Author Archives: Alex Nishimoto

Volkswagen Race Car Eyes Pikes Peak EV Record

By | April 23, 2018

As part of Volkswagen’s push toward electrification, the German automaker will attempt to capture the all-electric car record at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. VW already showed off renderings of its purpose-built I.D. R Pikes Peak race car, and now we get to see the real thing.

Like other Pikes Peak entrants with record-setting ambitions, the I.D. R looks a lot like a sports car prototype, complete with a sleek composite body, a bubble canopy, and an aggressive aero kit. The fixed rear wing extends beyond the width of the bodywork, as does the front splitter, to provide maximum downforce. VW says the car weighs less than 2,500 pounds and makes 680 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque from two electric motors. With that kind of power on tap, the car is estimated to hit 60 mph in 2.25 seconds.




The race car’s lithium-ion batteries are said to be similar to production EVs, but won’t have enough juice to get to the top on a single charge. The I.D. R will have to produce roughly 20 percent of the energy it needs to complete the 12.42-mile uphill course from regenerative braking, according to VW.

If Volkswagen wants to claim the EV record at Pikes Peak, then 8 minutes, 57.118 seconds is the time to beat. That record was set by Rhys Millen in a custom-built 1,595-hp eO PP100 back in 2016. Luckily for VW, it will have overall record-holder Romain Dumas at the wheel of the I.D. R.

The 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb takes place on June 24.

The post Volkswagen Race Car Eyes Pikes Peak EV Record appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

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Volkswagen Hopes to Break the Pikes Peak EV Record With This Car

By | April 23, 2018

As part of Volkswagen’s push toward electrification, the German automaker will attempt to capture the all-electric car record at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. VW already showed off renderings of its purpose-built I.D. R Pikes Peak race car, and now we get to see the real thing.

Like other Pikes Peak entrants with record-setting ambitions, the I.D. R looks a lot like a sports car prototype, complete with a sleek composite body, a bubble canopy, and an aggressive aero kit. The fixed rear wing extends beyond the width of the bodywork, as does the front splitter, to provide maximum downforce. VW says the car weighs less than 2,500 pounds and makes 680 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque from two electric motors. With that kind of power on tap, the car is estimated to hit 60 mph in 2.25 seconds.




The race car’s lithium-ion batteries are said to be similar to production EVs, but won’t have enough juice to get to the top on a single charge. The I.D. R will have to produce roughly 20 percent of the energy it needs to complete the 12.42-mile uphill course from regenerative braking, according to VW.

If Volkswagen wants to claim the EV record at Pikes Peak, then 8 minutes, 57.118 seconds is the time to beat. That record was set by Rhys Millen in a custom-built 1,595-hp eO PP100 back in 2016. Luckily for VW, it will have overall record-holder Romain Dumas at the wheel of the I.D. R.

The 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb takes place on June 24.

Source: Volkswagen

The post Volkswagen Hopes to Break the Pikes Peak EV Record With This Car appeared first on Motor Trend.

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Ford Focus ST Prototype Spied on the Nurburgring

By | April 18, 2018

When Ford revealed the new Focus earlier this month, we were happy to hear it will go on sale in the U.S. next year. It’s an attractive car, especially in hatchback form, and the interior looks like it will be a welcomed upgrade over the current generation.

More importantly, that also means a redesigned Focus ST should be just around the corner. Ford hasn’t confirmed that yet, but based on these spy photos, the next Focus ST is already being developed.

Despite the wrap, this prototype is clearly a new Focus. The wing and dual exhaust, however, suggest we’re looking at something a little more special than the regular car.

There’s always a chance Ford skipped right to developing the new RS, but the sporty-but-restrained styling says Focus ST to us. If so, that would mean Ford is dropping the ST’s center exhaust.

Information on the redesigned Focus ST is still scarce. In fact, Ford hasn’t even announced which engines the regular Focus will get yet. But according to AutoGuide, the Focus ST will be a 2020 model and will go on sale shortly after the non-ST version lands on dealer lots.

Power will reportedly come from a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder that beats the outgoing 2.0-liter four in both horsepower and fuel economy. If the rumors are true, it will make 275 hp.

We haven’t heard either way, but hopefully, Ford will still offer a manual transmission. Let’s just cross our fingers the product planners don’t do what they did with the redesigned Fiesta ST and make it a European exclusive. We’re still a little bitter about that one.








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This is Ken Block’s Killer 1993 Ford Escort RS Cosworth Rally Car

By | April 18, 2018

Last year, Ken Block announced that he would no longer race full-time in the World RX rally series. But he’s not ready to retire from rallying completely, of course. The Gymkhana star will compete in four stage rally events this year, including his first World Rally Championship (WRC) stage since 2014. In the WRC Spain rally this October, Block will pilot a 2017 Fiesta RS WRC. But it’s the car he’ll be driving in the other events this year that has us most excited: a 1993 Ford Escort RS Cosworth.

Originally a European-market exclusive, the Ford Escort RS Cosworth, which was built as a homologation special so that it can qualify for Group A in the WRC. Under the hood of the Escort Cosworth was a 227-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four paired exclusively to a five-speed manual and putting power down to all four wheels. Between 1993 and 1998, the Escort Cosworth won eight events as a Group A racer and two as a WRC-spec car. It was later replaced by the Ford Focus WRC.




 

Block’s Escort will wear a special livery created by Death Spray Custom. The rally-prepped Escort Cosworth is completely road-legal but the lack of a muffler and catalytic converter meant the side-mounted exhaust had to go in favor of a rear-mounted one. Under the hood is a modified 2.0-liter turbo-four that’s good for about 350 hp paired to a seven-speed sequential gearbox, which is right on par with other cars in its group. The car also gets its own special wheels that look very similar to the once the production Escort Cosworth wore back in the ’90s. Block is no stranger to turning vintage cars into incredible racing machines. In 2015, he built an Escort MkII with 333 hp, and last year he raced his 1,400-hp Hoonicorn 2.0 1965 Ford Mustang coupe up Pikes Peak.

