Posts Tagged ‘SUV’
When it comes to its plug-in hybrid SUVs, Volvo is willing to sacrifice a bit of range to go a lot further, in the global sense. The Swedish automaker started producing a diesel plug-in hybrid version of the V60 late last year but doesn’t plan to make that model available around the world. Instead, Volvo will replace it with a gasoline-drinking plug-in hybrid XC90 crossover, Australia’s Drive.com says, citing Volvo executive Lex Kerssemakers. The new plug-in hybrid will use a gas-powered four-cylinder turbo as its engine and deliver at least 300 horsepower. Production of that SUV will start late next year.
Volvo says moving from diesel to gas will shave about five percent off the model’s 120 miles per gallon equivalent fuel economy rating (per the more lenient European standards), so the SUV will still have fuel economy worth bragging about. Kerssemakers said that gas power, as opposed to diesel, would be an easier sell outside Europe. Volvo started making the diesel plug-in last November. The company said at the time that it initially planned to make 1,000 units for the 2013 model year but that advance orders caused them to boost that number to as many as 6,000 vehicles for the 2014 model year.
A rotund glasses-wearing man, proudly employed by the new i division of BMW, stood on a platform in front of a large photograph of some indeterminate European skyline. He looked quite self-satisfied, if a little nervous. For 15 minutes, he’d been moving around the room from one platform to another, like an actor in an awkward college staging of a Bertholdt Brecht play.
“BMW i,” the man said, “heralds the dawn of a new age of electromobility.”
If history has taught us anything, it’s to be wary of Germans proclaiming “the dawn of a new age.” That said, the BMW i3, which enjoyed its international cotillion last week in Amsterdam, represents a substantial reimagining of how a car should drive, how we interact with our vehicles, and what, in general, a car should be. It’s a significant development in automotive history, and a remarkably nimble one given the size and pedigree of the company.
BMW formed “Project i” in 2007 under the care of Ulrich Kranz, the executive who’d overseen the rebirth of Mini and the highly successful launches of the X3 and X5 SUVs. The goal was to position BMW for the future by thinking of “sustainable mobility concepts.” An initial team of seven people began debating what the car of the future would look like: It had to run on alternative energy, it had to have a trendy modern design, it had to incorporate technology in an intelligent way, and, most of all, it had to suit the lifestyle of the world’s megacities.
Kranz and his team traveled to 20 metropolises, including London, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Mexico City, looking for tech-savvy upper-middle class people who either claimed to, or strived for, “sustainable lifestyles.” In other words, they sought out the BMW customer of the future. The result? An electric car of great quality and efficiency, and — this may be the key genius of the whole concept — made entirely out of materials recycled using renewable energy. As one BMW executive told me, “the next phase in premium is sustainability.” They know what their customers want; the i3 stands for a totally different approach, and may very well end up being the most significant car of its age.
The i3 presents small, and on the outside, it doesn’t look like much, maybe a slightly more chic version of “The Howard,” the electric-car MacGuffin from Larry David’s hilarious HBO movie “Clear History.” There’s almost no hood, and the front grilled is framed, rather than with a showy roundel, by plastic slits that look suspiciously like a pair of Ray-Bans. It slopes up to a rear hatchback, and has four doors, though the rear coach doors, hidden almost like a Murphy bed, can only be opened if the front doors are open. At the moment, the i3 only comes in two colors, a fun-looking burnt orange, which will probably become its signature, and a less-fun-looking creamy silver.
Much of BMW’s efforts has gone inside. The i3’s designers intended, BMW told us, to create a feeling of a “loft on wheels” that offers an escape from the stresses of city living. It’s made of recycled carbon-fiber and faux-wood paneling, like a tech startup office with an electric motor; all that’s missing is a white board and a ping-pong table. Because the car, essentially, doesn’t have a hood, the dashboard seems to extend forever. The front seats are perfectly poised, and the rear is a little cramped, but basically functional. There’s enough storage in the hatch for a few grocery bags, but the rear seats come down, creating room for whatever errands need to be done.
At its core, the i3 is a city-dweller’s car. BMW rode 32 million miles with megacity drivers, and they determined that the ideal urban pod dweller drives an average of about 35 miles a day. The majority of the world’s drivers spend the majority of their time driving in cities. “It’s not an aggressive way of driving,” a BMW executive told me, “but cooler driving. Drivers can have a calmer, more relaxing driving style.”
They engineered it as such, and the buzzwords match the experience. Driving the i3 was the most relaxing city-driving experience of my life. They gave it to us in Amsterdam, which isn’t as stressful to drive in as, say, Los Angeles or Calcutta, but it’s still a big city full of trams and trucks and scooters and thousands upon thousands of happy, tall, beautiful coat-wearing people riding bicycles. There were many obstacles. The i3 helped me drive around them with incredible precision and nimbleness.
