 9,400 Lexus GX 460 units recalled.
[Source: The Detroit News]
A couple of weeks ago, we reported that Zagato was planning to unveil a new Alfa Romeo at the upcoming Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este. Now the stoic Italian carrozzeria has released the first teaser image (above) and initial details of what it has in store for us.
The TZ3 Corsa follows in the footsteps of the original Alfa TZ and TZ2, drawing on some 90 years of collaboration between the two companies and commemorating Alfa's centenary. It's based on a carbon fiber tubular chassis overlaid with a lightweight aluminum body. But instead of a show car like the Pininfarina 2uettottanta and the Bertone Pandion that bowed in Geneva, the TZ3 Corsa is a full-on competition machine, commissioned by an unidentified German gentleman racer.
The overhead view looks strikingly similar to the 8C Competizione upon which it's based, and Zagato has released a handful of images of its historic Alfa racers to mark the occasion. The most prestigious of open-air auto shows takes place this year from April 23-25, so stay tuned for more details.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Audi is pulling out its biggest gun yet for the Beijing Motor Show, and while the big news for the A8 L might be the 6.3-liter W12 and the sedan's longer wheelbase, it's the rear seat accommodations that have us frothing at the mouth.
Seriously, just look at it.
With an overall length of nearly 17 and a half feet, the A8 L is almost a half-foot longer than its standard sibling, with a wheelbase of 10.24 feet. Those extra inches are put to good effect, with an interior that's enough to make a Maybach look downright spartan.
Open the lengthened rear doors and occupants are greeted by acres of leather, a full-length center console and two power-adjustable, heated and ventilated seats that not only move fore and aft, but include adjustments for cushion depth, lumbar support and seat back angle. Ten remote-controlled air-bladders massage your cares away, and if the front passenger seat – with its power-adjustable folding ottoman – cramps your style, you can move it forward with the flick of a switch.
The standard four-zone automatic climate control is manipulated by no less than 25 adjustable motors, and the massive center tunnel contains everything from a folding table to a refrigerator. It's all first-class, from the ambient lighting to the Valonea leather, and when the time comes to put the laptop away, crank up the 1,400-watt, 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System and enjoy a movie on one of the two 10.2-inch LCD displays.
If you're ready to give your chauffeur a rest, take solace in the fact that the W12 puts out 500 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque through Audi's new eight-speed automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive. The result is a remarkably quick 4.9-second run to 60 and a electrically-limited top speed of 155 mph.
The W12 will be the standard engine at launch, with a few diesel and petrol-powered engines available further down the line. We'd expect pricing for the A8 L to be revealed shortly after its official debut later this month.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Ladies and Gents, say hello to the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Then say goodbye. Because although Alfa Romeo says this car is slated to reach "all major markets," apparently that doesn't include North America.
Following its public unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show last month, Alfa has finally released full details and a whole slew of photos of the new five-door sport-hatch. And whether it makes it Stateside or not, this stands to be a pivotal, make-it or break-it product for the stoic Italian marque that celebrates its centenary this year.
Aside from this being a new Alfa – which is reason enough for many to sit up and pay attention – what you're looking at here is Italy's chief contender for the coveted Ford Focus/Volkswagen Golf segment. And quite a contender it is, from the looks of things.
The Giulietta is the second new vehicle Alfa has introduced to replace the long-serving 147 hatchback, joining the three-door MiTo in anchoring the brand's range while reviving a classic nameplate for the marque. Stylistically, it's also the third model to follow the company's newest design direction, following the lead set by the flagship 8C Competizione and the aforementioned MiTo. And while the styling may have lost some fans in its transition from supercar to supermini, it appears to translate better to the Giulietta's longer frame better.
The interior likewise draws its inspiration from the 8C Competizione, particularly around the dashboard. Despite the relatively high belt-line – especially in the back – the cabin has a much airier look and feel than the more cocooning MiTo, thanks in part to the expansive optional sunroof. It's also packed with all the features you'd expect of a new product from a major automaker, topped by an options list that includes Bose sound, TomTom nav and the Blue&Me connectivity system developed with Microsoft.