In addition to the WRC race, Block plans to compete in three U.S. stage rallies with the vintage racer, including this weekend’s Oregon Trail Rally, the New England Forest Rally in the summer, and the Idaho Rally International this fall. As for how he expects to place in each event, Block says that he’s competing against modern vehicles and that the experience is more important than actually winning. He’s also more interested in seeing how the Ford Escort Cosworth does against modern vehicles in stage rallying. We’re interested, too, so we’ll be following Block’s progress a little more closely this season.

Check out the video introducing the new car and livery below.

The post This is Ken Block’s Killer 1993 Ford Escort RS Cosworth Rally Car appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

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2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Releases Cobra

By | April 12, 2018

Ford’s most powerful production car ever is shaping up nicely, as these latest spy shots show. Prototypes believed to be camouflaged GT500 mules have been spotted before, but never with so many revealing details about the upcoming super pony car.

This prototype is clearly identifiable as a GT500 thanks to the Cobra badge in the grille and the large power bulge in the hood. The hood also has prominent heat extractor vents, which are likely needed to cool its supercharged 5.2-liter V-8. The prototype wears wider fenders, but they don’t appear much wider than those on the GT350R. Regardless, the tires they cover look plenty meaty.

Curiously, some of the markings on the tires appear to have been scraped off. They definitely belong to the Michelin Pilot Sport family of summer tires, but they could be a new model—perhaps one developed specifically for the GT500 the way Nitto made special NT05Rs for the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. Interestingly, this mule has dual rear brake calipers like the Ford GT.

The prototype wears side skirts similar to those found on the GT350R, but there are new aero elements tacked on in the front. It’s difficult to say if those are production or just there for testing, but they look incomplete as is. In back, this mule is missing the large fixed rear wing we saw in the teaser animation that accompanied the GT500’s announcement, but the large, round quad exhaust tips and unique rear fascia are still there.

When it confirmed the existence of a new GT500 at the Detroit auto show in January, Ford said the car would be its most powerful ever with more than 700 hp. Other details are scarce, but leaks hint at a supercharged version of Ford’s flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter “Voodoo” V-8 called the “Predator.” We’ll see the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 officially in 2019, but for now these spy shots give us our best look yet.

















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2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Spy Shots Offer Best Look Yet

By | April 12, 2018

Ford’s most powerful production car ever is shaping up nicely, as these latest spy shots show. Prototypes believed to be camouflaged GT500 mules have been spotted before, but never with so many revealing details about the upcoming super pony car.

This prototype is clearly identifiable as a GT500 thanks to the Cobra badge in the grille and the large power bulge in the hood. The hood also has prominent heat extractor vents, which are likely needed to cool its supercharged 5.2-liter V-8. The prototype wears wider fenders, but they don’t appear much wider than those on the GT350R. Regardless, the tires they cover look plenty meaty.

Curiously, some of the markings on the tires appear to have been scraped off. They definitely belong to the Michelin Pilot Sport family of summer tires, but they could be a new model—perhaps one developed specifically for the GT500 the way Nitto made special NT05Rs for the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. Interestingly, this mule has dual rear brake calipers like the Ford GT.

The prototype wears side skirts similar to those found on the GT350R, but there are new aero elements tacked on in the front. It’s difficult to say if those are production or just there for testing, but they look incomplete as is. In back, this mule is missing the large fixed rear wing we saw in the teaser animation that accompanied the GT500’s announcement, but the large, round quad exhaust tips and unique rear fascia are still there.

When it confirmed the existence of a new GT500 at the Detroit auto show in January, Ford said the car would be its most powerful ever with more than 700 hp. Other details are scarce, but leaks hint at a supercharged version of Ford’s flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter “Voodoo” V-8 called the “Predator.” We’ll see the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 officially in 2019, but for now these spy shots give us our best look yet.

Photo source: KGP Photography

















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Toyota Supra Caught with Production-Ready Interior

By | April 12, 2018

Toyota Supra fans are split on the upcoming car that will bear the iconic name. On one hand, it sounds like it will be a true sports car complete with a capable chassis and a turbocharged inline-six engine, but on the other hand, sharing the bulk of its parts with the Z4 could make it more BMW than Toyota.

These latest spy shots won’t ease those concerns much, but they at least show that the Supra won’t be a complete copy/paste job, as the interior looks different from its BMW counterpart.

This Supra mule’s steering wheel isn’t the same one we saw in a Z4 prototype last year, and if you squint, you can barely see the outline of the Toyota emblem through the tape covering the center, hinting that this is likely the production steering wheel. But even if the design is different from the Z4’s, it still doesn’t look very Toyota.

The controls are laid out more like a BMW, with a scroll wheel on the right and buttons arranged in rows rather than in a round pattern as Toyota likes. The turn signal stalk also looks like something you’d find in a BMW, as does the electronic shifter, which could control a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The driver is covering up the gauge cluster in these photos, but we can see it will get digital readouts for fuel, coolant temperature, and engine revs. The center display is likely configurable to relay a number of different stats.

From the outside, not much has changed since the last time we saw the Supra. The car is once again testing at the Nürburgring, and it looks to be wearing aftermarket wheels—perhaps to test different performance wheel and tire combos. The tester we spotted earlier this year wore wheels that looked closer to production-spec.

As we previously reported, it’ll be a while before we see the Supra road car. Toyota confirmed that the production Supra will debut in the first half of 2019, or nearly a full year after the GR Supra Racing concept bowed in Geneva. We’ll reserve judgment on BMW’s influence on the cabin until we can see it in full, but we hope the Supra’s interior is as distinctive as its exterior.












