Sabtu, 31 Oktober 2009

New Car: 2010 Mercedes C-Class Executive SE

Mercedes has thrown a number of extras at the C-class to create a special edition Executive SE model.

Based on the manual C180 BlueEfficiency SE, it is offered as both a saloon and estate.

Externally, the Executive SE gets the three-pointed star in its grille, usually only seen on the Sport model, new 16-inch alloys and chrome exhaust tips.

Inside, the car gets a multimedia system that includes sat-nav and voice control, with a multi-function steering wheel.

The Executive SE will cost £574 more than the standard car at £23,190.

Thanks to: Autocar

Hot News: Mercedes Plans SLS AMG Black Series

AMG has kicked off development of a powered-up and pared- down version of its soon-to-be-launched SLS following an official green light from Mercedes-Benz chairman Dieter Zetsche.

The new German super-coupe, tentatively due to go into limited production in 2013, is planned to join an exclusive range of Mercedes-Benz performance cars wearing the AMG Black Series name at a price, Stuttgart insiders hint.

It will add at least 50 per cent to the standard SLS’s UK price of around £155k - a move that looks set to pitch it into direct competition with the recently upgraded Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano fitted with Maranello’s latest handling package upgrades.

Describing the SLS AMG Black Series - plans for which have existed ever since a decision was made in 2006 to revive the Gullwing - Mercedes-Benz insiders have told Autocar it will be differentiated from the standard SLS in very much the same vain as the Chevrolet ZR1 is removed from the Chevrolet C06.

At the heart of the go-fast Gullwing is a reworked version of the SLS’s M159 engine. The 6.2-litre V8, already far removed from similar-sized and configured units found in other AMG models, kicks out 563bhp and 479lb ft of torque in standard guise.

For the SLS AMG Black Series, however, its reserves are set to be raised beyond 600bhp and 500lb ft through the inclusion of a larger air manifold, higher compression ratio, reprofiled camshafts and other unspecified tweaks.

“We’re not at the limit with what’s out there the moment. There’s still a good deal more to come from the engine,” says AMG engine boss Friedrich Eichler. “We’re saving the best until last.”

The uprated V8 will continue to place drive through the SLS’s seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox to the rear wheels, with a mechanical locking differential set to be included as part of the upgraded driveline package.

Despite running similar gearing, the added engine reserves, together with detailed aerodynamic tweaks and a 50kg reduction in kerb weight, promise to bring the 0-62mph time down from the standard car’s claimed 3.8sec to under 3.5sec, while raising top speed from 195mph to 208mph.

Thanks to: Autocar

Spied: 2012 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

A new prancing horse has just bolted into view. Our spy photographers caught the first development prototype for the new Ferrari 612 Scaglietti – and it’s going to be bigger, more powerful, yet more economical than ever.

Take a close look at this test mule’s profile and you’ll see a few extra inches have been added to the front wings. This indicates a longer wheelbase and more space inside for the four occupants.

Under that huge bonnet bulge lies a new 6.0-litre version of the current car’s 5.7-litre V12, updated with direct injection to boost power from 540bhp to 600bhp. Performance will be blistering, with the 0-60mph sprint taking less than four seconds and a top speed of 200mph.

The car will feature a development of the seven-speed double-clutch gearbox first seen on the California – with which the newcomer shares its stacked exhaust pipes. The set-up will work in tandem with the direct-injectction technology to slash CO2 emissions and increase fuel returns.

To answer criticism of the current car’s looks, designers are working on a sleeker, less controversial body to clothe this technology. The new Ferrari is due on sale in 2011, priced at around £225,000.
For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Jumat, 30 Oktober 2009

First Sketch: 2011 Mitsubishi cX

Mitsubishi has become the latest company to join the cross-over craze! This official sketch reveals the production version of the hatchback/SUV mix 'cX' concept which was first unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2007.

The sketch shows that the production model has stayed true to the design of the original concept, with the same aggressive lights, fighter-jet style grille and rising waist-line.

Under the bonnet, power is expected to come from a range of naturally aspirated four cylinder engines, with the flagship cX possibly toting a turbocharged powerplant.

The cX will be officially unveiled at he 2010 Geneva Motor Show in March. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Kamis, 29 Oktober 2009

Hot News: Geely to Buy Volvo

After all the rumours and speculation, Geely looks set to buy struggling Swedish firm Volvo. There’s no word yet on how much the Chinese manufacturer is likely to pay, but this news marks a major milestone for the Chinese car industry and reinforces just how tough even the most established marques are finding the financial crisis.

It’s an astonishing rise to prominence for Geely which only made its first car in 1998, but this year over 300,000 units will roll out of its many production facilities. To put this in context, in the second quarter of 2009 Geely sales grew by a massive 33 per cent while almost every other brand suffered from a steep decline in demand.

Not only does the potential deal highlight the growing influence of Chinese car makers in the world market, but with unimpeded access to all of Volvo’s R&D and technical know-how it could spell a major hike in quality for the models Geely produces. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Hot news: 2011 Nissan Micra

The wraps are off Nissan’s Micra! These exclusive pictures show the next-generation supermini – nearly a year ahead of its official UK debut.

Auto Express had the chance to see the car in the flesh at a top-secret event in Tokyo, and the most obvious changes were the addition of a MINI-style grille and Fiat Punto-like headlights.

Under the skin is Nissan’s all-new V platform – V standing for versatile – which is lighter and allows for more cabin space than before. It’s set to spawn an MPV version of the Micra, which will replace the popular Note in late 2011.

By achieving a 50kg weight reduction over the outgoing car, Nissan says it has been able to make the Micra more efficient, as well as better to drive. And the cabin won’t only offer more room; quality will be improved, too.

The firm has developed an all-new three-cylinder engine, mated to a fresh CVT auto gearbox, to maximise fuel economy. A stop-start system will also feature. Add in the significant weight savings, and a sub-120g/km CO2 output is anticipated, as are fuel returns of 60mpg.

Prices are set to be equally competitive when the new Micra goes on sale here, most likely in five-door form only, in October 2010. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Spied: 2011 BMW 3-Series Coupe

The BMW 3-Series Coupe has undergone some nip and tuck – and our team of spies have caught it post-op. Pictured here virtually without camouflage, the test mule previews a raft of styling changes that will be applied to both the Coupe and the popular Coupe-Cabriolet version of the 3.

Black tape around the headlights and front bumper hint at mild changes to the front end, while the same treatment to the rear suggests redesigned light clusters and bodywork at both ends.

Both the updated Coupe and Coupe-Cabriolet are due to show their faces at the Geneva show next March, before going on sale later in the month.For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Hot News: Porsche 928

Get ready for a blast from Porsche’s past! The German firm is developing a luxurious, front-engined grand tourer – a spiritual successor to the 928 built between 1977 and 1995. The ‘new 928’ will be a fifth model line, and is designed to sit above the sportier 911 in the range.

