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    Volkswagen XL Sport brings high-performance fuel-sipping to Paris
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    Lamborghini reveals Asterion LPI 910-4 hybrid hypercar concept
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    Infiniti Q80 Inspiration Concept previews a fullsize future of luxury
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Skoda introduces new Paris-bound Fabia Combi wagon

Posted Oct 1st 2014 6:00PM

Skoda Fabia Combi

Škoda may not get the bulk of our attention, but it's hard to argue with the nearly 1 million vehicles it moved last year. In terms of sales volume, that makes Škoda the third biggest division under the Volkswagen Group umbrella (after VW and Audi). The Octavia accounted for over a third of that, but despite having been introduced back in 2007, the Fabia remains its second most popular model worldwide. Good thing it's got an all-new model on the cusp, then.

The Czech automaker revealed the new Fabia a little over a month ago, but it's not just the hatchback which Škoda plans to unveil this week at the Paris Motor Show. Joining it will be the Fabia Combi you see here, the stretched-roof wagon version that's the most popular in its segment with over a million sold since its initial introduction in 2000.

Launching across Europe in January, the new Škoda Fabia Combi aims to build on that success with greater cargo capacity, improved efficiency and emissions numbers, and a long list of new features ranging from an adjustable cargo floor to an ice-scraper integrated into the fuel filler cap.

Longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, the new Fabia Combi will be available with a choice of three gasoline and three diesel engines ranging from 75 horsepower to 110, mated to manual or dual-clutch automatic transmissions, with stop-start ignition and brake-force recovery as standard.
Related Gallery2015 Skoda Fabia Combi
2015 Skoda Fabia Combi2015 Skoda Fabia Combi2015 Skoda Fabia Combi2015 Skoda Fabia Combi

News Source: Skoda

September 2014: Cooling Off As The Leaves Change Edition

Posted Oct 1st 2014 5:30PM



Autumn is upon us – at least for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere (happy Spring, friends in the Southern!) – and that means the weather is cooling off, the leaves on the trees are changing into beautiful colors and the hot, hot sales months of summertime are slowing down. Well, for the most part, at least.

Trucks and SUVs led the charge in September, with Jeep posting the month's second-highest increase (its 47 percent was bested only by Maserati, which, while impressive, operates in much smaller volumes...), General Motors reporting a 42-percent light-truck increase and Ram tallying a solid 25-percent gain. Ford, for its part, claims to be diligently managing its F-Series pickup volumes in anticipation of its brand-new, completely redesigned 2015 F-150.

As far as record streakers go, Subaru deserves a solid tip of the hat, its 31-percent gain last month being the 34th straight month of sales increases. Volkswagen, on the other hand, has been headed downward for quite some time now, and its 19-percent drop in sales marks the 18th straight month of decline. In other news, it's nice to see Volvo in the green after several months in the red, and we again have to hand it to Mitsubishi, which, despite what we'd describe as a pretty woeful set of products to push, posted a 39-percent gain last month.

Feel free to peruse past sales recaps by checking out our By The Numbers category here.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata will rock 2.0L SkyActiv engine in US, 1.5L elsewhere

Posted Oct 1st 2014 5:01PM

2016 Mazda Miata

Let the speculation finally end – we know what will power the next-generation 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata, and it's not turbocharged. The US model will get a SkyActiv 2.0-liter engine and six-speed manual, while models in the rest of the world have a 1.5-liter engine, confirming earlier rumors.

Unfortunately, Mazda isn't letting loose how much power either of these mills make just yet. For sake of comparison, the current SkyActiv 2.0 in the Mazda3 produces 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, and the 1.5-liter in the UK (and elsewhere) has about 99 hp and 110 lb-ft of twist. However, the current Miata produces 167 hp and 140 lb-ft.

But fret not droptop fans. The company's brochure from the 2014 Paris Motor Show confirms, "all available drivetrains have been specially tuned for the all-new MX-5," which at least hints at the possibility of more performance. Also, even if the numbers remain untouched, the new Miata should feel even more sporting on the open road. That's because Mazda says the new model weighs in the neighborhood of 2,200 pounds; with that in mind, the 2016 car would boast around 14.19 pounds per horsepower versus 14.85 lb/hp in the present MX-5. Progress!

Mazda promises to end the anticipation and announce the actual outputs for these mills later.

News Source: Mazda

Image Credit: Copyright Ronnie Fung 2014 / AOL

How the DOD could have saved $100M by blowing up 1,000 trucks

Posted Oct 1st 2014 4:31PM

Air Force; Airmen; aircraft; vehicles;

What's $100 million among the armed forces? Well, when that $100M is spent shipping unnecessary military equipment back from Afghanistan to the United States, it serves to shine some light on military waste.