Traditional categories like horsepower (there’s 170 hp available from the i3′s electric motor) dissolve with this car. The major operations are comprised of three components: a “one-pedal drive,” turning radius, and balance. Because of the regeneration grip dialed in by BMW engineers to recharge the batteries from motion, the car stops almost immediately when you take your foot off the accelerator. I drove the i3 for more than four hours over the course of two days, and used the brakes roughly twice. The i3 turns almost in a circle, making it easy to maneuver into tight parking spots and narrow alley-like streets. It has excellent poise, necessary for the small, sudden turns that urban driving often requires. It’s car operation as parkour.
The machine isn’t without its flaws. On my second-day test drive, when I moved it over cobblestone streets, the automatic doors kept locking and unlocking, and I couldn’t stop them. For a second there, the i3 felt like HAL 9000, turning psychotic and hurtling me toward oblivion. But other than that modest annoyance, driving it felt relaxing, calm, and even friendly, almost meditative.
BMW’s conception of the i3 as the ultimate hipster lifestyle car goes far beyond an approximation of driving Zen; they’ve designed it to be an extension of a modern digital reality. The i3 comes equipped with a suite of apps that actually work. It has a center-console screen with a somewhat above-average GPS, but it’s not a crummy iPad knockoff like the ones seen in so many contemporary cars. The real magic comes in the smartphone connectability; in particular, there’s an app that directs you to the nearest parking station with an electric charger and gives you an alternate route involving public transportation or even walking. This wouldn’t work in a city like, say, Houston, at least not right now, but it’s perfect in Amsterdam, which has more than 700 public charging stations within the city limits alone, or in a San Francisco of the very near future.
The i3 gets more than 80 miles per charge, and can totally refresh in six hours. The charging cable cleverly hides under the front hood, and it locks in place when you lock the car. So if you want to drive it all day, you can; there’s also a version with a tiny motor borrowed from BMW’s motorcycle unit that acts as a mini-generator, but BMW provided none of those to us for testing, pushing only the electric version instead.
So let’s address the 800-pound carbon-fiber gorilla in the room: The i3 almost seems to mock the concept of BMW as “the ultimate driving machine.” That said, it goes fast. Very fast. We never took the i3 over, say, 85 mph on the motorway, but it got there with amazing quickness, as though I were calling down to Scotty in the engine room and saying “warp drive.” The car gave a little whirr, and then we launched, awesomely, into the Delta quadrant. It rocketed us forward into a beautiful, noiseless, solar-powered future.
The i division now has 400 employees, and with the launch of the i8 sports car next year, it’s just going to keep growing. The i3 goes on sale in Europe in November, and will sell in the U.S. for a little more than $41,000, which is just about the cost of a tricked-out Chevy Impala. In other words, it’s not an inexpensive car, but it’s hardly beyond the reach of BMW’s core customer. It’s going to be hugely successful, and we’re going to have to change our conception of what a BMW car looks like.
The key to evolution, Charles Darwin taught us, is that the most successful species aren’t necessarily the smartest, or the fastest, but the ones that are most able to adapt to change. While the rest of the dinosaurs wonder about that bright light in the sky, BMW has evolved.
To paraphrase Tolstoy, all successful cars are alike but each unsuccessful car is unhappy in its own way. Combine a minivan and an SUV and you get a Pontiac Aztek. Put a station wagon and an SUV together and you get a Chrysler Pacifica. But attach an SUV body to a passenger car platform, and you get an SUV crossover. So as analysts crunched the numbers from August’s sales results against the backdrop of the year’s biggest auto show in Frankfurt, all anybody was talking about was how crossovers — those streamlined SUVs — were coming to dominate the industry, and how they will unsettle the global competitive landscape.
–Sales of small crossovers increased 36% in August, according to Automotive News, and crossovers sales of all sizes now represent more than one-quarter of industry volume — up from essentially zero 20 years ago.
–Consumers are on a pace to buy 300,000 Honda CR-Vs and Ford Escapes, and 200,000 Toyota RAV4s this year. Total crossover sales in 2013 should reach 4 million.
–Japanese brands gained 2.5 points of market share in August, largely on the strength of increased crossover sales. The Detroit Three, which have lagged in crossovers, particularly in the compact and subcompact segments, lost 1.4 points.
–For some premium brands, crossovers are their most popular models: The RX accounts for more than a quarter of all Lexus sales; the MDX and RDX lead Acura’s sales charts; and Enclave and Encore are the most popular Buicks.
–Luxury manufacturers — even those who never built an SUV — are jumping into crossovers. Bentley and Jaguar both showed new concepts at Frankfurt, while Tesla is due to introduce the industry’s first all-electric crossover, the Model X, for the 2014 model year. Buyers need never worry about damage from mud, rocks, or wild animals. Like most crossovers, these luxury models will never go further off-road than a highway exit ramp.
