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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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Alfa Sprint Speciale racer looks fantastic, sounds even better

Posted Oct 1st 2014 8:01PM

Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale

Nothing quite sounds like a vintage Alfa Romeo four-cylinder engine at full gallop, especially in motorsport trim. With a combination of low-frequency burbling played over a high-pitch scream, they really know how to sing. This week Petrolicious takes a look at a truly unique Alfa Sprint Speciale that's just as adept at competing in the wide-open La Carrera Panamericana vintage race in Mexico as it is snaking through some undulating, tree-lined back roads.

Ostensibly, this is a 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale, although it's really much more the creation of Alfa-restorer Conrad Stevenson. The roof section, including the holes for the windshield and rear glass, is original to one of these fantastic-looking coupes. But everything below that is Stevenson's handiwork. To shape the styling, he combined the original Bertone design with his own ideas to purpose build the car for the challenges of the Mexican race.

As usual, Petrolicious nails every aspect of the production, especially the handheld camera work inside the cabin as the car negotiates the curves. It really communicates the connection between this swoopy Alfa and its builder. Plus, the sound mix lets the engine play its glorious tune.

News Source: Petrolicious via YouTube

What you missed on 10.1.14

Posted Oct 1st 2014 7:30PM


Lamborghini Shows Asterion hypercar concept

The media days of the 2014 Paris Motor Show might technically start tomorrow, but the party has clearly begun already. The early star in Paris is this Lamborghini Asterion concept, which melds V10 muscle with an electric drivetrain 910 total-system-horsepower. The understated, über-powerful Lambo shared the stage at VW's Group Night with an impressive Volkswagen XL Sport concept, too. Let the show commence!

First Drive: 2015 Renault Twingo

Just in time for the Paris show, we get a drive in the all new, rear-engined-runabout from Renault. Sharing the same platform that will underpin the upcoming generation of Smart cars here in the US, the first-impressions of the nippy, Europe-only Twingo present and interesting preview. Read on to find out if the thrid-gen Twingo has what it takes to regain sales prominence in the Old World.

Corvette Z06 will do 0-60 in 2.95 seconds

We all expected that the 650-horsepower 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 would be very quick, but until this morning we didn't understand just how bonkers the spec sheet would be. Nailing the 60-mph figure in less than 3 seconds is wild, but so is achieving a radical 1.2 gs on the company skidpad. If you're like us, you're probably drooling to know what this new monster 'Vette is actually like to drive; satiate a bit of that curiosity with some more Z06 facts and figures, here.

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General Motors names new cyber security chief

Posted Oct 1st 2014 7:01PM

General Motors made a splash earlier this month when it announced it would add wireless hotspots to many vehicles in its 2015 lineup and introduce more advanced technology going forward.

It's probably no coincidence, then, that the company recently named its first-ever director of cyber security. GM announced that Jeff Massimilla, a former engineering group manager in charge of infotainment systems, would assume the new role.

Massimilla, sitting in the driver's seat in the above picture, is a University of Michigan engineering graduate who has focused on center-stack technology throughout his career at GM and also recently served as a program manager for Cadillac CUE. He'll head a team that's tackling one of the most vexing challenges in the auto industry right now – keeping vehicles secure.

Cars have becoming mobile computers in recent years. Dozens of small computers on each vehicle run every conceivable system, from seat-belt tensioners to telematics units to brakes. As vehicle software becomes more advanced and cars use real-time data for safety information, the security of these systems has gained importance.

GM's WiFi hotspots, which offer users a 4G connection available through its OnStar infotainment system, push the technology and needs for security one step further. In its advertising, the company says the availability of an integrated WiFi hotspot provides a more powerful connection than a smart phone or mobile hotspot for consumers.

Researchers fear these external-facing infotainment units are precisely the point hackers will target. "We consider it to be the holy grail because of its range," says Chris Valasek, director of vehicle research at IOActive, a software security company.

There are no reports yet of an actual cyber attack co-opting a vehicle on American roads, but researchers have demonstrated it is possible to both remotely and physically compromise a car and manipulate key functions, like steering and braking. Earlier this month, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told automakers he wanted them to collaborate on ways to standardize security procedures and develop protocols by the end of next year.

Massimilla has served in a variety of roles during his tenure with GM, previously serving in the company's next-generation infotainment department and as a director of global validation. In his new role, he'll report to Ken Morris, GM's vice president of global product integrity.

Image Credit: General Motors

British Honda CR-V looks tough, gets diesel and 9-speed auto

Posted Oct 1st 2014 6:31PM

Honda CR-V European Model

Honda just took the wraps off of its thoroughly updated 2015 CR-V for the US, with a touch more style and improved powertrain to provide more torque and better fuel economy. In our First Drive, we found that all of the changes really focused the CUV even more towards the desires of its audience of mostly families. European crossover shoppers don't have to wait too long to see these tweaks for themselves and get a few exclusive upgrades of their own.

While US models get a torquier gasoline engine, Europe loves its diesels. Therefore, the CR-V over there benefits from a more powerful 1.6-liter i-DTEC oil-burner that produces 158 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This new addition is only available on the four-wheel drive version, and it replaces the previous 2.2-liter diesel in the lineup. Also as opposed to the CVT here, there's now an optional nine-speed automatic gearbox across the pond.

According to Honda, the new diesel with a six-speed manual drops emissions by 11 percent compared to its predecessor. Opting for the nine-speed auto makes things 20 percent cleaner in contrast to the previous 2.2-liter CR-V with an auto.

Aesthetically, the latest European CR-V is essentially identical to our refreshed model. It wears the same updated front end with a new grille and LED running lights. It also has the tweaked rear with a chrome bar running across the hatch and slightly altered taillight design. The dark wheels of this show car do add an air of brutishness that we haven't seen before, however.

The updated European CR-V will get its debut at the upcoming Paris Motor Show, and it'll be built at Honda's plant in Swindon, England. Scroll down for the company's full announcement.
Related GalleryHonda CR-V European Model
Honda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European Model

News Source: Honda

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


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