According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, the US Marine Corps and Army burned over $100 million during a one-year period shipping unneeded MRAPs and other vehicles from Afghanistan back to the US. As many as one out of every nine Army and USMC vehicles shipped back to the US is "unneeded," says the GAO, while each individual vehicle could cost as much as $107,400 in shipping fees.

As many as one out of every nine vehicles shipped back to the US is "unneeded," while each one could cost as much as $107,400 in shipping fees.

Instead, it may have been more cost effective to destroy the surplus trucks and leave their remains in Afghanistan. Of course, such a move would put a major ding in the DOD's controversial 1033 program.

"Due to ineffective internal controls, the Army and Marine Corps may be incurring unnecessary costs by returning equipment that potentially exceeds service needs or is not economical to return and repair," the report says, according to Army Times.

Between October 2012 and October 2013, the DOD returned or destroyed nearly 15,000 vehicles. The total cost of recovering equipment from Afghanistan is expected to hit $6 billion, Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told Army Times. The recovery is proceeding on schedule, but the waste of $100 million is still raising some eyebrows among members of congress.

"The Government Accountability Office underscores that the DOD can and should do a much better job in preventing unnecessary costs by taking some common sense steps in managing its surplus military vehicles. We simply cannot afford this type of waste and ineffectiveness," Sen. Tom Carper, a democrat from Delaware and a member of the Homeland and Government Affairs Committee, said.

What are your thoughts? Is the recovery of MRAPs and other military vehicles, regardless of the cost, preferable to destroying them? Should the DOD have planned better for after the end of operations in Afghanistan? Have your say in Comments.

News Source: Army Times

Image Credit: Senior Airman Nichelle Anderson / USAF

Audi TT Sportback Concept evolves the five-door breed

Posted Oct 1st 2014 3:58PM

Audi TT Sportback Concept

One week after a leaked sketch ran on these very pages, Audi has introduced the latest member of a "potential TT family," according to Audi board member Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg. This is the TT Sportback Concept, a five-door, 400-horsepower version of the brand's stylish sports car and at this point, it looks darn likely to herald the debut of a third body style for Audi's design icon.

Unveiled at the expansive Volkswagen group night celebration ahead of the 2014 Paris Motor Show, the TT Sportback Concept is the most evolved version of a form factor that's seen a slow striptease throughout 2014, first with the Allroad Shooting Brake Concept in Detroit and, more recently, in the Offroad Concept from the Beijing Motor Show.

For Paris, the car being shown by Audi is absent traditional concept car traits like oversized wheels, miniscule mirrors and bizarre interior treatments, giving it a far more production ready appearance than either of the previous TT-based concepts. The exterior, meanwhile, is clearly reminiscent of the third-generation car (that roofline is pure TT), although there are a number of styling decisions that remind us of the compact A3, particularly in regards to the taillights.

This heavy production basis does not, we're guessing, extend to the engine bay, which is home to a 400-horsepower, 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder. That zesty powerplant and its 332 pound-feet of torque allows the TT Sportback to hit 62 miles per hour in a scant 3.9 seconds. A seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission manages this grunt, and shifts the 2.0T's power to a Quattro all-wheel-drive system.

We'll have much more on the TT Sportback Concept and everything else coming from the Volkswagen Group at the 2014 Paris Motor Show in the coming days. In the meantime, scroll down for the full press release from Audi, and check out the brand's newest concept car in the gallery, above.
Related GalleryAudi TT Sportback Concept
Audi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback Concept

News Source: Audi

Chevy Trax to start at $20,120*

Posted Oct 1st 2014 3:30PM

2015 Chevrolet Trax

The Chevrolet Trax is the slightly more meat-and-potatoes cousin to the Buick Encore, with the same platform and engine underneath but a touch less luxury. The little compact crossover is on its way to US dealers in January 2015, and Chevy is finally announcing the base price for this runabout CUV at $20,120 (*plus $875 for destination) when it goes on sale. That's around $4,000 less than a starter Encore before its destination fee.

For that money, buyers get a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, and EPA estimated fuel economy of 26 miles per gallon city and 34 mpg highway. Features like a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, rearview camera and keyless entry come standard, as well. Moving up through the LS, LT and LTZ trims adds even more kit. While the Trax might look fairly small on the outside, the rear seats and the front passenger seat all fold down for a maximum amount of space when needed.

In addition to that, all of the trims are offered with all-wheel drive for $1,500. Other available options include remote start and Chevy's OnStar 4G LTE system to act as a WiFi hotspot.