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Spied! Toyota Supra Shows off Production-Ready Interior

By | April 11, 2018

Toyota Supra fans are split on the upcoming car that will bear the iconic name. On one hand, it sounds like it will be a true sports car complete with a capable chassis and a turbocharged inline-six engine, but on the other hand, sharing the bulk of its parts with the Z4 could make it more BMW than Toyota. These latest spy shots won’t ease those concerns much, but they at least show that the Supra won’t be a complete copy/paste job, as the interior looks different from its BMW counterpart.

This Supra mule’s steering wheel isn’t the same one we saw in a Z4 prototype last year, and if you squint, you can barely see the outline of the Toyota emblem through the tape covering the center, hinting that this is likely the production steering wheel. But even if the design is different from the Z4’s, it still doesn’t look very Toyota. The controls are laid out more like a BMW, with a scroll wheel on the right and buttons arranged in rows rather than in a round pattern as Toyota likes. The turn signal stalk also looks like something you’d find in a BMW, as does the electronic shifter, which could control a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The driver is covering up the gauge cluster in these photos, but we can see it will get digital readouts for fuel, coolant temperature, and engine revs. The center display is likely configurable to relay a number of different stats.

From the outside, not much has changed since the last time we saw the Supra. The car is once again testing at the Nürburgring, and it looks to be wearing aftermarket wheels—perhaps to test different performance wheel and tire combos. The tester we spotted last month wore wheels that looked closer to production-spec.

As we previously reported, it’ll be a while before we see the Supra road car. Toyota confirmed that the production Supra will debut in the first half of 2019, or nearly a full year after the GR Supra Racing concept bowed in Geneva. We’ll reserve judgment on BMW’s influence on the cabin until we can see it in full, but we hope the Supra’s interior is as distinctive as its exterior.

Photo source: CarPix










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New Ford Focus Debuts, Arrives in U.S. Next Year

By | April 10, 2018

Lately, there hasn’t been much good news concerning small cars in the U.S. The segment has been losing ground to crossovers, leading Ford to decide not to bring its new Fiesta across the pond and GM to reportedly kill the Chevrolet Sonic later this year. But here’s one thing for small-car believers to get excited about: the all-new global Ford Focus will be coming stateside in 2019.

The automaker is unveiling its next-gen compact today at simultaneous events in Europe and China, markets that will be getting the car later this year. Ford tells us the North American market will have to wait until the second half of 2019 to get its latest C-segment offering. That’s likely due to Focus production moving from Michigan to China, a shift that will halt manufacturing of the compact for this market for about a year. But when we do get the new Focus, the Blue Oval says to expect more comfort and space along with an improved driving experience. The fourth-generation Focus was “redesigned from the wheels up,” according to Ford, which also says it considered feedback from customers around the world during the new car’s development. Ford promises each Focus model will be tailored for the global region it’s intended for.




The Focus will be available globally as a four-door sedan, five-door wagon, and five-door hatchback, though we won’t hold our breath on getting any wagon love here in crossover country. The wraps come off the sportier-looking Focus ST-Line, more premium Focus Vignale, and slightly raised Focus Active in Europe, while the Titanium and a China-specific ST-Line make their debut in China.

Thanks to a leaked image earlier this year and many revealing teasers, there’s nothing too surprising about the Focus’ design. The headlights appear less swept back than on the outgoing Focus and feature unique LED clusters and accents depending on trim. The Focus also gets a longer hood and aero-optimized front end. The new model is also more spacious inside despite having the same exterior dimensions as the outgoing Focus. Rear passengers gain more space thanks to a longer wheelbase, which grows shoulder room by roughly 2.4 inches, knee room by 2 inches, and legroom by 2.8 inches. Additionally, designers focused on making the car easier to get in and out of.

One of the goals of this generation of Focus was to reduce complexity but retain flexibility for the many markets that will get the car. Ford says it reduced the number orderable configurations by as much as 92 percent, going from 360 to as little as 26 in some markets. This keeps costs down and paves the way for modular architectures in the future.

The Focus’ all-new chassis and suspension delivers a 20 percent improvement in torsional rigidity, according to Ford. The compact also benefits from a new electric power-assisted steering system that’s said to offer more engaging steering feel compared to the outgoing car. A 1.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost three-cylinder will be the base engine in China, with a new 1.5-liter turbo EcoBoost I-4 tuned for high torque at low rpms serving as the optional powerplant. Europe will get a 1.5-liter EcoBoost and a 2.0-liter EcoBlue turbodiesel option. A new eight-speed automatic transmission will be optional for some of those engines. Ford says North American drivetrain options will be announced closer to the car’s launch.

 

The new Focus will offer Ford’s Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist features. The exact features will vary by region but include Ford’s Evasive Steering Assist, adaptive headlights, a new version of Active Park Assist that can automatically shift from drive to reverse, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, speed-sign recognition, and lane-centering functions. The Focus will also be available with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and displayed on an 8.0-inch touchscreen.

It’ll be a while before we learn about the Focus models bound for our shores, but it’s good to know Ford hasn’t given up on small cars here completely just yet.

Source: Ford

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Next-Generation Ford Focus Debuts for China, Europe

By | April 10, 2018

Lately, there hasn’t been much good news concerning small cars in the U.S. The segment has been losing ground to crossovers, leading Ford to decide not to bring its new Fiesta across the pond and GM to reportedly kill the Chevrolet Sonic later this year. But here’s one thing for small-car believers to get excited about: the all-new global Ford Focus will be coming stateside in 2019.

The automaker is unveiling its next-gen compact today at simultaneous events in Europe and China, markets that will be getting the car later this year. Ford tells us the North American market will have to wait until the second half of 2019 to get its latest C-segment offering. That’s likely due to Focus production moving from Michigan to China, a shift that will halt manufacturing of the compact for this market for about a year. But when we do get the new Focus, the Blue Oval says to expect more comfort and space along with an improved driving experience. The fourth-generation Focus was “redesigned from the wheels up,” according to Ford, which also says it considered feedback from customers around the world during the new car’s development. Ford promises each Focus model will be tailored for the global region it’s intended for.