The tech isn't limited to the cabin, however. At launch, Alfa is offering the Giulietta with four engine options: gasoline-burning 1.4-liter turbo fours with 120 or 170 horsepower (the latter assisted by Fiat's MultiAir variable valve technology) and a pair of turbo-diesel, displacing 1.6 and 2 liters and producing 105 and 170 hp, respectively. The Quadrifoglio Verde – bearing Alfa's legendary cloverleaf badge – will follow, packing a 1.8-liter, direct-injection turbo four with 235 horsepower on tap, as will a new dual-clutch transmission. In the meantime a six-speed manual serves all four engine options.
Market-wise, the Giulietta presents a compelling case. Although its upscale stature, coveted badge and equipment list puts it squarely in league with premium hatchbacks like the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series, its pricing comes closer to a Golf or Focus, giving Alfa a serious contender against models in both segments.
You can read more details about the Giulietta in the press release below, and view all the high-resolution photos in the gallery. But as important a product as the new Giulietta is for Alfa Romeo and its parent company Fiat, it's also the harbinger of things to come for the brand and the rapidly expanding auto giant. The new Giulia is slated to be based on a modified version of the same platform, replacing the stylistically brilliant but dynamically flawed 159 sedan and sportwagon, to say nothing of the successor to the Brera and Spider models. Sources also expect a slew of new Chrysler models to borrow the same architecture. So whether or not the Giulietta as we see it here makes it to American shores, its platform, engines and other features almost certainly will.
According to the crew at Auto Motor und Sport, the Mazda RX-8 won't be coming back to Europe for the 2011 model year. Why? The rev-rific rotary can't pass the Euro-5 emission standards and a replacement won't arrive until 2013.
Mazda Germany exec, Joseph Alois Schmid, told AMuS that retrofitting the current engine would be too cost prohibitive and the Wankel can't adapt quickly enough to Europe's stringent emission standards.
Although a replacement is in the works – and a hydrogen version could arrive within the next few years – the next rotary mill will have to be significantly reworked to adhere to the new standards. But even a revised rotary could have problems in 2014, when the new Euro 6 emission rules take effect.
[Source: Auto Motor und Sport via TTAC]
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Audi outsold Mercedes Benz globally in the first quarter of 2010; a big deal considering it was the first time the four-ringed automaker had ever accomplished such a feat. But while Audi was finally able to pass its crosstown rival in sales, the German automaker is still longing for the title of the top luxury brand in the land.
Automotive News reports that BMW announced final Q1 sales of 265,809 vehicles, besting Audi by an anorexic 1,709 units for the three month period. BMW saw a global sales increase of 14 percent compared to the same period of 2009, buoyed by strong sales of its new X1 crossover and a 56 percent increase in 7 Series sales. BMW sales boss Ian Robertson said in a statement that the company intends to improve sales across the globe, adding, "We are back on our growth track in nearly all the automobile markets." And BMW isn't just hoping the market improves – the automaker is counting on an increase in sales courtesy of its new 5 Series lineup, which was launched overseas last month and arrives in the U.S. in June. BMW also has a refreshed 3 Series coupe and convertible on the way as well. With single digit growth, BMW intends to sell 1.3 million vehicles in 2010.
But while BMW pulled out the slimmest of victories in Q1, we're thinking Audi's performance during the first three months effectively puts its German competitors on notice. With a very good product lineup and a considerable foothold in China, Audi may well achieve its goal of becoming the largest luxury car maker on earth by 2015 a lot earlier than most people expected.
[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]
Never underestimate the power of a nose job. After getting in hot water with Rolls-Royce for the design of its GE limousine, Geely Automobile has reworked the majority of the car into what you see above. The Chinese automaker originally unveiled the GE at the 2009 Shanghai Motor Show, and the car looked like it had raided the Spirit of Ecstasy's wardrobe before hitting the stage. The engineers at Rolls-Royce were not amused, and threatened legal action unless the car underwent serious alterations.
Presumably in response to the Rolls dust-up, Geely has fitted the GE Limousine with an all-new nose, complete with a massive baleen grille and grinning headlights. The interior has also gone under the knife, and as a result, you'll no longer find a single throne in the rear. The company has opted for a much more traditional two-bucket design out back.
Expect to see the reworked GE at this year's Beijing Auto Show, along with a total of 58 other vehicles(!) from the company's three brands.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Particularly given its performance capabilities, the Lotus Elise has always been remarkably fuel efficient. The Elise (and its hardtop Exige sibling) have long been a rolling testament to the benefits of light weight. Thanks to a new 1.6-liter, 136 horsepower inline-four and a new lower drag nose, the European-spec 2011 Elise S is now officially rated at 46.7 miles per gallon (U.S.) on the EU highway cycle, and the carbon dioxide emissions are just 149 grams per kilometer on the combined cycle.
The CO2 number makes the Elise S the cleanest gas powered sports car in the world, and all without resorting to redundant powertrain hardware like electric motors and batteries. While sipping fuel and minimizing emissions, the Elise S still promises to rip off a 0-60 mph sprint in just six seconds and handle like a dream. That's what a 1,931 pound curb weight will buy you. Alas, Americans will not be able to buy the 1.6-liter Elise S, as the entry level model here will remain a 190-hp 1.8-liter rated at 21/27 mpg by the EPA.
For the first time ever, Audi has managed to outsell Mercedes-Benz in global sales for the first quarter of 2010. Some of the European press are treating it like the fourth horseman of the apocalypse, but before we break out our Mayan calendars and go all 2012 on you, here are the hard numbers: Audi sold 264,100 vehicles worldwide between January and March while Mercedes sold 248,500 units over the same time period. For what it's worth, BMW has yet to release its final first-quarter sales figures.
Audi has repeatedly signaled its desire and intent to become the world's leading luxury car brand by 2015, which would mean passing both of its German rivals, the aforementioned Mercedes-Benz and BMW, along with Japanese automaker Lexus. Plus, Audi offers a pretty compelling lineup of vehicles with which to do battle with those formidable competitors.
According to Autocar, the biggest single contributor to Audi's passing of Mercedes-Benz is the Chinese market, where Audi sells twice as many vehicles per year as Mercedes-Benz. In fact, one out of every five Audis built is sold in China. Considering how rapidly the Chinese market is expanding, Audi is certainly finding itself in an enviable position. Time will tell if it's able to maintain that growth in the face of constant pressure from its German and Japanese rivals.
It seems the merger between Volkswagen and Porsche has been complicated since the very beginning, and a report from Reuters shows that the dynamic may not change any time soon.
First Porsche was buying the much larger VW, then Porsche got stuck in a cash crunch and needed money from Volkswagen to stave off bankruptcy. Now VW owns 49.9 percent of Porsche, and The People's Automaker expects to own the luxury sports car maker outright by 2011. Straightforward enough, right? Well, a prospectus filed by VW in late March reportedly shows that the merger between the two German automakers may be delayed until 2011 and beyond. The reason for the delay could stem from Porsche's tax liabilities and hedge fund lawsuits alleging that former executives at the German sports car maker manipulated the market in an attempt to takeover Volkswagen.
A Volkswagen spokesperson reportedly told Reuters that the companies are still moving towards a 2011 merger as planned, while a Porsche spokesperson said the warnings in VW's perspective list every possible risk and that the chances of a major problem is limited. Still, some analysts sound skeptical. The report goes on to state that Bernstein Research analyst Max Warburton said the risks associated with purchasing Porsche could force VW to pay cash for a remaining 50.1 percent stake. That would mean VW would have to raise capital and assume unwanted debt – a lot of capital and a mountain of debt.
What do you get when you start with a 599 GTB Fiorano, lose 430 pounds, add 49 horsepower and import street-legal tech from the track-only 599XX? The sum of those many marvelous parts is the 599 GTO, the fastest road-going Ferrari in the automaker's legendary history.
The folks in Maranello unleashed it's king Horse to the public earlier this week before its official unveiling next month at the Beijing Motor Show, with the promise to build precisely 599 examples carrying the venerable GTO designation. The good news is Ferrari created a vehicle configurator that lets you customize your 599 GTO to your heart's content. The bad news: at an estimated $460,000, most of us couldn't afford it.
But still, it's fun to dream, and with the hundreds of available combinations you'll have plenty of time to play. Hues for the 50s and 60s are available, along with metallic finishes, and you can choose your own seat type (racing buckets come in small, medium and large), steering wheel type, a host of available carbon fiber accents, over a dozen different interior stitching options and plenty more. Check it out and start saving your pennies for the launch later this year.
There's something special about seeing a supercar in person, and it's a once in a lifetime event to see several in the same place. It's for that reason we're big fans of supercar reunions. Last year, as part of the Monterey Classic Car Week festivities, Concorso Italiano hosted a Ferrari 288 GTO reunion as part of the car's 25th anniversary, and an incredible fifteen examples showed up, making it the largest gathering ever.