Chevy tells us it is holding a launch event for the Trax in December, so hopefully we'll be able to tell you how it drives before the New Year arrives. Scroll down for the company's full announcement of the price and options.

News Source: Chevrolet

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Steven J. Ewing / AOL

Volkswagen XL Sport brings high-performance fuel-sipping to Paris

Posted Oct 1st 2014 3:00PM

Volkswagen XL Sport

Just over one year ago, we reported on rumors that Volkswagen was pairing with its then-new corporate cousin, Italian motorcycle maker Ducatti, to build a high-performance version of the XL1, a vehicle that we (actually, I) said would be a "firecracker," thanks to its super-low curb weight, slippery aerodynamics and alleged 190-horsepower engine. Now, only slightly late for its rumored Geneva Motor Show debut, VW is trotting out the so-called XL Sport to the 2014 Paris Motor Show.

Total output has jumped to 197 horsepower, thanks to the presence of a Ducatti 1199 Superleggera V-twin, which has been mated up to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. In addition to screaming its way to 11,000 rpm, the two-cylinder engine will help the XL Sport zip to 62 miles per hour in a brisk 5.8 seconds before reaching a top speed of 168 miles per hour.

168 mph is a lofty speed for a 200-hp vehicle, and it wouldn't be possible without VW's obsessive streamlining of the XL Sport's body.

That's a lofty speed for a 200-horsepower vehicle, and it wouldn't be possible without VW's obsessive streamlining of the XL Sport's body. Featuring a 0.258 coefficient of drag, it's not as efficient as the standard XL1's 0.189, thanks to the presence of wider tires, increased downforce and additional cooling ducts. Still, the XL is sleek enough for VW to claim the title of most aerodynamic sports car.

A pushrod rear suspension and forged magnesium wheels are just a few of the race-minded items underpinning the XL Sport, indicating that on top of being a quick little scamp, it should prove a capable dancer.

While Volkswagen is planning on building 250 XL1s, at this point there's no indication that the XL Sport will be sold to the public. We're guessing that question could depend on the public's reaction to the unique sportster when it makes its debut in the coming days at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.

Scroll down for the full press release from Volkswagen, and then head into the gallery and take a closer look at the XL Sport.
Related GalleryVolkswagen XL Sport
Volkswagen XL SportVolkswagen XL SportVolkswagen XL SportVolkswagen XL SportVolkswagen XL SportVolkswagen XL SportVolkswagen XL SportVolkswagen XL Sport

News Source: Volkswagen

Lamborghini reveals Asterion LPI 910-4 hybrid hypercar concept

Posted Oct 1st 2014 2:32PM

Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4

There are automakers that roll out concept cars regularly as a matter of course, and there are those that rarely do. Lamborghini falls squarely in the latter category, which makes the vehicle you see here - revealed just a day before the Paris Motor Show - such a rare treat.

It's called the Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4, and if you're familiar with Sant'Agata nomenclature, you're probably already picking apart its specs based on those letters and numbers: LP for longitudinal posterior, telling you this is, like all other contemporary Raging Bulls, a mid-engined supercar. 910 tells you how much metric horsepower it packs. The 4 tells you it's all-wheel drive. But along with the name Asterion, borrowed from a mythical minotaur (a hybrid man-bull, for those unschooled in Greek mythology), it's the letter I – standing for "Ibrido" – which speaks of the novelty of this concept.

That's right, you're looking at the first gasoline-electric hybrid Lamborghini. A plug-in hybrid, in fact, that can travel 31 miles on electricity alone. The powertrain combines the 5.2-liter V10 and seven-speed DSG from the Huracán (good for 610 metric horsepower) to a trio of electric motors (good for another 300) to bring total output up to a claimed 910 – equivalent to 897 hp by our standards - assuming all four motors are running at peak output at the same time. That makes it the most powerful Lamborghini we've ever seen, and puts it in league with the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari. The result is a 0-62 time quoted at three seconds flat and a top speed of 199 miles per hour, or up to 78 mph in pure electric mode.

That's right, you're looking at the first gasoline-electric hybrid Lamborghini.

Of course there's more to the Asterion than its powertrain, exceptional as it is. The striking form is pure Lambo, all sharp angles, intersecting lines and big vents. Closer to the softer Huracán than the pure visual aggression of the Aventador, the concept has a longer front deck vaguely reminiscent of the Miura. The interior, like those of every production Lambo since Urraco (and the LM002) is a pure two-seater, rendered in a decidedly lighter tan and brown but with all the requisite carbon-fiber trim. The doors open more out than up, something in between the Huracán's conventional portals and the Aventador's scissors, in a similar (but more aggressive) approach to the swan doors you'd find on an Aston Martin.