The Focus will be available globally as a four-door sedan, five-door wagon, and five-door hatchback, though we won’t hold our breath on getting any wagon love here in crossover country. The wraps come off the sportier-looking Focus ST-Line, more premium Focus Vignale, and slightly raised Focus Active in Europe, while the Titanium and a China-specific ST-Line make their debut in China.

Thanks to a leaked image earlier this year and many revealing teasers, there’s nothing too surprising about the Focus’ design. The headlights appear less swept back than on the outgoing Focus and feature unique LED clusters and accents depending on trim. The Focus also gets a longer hood and aero-optimized front end. The new model is also more spacious inside despite having the same exterior dimensions as the outgoing Focus. Rear passengers gain more space thanks to a longer wheelbase, which grows shoulder room by roughly 2.4 inches, knee room by 2 inches, and legroom by 2.8 inches. Additionally, designers focused on making the car easier to get in and out of.

One of the goals of this generation of Focus was to reduce complexity but retain flexibility for the many markets that will get the car. Ford says it reduced the number orderable configurations by as much as 92 percent, going from 360 to as little as 26 in some markets. This keeps costs down and paves the way for modular architectures in the future.

The Focus’ all-new chassis and suspension delivers a 20 percent improvement in torsional rigidity, according to Ford. The compact also benefits from a new electric power-assisted steering system that’s said to offer more engaging steering feel compared to the outgoing car. A 1.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost three-cylinder will be the base engine in China, with a new 1.5-liter turbo EcoBoost I-4 tuned for high torque at low rpms serving as the optional powerplant. Europe will get a 1.5-liter EcoBoost and a 2.0-liter EcoBlue turbodiesel option. A new eight-speed automatic transmission will be optional for some of those engines. Ford says North American drivetrain options will be announced closer to the car’s launch.

 

The new Focus will offer Ford’s Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist features. The exact features will vary by region but include Ford’s Evasive Steering Assist, adaptive headlights, a new version of Active Park Assist that can automatically shift from drive to reverse, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, speed-sign recognition, and lane-centering functions. The Focus will also be available with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and displayed on an 8.0-inch touchscreen.

It’ll be a while before we learn about the Focus models bound for our shores, but it’s good to know Ford hasn’t given up on small cars here completely just yet.

The post Next-Generation Ford Focus Debuts for China, Europe appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

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2019 Chevrolet Camaro First Look

By | April 9, 2018

Chevy wowed us with its sixth-generation Camaro, which moved to a new platform that blurred the line between sporty coupe and legit sports car. We liked it so much that we named it our 2016 Car of the Year. But that was three years ago, meaning the Camaro is half way through its life cycle. To keep its pony car fresh, Chevy is giving the Camaro a makeover for 2019.

The 2019 Chevrolet Camaro features redesigned front and rear ends, as well as more visual differentiation between trim levels. All Camaros except the ZL1 receive new headlights with LED accents that spill over into the grille, along with a reshaped hood. SS models now get a flowtie badge and front bumper “air curtains” that are said to improve the car’s aerodynamics. The SS also gets special headlights with a unique LED light signature and a heat extractor vent on the hood. Chevy says it didn’t mess with the ZL1’s front end because it was already optimized for aerodynamics.

But the big news is the 2019 Camaro’s redesigned taillights. Those who disliked the Camaro’s move away from quad round taillights will be happy to see that signature design theme return on the 2019 Camaro. The new lights are much more sculpted than before, with three-dimensional elements and a distinct roundness to them that’s accentuated by the recesses in the rear bumper. LS and LT models get bright red lenses, while RS, SS, and ZL1 trims get dark-tinted neutral-density lenses. All Camaros get a redesigned rear bumper, but RS and SS models get a unique diffuser when equipped with the Dual Mode Exhaust.

The face-lift really changes the sixth-gen Camaro’s look, but it’s not the only enhancement Chevy made for 2019. The 10-speed automatic transmission co-developed by GM and Ford has finally trickled down from the ZL1 to the SS. The 10-speed option will come with paddle shifters and launch control and line lock features.




Also new for 2019 is a Turbo 1LE model packing the turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 that makes 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The turbo-four Camaro is the last in the lineup to receive the coveted 1LE package, following the V-6, SS, and ZL1, and Chevy didn’t skimp on the performance goodies. The Turbo 1LE receives the familiar FE3 suspension that includes specially tuned dampers, stiffer rear cradle mounts, rear tow links with cross-axis ball joints, and larger-diameter front and rear stabilizer bars. The package also gets you a staggered set of summer-only tires sized 245/40R20 in the front and 275/35R20 in the rear, and Brembo brakes with low-metallic performance pads. Inside, the Turbo 1LE has a standard flat-bottom steering wheel wrapped in suede and has the option of Recaro sport seats.

The 2019 Chevrolet Camaro comes with Chevy’s latest infotainment system that is designed to mimic the functionality of today’s smartphones and tablets. A 7.0-inch touchscreen is standard, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen is available when you upgrade to onboard navigation. Even if you don’t, the new infotainment system will be compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as it is on the refreshed Malibu, Cruze, and Spark. Chevy says the new system, called Infotainment 3, can automatically install over-the-air software updates.




Were you on the fence about the Camaro before because it didn’t offer forward collision warning? Well, now you have no reason not to get one as the feature will be available starting with the 2019 model year. Meanwhile, a Rear Camera Mirror will come standard on 2SS and ZL1 models, offering a wider field of view than a traditional mirror. The regular rearview camera option has also been improved with a digital high-def camera that Chevy says results in a clearer image. Lastly, the Performance Data Recorder system has been improved.

