Thursday, April 30, 2015

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai has been on a tear as of late with redesigns and updates, as it continues to spread its new signature look across its lineup. One of the remaining stragglers to not get this new look was the Tucson – the brand’s small SUV. Hyundai can now scratch this SUV off its list, as the Korean automaker revealed the redesigned 2016 Tucson at the 2015 New York Auto Show.

This is no update, folks, this is a 100 percent redesign, and it was long overdue. The 2016 Tucson’s body is now sportier, thanks to harder body lines and the all-new front fascia. Speaking of that fascia, it features Hyundai’s brand-new signature grille, all-new headlights with available LED technology, and a new and sportier front bumper.

Around back, the redesign continues with LED taillights, chrome exhaust tips, and a spoiler. Additionally, the 2016 Tucson’s wheelbase is 1.2 inches longer, giving the SUV a better stance and increasing the roominess of the cabin.

Inside the larger cabin, the 2016 Tucson has more premium materials than ever before, including a wrapped instrument panel, a soft-touch driver’s knee pad, and more soft-touch materials on all of the main touch points. An available full-length panoramic sunroof adds even more of an upscale feel to this redesigned cabin that clearly prefers to play outside of its price point.

In the drivetrain department, the standard Tucson carries on with the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder as it had in 2015. This engine produces 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, and it mates to a Shiftronic six-speed auto transmission. Though its specs are the same, this new base engine is a little easier on fuel, thanks to EPA-estimated ratings of 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined – the highway mileage is up 2 mpg from 2015 and the combined mileage is up 1 mpg.

The optional engine is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that replaces the old 2.4-liter engine. This four-pot puts out 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque – 8 fewer horsepower but 8 more pound-feet of torque than the 2.4-liter. This engine is available on Eco, Sport, and Limited trims, and it mates to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.  The big news with this engine is its fuel economy, as it gets up to 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined with front-wheel drive – those represent gains of 5 mpg gains across the board.

Al of these upgrades combined with a revised suspension, an updated Blue Link telematics system, and reduced cabin noise all show just how dedicated Hyundai is to being a legitimate competitor in all of the main segments. The 2016 Tucson will arrive in dealers in July 2015.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Aston Martin One-77

Isn't it amazing just how quickly the automotive world progresses at times? Back when the Aston Martin One-77 was first shown at the Geneva motor show in 2009 it was advanced and very quick as that breed of car goes: carbon monocoque, inboard adjustable suspension and 760hp saw to that.

Only now of course your million pounds or so buys quite a bit more. Or rather it did, until the hybrid hypercar trio sold out. More power than the Aston with less weight and even further advanced dynamics. However, that shouldn't reflect badly on the One-77 as there's a strong case for it being possibly the most desirable of the old breed of hypercars.

See Dan's blog from a little while ago. Cars that captured our imaginations not that long ago can not be replaced because of both customer demand and environmental pressure. Turbos, hybrids and configurable dynamics are the future it would seem, and cars that have just about escaped that are becoming ever more desirable. Modern, advanced and capable but with enough old-fashioned charm to their dynamics and engines to win us over.

The Aston One-77 is arguably the finest (and easily the most expensive) recent representation of this. Want more power from the 5.9-litre V12? Fine, hand it to Cosworth. Capacity was upped to 7.3-litres (ain't no replacement and all that), the compression ratio was upped to 10.9:1 and it was dry-sumped as well to mount it as low and as far back as possible. All this while making it 60kg lighter. The result was 760hp and 553lb ft, plus surely one of the most spectacular noises on four wheels.

Configurable dynamics? Do it yourself sir. The monotube dampers are adjustable for bump and rebound with further electrically-operated tinkering for ride height and rate change. Of course driver aids are present but they can be turned off as well.

The automated manual will put off some, and it will look like other Astons too much for a few others, but as something to drive it must be magnificent. The kerbweight is only 20kg up on a V12 Vantage and it has another 190hp. Exactly. Crucially, it will be unlike any future Aston flagships. The Vulcan is track only and can you imagine any future 700hp+ Astons using naturally aspirated V12s tuned by Cosworth?

There are in fact two of the 77 One-77s produced for sale on PH at present, this white car chosen because it's one of only nine right-hand drive cars. Pearl Black does look fabulous though... With a £1.2m launch price and barely any miles, where would One-77s be now? Two million? More?

Even the advert here states many are 'being put away in collections to enjoy further appreciation' and a similar fate surely awaits this car. A shame, yes, but not exactly a surprise. Let's hope it gets out on occasion, if only for the noise to be savoured by everyone else around!

2015 Ford Shelby GT350

The limited availability of the new 2015 GT350 and GT350R isn't the only Ford Mustang news today, as a leaked report by Mustang6G has shined a light on the cost of the optional equipment we first reported on way back in January.First, we have the standard GT350. As we reported earlier, only 50 cars will get the $7,500-Tech Package, which includes magnetic ride control, navigation with Sync 3, dual-zone climate control, and heated, air-conditioned, leather-upholstered, and powered seats. The other 50 standard models will get the $6,500-Track Package. You'll still get magnetic ride control, selectable driving modes and enhanced cooling systems for the engine oil, trans and diff. Stand-alone navigation is $795, a black roof is $695, stripes are $475, and as with the standard Mustang, Triple Yellow Clearcoat paint is $495.

Fancy one of the just 37 GT350Rs? You'll pony up (pun intended) an extra $3,500 on top of the price of a GT350. From there, Mustang6G cites a $3,000-SVT Touring Package, which we think references the Electronics Package (navigation, Sync 3, and dual-zone climate control). Outside of those two items, the GT350R's only additional options include a black roof, stand-alone nav, and stripes, all of which carry the same price as the standard car.

Like our report earlier today, these prices appear to only be for the 2015 model. While production outputs for the 2016 will probably increase, we can't be sure whether these prices be carried over, as well.

Mustang6G claims it will have a starting price "very soon," which we'll naturally bring you as soon as it's published. We've also reached out to Ford to confirm this report as well as get any info on the GT350's starting price. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S Coupe

This Mercedes is not a car. This Mercedes is a machine that draws adrenaline long before the spark of ignition. This Mercedes is not about transportation — it is about having a plan and fusing it with passion.The 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S Coupe is undeniably the most gorgeous car to come from Affalterbach since the gullwing miracle of the SLS AMG — an automobile that altered the axis of the automotive world in 2009. The SLS, the spiritual successor to the glorious 300SL Gullwing of 1954, stole so many hearts and captured so much imagination it ought to have its own house of worship.

But the SLS was expensive and not exactly practical. At roughly $250,000, it was something to be savoured by a select few. And while the SLS AMG was monstrously fast, able to outrun many an Aston Martin or Audi, it was big and came with a peculiar personality — part muscle car, part luxury car, part exotic mixed with racecar. It was, like a loved one who bottles her feelings, something that took time and patience to understand.

One lap around Canadian Tire Motorsport Park northeast of Toronto and it’s apparent that the $149,900 AMG GT S Coupe is much more heart-on-sleeve, roaring with a teeth-gritting ferocity that panics the trackside starlings on this early spring morning.

The AMG GT S is not, of course, meant to be a direct replacement for the retiring SLS AMG, even if it does adopt its front suspension and an improved Getrag seven-speed dual clutch gearbox that executes shifts with sniper-like precision. But where the SLS required a delicate hand and constant attention, the GT merely wants — no, demands — passion. It asks only to be pushed harder at every corner and straight, for any and all reservations or hesitations I might have as a driver to be unpacked, as though thrilled to finally get the chance to go for a good hard run and show off its talent.

Through the off-camber esses of the track’s Moss Corner, the 20-inch rear wheels of the GT maintain a fierce grip. Out of the corner, the approaching runway of the Mario Andretti back straight beckons. Pushing the throttle to the floor ignites the twin turbos nested within the top V of the engine. The 4.0-litre V8 immediately forces air and fuel into the specially coated cylinders with a fervour that forces me into the supportive leather sport seat. The rear tires struggle for traction; the back end twitches right, then left. The pressure on my body is more extreme than a jet on takeoff. Trees become a blur as the rear spoiler lifts into place at 120 km/h. I cannot see where needle and number intersect in the instrument dials. I remind myself to breathe.

The 2015 Bentley Flying Spur V8

Every time I drive a Bentley, my spirit is elevated. I walk taller, I speak more clearly, I am more composed. This week, after driving the 2015 Bentley Flying Spur V8, I feel smarter, too. I can now confidently recommend my favorite vehicle in the Bentley lineup.A brief refresher on the current Bentley lineup: The Mulsanne stands as the flagship full-size sedan, available in three trim levels. The Flying Spur is the performance sedan, available with a W12 or V8 engine. The Continental comes in ten two-door variants, from GT3 to Convertible. We’re promised an SUV, the Bentayga, in 2016.

On balance, that puts the Flying Spur V8 right smack in the middle of the lineup.

