Tag Archives: Instrumented Test

Ford to Offer Compressed Natural Gas Prep Package on 2014 F-150

By Alexander Stoklosa

2014 Ford F-150 CNG Prep Package

Ford has announced that it will offer customers a compressed natural gas (GNG) prep package on the 2014 F-150 pickup. Although it isn’t a full conversion, Ford’s package sets the F-150 up to be converted by a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier. The kit is available only on F-150s equipped with the base 3.7-liter V-6 engine, and it includes hardened valves, valve seats, pistons, and rings. With the prep kit, the F-150 can run on either gasoline or natural gas (via separate fuel systems), as well as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

According to Ford, the CNG/LPG prep package will cost roughly $315, but outfitting the truck with the requisite CNG fuel tank and fuel-delivery systems will set buyers back between $7500 and $9500. Still, Ford claims that customers who opt for the kit and the pricey CNG up-fit can see a return on their investment within 24–36 months, thanks to the ultra-low price of natural gas. The fuel can cost as little as a buck a (gasoline equivalent) gallon—as opposed to the current price of regular gas, which is hovering in the mid-$3 range—meaning fleets that travel lots of miles could legitimately see savings in a short period of time.



Ford claims the F-150 is the only CNG/LPG-capable half-ton pickup on the market, but technically most any vehicle—other half-tons included—can be converted to use natural gas, so the boast is somewhat disingenuous. Perhaps more accurate, Ford is the only manufacturer to offer a preparatory package that primes a half-ton for conversion. (Ram offers a turn-key natural-gas-powered 2500 heavy-duty pickup, and the Mopar catalog offers conversion bits for regular 1500s.) The F-150 is only the latest Ford commercial vehicle to offer a gaseous-prep engine option, and the automaker predicts it will offer eight different compatible models within the next year. Those models include the Transit Connect, the new Transit van, the outgoing E-series van, F-series Super Duty pickups, F-450 and F-550 Super Duty chassis cabs, the F-650 medium-duty truck, and the F53 and F59 stripped chassis. The multitude of CNG-prepped models are part of Ford’s plan to sell 15,000 such vehicles this year.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Ratios Galore: A Deep Look at ZF’s 9-speed Automatic

By K.C. Colwell

When is enough, enough? When it comes to transmissions, the available ratios from any trans maker are on a steady climb into two-digit territory. Take ZF’s newest for example: the 9HP. It’s a nine-speed transaxle for transverse applications sporting a 9.8 ratio spread (that’s good) and it promises 10-percent better fuel economy when compared to a six-speed slushbox. In a market that goes full frenzy by one-percent here and two-percent there, 10 can’t be ignored.

The trouble with engineering a transmission for a transverse application is packaging. The gearbox, along with the engine, has to fit between the shock towers. According to ZF, which announced it will initially supply the 9HP to the Jeep Cherokee and the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque with more customers to come, the maximum width for such a transmission is about 14.6 inches. It’s no surprise, then, that the 9HP is 14.4 inches wide. With four planetary gear sets and six shifting elements (brakes and clutches) that’s a very dense 14.4 inches.

Of those four planetary gearsets, two of them are nested. In this nested pair, the annulus, or ring gear, of the smaller planetary doubles as the sun gear of the larger set. This arrangement trims some width from the four-gearset tranny.

Simply adding ratios to a transmission might not make it a tool for greater efficiency, however. More ratios require more shifting elements and these add weight, complexity, and drag to the transmission. This is why ZF implemented two dog clutches in the 9HP. The beauty of a dog clutch is there’s little-to-no parasitic loss when they aren’t engaged, whereas a conventional friction clutch zaps some efficiency, and they’re relatively compact.

The tricky part of the canine clutch is how, or rather when, to engage them. Synchromesh helps dog clutches within a manual transmission from grinding away and easing gear changes. ZF relies on computers to anticipate the precise moment both halves of each dog clutch are spinning the exact same speed, and engagement happens without the slightest crunch, as proven by our short sample in an Evoque test mule.



Internal efficiencies aren’t the only source for the claimed fuel-economy improvement, either; the nine ratios play a part, too. Internal-combustion engines are most efficient in a relatively small rpm range and the biggest ratio step is just 1.65, between first and second. Having many small ratio steps in hand allows any engine coupled to a 9HP to operate in that ideal rpm window more of the time.

Oh yeah, one of the best parts of the 9HP: it’s 100 percent American made. Every 9HP installed worldwide will come out of the supplier’s Gray Court, South Carolina, plant, with the exception of the 9HPs Chrysler builds under license (just like the longitudinal 8HP) at its Kokomo, Indiana, transmission plant. …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Benz is Getting Busy: Outlining the Next Year of S-class Debuts

By John Lamm

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4MATIC should be joined by the S65 AMG come November.

