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    Editors' Choice: Top Five 2014 New York Auto Show Debuts
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Škoda headed to Wörthersee with CitiJet roadster concept

Posted Apr 18th 2014 6:29PM

Skoda CitiJet

Every year, fans of Volkswagen Group performance cars gather at a lake in Austria to celebrate the GTI Treffen. But what started as a fan-fest for VW hot hatches has long since expanded to include other brands under the company's sprawling umbrella, and Škoda never misses out.

In 2012, for example, the Czech automaker rolled in to Wörthersee with a concept rally car based on the tiny Citigo (itself a rebadged VW Up!). The year before it did up a roadster based on the Fabia S2000. This year, however, it's planning the bring the two together with the CitiJet concept.

Based once again on the Citigo, the CitiJet is the work of sixteen young apprentices working for Škoda. What they've put together is a tiny roadster with a 1.0-liter engine driving just 75 horsepower to the front set of 16-inch alloys. Inside the open cockpit are two seats, a red leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel, blue LED lighting and a 300-watt sound system.

The whole thing is finished off in a two-tone blue and white color scheme offset by racing stripes in what looks like a similar approach to the red and grey on the Rapid Sport concept from Frankfurt last year. Unfortunately we've only got a rendering and a work-in-progress build photo to go on at the moment, but Škoda is sure to drop the full monte sometime between now and its live debut at Wörthersee late next month.

News Source: Škoda

Subaru to return to Isle of Man with 2015 WRX STI hoping to set new record [w/videos]

Posted Apr 18th 2014 5:44PM

Dave Higgins sets a lap record around the Isle of Man TT course in a 2011 Subaru WRX STI sedan.

This is what it looked like when Mark Higgins set the lap record at the 37.75-mile TT Mountain Course on the Isle of Man in 2011 in a Subaru WRX STI. And it will probably look much the same when Higgins returns to the chunk of land in the Irish Sea to with the aim of breaking his record, set at an average speed of 115.36 miles per hour, but he'll do so in a 2015 WRX STI.

As in 2011, he'll drive a mostly stock US sedan fitted with a roll cage, race harness, fire suppression system and upgraded springs and dampers. We're sure he'll be hoping to avoid a repeat of "The biggest moment of my life," though. There's a press release below with more information on the coming attempt, including dates, and we've included a video of that "moment" as well as one of the whole record run. Godspeed, Mr. Higgins.

News Source: Subaru

2015 Mini Cooper S does best gymkhana impersonation in Malaysia

Posted Apr 18th 2014 5:02PM

Screencap of a Malaysian video promo for the new Mini.

Mini Malaysia wants you - at least those of you in Southeast Asia - to know that the new Mini has a riptide of adrenaline and sharp teeth underneath its larger, more ergonomically efficient exterior. To make the point it enlisted the aid of Putrajaya roads, local agency Saatchi & Saatchi Arachnid and four local action sports stars: Fizzy, Shuk, Rizlan and Nasa.

A bog standard Mini Cooper S is the star, its 192-horsepower engine and rollcage-free cabin reinforcing the message that you can do the same thing in a model right off the showroom floor... if you happen to have the same skills as Ivan Khong, the Malaysian Gymkhana Champion behind the wheel. You can read the backstory in the press release and watch how it all comes together in the video below.

News Source: Mini Malaysia via YouTube

VW may not bring diesel Golf GTD to US after all

Posted Apr 18th 2014 4:30PM

2014 Volkswagen Golf GTD

There is some bad news for hot hatch fans who also love efficiency. The chances of the Volkswagen Golf GTD coming to the US are increasingly slim, according to an interview with Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn in Automotive News. Horn says that the model would cost too much to import from Germany. Cue the sad trombone.

"The GTD would be a great car. The price point is not really attractive. So the probability is sort of diminishing," said Horn. While other Volkswagen diesel engines for North America are built in Silao, Mexico, the factory can't support the high-output 2.0-liter diesel, he claims.

The Golf GTD seemed like a sure thing for the US market. It was slated to launch as a 2016 model for around $27,000. The opportunity of a hot hatch with 181 horsepower, 280 pound-feet of torque and over 40 miles-per-gallon fuel economy seemed perfect. Earlier, VW even brought a few previous-generation models for journalists to try out, and we liked it.

However, the GTD isn't completely off the table quite yet. "Within product planning it's still under investigation, but it's looking less likely," said Mark Gillies Manager of Product and Technology at VW US Media to Autoblog. He didn't say what caused plans to change.