The big question, of course, is whether Lamborghini has any intention of building the Asterion, and any answer at this point would be pure speculation. But considering how much attention (and what big price tags) its rivals have garnered for their hybrid hypercars, and the capacity Lambo has created for producing small runs of rare machinery like the Veneno and Sesto Elemento, our reaction would likely be more delighted than shocked. Whether or not the Asterion itself ever reaches customer hands, though, you can bet that the hybrid powertrain eventually will, in some form or another.

News Source: Lamborghini

GM outlines strategy for new products, growth in China

Plans To Be Supported By 'Fortress Balance Sheet'

Posted Oct 1st 2014 2:30PM

GM CEO Mary Barra

"Our strategic plan is a pathway to earn customers for life and create significant shareholder value in the process." – Mary Barra

General Motors laid out ambitious plans on Wednesday to become the world's "most valued automotive company," a goal it says it can reach by strengthening its business in China, rebuilding the Cadillac luxury brand and fixing the foundering GM Europe operations.

The plan also calls for fewer product underpinnings, which will be shared globally in a bid to reduce costs and complexities, an injection of new products in the United States and an increased focus on emerging technologies like autonomous driving. In 2019, GM said almost half of its products will be new or significantly refreshed in the last 18 months, up from 27 percent next year.

The plan has been under development since CEO Mary Barra took over from Dan Akerson in January and is a blueprint for keeping the new, leaner GM profitable and in a position to react quickly to customers' needs.

"Our strategic plan is a pathway to earn customers for life and create significant shareholder value in the process," Barra said in a statement. "Every chance to connect with a customer is an opportunity to build a stronger relationship."

News Source: General Motors

Fiat observes Paris Fashion Week with 500 Couture special edition

Posted Oct 1st 2014 2:01PM

Fiat 500 Ron Arad Edition

The Paris Motor Show may be where the bulk of new cars will be presented this week in the French capital, but it's not the only place. Fiat has chosen the swank Champs Elysées to unveil a trio of special-edition Cinquecento models as part of Fashion Week.

The first in the 500 Couture line will be the Fiat 500 Ron Arad Edition, born out of a collaboration with the noted Israeli fashion designer. As you can see above, it features a metallic black paint job emblazoned with the silhouette of the original Cinquecento, showing just how much bigger the current 500 is than its progenitor. It also features a glass sunroof, chrome trim, white mirror caps, 16-inch alloys and a black interior with Poltrona Frau leather and all the fixin's.

The 500 Ron Arad edition is joined by the 500 Comics and 500 Camouflage show cars, the former with a vibrant yellow and black paint job and stitching graphics, the latter with a gray/green treatment with bright yellow mirror caps. See 'em all in the image gallery above.
Related GalleryFiat 500 Couture
Fiat 500 CoutureFiat 500 CoutureFiat 500 CoutureFiat 500 CoutureFiat 500 CoutureFiat 500 CoutureFiat 500 CoutureFiat 500 Couture

News Source: Fiat

Mercedes forced to lower MPG ratings on two C300 models *UPDATE

Posted Oct 1st 2014 1:28PM

2013 Mercedes C300 4Matic

*UPDATE: Donna Boland, manager of corporate communications at Mercedes Benz USA, told AutoblogGreen that the sticker change only applied to around 500 C-Class vehicles on dealer lots, since a new C-Class came out in late August. "About 500 are left in the United States, and we've relabeled them," she said.

First Hyundai, then Ford and now Mercedes-Benz. The list of companies that have had to change their vehicles' official EPA fuel economy ratings has just grown by one with the announcement that the 2013 and 2014 C300 4-Matic FFV and PZEV versions need to have their EPA labels adjusted.

The changes aren't massive, at most one mile per gallon.

The changes aren't massive, at most one mile per gallon, but they are lower than before. The FFV version goes from 20 to 19 mpg in the city while the PZEV drops one mpg across the board from 23/20/29 combined/city/highway) to 22/19/28. The FFV's combined (22) and highway (27) ratings stay the same. Other Mercedes vehicles that were spot checked turned out to have accurate labels.

The problem, which is reminiscent of the issues that Ford had with the Total Road Load Horsepower, was that "Mercedes underestimated the impact of aerodynamic drag and tire rolling resistance known as 'road-load,'" the EPA said in a statement you can read below. We have asked Mercedes for more information on the issue but have not yet heard back.