Based on what our sources in Stuttgart are telling us, Mercedes-Benz wants its new S-class to be all things to all (relatively affluent) people. We’ve already driven the new S550 and the latest S63 has been revealed ahead of its arrival on showroom floors early next year, but the three-pointed star has a handful of fuel-conscious and fire-breathing S-classes in store for this coming auto-show season.

If you’re in the crowd concerned with consumption, we encourage you to recall four years ago, when Mercedes showed off its Vision S500 plug-in hybrid concept. Making use of a 3.5-liter V-6 and a 60-hp electric motor, the Vision S500 was good for 18 miles of electric range and a 0–60 time of 5.4 seconds. Mercedes has confirmed that this model will head to production, and we’re told to expect it at the Frankfurt auto show in September before going on sale in early 2015. Final powertrain details have yet to be confirmed, but we’d expect the production-spec S500 to stay relatively close to the show car’s specifications.



For those who like their full-size luxury sedans to knock their lederhosen off, the next few months will prove to be entertaining. Our sources have told us to expect the all-conquering S65 AMG to bow at the Los Angeles auto show in November. The current car’s 6.0-liter twin-turbo V-12 is tuned to produce 621 horsepower capable of hauling the 5000-pound sedan to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. We’d expect a slight bump in output, a curb weight some 200 pounds less than its predecessor, and a sub-four-second 0-to-60 time. Six weeks later in Detroit, look for the standard V-12–powered S600 to make its debut.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

2013 Nissan Altima Commercial: Dancing with the Cars [The Ad Section]

By Don Klein

The Ad Section

The number one unwritten rule in advertising is Get Noticed, so score one for ad agency TBWAChiatDay for creating an automotive commercial that’s definitely different. But, unfortunately, that one is all it scored. This bizarre spot opens on a highly stylized couple in their driveway, facing the garage. They don’t need a car, because he’s the car. She climbs aboard his back like an awkward toddler and holds her arms in the nine-and-three steering position, but as soon as they start to back up, he bucks her off. Wait—is he a car or a horse? I’m already confused.

More befuddling is that, moments later, he’s a football player, assuming a defensive guard’s position to protect a kid on a skateboard from getting smooshed. For those of us who haven’t earned a black belt in charades, the announcer provides a clue: “Moving object detection.” The only detecting I detected was the guy looking over his shoulder, the same technology Karl Benz used on his 1886 Patent-Motorwagen. But if we’re pretending the guy is a car, I guess that means whatever the spot is selling has motion sensors, like dozens of other cars on the market.

Incident avoided, she’s now off his back as they move down a neighborhood road, side by side, in what looks to me like a tribute to Monty Python’s “The Ministry of Silly Walks.” They keep this up until getting to the freeway, where a motorcycle bears down on them. (Didn’t this guy get the tweet? There are crazy people on the 405! Stay away!) Since they’re all alone out there I would think they could easily hear a rapidly approaching, fully wound café racer, but maybe they have their invisible windows rolled up. No worries, though, as the biker passes safely because the still-unnamed car/horse/lineman/comedian has blind-spot detection. Phew. Moments later we learn the man-car also has lane-departure warning, as evidenced by its stealthy evasion of a huge semi. As the 18-wheeler barrels past them, the vehi-dude demonstrates an additional, if unnamed feature: automatic truck mooning. Haul this, you big bully!



Whatever it is that’s being advertised, the announcer says it has safety down to an art form, so I’m thinking maybe it’s a Volvo. But no, the waning seconds of the spot reveal that we’re being pitched the Nissan Altima. That’s right, folks—the same car that touted its tire-inflation warning system by showing a guy squirting cologne down his trousers has now taken the high road with this artsy allegorical ditty that’s sure to capture the desirable modern-dance enthusiast segment that all the mid-size sedans are battling for. I never saw it coming.

Award-winning ad man-cum-auto journalist Don Klein knows a good (or bad) car commercial when he sees one; the Ad Section is his space to tell you what he thinks …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Cadillac to Prune Wreath from Logo, According to Reports

By Andrew Wendler

According to a report in Automotive News, Cadillac is working on the first major revision of its logo in a decade. The report quotes several unnamed sources as saying that the redesign will eliminate the “classic laurel wreaths that surround its crest,” and will “likely appear on concept vehicle Cadillac plans to show next month at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.” Continue reading Cadillac to Prune Wreath from Logo, According to Reports

First Images of 2014 BMW i3 EV Leak onto Dutch Website

By Alexander Stoklosa

2014 BMW i3 EV

The first official images of the 2014 BMW i3 have leaked onto the internet just days before the electric car’s debut. The photos appeared on the Dutch site Autoblog.nl, and appear to show a production-ready silver i3. (To see the full set of images, head over to Autoblog.nl.) As expected, the 2014 i3 looks nearly identical to the i3 Concept Coupe, which itself was a visual evolution of the original i3 concept from 2011.