As some sustenance to diesel fans, Horn tells AN that a cheaper version of the standard Golf TDI is coming. VW is also still deciding whether to add tooling to build all-wheel drive vehicles in Mexico. It would allow vehicles the Golf TDI SportWagen concept from the New York Auto Show to be made. Petrol hot hatch fans can look forward to the seventh-generation GTI in June.

Mazda recalls 109k Tribute models for rust issue

Posted Apr 18th 2014 4:04PM

2004 Mazda Tribute

The Mazda Tribute is being hit with a similar recall as its platform-mate the Ford Escape underwent a few weeks ago. Mazda is recalling 109,000 Tributes from model years 2001 to 2004. On the trucks, the subframe can rust from road salt, potentially causing the lower control arm to detach. If this happens, a loss of steering control could occur.

Mazda is adding a reinforcement crossbrace for added strength on the affected models. The recall covers Tributes currently registered in or originally sold in 20 northern states and Washington, DC, where road salt is used.

The reinforcement braces aren't available yet to do the repair. Mazda will send a letter in May to owners of affected vehicles that will inform them of the problem, and a second letter telling them when the parts will be ready. Scroll down to read the full recall press release.

One more Lincoln MKX concept teaser drops before Beijing

Posted Apr 18th 2014 3:33PM

Lincoln MKX Teaser

If the teaser video for Lincoln's launch of a new concept at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show wasn't enough for you, the company has now released a shadowy new image on its Twitter page. The vehicle may be a concept for the next-generation MKX, and its launch in China is part of the huge rollout to sell the brand's models there.

The latest photo shows off the concept's lighting, including LED running lights and lit sideview mirrors. The sharp edges of the lights give some hints to its shape. However, Other than clearly being a crossover, not much else is known.

The concept's launch supports Lincoln breaking into the Chinese market. It will begin selling the MKZ and MKC there this fall, as well as a midsize luxury SUV. A fullsize luxury sedan and the Navigator will come later. The company will also build luxury showrooms for the models that will look more like high-end hotel lobbies than car dealers. Scroll down to watch the teaser video.

News Source: Lincoln via Twitter

Dodge offers 100 years of solid advice in new ad

Posted Apr 18th 2014 3:02PM

Dodge Challenger ad

This is a cool ad. Dodge, which is celebrating its centennial this year, recruited some of its peers to see what you should and shouldn't do in life. Of course, some are obvious - don't complain, learn from your mistakes and live for now.

Then again, some are less obvious. Some, actually, are downright awesome. Towards the end, each piece of advice is interspersed with clips of Dodge's redesigned Challenger smoking its tires. Really, this ad feels like it'd be worthy of a Super Bowl spot. This commercial's personal nature is really in keeping with some of the big game's most interesting ads, like the Imported From Detroit commercial, the Farmer ad and Maserati's surprise clip from this year's game.

Take a look below and let us know what you think.

Rolls-Royce shows bespoke Pinnacle Travel Phantom in Beijing

Posted Apr 18th 2014 2:33PM

Rolls-Royce Pinnacle Travel Phantom

Rolls-Royce is exclusive. Rolls-Royce's Bespoke Collection, though, takes that exclusivity to the highest levels, representing the very finest work that the craftsmen at the company's Goodwood factory are capable of producing. With the Pinnacle Travel Phantom, set to be shown at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show, Rolls-Royce may have finally outdone itself. Apparently, the puzzling name (as well as the reason it's being shown in Beijing) comes from China's second consecutive year as the largest outbound travel market in the world.

The one-off custom job wears a gorgeous two-tone paint scheme, with a section of Silver Sand and a lot of Madeira Red paint. The intricate coachline includes a few small details that just add to the exterior's specialness.

The cabin, though, is where the work has really been done. It has throw pillows, for crying out loud. Ignoring the silvery poofs on the back seats, the cabin is dominated by Morello Red and Seashell leather, the former of which is on the seats, doors and interior partition. The woodwork, is some of the most beautiful we've seen from Rolls-Royce, which is saying something.

According to Rolls-Royce, each piece of wood veneer is laser cut and then hand-assembled by a Rolls-Royce woodworker into the designs seen on this car. There are 230 pieces used throughout the car's cabin.

Take a look up top for the official gallery from Rolls-Royce, and then scroll below for a short press release.

ETC

GT Academy returns, and why Gran Turismo 6 demands a pedal/wheel setup

Posted Apr 18th 2014 2:03PM

US-ENTERTAINMENT-IT-E3

The path to become a racing driver is a difficult one. It requires starting early, with karts, and then building up through the years and if you're really, really good (and really, really lucky), a team will notice you and sign you up. Or, you know, you could just become really good at Gran Turismo, and beat out other like-minded fanatics for a seat in the GT Academy.

