Tag Archives: Cobo Hall

Tracing the Roots of the VL Automotive Destino

By Kevin Wilson

The penny dropped when we spotted Henry Iovino and he asked, “how did you like my car?” We were at the coat check at Detroit’s Cobo Hall, preparing to leave the auto show without a real answer to our primary question about the Corvette-powered, Fisker Karma–based VL Destino: How did that happen?

Partners in the venture, industrialist Gilbert Villarreal and GM retiree Bob Lutz (hence VL), had just explained their plan at a press conference. The scrum of daily reporters still surrounded Lutz, listening to him explain—yet again—that such a car doesn’t violate the principles behind either the Chevy Volt he’d promoted nor the Karma itself because (surprise!) the principle behind selling cars is to build what customers want. Some want granola on yogurt, some want triple-chocolate torte, and guess who pays more for a luxury confection?

That doesn’t answer our question, though. Closer was Villarreal’s assertion that an engineer had suggested the idea over dinner—ersatz Mexican fare—last summer while discussing the bankruptcy of battery-maker A123. That engineer would be Iovino.

“I said, ‘what he ought to do is just drop a ZR1 engine in it,’ and it went from there.”

In the late 1990s, Iovino was a Corvette engineer who partnered with C5 designer John Cafaro under the name Skunk Werkes in a side venture to build what GM wouldn’t: a convertible 2001 Corvette Z06. With a vastly upgraded interior, a folding top built by ASC, and a cut-down windscreen for a speedster-look, the car had appeal but was pricey and the business didn’t fly.

A half-decade later, amid massive layoffs at GM, Iovino found himself on the outside looking in, so he started picking up jobs as a contract engineer. We ran into him in 2008 in Pontiac, Michigan, working in a shop where Fisker developed the Karma. In 2012, he was doing similar work for Villarreal on a proposed electric delivery van (with batteries from A123),  making Iovino the answer to, “how did that happen?”

“I knew the Karma really well, and, of course, Corvettes,” Iovino said. When A123 went belly-up, a notion he’d harbored for years that the Karma would be a really cool luxury car if only it wasn’t a hybrid, found natural voice. “I call it the Bad Karma.”

Villarreal ran with the idea, tapping Lutz (already a partner in a luxury watch venture) to open doors with Fisker and GM, and Iovino went to work. “By the time it came together, building these two cars was a 60-day program. The power bulge on the hood is obvious but we also had to redesign the tail because the Karma doesn’t have exhaust back there, it exits up front.” Lutz penned a new signature grille that answers Fisker’s requirement that the new car look different from the Karma.



Replacing the 2.5-liter four-banger with a V-8 was easy, but the four-cylinder was just a generator so Iovino had to put a driveshaft in the center tunnel where the batteries usually live, and a Corvette transaxle in back where the Fisker has electric motors.

“It’s instantly 1100-pounds lighter; I think we can get more weight out because of structure that’s only there to carry the mass.”

Iovino cut down the springs to get the ride height right for the two show cars. “We’ll have to recalibrate it all, get the spring rates and shocks right for the weight and the different distribution.”

There’s no telling yet how many people will pony up a projected $180,000 to $200,000 for a Destino, but Iovino expects it will be more than the four who bought his Skunk Werkes Z06.

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Detroit: 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is dressed to impress

By Steven J. Ewing

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2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class - live in Detroit

The main focus of Mercedes-Benz’s presence here at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show will be the fully redesigned 2014 E-Class (and its too-hot AMG counterpart), but the German automaker did bring along another tasty little morsel for a sneak preview. Meet the new 2014 CLA-Class – a swoopy compact sedan based on the already successful new A-Class hatchback that’ll be arriving Stateside in September of this year. Mercedes-Benz introduced its new entry-level car to the world at Detroit’s Westin Book Cadillac hotel, but the CLA won’t be making an appearance under the lights of Cobo Hall. Instead, the company will be shipping its new four-door off to be officially debuted to the public at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin later this week, and its first official viewing at an auto show will be at the Geneva Motor Show.

And what a shame that is. We spent a few hours ogling the new CLA and it’s sort of sad that show-goers in Detroit this week won’t be able to do the same. It’s an impossibly pretty car from every single angle, Mercedes-Benz showing it off here in a deep red and a flat gray, the latter with optional sport appearance goodies. Part of that attractiveness is thanks to how stylishly slippery the CLA is – it boasts a drag coefficient of just 0.23, making it the most aerodynamic series production vehicle in the world. (Take that, Prius!)