With the compact Boxster and Cayman, the 911, the Cayenne SUV and four-door Panamera, Porsche would appear to have most bases covered. But it’s notable for its absence in the front-engined GT segment. The newcomer will allow the brand to take on rivals such as the Ferrari 599 GTB, Bentley Continental GT and Aston Martin DB9. And our exclusive pictures show exactly why the curvy, Panamera-based coupé is set to stun the competition.

Essentially it’s a two-door, short-wheelbase version of the Panamera, which will help to spread the £1.1billion development costs of that model. Its front-engined layout has a number of inherent benefits, too.

A rear-engined 911 has barely more than 100 litres of luggage space, but a similarly sized GT with its motor up front would offer a useful 320 litres – a vital attribute if the new 928 is to be taken seriously as a grand tourer.

While the nose is virtually identical to the Panamera, the shortened wheelbase and 2+2 layout mean the 928 features far smoother lines at the back. One of the major criticisms levelled at the four-door Panamera was its bloated rear, but this model’s muscular haunches and neater proportions should attract a new wave of style-conscious customers.

As you’d expect from Porsche, though, driver appeal remains a top priority. The engine line-up will mirror that of the Panamera, so a 4.8-litre V8, with or without a turbocharger, producing 500bhp or 400bhp, will be available. The naturally aspirated variant is set to come with four or rear-wheel drive, while the range-topping turbo model will be 4WD only.

Thirsty V8s aren’t the only power units on the agenda. The Cayenne SUV hybrid is ready to go on sale next year, with a petrol-electric version of the Panamera following closely behind. As the new 928 shares the latter’s platform, it’s sure to get the hybrid drivetrain, too.

An Audi S4-sourced 369bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6, coupled to a 38kW electric motor, will give the hybrid 928 fuel economy that breaks the 30mpg barrier. That will make it the most frugal petrol-powered Porsche ever, while still providing hair-raising performance.

The 928 will slot into Porsche’s pricing line-up somewhere between the 911 and Panamera. The four-door ranges from £70,000-£95,000, while the 911 starts a little lower, at just over £60,000, but stretches to £128,000 for the GT2.

With this is mind, expect the 928 to be pitched between £65,000 and £90,000 – enough to safely undercut its Ferrari and Aston rivals when it goes on sale in 2012. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Selasa, 27 Oktober 2009

Hot News: Mini 4x4 Launch Delayed Again

The launch of the Mini 4x4 has been delayed again, according to reports.

Originally scheduled to be shown at this September's Frankfurt motor show, the 4x4's launch was put back to next January's Detroit motor show.

However, reports suggest that it has now been delayed until March's Geneva motor show, as the production facilities for the car are not yet in place.

The Mini, which is rumoured to be called either the Crossman or Countryman, will be built at Magna's plant in Austria.

However, in order to free up the capacity to do this BMW has to move its X3 production facilities to Spartanburg, South Carolina. This move has not yet been completed.

Nobody from Mini was available for comment.

Thanks to: Autocar

Sneak Peek: 2011 Volvo S60

This is the first official image of the upcoming Volvo S60 saloon.

The car is reflected in the glasses of Esref Armagan, a Turkish artist who was born blind.

Armagen will be painting the car, using his hands and other senses to 'see' how it looks.

Between now and the car's launch at next year's Geneva motor show he will interact with visitors to the car's Facebook page, drawing specific parts of the car according to public requests.

Volvo's design director Peter Horbury said: "I'm proud of the new Volvo S60. It has a much more dynamic and sculpted form than any previous Volvo - it's a very emotive form.

"That's why this feels like such an exciting project - introducing our forthcoming model to someone as unusual as a blind artist."

Thanks to: Autocar

Minggu, 25 Oktober 2009

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Daihatsu Deca Deca Concept

The Deca Deca is a minimalist take on the boxy kei small car concept popular throughout Japan. Its simple but flexible interior is characterized by a flat floor, foldable seats, and a hideaway screen. Access to the cabin is via wide-opening doors on the left side and a large swinging tailgate in the rear in addition to the requisite driver's-side front door.
Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Daihatsu Basket Concept

Combine an International Scout with a Volkswagen Thing and then drastically shrink the result in the wash to kei car dimensions and you end up with Daihatu’s basket concept. The flexible four-seater starts with a hard t-top above the front seats and a canvas top above the rear. It can then be turned into a number of layouts, including a two-seat trucklet with a partition between the cabin and the bed and an open-air cruiser. In a country where many families have just one car, this kind of flexibility could be valuable, particularly for a younger couple that doesn’t have kids.

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Daihatsu e:S Concept

The two-door e:S is a preview of future Daihatsus, or at least the technology that will be in future models. The diminutive car weighs just 700 kgs (1543 lbs) and rides on a short 85.6-in. wheelbase with power coming from a 58-hp 660 cc gasoline three-cylinder outfitted with a stop-start system that achieves an impressive 70.5 mpg using the Japanese test cycle, 10% better than the current engine.

In the future, this three-cylinder will make way for a 63-hp direct-injected turbo twin that will improve fuel economy by a further 30%. And, if Daihatsu’s plans come to fruition, this engine will be replaced by a precious-metal-free liquid-feed fuel-cell powertrain, which is said to be cheaper and safer than other fuel-cell technologies.
Thanks to: Motor Trend

Sabtu, 24 Oktober 2009

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Toyota FT-EV II Concept

If you thought the Toyota IQ was reaching the lower limit of four-passenger vehicle size, think again. Toyota is taking packaging to another level with the FT-EV II Concept, an electric city car even smaller than the IQ.

How does Toyota do it? It’s a matter of reducing the size of two major components of a vehicle, the drivetrain and the controls. While small engines, and indeed electric motors, are not a new idea, the compact nature of the electric motor allows Toyota to do away with the traditional hood and engine bay to shorten the car’s overall length and offer much greater forward visibility. In fact, visibility is even enhanced with an auxiliary window below the windshield, see-through LED tail lights and video cameras instead of side mirrors. Entry and egress is made easy by power sliding doors.

While the electric drivetrain reduced exterior dimensions, the real trick was freeing up interior space. To do it, Toyota made all of the major controls drive-by-wire. From brakes and accelerator to even the steering, there is no mechanical connection between the driver and the vehicle. Doing so allowed Toyota to free up a good deal of interior space around the driver and incorporated a retro-futuristic joystick-style control rather than a traditional steering wheel. More than that, it eliminated the traditional dashboard all together -- freeing up even more room for passengers.

The FT-EV II is powered by a compact electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack that Toyota says is good for a range of roughly 55 miles and can propel the car to a top speed of about 62 mph. Toyota says making the FT-EV II exceptionally quiet took a good deal of fine-tuning of the motor control technology.

While the FT-EV II is certainly an interesting display of technology, we don’t expect to see it in the U.S. It’s far more likely that if it makes it to production, it will compete in Japan’s fierce Kei Car market for ultra-small cars.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Suzuki SX-4 FCV Concept

The more advanced of the Swift concepts is the SX4-FCV, a fuel-cell vehicle. Using a GM-built fuel-cell and a 10,000-psi hydrogen tank to generate electricity, the SX4-FCV operates similarly to the Swift Plug-in Hybrid except that the fuel-cell generates electricity rather than a gasoline engine. The SX4-FCV is actually the latest generation of the vehicle and boasts improved handling and performance thanks to its more compact components and lighter weight. The previous-generation vehicle is already testing on Japanese roads and is destined for the open market in the near future according to Suzuki.
Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Suzuki Swift Plug-In Hybrid Concept

Making their own foray into the world of electric vehicles, Suzuki is bringing two electrified versions of its Swift compact car to the Tokyo Motor Show, one a plug-in hybrid and the other a fuel-cell vehicle.

The more conventional Swift Plug-in Hybrid is really more of an extended-range electric vehicle and operates much like the Chevrolet Volt. Like the Chevy, an electric motor actually drives the wheels while a small gasoline engine acts only as a generator that produces electricity to either recharge the battery or power the electric motor. The battery can also be recharged by plugging it into a wall socket. Suzuki is targeting the car at in-city commuters who, according to the company’s research, travel less than 15 miles per day on average. By adding the gas-powered generator, though, the Swift Plug-in Hybrid isn’t limited by its battery size.

While Suzuki hasn’t released any information about the Swift Plug-in Hybrid’s range or fuel-economy, it’s expected to be impressive thanks in part to the car’s small size and weight. Suzuki hasn’t announced production plans either, but it’s likely the technology will see production in the future even if this exact car doesn’t.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: 2011 Supasse V

The Supasse V sports car -- designed and built by Japanese backyard builder Suzusho Ltd. -- is set for a Tokyo debut next week.

Tipping the scales at just 1874 lbs thanks to its liberal use of aluminum and fiberglass components, the Supasse V coupe sits on a unique race-car style 'aluminum twin-tube monocoque spaceframe' with a copper tube frame addition at the rear end. The race car like styling is no accident either. Veteran Japanese F1 car designer Kenji Mimura is responsible for the V's great-looking lines.

The Supasse V is powered by a midship-mounted, specially tuned version of the 2.3-liter turbo from the MazdaSpeed3, mated to the Speed3's six-speed gearbox.

Slated to go on sale in Japan in mid-2010, Nagoya-based car parts and used car dealer Suzusho says it will build 100 units over four years with a price tag somewhere in the $50,000-$80,000 range.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Carbon

Subaru's rally-bred rocket turned traffic-friendly tourer, the five-speed-automatic STI Carbon, probably will never see U.S. shores, according to Subaru officials at this year's Tokyo Motor Show. Our insiders told us that there is presently no demand for a slushbox STI in America and intimated that an STI sans a clutch pedal could hurt the hot hatch's reputation among loyal enthusiasts. What could make it to a U.S. STI, though, are the Carbon’s ultra-lightweight carbon-fiber roof and posh suede-covered dash.

Though we don’t typically see them in the U.S., Subaru has built a number of variants of its high-performance WRX STI and the company is now slicing the niche even thinner with a lightly-modified variant known as the Carbon.

Based on the WRX STI A-Line variant that debuted earlier this year, the WRX STI Carbon’s only outstanding feature is its carbon-fiber roof, which reduces the car’s overall weight by an unspecified amount and lowers its center of gravity. Other features on the Carbon include the A-Line’s standard five-speed automatic transmission mated to the slightly-detuned 296-hp turbocharged boxer four-cylinder engine, Recaro front bucket seats and a suede-covered dash.

Like the A-Line, the Subaru WRX STI Carbon will likely only be sold in the Japanese domestic market, though it’s possible some of the car’s features could find their way to the U.S. in the future.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Nissan Land Glider Concept

More than one attempt has been made in the past to combine the features of an automobile and a motorcycle into one vehicle and now Nissan has thrown their hat into the ring as well with the Land Glider electric vehicle concept.

Inside and out, the Land Glider looks quite similar to Volkswagen’s L1 Concept, but instead of ultimate fuel economy, Nissan was looking for more sporty driving from an electric vehicle. Thanks to a steer-by-wire system and small motors mounted at each wheel, the wheels along with the rest of the vehicle can tilt up to 17 degrees to lean into a corner for sharper handling. Speed, steering angle and yaw sensors work together to determine the appropriate amount of lean for the conditions and the entire system allows Nissan to minimize the width of both the vehicle itself and its tires for maximum efficiency from its battery pack.

Power for the Land Glider “personal city commuter” comes from a lithium-polymer battery pack mounted beneath the floor, which supplies juice for two electric motors mounted in the rear wheels. Together, they can sling the Land Glider down the road at up to 40 mph and take it up to 60 miles on a charge.

With such small crumple zones, Nissan engineers designed high-tech solutions to keep the Land Glider out of bad situations. A network of sensors on the vehicle monitor other vehicles nearby and keeps the Land Glider from running into them much the same way bees and schools of fish are able to travel in close proximity without bumping into one another.

Like the L1 Concept, passengers in the Land Glider sit tandem with the driver lower and in front. Drive-by-wire controls and video screens in place of mirrors keep the vehicle as narrow as possible to allow two people to zip around city streets and park without taking up much space, both of which are expected to help ease congestion in large cities. While just a concept at this point, the Land Glider’s accident-avoidance and electric-drive technologies are likely to find their way into future Nissan products.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: 2012 Lexus LF-A

Even in our gilded age of $5 coffee libations and $10,000 plasma TVs, the price shocks like a hornet sting: a Toyota that costs... nearly $400,000.

True, the limited-edition, two-seat, rear-drive LFA supercar, due to appear here in early 2011, will hide its Toyota roots behind the velvet rope of its maker's Lexus brand, but the sticker is staggering nonetheless. The most expensive model in the current Lexus portfolio, the LS 600h hybrid luxury sedan, starts at $106,910.

"The LFA is a halo car for the F marque," says national manager for Lexus Advanced Business Development Paul Rohovsky, referring to the Lexus F performance division (think "AMG Mercedes") behind the IS F sport sedan. Indeed, Rohovsky is candid: "The LFA will raise passion for the brand, an admitted Lexus shortcoming," he says.

How do you inject "passion" into a lineup encompassing supremely competent but generally narcotic offerings like the RX 350 sport/ute and even the vaunted LS 460 premium sedan? To Toyota's way of thinking, you do a cannonball right into the pool currently occupied by the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, and Porsche.

Mind you, Toyota isn't diving in naked. "I have spent one-third of my career working on this single car," says LFA chief engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi, evidence not only of Tanahashi's tenacity but also of the LFA's unusually long gestation. Born of a clean-sheet concept etched in 2000, the first teaser car (then named LF-A) appeared at the 2005 Detroit show. Two years later came a revised concept; by then, camouflaged LF-A prototypes were making regular blitzes around the Nürburgring. Shadowy details emerged: Toyota was building a monster.

As inspiration, Tanahashi turned to Toyota's Formula 1 racing program, then playing to 3.0-liter V-10 regulations. So it was that the team sculpted an all-new, naturally aspirated V-10, this one a 4.8-liter with a 72-degree bank angle (optimal for smooth firing with a five-throw crank), dry-sump lubrication to lower the center of gravity (no giant under-engine oil pan), and an individual throttle body for each cylinder. Though it can't match an F1 car for revs, the LFA V-10 still spins like Karl Rove on a Tilt-A-Whirl: Redline is 9000 rpm. And while relatively compact and light, the engine screams with 552 horsepower at 8700 rpm.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: 2010 Lotus Exige Scura/Stealth

Sprayed in 'Phantom Black', the Lotus Exige Stealth is 22 lbs. lighter than a standard-issue Exige S, thanks to the extensive use of carbon fiber inside the cabin. A front splitter made from the lightweight composite, a variable-slip traction control, and Ohlins two-way dampers were added for extra performance. The Exige's 1.8L supercharged four-cylinder remains intact and still catapults the Stealth to 62 mph in a claimed 4.1 seconds. Scorching quick, indeed. Only 35 editions are set to be available worldwide, excluding those well-heeled customers in the U.S. For markets outside of Japan, the Stealth is called the Exige Scura.

Performance and enhancements; • 0-100 kmh in 4.1 seconds and 199 g/km CO2 • Lotus Launch Control and Lotus Traction Control as standard

The Lotus Exige Stealth uses the 1.8 litre supercharged and intercooled 260 PS engine from the range topping Exige Cup 260, including the lightweight flywheel and lightweight supercharger pipework. Coupled with Ohlins 2 way adjustable dampers and Eibach Springs with variable height spring platforms, unique matt black lightweight forged wheels and super sticky Yokohama A048 LTS tyres, ride and handling is as expected for a Lotus!

Lightweight carbon fibre components, including sports seats, interior centre console, front splitter, oil cooler inlet vanes, side airscoops and rear spoiler help to keep the weight to 10kg less than the Lotus Exige S (at just 925 kg).

Lotus Launch Control and Lotus Traction Control – additions recommended for track driving Lotus Launch Control and Lotus Traction Control were originally developed for the Lotus Exige GT3 racing programme.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Jumat, 23 Oktober 2009

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: 2011 Nissan Fuga

Carlos Ghosn unveiled Nissan's luxury sedan, the Fuga, which goes on sale in Japan in November and in the U.S. next spring as the new Infiniti M. Showing little of the handsome Infiniti Essence coupe concept, the Fuga/M instead looks like the big sibling to the Infiniti G/Nissan Skyline. Side surfacing is much like the G's, and the very fast backlight ends in a Mercedes-esque taillamp treatment. Up front, the grille looks like it's from the Infiniti FX, shrunk to an appropriate car size. Inside, the center console protrudes more than any we've seen lately, and the rear seat is highly contoured, suggesting that a fifth passenger in the middle isn't a good idea. The M thus comes off as a larger-than-G 2+2 sedan. In the North American market, we'll have a choice of three powerplants, the base 3.7-liter V-6, a 5.6-liter V-8 or a 3.5-liter V-6/electric hybrid using lithium-ion batteries.
Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Honda Skydeck Concept

Lost in the excitement surrounding the production prototype debut of the hotly anticipated Honda CR-Z is the Honda Skydeck concept. With the proliferation of hybrid drivetrains these days, it was only matter of time before hybrid minivans began popping up and with Chrysler’s EREV program off the radar, Honda is stepping up.

The Skydeck concept comes across as something of a cross between the hot new CR-Z and the Honda Odyssey, offering sporty styling and an extremely raked windshield on a six-passenger minivan. Far from the first minivan with a laid-back windshield, the real story is under the hood where Honda has fitted a hybrid drivetrain, likely a variant of its proven Integrated Motor Assist mild hybrid system. Honda has said very little about the vehicle, so it’s not yet known what kind of fuel economy improvements the Skydeck will offer.

Along with the hybrid drivetrain, the Skydeck offers a few other tricks. Up front, Honda has fitted scissor doors for soccer dads wishing they had a Lamborghini while the back offers traditional sliding doors on either side. Inside, the third-row seats slide forward and underneath the second-row seats to offer more rear cargo space.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Honda EV-N Concept

If the current crop of electric vehicles just look too futuristic to you, Honda has a cure for what ails you. It’s the retro-styled EV-N electric vehicle concept that looks something like an updated Trabant.

Not much is known about the tiny EV-N, but it’s expected to be a battery-powered city vehicle with a limited range and top speed due to the lack of space for a large battery pack. Cool features including some kind of lighted “communications system” embedded in the front fascia, swappable seat fabrics, solar panels in the roof and a UX-3 self-balancing electric unicycle strapped into the driver’s door for extra-vehicular excursions.

The EV-N is part of Honda’s HELLO! Zone which will feature electric vehicles and solutions for generating green electricity, as Honda rightly points out that switching to zero-emissions vehicles won’t matter much if polluting power plants have to work overtime to charge them. Given its tiny stature and lack of stats, it’s not likely the EV-N will see the road any time soon and if it does, it will likely stay in Japan in the Kei Car segment.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: 2011 Honda CR-Z

Slated for a February 2010 launch in Japan and later that year in the U.S., the world's first dedicated sports hybrid coupe employs a 1.5-liter gasoline engine paired to an updated version of Honda's now well-known IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system. Upgraded from the Insight's 41 mpg 1.3 liter unit, one source close to Honda tells that we can expect somewhere around 32-35 U.S. mpg from the new coupe. Helping the front-wheel-drive CR-Z to achieve that kind of mileage will be the hybrid world's first six-speed manual gearbox, which Honda engineers have fitted to generate the best mileage possible while at the same time injecting more fun into the driving experience of hybrids. And anything that spruces up the thrill factor of piloting a hybrid is welcome news to us.

In fact, with its combination of meaty bottom end torque from the larger 1.5-liter engine and its revised IMA system, all channeled through that six-speed floor-shifter, you can expect some relatively quick getaways from the CR-Z.

To further lower its carbon footprint, Honda is also unveiling the stylish hybrid CR-Z concept and the six-seater Skydeck hybrid minivan, which boasts front scissor-action style doors and third row seats which slide forward and under the second row seats to allow rear access. And just to show that Honda has not forgotten its sporty roots, the company will reveal its latest hot hatch for the Japenese market, the Civic Type R Euro. Yep, you guessed it, it's designed in Europe. Specifications are sketchy at present, but if the current UK-spec model is any guide, expect the Type R Euro to output around 200 hp from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired to a six-speed manual gearbox.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Rabu, 21 Oktober 2009

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept

At the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, Subaru president and CEO Ikuo Mori announced that the brand will launch its first hybrid vehicle in 2012. This all-new fuel-sipper will feature technology showcased in the Hybrid Tourer Concept, which boasts Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel drive, Lineartronic CVT, and a 2.0-liter direct-injected flat-4 combined with a lithium-ion battery. Subaru said its hybrid will be a version of an existing model, e.g. Forester Hybrid or Outback Hybrid, and not a standalone model a la the Toyota Prius. The HTC wears a bold hexagonal front grille that hints at the brand’s corporate face of tomorrow, and the overall design theme represents Subaru's idea of what an activity vehicle will look like in the future. Further, the HTC's use of LED front lighting will likely find its way into future products, and the 2.0-liter engine -- Subaru's first example of a turbocharged DI power plant -- will no doubt make its way under the hoods of upcoming Impreza and Legacy models.
Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Toyota FT-86 Concept

Most development work underway on the Toyota FT-86 is being done by Subaru engineers. After all, Toyota chief Akio Toyoda points to the four-cylinder boxer engine, allowing "racecar-like handling," even though it's on Subie's first rear-drive platform in recent memory. Toyota is handling the styling and packaging in this joint venture, which began after General Motors dumped its interest in Fuji Heavy Industries and Toyota Motor Company took up the slack.

The FT-86 has some Celica/Supra in its sheetmetal, especially the nose and hood. The fast roofline and short rear overhang hints that the rear seats -- the concept features 2+2 racing buckets -- are useful for show and for toddlers at best. A distinctive front fender crease picks up from the rear of the wheel opening and extends up into the hood, as if to call attention to the diminutive sport coupe's dash-to-axle ratio. The concept is just 163.8-inches long (about half a foot longer than a Miata) on a 101.2-inch wheelbase.

It's 69.3 inches wide and just 49.6 inches tall. "It is often said that young people today have drifted away from cars," Toyota president and scion Toyoda said, "but I feel that it may not be the customers who have drifted away from cars, but us, the manufacturers." He continued, "The FT-86 Concept was developed to give form to the intrinsic joy automobiles provide -- things like the accelerator and steering exactly matching the driver's intentions and the feeling of wanting to drive more -- and to provide it to customers as soon as possible." That means, in the case of the Toyota FT-86, early 2012.
Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Mitsubishi PX-MiEV Concept

While series hybrids, which use an electric motor to boost the output of a gasoline engine, are the most common form of hybrid vehicle at the moment, Mitsubishi is skipping ahead to what appears to be the next step: parallel hybrids.

In Mitsubishi’s PX-MiEV concept, a 114-hp 1.6L four-cylinder engine with 92 lb-ft of torque is augmented by two electric motors which do most of the work. In most cases, the electric motor mounted on the front axle drives the front wheels, but when more power is needed, the gasoline engine kicks on to help. Under heavy loads, heavy acceleration or emergency maneuvers, another electric motor at the rear axle also kicks in to provide power and help stabilize the vehicle. When the gasoline engine isn’t needed, it either switches off or acts as a generator to recharge the battery or power the electric motors, whichever is most efficient at the moment. Each electric motor generates 60 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque and all together, Mitsubishi says the PX-MiEV can achieve 118 mpg.

In addition to determining the most efficient way to propel the PX-MiEV in any given circumstance, the computer can also use the electric motors to dole out torque both front-to-rear and side-to-side for maximum stability and traction. Cameras mounted around the vehicle, meanwhile, give the driver a birds-eye view for navigating in tight spaces.

Inside, the PX-MiEV features a futuristic design replete with touchscreen panels for all non-driving related controls. The minimalist interior comes with a horseshoe-shaped steering wheel stuffed with buttons to activate as many vehicle systems (like navigation and stereo) without the driver taking his or her hands off of the wheel. Touchscreens in front and rear take up as little passenger space as possible while the heated and cooled seats feature a material that traps and destroys odors and allergens. Reflective paint and window coatings keep interior temperatures down to reduce energy usage.

The PX-MiEV can be charged from either a standard 110-volt wall socket, a 200-volt socket or a special high-voltage quick-charger, though Mitsubishi hasn’t specified charging times. The vehicle can also act as a giant battery and power a household appliance to cut home energy costs or act as a generator to provide electricity during an outage.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Tokyo Show 2009 Highlights: Mitsubishi i-MiEV Cargo Concept

Mitsubishi, while not quite as bullish on pure electric vehicles Carlos Ghosn and Nissan, has for several years now been quietly developing its EV lineup around its i minicar, called the iMiEV.

At Tokyo, the automaker showed several riffs on the iMiEV, with our pick of the litter being its i-MiEV CARGO concept -- a vehicle not that unlike Ford's Transit Connect, which is coming to the U.S. soon in EV form. It's an ungainly looking machine with its square box grafted onto the back, but one that offers a generous amount of additional space to the electric-powered city car. The height of the CARGO's floor has been designed for ease of loading, and the square rear compartment and flat load floor fully maximize the CARGO's interior space.

With Japan getting more serious about fleet operators lowering their carbon footprint, Mitsubishi envisions the CARGO being a hit with commercial users who could potentially maintain a fleet of EV vehicles, but is also pitching it as a machine for personal uses as well.

Like the rest of its iMiEV brethren, the CARGO is driven by 47kw electric motor powering the rear wheels with the juice supplied by a lithium ion battery pack.
Thanks to: Motor Trend

Unofficial Picture: 2011 Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet

The lid has been lifted on the Mercedes E-Class Convertible. These images of the CLK Cabrio replacement, leaked from the European Patent Office, give a glimpse at the drop-top, which completes the E-Class range.

As with its Audi A5 Cabriolet rival, it gets a traditional canvas roof instead of a heavier folding metal unit. And like the car it replaces, it’s aimed at style-conscious buyers, borrowing the sharp side creases and pronounced rear wheelarches from the latest E-Class coupé.

The engine line-up is also carried over from the tin-top, so buyers get a choice of four and six-cylinder diesel engines, as well as three petrol units topped by the E550 flagship. When the Convertible hits dealers in the spring, prices will start at around £35,000. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Hot News: Audi A1 Convertible

It's not just the range-topping R8 that Audi is opening up on. The upcoming A1 city car will also get a convertible version, as well as a family of bodystyles.

First unveiled in concept form in 2007 and set to take on BMW’s MINI, the A1 will be released in less than a year priced just under £13,000.

But Audi bosses have already decided that the three-door will be swiftly followed by a five-door A1 Sportback, A1 convertible and mini-SUV models.

That variant will likely be badged Q1 to fit in with the firm’s larger 4x4 models. The move is aimed at pre-empting MINIs rollout of new models such as the Coupe and Roadster concepts shown at last month’s Frankfurt Motor Show. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Hot News: Mazda RX-7

Mazda's global design chief wants a new RX-7. Ikuo Maeda, who assumed the role in April, told Autocar that he is pushing for a rebirth of the two-seat sports car.

"We really want to have an RX-7 and if the market allows us to build it we will have it ready," he told Autocar.

The RX-7 left our shores in 1995, two years after it won our "Import Car of the Year" award. It offered 252-hp from its twin-turbo 1.3L rotary, a track-ready suspension, and a limited-slip differential.

Maeda has two sketches of a replacement, and he hinted that is trying to push the model through to upper management. In Maeda's vision, the next RX-7, like its predecessors, would have two seats and rotary power.

Maeda also desires to push the brand upmarket, with interior quality set as one of his targets.
Thanks to: Motor Trend

Spied: 2011 Ford Explorer

Two decades ago, Ford introduced a mid-sized, body-on-frame SUV named Explorer that traded some off-road performance for a measure of on-road comfort. In so doing, the Explorer struck a chord with wagon-weary (and wagon-wary) families, ushering in the SUV era. Now, of course, that era has passed, and the final nail in the coffin comes in the form of the 2011 Ford Explorer, which, after years of speculation, has been spied on the street with new crossover-style proportions, abandoning its trucky body-on-frame construction in favor of carlike unibody.

What we can expect from the fundamental change is a far more comfortable—and relevant—Explorer. It will retain its up-to-seven-passenger seating (to differentiate it from the five-passenger Edge), sitting on a wide track and a long wheelbase, and thus is expected to bring comprehensive dynamic improvements, including a smoother ride, tauter handling, and better sound insulation. Aerodynamics will be far better than those of today’s brick-like Explorer for vastly better high-speed fuel efficiency and stability. Even more helpful will be the installation of more powerful and fuel-efficient powertrains, likely the same 3.5-liter V-6s cribbed from the Taurus and Flex, both with and without EcoBoost (Ford-speak for turbocharging and direct injection). That’s right, we are likely to see a 350-hp Explorer next time around. Also expected is a low-end model with a four-cylinder EcoBoost engine making up to 230 hp, as Ford has said that nearly all of its passenger vehicles will be offered with a four-cylinder in future iterations.

What we can expect styling-wise is not exactly clear, though we saw an eye-pleasing preview last year in the form of the Ford Explorer America concept. From these spy shots, we know it will have a slanted front end with projector headlamps topped by amber turn signals, as well as a three-bar, Taurus-like grille. Also visible are LED taillamps, squared-off window pillars, and a broad, flat roof. The actual rear window shape is concealed by cladding, but we expect a smartly angled D-pillar profile.

We don’t know which additional creature comforts will be installed in the new Explorer, though we think it’s safe to say that whatever Ford was able to cram into the Taurus should fit just fine in the Explorer. That list includes heated and cooled seats, Sony audio with SYNC, radar cruise control, abundant soft-touch trim, blind-spot monitoring, and a rainbow of ambient-lighting choices.

Jeep is probably thrilled that its Grand Cherokee is losing its only real remaining off-road-worthy domestic competitor, although we can only expect that Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and GM are none too happy to see the Explorer crossing over, so to speak, into their territory. The Explorer is expected to hit showrooms about a year from now. We wouldn’t be surprised if it officially bowed at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit this January, and if not then, the historically truck- and SUV-heavy Chicago show is a possibility as well.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

Senin, 19 Oktober 2009

New Car: 2010 Lotus Exige Scura

Lotus has just released pictures of perhaps the hottest Exige yet, the sexy 2010 Exige Scura. It’s based on the Exige S and powered by the wild, 257-hp, supercharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder also found in the 2009 Exige S260 Sport.

Besides the raucous motor, the real kick of the Scura (which means “dark” in Italian) is its “soft-feel” matte black paint. Lotus paradoxically brags that the paint job both “reflects the stealth character” of the Exige and makes it “a real head-turner.” Contrasting high-gloss black stripes bisect the car, while carbon-fiber components—including sport seats, center console, front splitter, oil-cooler intake vanes, side air scoops, and rear spoiler—suck up weight and light like a black hole. The difference inside, however, is that much of that carbon fiber—in marked contrast to the outside—is glossy. Other equipment fitted to the Scura includes launch control, two-way adjustable dampers, Eibach springs with variable-height spring platforms, and unique matte black lightweight forged wheels wearing Yokohama A048 LTS tires. All of the lightweight bits are said to help reduce weight by about 22 pounds compared with the Exige S, bringing it down to around 2040 pounds.

Since little has been done to the powertrain, the 0–60 sprint is expected to match the S260 Sport’s claimed 4.1-second time. Production of the Scura will be limited to just 35 units worldwide, none of which will be coming here, sadly. (Lotus is said to have a few of the 50 2009 Exige S260 Sports sitting in showrooms, so there may indeed be no need for the Scura here.) Prices start at £45,950 in England, which equates to a little more than $75K in the U.S.
Thanks to: Car and Driver

New Car: 2011 Kia Cadenza

It’s an answer car companies have sought ever since the GM brand progression—graduate from a Chevrolet to a Pontiac, then to an Oldsmobile followed by a Buick, and then drive a Cadillac until you die—first faltered: At what point does the upper limit of the budget brand trespass into the premiere nameplate’s territory? The question gets more confusing when both of an automaker’s brands are budget marques.

Kia and Hyundai were so eager to emulate more-established brands that they jumped into this quandary with both feet, albeit with limited success. The Kia Amanti, intended to toe this line, succeeded instead in reaching new heights in awkward styling and driving like all four tires were flat. The Kia Cadenza, which will make its formal auto-show debut in the Middle East at the Saudi Arabia auto show, will replace the awkwardly-styled Amanti in the realm of the Hyundai Azera.

The Cadenza (at least in this first picture) appears to fix the Amanti’s aesthetic foibles. Its stately greenhouse promises a spacious interior for passengers front and rear, and the overall design is kept from looking boring by subtle details like depressed hood edges and the crease rising sharply from the front door that reaches back through the door handles.
Engine choices will likely include Kia’s 175-hp, 2.4-liter inline-four and the Amanti’s 3.8-liter V-6 making around 260 hp. Expect U.S. sales of the Cadenza to commence later in 2010.
Thanks to: Car and Driver

First Sketch: 2011 Nissan Micra

The next Nissan Micra will not be as visually exciting as recent design sketches suggest, according to a new set of images.

Revealed earlier this month, renderings of the new Micra showed a sporty, sculpted design.

But new images, said to be leaked official drawings, show the car to have conventional proportions much more in keeping with the shape of the current car.

The front of the car has elements of BMW’s Mini to it, although from the A-pillar back it is clearly a Micra.

The new supermini will be based off a 'new platform' specifically designed for compact cars, according to Nissan insiders.

Dubbed a “global compact car” by Nissan, the vehicle will be sold in over 150 countriies around the world, and could get a different name, which will be revealed at a later date.

Five countries are earmarked to produce the car: India, Thailand, China and two undisclosed locations, expected to be in Asia. Production at the Sunderland plant will switch to building the new Qazana and possibly the recently revealed electric Leaf.

Thanks to: Autocar

New Car: 2009 Ford Fiesta Titanium Individual

Ford has launched the first special edition model of its new Fiesta.

The Ford Fiesta Titanium Individual will be limited to 400 units, with its two and a half month production run starting at the end of October.

The model is based on the top-of-the-range Titanium-spec Fiesta, with the addition of the premium leather Individual Series interior. The interior is in red and silver, which Ford claims should appeal to a younger audience.

“We’ve gone for a funky interior,” said a source. “The special edition is the most premium Fiesta around but we’re still pitching it a younger audience.”

Other standard kit includes 16-inch alloy wheels and full Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. The model will be available in six exterior colours.

Ford has seen the success of cars such as the Mini and Fiat 500 with their customisable options, and this is something Ford is trying to achieve with the Individual Series interior options.

“We have sold more than 100,000 Fiestas in its first year and we know our customers like to personalise their Fiestas,” said Ford’s Mark Simpson. “The new line up with the Individual special edition will help them achieve this.”

It will cost from £15,145 and is available to order now.

Thanks to: Autocar

Hot News: 2011 Skoda Fabia vRS

Skoda’s hot Fabia vRS will get 178bhp and more aggressive styling than its predecessor when it arrives in the UK next year.

Borrowed from the Seat Ibiza Cupra, the 1.4-litre ‘Twincharger’ unit should propel the car to 60mph in around 7sec and on to 140mph.

Shunning the conservative styling of the last vRS, the new car will have a tough sporting look and will be easily identifiable against the standard car, a Skoda source told Autocar.

The previous Fabia vRS was diesel-powered, but Skoda has ruled out an oil burning version.

A seven-speed DSG ‘box, equipped with paddle shift, is likely to come as standard, with the vRS likely to cost less than £16,000.

The car is scheduled for unveiling early 2010 and will arrive in the UK later in the year.

Thanks to: Autocar

Hot News: Mitsubishi Evo XI to Get Plug-In Technology

The next-generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evo could use a plug-in hybrid system that is being shown at this week's Tokyo motor show, sources have told Autocar.

The plug-in technology is being showcased on the Mitsubishi PX-MiEV concept, and if applied to the Evo XI would dramatically alter its make-up.

On the face of it, this concept is an upscale Outlander-based SUV designed to showcase the layout of Mitsubishi’s new plug-in hybrid system.

With the PX-MiEV, front and rear wheels are powered by two 81bhp permanent magnet synchronous motors. There’s also a 1.6-litre MIVEC petrol engine which not only drives the front wheels but also serves as a generator.

However, the system is configured around Mitsubishi’s Evo-style S-AWC handling control system, and automatically switches between different drive modes depending on driving style and remaining power in the lithium ion battery pack.

It’s a highly sophisticated switchable system that borrows i-MiEV electric car tech for the back wheels but uses a new parallel-type hybrid system for the fronts. It also delivers over 140mpg economy, Mitsubishi says.

Mitsubishi hopes to have it on the market by 2013, but company insiders say the technology could be directed at the new Evo.

At present, development work on the next Evo has effectively stalled, according to a source familiar with the programme, which explains why there has been no serious tweaking of the Evo X in Japan since its launch in 2007.

Instead, it is the Brits, with the outrageous FQ-series Lancer Evos that currently lead the Evo pack.

The PX-MiEV concept also suggests the way a more premium, Outlander-based SUV could go.

It has only two rows of seats and a high-grade interior and could conceivably be turned into a kind of Mitsubishi X5 rival, if management gives the green light.

Thanks to: Autocar

Minggu, 18 Oktober 2009

New Car: 2010 Toyota Mark X

This is the new shape Toyota X saloon, which the company hopes is a match for the BMW 5-series

On paper, the uppercrust rear-drive Mark X is very much a machine in the BMW mould, although it’s on the market in Japan for thousands of pounds less.

This latest-generation X kicks off in three grades, standard, premium and sports type. It also boasts a fair helping of Lexus tech underneath to push dynamics and image.

There are two petrol V6 engines available; the 200bhp 2.5-litre engine is a detuned version of the 4GR-FSE unit from the Lexus IS250.

Likewise, the range-topping 314bhp 3.5-litre engine is shared with the Lexus GS350. A six-speed auto transmission is standard.

With front double-wishbone and rear multilink suspension, the 4730 mm Mark X is again not far off the Lexus IS/GS family, but the cabin treatment is more dour and workmanlike, and highly conventional.

The Mark X will be formally unveiled at this Wednesday's Tokyo motor show, but is not expected to come anywhere near Europe.

Instead, this will be Toyota’s BMW wannabe in Japan and some parts of Asia.

Thanks to: Autocar

Sabtu, 17 Oktober 2009

New Car: 2009 Nissan Fairlady Z 40th Anniversary

Today, Nissan has released a Fairlady Z 40th Anniversary edition in its home market that sports some unique features not found on other versions. Also hitting Japanese dealers today are an updated Fairlady Z (370Z to those outside of Japan) coupe and the all-new Fairlady Z Roadster.

The 40th Anniversary is based on the JDM Version ST, or the highest grade Fairlady available, and incorporates a bevy of leather-covered amenities inside its cabin. The seats, steering wheel, shift knob, console boot, instrument panel, and passenger seat knee bolsters each get wrapped in the new hide with highlighting red stitching.

Of course, a few "40th Anniversary" emblems can be found on both the seat headrests and the trunklid. The forged aluminum Rays wheels receive a dark chrome finish, while the Nissan sport brake calipers are dipped in red. New for the edition is a Metal Gray color, but it can also be had in Premium Deep Maroon, Brilliant White Pearl, Brade Silver, Diamond Black, or Vibrant Red.

Standard coupes in Japan get a few new updates to spruce up the model. A HDD Carwings navigation system with built-in TV tuner, advanced map updates, and iPod connectivity is added. Customers can also get an Intelligent Key fob with a 'Z' metal emblem and can select the new Premium Deep Maroon exterior color.

Japanese pricing for the Fairlady Z 40th Anniversary with a seven-speed automatic starts at around $50,387, or around $49,234 for one with a six-speed manual. Like the 350Z 35th Anniversary we first saw five years ago, production will be limited to only one year.

Currently, there's no word on if the 40th Anniversary will head our way, but we wouldn't be surprised if a few end up on our shores soon.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Kamis, 15 Oktober 2009

Hot News: 2010 Subaru Outback is Motor Trend SUV of the Year 2010

It's right there in the photo: a spacious, tough, thoroughly modern, exceedingly capable sport/utility vehicle. You're forgiven if all you can see is a svelte station wagon. There's magic at work here.

For the first time since any of us can recall, an automaker has claimed the Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year title two years in a row. Last fall, deftly balancing efficiency and size, the all-new 2009 Subaru Forester went home with the Golden Calipers trophy. For 2010, fighting off several tough adversaries -- and undoubtedly some unspoken but very real bias among our judges against repeat winners -- Subaru's new, fourth-generation Outback scored a decisive 10-1 victory in the final voting.

Some vehicles arrive at our annual "Of the Year" competitions (car, sport/utility, truck) staking early claims to a win via bulging engine muscle, beguiling gizmos, fashion-runway sheetmetal. The Outback isn't one of those. In fact, it slipped nearly unnoticed through our early walkarounds; the pre-drives chatter seemed to focus elsewhere -- the ZDX's spaceship lines, the Q5's comparison test-winning moves, the Lincoln's mighty yet efficient EcoBoost V-6. But then, one by one, our test drivers took the Outback into the field. And the buzz began to shift. Once again, it seemed, Subaru was successfully reshaping the very definition of "sport/utility vehicle" -- melding the multi-mission prowess of true SUVs with the driving refinement, fuel-frugality, and easy access of wagons and sedans. Once again, our judges began taking extra notes.

In the U.S., the Legacy Outback wagon is now gone (it'll still be sold in Japan and elsewhere), replaced by this bigger, sleeker rig that drops the Legacy name altogether. The 2010 Outback platform is new, 2.8 inches longer in wheelbase, shoulders broader by two inches, front and rear overhangs nipped by two inches each to enhance off-road attacks. Though the overall package is shorter than its predecessor, interior room is up seven percent (thanks in part to a raised roof) -- and rear-seat legroom climbs by a conspicuous four inches. "Roomy back seat -- lots of legroom and headroom," writes senior editor Ron Kiino. "Huge cargo hold too. At 34.3/71.3 cubic feet (back seat up/down), it's got more cargo room than the Terrain and Equinox twins." Maximum cargo capacity, in fact, tops both a "classic SUV" like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota's big "it's-not-a-crossover-it's-a-car" Venz.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

AmericanMuscle - On the Set of SpeedTV's Pass Time

September 30, 2009, MALVERN, PA — Surely a sign of the looming apocalypse, recently went under the bright lights, and behind the scenes of a nationally broadcast TV show, SPEED TV’s hit game show Pass Time. Filmed on location at many of America’s favorite grass roots drag strips, Pass Time offers a chance for any would-be drag racer, whether first timer or experienced pro, Mustang or minivan, to make a run pass as two contestants attempt to predict 1/4-mile drag times to win cash. Simply put, “Guess the time, win the cash – it’s that easy,” according to show host Brett Wagner.

As the current owner of three Ponies, on-the-phone Mustang expert Karen Baum is no stranger to the track. In fact, she’s been drag racing Mustangs for years, but never before in front of the cameras of a popular TV show. Karen, and fellow AmericanMuscle staffer Dave Kaeck, took their Mustangs to Maryland International Raceway where Pass Time producers selected the AmericanMuscle customer service rep out of 500 candidates to “make a pass” on camera. Driving an AmericanMuscle-prepped ‘03 GT Coupe, the Mustang enthusiast put the pedal to the metal and left all expectations in the dust in her first primetime appearance.

While Karen was getting ready for her SPEED TV debut, AmericanMuscle went behind the scenes to get a first-hand look at how Pass Time producers can turn a day at the drag strip into an engaging game show. From the host Brett Wagner, to Ken “The House” Herring, to Paige the ultra-hot car wrangler, these on-air personalities form the heart of the show. Add in two long days of passionate behind-the-scenes work and somehow the dedicated Pass Time team manages to turn out nine speed-filled episodes every time they pull into a drag strip.

To get a better look at AmericanMuscle’s time at Pass Time, visit: AmericanMuscle Blog, or for the YouTube video go to:

New Car: 2011 Toyota Auris

Toyota's Auris facelift has been revealed in Japan, and it is set to go on sale in the UK in the first half of 2010.

Changes are minor, and include revised grilles which differ in style according to trim level, new front and rear bumpers, headlamps, tail lights and alloy wheels plus a new bonnet design.

Interior changes include new color options, upgraded materials and improved standard equipment on some models.

Sales of the facelifted Toyota Auris will preceed the launch of the Auris hybrid, which will be built at the firm’s Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, with its engines being made at its Deeside plant in north Wales. It is set to go on sale next summer.

When the Auris hybrid was first confirmed earlier this year, Tadashi Arashima, Toyota’s European chief executive, said: “Our decision to produce a full hybrid in the UK reflects both our confidence in the quality and commitment of the Toyota UK workforce and the strength of our long-standing partnership with the UK government.”

Thanks to: Autocar

Spied: 2011 BMW M3 CSL

IS BMW getting ready to release a hardcore, CSL-badged M3? As these pictures show, the German marque could be secretly developing a track-geared M3.

Our spies caught this mystery machine putting in some high-speed laps of the Nurburgring circuit in Germany. Just check out the lower front spoiler, wider tracks, new wheels and tyres plus, of course, that huge rear spoiler.

Reports suggest that the new, high performance model could shed 100kg over the standard M3 with tweaks including thinner glass and a carbon fibre bonnet.

If it does make production, the 4.0-litre V8 would get new valves, a carbon-fibre airbox and larger intakes boosting power to 470bhp.

With BMW engineers well aware of the CSL's reputation as a trackday tool, the new car is also likely to be equipped with stiffer springs and semi-slick tyres. Although, BMW firmly denies the CSL's existence, the German firm is unlikely to let the upcoming, high performance Audi RS5 take to the market unrivalled. For more details click here.

Thanks to: Auto Express

Spied: 2011 Volkswagen Tiguan

One of the last of the Volkswagen family to get its makeup done, the Tiguan compact 'ute is finally getting a minor facelift. Our spy photographers recently caught it testing on both German streets and the Nurburgring wearing heavy camouflage on its nose.

From the looks of things, all the work has been done on the front end while the sides and rear appear to be the same as the current model. In front, we see new projector headlights with buckets that now include LED daytime running lights. In the center, the grille is sporting some fresh chrome on its twin horizontal slats, while down below, the lower radiator opening appears to have shrunk a bit and picked up some extra chrome of its own. To its sides, the openings around the fog lights appear to have kept their shape but seem to have grown a bit.

It's clear to see that Volkswagen has been fairly conservative with this update. No big chrome snout, a la Touareg, has been added, nor have the lights and grille been pulled out to the sides like the new Golf. While it does look a bit more like the Touareg with its spiffy new headlights, there is still a clear differentiation between Tiguan and Touareg styling. We'll know all of this for sure once the updated Tiguan makes its debut at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show next March, where we hear it may be sporting new engine options as well.
Thanks to: Motor Trend
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