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First Drive
2016 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Prototype [w/video]

  • First Drive
    2016 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Prototype [w/video]
  • MSPORTS
    Race Recap: 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix a thrilling wet mess
  • Official
    Polaris Slingshot hits the road on all three wheels [w/videos]
  • Report
    FBI investigating recently fired Ford engineer for espionage [UPDATE]
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2016 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Prototype [w/video]

Making The Case To Build A Brand-Defining Sports Car

Posted Jul 28th 2014 11:57AM

2016 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Prototype

It only takes about half a lap of the Millbrook Proving Grounds for me to become convinced that Infiniti must build this car.

The sedan I am piloting around the English circuit is a working prototype of the Q50 Eau Rouge Concept that made its world debut at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show earlier this year. As a refresher, the exquisitely painted, burgundy metallic, four-door show car is based on the production Q50, enhanced with Infiniti Red Bull Racing-inspired carbon-fiber bodywork, aerodynamic upgrades and – as we would come to learn at the Geneva Motor Show a few months later – fitted with a beastly twin-turbocharged engine shared with the parent company's spectacular Nissan GT-R.

Despite lacking the concept's gorgeously expensive paint, the vinyl-wrapped red prototype seen here is much more appealing than the static concept, as it is mechanically complete – it can be driven – thus explaining why I have traveled one-third of the way around the world to test this enthusiast-tuned, one-of-a-kind machine at one of Europe's premier testing facilities.

The Q50 Eau Rouge, named after the signature high-speed corner at Belgium's famed Spa-Francorchamps race circuit, is an intriguing program for a number of reasons. First, the Japanese luxury brand has never offered a flagship sport sedan of this magnitude. Second, the push came from Johan de Nysschen – the man tasked with turning Infiniti around who recently announced his departure from the company at the end of the month. Lastly, the working prototype was built by a small team in England, thousands of miles from Infiniti's Hong Kong headquarters, which allowed the program to move unimpeded by coagulating corporate culture. While launching the Eau Rouge program isn't as extreme as renaming all of its models, it would be easy to argue that this is a very radical move for the often-conservative Japanese automaker.

Vital Stats

Engine:
Twin-Turbo 3.8L V6
Power:
560 HP / 442 LB-FT
Transmission:
7-Speed Auto
As-Tested Price:
Prototype

Image Credit: Infiniti UK

European jury names 31 candidates for 2014 Car of the Year

Posted Jul 28th 2014 11:30AM

European Car of the YearEvery year a panel of jurists representing a variety of automotive publications in different languages and from different countries get together and pick their Car of the Year. It's a long and exhaustive process, and it starts right here.

For the 2015 award, the panel has identified 31 candidates: the Audi TT; BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and 2 Series Coupe, i8 and X4; the Citroën C1 and C4 Cactus; Fiat 500X (which hasn't even been unveiled yet); Ford EcoSport and Mondeo; Hyundai i20; Infiniti Q50; Jeep Renegade; Kia Soul; Lexus NX and RC; Mercedes-Benz C-Class, GLA and S-Class Coupe; Nissan Pulsar, Qashqai and X-Trail; Opel Corsa; Peugeot 108; Porsche Macan; Renault Twingo; Skoda Fabia; Smart Fortwo and Forfour; Subaru WRX STI; Suzuki Celerio; Toyota Aygo and Volkswagen Passat.

These 31 contenders will be whittled down to a short-list of seven nominees to be announced on December 15, followed by the announcement of the winner on March 2 at the Geneva Motor Show.

Past winners include the Peugeot 308, Volkswagen Golf, Chevy Volt/Opel Ampera, Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen Polo (going back to 2010). This year ought to present an interesting challenge in that three of the entrants – the Toyota Aygo, Citroën C1 and Peugeot 108 – are all essentially the same car. Last year saw the jury award second place jointly to the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ, which was (as far as we can tell) the first time it had split the award between manufacturers of essentially the same vehicle. The Renegade, 500X, GLA, Qashqai, X-Trail and Macan seem to be at a distinct disadvantage, though, because the jury has never named a sport-ute or crossover into the top three, let alone as the winner, in its 50-year history.

News Source: Car of the Year

China's Google is working on its own autonomous car

Posted Jul 28th 2014 11:01AM

Chinese motorists pass  by the Chinese W

If you had told us a decade ago that Google, of all companies, would be developing a driverless car, we likely would have asked you what you were smoking. But here we are, watching the Internet giant not only testing such systems on existing cars, but designing its own vehicles. It won't be the only one, it seems, as reports from China indicate that one of its own is following suit.

That company is Baidu, which for all intents and purposes is China's Google. Only, you know... it hasn't been banned in China. Baidu has a search engine, open-source online encyclopedia, searchable multimedia database... the works. It's the fifth most visited website on the internet behind Google, Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo!, and ahead of Wikipedia, Twitter, Amazon and even Autoblog, hard as it is to believe. It was the first Chinese company to be indexed on the NASDAQ 100, and now, just like Google, it's developing its own driverless car technology.

Baidu's system reportedly uses radar, lasers, cameras and GPS to recognize its surroundings and pilot the car without driver intervention. It can read traffic signs, recognize voice commands and whatever else it needs to do in order to drive itself around.

That's about all we know at the moment, with the company scheduled to begin testing before the year's end. Baidu previously announced it was developing a driverless bicycle as well, though we can scarcely imagine how that would work.

News Source: Ecns.cn

Image Credit: Simon Lim/AFP/Getty

Race Recap: 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix a thrilling wet mess

Posted Jul 28th 2014 10:14AM

Graphic for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Three Free Practice sessions left us thinking Lewis Hamilton looked good to claim another victory for Mercedes AMG Petronas and close up the Driver's World Championship race, but the first qualifying session for the 2014 Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix threw out that script. A fuel leak in Q3 set Hamilton's car aflame and he never set a time. His chassis damaged beyond repair, the team built him a new one and he started from pit lane. That same session also claimed Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen, when a bad call about whether to go out again dropped him down to 17th and out for the day.

Without a real challenge, that put Hamilton's teammate-slash-nemesis Nico Rosberg on pole in the other Mercedes, followed by a resurgent Sebastian Vettel in the first Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Valtteri Bottas in the first Williams and Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull. Fernando Alonso waved the scarlet in fifth for Ferrari but figured he could be in third place by the end of the first lap. Felipe Massa put the second Williams in sixth, followed by Jenson Button in the first McLaren, Jean-Eric Vergne getting up to eighth for Toro Rosso, Nico Hülkenberg in ninth for Force India and Kevin Magnussen in the second McLaren.

When rain poured on the 4.381-kilometer Hungaroring before the race, every script up and down the field got rewritten, and they would continue come in for revision almost every one of the 70 laps.
Related Gallery2014 Hungarian Grand Prix
2014 Hungarian Grand Prix2014 Hungarian Grand Prix2014 Hungarian Grand Prix2014 Hungarian Grand Prix2014 Hungarian Grand Prix2014 Hungarian Grand Prix2014 Hungarian Grand Prix2014 Hungarian Grand Prix

Image Credit: F1, Darko Vojinovic / AP, Lars Baron / Getty , Mark Thompson / Getty, Drew Gibson / Getty

Polaris Slingshot hits the road on all three wheels [w/videos]

Posted Jul 28th 2014 9:31AM

Polaris Slingshot

If there's one thing that the likes of Morgan and Campagna have taught us, it's that a three-wheeled roadster can be one heck of a fun ride, bringing together the best elements of a motorbike and a sports car (albeit with none of the practicality). And now they've got a new challenger on their hands in the form of the Slingshot.

The Polaris Slingshot has been on our radar screen for a few months, but has now been revealed in full. It's similar in form to the Three-Wheeler or T-Rex, but looks more like a KTM X-Bow minus a rear wheel. Which may make sense considering that, like the X-Bow, the Slingshot is made by a motorcycle company: Polaris makes snowmobiles and ATVs (as well as Victory and Indian motorcycles). The company is sort of like Bombardier, but where BRP's Can-Am Spyder (with its saddle and handlebars) went with a motorbike approach with an extra wheel, the Polaris Slingshot (though technically deemed a motorcycle for certification purposes) is more like a roadster missing one.

The 2.4-liter GM Ecotec four sits up front, channeling 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque through a five-speed manual transmission and carbon-reinforced drive belt to the solitary rear wheels. In true motorbike-manufacturer style (where pace depends mostly on the rider), Polaris hasn't revealed performance specs. But in a package weighing just 1,700 pounds, it ought to go like spit. Measuring less than 150 inches tall by 77.6 inches wide and 51.9 inches tall, and riding on a 105-inch wheelbase with a 69-inch front track and sitting just 5 inches off the ground, it ought to feel even faster, especially considering that it's got no roof and barely any windshield to speak of. With 11.8-inch vented disc brakes at each of its three corners, it ought to stop on a dime as well.

Pricing starts at $19,999 for the base model and $23,999 for the better-equipped Slingshot SL. It comes with a two-year unlimited-mileage warranty extendable up to five years and will be sold by Polaris, Victory and Indian dealers across the country, although the specific laws of its registration (and whether you'll have to wear a helmet when driving it) depend on each state's individual regulations. Check it out on the Polaris website and in the playlist of eleven short video clips below.
Related GalleryPolaris Slingshot
Polaris SlingshotPolaris SlingshotPolaris SlingshotPolaris Slingshot

News Source: Polaris

ETC

Jaguar buys world's largest collection of British cars

Posted Jul 28th 2014 8:45AM

James Hull Collection

Whether you're looking at Bertone going bankrupt or Spyker facing (and subsequently resolving) a large tax bill, it's saddening to see an automaker having to sell off its factory collection. That's why we're glad to report that there are still some acquiring historic vehicles from their pasts. Like Jaguar, which has just bought the largest private collection of classic British cars in the world.

The collection of 543 cars was painstakingly assembled by one James Hull, a British dentist with some 50 dental clinics to his name across the UK and who was keen to find the right buyer to take possession of his life's work and preserve it for years to come.

Of those 543 cars, the majority are of British origin, including over 130 Jaguars. The collection includes seven XK120s, several C- and D-Types, a rare XKSS, eight E-Types, thirty Mark-series Jaguar sedans, nineteen XJS coupes and convertibles, some twenty XJ sedans as well as some pre-war SS models and Swallow sidecars and coachbuilt specials from the company's early days. Among the many noteworthy examples are a rare SS100, an alloy-bodied XK120 and an MK X owned by company founder Sir William Lyons himself, as well as Winston Churchill's Austin, Elton John's Bentley, and racing driver and motorcycle rider Mike Hailwood's E-Type.

The collection was acquired by Jaguar Land Rover through its new Special Operations division – the same unit responsible for the F-Type Project 7 and which now incorporates Jaguar Heritage. It will be housed at a new facility at Jaguar's historic home at Browns Lane in Coventry, the cars to be used at future events to promote the brand and highlight its history.

Although most of the cars were made by other manufacturers, Jaguar spokesman Dan Connell confirmed in correspondence with Autoblog that "the collection will stay together for the foreseeable future." As for the final price, neither party is saying, but while it was reportedly listed for sale at £100 million ($170m), we're told that wasn't the price which JLR paid for the collection. As Hull put it in the press release below, "My primary motivation was not to get the maximum price but rather to secure the future of the collection in this country with the right custodian." Evidently Jaguar was deemed to be "the right custodian."
Related GalleryJames Hull Collection
James Hull CollectionJames Hull CollectionJames Hull Collection

News Source: Jaguar

Porsche acquires Kyalami race track at auction

Posted Jul 28th 2014 7:58AM

SAFRICA-AUTO-PRIX-RSA

With more victories under its belt than any other manufacturer, you could say, in a figurative sense at least, that Porsche owns countless numbers of race tracks around the world. But here we're not talking about figuratively owning a track – we're talking about literally buying one. And Porsche has just bought Kyalami.

Kylamai, for those unfamiliar, is a grand prix circuit near Johannesburg in South Africa. Between 1967 and 1985, and again in '92 and '93, it was home to the South African Grand Prix, and has since hosted a variety of local and lower-level international races, but apparently fell on hard times. As a result, the track's owners – listed as Universal Property Professionals – put it up for auction. Bidders had to deposit four million Rand (about $380k) to participate, but after just 50 seconds, the auction was over.

The winning bid was placed – via telephone from the local press launch for the Macan – by Porsche South Africa CEO Toby Venter, who bid a reported 205 million rand (about $19.5 million) to take over the complex. The German automaker's South African division reportedly intends to keep the track open for racing, but could also be expected to use the facility for testing, customer track days and such moving forward.

It would not be the only track, after all, owned by a Porsche – even if the South African option is owned and operated independently of the German automaker and its holding company. The factory at Leipzig has its own test track on premises, there's another one in the works for the company's new US headquarters in Atlanta, Porsche Engineering owns the Nardo high-speed test track in Germany and there's probably a few more we're forgetting about, not to mention facilities like Ehra-Lessien which Porsche effectively owns through its 50+ percent stake in the Volkswagen Group.

Porsche also has a number of customer experience centers opening at tracks around the world – including LA, Atlanta, Silverstone and Le Mans – and given the new acquisition, we wouldn't be surprised to see it set one up at Kyalami as well.

News Source: PistonHeads

Image Credit: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty

Jaguar teaches Mena Suvari and Sebastian Stan how to drive the F-Type

Posted Jul 27th 2014 7:59PM

Jaguar F-Type Coupe R at the Circuit of the Americas

Automakers conduct driver training programs on racing circuits around the world for a variety of participants: journalists, customers, even celebrities. And at a recent session of the Jaguar Performance Driving Academy at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, the Leaping Cat marque had a couple of the Hollywood types in the paddock.

In addition to the various (evidently well-heeled) members of the public, learning how to pilot the new F-Type Coupe R on the track this time around were actors Sebastian Stan and Mena Suvari. You might recognize Stan from his roll as Bucky Barnes in the Captain America movies and Suvari from such red, white and blue favorites as American Beauty and the American Pie franchise, but both got a first-hand taste of one of Britain's finest courtesy of Jaguar.

So how did it go? Well, as one of the less-famous participants put it, it was #awesomesauce." We couldn't possibly reproduce in words her enthusiasm in person and on camera, so you'll just have to watch the video below to see for yourself.

News Source: Jaguar via YouTube

Dodge to sell off first Challenger SRT Hellcat for charity

Posted Jul 27th 2014 6:35PM

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat VIN0001

Want to get your hands on a new 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, and can't wait to be the first to get one? Las Vegas will be the place to be on September 27. That's where Barrett-Jackson will auction off the very first example. And you'd better bring your checkbook, because the bidding is sure to be fierce with all the proceeds going to charity.

The supercharged Challenger with VIN 0001 has been hand-painted in Stryker Red (usually reserved for the Viper) and features special badging, documentation and accompanying memorabilia – not to mention, of course, that 707-horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8. The car will be on display this weekend as well at Barrett-Jackson's Hot August Nights auction in Reno.

Not only is Dodge donating the vehicle, but Barrett-Jackson is waiving all its consignment fees and commissions so that 100 percent of the winning bid – which is sure to be mega – will go directly towards Opportunity Village, a non-profit that works to serve the needs of the mentally handicapped and their families. Check out the press release below for all the details.

News Source: Dodge

When you put Rimac Concept One batteries into a wheelchair, magic happens

Posted Jul 27th 2014 4:55PM

Rimac EV batteries wheelchair Rolli

Rimac Automobili is no stranger to our pages, but it's usually for the Concept_One supercar or its sleek spinoffs. Today, though, the company is talking up a feel-good alternative use for the electric vehicle's batteries: powering a wheelchair for a young fan, Rolly Bugnar, who suffers from a serious and legitimate case of range anxiety.

"We were confident that we could relatively quickly adapt our battery for a wheelchair." – Mate Rimac

So Bugnar contacted Rimac to see if the company could repurpose its batteries for his daily conveyance. Mate Rimac, the company founder and CEO, said, "Since we have already used the technology originally developed for the Concept_One supercar in other products like the high-performance Greyp Bikes, we were confident that we could relatively quickly adapt our battery for a wheelchair. ... It still took us months of development and adaptation, but we are all very satisfied with the performance and reliability of the prototype system."

What did Rimac do? It took the li-ion battery system from that Greyp G12 bike as well as the company's battery management system, vehicle control unit and human machine interface. As you might suspect, the wheelchair now has better range (37 miles vs. just six with the old lead acid batteries) and weighs less. The new batteries went from 70 pounds down to 47, and the EV has more consistent power, too. You can tell Bugnar is a true EV fan, since he likes to keep close tabs on the individual cells and he wishes his wheelchair could go faster.

Sadly, Rimac Automobili doesn't have a plan to sell any wheelchairs like this, but we expect a lot of wheelchair users would enjoy a new ride like Bugnar's. See what we mean in the video below. It might be the most heartwarming seven minutes you'll spend online today.

News Source: Rimac via YouTube

American F1 driver Alexander Rossi signs with Marussia

Posted Jul 27th 2014 3:31PM

Alexander Rossi at Marussia

American fans of Formula One racing have a new team to root for as the Marussia F1 Team has named Alexander Rossi as its official reserve driver for the remainder of the season.

The 22-year-old native of Auburn, California, has advanced through the single-seater ranks since winning the Skip Barber Western Regional championship and placing third nationally in 2006. He won the Formula BMW Americas title in 2008 and proceeded to Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2 where he competes currently, winning races in both series. For the past three seasons he's driven for Caterham, racing for its GP2 team and acting as test driver for its F1 team. Once the team was sold, however, Rossi jumped ship. He's driving for the championship-winning Campos Racing team in GP2 and just announced his signing with Marussia on Thursday.

The move is only a minor step up for Rossi as the Marussia team is only two points ahead of Caterham this season, but will hopefully lead to the young Californian getting some seat time in an official test session or two – if not being called up to replace Max Chilton or Jules Bianchi in the race seat at some point before the end of the season or maybe getting promoted to a full-time drive for next year's championship.

Rossi is the first American to break into F1 racing since Scott Speed, who left the series in 2007. The last American driver to win a grand prix was Mario Andretti back in 1978.

News Source: Marussia F1 Team

Audi SQ7 coming, will have electric turbo

Posted Jul 27th 2014 2:15PM

Audi Q7 Spy Shot

Formula 1 and endurance racing are already harvesting energy from turbos on the track, and now it's apparently time for a similar idea of boosting the efficiency of forced induction to hit the streets in a high-performance, diesel SUV.

In a recent interview with the UK's Autocar, Audi technical boss Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg let the big news slip. "The new Q7 will be available in the market next year but the electric turbo will come a bit later in the Audi SQ7 available in 2016," he said. The e-turbo system was already rumored for the premium SUV but for the standard model, not this just-announced performance version.

Audi has been experimenting with the e-turbo system for a little while, as an electrically driven supercharger. It showed up on the RS5 TDI concept that used a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged diesel V6 plus the electric system to diminish turbo lag. In that application, it provided an impressive 385 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque and an alleged sprint to 62 miles per hour in 4 seconds. Although, Dr. Hackenberg didn't make it clear if this was the exact layout for the SQ7.

According to Autocar, the sophisticated system is powered by its own, separate 48-volt electrical system that drives a 7-kilowatt (9.4 horsepower) motor to spin the supercharger. When the internal combustion engine is at low revs, it provides the needed boost but shuts off as engine revs rise to let the turbos take over.
Related Gallery2015 Audi Q7: Spy Shots
2015 Audi Q7: Spy Shots2015 Audi Q7: Spy Shots2015 Audi Q7: Spy Shots2015 Audi Q7: Spy Shots2015 Audi Q7: Spy Shots

News Source: Autocar

Image Credit: CarPix

12 DOT secretaries urge Congress to address long-term infrastructure needs

Posted Jul 27th 2014 12:50PM

Transportation Budget

"Right now, there are so many structurally deficient bridges in America that, if you lined them up end-to-end, they'd stretch from Boston to Miami."

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx (pictured above) has banded together with 11 of his predecessors to issue a stark declaration to the US Congress – our infrastructure is crumbling, and the proposed bill to keep the Highway Trust Fund going until 2015 is simply not a suitable long-term solution.

Saying that the bill "will not 'fix' America's transportation system" and that "America's transportation system [has never] been on a more unsustainable course," Secretaries of Transportation for the past 35 years and seven presidents laid out some truly troubling stats.

In the past five years, Congress has passed a total of 27 short-term funding measures, whereas the norm used to be six-year plans. The country's infrastructure has suffered due to this kick-the-can-down-the-road mentality.

"Right now, there are so many structurally deficient bridges in America that, if you lined them up end-to-end, they'd stretch from Boston to Miami," the letter reads. For those wondering, that's a distance of over 1,250 miles, as the crow flies.

Citing the American Society of Civil Engineers, it's estimated that the US would need to invest $1.8 trillion by the end of this decade to bring roads up to what the ASCE calls "adequate levels." Of course, what constitutes "adequate levels" is open to debate, but it's clear that there needs to be an enormous investment to sort out America's deteriorating highways and byways.

Those troubling stats are simply near-term issues, though. A lack of highway funding and infrastructure repair in the present could be even more troubling in the more distant future. Pointing out that the US population will increase by 100 million come 2050, Foxx and Co., claim that an additional 14 billion tons of freight will need to get from A to B to support that population. Now, how is that going to be possible on derelict infrastructure? Secondary to that, how much more wear and tear will those systems suffer with all the additional freight haulers moving about?

The note ends with the Secretaries of Transportation calling on Congress to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, something we sincerely hope happens:

"Until recently, Congress understood that, as America grows, so must our investments in transportation. And for more than half a century, they voted for that principle – and increased funding – with broad, bipartisan majorities in both houses.

We believe they can, and should, do so again."

Scroll down to read the letter in its entirety.

News Source: United States Department of Transportation

Image Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Lexus looking for performance with 600-hp LF-LC?

Posted Jul 27th 2014 11:01AM

Lexus LF-LC Concept

Lexus has been keeping development of the production version of its LF-LC concept tightly under wraps. Last we heard, that halo GT car had received the green light for production, but that was over a year ago. Since then, things have been pretty silent. Finally though, fresh rumors about the luxury coupe are starting to leak out, pointing toward the model's powertrain lineup.

According to unnamed sources speaking to Motor Trend, the production LF-LC will eventually sport three very intriguing engine options. The base model will reportedly use a naturally aspirated V8 providing around 450 horsepower – very similar specs to the upcoming RC F. The next step up will allegedly be the upcoming hybrid powertrain shared between BMW and Toyota pumping things up to around 500 hp. Finally, a top-of-the-heap F version will use a twin-turbocharged version of the RC F's 5.0-liter V8 to bring output to 600 hp. The insiders even claim that the hybrid and the twin-turbo V8 could find their way into other Lexus products like the LS and possibly even a more beastly RC.

None of this speculation sounds too outlandish. Lexus could get more capacity out of the RC F's tuned V8 by shoving it into other models, and rumors are flying about performance cars spawned from BMW and Toyota's partnership. Given Lexus' recent embrace of turbocharging, even the twin-turbo V8 doesn't seem too dubious. That said, with no hard facts to back up the rumormill, we'll have to keep waiting to see what the LF-LC shows up with.

News Source: Motor Trend

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

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