The racing school, which culls its students from the ranks of Gran Turismo players has already pumped out successful racers, most notably, Lucas Ordoñez, who has a second and third-place finish under his belt at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With the 2014 GT Academy kicking off April 21 and running through June 16, you could have a chance to be the next Ordoñez.

That won't be easy, though. We recently had a playthrough on GT6 the proper way - with a racing seat, pedals and a steering wheel, complete with column-mounted paddles. (Our setup looked just like the one you see above, though that image is from E3.) In other words, it was as close to driving an actual car as most console games can get.

During the 2014 New York Auto Show festivities, we took part in a tournament put on by Toyota that pitted this humble Autoblog scribe against some writers from other publications. Using a full driving setup, we raced around Fuji Speedway in Toyota's 2014 Detroit Auto Show concept, the FT-1. It didn't go too well.

After practicing at home, the best we could manage was a 1:47. In the NYC hot seat, though, our times improved rapidly. Initial practice laps started at 1:45 and dropped steadily, until we belted out a fast time of 1:37.295, which put Autoblog in the lead. It was a brief triumph, though. A friend from Cars.com bested us by a few tenths of a second, turning in a high 1:36, before we were royally whopped by a hot shoe from Popular Mechanics, who delivered a time in the 1:35s.

Looks like we won't be winning the GT Academy any time soon. That said, the improvement provided by a good wheel-and-pedal setup is enough to make us believers. It's a sound investment if you're looking to experience your favorite racing games a new way and a must-have if you're thinking about tackling the 2014 GT Academy.

News Source: Playstation Blog

Image Credit: Robyn Beck / Getty / AFP

Horse-drawn EVs for carriages? NYC may say 'neigh'

Posted Apr 18th 2014 1:29PM

Horseless eCarriage

For more than a century, horse-drawn carriages have been iconic fixtures in New York City. But the Big Apple's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has been on a crusade to put an end to the nostalgic rides, saying the carriages are cruel to the horses and a common source of traffic congestion. Amid this simmering controversy, a possible replacement for the horses emerged Thursday at the New York Auto Show. That's when Jason Wenig, an automotive restoration expert and Brooklyn native, unveiled the Horseless eCarriage, a battery-powered creation that took six years to plan and build.

On display in the lobby of the Jacob Javits Center, the antique-looking vehicle is at once a throwback to an earlier era in automotive history and a model of current electric-car technology. It can carry eight passengers, reach a top speed of 30 miles per hour and travel about 100 miles on a single charge. The 46-kWh battery feeds into a variable speed AV motor that produces – no pun intended – 84 horsepower. It's also huge, with a 158-inch wheelbase, a width of 88 inches and a height (to the top of the windshield, without the convertible hardtop) of 86 inches. It also weighs 7,500 pounds with driver and eight passengers.

"If you're going to do something, it's got to be big, bold and daring" – Jason Wenig

Perhaps most importantly, it seeks to retain the charm of the horse-drawn carriage. "I said to them, 'If you're going to do something, it's got to be big, bold and daring,'" Wenig said of his first conversations about the car. "If people are about to lose the brand they understand, this has got to fill that vacuum powerfully."

Not everyone is enamored with the idea. Traditionalists in the city say the carriages comprise a romantic part of the city's fabric, and they oppose the mayor's efforts to end the horse-drawn carriage era. So do carriage operators, who depend on the rides for their livelihoods.

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University showed that 64 percent of New Yorkers support the carriages pulled by the actual equines. Actor Liam Neeson has been a vocal opponent of the mayor, and wrote an editorial supporting continued use of the horses this week in The New York Times. "An entire way of life and a historic industry are under threat," he wrote. "We should ask whether this is the New York we want to live in: a sanitized metropolis, where local color and grit are thrown out in favor of sleek futuristic buildings and careening self-driving cars?"

The Horseless eCarriage project was commissioned by NYCLASS, an animal-rights organization that is seeking more humane treatment of the horses. The group approached Wenig about six years ago to ask about the project, and as a native New Yorker an animal lover, it was a natural fit. "I'm not necessarily an activist, but I am an animal lover, so I understood where they were coming from," he said. "All of the sudden, I'm in the barn, trying to hammer out steel."

Sixty-eight carriages would be needed to replace the current stable of horses. Although it took Wenig the past six months to construct the first (and so far only) eCarriage prototype, he believes he could construct the entire fleet in a matter of months, should the project go forward. His current operation is located in Dania Beach, FL, but he says he may open another shop back in his hometown, to help complete the project quickly. In a Google Hangout last week, de Blasio said he expects to take action on the horse issue within the year, so you've got time to peruse the official press release below.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Sebastian Blanco / AOL

Building a better Pinewood Derby car with science

Posted Apr 18th 2014 12:45PM

Screencap from a video explaining the science behind building a Pinewood Derby-winning car.