We're not sure how many vehicles the EPA is retesting (or asking to be retested), but the agency says that the C300 models were evaluated again by Mercedes "with EPA oversight" and the EPA did its own tests at the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, MI. Christopher Grundler, the director of EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said that the EPA knows that the changes are minimal, but that, "it is important that our oversight system is producing the correct results because even one MPG matters to consumers."

In case you need a primer in the recent history of companies adjusting their EPA numbers, check out this and this. Based on today's news, we won't be surprised to hear more changes are coming.
Related Gallery2013 Mercedes C300 4Matic
2013 Mercedes C300 4Matic2013 Mercedes C300 4Matic2013 Mercedes C300 4Matic2013 Mercedes C300 4Matic2013 Mercedes C300 4Matic2013 Mercedes C300 4Matic2013 Mercedes C300 4Matic2013 Mercedes C300 4Matic

Corvette Z06 cracks 3-second 0-60, 1.2 g on skidpad

Quarter Mile Dispatched In 10.95 Seconds At 127 MPH

Posted Oct 1st 2014 1:00PM

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Ever since Chevy took the lid off, we knew the new Corvette Z06 would be fast. We just didn't know how fast, until now...

Hot off the presses, Chevrolet has now confirmed that the new Z06 will run from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 3 seconds – 2.95 seconds, to be precise, when equipped with the eight-speed automatic transmission. Stick with the standard seven-speed manual and you're looking at 3.2 seconds, which is still a few tenths quicker than the previous ZR1, which the new Z06 effectively replaces. It's awfully hard to verify such things, but this could very well be the first front-engine, rear-drive production car to crack the three-second barrier.

Impressed? Hold on, there's more: the Z06 will run the quarter-mile in 10.95 seconds with the automatic, 11.2 with the manual – either way reaching 127 mph by the end of the strip. It takes less than 100 feet (barely longer than a regulation basketball court) to stop from 60 mph, and will circle the skidpad at 1.2 g. (All the downforce that helps achieve that last figure, though, is expected to hamper the as-yet unquoted top speed.)

If you're wondering how all those elements add up, GM reports that the new Z06 is the fastest vehicle ever to lap its 2.9-mile road course at Milford, knocking a full second off the ZR1's previous record. Not too shabby for a vehicle costing less than $80k. Feel free to read all the official details below.

News Source: Chevrolet

Honda Civic Type R on track to smash 'Ring record, eclipse NSX

Posted Oct 1st 2014 12:31PM

Honda Civic Type R

Honda has made some serious performance machinery over the course of its history, but few products have been as hotly anticipated as the upcoming new Civic Type R. Following a deep and proud history of Type R Hondas, the latest Japanese hot hatch is continuing its long striptease at the Paris Motor Show this week. But before it does, Honda has released this video clip featuring project leader Suehiro Hasshi – and he has some bold claims to make.

For one, he says it'll be the best Type R yet – and that's quite a statement considering some of its predecessors, including the almighty NSX Type R. Hasshi-san also reiterates Honda's aim of snatching the front-drive lap record at the Nürburgring away from the likes of Renault and Seat, and reports that the Honda team is on track to chew every bit it's biting off. In short, the new Civic Type R ought to be sensational.

News Source: Honda via YouTube

2014 Renault Twingo [w/video]

The Rear-Engined Hatchback, However Improbable

Posted Oct 1st 2014 11:59AM

2014 Renault Twingo

In cars, as in all things, there exists a huge chasm between what is possible and what is probable. It may be possible, for example, that within a few years, we'll be zipping around town in hydrogen-powered, autonomous flying cars. But the likelihood is that we'll all be driving four-wheeled vehicles with internal combustion engines and our hands at ten and two for the foreseeable future – just as we have for generations. The same goes for the layout of those cars we drive.

It's possible for automakers to put the engine just about anywhere they want. And there are those that place them behind the cabin. But those are mostly exotics. The overwhelming probability is that the next car you buy – like the one before it, the one in which you were driven home from the hospital and every one in between – will have its engine up front.

That's what makes this new Renault Twingo so intriguing. While competitors like Volkswagen and Fiat succeeded their rear-engined hatchbacks with conventional front-engined ones, Renault has gone the opposite direction with its new Twingo, switching from a front-engine layout to a rear one. Think Porsche 911, only far, far more accessible. That is, at least, for European buyers, because Renault doesn't sell any of its models (Twingo included) in North America. So we boarded a flight for France to see if this new-old approach has merit.

Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 898cc I3
Power:
90 HP / 100 LB-FT
Transmission:
5-Speed Manual
Base Price:
10,800 euros
As-Tested Price:
15,700 euros

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Noah Joseph / AOL

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