We’ve already driven an i3 prototype, and we know how much BMW plans to charge customers for its little electric car, but we expect final fuel-economy and technical details to be revealed at the car’s official debut in the coming days. The 2014 BMW i3 goes on sale in the second quarter of next year.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Horatio McCallister Would Approve of These Fiat 500s

By John Lamm

Fiat 500 Personal Watercraft

Horatio McCallister is from Springfield, Oregon, where he captains a number of ships and owns his own seafood restaurant, The Frying Dutchman. In his free time, he teaches sailing and operates the projector on movie nights at a local summer camp, runs “a small academy for lobsters,” and once captained the yacht of eccentric billionaire Artie Ziff. If we had to guess which Fiat best suited Mr. McCallister, we’d put our money on one of the trio of 500s the Italian marque showed off at the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, California.

Fiat 500 Personal Watercraft

You see, the three 500s Fiat brought to California—a standard model, a cabrio, and an Abarth—are the closest things yet to the amphibious Fiats made famous by the brand’s commercial signifying its return to America. In fact, they’re actually personal watercraft with 500 body shells constructed around them. In addition to the PWCs-turned-Cinquecentos, Fiat also brought along its fantastically cool 500C Beach Cruiser that debuted at last year’s SEMA show.

Fiat 500 Personal Watercraft



Of course, Fiat isn’t the first manufacturer of quirky subcompacts to convert one of its offerings into a seagoing vessel. Mini grafted the body shell and accessories off one of its convertible models onto a boat and went for a pleasant cruise on the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last fall. If we’re lucky, maybe we could stage a small regatta between the seagoing Fiats and Minis and call it The America’s Teacup. If either manufacturer is interested, we can recommend the name of a great captain.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Secret (Wagon) Lover: Awesome Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake Spied Testing Near Nürburgring [Photo Gallery]

By Alexander Stoklosa

2015 Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake (spy photo)

Why, yes, we intend to start off this post about spy photos of a hot new Jaguar XF Sportbrake variant with a reference to the 1985 Atlantic Starr single “Secret Lovers.” You see, we fancy Jaguar’s gorgeous, not-for-the-U.S. XF Sportbrake wagon to be our secret automobile lover—at least in our minds, and unbeknownst to our (human) significant others. As if our unspoken bond couldn’t get any stronger, along comes these photos of an ultra-hot XFR-S Sportbrake testing near the Nürburgring in Germany. How do we know it’s an XFR-S? Jaguar apparently didn’t see fit to remove the badge from this partially camouflaged example, that’s how.



For those not in the know, the R-S appended to the XF name implies this Sportbrake will get the same 550-hp, supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 that powers the limited-production 2014 Jaguar XFR-S sedan that will be sold here. These spy photos clearly show it will get the same body dress-up bits as the sedan, only with the ability to stuff more junk in its shapely trunk. Will this XFR-S Sportbrake be sold here? Not a chance, and again we’ll defer to Atlantic Starr to paraphrase our tenuous Jaguar wagon connection: Secret lovers, yeah, that’s what we are . . . we shouldn’t be together, but we can’t let go, no, no . . . ’cause we love each other so . . . ooh ooh!

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Mercedes-Benz Creates Ultra-Luxurious, Ultra-Cool Golf Cart Concept

By Alexander Stoklosa

Mercedes-Benz Vision Golf Cart Concept

It’s not entirely clear why, but Mercedes-Benz—“the official patron of the PGA tour” and sponsor of pro golfer Adam Scott’s right breast—recently held a global contest that involved its fans submitting ideas for the ultimate golf cart. The results came in, were compiled, and apparently the overwhelming consensus among the entries was that Mercedes-leaning golfers yearn for a cart that rivals their car in terms of luxury. The three-pointed star guys presented the criteria to its designers in Carlsbad, California, who churned out the Vision Golf Cart concept you see here. It debuted it at this year’s British Open championship.