The pre-refresh Camaro didn’t need much, but these upgrades could help make a great car even greater. We hope to find out in a First Drive review soon.

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2019 Chevrolet Cruze, Chevy Spark Get Midcycle Refresh

By | April 6, 2018

In addition to the updated Malibu, GM has unveiled refreshed versions of the 2019 Chevrolet Cruze and 2019 Chevrolet Spark, touting that the trio ushers in “the restyled face of Chevy cars.”

2019 Chevrolet Cruze

Like the Malibu, the Cruze gets a new grille and front fascia for 2019. The changes are subtle, but the upper and lower grilles are now wider with different horizontal slats. The headlights, though similar to last year’s lamps, have been redesigned with new LED piping. Chevy also added LED accents to the taillights on the Premier trim. The Cruze can still be had as either a sedan or hatchback, a body style Chevy says accounted for 20 percent of all Cruze sales in 2017, the hatch’s first full year of production.




Also new for 2019 is a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen running the latest Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system. LT and Premier models now get automatic climate control and remote start standard, and RS models receive black window trim, black emblems, and black 17-inch machined alloy wheels. New wheel designs are available across the lineup, and a new Umber interior color joins the list of available color schemes.

The Cruze’s turbocharged 1.4-liter I-4 will carry over making the same 153 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, as will its available 1.6-liter turbodiesel I-4 that makes 137 hp and 240 lb-ft. The gas engine continues to be available paired with either a six-speed manual or nine-speed automatic transmission, while the diesel gets either a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto.

2019 Chevrolet Spark

The Subcompact 2019 Chevrolet Spark’s face-lift is a bit more obvious compared to the Cruze, as the grille and lower front valance have been completely redesigned with a chrome frame that connects both intake openings. The headlights have also been upgraded with available projector-style lamps, while the available LED daytime running lights have been moved down. In back, the the Spark gets dual-element taillights to bring it in line with the rest of the refreshed Chevy car lineup.

The available Driver Confidence Package gains a new Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking feature that can automatically apply the brakes if a collision is imminent at speeds between 5-37 mph. Other new features include a standard Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two illuminated USB ports, and True White interior lighting. The 2019 Spark also gets new wheel designs and adds Orange Burst Metallic, Caribbean Blue Metallic, Raspberry, and Passion Fruit to its list of available colors. A 98-hp, 94-lb-ft naturally aspirated 1.4-liter I-4 continues to be the only engine option, paired to either a five-speed manual or CVT.

Both cars go on sale later this year, and pricing will be announced at a later date. Though the Cruze and Spark receive updates to keep them fresh for the next couple years, the Sonic subcompact may not be so lucky. The Wall Street Journal reports that GM will end production of the Sonic as early as this year due to U.S. consumer tastes shifting away from small cars toward SUVs and crossovers. Will the Cruze and Spark live to see another generation in this market? Only time will tell.

Source: GM, The Wall Street Journal (Subscription required)

 

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New Renderings Give Best Look Yet at Jeep Wrangler-Based Pickup

By | April 5, 2018

Now that we’ve seen the Jeep Wrangler JL in full, it’s easier to imagine what the pickup version will look like when it finally arrives next year. But thanks to the folks at Jeep Scrambler Forum, you don’t have to use your imagination at all anymore. These latest renderings give an idea of what to expect from the truck bed-equipped variant of the Wrangler, and we think they’re pretty close to the final version.

The Jeep Wrangler pickup, rumored to be named Scrambler, is said to use a frame that’s longer than the one underpinning the Wrangler Unlimited. That additional length is evident in these renders, which move the axle farther aft of the rear doors. Not surprisingly, the front end carries over virtually unchanged from the JL, as do the taillights with hourglass-shaped LED accents. Jeep Scrambler Forum couldn’t decide whether Jeep would slap the Scrambler name or the iconic Jeep logo onto the tailgate, so it rendered the truck with both. It appears these renders also feature the rumored removable top, which is said to be an option on the Scrambler.

Exact specs on the Wrangler-based pickup remain unknown, but we do know a few things from leaks and spy shots. Previous reports point to FCA’s 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 being an option on the truck variant, but so far there has been little evidence to show the Wrangler’s gasoline 2.0-liter turbo-four or 3.0-liter Pentastar V-6 will make it over to the Scrambler. The Wrangler pickup is also expected to receive a beefier Dana 12-bolt rear axle, and spy shots suggest the rear suspension shares design elements with the Ram 1500.

Automotive News reported recently that the Wrangler-based pickup will arrive in dealer showrooms by April 2019, with production scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of this year. That means it won’t be long until we see the actual Jeep truck and learn its true name. Until then, enjoy these highly plausible renderings.




The post New Renderings Give Best Look Yet at Jeep Wrangler-Based Pickup appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

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2018 Lincoln Navigator First Test: Mojo Retrieved

By | April 5, 2018

For decades, driving a Lincoln meant you had arrived. Lincolns were not only symbols of wealth and success but also genuinely luxurious—for the time—inside and out. Lincoln has been desperately trying to get that real luxury status back for the past few years, and it finally succeeded with the new 2018 Navigator.

The Lincoln Navigator has always been nice for a full-size body-on-frame SUV, but previous models were clearly derivatives of a Ford product. The same can’t be said about the all-new 2018 model. Yes, it owes its existence to the Ford Expedition it’s based on, but Lincoln’s reliance on the Ford parts bin isn’t nearly as obvious this time around, especially once you step inside.

Read more about the 2018 Lincoln Navigator’s cabin in our interior review HERE.




Our tester was a top-of-the-line 2018 Navigator 4×4 Black Label, meaning you’re looking at nearly six figures even before you start checking option boxes. Once you throw in the $1,995 rear-seat entertainment package, $1,750 Chroma Molten Gold exterior paint, $1,250 Perfect Position seats with Active Motion massage function, and $420 tiered cargo management system, this build rang up to an eye-popping $100,315. Does it feel like a vehicle that’s worth a hundred grand? Yes. Absolutely.

We already said it in our First Drive review, but I’ll say it again: Lincoln nailed the interior on this SUV. At no point do you feel like you’re in a warmed-over Expedition. The materials and design all communicate that you’re getting into a genuine luxury car. The free-standing 10.0-inch center touchscreen runs a version of Ford’s Sync 3, but the sharp graphics and responsive touch controls make the unit feel like something much higher-rent. The 12.0-inch digital gauge display also feels appropriate for a six-figure car. When driving, the cluster is predominantly black with minimal graphics to form the speedometer and tachometer. It’s understated, elegant, and effective at the same time. But hit the drive-mode selector knob, and the screen comes alive with vibrant color and motion, as each of the 2018 Navigator’s seven modes has its own colorful animation sequence.

The wow factor continues when you stare straight ahead and notice the Black Label’s standard head-up display, which is unusually wide. The projection is large without being distracting, and it’s plenty bright enough to see clearly during the day. And unlike many other cars that make you fumble around the dash looking for the height adjustment or dimmer switch, the HUD controls are located conveniently on the steering wheel.




Then there are the optional 30-way adjustable Perfect Position front seats, which we first saw in the Continental sedan. The unique buckets build on the cabin’s space theme with futuristic-looking cushions that form around your body as you play with the many controls located on the door. It’ll take a while to find your ideal setting, but once you do the front seat is a comfortable place to be. I found the Active Motion massage as soothing as any massage feature I’ve experienced in a Mercedes.

The second-row captain’s chairs are comfortable, too, offering plenty of legroom as well as storage in the center console and USB power below the rear HVAC controls and built into the optional rear entertainment screens. The captain’s chairs are the only seats in the house that adjust manually, and that makes them feel a bit out of place in a vehicle that costs more than $100,000. Get over that fact, and you’ll enjoy a first-class-like experience with a plush armrest and controls for the 20-speaker Revel Ultima stereo system, which sounds amazing. If you spring for the dual rear screens, you also have in-flight entertainment, as you can stream content from your mobile device wirelessly through Miracast. But as nice as those 10.0-inch displays are, the capacitive buttons at the bottom make the menus awkward to navigate. They really feel like they should have been touchscreens.

Like the Expedition, the Navigator has a third row fit for adults. You sit mostly flat with your hips bent at almost 90 degrees, making the rearmost bench comfortable enough for road trips. You also have ample legroom and the ability to recline the seat backs, though your head will eventually touch the rear glass. Also like the Expedition, all of the Navigator’s rear seats can be laid flat using switches in the cargo area. Just be careful when you drop the second-row seats if you have the rear entertainment package, as the headrests smack the screens pretty hard.

Although most of the pampering happens inside the Navigator, the experience starts outside with power running boards, which lower automatically, and LED accents in the headlights and grille emblem, which slowly illuminate as you approach with the key in your pocket. One of the most interesting things about the illuminated star badge is that it appears chrome when not lit up. The rest of the exterior looks distinctive enough from the Expedition, but it doesn’t quite prepare you for what’s going on inside.

The Navigator rides well for a body-on-frame SUV, and it’s subtly more comfortable than its Ford counterpart thanks to a set of electronic adaptive shocks. The available 22-inch wheels and low-profile tires do transmit more impacts to the cabin than you’d want in a luxury car, but we have to admit they’re kind of necessary to achieve that ultra-baller look. Rolling on 20s just won’t do anymore. Other than the occasional tire noise from imperfections in the road, the Navigator’s cabin is exceptionally quiet.

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The Jeep Wrangler-Based Pickup Truck Will Probably Look Like This

By | April 4, 2018

Now that we’ve seen the Jeep Wrangler JL in full, it’s easier to imagine what the pickup version will look like when it finally arrives next year. But thanks to the folks at Jeep Scrambler Forum, you don’t have to use your imagination at all anymore. These latest renderings give an idea of what to expect from the truck bed-equipped variant of the Wrangler, and we think they’re pretty close to the final version.

The Jeep Wrangler pickup, rumored to be named Scrambler, is said to use a frame that’s longer than the one underpinning the Wrangler Unlimited. That additional length is evident in these renders, which move the axle farther aft of the rear doors. Not surprisingly, the front end carries over virtually unchanged from the JL, as do the taillights with hourglass-shaped LED accents. Jeep Scrambler Forum couldn’t decide whether Jeep would slap the Scrambler name or the iconic Jeep logo onto the tailgate, so it rendered the truck with both. It appears these renders also feature the rumored removable top, which is said to be an option on the Scrambler.

Exact specs on the Wrangler-based pickup remain unknown, but we do know a few things from leaks and spy shots. Previous reports point to FCA’s 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 being an option on the truck variant, but so far there has been little evidence to show the Wrangler’s gasoline 2.0-liter turbo-four or 3.0-liter Pentastar V-6 will make it over to the Scrambler. The Wrangler pickup is also expected to receive a beefier Dana 12-bolt rear axle, and spy shots suggest the rear suspension shares design elements with the Ram 1500.

Automotive News reported recently that the Wrangler-based pickup will arrive in dealer showrooms by April 2019, with production scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of this year. That means it won’t be long until we see the actual Jeep truck and learn its true name. Until then, enjoy these highly plausible renderings.

Source: Jeep Scrambler Forum, Automotive News (Subscription required)




The post The Jeep Wrangler-Based Pickup Truck Will Probably Look Like This appeared first on Motor Trend.

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Mainstream vs. Luxury Afterword: You Get What You Pay for…Sometimes

By | April 4, 2018

When we were assembling the field for this four-test shootout, a representative of a luxury automaker expressed concern that we were creating a straw man scenario—in other words, we were making a testing paradigm that would set up the luxury brands to fail.