The flexibility of crossovers has made them the industry’s default solution, its no-brainer. When asked at the Frankfurt show whether Jaguar would consider developing its first crossover, Design Director Ian Callum told Automotive News Europe, “Why not? Everyone else is doing it.” Even Rolls-Royce is considering developing an crossover. “We are intensively thinking about entering the SUV segment,” CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes said in an interview with Bloomberg News. Its sticker price would be north of $300,000.
Crossovers have become the industry’s equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. Says analyst Jeremy Acevedo of Edmuds.com: “By borrowing the best aspects of so many different segments with relatively few concessions, crossovers will continue to be an integral and growing segment of the market.”
Their growing dominance signals an historic transition for the auto industry. Crossovers represent a once-in-a-generation sea change in car designs and buyer tastes. With
traditional station wagons practically extinct, and minivans in seemingly terminal decline, crossovers are spreading across the landscape like some alien species, strangling lesser varieties. Subaru, whose sales rose 45% in August and is one of the fastest-growingmanufacturers in the industry, has a model lineup that consists almost entirely of crossovers and has a hard time keeping up with demand. “This will be the fastest-growing segment globally for the next five years,” says Warren Browne, vice president of AutomotiveCompass.
With Porsche getting ready to complement its Cayenne with the Macon crossover in 2014, just about every automaker is scrambling to add more crossovers to its lineup. In the process, they are being forced to ask some pressing questions:
–How thinly can they slice the crossover market? Crossovers are now available in subcompact, compact, and mid-size sizes, configured in two rows or three, and wearing mainstream or premium nameplates. Is there room for more two-door crossovers like the aggressive Lexus LF-NX concept shown in Frankfurt, convertibles like Nissan’s slow-selling Murano, or sport models like Subaru’s popular XV Crosstrek?
–What other segments will shrink as crossovers grow? Full-size sedans have been in decline for several years. Are mid-size sedans next? How many buyers are ready to choose functionality over formality, or practicality over pizzazz?
–What is the fate of the traditional SUV? The truck-based vehicles can’t compare to crossovers for car-like ride and handling , features, or fuel economy. And while SUVs are still superior for towing or hauling heavy loads, pickups can do the same job more efficiently.
Crossovers came to prominence in the 1990s because they copied many of the best-liked features of SUVs — command seating, high ride height, easy access, available all-wheel drive — with none of the drawbacks — truck frames with truck looks and truck rides. The first ones came out of Japan, where consumers are more open to innovative body styles. After finding success there, Toyota (TM) and Honda raced to be first to sell to U.S. customers. When it became apparent that the RAV4 was going to win by arriving in late 1996, Honda (HMC) took the unprecedented step of making a Japanese-spec CR-V with right hand drive available to automotive journalists for reviews to blunt its impact. The tactic worked, and the CR-V has gone on to join the Civic and Accord as a core Honda model, as well as the bestselling crossover, while the RAV4 resides in third place.
Not all crossovers are created equal. Ford (F, Fortune 500) has struggled with the Flex, which buyers find reminiscent of a minivan, and had sold only 18,166 through August this year, compared with more than 200,000 Escapes. Nissan’s brave attempt to design a convertible crossover with the Murano CrossCabriolet suffered from dumpy looks and uncertain handling, and will be discontinued.
Consumer interest in crossovers seems to be gaining steam. In Edmunds’ tally of its 50 most researched cars in August, four of the top five were crossovers, with Honda’s CR-V leading the pack. Automakers are racing to keep pace. Says Edmunds’ Acevedo: “Manufacturers can’t ignore the popularity of these models and those doing well in the segment will continue to refine their offerings as those looking for a larger piece of the pie will continue to up the ante.” Some analysts believe that in addition to higher sales, crossovers return higher profits because their unibody construction makes them more economical to manufacture and because many crossovers share parts with passenger cars.
For now, all signs point upward. Analyst Browne sees a world in which prosperous buyers will use a sedan to commute and keep a crossover for fun and vacations. In other words, the sky is the limit — until something newer and better comes along.
As surely as the sun rises in the east, automakers will inevitably find new wrappers to clothe smaller SUVs that can sell at luxury car prices. Here’s the first images of the Lexus LF-NX concept that will be fully revealed in a few days at the Frankfurt auto show, and while it’s got more creases on its face than Tommy Lee Jones, it’s all but guaranteed to preview an actual Lexus small SUV, the one gaping hole in Toyota‘s luxury lineup.
While the previous Lexus LF concepts carried their modern style well, the NX shows some of its limitations, namely in making the angry Norelco front end so tall. The back end suffers from a similar problem, with an ungraceful pile-up of lines on the back door and a fender fold that looks deep enough in these photos to store a small dog. Lexus says the LF-NX will sport an all-hybrid power source and typical but unsurprising luxury accoutrements; we’ll have live photos to examine soon.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is home to perhaps one of the most appropriate buttons we’ve encountered in the What Does This Button Do? series. Mysterious buttons are rarely spelled out as clearly as the Jeep SRT8′s, or as fun to use. By spelled out, we mean the whole word, “Launch,” appears on the button to designate the 470-horsepower, all-wheel-drive Jeep SRT8′s Launch Mode. There are no acronyms or guessing with this button. What the button does is also made clearer by the awesome depiction of a drag strip’s starting-line lights, aka a “Christmas tree.”
Jeep’s launch control is standard on SRT8s for consistent, enhanced fast starts of the high-performance SUV. Launch Mode brings the engine, suspension, transmission and driveline together for fast launches from a standstill by revving the engine at a standstill and launching the 5,000-pound SUV like a rocket.
To activate, Jeep’s instructions say the SUV must be stopped on a level surface before fully depressing the brake pedal – while in Drive – and then pressing the Launch button. While holding the brake, mash the accelerator pedal to the floor within a half-second and the engine will rev to a predetermined rpm. Once the engine speed is up, all the driver has to do is lift the brake and the SRT8 launches perfectly every time.
Cars.com reviewer Aaron Bragman tested the SRT8′s Launch Mode at the vehicle’s introduction:
“Jeep rates the SRT Grand Cherokee at 4.8 seconds from zero to 60 mph, but I discovered that this is a conservative figure: Using the SRT’s onboard software and a special launch button, I was able to consistently rip off 4.5-second zero-to-60 times, and SRT engineers say that they’ve been able to achieve 60 mph in 4.2 seconds under perfect conditions.”
Automobile Magazine selected the most promising production cars slated for release in the next two years, as part of its annual sneak peak issue.
Why: Acura needs a performance halo car–even more so now than when the original NSX debuted back in 1990.
As the crucial halo car for Honda’s premium brand, the mid-engine Acura NSX will combine the magic of the original, aluminum-bodied NSX sports car with the technology of a hybrid whose electric motors power the front wheels and provide for torque vectoring, as well. Think Porsche 918 Spyder at one-seventh the price. The NSX is expected in showrooms by 2015 and will look much like the 2012 concept, which was updated with a sumptuous two-seat interior for the 2013 Detroit show. United States-based designers and engineers are leading development of the sports car, which Acura will assemble in Ohio. The ’15 NSX is expected to have a 3.7-liter V-6, two electric motors for the front wheels, and a rear motor providing a combined 480 hp fed through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. A 370-hp, 3.5-liter version of this powertrain is found in the all-wheel-drive iteration of the Acura RLX luxury sedan. Late last year, American Honda’s president, Tetsuo Iwamura, hinted that since the RLX is also available in nonhybrid form with front-wheel drive, it’s possible that we could see a nonhybrid NSX with rear-wheel drive only. True, it would have less power, but it would be lighter and, thus, very true to the original NSX.
When: 2014 (coupe, sedan), early 2015 (convertible)
Why: The M3 is an icon for BMW, which makes the name change for the two-doors tricky business.
Know the code
Whereas the 3 Series is known internally (and among BMW fanboys) as the F30, the M3 takes the development code F80 and the M4 is the F82.
Ever since the arrival of the new BMW 3-series sedan (and maybe even before), those who worship the blue-and-white roundel have been waiting for the next M3-and M4, as it turns out. With the standard two-door’s change in designation from 3-series to 4-series, the two-door M versions will follow suit: the coupe (illustrated below by a spy artist) and convertible will be called M4; the sedan will remain M3. It’s a risky move for a model designation that is held in such esteem, but the car to which the badge is affixed ought to satisfy the faithful.
The upcoming M3/M4 is slated to switch from the current normally aspirated 4.0-liter V-8 back to a straight six, albeit one bolstered by twin turbos. Displacing 3.0 liters, its output of approximately 420 hp will be slightly higher than the current 414 hp, but M is not gunning for ultimate bragging rights in this department (leaving that to Mercedes-AMG). Instead, it has focused on reducing weight and improving overall performance-as well as fuel economy. “It needs to be lighter; it needs to be more powerful,” M division executives acknowledge. It also needs to have a manual transmission, because the North American market (in particular) demands it-although we don’t demand it as much as we used to. On the E46-chassis M3, manuals accounted for 50 percent of sales; for the current-generation E90, it’s more like 20 to 25 percent. Still, that’s enough to keep it in the mix. “As long as there is demand for a manual,” said the division’s bosses in a recent interview, “then we [will do] the right thing by offering it.” Ergo, we will see a six-speed stick along with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, which supplants the current seven-speed. Aluminum (door skins) and carbon fiber (roof, hood, trunk lid, and brake discs) serve the cause of weight reduction. The goal is to bring the weight below 3300 pounds, down from 3700 today. What about an über-M4, akin to AMG’s Black Series line of cars? BMW would point out that it has had the M3 GTS/CRT models, but those cars were never sold in the United States. Expect that situation to change next time.
Why: Because no luxury brand can resist the siren’s call of the SUV.
Plans for Bentley’s first-ever SUV hit a bump in the road when the EXP 9 F preview concept suffered cripplingly bad public reaction, but the project has been merely delayed, not derailed. The exterior is being redone by Luc Donckerwolke, Bentley’s recently installed chief designer, so what you see here is the concept’s interior, which is likely to remain intact as the vehicle transitions to production. The Bentley SUV will share a platform with the next-generation Volkswagen Touareg,Audi Q7, and Porsche Cayenne. Conveniently, Bentley’s current head of engineering, Rolf Frech, comes from Porsche, where he was director of engineering during initial development of the Cayenne. Frech recently spoke with us about his role at Bentley and the new SUV.
What do you bring to Bentley?
“I bring the experience from a company [Porsche] that grew from two car lines to three, to four, and then to five, as you see today. Of course, I bring the experience of the SUV to Bentley. That’s essential to Bentley at this time.”
What are the differences between developing a new Bentley versus a Porsche?
“The value of the Bentley brand is luxury performance. If we are bringing a Bentley SUV, it has to fulfill brand value and be the most ‘luxury performance’ SUV on the road. From the engine to the interior, we need to be the pinnacle of the segment. The Cayenne Turbo S is a fabulous SUV, but we want the Bentley to be above that in areas like interior execution. We want to be above the Porsche with a twelve-cylinder engine, with the interior, with everything.”
Is off-road ability important?
“We have to show that it is possible. It’s like a 911 and the racetrack. How many customers are really going on the racetrack? The key is they know that, if they want to, they can.”
Any interest in diesel?
“I think it makes the most sense for the SUV. We are looking at this and at a plug-in hybrid.”
Why is an SUV appropriate for the brand?
“Looking at our customers, many of them already own an SUV. Why should it be a Range Rover or a Cayenne? It should be a Bentley.”
When: Late 2015
Why: Buick needs a flagship to solidify its premium-brand credentials, and the name Riviera still has cachet.
Flashback: The seminal ’63-’65 Riviera was a design icon.
The Enclave is currently Buick’s most expensive offering and the LaCrosse its biggest sedan, but neither is a proper halo model for the brand. When General Motors reregistered the Grand National and GNX names, rumors erupted that a hot-rod Buick would return. GM has reregistered the Riviera name, too, and it’s this car that would best serve as a halo Buick. Folks in the know tell us that the new-age Riviera is a larger four-door coupe–perhaps much like our illustration–in the mold of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-class, BMW 6-series Gran Coupe, and Audi A7, although considerably cheaper. Overall length will be in the 195-to-200-inch range, placing it in the same full-size category as the Chrysler 300, for example. We expect the venerable 3.6-liter gasoline direct-injected V-6 to be the only engine. A Riviera GNX could be the division’s riff on the Cadillac V-series, but it would likely have a turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 instead of a small-block V-8.
The question is which rear-wheel-drive GM platform the Riv would ride on. GM’s flexible Alpha architecture already underpins the Cadillac ATS and will support the next Chevrolet Camaro and Cadillac CTS with its longer-wheelbase iteration. But even in that form, it might be too small. The Chevy SS’s Holden Zeta platform is larger, but its long-term future is uncertain. Cadillac’s Omega platform for the upcoming S-class fighter makes the most sense. That may sound expensive for a Buick, but the added volume would bring down its per-unit cost, and it would recall top-of-the-line Buicks from the time of the early Roadmaster to the 1963-1977 Riviera, which were only a half notch below Cadillac in prestige.
Why: Ford can’t afford to let the F-series franchise grow stale.
Ford’s next F-150 faces quite a balancing act. It must maintain supremacy as the nation’s best-selling vehicle without diminishing the kind of profit margins that come from cheap-to-produce body-on-frame construction. That’s good reason to question rumors that the new F-150, as previewed by the Atlas concept, will be made mostly of aluminum. The hood and maybe the door panels, sure, but whole bodies and frames? Seems unlikely.
We do expect the 2015 F-150 to grab design cues from the Atlas, such as its profile, huge grille, and LED head- and taillamps. A next-generation EcoBoost engine powers the concept, and although Ford won’t elaborate on what that means, stop/start technology will be part of the package. The six-speed automatic in the Atlas suggests that Ford won’t follow the new Ram with an eight-speed.
Features such as active grille shutters, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist, trailer-backup assist, power-deployable running boards, and an electronic parking brake are more likely. The concept’s active wheel shutters and drop-down front chin spoiler wouldn’t help a tall vehicle with so much extra space around the tires.