Loaded to the gills with luxury features, the Vision cart is less “the Mercedes-Benz of golf carts” and more a Benz car that happens to look like a golf cart from Tron. As Gordon Wagoner, Benz’s VP of design, puts it, “Why not [treat] a golf cart like a car, and [make] it a ‘golf car?’ ” Well, for starters, Volkswagen already makes a ‘Golf car,’ but we suppose that integrating carlike attributes into the ultimate golf cart makes some sense. Still, we’re struggling to see why Benz needed to design the Vision at all when a GLK-class can hold some clubs and seems capable of tackling a grass field.

Silly design brief aside, the all-electric Vision Golf Cart is an impressive bit of fantasy. Users can plug the Vision in to charge it, or it can be juiced up via the roof-mounted solar array—likely at a much slower, cloud-dependent pace. Electric hub motors mounted provide power. Inside, you won’t find a steering wheel or pedals; instead, a central joystick controls the vehicle. This is both bad and good, because it allows either front passenger to control the Vision. A series of touch-screen displays controls the air-conditioning and infotainment systems—for staying cool while streaming Caddyshack, natch—and the vehicle also packs heated and ventilated seats and Benz’s Airscarf neck-warmer technology. A head-up display is integrated into the windshield and can show golf course layouts, scores, and weather info.

A USB iPod/iPad dock lets occupants use their devices to play music through the Vision’s speakers, while a Bluetooth connection ensures captains of industry can still bark orders at their subordinates while away from the office. Golf-specific touches include a cooler—the beer is up to you—as well as cooled or heated cup holders. For golfers who aren’t so good at golfing, there’s an emergency “fore” button that, when pressed, sends a warning signal “to golf carts within the danger zone.” It isn’t clear how that zone is determined, or how Mercedes expects folks to override their instinctual pride and dignity to press that button. Since sometimes it rains on golf courses, rain-sensing automatic windshield wipers are included, as is a retractable lightning rod that is intended to be better at attracting electricity than nearby golfers’ clubs. Snap-on, lightweight doors can be deployed to further battle the elements.


The Infiniti Crossovers Formerly Known as FX and JX, the QX60 and QX70, Priced for 2014

By Alexander Stoklosa

2014 Infiniti QX60

The 2014 Infiniti QX60 a.k.a. the 2013 JX35.

What looks and drives just like an Infiniti JX or FX, but isn’t entirely either? Why, the 2014 QX60 and QX70, of course! Recall that the three-row JX and sporty FX crossovers switch to the QX60 and QX70 names, respectively, for 2014 as part of Infiniti’s dubious strategy to remold its image. Based on pricing information Infiniti has released for the 2014 QX60 and QX70, the two also are priced pretty similarly to the JX and FX they replace.

In fact, the rear-drive QX70 3.7, which is the rebadged version of last year’s six-cylinder FX37, starts at the same $45,945. Same goes for the $47,395 all-wheel-drive QX70 3.7 and $62,495 V-8–powered QX70 5.0 AWD. Literally nothing about the QX70 differs from the FX37 or FX50, which were already refreshed for 2013. Buyers can still spec a host of option packages, including the $4300 Premium package, $3300 Deluxe Touring package, and $2950 Technology package for 3.7 models, as well as the $6250 Sport Technology package on 5.0 models.



2013 Infiniti FX37

The 2014 Infiniti QX70 should look exactly like this 2013 FX37, but with different badges.

As for the QX60, it is simply a renamed JX35; prices for the QX60 increase slightly over its 2013 JX counterpart. The front-drive QX60 starts at $42,545 and the all-wheel-drive model starts at $43,945—both stickers are $300 higher than last year. Also, as with the QX70, the QX60′s option sheet carries over from last year unchanged. Buyers can again spec a $1550 Premium package, a $3000 Premium Plus package, a $1700 Theater package, a $1900 Driver Assistance package, a $3450 Deluxe Touring package, and a $2800 Technology package. Curiously, Infiniti did not release pricing for the recently announced QX60 hybrid variant, which also is a 2014 model, but we suspect that info will be announced soon. Both the 2014 QX60 and QX70 are on sale now. 

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Ultimate Electric Machine? BMW i3 Starts at $42,275

By Nick Palermo

2014 BMW i3

Ahead of its simultaneous triple debut on three continents, BMW announced pricing for the first electric vehicle from its i sub-brand: the new i3 starts at $42,275 before any EV tax incentives. BMW expects an all-electric range of 80 to 100 miles for the lightweight, four-passenger hatchback, or 160 to 180 miles with an optional 2-cylinder gasoline engine.

Pricing tops other small EVs by a significant margin. The i3 is about $5000 more than its next-highest-priced competitor, the lease-only Honda Fit EV, and more than $12,000 pricier than the Nissan Leaf. But it’s also the only premium brand in that group; the much larger Tesla Model S starts at $71,070.