Luxury is a given with Bentley. In the Flying Spur V8, that translates into an incredible level of craftsmanship, fit and finish. Every surface that you encounter is deliciously rich and textured, from the fine leather seats to the gnurled metal buttons and dials. The seating position in the Flying Spur’s driver’s seat is comfortably upright, with knees bent and a good view across the big hood.

Access to the second row is easy, with wide rear door openings and ample leg and head room. The cabin is trimmed with real wood, metal and leather throughout, and the expected amenities like heated/ventilated front seats and LED interior lighting are all present. My test vehicle included additional optional luxuries, like Hand Cross Stitching ($3,860), a Full Length Center Console (($3,995), a Refrigerated Bottle Cooler tucked in the rear seat ($2,180), Veneered Picnic Tables for the rear seats ($2,040), “Naim for Bentley” Premium Audio ($7,630) and Multimedia Rear Seat Entertainment and Connectivity ($7,445), making the Flying Spur an excellent executive conveyance.

The second row of the Spur would serve as a superb mobile office for the busy CEO with a driver. While not as cavernous as the apartment in the rear of the Mulsanne, the Spur’s second row is never cramped, even with the front seats at full extension.

The 4.0-liter V8 engine has great character, even if it doesn’t have the overwhelming thrust of the W-12. Twin turbochargers help to push 500 hp and 488 lb-ft of torque through the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission to a continuous all-wheel drive system with a 40/60 front/rear balance. Claimed 0-60 time is 4.9 seconds, and 100 mph arrives in just 11.2 seconds, which is mighty fast for a 5,341-lb sedan. Top speed (which I did not test) is 183 mph. The EPA estimates that the Flying Spur V8 can achieve 14 mpg city/24 mpg highway/17 mpg combined, which earns the Spur a $1,000 Gas Guzzler Tax.

Monday, April 27, 2015

2016 BMW M2

BMW M2 is without a question the car the entire BMW community is waiting for. The spiritual successor to the original “baby-M” will be unveiled this summer, followed by production in November.The rumors around the M2 are at their highest peak, creating lots of buzz around the compact sports coupe. Over the last few months, the BMW community has debated over the engine found under the hood of the new “baby-M.” We have seen reports indicating an updated version of the N55 TwinScroll being used, as well as a detuned S55 unit or even a new “S” engine based on the equally new B58 3.0 liter.

It turns out BMW will indeed use an updated N55 engine with an output between 360 and 370 horsepower. While the updated N55 is based on the same engine found in the M235i, sources close to the brand say the engine will have some components from the new S55 unit.

These latest renderings build upon the recently spied M2 prototypes highlighting the large air intakes and sporty bumper, and the impressive fender flares. The full LED headlights and taillights will give the car some cool graphics.

BMW is expected to unveil the F87 M2 this summer, followed by production in November 2015 and first deliveries in Spring 2016.

Mercedes-Benz SL400

When the words 'Mercedes-Benz SL' come out of your mouth, there are a few things you need to be aware of before you go on any further.First of all, this car is legendary, having been born 60 years ago as the famous 300SL. So if you'd like to have high expectations when it comes to it, be my guest. Second of all, and more important, you need to be aware that this is one of the most versatile luxury Roadsters ever made.

The Mercedes-Benz SL is a lot like a luxury watch brand. Not everyone can afford it, but there are plenty of different models to choose from, be it elegant, sporty, stylish and so on. You're spoiled for choice.

Such is the way with the SL line-up. It's available in 4 different versions, each of them able to directly challenge specific versions of pretty much any other luxury convertible in the world.

Of course, there are the top dogs, the SL 63 and SL 65 AMG, where both of them can knock on the door of any Ferrari California, BMW M6 Cabrio, Jaguar XKR Convertible, Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabrio, Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster and Vanquish Volante and so on. Those two are basically as good as any SL Merc can get.

However, the one I've been driving is the entry-level SL 400 - a car that can only go against the likes of the BMW 640i Cabrio, Porsche 911 Carrera Cabrio, Jaguar XK Convertible and Maserati GranCabrio. Normally, all these cars would have been SL 500 rivals, but Mercedes went and got rid of the old SL 350 and the much faster SL 400 was born.

Thanks to its twin turbocharged V6 engine, this car is a lot faster and more efficient than the older naturally aspirated V6, but we'll get into all of that a bit further on.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Plug-In Hybrid 4-Cylinder BMW X5

Plug-in hybrids are becoming a must for every manufacturer with a presence in the Chinese market due to the serious smog problems in their major cities.BMW’s latest plug-in petrol-electric X5 uses a 4-cylinder turbocharged 240hp 2.0-litre engine paired with an 111hp electric motor that sits in the front section of the eight-speed automatic transmission.

The combined output is rated at 308hp and 332lb-ft of torque which allows the X5 xDrive40e to accelerate from zero to 60mph in 6.5 seconds and return a claimed 85.6mpg on the combined cycle. CO2 emissions are rated at 77g/km.

A 9 kWh lithium ion battery mounted underneath the luggage compartment gives the X5 enough energy to run around on electric juice only for 13 miles (21km) at speeds up to 75mph. BMW says that a full charge through the optional BMW Charging Station takes 2 hours and 45 minutes.

BMW’s first plug-in hybrid model (i3 and i8 excluded) will be available to European customers as well in the near future.

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport

Land Rover Discovery Sport is the first all-new model in over 10 years and takes a different direction in styling, but certainly not in substance.Many things have changed in the past decade, with sales of SUVs increasing at a huge rate worldwide. However, many buyers of SUVs are looking for a stylish station wagon and have little or no interest in using them as 4WDs. Land Rover is well aware of this and has intelligently come up with a vehicle that will appeal to those who want a good looking wagon but - and this is the really smart part - still want a genuine 4WD.

By genuine 4WD we mean new Discovery Sport, is an all-terrain vehicle from the old school. This is no on-road hatchback with a different body and light-duty all-wheel-drive components. This is the real deal.

Discovery Sport can traverse tough off-road places where even olde-fashioned rather-crude Land Rover Series 1 would struggle. Yet it will meet all the requirements of on-road comfort and handling the modern SUV buyer demands.

This seeming impossible melding of on-road and off-road tasks shows the depth of expertise in the Land Rover team. Expertise built up designing subsequent Land Rover Defenders and Discoverys, as well as the King of hill Range Rover.

A Range Rover can set you back as much as $248,000 – new Discovery Sport has a price list that begins at just $53,300, plus on-road costs.

All-new Land Rover Discovery Sport is based on the ultra-stylish Evoque and shares some visible and many out of sight components with it - one reason for the low price.

2015 Nissan Juke

Much has changed since we first visited the Nissan Juke back in late 2013. What was then a bourgeoning compact SUV segment has now blown into the fastest growing automotive set in Australia, with fresh competitor offerings like the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V.However, one constant remains with Nissan's smallest SUV, which has just received its first mid-life update...

The quintessential feature for the Juke round two is that its polarising styling persists, which could be a deal maker or deal breaker, depending on where your tastes lie. The distinctive front end now wears LED 'boomerang' lights found on the larger Qashqai, while Nissan's trademark 'V-motion' styling is now found in the front grille. The side mirrors now incorporate LED turn indicators as well.

The headline news for this subtle model update is a new 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine that now becomes the base model in the line-up, shared under Nissan's alliance with Renault.

It is a willing and flexible powertrain for such a small capacity unit, pulling away pleasantly off the mark during our drive loop near Melbourne and steadily gaining enthusiasm as it nears its circa 7000rpm cut out. In-gear torque is relatively solid, with only steeper inclines provoking the need to peddle back through gears. Equally, overtaking manoeuvres are executed gracefully, the engine hitting peak power and torque from 4500rpm and 2000rpm respectively – though the added exertion is accompanied by some audible strain from the engine as works to move the Juke's circa 1300kg mass.

The four-cylinder engine is also relatively efficient, calling on standard stop-start technology to return a combined average of 6.5L/100km on test using the recommended premium unleaded blend of fuel.

One potential issue with the new powertrain is that it is allied exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission – pointing to popular demand in Europe and the UK, from where the Juke originates. The manual is a clean shifting unit that is easy to come to terms with. There is an adequate throw and a light clutch take-up, but the shift isn't the most well lubricated going.

Elsewhere the Juke pleases with predictable and surefooted handling, without threatening the freshly-crowned class leader, Mazda's CX-3. The steering feels light at low speed, weighing up adequately through corners and without exhibiting unwanted kickback, while the body feels suitably well restrained given its 180mm ground clearance. There is some expected lean and pitch through headier corners, and when really pushed, there is understeer and oversteer present as its 17-inch Continental tyres struggle for adhesion.

However, the immediate trade-off is a favourable ride package that takes the edge out of sharp bumps with soft damping. Swift recovery from larger, faster hits in the road – even on the base model car's Torsion beam rear suspension – ensures a comfortable and pleasant driving experience.