The Atlas concept’s 150-inch wheelbase is 5.5 inches longer than the current (and most comparable) short-bed F-150 SuperCrew’s and would take advantage of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy “footprint” rule. Even with the longer wheelbase, the concept’s overall length and height are similar to today’s F-150, although it is even wider than a Raptor. To get a better idea of how the next F-150 will look when it goes on sale about mid-2014, imagine the concept about eight inches narrower.
When: Early 2014
Why: Fifty years after the Mustang’s blockbuster debut, expect Ford to set off some fireworks around the 2015 model.
The most certain thing we know about the 2015 Ford Mustang is that it will premiere at the New York auto show on April 16 or 17, 2014. April 17 will be fifty years to the day that the original Mustang made its world debut in that city. That car had a base price of $2368. (How about $23,680 for the base ’15 Mustang?)
We’re also reasonably certain that the new Mustang will edge away from the current car’s heavily retro appearance and possibly look like our spy illustration below. Our sources tell us that the new pony will be slightly smaller and lighter and will come close to retaining the current car’s muscularity. Several years ago, Ford separated North American designers who would work on U.S.-focused models such as the Mustang and the F-series from Euro-centric One Ford designers. However, Ford will sell the all-American Mustang in other markets, including Western Europe.
The ’15 Mustang will be trim enough that the current Shelby GT500‘s supercharged 5.8-liter V-8 won’t fit. The big engine for low-volume, high-performance ‘Stangs is tipped to be a 5.0-liter turbocharged V-8, the “EcoBoost Coyote,” with a normally aspirated Coyote for versions like the Boss 302. From there on down, mainstream Mustangs are expected to come with Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, the normally aspirated 3.7-liter V-6, and the EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder. In other applications, those engines make 365 hp, 305 hp, and 240 hp, respectively, so they’ll cover a wide variety of Mustang variants, including performance versions. The new Mustang finally gets an independent rear suspension, too. This opens the door for a much-needed rear-wheel-drive Lincoln flagship sedan built on the same platform, although we know of no plans for one yet.
Jaguar F-type coupe
Why: Jaguar’s new sports car would miss half the market without a hardtop, which should be an even more focused driver’s car.
Jaguar has big plans for the F-type as it tries to follow the much-envied Porsche 911 approach by spinning out a plethora of high-profit variants. The 2011 concept that previewed the F-type was a hardtop, and it’s easy to see how well that roofline works with the production F-type. So, with the roadster hitting showrooms this summer, the coupe will be the next model. The production coupe will debut at the Frankfurt show in September–probably looking a lot like this illustration–and roll into dealerships several months later. Expect it to offer the same supercharged engines as the roadster: a 3.0-liter V-6 (340 hp or 380 hp) and a 5.0-liter V-8 (495 hp). The latter should bring the 0-to-60-mph time down close to 4.0 seconds. The coupe will likely follow current Jaguar practice by being a bit more affordable than the roadster, whose base price range extends from $69,875 to $92,875. Jaguar, however, will be eager to bring out costlier temptations, offering all-wheel drive, hotter R iterations, and even an ultraextreme GT street racer. As the F-type lineup fleshes out, watch for the next-generation XK to edge away from sport and toward luxury–and to also move up in price.
When: Late 2013
Why: Maserati needs a sedan in this volume segment if it’s ever to become more than a bit player among luxury brands.
Second Act: This is actually the second time Maserati has resurrected the Ghibli name. The first was in the early 1990s on an evolution of the much-unloved Biturbo.
As the new Maserati Quattroporte has increased in size to better match up against the Mercedes-Benz S-class and friends, it opens up room for the Ghibli, a second Maserati sedan that will compete in the heart of the luxury-sedan market against Mercedes’ E-class and the like. The Ghibli could resemble the spy illustration above.
Although the name was first used on the classic late-1960s GT, the modern Ghibli is exclusively a four-door based on the same platform as the new Quattroporte (the next GranTurismo coupe will also use that platform). That means its chassis employs a control-arm front suspension and a multi-link rear. For European markets, the Ghibli is expected to be powered by Maserati’s first-ever diesel, a 270-hp, 3.0-liter V-6. For America, though, the Ghibli will have a direct-injected, 3.0-liter V-6 bolstered by twin turbos. The 60-degree V-6 has an aluminum block and cylinder heads and will appear first as the base offering in the new Quattroporte, where it is expected to produce 404 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, which flows to the rear wheels through ZF’s familiar eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive will be optional. A plug-in hybrid powertrain is also expected, along with a so-called efficiency pack that includes auto stop/start, brake-energy regeneration, a coasting mode, and on-demand auxiliaries.
Maserati hopes that the Ghibli will sell in volumes of more than 20,000 units per year, as it’s the key player in the company’s planned march to 50,000 units per annum–from only 6300 in 2012.