With cross-our-heart promises that no such agenda was in play, we set out to see if mainstream automakers could play in the luxury sandbox or whether luxury brands could move downmarket and conquest folks with Maserati tastes but Mazda budgets.

As you can see from the previous pages, mainstream vehicles won the overall battle, 3–1. But two of those mainstream-brand victories were by the narrowest of margins—and, depending on one’s list of wants and needs, could have swung
the other way.

For Motor Trend, our wish list for a luxury vehicle (or a vehicle priced to compete against one) is that it comes with requisite performance credentials, a comfortable ride, interior refinement, elegance of fit and finish, and a certain flair one would associate with a premium vehicle.

Several things we learned in our price-sensitive testing:

Luxury vehicles tend to value tactile and sensory elements, whether it be the effectiveness of sound-deadening materials; the action of the switches, dials, and buttons; or the overall look and feel of the vehicle design. You also get white-glove treatment at the dealership. It is the cost of entry.

However, when having to cut costs to reach a lower entry price point, the luxury brands often fall a bit short. The deletion or decontenting of items can result in frustrating compromises for someone hoping to get a steal on a base-model luxury car. It might be a tinnier stereo, cheaper leather, or a depowered engine. You get the classy badge, but you might have to bust out your wallet to add some options packages to see what all the fuss is about. And in the long term, maintenance costs tend to be pricier.

The flip side is that mainstream brands can aspire to compete against luxury models, but often times the underpinnings (which have to be priced to be affordable at much cheaper trim levels) show their proletarian roots. It might be louder inside the cabin. The ride might be choppier. And when you load up a mainstream model, a better deal might be found at the neighboring luxury dealer.

The only luxury vehicle in our tests that truly represented the upscale look and feel you would expect was the Volvo XC60. Then again, we bent the rules and allowed a pricier model to compete. Give any of these candidates another $4,000 to play with, and they would have likely shown stronger, as well.

That said, certain automakers execute the luxury premise better than others. Our testers rated the XC60 and Honda Accord as the two best vehicles of the field of eight, regardless of price.

There’s no fixed formula. Luxury can be worth it, but often it’s not if you scrimp. And although some mainstream brands aspire to create a premium experience, they can’t all fulfill the promise. There’s no substitute for actually sitting in the driver’s seat.

Read all four comparison tests right here!
















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Subaru STI Brand Turns 30

By | April 3, 2018

On April 2, 1998, Subaru Corporation officially launched its new performance and motorsports division, Subaru Tecnica International. That makes it STI’s 30th anniversary, and in that time, it’s given Subaru three World Rally Championships, earned four class wins at the Nürburgring, and built some incredibly fun-to-drive road cars. In honor of three decades of STI, let’s take a quick look back through its history.

Even before STI was established, Subaru had already gotten involved in rally car racing. In 1972, Subaru entered a Leone (known as the GL in the U.S.) in Australia’s Southern Cross Rally. But it wasn’t until 1989 that Subaru raced its first car developed by STI: the 220-hp Legacy RS RA. As Subaru will proudly tell you, the STI-prepped Legacy Turbo also broke an FIA World Speed Endurance Record in January of that year, averaging 138 mph as it drove 62,000 miles over 20 days.

In 1993, Subaru’s World Rally Championship team signed Scottish racer Colin McRae. Later that year, McRae drove his Legacy to Subaru’s first WRC win at the New Zealand Rally. STI placed second overall in 1994 before taking home the title the next three years in a row. Currently, STI has 47 WRC wins, three championships, and has fielded several champions including Richard Burns, Peter Solberg, and Toshihiro Arai.

More recently, STI decided to compete in endurance racing. In 2008, it entered a WRX STI in Germany’s 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. Since then, it’s won the SPT3 class four times. In 2010, a race car driver Tommi Makinen set a new Nürburgring lap record for production sedans behind the wheel of Subaru WRX STI Spec C.

It didn’t take long for STI to start working on road cars, either. In 1992, it released the Legacy STI only in Japan. Two years later, it created the first WRX STI, as well as the Impreza WRX Type RA STI with an advanced Driver Controlled Center Differential. After winning its third rally championship in a row, STI built the limited-edition 1998 Impreza 22B STI. It wasn’t until 2004, though, that STI started exporting cars to the U.S.

After years of seeing Subaru sell STI-badged vehicles in other countries, Americans were understandably excited to finally be able to drive the 300-hp Impreza WRX STI. Two generations later, the WRX STI has a lot more competition, but it’s still a handling bargain. We recently drove the 2018 WRX STI Type RA and had a blast driving it on the track. From the sound of things, we won’t see a new STI for another few years, but if the Viziv Performance STI Concept is any indication, it will be well worth the wait.

































The post Subaru STI Brand Turns 30 appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

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The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is Almost as Big as the Original Highlander

By | March 30, 2018

The redesigned 2019 Toyota RAV4 doesn’t just look big. It is big. What once was a cute-ute is now nearly the same dimensions of the original Toyota Highlander, which was categorized as a midsize SUV when it launched in the 2001 model year.

Although the new RAV’s wheelbase is still an inch shy, and its overall length a few inches less, it is wider and taller than the original Highlander. And those latter dimensions often have as much to do with holding passengers and their stuff comfortably as the longitudinal measurements.

Dimensions (in inches) 2019 Toyota RAV4 2001 Toyota Highlander
Wheelbase 105.9 106.9
Length 181.1 184.4
Width 73.0 71.9
Height 66.9 66.1

How is this possible? Because Toyota jumped platforms with the new RAV4. The outgoing version was on Toyota’s global compact platform that was shared with the Corolla sedan. But the 2019 RAV4 moves onto the TNGA-midsize platform that also hosts the Camry and Prius.

But dimensions often don’t tell the whole story. “Packaging” those dimensions is actually the important test. Some automakers are masters at it—to wit, the Honda Fit subcompact hatchback, which somehow can fit a mountain bike or grown-ass men in the back seat area of what should be a penalty box.

The new RAV4 also is strong accomplishment in this regard. My personal experiment is to position the driver’s seat in the location that would be comfortable for me, at 6-foot-1. Then, I hop in the back seat and see if I would be comfortable sitting behind myself. I call it the “double-date” test, and many vehicles fail it—you would be surprised at the number of vehicles’ back seats I cannot even enter, let alone squish myself into. It’s an important metric for anyone who frequently carpools or takes multiple passengers.

In this aspect, the 2019 RAV4 passes handily. While seated in back, I can make a fist, then turn my hand so my thumb is leading and my pinkie is resting against my knee, and still not touch the driver’s seat. I don’t have to splay my legs. I don’t have to sit bolt upright or slouch with my knees in my chin. I can just hang out. It’s great.

What’s more, it seems the RAV4 is making an honest effort to try to fit three humans in the second row, by widening it by a precious half-inch. So doing, it is wider than the original Highlander by more than an inch.

In the industry, when a car grows between generations, it’s called “segment creep.” It’s nothing new, but it still is a surprise when a vehicle we thought was a small car graduates to a new class.









































































































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Waymo Adds 20,000 Autonomous Jaguar I-Pace SUVs to Test Fleet

By | March 27, 2018

Google’s self-driving car division Waymo and Jaguar announced a new long-term strategic partnership today just ahead of the New York International Auto Show. Utilizing the new all-electric 2019 Jaguar I-Pace, Waymo will be expanding its Phoenix, Arizona, test fleet with 20,000 autonomous I-Pace crossovers over the next two years.

Touting the I-Pace’s large 90-kWh battery pack with 240 miles of range, and its modern electrical architecture, Waymo CEO John Krafcik says the Jaguar is “the best next vehicle for Waymo.” Krafcik predicts the I-Pace’s large battery will allow its autonomous EVs to serve Waymo’s Phoenix-area customers for a full day without needing to recharge, while its robust electrical architecture will allow Waymo’s self-driving hardware and software to operate effectively.




“Our focus is on creating the world’s most experienced driver,” said Krafcik of Waymo’s software. The CEO says its autonomous “drivers” will be able to collectively learn from the experience each of its eventual 20,000 I-Paces goes through on an average day. This collective learning, combined with the I-Pace’s robust electrical architecture, is hoped to allow Waymo to avoid the same fate of rival Uber, which is currently dealing with the fallout from the first-ever pedestrian death caused by an autonomous car.

“Safety is the overwhelming number one priority for Waymo,” said Krafcik when asked about the Uber incident.

Jaguar stands to benefit greatly from the Waymo partnership too. Though it may be tempting to look at the partnership as a way to jumpstart I-Pace sales, Jaguar-Land Rover CEO Dr. Ralf Speth said at the conference that’s not the case. Speth says that Jaguar would frankly be challenged to deliver 20,000 I-Paces to Waymo over 2018 and 2019 as Jaguar already has high customer demand for its new electric crossover.

Instead where Jaguar will benefit is in marketing and technology. A fleet of 20,000 autonomous Jaguars roaming around Waymo’s 100 square miles of operating area in Phoenix (soon to be 600 square miles, says Krafcik), will allow the I-Pace to jump to the forefront of the electric car conversation so often dominated by rival Tesla. Jaguar-Land Rover will also in the future be able to license Waymo’s technology for use in its own cars, once Waymo has regulatory approval.

Waymo says its autonomous 2019 Jaguar I-Pace models, along with its existing Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In Hybrids, will begin taking passengers for rides in Phoenix starting this year.

 

The post Waymo Adds 20,000 Autonomous Jaguar I-Pace SUVs to Test Fleet appeared first on Motor Trend.

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Spied! Is This Test Mule a New EcoSport, Baby Ford Bronco, or Something Else?

By | March 23, 2018

When developing new vehicles, automakers often turn to models already in their stable to use as starting points. As a bonus, they get familiar bodywork to help disguise their new product and misdirect onlookers. With that said, it can be almost impossible to tell what these early prototypes might end up becoming later down the line. For example, our spy photographer recently captured what appears to be a Euro-spec 2018 Ford Fiesta, but a few interesting details lead us to wonder if this mule is something else entirely. Is it a next-gen EcoSport, or perhaps a very early mule for the Ford Bronco-inspired crossover due in 2020? Take a look, and decide for yourself.

At first glance, this appears to be merely a lifted European Fiesta. Look closer and you’ll notice that the body has been stretched from the C-pillar back, and the rear wheel well is misshapen. The wheel arches also wear tacked on fender flares, suggesting a wider track to go with the obviously longer wheelbase. Also curious are the five-lug wheels, since current Fiesta and EcoSport models all get four-lug hardware.

Ford’s upcoming off-road small crossover

Though the prototype has clearly been stretched, it still might not be big enough to be the as-yet-unnamed off-road crossover announced last week. Ford gave few details on the upcoming Bronco-inspired model, but it did say to expect a vehicle about the size of the Escape crossover. The European-market Fiesta has a roughly 98-inch wheelbase, which is nearly 8 inches shorter than that of the current Escape. It’s difficult to say how much longer this prototype is than a standard Fiesta, but adding 8 inches would require a lot of work. Still, might this vehicle be close to Escape size with a boxier production body on it? It’s possible, but we’re having trouble imagining it.

Another possibility is the next-gen EcoSport, which is due for a replacement in a couple years. It may have only arrived in the U.S. last year, but the EcoSport has been available globally since 2012. The EcoSport’s wheelbase is slightly longer than the sixth-generation Fiesta on which it’s based. If this actually is an EcoSport mule, that means you can expect the next-gen model to grow in size.

We still don’t know exactly what model this test mule previews, but clearly Ford’s appetite for crossovers continues to be strong.

Photo source: CarPix















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