It’s roughly the same size as a C-Class, and the four-door coupe language works quite well here in a smaller package.

It’s a nicely proportioned thing, too. It’s roughly the same size as a C-Class, and the four-door coupe language works quite well here in a smaller package. Mercedes designers have done a fantastic job with this sleek design on the larger CLS, and it’s arguably even better-looking here on this little guy. You really need to see the CLA in person to realize just how good it looks.

When the 2014 CLA-Class launches in the United States this fall, it will initially come only in CLA250 guise, packing a turbocharged 1.8-liter inline-four good for 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive will be standard, but Mercedes-Benz will also be offering a retuned version of its 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. The company says that its AMG performance arm was heavily involved in the development of this new 4Matic architecture, and if that’s the case, there’s reason to expect good things. We’ll have to wait a little longer for the full-on AMG package, previewed by the A45 AMG hatchback in Europe.

Inside, the CLA boasts the same levels of refinement found across its current lineup, and while you might think the cabin is a bit cramped – especially in the back – that isn’t the case. No, those rear seats aren’t what we’d call capacious (our apologies to taller passengers), but they aren’t all that bad. And regardless, the interior is a comfy, cushy place.

Mercedes-Benz is hoping to attract a whole host of new buyers with the CLA-Class – people who would never have considered shopping the luxury automaker in the past. If the early accomplishments of the A-Class overseas are any indication (Mercedes-Benz says its launch of the A-Class was one of the most successful in the company’s history), then perhaps this same magic can happen in the States with the CLA. And with pricing expected to fall around $30,000, that might not be too far-fetched of a thought.

Continue reading 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is dressed to impress

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is dressed to impress originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 14 Jan 2013 06:44:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Official: Nissan bringing 2014 Versa Note to Detroit

By Steven J. Ewing

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2014 Nissan Versa Note

Nissan today confirmed that it will be showing the 2014 Versa Note – not Versa, not Note, but Versa Note – at next week’s 2013 Detroit Auto Show. And while we can’t see a whole lot from this one teaser image, we’re willing to bet that the car looks a lot like this.

All Nissan will tell us at this time is that the Versa Note will have “segment-exclusive technology, outstanding fuel economy, smart packaging and class-leading cargo space.” Sounds… class-competitive.

Given how turned-off we are by the second-generation Versa sedan, it’ll be interesting to see just what’s in store for this Notably more functional version of the affordable compact. Stay tuned for the full details live from Cobo Hall in just a few days, and scroll down to read Nissan’s brief press blast.

Continue reading Nissan bringing 2014 Versa Note to Detroit

Nissan bringing 2014 Versa Note to Detroit originally appeared on Autoblog on Sat, 12 Jan 2013 14:55:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

Official: Volkswagen unveils sportier Passat Performance Concept ahead of Detroit debut

By Steven J. Ewing

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Volkswagen Passat Performance Concept

Ahead of its official unveiling at next week’s Detroit Auto Show, Volkswagen has released some preliminary details and images of its Passat Performance Concept – a car that, as its name suggests, adds a little more spice to the automaker’s midsize sedan formula. VW makes no mention of any production intent for this road-ready-looking sedan, simply stating that the Performance Concept is a way to “explore this practical four-door’s sportier side.”

It certainly doesn’t look too sporty, the only visual upgrades being larger 19-inch wheels, dual exhaust, bi-xenon headlamps with VW‘s Advanced Front Lighting system, LED taillmaps and carbon-look mirror caps. Inside, there are carbon interior accents and two-tone leather upholstery. But no matter, the real upgrades for this mightier Passat are found below the sheetmetal.

Powering the Performance Concept is a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, churning out 250 horsepower and sending its grunt to the ground via a six-speed automatic transmission. For reference, that’s 80 more horsepower than the Passat’s base 2.5-liter inline-five, but 20 horsepower less than the potent 3.6-liter VR6. As for other performance upgrades, Volkswagen has fitted the car with a lowered sport suspension and revamped electronic steering, which should indeed add a bit more dynamic feedback to the already nice-driving sedan.

We’ll see the Performance Concept in the metal next week under the lights of Cobo Hall. In the meantime, scroll down to read Volkswagen’s brief press release.

Continue reading Volkswagen unveils sportier Passat Performance Concept ahead of Detroit debut

Volkswagen unveils sportier Passat Performance Concept ahead of Detroit debut originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 11 Jan 2013 13:28:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog