Automotive

Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept Will Spawn a New Electrified Platform

When Infiniti debuted the Q Inspiration concept at the Detroit auto show earlier this year, it billed the sleek sedan as a preview to its future design language. Now, we also know it will be the basis for a new electrified platform that Infiniti will l…

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One Week With: 2018 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible MC

MANHATTAN BEACH, California — About a decade ago during a tech demo event put on by ZF in South Carolina, I slid behind the wheel of a sexy new Maserati GranTurismo, which is forever etched in my memory as my first experience with an exotic car. I had no expectation of ever driving one again, but here I was all these years later with the key fob to a 2018 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible MC—its dressed up, drop-top sibling with a decidedly more mature flair.

In another era, this review may very well have been rife with cliché metaphors about aging beauties, references to “MILFs,” and maybe even some stale jokes about cougars. But with spokes models all but banished from autoshows not called SEMA and grid girls departing the grid, all that would do is make for several hundred words of low-effort, out-of-touch trope.

It’s for the best, really. The point is made much better if I simply tell you to look at the photos of convertible GranTurismo. Go ahead, look at it. Sure, the car made its debut in 2007 and has gone largely unchanged since, but you’d be hard pressed to notice that by just gazing upon it. There isn’t much “timeless design” in the world of cars these days, but the GranTurismo convertible—and its coupe sibling—are a rare exception.

Beyond its looks, another key to the GranTurismo’s timeless appeal is its glorious, naturally aspirated 4.7-liter V-8, which Maserati jointly developed with Ferrari. Maserati’s version utilizes a cross-plane crankshaft design as opposed to the Ferrari’s flat-plane setup, though its siren song isn’t any less appealing. And the GranTurismo is the only engine bay where you can still find one new, as Ferrari retired its version of the free breathing V-8 when the 458 was put out to pasture. Expect Maserati to do the same when the new GranTurismo bows around 2020, as the inefficient engine is now 16 years old and it’s unlikely to be spared from an inevitable sacrifice to the altar of turbocharging and/or electrification. Alas.

In its current—and likely final—iteration, the Maserati mill makes 454 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. No flat torque curve from barely above idle here—power peaks at 7,000 rpm while peak torque hits at 4,750 rpm. Shifting duties are handled by the same ZF six-speed automatic that the GranTurismo was showing off all of those years ago. One of the most advanced automatics when it first hit the market, the box has been technologically superseded by modern gearboxes with more cogs, including ZF’s own eight-speed. Still, the fittingly anachronistic six speed remains a good soldier, and it’s refreshingly free of the shifty behaviors that sometimes plague today’s transmissions, which are often programmed to eke out every last drop of fuel economy possible.

As the coupe’s name implies, this is a GT, not a supercar. While there are sporting pretenses, this Maserati is best enjoyed cruising down Pacific Coast Highway or Rodeo Drive than charging up Angeles Crest Highway. The engine’s soundtrack is far more satisfying than its driving dynamics, the same goes for its curvaceous Italian sheetmetal. Although a 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds is no longer as respectable as it once was, it’s still plenty quick for everyday use. Top speed sits at 179 mph.

Then again, you’ll be hard-pressed not to smile cruising through the canyons in a lower gear while the V-8 screams near its 7,500-rpm redline and the fresh mountain air blows through your hair. The GranTurismo’s handling may not win it any podiums, but the old-school engine is also accompanied by old-school hydraulic power assist steering, which is well-weighted and will delight you with a level of feel that’s all but disappeared among the cars in its class.

Aside from the 8.4-inch touchscreen that runs a Maserati-skinned version of Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment software (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto added for 2018), the technology suite is as advanced as the powertrain. Active safety features? A 360-degree camera? Full sensor suite? Not here. You don’t even get push-button start. Climate controls, situated below the screen, consist of simple plastic buttons surrounding a basic LED screen. The old-school simplicity continues into the gauge cluster, which has a basic display in the middle, but otherwise consists entirely of analog gauges. You do get a Harman Kardon audio system, though—one that shouldn’t get too much use given that the engine invariably provides a superior soundtrack.

While the inside of the GranTurismo hasn’t aged as well as the outside, it suits the car’s character. For an additional $1,800, Maserati lines the cabin with Alcantara, which makes for a plainer-looking interior, but one that better suits the convertible’s character. Black leather and sunny days aren’t the greatest of friends in the best of times, let alone when the top is dropped.

Some will find it galling that Maserati charges $162,830 to start for this GranTurismo. And on paper at least, that negative reaction is well founded. A similar amount will get you into a much-more advanced Mercedes-AMG GT, for example, which brings a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 good for 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque and a full suite of active safety systems. If you must have four seats—though the Maserati’s are far from full-size and there’s not even remotely enough trunk space for four people’s worth of bags—there’s always the Porsche 911. A 911 GTS Cabriolet—the drop-top version of our 2018 All-Star—runs nearly $30,000 cheaper and hits 60 mph about a second faster thanks to the 450 hp and 405 lb-ft made by its twin-turbo flat-six.

The aforementioned 2008 Maserati GranTurismo

Others, however, will appreciate the Maserati’s technological simplicity and old-school cool.

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Volkswagen Race Car Eyes Pikes Peak EV Record

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.

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Ford Doesn’t Want the Transmission it Planned to Borrow From GM

Several years ago, we reported that Ford and General Motors had agreed to work together on a pair of next-generation transmissions. GM was tasked with developing a nine-speed automatic for front-wheel-drive vehicles while Ford worked on a 10-speed for rear-drive applications. In theory, they’d be able to use the other’s transmission and each save money. In reality, things went a little differently.

Automotive News reports that while GM has been happy to use Ford’s 10-speed in several vehicles such as the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Cadillac Escalade, Ford has yet to use GM’s nine-speed. Instead, Ford developed a modified eight-speed version that will appear in the 2019 Focus, as well as several other 2019 models. It began work on two additional eight-speed automatics—one for performance use and one for smaller engines. The reason? GM’s nine-speed didn’t provide enough of a boost in fuel economy.

The GM Hydra-Matic 9T50 nine-speed automatic

“The small efficiency benefit did not justify the added weight and cost of an extra clutch and gear,” a Ford spokesperson told Automotive News in a statement.

But GM says the transmission’s refinement makes up for the fact that it doesn’t significantly improve gas mileage. The nine-speed Chevrolet Malibu only beats the eight-speed version by 1 mpg on the highway, and the nine-speed Buick Envision’s highway mileage dropped slightly, but GM believes the better driving experience is worth the trade-off.

“We’ve engineered our nine-speeds for even more refined shifts,” a GM spokesperson told Automotive News in a statement. “Smaller steps between gears in a nine vs. an eight-speed enable smoother shifts for customers.”

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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Infiniti to Build Platform Based on Q Inspiration Concept

When Infiniti debuted the Q Inspiration concept at the Detroit auto show earlier this year, it billed the sleek sedan as a preview to its future design language. Now, we also know it will be the basis for a new electrified platform that Infiniti will launch within five years.

The platform will underpin a new electrified vehicle that will be one of five new cars Infiniti will build in China in the next five years. Infiniti has not yet detailed this model.

Infiniti’s original Q Inspiration concept was designed with a VC-Turbo internal combustion engine in mind. The compact nature of the VC-Turbo unit opened up new design possibilities, including giving the model a short hood and elongated body. Now, it looks like the Q Inspiration concept previews future electrified offerings. It’s unclear whether the new vehicle based off the Q Inspiration platform will be fully electric or partially electric.

Infiniti wants to triple its sales in China over the next five years. Eventually, it wants to sell around 150,000 vehicles annually. And EVs will be a huge part of the automaker’s long-term plans. By 2025, Infiniti hopes that more than half of its new vehicles sold globally and in China will be electrified.

Source: Infiniti
























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Next-Gen Ford Focus ST May Only Offer a Manual Transmission

The Ford Focus ST isn’t the newest or most refined hot hatch you can buy, but it’s still quick and fun to drive. And despite its relatively affordable $26,045 base price, it’s only available to a relatively small group of drivers in the U.S. That’s because the Focus ST is only available with a stick. From the sound of it, Ford has no plans to change that on the next-generation Focus ST, either.

Autocar reports that based on what it’s heard, the redesigned Focus ST will be manual-only. The report doesn’t cite a source or quote anyone from Ford, so it should be taken with a huge grain of salt. It it’s true, though, the Focus ST will be one of the only cars in America that doesn’t offer some sort of automatic transmission option.

The report also suggests that previous rumors of a three-cylinder Focus ST were inaccurate. Instead, the redesigned car is said to use a modified version of the 2.3-liter turbo-four used in the current Focus RS. The 1.5-liter three-cylinder was reportedly considered, but getting it to make the necessary power would have supposedly posed reliability risks.

As with the Focus ST’s transmission, Autocar didn’t cite a source for its engine claim. Still, it makes sense that Ford would use a four-cylinder instead of an inline-three. A 275-hp turbo-three sounds great in theory, but we’re not sure such a highly stressed engine would offer many real-world advantages. A detuned Focus RS engine would also probably come with a lot more tuning potential.

Ford hasn’t officially confirmed the next-gen Focus ST, but with the standard global Focus now revealed, look for the hotter ST version to debut sometime next year, perhaps ahead of the Geneva Motor Show.

Source: Autocar







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

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

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Watch the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Hit 212 MPH

As we found out when we rode shotgun in the new Corvette ZR1, the model is not just quick, it’s ferocious. Don’t believe us? Watch this video that shows the car hitting an average of 212 mph on a test track in Papenburg, Germany.

The Corvette makes two runs on the track, one against the wind and one with the wind. By taking the average of the two, Chevrolet comes out to a top track speed of 212 mph. According to Chevrolet, that’s enough to make it the fastest production Corvette ever.

As we know, it’s also the most powerful. Its 6.2-liter V-8 engine produces 755 hp and 715 lb-ft of torque. That’s significantly more than the Z06, which maxes out at 650 hp and 650 lb-ft. When paired with the standard low rear wing, the ZR1 delivers its highest top speed, although an optional High Wing kicks up downforce to more than 950 pounds for increased stability.

Earlier this year, the Corvette ZR1 set a record at Virginia International Raceway. With a time of 2:37.25, it beat the Ford GT’s previous record by 1.37 seconds.

The 2019 Corvette ZR1 is arriving in dealerships this spring. Although production will not be limited, GM expects to make only 2,000-3,000 copies.

Check out the video below to see the 2019 Corvette ZR1 hit its top speed.

Source: GM

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The 2019 Toyota Avalon Starts at $36,395

When Toyota originally revealed the 2019 Avalon, the massive grille got a lot of attention. But as we found in our first drive, the redesigned Avalon also offers a luxurious interior and a long list of standard features. Now, we also know pricing.

The base model, the Avalon XLE, starts at $36,395 including destination. For buyers who want more features while keeping the XLE’s comfort-focused ride, the Limited model costs $42,695. For a sportier driving experience, Toyota offers the Avalon in XSE and Touring versions. The former starts at $38,895, while the latter will run you $43,095. A hybrid drivetrain is an option on all but the Touring trim and costs an extra $1,000, rather than $2,000 more on some previous-generation Avalon models.

The outgoing Avalon XLE starts at $34,395. The Touring trim, however, costs $38,795, and the Limited is $42,195. Interestingly, the Limited Hybrid version’s pricing stays the same. The lack of an XSE model also highlights the fact that Toyota adjusted its trim strategy for the 2019 Avalon, making it difficult to directly compare pricing between generations. Compared to the full-size sedan competition, the 2019 Avalon will be the pricier option. The Kia Cadenza starts at $33,190, and the Nissan Maxima starts at $34,155. Meanwhile, the cheapest V-6-equipped Chevrolet Impala starts at $29,865.

As we mentioned above, the redesigned Avalon also uses high-quality cabin materials and comes with its fair share of standard equipment. That includes a 9.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, hands-free keyless entry, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, and blindspot monitoring.

Interested buyers won’t have to wait long to purchase the 2019 Toyota Avalon, either. It goes on sale next month.

Source: Toyota























































































































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Volvo S90 Ambience Concept Brings Northern Lights to the Rear Seat

Many automakers attempt to enhance the sensory experience on their top luxury cars with features like cabin perfume atomizers and ambient lighting, but Volvo is kicking it up a notch on a special S90. Although just an interior concept for now, the Volvo S90 Ambience Concept is a preview of features that will come to production.

Based off the three-seater S90 Excellence sedan, the concept was created primarily for China. Using a smartphone app, passengers can pick between seven visual projections for the ceiling. These include Northern Lights, Scandinavian Forest, Swan Lake, Archipelago, and Rain, in addition to a Nocturnal theme to help passengers rest and a Freedom theme that’s said to boost energy. Volvo has synchronized the visual themes with special audio from the car’s Bowers and Wilkins sound system as well as scents that come from a dispenser in the center console.

The concept is debuting at the Beijing auto show that starts this week. It will eventually come to life on future S90 Excellence cars, Volvo says.

It’s unclear if we’ll see this concept make its way to production in the U.S., but it makes sense for China. Not only is China the world’s largest auto market, it’s also Volvo’s biggest market overall and the largest for the S90 sedan.















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Kick Back and Enjoy the Northern Lights in the Volvo S90 Ambience Concept

Many automakers attempt to enhance the sensory experience on their top luxury cars with features like cabin perfume atomizers and ambient lighting, but Volvo is kicking it up a notch on a special S90. Although just an interior concept for now, the Volvo S90 Ambience Concept is a preview of features that will come to production.

Based off the three-seater S90 Excellence sedan, the concept was created primarily for China. Using a smartphone app, passengers can pick between seven visual projections for the ceiling. These include Northern Lights, Scandinavian Forest, Swan Lake, Archipelago, and Rain, in addition to a Nocturnal theme to help passengers rest and a Freedom theme that’s said to boost energy. Volvo has synchronized the visual themes with special audio from the car’s Bowers and Wilkins sound system as well as scents that come from a dispenser in the center console.

The concept is debuting at the Beijing auto show that starts this week. It will eventually come to life on future S90 Excellence cars, Volvo says.

It’s unclear if we’ll see this concept make its way to production in the U.S., but it makes sense for China. Not only is China the world’s largest auto market, it’s also Volvo’s biggest market overall and the largest for the S90 sedan.

Source: Volvo















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How to Add CarPlay and a Reverse Camera on the Cheap

I drive new cars every day, so I’m spoiled by the latest gadgets, gizmos, and safety gear. My other half doesn’t care a lick about cars (opposites attract!), but appreciates the finer features rolling out in the new cars I drive—especially Apple CarPlay and reverse cameras. So when we purchased an extremely high value (read cheap) six-year-old Smart car last November, I promised to at least bring it up to 2018 specs on those two fronts.

Weeks later at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, I discovered a new entry-level stereo on the lavish Pioneer stand featuring Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and rearview camera compatibility, with a big, bright, high-def 6.2-inch capacitive-touch screen. Priced at $349 on popular catalogue sites, it’s not the cheapest way to get these features. A Korean-made Dual brand unit at Walmart sells for $184 and matches most features with a bit more power output than the Thai-manufactured Pioneer (240 watts versus 200), but the Dual lacks an Aux-jack input—still a useful feature for connecting the oldest devices like a Walkman, Discman, vintage iPod, or our portable SiriusXM player. So I ordered a Pioneer MVH-1400NEX head unit, a Pioneer ND-BC8 rear-view camera ($100), and the requisite installation kits to adapt the head unit to the dash and to the stereo’s wiring and antenna to the Smart’s wiring (sites like Crutchfield.com sell these separately for $15, $13, and $8 but they typically throw them in for free when purchasing the stereo).





Watch the Video

Step one is to locate videos online illustrating how to remove the factory stereo. Without these I’d never have guessed that the only fastener securing the bezel surrounding my original Bosch radio was accessed by removing the switch panel beneath the radio, and that it had a TX20 Torx head. Of course, in the video the guy removed the switch panel by simply grabbing it and pulling. When I tried this, the switch faces broke free of their backing electronics. Yikes! Happily it all snapped back together after I used a putty knife to pry the back part out of the dash.





Read the Instructions

Every man reading this just did an eye-roll, and yes, I too skimmed this typical English-as-a-second-language safety-first document. Said skimming would come back to haunt me, but I heeded the most critical notes warning “don’t power up until you’ve done X or risk grave bodily harm or a voided warranty!” These included disconnecting the battery (always via the ground terminal), which prompted a hunt for the Smart’s, which I discovered lives under the passenger footboard.


Solder and Heat-Shrink

With the instructions open for both the install-kit wiring harness and the new stereo, I determined which stereo wires matched up with which Smart harness adapter wires. Happily, most were the same or similar color. Lots of folks use crimp connections or (worse yet) twisting and tape, but the truly anal retentive among us know that the best way to join two wires for good is to slip a piece of heat-shrink on over one wire, slide it way back, strip the insulation, point the wires at each other twisting each around the other. Then apply flux paste and solder them. When they cool, slide the heat-shrink over the solder joint, applying heat from a lighter or match to seal it to the soldered joint like original insulation.


Mic Drop

The MVH-1400NEX supports Bluetooth hands-free calling, as did the factory radio, so it needs a microphone connection. Sadly, the YouTube consensus was that there’s no connecting the factory mic wiring to an aftermarket radio. So I clipped the new microphone to the sunroof-shade track and tucked its wiring behind the A-pillar trim (using a broad putty knife), routing it up and over the steering column, securing it so that it never touches anything that moves, and plugging it in to the radio.



Testing, Testing…

Before mounting a new stereo, always double-check connections, plug everything in, reconnect the battery, key the ignition on, and try everything out. For me, nothing functioned. Comparing the install kit’s harness against the end connected to the car, I discovered that both sides had several voids—in different locations. A big raspberry to the Metra Turbo Wire folks! Using a voltage meter, I determined which leads on the Smart harness supplied constant battery voltage, ignition-on voltage, and ground. Turns out a power lead and the ground were swapped, which blew a fuse. Moving these adapter-kit leads required using a super-skinny eyeglass-repair screwdriver to depress the retainer tang on the connectors that needed to move, clicking them back into their new spots. With the stereo up and running, the camera image still refused to appear on the screen. My skim of the instructions missed the explanation that to use a camera you must go into a settings menu and turn on the camera input jack. Oops.


Button it up

With everything functioning, it was time to mount the retaining brackets to the stereo, run the various USB and Aux jack cables to an accessible location (in my case, the glove box). The brackets and bezel fit perfectly, though the bezel was not an exact match of factory grain and gloss.

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WATCH: 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Top Speed Run

Watch the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 reach its certified top speed of 212.49 mph in Papenburg, Germany.

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First Drive: 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

BRASELTON, Georgia — The first time Teddy Roosevelt’s words—you know, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”—came into my head as I reviewed a car was after driving a 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Jump ahead 10 years and I stand perusing a shiny new 2019 Corvette ZR1. I had just ripped this particular example around the awesome Road Atlanta racetrack in Braselton, Georgia. I smirked as I thought to myself, “Speak rudely and wield a really fat club” might be more appropriate for this new force of engineering passion.

Engineering passion? Yes, for real. I noticed the faces of the numerous Chevy engineers on pit lane as each journalist exited a ZR1 after taking their first blasts around the track. The engineers hung on every syllable uttered, noting every gesticulation and throwing a satisfied smile at every “holy $&#*!!” They looked a bit like a group of dads pushing their noses up to a delivery room observation window: proud fathers, every one.

Not content with the kidney-flattening supercharged LT4 engine that kicks out 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque in the Corvette Z06, the new ZR1 has a super-supercharged LT5 V-8 spitting 755 hp @ 6,300 rpm and 715 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm. You don’t need your kidneys, anyway. Certified top speed is 212.49 mph, which came from a two-way average (215 mph/210 mph). Chevy informed us the ZR1 is “restricted” to a top speed of 215 mph to be within tire-safety standards. So, let’s recap: “Restricted to 215 mph,” base price of $119,995.00 for the coupe (actually $122,095 when you add the $2,100 gas guzzler tax) and $126,095 for the convertible, and it’s a “street” car. I’m now thinking: “Big fat club, with bells on.”

You probably have read hyperbole, and then some, about road cars that sound unreal. In this case, though, I really have never heard a production car sound this much like a race car in both tone and volume. It is bonkers loud on full “rude” mode. Some Jaguars can compete on the loud scale but I think the ZR1 has them beat. There is some engineering trickery in one of the mufflers, featuring a spring-loaded valve that burps open or stays closed based on driving style. Bring your earplugs, Mildred.

Chevrolet says the ZR1 (with the $1,725 eight-speed automatic transmission) runs from 0-60 mph in 2.85 seconds and from 0-100 mph in just 6.0 seconds. Launching the ZR1 from a standstill is not easy; you have to keep wheelspin at bay all the way to 60, which doesn’t do much to help the time. I’m interested to know how much time it needs to accelerate from 60-160 mph, as I think very few cars, regardless of price, would keep up with the ZR1.

If you have this much power, you better have strong brakes to slow down the ZR1’s 3,600 pounds. Despite temperatures hitting almost 90 degrees on the day we tested at Road Atlanta, I saw more than 168 mph heading down the circuit’s serpentine back straight heading into the 45 mph turn 10a. The braking area into 10a is downhill and bumpy, but let me back up a few hundred yards: The ZR1 screamed at full rip at around 145 mph, still accelerating hard as I followed the bend to the right and flew over the hill that leads down to the brake point for 10a. I have driven many race cars which were far less stable going through this flat-out bend and cresting the hill. This was both impressive and confidence inspiring.

So, I see 168 mph, shut my eyes and think of a quiet safe place. No, I didn’t. I progressively pressed the stop pedal hard and the ZR1 dutifully spit my eyes balls out of my head. I recently tested a very capable GT4 race car at Road Atlanta and was very impressed with its brakes; the ZR1 was equally impressive. The tires, aerodynamic downforce, and all-new Brembo carbon-ceramic stoppers combined for more than 1.7 g’s of deceleration (serious race-car good). As I mentioned, stability in this bumpy brake zone was also excellent. I made a mental note not to use the brakes this hard with a cement truck behind me out on public roads.

I tried both the automatic and manual versions of the car. If I’m buying the ZR1 to track, there is zero doubt in my mind I would buy the automatic. This car pulls serious g loads in both longitudinal and lateral aspects. I only weigh about 155 pounds and found myself moving around a bit too much in the seats while doing my maximum attack, despite using the seatbelt-locking mechanism. To be sure I didn’t mess up, I took a little extra time making a shift in the manual while trail-braking or cornering. I was much more comfortable lapping hard in the automatic, as I could always keep two hands on the wheel. I had no issues at all with the seats holding me solid with normal or spirited street driving.

The tires on the new ZR1 are the same make and size found on the Z06: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s; 285/30 R-19 up front and 335/25 R-20 rear. The ZR1 does have a half-inch wider front rim size compared to the Z06, which apparently helps the ZR1 front-end work better when combined with the 60-percent increase in overall downforce. The downforce improvement (the car produces a total of 950 pounds at top speed with the $2,995 ZTK/high-wing option) also came with no increase in drag versus the Z06, Chevy says; a nice trick if you can do it.

However, the ZR1 is not a “downforce car,” as it still relies mostly on mechanical grip. However, the amount of downforce it does have makes it very stable while cornering at speeds sometimes 10 mph faster than would be possible without the downforce.

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You Can Buy This Extremely Rare 1968 Porsche 908 Works Short-Tail Coupe

Porsche’s long history in the racing area began with the Porsche 908. It’s a rare vehicle — only 31 were made — so each one carries some significance. This specific model was used in a race in 1968, being ran off the track and wrapping around a telephone pole at the Spa 100KM. The car was restored in a factory before being sold to a Swiss collector, ending up in Portland after passing through several owners.

The Porsche 908 Works Short-Tail Coupe is still racing ready and owning this vehicle will make you eligible to join Rennsport Reunion, the world’s biggest vintage Porsche gathering. You can register a bid now for this car from RM Sotheby’s website.

In related news, this Mercedes-Maybach is a luxury sedan concept car.

Click here to view full gallery at HYPEBEAST



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First Drive: 2019 Toyota Avalon

DEL MAR, California — Jimmy Durante Boulevard just north of San Diego is the perfect stretch of pavement to experience the 2019 Toyota Avalon.

Like the street’s eponymous comedian/entertainer, the all-new fifth-generation sedan has a schnoz that only the Great Schnozzola could appreciate.

“My nose isn’t big. I just happen to have a very small head,” the funny man used to say.

If you compare the Toyota flagship’s new grille with the nose of a fighter jet, well it definitely looks small. But if you parked it next to a Lexus LS, its spindle grille would look tiny.

Premium XLE and Limited trims of the 2019 Avalon feature a large slotted grille that’s as wide as the 805 Freeway, while sporty XSE and Touring models get a big, piano black mesh one. Hybrids get both plus grille shutters to help cool the engine.

Head on, the grille appears to smile like a Cheshire cat with Triple-J LED headlamps for eyes above its side air intakes. Limited and Touring models get slim LED lenses and LED cornering lamps.

Behind the big grin, the sedan packs a trusty 3.5-liter V-6 engine that offers 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel drive.

The Avalon Hybrid receives a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that offers 176 hp and 163 lb ft of torque. There are two electric motors that produce an additional 118 hp, for a combined system output of 215 hp.

Toyota has built the Avalon in Georgetown, Kentucky since 1994 and the new look is a departure from the more conservative styling of the past.

My most recent memory of the Avalon was as a passenger in the back seat of a third generation model. It was a weekend ride from Central Park West to the Hamptons.

A friend’s step dad drove and when he pulled up in it, I was surprised he wasn’t driving a Mercedes-Benz or at the very least a Lexus. The conservative tastes and low-key profile of the car made it the perfect generic vehicle for big cities like Manhattan or Tokyo.

I recall it was a smooth ride, the legroom was exceptional, but the car itself was pretty much all beige on beige.

Today the Avalon is longer, lower, and wider—and its looks are louder than ever. It measures 195.9 x 72.8 x 56.5 inches (L x W x H). The flashy, four-door has long creases along its flanks and the rear end looks like a samurai swung several deft blows at it with his blade.

Automobile’s design critic Robert Cumberford might call it “tortured steel.” Toyota says it’s a “Technical Beauty” that’s made for consumers in their mid-thirties or younger—and the result is a somewhat daring and bold, sci-fi sedan for the 21st Century.

The gas-only 2019 Avalon is available in the aforementioned XLE, Limited, XSE, and Touring trims, while the Avalon Hybrid makes do without a Touring variant.

In addition to their grille, the sportier versions are distinguishable by quad exhaust tips and black spoilers on the trunk lid. Depending on the trim, wheels are available in four styles and range from 17 to 19 inches in diameter.

Inside, base model Avalons have rubbery, standard issue Toyota steering wheels while the better grades get leather wrapped two-toned ones that feel heartier as well as suede trimmed door inserts and plenty of soft touch materials.

There’s also Yamaha wood or aluminum trim available as well as cognac leather seats—opt for the yak and you will not be disappointed.

Out on the road, steering is loose and predictable, and feels only slightly stiffer in sport mode. There are three drive modes to choose from—normal, eco, and sport (Touring gets a fourth—sport+.) There’s a sport tuned exhaust available with engine sound enhancement and an intake sound generator for the Touring trim. It’s also an option for the XSE V-6 model if you don’t mind the sound effects.

Wireless smartphone chargers are available—provided you don’t use an Android. Instead, the Avalon is Amazon Alexa enabled and Apple CarPlay biased. It features a 9-inch touch screen with volume and tuning controls. There are five USB ports and a 14-speaker JBL audio system with 1,200 watts is available that sounds superior to the standard 8-speaker system.

Standard safety goodies include pre-collision with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, steering assist, blind spot monitor, and more. The electric parking brake with brake hold is standard on all models and is extremely handy at traffic lights.

All 2019 Avalons ride on the new and wider Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform with a multi-link rear suspension. Its available Adaptive Variable Suspension provides a comfortable ride for the Touring trim, which gets fancy shocks jacked from the latest Lexus LS.

Batteries for the hybrids are located under the rear seats and it increases the sedan’s overall weight, which varies from the 3,560-pound XLE up to a hefty 3,715-pound Limited Hybrid.

Prices start at $36,395 for a base 2019 Avalon XLE and go up to $43,095 for the Avalon Touring. Going hybrid adds $1,000 to the sticker, making the Avalon Hybrid a great bargain for the gas sipper crowd.

The 2019 Toyota Avalon XLE Hybrid offers 43/44 mpg (city/highway) versus 22/31 mpg for a gas only Avalon XLE. With fuel prices in the SoCal area hovering above the $4 a gallon range, the Avalon Hybrid should sell well in the Golden State.

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2019 Toyota Avalon First Drive: A Flagship Split in Two

Toyota’s past and future collide in the 2019 Avalon, a flagship full-size sedan that must regain the trust of buyers put off by the outgoing model’s stiff ride quality, yet Toyota must also attract younger buyers with a car that’s sportier than any of its previous four generations. So does the Avalon return to its roots as a mature, vaguely premium, comfortable sedan, or does it lean further toward the Nissan Maxima’s sporty side of the spectrum?

Yes.

Toyota’s new Avalon strategy splits the lineup in two, and we aren’t referring to the 301-hp V-6 and 215-hp four-cylinder hybrid powerplants. If your definition of Avalon is a comfortable American-style cruiser, stick with the XLE and Limited grades. They place a higher priority on comfort than do the XSE and Touring trims (the latter is a V-6-only trim), which turn up the sportiness quotient in looks and driving experience.

All Avalons benefit from Toyota’s new TNGA platform, which helps improve handling, lowers the overall center of gravity, and reduces NVH in the cabin, Toyota claims. But before you experience any of those improvements, you’ll encounter the latest application of Toyota’s “I’M SO ANGRY” design language. With the XLE and Limited, the giant grille looks decent, but the sportier XSE and Touring variants wear black grille trim that doesn’t break up the enormous mass of space well.

The 2019 Avalon is longer (0.6 inch), lower (1.0 inch), and wider (0.6 inch) than its predecessor, and it rides on a wheelbase that’s 2.0 inches longer. Those tweaks coalesce to subtly reshape the car’s proportions, but you’re more likely to notice the C-pillar sliding down at a gentler angle than in any previous Toyota sedan. You can tell it’s a Toyota, yet no one with their glasses on will mistake a Camry with an Avalon, from the bigger car’s 3.2 to 3.8 extra inches of length to its rear quarter window to the central taillight reflector element visually connecting the two taillights.




On the road, the Avalon feels nimble for a 195.9-inch car, but the premium-ish sedan never feels like it deserves 4DSC badges (4-Door Supra-like Car). That’s OK, because all Avalons have accurate and well-weighted steering that’s not overly light. And if you stick with the XLE and Limited trims, the suspension will keep things comfortable. The same can’t be said about the Touring model, which, with its adaptive variable suspension and 19-inch wheels, connects you to the road in a noticeably different way compared to the comfort-oriented models. On winding roads and around corners, you’ll appreciate that trim’s sportier tuning—not to mention the guttural aural sensations of the 301-hp Touring model’s engine-sound enhancer. Once you get on the highway, however, the combination of tire noise and the way some road imperfections enter the cabin makes it clear the Touring (and the XSE to some extent) are not ideal road trip cars.

Other 2019 Avalon trims are quieter than their predecessors, whether you choose the V-6 or the available hybrid. The V-6 model uses an eight-speed automatic, and in our short time with the car, we didn’t notice some of the minor issues we’ve seen with this engine and transmission combination in the Highlander (specifically, upshifting too soon to the tallest possible gear). But as with the 296-hp Sienna, the 301-hp Avalon has trouble getting all of that power to the front wheels. If you’re taking off in the Avalon from a dead stop, consider being gentle with the throttle at first to avoid chirping the tires. After that, you’ll feel a surge of power as you accelerate to highway speeds. The 3.5-liter V-6 feels powerful in passing situations, taking just a moment to inhale before giving you the oomph you need.

GET REAL The Limited (shown here) features real wood trim. Real aluminum comes on the XSE and Touring.

What hybrid-averse buyers might not realize is that the 215-hp hybrid is just as responsive with moderate throttle inputs. The weight difference between the hybrid model and the equivalent V-6 is well under 100 pounds, and the trunk is the same 16.1 cubic feet. The hybrid’s price premium over the V-6 is now just $1,000 and will make sense for those who want an EPA-estimated 43/43–44 mpg city/highway instead of the V-6 models’ 22/31–32 mpg. It’s not just about better fuel economy, though—you’ll also drive more miles between fill-ups. There’s also the coolness of cruising through your neighborhood in pure EV mode. The brakes almost feel like normal, non-hybrid car brakes, too, which means coming to a smooth stop isn’t the challenge it normally presents in a hybrid. Ford’s hybrids still offer more engaging information displays that can make driving more fun—but that’s only relevant for open-minded buyers willing to consider a midsize sedan such as the Ford Fusion Platinum hybrid. But in the full-size segment, the Kia Cadenza, Chrysler 300, Nissan Maxima, and Chevrolet Impala don’t offer hybrid variants.

A popular midsize sedan like the Fusion or Camry won’t cut it for buyers who seek something more exclusive. Toyota sold more than 10 times as many Camry sedans last year as it did Avalons, which is a startling comparison even when you consider that’s a mix of new Camrys against the last-generation Avalon. Beyond the added exterior size and updated styling, the 2019 Avalon elevates itself above the Camry with a uniquely styled and rich-feeling interior. The Avalon Limited’s redesigned interior—aided by cool Yamaha-sourced wood trim—earns every cent of its $42,695 price tag. However, all trims feature interiors filled with soft-touch surfaces almost everywhere, even on the $36,395 XLE V-6. Yes, $36,395, a base price that’s higher than the Avalon’s non-luxury-branded competition,

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PHOTOS! A Visual History of the Toyota Avalon

Entering its fifth generation for the 2019 model year, the Avalon has served as Toyota’s flagship sedan for more than two decades. Back in 1995, the Avalon nameplate was introduced to take the place of the Cressida, which had been discontinued a few years earlier. The Avalon was focused on comfort and even offered a front bench seat for a while to accommodate a total of six. Although most Avalons have been powered by V-6 engines (compare the original Avalon’s 192-hp output to the 2019 Avalon V-6’s 301 hp), more recently, hybrid four-cylinder variants have been available, too.

Take a trip back in Toyota Avalon history with our Avalon photo gallery below and read our 2019 Avalon First Drive review here.


2019 Toyota Avalon (Fifth Gen)











































































































2018 Toyota Avalon (Fourth Gen)



















2016-2017 Toyota Avalon (Fourth Gen)
























2013-2015 Toyota Avalon (Fourth Gen)


























2011-2012 Toyota Avalon (Third Gen)






















2008-2010 Toyota Avalon (Third Gen)








2005-2007 Toyota Avalon (Third Gen)























2000-2004 Toyota Avalon (Second Gen)













1995-1999 Toyota Avalon (First Gen)








The post PHOTOS!

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Sliding in the Snow at Mercedes-AMG’s Winter Sporting Driving School

GIMLI, Canada — Whether you’re a seasoned pro born in the frosted forests of Scandinavia or a rank amateur from the sunny streets of Los Angeles, the Mercedes-AMG Winter Sporting driving school in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada, is the ideal place to acquire or perfect low-friction skills.

The cars on offer span most of the range of AMG’s retail equipment, including the CLA 45, C 63 S, and E 63 S. Lightly modified electronics allow greater throttle and brake overlap (a helpful if not necessary feature for driving quickly on ice), and the cars wear custom studded tires and small carbon-fiber frames to reinforce their bumpers in the inevitable event of a meeting with a snowy bank—but they are otherwise standard street cars.

Summer is coming: The AMG ice track lies just beyond the beaches of Lake Winnipeg, literally a stone’s throw from the restaurants, hotels, and shops that support Gimli’s summertime tourism rush.

Gimli is a small resort town founded by Icelandic immigrants. The tracks, carved on a lake beside the event hotel and extending several miles depending on the configuration, feature—like with Lapland Ice Driving—the real-world layouts of circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps and Barcelona, minus the elevation changes, naturally. Better still, these courses can tie together, allowing truly massive laps and ample time to apply and practice the skills taught in the brief classroom segments.

Extensive seat time is the defining feature of the AMG Winter Sporting program. If there’s another, it’s the Race of Champions-style event put on toward the end of the program: Starting on opposite sides of a peanut-shaped ice track, participants face off over the course of two laps to see who has best mastered the techniques of hustling a powerful car over ice.

Imbuing the Winter Sporting program with its laid-back attitude and general theme of “fun first, speed second” is the team of instructors, a jovial crew seemingly as happy to be loosed for a sideways day on the lake as the rest of us, who make play of learning, practicing, and retaining the peculiar sensitivities and sometimes counterintuitive skills developed during the hours spent sliding an AMG over the well-groomed ice. It’s not cheap, and it’s prone to sell out, but having experienced more than a few such driving schools, we can say wholeheartedly that, AMG owner or not, you don’t want to miss this one.

More info: mercedes-amg.com/driving-academy


















































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WATCH: Five Questions With The Man Who Designs Jeeps

At the 2018 Easter Jeep Safari, we grabbed Mark Allen, the Head of Design for Jeep, and asked him the tough questions.

The post WATCH: Five Questions With The Man Who Designs Jeeps appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

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