As before, the Juke will be offered with two 1.6-litre petrol engines of varying tunes. The middle tier offering is a naturally aspirated unit that produces 86kW and 158Nm, allied solely with a CVT automatic, while the flagship is a turbocharged version of the same engine, producing 140kW and 240Nm and mated with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions.

Nissan says it opted against offering a diesel version of the Juke because of low demand. It has also pared the range back to two grades, the base model ST and range-topping Ti-S, available in two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, to simplify the line-up.

Friday, April 24, 2015

2016 Fiat 500X

Advertisements for small crossovers soon will be flooding the airwaves, trying to get shoppers' attention. The subcompact crossover trend started with the Nissan Juke, but it's catching on with Buick's Encore, Chevrolet's Trax and Jeep's Renegade. The upcoming Honda HR-V will be leading the next wave, but Fiat hopes its stylish 500X will steal some of the spotlight.

I drove one of the new Italian imports (yes, it's made in Melfi, Italy) earlier this week through Southern California on city streets, highways and for most of the time on extremely twisty mountain roads. It's an all-around stunner that will surprise shoppers who are likely unaware of this still-new brand in the U.S.

 The buzz may be around how small these new utes are, but on the road the 500X feels like an exceptionally substantial car. Its wide track and low center of gravity help give drivers confidence navigating tight turns like the canyon roads that California offered. In fact, those turns were likely more severe than what most locals probably deal with daily, and the 500X carved them better than expected.

The handling stands out and steering is responsive, although when going from one tight turn right into another I wished the steering wheel were a little smaller. My drive through the mountains was in a front-wheel-drive 500X, which made the crisp handling even more impressive.

Overall, the ride was comfortable and the suspension handled road imperfections well. The cabin is quiet on various surfaces. The suspension doesn't have much travel, though, so passengers will feel jolts from bumps and dips in the road. It's cushioned well through comfortable seats, but in a car like this, Fiat could have dialed it back for those who carve a few less canyons and want to be comfortable in their daily driving.

Powering most of the 500X lineup is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine teamed to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The entry-level Pop trim comes with a six-speed manual and less powerful 160-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder, but the company expects only 5 percent of shoppers to opt for that model.

The 2.4-liter puts out 180 horsepower and 175 pounds-feet of torque, which is plenty of power for a vehicle this size. The power is ample in both the front-wheel-drive model and the all-wheel-drive version, which I tested in Los Angeles, but the only issue is getting it at the right time through the finicky nine-speed transmission. We noted the same nine-speed transmission issues in our long-term Jeep Cherokee, but in the 500X, they were much less severe.

 In low-speed stop-and-go traffic, my co-driver and I both noted the transmission hunting for the right gear too often, and when trying to get up to speed to pass, the transmission takes a bit too long to downshift for my liking.

However, neither the somewhat stiff ride nor the transmission's temperament will likely be noticed by a majority of shoppers in this class, and they'll wind up with a daily driver they enjoy.

2016 Kia Sorento Receives NHTSA 5-Star Safety Rating

The 2014 BMW i3 electric car performs so much better in its battery-powered mode than when the gasoline-powered generator kicks in to extend the car's range that testing one is almost like reviewing two different cars.In battery mode — which provides a range of 72 miles, according to the EPA — the i3 is a spunky, eccentric and eye-catching glimpse of the future.

But the extended-range mode that lets you drive beyond the battery's limit, is severely limited, both in how far the car can travel and in how long it'll take you to get there.The i3 is the smaller, less expensive and by far the funkier of the first two cars from BMW's i brand of electric vehicles.

The i3 competes primarily with electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and extended-range electrics like the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR. You could stretch a point and call plug-in versions of the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Prius hybrids competitors, though they're different in many ways.

The i3 comes in two models. A pure EV offers only battery power, while the extended-range model adds a 650cc two-cylinder engine to generate electricity when the lithium-ion batteries are drained.

The battery-only i3 starts at $42,400. The extended range model starts at $46,250.

I tested an extended range i3 with a backup camera, parking sensors, voice recognition, Bluetooth compatibility, 20-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, Harman/Kardon audio, navigation and more. It stickered at $51,550 before any of the tax credits available to electric vehicles. All prices exclude destination charges.

The i3 costs more than the Volt, Leaf, and plug-in Accord, Fusion and Prius. It's less expensive than the ELR.

The i3's EPA-estimated battery range of 72 miles trails only the Leaf's 84. Next up come the Volt at 38 and 37 miles, respectively. The Fusion and Prius plug-ins battery-only ranges are 20 and 11 miles, respectively. The EPA has not rated the Accord plug-in as of late April, 2015.

The i3 is easy to drive. Its small size makes it maneuverable and easy to park. The shifter is not like any other car, but becomes second-nature quickly. The electric motor's 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of instant torque deliver plenty of power for darting through gaps in traffic and highway driving. The handling is responsive, but less compelling than the BMW group's other small hatchback, the thrilling Mini Cooper.

Mercedes-Benz C300 W4

The latest edition of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan is winning over drivers with its combination of performance, comfort, and style. But I was most impressed by the luxury ride’s safety features. Standard electronic perks include a driver-drowsiness monitor, a collision-prevention braking system (which uses radar technology to detect vehicles or stationary objects in one’s path), blind-spot alerts, and even a “crosswinds-assist” to help detect the effects of strong side-winds on handling. I got to personally experience Mercedes’ reputation for safety when I ran over a giant pothole on Interstate 35. Although the vehicle took a huge hit—leading to not one but two flat tires—I was easily able to drive to a safe, off-highway spot while the tire-pressure monitoring system kicked in. Next, of course, I got to experience the brand’s reputation for top-tier service. 

1. The C300 has a turbocharged, 241-horsepower, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, making for plenty of get-up-and-go. Its fuel efficiency of 24/31 mpg city/highway is better than most of its rivals. (Note: In March, Mercedes-Benz issued a recall on a limited number of C300s, due to a fuel-system glitch.)

2. The car’s luxurious interior is one of its standout features, with rich leather, brushed-aluminum, and fine-wood finishes. Mercedes is targeting entry-level luxury buyers with its new C300. (The model I drove was priced at $49,875.)

3. A new “agility select” on the console offers four modes (ECO, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+) that lets you alter the car’s throttle response, shift points, and steering. A fifth “individual” option allows you to custom-design your own mode or set the transmission for purely manual shifting.

4. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is both elegant and athletic. It’s also lighter than its predecessor by about 200 pounds, thanks to the use of more aluminum. The car’s new design is sleeker and more spacious than previous models. A 3-inch-longer wheelbase enhances handling and makes for more room inside.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

2015 Porsche Cayenne Diesel

The Cayenne has ruled on the sales charts since it first arrived — even saving the 911 and Porsche's other sports cars from potential extinction — but is about to be overtaken by the Macan.That's not to say Porsche is going soft on the Cayenne as it continues to do good things at the top end with the GTS.

Now comes an updated Cayenne Diesel.There is nothing really new to see, although the CarsGuide test example has a nice sunroof and show-off Porsche logos embroidered on the seats (at a cost of $490). However, the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel is significantly changed.

Most importantly, it now complies with the latest Euro6 emission standard and that's a big deal for a diesel. One other major car maker, let's call it Mercedes-Benz, once predicted that the tougher new European emission standard would mean the end of diesels.

But Porsche has cleared the bar, increasing outputs (by 13kW and 30Nm) while reducing the 0-100km/h sprint time by 0.3 seconds and making a 5 per cent improvement in fuel economy.

The feel in the latest Cayenne is a little sharper than I remember, especially if I take manual control of the transmission via the lever or the paddle-shifters.There is no chance to check the fuel economy, but I have no reason to complain.

The Cayenne is big and heavy but justifies the Porsche badge with great brakes, good cornering balance and lots of driving feedback.It's classy in the cabin and the latest steering wheel looks and feels great (although I would never pay for embroidered badges or, honestly, a sunroof).

My most recent spell in the Cayenne completely erases the nasty memories of my first time with a Porsche SUV.The first-generation Cayenne had really lousy assembly quality and wobbled around so much that I wanted to turn back to the dealership after 10 minutes.

This car is sharp and responsive, with truly great headlamps and punchy audio. I'm not a fan of the electric handbrake, which is counterintuitive to operate and does not have the "auto off" function of many cheaper cars.

What else is not to like? Well, I wonder how many people are buying the diesel Cayenne for the engine, when it's really about the starting price. My personal favourite is the GTS, although it adds a $50,000 slug to the bottom line, because it is beautifully equipped and great to drive.

Battery-powered BMW i3 is fun until you step on gas

The 2014 BMW i3 electric car performs so much better in its battery-powered mode than when the gasoline-powered generator kicks in to extend the car's range that testing one is almost like reviewing two different cars.In battery mode — which provides a range of 72 miles, according to the EPA — the i3 is a spunky, eccentric and eye-catching glimpse of the future.

But the extended-range mode that lets you drive beyond the battery's limit, is severely limited, both in how far the car can travel and in how long it'll take you to get there.The i3 is the smaller, less expensive and by far the funkier of the first two cars from BMW's i brand of electric vehicles.

The i3 competes primarily with electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and extended-range electrics like the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR. You could stretch a point and call plug-in versions of the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Prius hybrids competitors, though they're different in many ways.

The i3 comes in two models. A pure EV offers only battery power, while the extended-range model adds a 650cc two-cylinder engine to generate electricity when the lithium-ion batteries are drained.

The battery-only i3 starts at $42,400. The extended range model starts at $46,250.

I tested an extended range i3 with a backup camera, parking sensors, voice recognition, Bluetooth compatibility, 20-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, Harman/Kardon audio, navigation and more. It stickered at $51,550 before any of the tax credits available to electric vehicles. All prices exclude destination charges.

The i3 costs more than the Volt, Leaf, and plug-in Accord, Fusion and Prius. It's less expensive than the ELR.

The i3's EPA-estimated battery range of 72 miles trails only the Leaf's 84. Next up come the Volt at 38 and 37 miles, respectively. The Fusion and Prius plug-ins battery-only ranges are 20 and 11 miles, respectively. The EPA has not rated the Accord plug-in as of late April, 2015.

The i3 is easy to drive. Its small size makes it maneuverable and easy to park. The shifter is not like any other car, but becomes second-nature quickly. The electric motor's 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of instant torque deliver plenty of power for darting through gaps in traffic and highway driving. The handling is responsive, but less compelling than the BMW group's other small hatchback, the thrilling Mini Cooper.

2016 Jaguar F-Type R All-Wheel-Drive Official Fuel Economy Numbers Announced

The EPA has released official fuel economy numbers on the 2016 Jaguar F-Type coupe and convertible, including the R models, which get several upgrades for the new model year, including the addition of all-wheel drive as standard equipment.The 2016 F-Type is available now at Jaguar dealerships.The 2016 F-Type R AWD coupe and convertible with a 5.0-liter V8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission return 15 mpg in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway for a combined rating of 18 mpg.

In comparison, the rear-wheel-drive 2016 F-Type coupe and convertible with a 3.0-liter V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission returns 19 mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway for a combined rating of 22 mpg, according to the EPA.

The rear-wheel-drive 2016 F-Type R convertible with a 5.0-liter V8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission returns 16 mpg in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway for a combined rating of 18 mpg.

The EPA has not yet posted fuel economy numbers on the rear-wheel-drive 2016 F-Type R coupe.

All-wheel drive is also optional on F-Type S models.

The 2016 F-Type S with all-wheel drive, a 3.0-liter V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission returns 18 mpg in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway for a combined rating of 21 mpg.

The 2016 F-Type also features a new optional six-speed manual transmission. No official fuel economy numbers were posted on cars with that feature.

Key competitors to the F-Type include the Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911 and Porsche Boxster.

The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report pegged the average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline in the U.S. on Friday at $2.42 versus $3.65 a year ago.

Edmunds says: Some important information for car shoppers considering the new all-wheel-drive versions of the 2016 Jaguar F-Type.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

New 2015 Chevrolet Trailblazer

In its pursuit to constantly fulfill its 'Find New Roads' brand promise, Chevrolet Philippines – The Covenant Car Company Inc. (TCCCI), the exclusive importer and distributor of Chevrolet automobiles and parts in the Philippines will launch new and improved variants of the Chevrolet Trailblazer. The new variants will include options that will meet a variety of lifestyle needs of the Filipino midsize SUV market. The new variants are set to be previewed by Chevrolet at the 2015 Manila International Auto Show on April 9 to 12 at the World Trade Center, Pasay City.

The Chevrolet Trailblazer's exceptional market performance in the highly competitive midsize SUV segment propelled it to become the local distributor's best-selling model, and paved the way for the company's impressive 59% vehicle sales growth in 2014. The class-leading SUV offers outstanding features that include a powerful turbo-diesel engine, spacious 7-seater interior, outstanding ride and handling and fuel-efficiency.

Chevrolet Philippines will be adding five new Trailblazer variants that are specially made to cater to different lifestyles. The new variants include the Chevrolet Trailblazer 4x2 LTX MT, Chevrolet Trailblazer 4x2 LT AT, Chevrolet Trailblazer 4x2 LTX AT, Chevrolet Trailblazer 4x4 LTZ AT and the new Chevrolet Trailblazer 4x4 LTZ Special Edition (SE) AT – bringing up the SUV line to a total of seven variants.

With its 2nd generation Duramax Turbo-diesel engine, the 2.8-liter Chevrolet Trailblazer produces 200hp of power at 3,600 rpm and 500 Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm, making the Trailblazer the most powerful in its class. Output for the 2.5-liter variants has been increased to 163hp and 380 Nm of torque. To take advantage of the improved Duramax powerplants, they paired with either a six-speed manual or a retuned six-speed automatic transmission with Active Select resulting in the Trailblazer's optimal performance and fuel economy.

The Chevrolet Trailblazer exudes a commanding and sophisticated appearance with its “body in-wheels out” design that delivers high approach and departure angles. The new 4x4 LTZ SE AT trim features new front and rear bumpers, LED projector headlamps, LED fog lamps and daytime running lamps resulting in a more muscular and sportier profile. Meanwhile, the new and improved Chevrolet Trailblazer 4x2 LT Automatic and Trailblazer 4x2 LTX Manual and Automatic variants will sport newly fitted 18-inch alloy wheels. Improvements also include new black “B” pillars that draw out the appearance of the vehicle's glasshouse frame.

While the exterior may exude a certain rugged appeal, the interior is a totally different story. The 7-seater midsize SUV cocoons its occupants with spacious and comfortable seating, clad in leather for a more upscale tactile feel. The second- and third-row seats can be configured in multiple ways for cargo flexibility — making the Trailblazer the perfect vehicle for family outings, trips to the mall or grocery shopping.

The 2016 Nissan Maxima

The 2016 Nissan Maxima saw its big debut at the end of the brand's 90-second Super Bowl commercial this year. However, we didn't get the full details about the latest generation of the model marketed as the four-door sports car until the recent New York Auto Show. Now just a few weeks later, the sedans are rolling down the assembly line in Smyrna, TN, and they should hit the road this summer.

"Today's launch of the all-new Maxima is the beginning of an exciting year for Nissan's US lineup, with new versions of the Altima, Sentra and Titan due later this year," John Martin, Nissan's senior vice president for manufacturing, supply chain management and purchasing, said in the production announcement. The sedan's revised 3.5-liter V6 is also made in Tennessee at Nissan's Decherd Powertrain Plant.

The 2016 Maxima certainly looks different than other mainstream sedans with its prominent V-shaped grille, slashing headlights and floating roof. Prices start at $32,410, plus $825 for destination. For that, customers get a 300-horsepower V6 that's connected to what Nissan claims is a "performance-oriented" CVT. The latest model is also estimated to get 30 miles per gallon on the highway.

 Nissan's Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant continues its reign as the top-producing automotive plant in North America, as Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd joined plant employees to celebrate the start of production for the all-new 2016 Nissan Maxima.

"When Nissan came to Tennessee more than 30 years ago, there were almost no auto jobs in the state," said Alexander. "Three decades later, about one-third of our manufacturing jobs are auto related, auto suppliers have located in 80 counties, and our family incomes are higher. I want to thank Nissan for providing opportunities for thousands of talented Tennesseans."

The first U.S.-assembled Maxima rolled off the assembly line in Smyrna in January 2003. Since then, Nissan has produced nearly 800,000 Maxima sedans at the plant, with more than 60,000 shipped to markets worldwide. Maxima is one of six models currently built at the Smyrna plant and is assembled on the same line as the Altima midsize sedan and all-electric Nissan LEAF. Maxima's new 3.5-liter, VQ-series V6 engine is also assembled in Tennessee at Nissan's Decherd Powertrain Plant.

"With today's launch, Nissan and Tennessee begin another chapter in their long and successful partnership defined by high quality vehicles and the innovation of its workforce," said Haslam. "We want to thank Nissan for continuing to invest here, helping build Tennessee's reputation as a leading automotive manufacturing state."

Mercedes Benz-AMG C63

The Mercedes-AMG C63 is a high performance saloon car that’s been designed to rival models such as the BMW M3 and Audi RS4.Based on the Mercedes C-Class compact executive saloon, the C63 features a subtly reworked version of the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine that recently made its debut in the Mercedes AMG GT sportscar. Despite being smaller than the old C63’s naturally 6.2-litre engine, the new unit manages to deliver even more power and even greater efficiency.

Like the larger E63, the new C63 is now available in standard and even more powerful C63 S guises. The entry-level model delivers 469bhp, 650Nm of torque and a 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds, while the S packs a hefty 503bhp and 700Nm, but only lowers the time for the benchmark sprint by a tenth of a second. Both engines achieve 34.5mpg on the combined cycle and emit 192g/km of CO2.

Performance for both versions is blistering. The V8 engine responds crisply to the throttle, while the muscular torque delivery allows you to blast past slower traffic in the blink of an eye. Adding to the drama is the seven-speed auto gearbox that delivers fast and crisp shifts, while the optional £1,000 sports exhaust provides a spine-tingling soundtrack.

 Even better, the inclusion of uprated suspension and heavily revised steering has helped transform the standard C-Class’ handling. There’s loads of grip, rock solid composure and the ability to subtly adjust the car’s line using a combination of steering and throttle.

Visually there’s little to differentiate the C63 and C63 S models, but both get a number of tweaks that help them stand out from standard C-Class variants. The most obvious changes are the deeper front bumper, side skits, subtly vented front wings and quad exhaust layout. Eagle-eyed fans will also notice that the C63 rides on 18-inch alloys, while the S features larger 19-inch rims. As before, the fast Mercedes flagship is available in both four-door saloon and practical estate bodystyles.

As with the exterior, Mercedes has taken a low-key approach with the C63’s cabin. There’s a bespoke AMG instrument cluster, a chunky three-spoke steering wheel and heavily bolstered sports seats, but the rest of the interior is pure C-Class. That’s no bad thing, because the slick design and top notch finish help create a real sense of occasion.

You get a decent haul of standard kit, too, including sat-nav, leather seat trim and LED headlamps. However, as with any Mercedes model it’s easy to get carried away on the extensive and expensive list of options, such as the £2,595 Premium Pack that adds keyless go, a Burmester sound system and a panoramic sunroof.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Mercedes Benz CLA

The Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake is a more spacious and more practical version of the CLA saloon. On paper, it offers more bootspace than a C-Class estate, but the sloping roofline limits rear-seat headroom and compromises outright load capacity.Following the success of its larger CLS Shooting Brake, Mercedes painted the baby CLA with the same brush. Looks won’t be to all tastes, but there’s no denying the Shooting Brake casts a striking profile. It gets the same front end as the standard CLA, but from the B-pillar back, the higher roofline marks this out as the slightly more versatile estate model.

Merc’s habit of finding a niche within a niche means rivals in this market are few and far between. As a result the CLA Shooting Brake must compete with cars like the Volkswagen Golf Estate, Honda Civic Tourer – or even the Audi Q3 or BMW X1.

It gets the same range of engines as its four-door sibling, meaning a choice of three petrols and two diesels. The entry-level 1.6-litre turbo CLA 180 is the cheapest model, while the 2.0-litre turbo CLA 250 is faster and comes with 4MATIC four-wheel drive. Those looking for cheaper running costs should look at the 2.1-litre (CLA 200 and CLA 220 CDI) diesels, though true driving thrills are reserved for the flagship CLA 45 AMG.

Trim levels comprise Sport, AMG Sport, OrangeArt and ‘Engineered by AMG’. The latter features 18-inch AMG alloy wheels, lowered sports suspension and red styling details, while the full-fat CLA 45 AMG Shooting Brake tops the range as a standalone model. The OrangeArt trim is new for 2015 and adds orange highlights to the wheels, bumpers and interior, and makes the already eye-catching CLA frankly unmissable.

 While the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake’s looks won’t be to all tastes, there’s no denying it cuts a sharp profile. From the front it looks identical to the four-door saloon, but from the side, the higher roofline and swept-back looks are clear for all to see.

Don’t be fooled by the slightly boxier styling, though. This CLA Shooting Brake is a fashion statement more than it is a practical load-lugger. The sloping roof eats into interior space and the sleek rear lights mean the boot opening is far less square than you’d expect from a normal estate car.

Inside, the dashboard has been lifted straight from the standard CLA. That means the same iPad-style central screen glued to the dash, and identical buttons for the stereo and navigation controls. The petrol and diesel cars get a steering-wheel mounted gearshifter, while the CLA 45 AMG, gets a beautifully detailed joystick-style lever on the centre console. It’s not the last word in quality, but the CLA easily holds its own in this part of the market.

Ferrari California T showcases classic style

Ferrari may not have anything new to showcase this year (or at least nothing we haven't seen before) at the largest auto show in one of its largest markets, but it did roll into Shanghai with a rather stunning take on the California T.

This drop-top Prancing Horse has been customized through the company's Tailor Made personalization program, taking its cues from the 1950s and early '60s. The bodywork has been done up in Grigio Ingrid – the same color Roberto Rossellini chose for Ingrid Bergman's 1954 Ferrari 375 MM. The interior, meanwhile, features a rather stunning swath of reddish-brown leather with waxed edges inspired by Jackie Kennedy, offset by black Alcantara, a matte grey metallic dashboard and virgin wool carpeting.

Since the 1950s, the Ferrari California series has embodied elegance, sportiness and versatility. In keeping with this spirit, Ferrari's design team chose to style this California T with timelesssophistication. For inspiration, the designers looked to two great icons of style, the actress Ingrid Bergman, known for her natural beauty and effortless chic, and the Kennedy familyas personified by the graceful Jacqueline Kennedy.

Finished indemure "Grigio Ingrid" a color named for the unforgettable Ingrid Bergman who chose this very shade of grey for the Ferrari 375 MM Roberto Rossellini gave her in 1954, this California T has a touch of understatement.The interiors on the other hand are rich in materials and detail, taking their cues from the worlds of interior and furniture design as well as luxury goods.In particular the seats, in reddish brown, velvety"count prestige" leather, are a variation on theKennedee chair by Jean Marie Massaud, a design that in turn was influenced by the style of America's "former first family" the Kennedys. Jackie Kennedy in particular was known for her impeccable taste not only in her own dress but in her 1961 redecoration of the White House. Waxed edges on the leather of the central console and the inside of the doors give the car an even more luxurious appearance.

Despite the vintage inspiration, the interiors of this California T still have a contemporary feel.The matte grey metallic details on the dash board and central console lend a cool modern touch,as do the black Alcantara inserts in the seating. Even the floor mats are noteworthy: they are made of 100% pure virgin wool from New Zealand with a natural jute background, this is carpet normally used in luxury home interior decoration and have an exceptionally plush feel.

Combining a restrained exterior with superb interiors, this California T shows off the best of Ferrari's Tailor Made program. It is a perfect demonstration of how the Ferrari design team can interpret design elements of the past, while giving them a fresh and innovative twist, resulting in a car that is strikingly beautiful.

New 2016 Audi A4 Avant

It's been a long wait but Audi's all-new A4 saloon has finally been signed-off and will be appearing at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show in September. But now our spies have captured the load-lugging Avant bodystyle out testing before it appears at the end of this year.The A4 Avant will take a fresh swipe at the BMW 3 Series Touring and Mercedes C-Class Estate for the title of compact executive estate king. The spyshots feature the usual psychedelic disguise, but it looks as you would expect it to, with the near-identical profile to the current A4 Avant showing it's evolution rather than revolution.

Under the skin is where the most changes occur. The A4 Avant is based on the all-new, steel and aluminium MLB platform that will eventually underpin most of Audi's range. It debuted on the new Q7, where it sheds 325kg, meaning weight loss of around 100kg is more than likely.

Audi's head of technical development, Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, spoke frankly to us and confirmed the current A4's dynamic shortcomings will be fixed on the new car. “The steering is a lot better, there’s more feedback and there’s less friction so the wheel returns smoothly to the centre" he said. That should give the new A4 a fighting chance against the BMW 3-Series, the dynamic leader in the class.

The Avant version of the A4 has always been a more lifestyle-focused estate than an overly practical one, but increased dimensions should ensure that passenger room is improved. We should see more boot space too, as the 1,430 litre seats-down capacity of the current car is below the class best.

Expect Audi's now familiar range of turbocharged four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines to feature, but we know a plug-in hybrid 'e-tron' variant will appear for the first time.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Police Union Sounds Alarm On Planned Cutbacks To LAX Vehicle Checkpoints

The union that represents the rank-and-file police officers at Los Angeles International Airport is raising concerns over a plan to cut back on airport vehicle checkpoints to save money.The security checks – part of what officials call “Operation Safe Entry” – have been conducted by 12-officer teams on about 50,000 vehicles annually at LAX, according to the Los Angeles Airport Police Department (LAXPD).

Following a recent decision by police officials, however, the checkpoints have been scaled back to an eight-officer position, a move that also means a fewer number of actual checkpoints, Marshall McLain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers’ Association told KNX 1070’s Charles Feldman.

According to McLain, LAXPD staffing numbers have declined from a peak of about 450 officers in 2010 down to about 420 this year, even as passenger loads at LAX have increased by more than 10 million visitors in the last five years.

The development comes on the heels of an Associated Press investigative report ranked LAX as having the third highest number of perimeter breaches nationwide – a ranking McLain said can be tied directly to a lack of manpower.

“Whether you’re talking about perimeter security, whether you’re talking about internal security, you still need physical bodies to do that,” McLain said. “They can spend billions of dollars when it comes to beautifying the airport, but when it comes to the actual physical security part, we always seem to find a reason why we can’t do what we need to do.”

In response to the cuts, the union – which represents sworn police officers and firefighters of the LAXPD assigned at LAX, LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT) and Van Nuys Airport (VNY) – has filed an official claim of unfair employee relations practice, McLain said.

But according to LAX Police Asst. Chief Brian Walker, the Operation Safe Entry checkpoints are not mandated, but rather are a voluntary overtime assignment.

Walker also said even with reduced teams, officers are still conducting searches of about 200 cars and trucks daily.

Mercedes-Benz Concept GLC Coupé Goes Official

Following yesterday’s leaked photos, Mercedes-Benz has decided to go official with the Concept GLC Coupé, a pre-production study that applies the GLE Coupé formula on a smaller footprint.Previewing the production GLC Coupé, the study combines coupé styling cues with the design language seen on recent Mercedes-Benz SUVs. It looks essentially like a smaller GLE Coupé, sporting a twin-blade radiator grille, creases on the bonnet and an aggressive-looking double-exhausts on each side. However, the LED headlights are smaller than those on the GLE Coupé.

Since it’s billed as a concept car, it rides on enormous 21-inch tyres, while SUV elements also include front and rear underbody protection, side running boards and a raised ground clearance.

The GLC Coupé study is 4,730mm (186.2in) long, 2,000mm (78.7in) wide and just under 1,600mm (63in) high, with a 2,830mm (111.4in) wheelbase. Under the hood, it features the same engine from the C450 AMG Sport, a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 petrol unit that produces 367PS (362hp) and 520Nm (383lb-ft) of torque. The engine is linked to a 9G-Tronic 9-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive.

No performance specs have been revealed yet, but Mercedes-Benz says the powertrain provides the GLC Coupé with “emphatic acceleration.”

The Mercedes-Benz Concept GLC Coupé should transition to production with minimal changes, becoming the seventh SUV in the automaker’s lineup. The sporty SUV concept will share underpinnings with the upcoming GLC, the successor to the GLK.

Hyundai’s vaporous N performance line gets some substance with new Genesis Coupe rumors

A while back, Hyundai piggybacked its reveal of the i20 rally car with an announcement that the Korean automaker would be adding a performance line of its vehicles. This lineup would sport an N badge, representing the brand’s Namyang R&D center. As interesting as that was to hear, little else as far as related news followed until now. If the rumors re true, the N line is coming, and leading the charge will be the new Genesis Coupe.

If a report on the Korean Car Blog is accurate, the new Genesis Coupe bearing the N Performance badging will sport a high-output engine option and will be ready for the road by 2017.

The engine will be a 3.3-liter V6 mounted with two turbochargers, promising an output in the ballpark of 480 horsepower. That, and some upgraded handling components would indeed be a great way to kick off a new line of high-performance Hyundais.

While we’re hopeful, the last rumor we heard about the coupe getting this new twin-turbo power plant stated much lower numbers and didn’t mention the N Performance line at all. The old rumor was the 3.3-liter engine would provide power that was marginally superior to the current naturally aspirated 3.8 V6.

Other info about the new Genesis Coupe states that the new car would keep the same platform, but would have a new exterior design that follows Hyundai’s current design language. It would also get two other engine options outside of the supposed N model: A carryover of the 3.8 V6 and an improved 2.0-liter four-cylinder.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

2016 holds the future for BMW

This year’s been somewhat slow for BMW, in terms of big debuts. The 2015 New York Auto Show was a bit uneventful for the Bavarian brand, and there wasn’t anything new, aside from the ALPINA B6 Gran Coupe. Fortunately for us BMW faithful, next year will be an exciting one, indeed.

According to Ian Robertson, Head of BMW’s Sales and Marketing, next year will be an important one for the future of the brand. Multiple concept vehicles will be shown throughout the course of 2016 which will shine a light on what the future of BMW will hold and could potentially set the stage for the next century of BMW automobiles. That may sound drastic and maybe even a bit farfetched, but with coming technologies still in development and shared platforms (such as the CLAR), the cars being developed as we speak will lead the charge into the future.

Next year will highlight numerous products that will look forward for BMW. The new G11/12 7 Series is a big one, as its ultra-lightweight CLAR platform is very expandable and car underpin high-performance and luxury cars for a long time. It’s one built with extensive uses of aluminum, high-tensile steel and Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP). This will create an incredibly light and rigid platform in which to build upon. Being that the current 7 Series platform underpins the current F10 5 Series and Rolls Royce Ghost, while being a relatively old platform, the new G11/12 CLAR platform should be able to be used in many more applications moving forward.

The current F10 5 Series is getting a bit long in the tooth and starting to look dull in comparison to the newer entries in the segment. However, the next-gen G30 5 Series will be a massive leap forward. The G30 will sit upon the CLAR platform, which is the beginning of the future platform sharing, and will be able to share different front axles with different cars, depending on engines. For example, while using four-cylinder engines, the G30 5er will use the front axle from the next-gen 3 Series, which will give it a sportier, more nimble front-end. If it’s equipped with a six or eight-cylinder engine, the 5 Series will use the 7 Series’ front axle, give it a more luxurious feel. Combine all of that innovation with the fact that the G30 will feature BMW’s next-gen eDrive system, the possibility of inductive charging, autonomous driving tech and gesture-based iDrive functions, and the G30 5 Series will be the forefront of technology in the segment.

Porsche 911 Targa 4S Exclusive Edition unveiled at AutoRAI 2015

Porsche has quietly introduced the 911 Targa 4S Exclusive Edition at AutoRAI 2015 in Amsterdam.Created by Porsche Exclusive, this limited-run Targa 4S wears a Gulf Blue exterior paint combined with glossy black graphics and accents along with smoked headlights featuring the company's Dynamic Light System Plus (PDLS+). It rides on 20-inch black Fuchs alloy wheels and has received LED taillights while the Sport Chrono Package and Dynamic Chassis Control come as standard.

At an additional cost, it can be ordered with ceramic composite brakes and a power kit lifting output from 400 PS (294 kW) to 430 PS (316 kW), just like the Targa 4 GTS. Also available for more money is a Burmester surround sound system replacing the standard Bose audio setup. Also inside the cabin are illuminated door sills, black leather-wrapped sport seats with the central area featuring a 60s-inspired Pepita fabric.

Only 15 units will ever be made, with pricing starting at €223,230 for the PDK-equipped model while the manual version costs €229,500.

2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Long-Term

Among auto enthusiasts there exists a small but vocal minority that hates computers. Not all computers — just the ones designed to make a sports car safer and/or faster around a corner. Such computers are referred to condescendingly as “nannies” by most enthusiasts, but these guys really, really hate them. Almost as much as they hate any kind of automatic or automated transmission.

To them, the sports car peaked sometime around the Ferrari F40, when big power was paired with a manual transmission, low weight, and a finely tuned, purely mechanical suspension. They rail against automatic and dual-clutch transmissions, no matter how much faster said gearboxes make a car on the dragstrip and around a track. They decry mean-spirited and ruthless computers that intervene when the tires slip, even the computers designed to make the car corner faster by better utilizing the available grip than the human driver is. To them, driver involvement and control are everything. The cardinal sin any automaker can commit is to take any amount of either away from the driver. To them, every aspect of performance should hinge on the driver’s ability, come whatever may. They should all be buying Z/28s.

The Z/28 is perhaps the last of the old-school supercars. Think back to that era of Countachs and Testarossas. The Z/28 comes from a proud tradition of mechanical performance. Up front is a big-displacement, naturally aspirated V-8 connected to a manual transmission and the rear wheels. The non-adjustable suspension utilizes hundreds of hours of track testing in its design and alignment and features shock absorbers typically found only on race cars. Giant tires put the power down, and giant brakes stop the beast. It even has hydraulically assisted power steering. Reducing weight wasn’t done with carbon fiber. It was done by making the window glass thinner and tossing unnecessary bits such as the trunk carpeting. In a world where supercars are all moving toward space-age materials, forced induction, dual-clutch transmissions, computer-controlled damping, electrically assisted power steering, and high-performance traction and stability control, the Z/28 is as old-school as it gets.

Hell, it’s even got the low-rent interior of those ’80s wonders.

Of course, some of you will rightly argue the Z/28 is equipped with GM’s impressive Performance Traction Management computer. With five modes, you can dial in exactly the amount of leeway and assistance you’d like from the traction and stability control. In Track mode, you get no stability control, only traction control, and even that’s designed to limit engine torque to nearly the exact amount the rear tires are capable of putting to the ground at any given instant. In practice, you can simply stomp on the loud pedal mid-corner and the computer will sort out the throttle for you. It’s quite a piece of equipment.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The amazing story of how the Aston Martin DB10 became James Bond's latest ride

Aston Martin's handcrafted sports cars are world famous for their power, beauty, and soul.But Aston has also enjoyed a 50-year run as the official wheels of the world's most famous super spy — James Bond.As 007 gears up for his next adventure "Spectre," this tradition continues with the brand new Aston Martin DB10. But there's one major difference — the DB10 is for James Bond only.