While the i3’s pricing demonstrates some confidence on BMW’s part for the U.S. market, the brand stumps observers by offering the i3 at a surprisingly low 29,370 euros before tax in Germany. That puts it on par with an uplevel Nissan Leaf. And it is an unusual pricing strategy, as BMW models are typically more expensive on their home turf than here in the U.S. It confirms what we’ve heard: Within BMW, there is considerable concern about the i3′s sales performance in Germany and Europe.

The i3 is unique in its design, with a three-plus-two-door arrangement that requires the front doors to be open before accessing the back seat through smaller, rear-hinged doors. Aluminum and carbon-fiber construction contribute to a svelte (for an EV) curb weight of 2630 pounds, according to BMW. A 170-hp electric motor is mounted just ahead of the rear axle and drives the rear wheels. The 22-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, resting under the passenger compartment, provides energy. An optional, range-extending 650-cc gasoline engine can be fitted adjacent to the electric motor and does not compromise cargo space.



Driving dynamics are unique, too, not only among BMWs but even among electric cars. In normal traffic, the i3 can be controlled with only the right pedal. Lifting off the pedal induces a coasting mode; back off farther and regenerative braking kicks in.

When it arrives in the second quarter of 2014, the i3 will give drivers that want a premium nameplate and zero tailpipe emissions a more affordable choice than the Tesla Model S. And with an extended-range gas option, the BMW also offers a premium-brand alternative to the Chevrolet Volt. While it may not convert performance-minded 3-series owners to EVs, the i3 could attract others that aspire to go electric—and can afford it—to choose BMW.

2014 BMW i3 photo gallery

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

The Cute Go Glamping: Mini Unveils Three Camper Concepts

By Jens Meiners

The Cute Go Glamping: Mini Unveils Three Camper Concepts

The retro style of BMW’s Mini is polarizing, but it has its fiercely loyal followers. And the brand’s demographics are enviable: young, active, and obviously affluent—Minis don’t come cheap, you know. The bond between the brand and owner is of such strength, that might we suggest occasionally sleeping in the compact? The British marque’s trio of glamping—that’s glamorous camping—concepts are proof that such an idea could be arranged.

The most intimate relationship between car and owner is provided by the Clubvan Camper, a “premium motorhome” based on the Clubvan—freshly yanked from Mini’s U.S. lineup. Besides a bed, it is fitted with a propane stove and a refrigerator. A handheld shower is fed by a water tank placed below the loading floor. There is an auxiliary heater, and, believe it or not, a television—in the form of what looks to be an iPad. The Clubvan Camper offers no room for a second person, but the prototypical Clubvan owner depicted on the press photography isn’t solitary: There’s ample space for his cuddly toy dog, which he takes swimming and with which he cuddles while watching episodes of The Simpsons.

Replacing the stuffed toy with an actual person requires more-generous sleeping quarters, which are provided by the rooftop tent that comes with the Countryman ALL4 Camp. According to the press release, the closed tent fits the look of the portly station wagon “perfectly.” Rooftop access is provided by means of a nifty folding ladder. Mini also says that the tent could conceivably be fitted to the brand’s traditional hatchback and Clubman offerings.



The most conventional solution, of course, is simply hitching up a camper to your Mini; something that the brand understands and proposes by means of a concept called Cowley. Styled to mirror the design of the Mini, the trailer concept is fitted with a pair of beds, sliding windows, a water source, a gas stove, a television, a kitchenette, and a stereo system. It weighs around 650 pounds and can accommodate two people—or a large number of stuffed animals.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Honda Releases First Photo of 2014 Fit, Specs on Japanese-Market Fit Hybrid

By Alexander Stoklosa

2014 Honda Fit hybrid

The next-generation Fit subcompact is just around the corner, set to arrive here as a 2014 model early next year, and now we’ve gotten our first official look at it, courtesy of Honda. It appears as though the alleged scans of the new Fit from a Japanese publication we recently published were, in fact, the real deal. Besides revealing what the new Fit will look like, Honda also released some details about the car’s hybrid variant—at least the Japanese-market version.

Of course, we’re not yet sure whether or not Honda will send us the next-gen Fit hybrid. The outgoing model never made it to our shores—although the electric Fit EV did. Based on Honda’s own testing, the 2014 Fit hybrid will be one efficient machine, at least when put through the rather optimistic Japanese JC08 fuel-economy testing cycle. The manufacturer states the Fit hybrid will be good for 36.4 km per liter, which equates roughly to 86 mpg. Even on our less-optimistic EPA cycle, were the Fit hybrid to make it here for such testing, we expect the littlest Honda would return some heady figures. For a more relevant reference point, Honda claims the new hybrid is 35 percent more efficient than the outgoing model.



2014 Honda Fit hybrid

The Fit hybrid owes its fuel-sipping ability to a new 1.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine (of unspecified output); although it’s not specifically outlined, we suspect the engine features direct injection. After all, Honda is finally working to switch its fours and sixes over to this more efficient fuel-delivery setup. The engine bolts up to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with a built-in electric motor, which draws power from a lithium-ion battery pack. Full-electric operation is possible thanks to the engine’s ability to disconnect from the transmission, and, of course, there is regenerative braking functionality to recoup energy for the battery pack. Unlike Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist hybrid setup, which powers today’s Fit hybrid and Civic hybrid, the new, more complex setup is dubbed “Sport Hybrid i-DCD.”

Honda is putting the new Fit hybrid on sale in Japan beginning this September, and we expect the automaker will debut the entire Fit lineup—gas-powered model included—at an auto show this fall, either in L.A. or Tokyo. Further down the road, the next Fit (which will be built in Mexicoalso will spin off a sedan and small crossover, both of which will be sold here in the U.S.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Paint It Black—and Yellow: 2014 VW Beetle GSR Special Edition Starts at $30,790

By Clifford Atiyeh

2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR

Wiz Khalifa might not be first in line for this black-and-yellow special—he’s a Dodge Challenger guy, after all—but Volkswagen is betting 3500 others around the world will want this bumblebee Beetle later this year. The Beetle GSR, German shorthand for Gelb Schwarzer Renner, or Yellow Black Racer, is exactly what it looks like. For $30,790 with a six-speed manual, the GSR is $140 less than the model it really is, a Turbo with the R-Line body kit. As such, the Turbo’s new 210-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder EA888 engine, navigation system, sunroof, Fender stereo and 19-inch Tornado wheels on 235-width tires are standard. The six-speed dual-clutch transmission brings the total to $31,890. This is a fully loaded Beetle, with everything from bi-xenon headlamps to heated front seats and push-button start (another thing that Khalifa and other rappers are obsessed over; it’s really not that cool).



For some Beetle aficionados, the GSR harkens back to the special model seen in the 1970s, hence the black stripes and GSR graphics on the flanks. Black mirrors and black bumper inserts round off the exterior upgrades, while a black-and-yellow shift knob, yellow stitching on black leatherette seats, and the all-important numbered badge on the steering wheel are added on the inside.

As for us, we’ll always prefer a regular GTI with plaid seats. In black, and without the yellow.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Next-Generation Mazda 2 Allegedly Previewed in Japanese Magazine, Inherits Kodo Design Language

By Alexander Stoklosa

2014 Mazda 2

If this image from a Japanese publication is the real deal, it looks as though the next-generation Mazda 2 (called Demio in other markets) will inherit the same Kodo design language worn by the Mazda 6, CX-5, and all-new Mazda 3. The grille and headlight treatment are especially reminiscent of the 3, 6, and CX-5′s mugs, although the body sides seem fairly free of the creases and bulges found on those other Mazdas. This image—which includes a graphic element with the number “2014″—lead us to believe the next 2 will debut fairly soon, probably early next year. 



We already know that the next 2 will share its underpinnings with the next-generation Toyota Yaris, and the pair will be built in Mazda’s new production facility in Mexico. We expect the same suite of Skyactiv fuel-efficiency-boosting technologies that are baked into the Mazda 3, Mazda 6, and CX-5 will trickle down to the 2. But fuel-economy is boring—all we care about is whether the new 2 drives as well as it does now. Given how enjoyable our time behind the wheel of the 2014 Mazda 3 was, we don’t think we’ll be disappointed.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

The Return of Datsun: Say Hello to Go

By Justin Berkowitz

2014 Datsun GO

This is the first new Datsun in, well, about three decades. A Datsun? You mean the brand that:

  1. Built that fun 280Z I had until it morphed from car into rust?
  2. Turned into Nissan?
  3. I’ve only heard of because of the profanity-laden car-rental scene in Planes, Trains and Automobiles?

Yeah, that Datsun. Except that the new Datsun Go is probably not very fun, probably rustproofed, and a Nissan turned into it. The idea is to sell the five-door hatchback in India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Russia for about the same price as a smaller car from a more mainstream brand. It’s not an original idea. Renault, which is half-merged with Nissan and shares Carlos Ghosn as a CEO, has raked in millions with its cheap ‘n’ rugged Dacia brand.

The Go is definitely simple. It sits on Nissan’s Type-V platform, which also underpins the Micra, a Fiesta-sized car that Nissan sells around the world in countries where the Versa is considered not-tiny. Motivation comes from a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine—horsepower number not named yet, but two digits are guaranteed—and a five-speed manual transmission. A radio is optional, or, in its place, a clever dock for a smartphone that hooks into the car’s speaker system. And, um, that’s kind of it.

For the industry-interested among you, a few points merit attention. First, we’re unclear why Mr. Ghosn needed to resurrect the Datsun name for this car; Nissan doesn’t exactly have a high-class reputation around the world that would be ruined with a budget model like this. And name aside, why reinvent the budget car? There’s already an entire range of Dacias, and if there’s a compulsion to sell them as Nissans or Datsuns, a logo will glue to the front pretty easily. (In fact, Nissan already sells rebadged Dacias, like the Duster-cum-Terrano.)



Lastly, look at where Datsun is being sold initially: South Africa, India, Indonesia. Similarity? They’re all developing markets with expanding middle classes, sure, but they’re all right-hand-drive. They also are countries where many shoppers prefer sedans, and that is strong enough that it has forced a number of companies to turn small hatchbacks into stumpy little sedans. Datsun is going to need a sedan stat, and an automatic transmission, too. Although left-hand-drive versions are coming for the Russian market, Ghosn told us recently that he’s not in a rush to roll out Datsun around the world. He wasn’t even enthusiastic about his home country of Brazil, which is the archetype market for low-cost cars like this.

And the U.S.? Forget about it. Datsun is just history.

2014 Datsun GO Photo Gallery

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

EV Price War: Ford Slashes Focus Electric Price by $4000, Now Starts at $35,995

By Nick Palermo

Ford is lowering the price of its all-electric version of the Focus, cutting the price by $4000 to $35,995. The reduction is further evidence of a price war in the EV market, following the announcement of lower pricing and/or special lease rates for electrics such as the Nissan Leaf, Honda Fit EV, and Fiat 500E, as well as the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. Ford says the move is intended to make the electric Focus, which is available nationwide, more appealing to customers considering a plug-in vehicle.

The Nissan Leaf is still the most affordable of the aforementioned models, with a starting price of $29,650. It’s also among the most efficient, rated at 115 MPGe in combined city/highway driving. Range for the all-electric Nissan, though, is the lowest in this group at 75 miles. The Focus Electric, by comparison, ekes out one more mile of range despite a lower combined efficiency rating of 105 MPGe.

The $32,600 Fiat 500E is available only in California. The 500E can travel 87 miles on electricity alone and is rated at 116 MPGe combined. The Honda Fit EV, meanwhile, is rated at 118 MPGe combined and has a driving range of 82 miles. It’s priced at $37,415, although it is offered as a lease only. Currently, the Fit EV is available in California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

The Focus Electric now matches the price of the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, which is available at $35,995 for cash buyers and $36,995 if it’s leased or financed through Ally Financial or Wells Fargo. And although the Volt relieves so-called range anxiety by backing up its battery power with a gas engine, it has a limited electric-only range of 38 miles. On battery power alone, the Volt is rated at 98 MPGe combined; once the gas engine takes over, combined fuel economy is 37 mpg. Chevy recently added the all-electric Spark EV to its lineup, but smaller and priced at $27,495, The Spark EV is not a direct competitor to the Focus Electric. The Spark EV’s availability remains limited to Oregon and California.



With EVs commanding less than 1 percent of U.S. market share, automakers are anxious to incentivize sales. Ford addresses some of the driving public’s reluctance to go electric with this price drop, and, as with all EVs, the Focus Electric’s price can potentially be even lower when eligible buyers take advantage of any federal, state, and local tax credits and incentives that are available to them. Concerns about range and long-term reliability, however, still remain considerable obstacles for many would-be EV drivers.

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver

Ford’s Flat Rock Facility Births Its Millionth Mustang [Mustang Mega Gallery]

By Andrew Wendler

Exactly 49 years after being publicly introduced as the Mustang at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, the one-millionth Mustang to be produced in Ford’s Flat Rock, Michigan, facility rolled off the assembly line. A ruby-red 2014 Mustang convertible observed the ceremonial honors, fittingly piloted by Ed Salna, 27-year plant veteran, and Raj Nair, Ford’s vice president for global product development. The event also marks the 50th year of continuous Mustang production, which moved to Ford’s Flat Rock facility in 2004. Ford has recently invested $555 million in the plant, and production of the Ford Fusion within its walls will commence this fall.

Originally produced at Ford’s legendary and imposing Rouge complex located a few miles to the north, the popularity of the first-generation Mustang grew so swiftly that Ford was forced to bring online additional plants in New Jersey and California to satiate public demand. Within two years, Mustang production would hit its first million-car milestone, essentially creating the pony-car segment in the process. To date, more than 8.5 million Stangs have been sold.



Although at the time, Ford refereed to it as “the working man’s Thunderbird,” the Mustang quickly developed an audience that crossed all social-economic and gender barriers, a trait that helped it sell more than 400,000 units in its first year of production. Ford played to this characteristic wisely over the next half a century, always making sure each generation of Mustang was available in varying levels of trim ranging from thrifty four-cylinders to V-8–endowed pavement pounding monsters.

The original Mustang’s launch still stands as one of the most effective product campaigns in modern history, and you can count on Ford squeezing every ounce of publicity from the Mustang’s 50th anniversary it can. In the meantime, why not peruse our gallery of Mustangs spanning its 49-year history?

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/caranddriver/blog/~3/m-9GNb8_mZE/

Peugeot to Return to Pikes Peak with Its Stunning 208 T16—And Sébastien Loeb

By John Lamm

Racing in the rarified air of Colorado’s Pikes Peak has been going on since 1916 and is one of the classics in American racing, but it also has a hold on overseas automakers. Suzuki may not even sell cars in this country anymore, but it and “Monster” Tajima are modern legends on the mountain. The words “Hyundai” and “racing” would be an odd combination at most every racetrack, yet at Pikes Peak, Rhys Millen and Hyundai Genesis are world-record holders. Audi has made a sizable mark of its own on the mountain with the likes of Walter Röhrl, Bobby Unser, and Michèle Mouton. So too has Peugeot, and it’s about to make a comeback.

When the 2013 Pikes Peak hill climb kicks off on June 30, starting number 208 in the top-notch Unlimited class will be taken, appropriately, by a Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak. The French marque revealed very little about the car, other than to say, “Its proportions are very different to those of the production 208.” It was revealed, however, that the rear wing is the very same as was used in the 908 prototype racer that won Le Mans in 22009. Regardless of what resides beneath the 208 T16′s beautiful bodywork, it will be fine tuned for the special nature of racing the fully-paved, 12.4-mile, 156-turn course that runs from 9390 feet up to 14,110. The car most certainly will achieve the feat in a time of less than 10 minutes.

We say certainly because Peugeot has the right driver for the climb. Sébastien Loeb, 39, is about as close as it gets to a perpetual title holder in any form of racing, having won the past nine World Rally Championship driver’s crowns. This year he has already won his record seventh Monte Carlo Rally and finished second in Sweden in what will be a reduced-schedule year, as he segues to road racing.



Normally, if you team the words Peugeot and United States, what follows will be “commercial failure,” but the French automaker has a history of racing success in the U.S. Dip way back into Indy 500 history and you’ll find Frenchman Jules Goux won that race in a Pug 100 years ago, Dario Resta did the same in 1916. What has Peugeot done for us lately? Overall wins at Sebring in 2010 and 2011 and a pair more at the Petit Le Mans (2009 and 2011). As for Pikes Peak, famed Finnish rally driver Ari Vatanen first raced there in 1987 with Peugeot’s 205 T16, losing out to Röhrl and his Audi Quattro. Vatanen was back and broke the hill record in 1988 with a Peugeot 405 T16, a run documented in an award-winning video—”Climb Dance.” The automaker returned in 1989 and won again, this time with driver Robby Unser, whose famed family

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/caranddriver/blog/~3/mODGZ7zmM-Y/

Audi Design Undergoing Massive Shakeup

By Jens Meiners

Sweeping changes are happening at Audi design, we’re hearing from our sources. Chief designer Wolfgang Egger is executing a number of high-level personnel changes at Audi’s Ingolstadt design studio, while hiring new designers from SEAT, Alfa Romeo, and elsewhere. Former Bentley chief designer Dirk van Braeckel now is responsible for Audi motorsport and original equipment.



Triggered by Egger, as well as R&D chief Wolfgang Dürheimer, the company’s award-winning design strategy is under review. Audi has recently come under considerable, perhaps exaggerated, criticism for the visual similarities between its different model lines. When speaking with Egger at the New York auto show, he assured Car and Driver that the time of “scalable design” is over. Check back to C/D for more information on the changes within Audi design and what they mean for the brand.

From: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/caranddriver/blog/~3/nACQ9WpelGg/