Concorso plans to outdo itself this year with another Ferrari reunion, this time with the F40. More than a dozen owners have already signed on to bring their cars, and we fully expect plenty more to be on hand come August 13th. In fact, the event organizers hope to have more than 40 examples in attendance. The F40's project director, Leonardo Fioravanti, is also scheduled to make an appearance.
If you're a big fan of the F40 or even just Italian supercars in general, then start making your plans to be in Monterey in a little over four months.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
We've seen the spy shots. We've even seen the options list. Now Ferrari has officially taken the wraps off its new performance benchmark, the 599 GTO, ahead of the car's official debut later this month at the Beijing Motor Show.
Sort of a street-legal stepping point between the production 599 GTB Fiorano and the track-only 599XX, the 599 GTO evokes the famous Gran Turismo Omologato designation made famous by the legendary 250 GTO of the 1960s and the muscle-bound 288 GTO of the 1980s. That's quite a legacy to follow, so it's a good thing the 599 GTO brings the goods.
Output from the 6.0-liter V12 – itself derived from the Enzo's engine – is up from 612 horsepower to 661, with torque up a modest 9 lb-ft to 457. Coupled with a 195 kilogram (430 lb) weight reduction program – now tipping the scales at 1495 kg (3295 lbs), the leaner and meaner 599 can sprint to 62 miles per hour from a standstill in a scant (and very specific) 3.35 seconds, with a top speed in excess of 208 mph, while lapping the Fiorano test track from which its donor's name is derived in a blitzing 1 minute, 24 seconds. That's faster than the Enzo, people.
The GTO is also treated to more aerodynamic bodywork, including a new front splitter, side sills, diffuser and rear spoiler. The vented hood is new as well, as are the ten-spoke, 20-inch rims with F1-derived wheel donuts aiding aero efficiency.
Piquing your interest yet? Don't get too excited. As the new flagship in Ferrari's range, the 599 GTO is reported to fetch a price tag approaching £300,000 overseas (equivalent to nearly $460k). Only 599 examples will be offered, which is still more than the Enzo whose performance it eclipses. Follow the jump for the official press release.
Some of you might remember Ugur Sahin. He's a designer, specializing in grand touring cars that make our mouths water. Starting with already beautiful designs, he somehow manages to make shapely Chevrolet Corvettes and Ferraris look even better. From the Corvette Z03 to the Ferrari Dino and Ferrari-599-based USD GT-S Passionata, he's created some of the most exotic and graceful shapes we've ever had the pleasure to lay eyes on.
The latest automaker to earn Sahin's attention is Aston Martin. His latest design, the Gauntlet, blends some of our favorite design cues into a wholly unique package that's simultaneously sensual and brutal. Study the images and you might see a bit of One-77 in the mix, along with a dash of DB AR1, or perhaps you are carried back to the old DB3S, a car that Ugur mentions specifically as inspiration for the Gauntlet.
There's also some Maserati GranTurismo mixed with a little Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione as well, but we're definitely not complaining. It's a terrific design that has us wishing that Aston is looking at Sahin's designs for the next DBS and V12 Vantage. For those who still lament the loss of the Vanquish, with its broad shoulders and studly swagger, this might be the car for you. It's definitely earned a spot in our dream car garage.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Its introduction was a case study in how to bungle an automotive social media campaign. Badly. It had people running for thesauruses to find new and fascinating synonyms for "ugly." Its TV campaign has something to do with jazz music and animals. And yet, for all the hubbub, hysterics and lamentations that Honda had completely lost its mind, the 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour quietly showed up and began finding customers.
Last month – its best sales performance to date – 2,587 people drove the odd-looking hatchwagon home. Recently, we took delivery of our own Crosstour EX-L tester, loaded-up with all-wheel drive and navigation, to see how we felt about spending a week with Honda's latest experiment.
A mainstream hybrid that's fun to drive. That's a novel concept, to be sure, and one targeted by Honda in the marching papers of its recent CR-Z coupe, which is offered with a sporty six-speed manual gearbox and is supposed to be the spiritual successor to the much-loved CRX hatchback from the 1980s.
We've yet to drive the CR-Z and we're already questioning if the 122 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque on tap from its 1.5-liter VTEC four-cylinder with Integrated Motor Assist will be enough to qualify the car as sporty.
According to Motor Trend, though, Honda has a much sportier model waiting in the wings that would use either a V6 or a large 2.5 liter four mated up with the familiar IMA hybrid system. Citing rumors from Japan, MT says the future car will be roughly the size of the Accord coupe.
In related news, that aforementioned V6 hybrid powertrain is reportedly slated for both minivans and SUVs for the American market. Further, Honda is currently working on an extended-range electric system similar to the one featured in the 2011 Chevrolet Volt except using a capacitor-based energy storage system. If true, we can expect to see that system featured in a future Accord.
Muscle car fans and collectors take note - make sure to put June 19th down on your schedule. That's the day that RM Auctions has set to schedule off a private muscle car collection in San Diego, and more than 80 fine examples of American iron will be looking for new homes.
The auction will be highlighted by some of the performance icons of the muscle car era including an ultra rare 1969 Chevrolet Corvette L88, a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle LS6 Convertible, a 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge, a 1970 Boss 429 Mustang and a pair of 1969 Camaro Z28s. The best part? All of the cars will be offered at no reserve. You can read more details about the auction in the press release after the jump or head over to RM's web site for the full list of cars up for sale.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
We've been seeing spy shots of the upcoming 6-Series Convertible for some time now, but this is the first time we've seen the hard topped version out in the streets. Well, halfway out in the street, as BMW has it all wrapped up for up for a psytrance after-party. We will tip our hats to BMW for this black and white disguise, however, as there's a slight resemblance to the Maserati 4200 GT in front, while they taped off the C-pillar ape the Z32 300ZX. That said, they're not fooling anyone.
First of all, the stuff they didn't/can't cover with camo-wheels, brakes and mirrors-all scream BMW. Especially the "Efficient Dynamics" brake kit that will charge the battery while you're slowing down. Also, the trunk is still fairly Bangled, though less so than the current car.
The engines will be coming out of the 7 Series, though probably not the vaunted 760Li's twin-turbo V12. Expect the double-scroll single turbo 3.0-liter straight six and the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, as well as few diesel mill we won't be seeing in the States. As far as the next M6 goes, that's up in the air. Early reports indicate that BMW will be selling some manner of R8-fighter based on the Efficient Dynamics Concept, though it will probably be stuffed with a 600+ horsepower version of the BMW 262 cubic inch twin-turbo V8.
Before you get salty tears in your coffee, our spies also inform us that a four door version of the new 6 Series is expected. Something along the lines of a 650i Gran Turismo, including a hatch/trunk lid similar to the one found in the 550i GT. A model needed (apparently) to combat the upcoming Audi A7 four-door coupe. Those wacky Germans...
Well, that didn't take long, did it? We knew the new 2011 Ford Focus RS500 would move fast, but not quite this fast. Powered by a 2.5-liter five-cylinder that produces 345 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque, Ford's hottest hatch one-ups even the already bonkers Focus RS with its piddly 305 horsepower and 325 lb-ft. Considering that the RS is capable of a 0-62 mile per hour sprint of under six seconds and a top speed of 163 mph, the RS500 should clock in around 5.6 seconds.
What we didn't expect was the fact that the RS500 would sell so quickly. With their matte black paint, 19-inch wheels and all that performance on tap, we certainly expected them to be a hot commodity, but if Autocar is to be believed, the whole run of 500 units has already sold out – some 12 hours after the reveal. Sales will be spread out over 20 European markets, with the UK getting 101 units, Germany getting 55 cars, France receiving 50 and Belgium scoring 50 units, with Denmark, the Czech Republic and Greece getting five units each, while Ireland receives three.
The best part of the story is the fact that all 500 units are already spoken for, even before prices have been announced. Ford is said to be sorting through the letters of intent from customers to figure out dealer allocations. And don't forget, the order books don't formally open until May. With the regular RS trading above sticker on the used car market, we're guessing there will be more than a few flippers in the initial owner group.
Monday, April 5, 2010
According to an unnamed source, the Renault board of directors has called an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, April 6th, to discuss plans to enter into an agreement with German automaker Daimler. As was the case when Renault teamed up with Japanese automaker Nissan, there will reportedly be an exchange of stock, but not nearly at the same level as Renault's 44-percent stake in Nissan.
If the board chooses to move forward – and all indications are that it will – an announcement could be made as early as Wednesday detailing the partnership. It's widely thought that Daimler is keenly interested in Renault's small car expertise for its less-than-wildly-successful Smart car division, and it seems increasingly likely that the two automakers could jointly develop new city car platforms. Might a more family-friendly ForFour be in the offing as rumored?
You knew it wouldn't be long before somebody tried to install the new Apple iPad in their ride. Well, it's already happened, and the "somebody" in this case is Doug Bernards of SoundMan Car Audio in Santa Clarita, California. The team's ride of choice for what is claimed to be the world's first automotive iPad install is a Toyota Tacoma pickup. SoundMan decided to use a McIntosh amp for the build, naturally. The team was among the first to receive an iPad, and they got to work immediately. The video chronicling the installation is after the jump.
Besides the iPad, the system consists of an Audison Bit One processor, the McIntosh six-channel amplifier, an Onkyo ND-S1 and "a special iPod dock which allows the digital signal to be pulled from the iPad and distributed to the BitOne via optical output." As the blurb on the company's website puts it:
We chose to use the iPad as the only source for the vehicles entertainment system. The dock connector will plug into a cable that runs to a Onkyo ND-S1 which will send the digital signal from the iPad directly into an Audison Bit One. The Bit One will then act as the D/A converter, and will also process the audio signal. The Bit One also has a great controller for adjusting the volume and audio settings. The amplifier we chose is the McIntosh MCC406M. Stay tunned for the rest of the build. You'll be able to find all the pictures and videos on this page as they become available.
Follow the jump to follow the installation from unboxing the components to firing it up. While the screen looks enormous in the dash, it actually doesn't look out of place and at first glance, it almost appears factory installed. The placement of the controller is a bit of a tell, and the rounded edges of the iPad need a bezel perhaps, but job well done on job number one. The team still needs to fully wire it up, but the mockup is finished. Stay tuned for part two after the rest of the components arrive.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
With the new Giulietta now out in the open, Alfa Romeo's attention is turning to its big brother. Set to replace the 159 sometime next year, the highly-anticipated nuova Giulia promises to improve on the outgoing sedan's lackluster driving dynamics.
Based on Alfa's variable C/D platform, the Giulia is tipped to get a McPherson front suspension with a twin-link rear setup. As with the Alfa 159, the Giulia is expected to be front-drive, with the trick Q4 all-wheel-drive system available as an option, hooked up to a variety of turbodiesel and MultiAir gasoline engines.
Unlike the MiTo and Giulietta, both of which are hatchback-only, the Giulia promises both four-door sedan and five-door wagons as part of the mix. The tantalizing end of the range, however, is tipped to include an in-house GTA model – with at least 300 horsepower, all-wheel drive and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission – and a lightweight, front-drive version with 350 horsepower to be co-developed with famed Alfa tuner Autodelta.
We'll have to wait to see if the speculation proves accurate – and, for that matter, if the car will take its design cues from the 8C Competizione, the Bertone Pandion or the Pininfarina 2uettottanta. But in the meantime, you're invited to tinker around with the online configurator that Alfa just launched for the Giulietta hatchback, where you'll find you can order it in any color you want, as long as it's a shade of gray.
[Source: CAR magazine]
Friday, April 2, 2010
Let's just go on ahead and make that much needed volume leader. The great economic collapse of 2009 smashed Mitsubishi in the teeth with a much larger brick than most other manufacturers. Thinks have slightly improved, but their February sales were still down 10 percent, and from an already frighteningly low level. Obviously, something must be done.
Meet the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, or as they're calling it in alphanumeric-loving Europe, the ASX. We've covered this particular small crossover pretty extensively already, so here's the U.S. spec deal. It's 15 inches shorter than the Outlander GT. Like its big brother, it gets magnesium paddle shifters. However, they are connected to a CVT instead of Mitsu's sweet dual-clutch gearbox. Now, no one has driven the Outlander Sport yet, and CVTs have gotten massively better in the last few years, so don't bunch your panties up quite yet.
The real upshot of that CVT is the Outlander Sport's 31 mpg highway figure, a right respectable number for a small crossover. In fact, that means the Outlander Sport is competitive with a small CUV we like a whole bunch, the new Hyundai Tucson. Besides the CVT, Mitsu has installed weight-saving plastic front fenders, electric power steering and has sculpted the Outlander Sport down to a admirably slippery 0.33 Cd. The Outlander Sport can also be shifted from front-wheel drive to all-wheel drive and yes, you will be able to order yours in this particularly vibrant shade of show car blue.