In fact, the car was developed with the input of director Sam Mendes and the film's producers.

"It's never been done like this before," Aston Martin chief creative officer Marek Reichman told Business Insider. " For a movie character to have a major manufacturer create a car just for him is really quite special."

But the story of how the DB10 became the latest Bond car is even more incredible.

According to Reichman, Mendes and producer Barbara Broccoli dropped by the design studio to have a look at a production Aston the company had been preparing for the movie. However, as the filmmakers were examining the car, a sketch hanging on the studio wall caught Mendes' eye.

Reichman told the director the car in the sketch didn't actually exist. To which Mendes replied, "Great, could we make that just for James Bond?"

The result of that question is a limited run of 10 special James Bond Astons to be used exclusively for the film. Which sadly means that no one outside of the production team will have the chance to drive the car.

Fortunately, according to Reichman, elements of the DB10 design may make their way into future production Astons, as the company looks to revamp its whole lineup over the next five years.

Maserati MC12 Versione Corse For Sale In Florida With $3 Million Price Tag

Back in 2006, Maserati introduced a track-only version of its MC12 supercar that was actually closer in spec to the dedicated MC12 GT1 race car that ended up being quite successful in GT competition. It was called the “MC12 Versione Corse”, and just 12 of them were built and sold to well-heeled track enthusiasts around the globe, with the original price believed to be around 1,000,000 euros (approximately $1,080,989) before taxes.

Now you have the chance to own of those 12 beauties as the car with chassis number two is up for sale at a dealership in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It’s listed on the duPont Registry with an asking price of $2,999,990. Chassis number one, a black example modified to be street legal, was last up for sale back in 2008.

Chassis number two hasn’t been made street legal but that doesn’t matter as you’d probably never want to drive it on a public road as there’s a good chance you wouldn’t even make it out of your own driveway given how low to the ground the car is. And even if you did make it out of the driveway, there’s some seriously stiff suspension to deal with as well as a severe lack of visibility.

That's why we’d recommend only using this baby on the track, where it was born and bred. The chassis is based on the one in the Ferrari Enzo supercar but the engine is the same V-12 fitted to Ferrari’s Enzo-based FXX track car. It’s a 6.0-liter mill tuned to deliver 744 horsepower, a 123-hp gain over the standard MC12's V-12.

The 0-62 mph run takes just 3.8 seconds and top speed is in excess of 202 mph. Drive is sent to the rear wheels via a heavily revised version of the MC12’s six-speed Cambiocorsa gearbox, which has been designed to offer faster gear changes in the Versione Corse.

2015 Toyota Corolla

So is the six-speed manual Corolla S fun to drive? Well it is more fun than the automatic or CVT version but it’s still not super exciting. The clutch is easy to operate and light and the shifter itself works smoothly and is very positive and has a good feel to it. The clutch uptake is a little high, so I often find myself revving the engine a little too much before moving away.

What about the rest of the Corolla traits? Well, the 1.8L engine gets the car moving but not very quickly and the engine is noisy when revved. When cruising in sixth gear, the Corolla hums along between 1,500 and 2,000 rpm on the highway and is surprisingly quiet.

The steering and suspension are both soft, so you won’t get your thrills carving corners, but the lightness of the car does make it somewhat fun to toss around. But hey, most people aren’t buying a Corolla to carve corners. It excels in parking lots and is nimble and easy to park. Visibility is also great all around in the Corolla with large windows and well-placed mirrors.

The only downside is the high rear deck which makes it difficult to see backwards, but the back-up camera certainly eliminates most of that problem.

Sometimes it is a bummer to “have” to drive a compact-class vehicle when a lot of your time is spent driving fully loaded vehicles in the $40-$50,000 range and beyond. But I honestly got into this tester and thought it was pretty darn nice at pretty much any price, especially at just over $23,000 including delivery.

The red trim pieces along the dash add an extra flare and the red stitching on the leather edged seats looks great. The black painted wheels are not my style but they look okay on the bright red car, which by the way kind of looks like a Kia Forte now. For the class of vehicle there is nothing out of place or “cheap” feeling, except for perhaps the armrest that wiggles loosely when you open it, causing concern of breaking the hinge if one is not careful.

In terms of adjustability and comfort, the Corolla offers a height adjustable bucket seat with tilt and telescoping steering wheel. The clutch pedal is a little far to reach, causing me to sit perhaps a little more forward than I normally would. Rear legroom and headroom are on par for the class, because of the more forward driving position due to the clutch I actually found the rear legroom to be plentiful — but I’m short.

Trunk space is okay but the hinge arms do interfere considerably when closing the trunk. I picked up a 20L tub of oil and dropped it into the trunk and was confused at first why the trunk wouldn’t close — it seems most manufacturers have moved away from these interference hinges, so I forgot they existed and how annoying they are.

Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 Ford Mustang GT Convertible

You know you’re getting old when….. you remember clear as day how excited you were when you first laid eyes on the new Mustang that the Ford Motor Company had just introduced to the world.It’s hard to believe but that was more than half a century ago. When the Mustang reached the market as an early 1965 model it spawned the pony car movement.

One marvels after all these years how Ford has managed to keep the Mustang modern and up-to-date with each succeeding generation, while at the same time retaining some of the retro-styling that made it an instant success back in the day.

But that’s exactly what Ford has been able to achieve, bringing us now to the sixth-generation Mustang with the 2015 model that is the first to feature an independent rear suspension for improved ride and handling.

We had a brief opportunity to experience the 2015 Mustang GT Coupe back in the fall during the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Car of the Year testing in Niagara Falls. It was entered in the Sports/Performance Car over $50k category and finished as runner-up to the upstart Volvo V60 Polestar and ahead of the fire-breathing 707 hp Dodge Challenge Hellcat.

Now in early April, perhaps as a sign that spring has finally arrived here in Southern Ontario, we were fortunate to have a 2015 Mustang GT Convertible for an extended road test.

And while it was still less-than-perfect weather for top-down cruising, we jumped at the chance to spend a week with an eye-catching Competition Orange convertible with black leather interior.

This bright orange isn’t a paint colour that blends in with the landscape. If that’s what you want, opt for one of the silver or white finishes.

I happen to love the orange colour; others like my wife would prefer something rather more sedate. It’s all a matter of choice. But then again, I don’t think orange would work at all on a Fusion, but it seems just perfect on a sporty droptop like this Mustang.

As it enters its 50th year of continuous production with more than nine-million-plus units sold, the Mustang is no longer a North American-only car. It is going global with Ford taking it to customers in key parts of Europe and Asia.

And as has been the case for all these many years, the 2015 Mustang is available in both coupe (or fastback as Ford calls it) and convertible variants.

The 2016 Maxima Makes its Debut

The Nissan Maxima was usually slightly ahead of its class in terms of features and performance, but in recent years, it started slipping a bit. Nissan realized this and chose to overhaul the vehicle completely for 2016. At the 2015 New York Auto Show, the Japanese automaker revealed the new “four-door sports car.”

The first thing that pops on the new Maxim is the body, as Nissan gave the sedan its most current design language. This design includes the V-Motion front fascia and boomerang headlights. Otherwise, the Maxima’s entire body looks as if wind designed it, thanks to its swoopy lines and sleek roofline. Though the 2016 model is slightly larger than the last-generation Maxima, it is lighter, which will show up in terms of performance.

Speaking of performance, the 2016 Maxima continues with a 3.5-liter VQ-series engine, but Nissan has replaced about 60 percent of its parts. This retuning results in a bump to 300 horsepower – 10 horse more than the last-gen model – and an anticipated EPA rating of 30 mpg highway, which is up to a 4 mpg increase. Backing this engine is a new Xtronic continuously variable transmission that that features D-Step shifting logic for stiffer and sportier shifts.

The cabin also received a complete overhaul for the 2016 model year, giving it a more premium look and feel. Standard interior features include NissanConnect with navigation, a rearview camera, an eight-way power seat, a flat-bottom steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, and a 7-inch Drive Assist Display. Moving through the trim level piles on so many features that the range-topping Platinum trim rivals many true luxury sedans.

Pricing for the 2016 Maxima starts out at $32,410 for the base S trim level. This jumps to $34,390 for the SV, $36,890 for the SL, $37,670 for the SR, and $39,860 for the Platinum. The 2016 Maxima will hit dealers in the summer of 2015, but you can build and reserve your own here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP640-4 Superleggera

Any time Lamborghini releases a new model, there are two special versions that are all but guaranteed to follow: a roadster and a lightweight Superleggera version. With the 2015 Huracan hitting the roads back in 2014, it is just a matter of time before it receives both variants. While neither the Huracan Roadster nor the Superleggera have arrived yet, there is nothing preventing us from speculating on what these models may bring to the table. The Superleggera, for example, will bring a lower curb weight and a nice power boost, giving the Huracan better straight-line speed and more agility.

There is still no timeline for the Huracan Superleggera, but putting together the pieces of the puzzle and getting a good idea of what this model will bring to the table is simple.

Like the Gallardo Superleggera that came before it, the Huracan Superleggera’s focus will be a reduction in weight. Look for Lamborghini to use heavy amounts of carbon fiber to drop around 200 pounds from the weight of the 2015 Huracan. Also, look for special Superleggera badging.

In addition to the lightweight body, look for Lambo to add in some special aero work to increase the downforce. Look for a slightly revised front splitter and rear diffuser, and a new rear spoiler. While the extra downforce will not be dramatic, look for a few hundred extra pounds.

Expect the lightweight focus to make its way into the cabin too. I look for Lamborghini to go a little overboard with Alcantara, as it did on the Gallardo Superleggera. I also expect to see carbon-fiber seat frames, and various other carbon-fiber components, like the center tunnel cover and the bezels.

On the last Gallardo Superleggera, Lamborghini chose to retain the standard air conditioning and power windows, and I look for these to also come standard on the Huracan Superleggera.

In the drivetrain department, the Superleggera package typically comes with a mild power boost. For example, the Gallardo Superleggera jumped from 552 horsepower to 562 horsepower. In the Huracan, I expect the jump to be a little more dramatic, as Lamborghini should increase the 5.2-liter V-10 from its standard 602 horsepower to 631 ponies, which will in turn result in the model carrying the “LP640-4” designation.

Shifting duties will be the responsibility of a seven-speed dual-clutch unit that delivers power to all four wheels. The result will be a 0-to-60 time of around three seconds – the standard Huracan does the 0-to-60 dance in just 3.2 seconds.

The Hummer H2 SUT 2015

GM held a concept-car ride and drive using part of Detroit's Belle Isle Grand Prix race course during a recent downpour. In the spirit of the go-anywhere Hummer brand, the H2 SUT drives went on as scheduled, but test drives of all the other pretty and potentially fragile concepts were canceled. The underpinnings of the 2003 production truck are tried-and-true GM bits — a modified Suburban frame trimmed to a 122.6-inch wheelbase, powered by a 325-hp, 6.0-liter Vortec V-8, mated to a five-speed automatic and full-time four-wheel-drive system with low range.

The show car's body shape is also representative of the real thing up to the rear doors. The production H2 sport-utility vehicle will have a wagon body, and the pickup with a middle gate seems a shoo-in for production.

So, can a Suburban be pumped up into an Arnold-grade Hummer? After about 15 minutes at the helm, we'd have to say ja! The 80.6-inch-wide bodywork is only 2.2 inches broader than a Suburban's, but with nearly vertical side windows and a steep windshield, the impression is of incredible space inside. The broad hood fills a lane menacingly. Gigantic 315/70R-17 tires look capable of climbing a Honda Insight, and with 5725 pounds pressing on it, the tiny hybrid would be squashed into aluminum scrap.

The H2 won't go everywhere an H1 — with its offset hubs and central tire-inflation system — can go, but ample ground clearance and steep approach and departure angles mean the H2 will certainly penetrate farther into the wild than could a Suburban. And most important, the H2 will get there for a lot less money and in greater comfort than the military-vehicle-based H1 can.

BMW's 2016 7-Series Sports Up With M Package

While one may be tempted to say that this prototype is one of the whispered M750d or M770i xDrive M Performance models, we think it's a regular 2016 7-Series models with an M Sport package.If it were one of the M Performance versions that are said to join the G11 and G12-codenamed 7-Series' range, it would likely feature additional styling cues such as small boot lid spoiler, black-gloss instead of chrome window line, exhaust and double kidney grille trimmings, and silver mirror caps.

This 7-Series tester has the regular M Sport appearance kit that includes bespoke front and rear bumpers, side skirts, rear diffuser, and bigger alloy wheels wrapped in lower profile rubber. Sport seats and M steering wheel along with anthracite headliner and different trims inside should complete the package.

As for the M Performance models, the rumor mill is talking about a tri-turbocharged M750d diesel with close to 400 horses, and an M770i xDrive with a twin-turbocharged V8 producing around 500hp, but BMW has not confirmed anything yet.

BMW might show a pre-production study of the next 7-Series at the Shanghai Auto Show before hosting the world premiere of the production car at the Frankfurt Motor Show in mid-September.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Toyota FT-1 Concept

Is it the next Supra? Is it the next Lexus LFA? Is the Toyota FT-1 anything at all besides an ersatz styling concept meant to show that Camrys Incorporated is finally getting serious about instilling more passion in its designs? The answers to these questions won’t come for a year or two, at least. What we know now is that the FT-1 is an engine-less styling exercise from Toyota’s CALTY design studio in Southern California, and that it is available in full digital glory as part of Sony/Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo 6 video game.

Like another GT6-bound concept of this auto-show season, the Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo concept, the FT-1 is a dreamy “what-if?” hyper-performance car rendered in real fiberglass and foam. It soon will be available for download in the sixth installment of Gran Turismo and Toyota president Akio Toyoda already has taken it for a few simulated laps of Fuji Speedway.

 For people more interested in real cars, the FT-1, which tantalizingly stands for “Future Toyota 1,” is a loving tribute to and pastiche of Toyota sports cars of blessed memory, from the 2000GT to the MR2 to the final Supra and Scion FR-S. The concept is meant as a realization of Mr. Toyoda’s dictate to instill more “waku-doki,” or heart-palpitating excitement, into the company’s traditionally straight-laced design. Part of that is streamlining the design process so that fewer nit-pickers are allowed to water down a studio’s vision into a bland consensus. Thus, CALTY was given the job of turning out the FT-1 without meddling from overseas.

No mechanical specifications are given, and although the nominally front-engine, rear-drive FT-1 has a clear engine cover, the hardware is, at the risk of putting too fine a point on it, nonexistent, or “left to the imagination of the onlooker,” says the press bumf. If you were hoping for a turbocharged inline-six, forget it. Those dinosaurs died out long ago, although we could see a V-8 of 5.0 liters fitting nicely, as it does in the Lexus RC F.

 The minimalist cockpit is F1-inspired and the A-pillars are pulled back, as in a prototype racer, to give clearer vision into corners. A multicolor head-up display punctuates the driver’s forward vision.

Rumors of a Supra revival have swirled since the mid-2000s and thus far, conservative Toyota has remained impervious to the challenges thrown down by the Nissan GT-R and others. But something seems to be stirring at the big T—if not a new sports car, then a fresh approach to sporty styling. And not a moment too soon.

1,200HP Ferrari F80 Supercar Could Hit 310MPH…If It Were Real

I’m sure most of you are still in awe at the amazing engineering feat that is the Ferrari LaFerrari. But c’mon, we all can’t help but wonder what the successor to that amazing car is going to be. One designer shared our sentiment.

What you see here is the Ferrari F80 Raeli concept, and it was created by Italian designer Adriano Raeli. Like the Enzo and LaFerrari that it would follow, the F80 uses many of the same design cues like a sharp nose and a long, aggressive rear.

And it wouldn’t just be pretty, it’d be powerful too. Under the hood, Adriano expects Ferrari to drop the displacement some from the V12 currently found in the LaFerrari, to a twin-turbo hybrid V8 using Ferrari’s KERS technology. But less displacement doesn’t mean less power.

A hypothetical 1,200 horsepower would come from this Prancing Pony, giving it a 0-62 mph time of only 2.2 seconds, and a jaw-dropping top speed of 310 mph.

Of course, the whole project is a big “what if?” — albeit a very pretty one. If/when Ferrari does decide to replace the LaFerrari though, we suggest they call up Adriano for some ideas.

Hand-built Ford GT to go on sale next year

Only 250 of the 600-horsepower cars will be built per year, with a price tag of $400,000; they're expected to go on sale in the second half of 2016.

The Ford GT super car will cost about $400,000 when it goes on sale in the second half of 2016.

 And the automaker will only make about 250 a year, Dave Pericak, director of Ford Performance, confirmed at the recent Geneva auto show. Pericak told reporters the mid-engine two-seater will cost about the same as a $400,000 Lamborghini Aventador.

 Ford showed the Ford GT concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January and announced it would go into production next year.

 Since then, the automaker has said the car, which has a carbon fiber body, will be made in Canada by private coachbuilder Multimatic in Markham, Ontario, near Toronto.

 The car will be almost hand-built, Pericak told reporters.

 The Ford GT has a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 that will generate at least 600 horsepower.

 It is designed to be a halo vehicle to showcase Ford’s performance and technological prowess. The last GT was discontinued in 2005 after two years. It was priced at $150,000 but those cars — only about 4,000 were built — have increased in value since going of production.

 The automaker has said it will introduce 12 performance vehicles by 2020. So far it has shown the GT, Mustang Shelby GT350 and GT350R, Fiesta ST, Focus ST, Focus RS and F-150 Raptor pickup.