Every corner of human endeavor has its researchers, and that includes activities that we might think are just supposed to be fun for kids, like pinewood derbies. In case you don't know, a pinewood derby where kids build a car out of a block of wood, add some nails for axles and plastic wheels and then race them head-to-head on a length of track with an elevated starting line. It's all about kids having fun with gravity and little chunks of timber.

Except it isn't at all, because dads are involved, and that means that winning pinewood derby cars use the kind of science and technology real car enthusiasts are familiar with: center-of-mass studies, polished axles, lightweight wheels and copious use of graphite.

YouTube regular Mark Rober gives an excellent explanation of what goes into a champion derby run, with science help from Dr. Scott Acton, a physicist with spacecraft and defense component maker Ball Aerospace. But Rober mostly uses children's blocks to lay it all out, and then he wins, which are things we can all understand. You'll find an education in the video below.

News Source: Mark Rober via YouTube

Editors' Choice: Top Five 2014 New York Auto Show Debuts

Posted Apr 18th 2014 11:58AM

2014 New York Auto Show - East Side House Gala Preview

Not only have we tied a bow on the New York Auto Show, we've closed the books on the 2014 North American auto show circuit. (The Beijing show starts this weekend, but then we get some time off from the auto show madness.) While we'd like to say the North American season ended with a bang, that wouldn't really be the case.

Don't get us wrong, there were still plenty of big debuts here in New York – 41, by our count. But nothing really struck us as being hugely groundbreaking, even if a lot of important, big-sales-total cars debuted. That said, since our Editors' Choice posts always focus on what pulled our heartstrings, rather than what shook the Earth, we still had plenty to talk about as we reflect on the New York show. Have a look at what made us smile the most below.

Image Credit: J Carter Rinaldi / Getty Images | Copyright 2014 Michael Harley, Drew Phillips / AOL

Jaguar sends off XK with limited-run Final 50 edition

Posted Apr 18th 2014 11:33AM

Jaguar XK Final 50 Edition

The Jaguar XK coupe and convertible are pointed at the production sunset, and the cars that will end their retail lives in the US will be the dubbed the XK Final Fifty Limited Edition. As the name implies there will be fifty of them made, 25 of the fixed-roof variety, 25 of the droptop.

As the name doesn't imply, however, they'll be based on the XKR and be injected with liberal doses of XKR-S and XKR-S GT: the 510-horsepower V8 from the XKR will be mated to normally optional items like the Dynamic and Performance Packs, machined front suspension components from the XKR-S and a 10-millimeter lower ride height, the louvered hood from the XKR-S GT and Vortex 20-inch forged wheels. The sheetmetal gets a bath in Ultimate Black paint "with special trim" and badged door sill plates. Convertibles will come black roofs, but the Performance Active Exhaust will keep you apprised of the 5.0-liter V8 bellows no matter which car you choose.

They'll go into production this summer and hit dealerships in the fall. There's a lengthy press release below with more info on how this cat will sing its swan song.

News Source: Jaguar

Henrik Fisker designs a chopper for Lauge Jensen

Posted Apr 18th 2014 11:02AM

Lauge Jensen Viking by Henrik Fisker

Henrik Fisker has designed some seriously beautiful vehicles over the course of his career thus far. You'd naturally associate his name with the Karma hybrid that shares it, or maybe the reskinned Mercedes SL and BMW 6 Series he crafted as a coachbuilder, but he was also responsible for such beautiful shapes as the BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage, Tesla Model S and Artega GT. And now he's turned his attention to a motorcycle.

Called the Viking concept, the Fisker-designed chopper is the product of a collaboration with Lauge Jensen, a Danish custom bike shop owned by Lego scion Anders Kirk Johansen. The 660-pound Viking packs an air-cooled 45-degree V-twin engine (built, incidentally in Wisconsin, we wonder by whom) churning out 100 horsepower with a six-speed transmission to propel it to a 130-mile-per-hour top speed and meeting Euro IV emissions regulations. It's packaged into a rather sleek take on the classic hog, the curve of the fuel tank melding into the seat and the rear fender.

The Viking is set to be unveiled this week at the Top Marques show in Monaco where Lauge Jensen will watching to see how it's received. Given a positive reception, it could soon join the Great Dane in the company's lineup. Considering that bike already sells for €42,800 (about $60k), and that the Viking would likely command an even bigger premium, that would make for one very expensive chopper. Still, it might be one of the least expensive ways to get your hands on a Henrik Fisker original.

News Source: Lauge Jensen

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