We dig super sedans. You get 94 percent of the performance of a sports car (or there abouts) plus the ability to take a few friends along for the hair-raising ride. Also, cops don't seem to scrutinize big snazzy sleepers as much as they do bright yellow scissor-doored whatchamacall'em-ardos. It should come as no shock then that when we first heard about the new Alpina B7, we were pretty excited. When we then subsequently learned that an all-wheel drive version of BMW's sportiest big sedan was coming to the New York Auto Show, well, our excitement grew.
Then we saw the car in the flesh.
Let's just say we're now triple excited. A few pertinent stats, if we may. The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 found in a host of BMWs has been significantly improved to 500 horsepower (up by 100 hp over stock) and 516 pound-feet of torque (up by 66 pound-feet). The B7 is also more aerodynamic than your garden variety 7 Series, comes with zillion-spoke wheels (fine, twenty) and can hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. With the Alpina B7 xDrive, you can now toss AWD into that already frothy mix.
But the above stats aren't the crazy parts. It's the details that impress the most. For example, all four of the heavy-duty half shafts come out of the 7 Series High Security. The 60 to 0 mph braking distance is identical to a Porsche Turbo. That last bit is not an April Fools' joke, although it's somewhat mitigated by Alpina's saying, "that's cold braking distance." While not a stat per say, the AWD system is mechanically identical to other BMW xDrive systems, though Alpina has written their own software system, presumably for the better.
One last thing that's actually a little to complicated to explain: take a look at the center of the B7's wheel. You'll see that once you've slid the heraldry over, there's a keyhole. Now, if you zoom out, you'll notice no valve stems anywhere on the wheel. In other words, your tire pressure's locked in and can be adjusted to the tenth of a PSI.
Hyundai showed off its new Sonata Turbo and Sonata Hybrid yesterday at the New York Auto Show, two vehicles that should help keep the brand's mid-size sedan moving up the sales charts with a bullet. With March sales figures just trickling in, it looks like the Sonata is now the third best-selling mid-size sedan behind the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. With its high level of equipment, style, quality and performance, it's not surprising to see this Korean doing well. Today in New York, the automaker showed how it can take that level of refinement found in the Sonata and its bigger brother, the Genesis, and ratchet it up another notch for a new flagship, the Hyundai Equus.
The Equus actually showed up last year in New York, sent over in world-market form to gauge customer interest. Apparently, it went swimmingly for Hyundai, as the production Equus will officially go on sale here towards the end of the year – well an oxymoronically named Equus, minus its signature hood ornament. Looking slightly less like the Lexus LS460 than the previous version of the car we'd seen, the U.S.-spec Equus has a shape that fits right in with upscale sedans from Buick, Lexus and Infiniti, if not Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Particularly at the rear fender, there is a swoop that doesn't quite speak luxury like the rest of the car though, reminding us more of a Dodge Charger than a Euro sedan. This production version though, particularly with its cleaner hood and grille, definitely has a refined look.
CEO John Krafcik wouldn't give us a firm number but did promise that the 385-horsepower sedan will come in with a base price somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000. The Equus will also launch a new luxury ownership experience being sold through select dealers in a dedicated area that will also include Genesis and Genesis Coupe. It will be available in four- or five-seat configurations with a mini fridge splitting the rear bucks on the rear twosome. Those backseats are also extremely comfortable, with power ventilation, heating and massage, plus a Maybach-like foot rest. Very nice.
Awards season is finally winding down with the 2010 World Car of the Year and World Performance Car of the Year being handed out this morning at the 2010 New York Auto Show. After whittling the fields down to three finalists in each category, the panel of 59 international journalists voted one last time to crown the World Car of the Year.
While the Toyota Prius, Volkswagen Polo and Mercedes-Benz E-Class were nominated, it was the Polo that took home the gold for 2010 World Car of the Year.
On the performance vehicle front, the nominees were the Audi R8 V10, Porsche 911 GT3 and Ferrari California, with the Audi winning top honors.
They also handed out a Design award for a group of finalists including the Citroen C3 Picasso, Kia Soul and Chevrolet Camaro. That honor went to the Camaro. (U-S-A! U-S-A!)
The Green category saw Volkswagen's line of diesel-powered BlueMotion vehicles beat out the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight hybrids