Mercedes-Benz SLC AMG
When: Late 2014
Why: Like so many others, Mercedes-Benz wants a Porsche 911 competitor, and neither the SLnor the SLS hits that target.
The SLS was the first car wholly developed by AMG, and it won’t be the last. The next product of the busy complex at Affalterbach will be the SLC AMG. Although it steps in as the SLS departs, the SLC is not a direct replacement. Instead, it will be less expensive (starting just north of $100,000) and will have conventional doors and, for now at least, coupe-only bodywork (like the illustration at left). The 3400-pound SLC is the first AMG model to use the new 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8. The 90-degree V-8 should be good for 480 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, which will flow to a rear transaxle. Oh, and if that’s not enough, there are rumors of a Black Series that would put out roughly 575 hp and 550 lb-ft.
Porsche 918 Spyder
When: Late 2013
Why: The dream of a latter-day Carrera GT was too strong to deny.
What’s in a number?
918 isn’t just the model designation, it’s also the production start date (9/18/2013) and the build quantity: 918 units.
Porsche’s new supercar, the 918 Spyder, is nearing production readiness, but are buyers ready for it? The concept car was first revealed at the 2010 Geneva auto show. Three years later the idea is intact: an ultra-high-performance successor to the 2004-2006 Carrera GT that uses a hybrid powertrain rather than a V-10, bringing the supercar firmly into the modern idiom.
The hybrid powertrain marries a mid-mounted 4.6-liter V-8, alone good for 570 hp, with two electric motors, bringing the total output to 795 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic handles the shifting. Top speed is said to exceed 202 mph, and the electric motors can push the car beyond 90 mph by themselves. Porsche is estimating a fifteen-mile electric-vehicle range (although presumably not at 90 mph). There is a plug-in charger and an optional fast charger; brake-energy regeneration also recharges the batteries.
The high-revving V-8 (redlined at 9000 rpm) utilizes dry-sump lubrication and an aluminum block, heads, and crankcase. It drives the rear wheels on its own or together with one electric motor. The second electric motor can drive the front wheels, creating on-demand all-wheel drive and torque vectoring. The front motor is the primary power source in EV mode, but the rear motor can kick in, too. That means the 918 Spyder can be rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive, depending on the circumstances.
A steering-wheel-mounted joystick allows the driver to choose from several operating modes: E-Power, Hybrid, Sport Hybrid, and Race Hybrid. Additionally, a Hot Lap button taps the full power output of the batteries to supplement the gasoline engine.
Riding on a 107.5-inch wheelbase, the same as the Carrera GT, the new two-seater is 1.2 inches longer and 0.8 inch wider than its exotic predecessor. A carbon-fiber monocoque, a two-piece lift-off roof, (optional) magnesium wheels, and body panels of carbon fiber, magnesium, and aluminum are all employed to help keep mass in check. With the 330-pound battery pack and electric motors, total weight is expected to be 3750 pounds (which is still some 600 pounds more than the Carrera GT); 57 percent of the weight is over the rear wheels.
The 918 Spyder will use four-wheel steering, which makes its debut on the 911 GT3. The rear wheels countersteer at low speeds to aid maneuverability and turn in sync with the front wheels at high speeds for improved stability. Porsche has stated that the 918 Spyder will lap the Nürburgring in 7 minutes, 14 seconds (handily beating the Carrera GT’s 7:32).
For all that, the question is whether the faithful are waving their checkbooks for a chance at this pinnacle of Porsche engineering. Not according to what we’re hearing. Word is that supercar buyers are unconvinced by the hybrid concept and put off by the pricing, which starts at $845,000 and doesn’t include extras like the fast charger and fancy metallic paint. Perhaps it will take a test drive to convince Porsche-philes to open their wallets, or maybe Porsche will find that the air is just too thin at this lofty altitude.
2013 marks the 113th anniversary of the New York Int’l Auto Show which starts this weekend. Featuring 1,000 vehicles plus the latest in tech, safety and innovation in nearly 900,000 sq ft. It is one of the hottest tickets in town. Following are some of the new cars from the 2013 New York Auto Show.
It’s billed to be the new flagship car in Jaguar’s line up of high performance cars. A full-sized sedan, the XJR will be powered by a 542-horsepower 5.0-liter V8. Currently, the most powerful XK you can buy is the 510-horsepower XJ Supersport.
General Motors is unveiling a “refreshed” version of the Buick LaCrosse. That means it’s not a thoroughgoing redesign, but there are some significant updates. Besides exterior design changes, some big improvements are simpler controls for functions like climate control and entertainment.
2015 Volkswagen Golf
The newer, bigger, and more fuel-efficient Golf will go on sale in the U.S. in the first half of next year. It’s already won the European Car of the Year Award at the Geneva Motor Show. It will come with luxury car features such as a collision avoidance system and lane departure warning. Three different versions will be unveiled in New York — the diesel-powered Golf TDI, sporty GTI and entry-level TSI.
Subaru has never offered a hybrid vehicle, until now. At the New York Auto Show, Subaru will unveil its first hybrid: a version of the new Subaru XV Crosstrek small SUV.
The Chevrolet SS is a rear-wheel-drive sedan powered by the same engine used in a Corvette. The car will be built in Australia, where it is sold under a different brand name: the Holden Commodore. The SS is targeted at people looking for some performance in a family-friendly vehicle.
On the heels of the recession, global automakers are racing to meet the increased demand for luxury vehicles. At this week’s Detroit Auto Show, automakers unveiled nearly 2 dozen new luxury models or concept cars, expressing confidence that luxury sales will boom this year. “We see success…in very direction we look,” said Johan de Nysschen, head of Audi’s American arm.
Luxury cars and trucks — costing over $35,000 — account for 13% of the U.S. auto market. While auto sales have increased slowly over the past year, luxury car sales are forecast to grow by more than 10% in 2012, outpacing the rest of the auto market.
In their new luxury car, buyers will expect the latest technology, everything from WiFi internet hotspots to night vision displays to infotainment systems that link over Bluetooth with up to 10 devices simultaneously. Refinement has replaced raw horsepower with reduction in interior noise reduction taking the lead.
The 2012 Cadillac ATS was the most notable unveiling at the Detroit show this year. The ATS is an all-new small car that GM wants to take on the world’s most popular luxury sedan – the BMW 3-Series. BMW also renewed the 3-Series this year with BMW execs confident they can take on any comers. It appears that the real competition among luxury brands will be in the SUV’s, which are as popular to luxury seekers in Europe and China as they are here. Fuel costs and tough regulations have forced automakers to find ways to power luxury SUVs with smaller, more efficient engines. The Buick Encore, the U.S. version of the Audi Q3 and a refreshed Acura RDX — all smaller SUV’s with engines less than six cylinders, were revealed this week. Porsche will join the category with its own small SUV next year called the Cajun. Even Bentley, the British builder of six-figure sedans, will present its own SUV within a few years.
Another driver behind the return of luxury cars is the rebound of Japanese automakers, following a year of deadly natural disasters Toyota’s Lexus Division, which lost its spot as the top US luxury brand to BMW in 2011, will introduce nine new or updated models this year.
2012 promises to be an exciting year in the automotive industry as customers react to new and updated luxury cars, filled with the latest technology.
There are a lot of things to consider when buying a used car — not the least of which is the honesty of the seller; but the most important thing to consider when buying a used car is the reliability record of the make and model. To help us with that, CBS MoneyWatch looked at owner surveys, J.D. Power ratings and Consumer Report ratings in 5 car catgories to see which cars had less-than-stellar reliability records and to offer some more reliable alternatives.
Small Car Category:
Avoid: The Volkswagen Beetle — Owners reported problems with the climate control system and power equipment, both of which can lead to expensive repairs.
Alternative: Hyundai Elantra — Owners reported no major problems; and the Elantra got the maximum rating from J.D. Power, and is ranked above-average by Consumer Reports.
Midsize Car Category:
Avoid: Volkswagen Passat — Consumers reported problems with the fuel, electrical and climate systems, as well as the power equipment.
Alternative: The Ford Fusion — Fusion won the reliability award in this year’s J.D. Power survey, and Consumer Reports gives it a much-above-average used car rating.
Midsize SUV Category:
Avoid: GMC Acadia — Owners reported problems with the suspension and audio systems, and J.D. Power and Consumer Reports both gave it their lowest used car rating.
Alternative: Toyota 4 Runner — the 4 Runner won J.D. Power’s top reliability award, and Consumer Reports rated it much better than average as a used car. Owners liked its highway and off-road capability.
Large SUV Category:
Avoid: The Ford Expedition — Owners reported problems with the transmission and audio systems, and its best gas efficiency is only 18 mpg. J.D. Powers and Consumer Reports both gave it a low used-car rating.
Alternative: Toyota Sequoia — While just slightly better on fuel efficiency, the Sequoia gets a high rating from both J.D. Power and Consumer Reports. Owners liked its roomy seating and comfortable ride for long trips.
Avoid: Chrysler Town & Country — Although very popular as a new car, owners reported problems with suspension, brakes, climate system and power equipment. J.D. Power and Consumer Reports both rated it low as a used-car purchase.
Alternative: Toyota Sienna — The Sienna won the reliability award for minivans from J.D Power, and it got a better-than-average rating from Consumer Reports.
In addition to the tips above, it’s often wiser to purchase a 3+ year old used car for a couple of reasons. The biggest new-car depreciation has already taken place, and with new car prices rising sharply, buying a 1 or 2 year old used car often make worse financial sense than buying new.
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