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Fall in love with the madness of the Nürburgring 24-hour race

Posted Aug 20th 2014 8:02PM

Nurburgring 24 Intervals video

We like the 24 Hours of Le Mans just fine. With the world's manufacturers in attendance and a varied field of classes and cars circling a high-speed circuit that's partially hewn from public roads, the appeal of the crown jewel of endurance racing is obvious. But, if you're tired of all the Le Mans love, there is another 24-hour race that is arguably more exciting and more extreme – we're talking the Nürburgring.

While the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans featured a 54-car field, the 2014 Nürburgring 24 grid consisted of 165 cars (like Le Mans, each team has three to four drivers). Then there are the tracks themselves – the Circuit de la Sarthe is a relatively flat, 38-turn, 8.46-mile circuit that's famous for its high speeds, while the N24 runs on the much longer, twister Nordschleife and GP courses. Also, the fans at the N24 are utterly mad. Evo Australia said the Ring's fans make the rowdiest spectators at the legendarily wild Bathurst 1000 look like "a church picnic" (when the Aussies praise your partying, you're doing something right).

There's a lot more that makes the N24 one of the world's most fascinating races, although we simply don't have room for it here (that Evo list can fill in more blanks). Still, by now, you should be a big fan of Germany's answer to Le Mans. Unfortunately, you're going to be left waiting a bit, as the 2015 race is still about nine months away. Whittle away at least a tiny portion of that time by checking out this truly amazing video, shot at this year's race. There's plenty of beautiful slow-motion and time-lapse videography at work, but it should do a good job of helping you understand the madness that is the Nürburgring 24 (and it will make you want to roast a pig in an engine bay).

Take a look.

News Source: DrivingLine via YouTube

What you missed on 8.20.14

Posted Aug 20th 2014 7:31PM

Daily U-Turn

2015 Chevy Corvette Stingray automaticWe test the Chevy Corvette's new automatic

We tend to prefer our cars with honest-to-goodness manual transmissions. You know, the ones that require a third pedal down by the gas and brake pedals. A clutch, ya know? Turns out most Americans disagree with us, even the ones who are buying Corvettes. We know, shocking. Still, after sampling the latest eight-speed automatic from General Motors in the Corvette Stingray, we're happy to report that those who don't want to shift gears are in better shape than ever before.



Dodge Viper SRT engine emblemWill the Viper get a supercharged V10 engine?

Know what's interesting about the Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcat models? Besides the fact that they have 707 horsepower, that is? It's that the duo are considerably more powerful than the Viper, that snake-skinned halo car sitting atop the Chrysler portfolio as its top performance machine. But how can it be the top performer with an engine putting out less ponies? Good question. Perhaps a supercharger is the answer.


Hyundai hybrid Prius-fighter spy shotHyundai spotted testing a Prius-fighting hybrid

There can be no doubt of Toyota's hybrid supremacy. When it comes to eke the greatest fuel efficiency out of a gasoline engine/electric motor combo, the boffins at Toyota do it better than any other, with the Prius sitting atop the sales heap standing as proof. But what's this? Is Hyundai testing a standalone hybrid machine to put some pressure on Toyota's hybrid dominance?



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Thieves still love older Hondas and pickups most, says NICB [w/video]

Posted Aug 20th 2014 7:00PM

1996 Honda Accord

No one wants to have their car stolen, but a new study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau has some bad news for older Honda owners and pickup drivers. Fortunately, it has better news for drivers overall. The group is reporting that according to preliminary data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, thefts were down 3.2 percent in 2013 (versus 2012) to fewer than 700,000 cars. That's the lowest figure since 1967. That's also less than half of the peak of over 1.66 million thefts in 1991. "The drop in thefts is good news for all of us," says NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. "But it still amounts to a vehicle being stolen every 45 seconds and losses of over $4 billion a year."

Honda drivers might not find it such good news with older Accord and Civic models topping this year's theft study. Toyota and Dodge can't really celebrate, either, with two models each on the list, as well. Overall, this year's list was split evenly between foreign and domestic models, which were mostly pickups.

The 10 most likely vehicles to be stolen in 2013 were:
  1. Honda Accord - 53,995
  2. Honda Civic - 45,001
  3. Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size) - 27,809
  4. Ford Pickup (Full Size) - 26,494
  5. Toyota Camry - 14,420
  6. Dodge Pickup (Full Size) - 11,347
  7. Dodge Caravan - 10,911
  8. Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee - 9,272
  9. Toyota Corolla - 9,010
  10. Nissan Altima - 8,892
Those numbers don't exactly tell the whole story, though. First, the full-size pickup figures incorporate half-ton and larger models. Also, most of the cars stolen aren't exactly the newest vehicles on the road. For example, with the Accord, the most popular one among thieves was the 1996 model year (pictured above) with 8,166 taken, versus 276 from the 2013 model year.

If you want to dig a little deeper or see which 2013 model year cars were pilfered most in 2013, scroll down to check out the NICB's release about the study, along with a video telling more about the data.

News Source: The National Insurance Crime Bureau, InsuranceCrime via YouTube

Image Credit: Honda

Should self-driving cars be equipped with adjustable ethics?

Posted Aug 20th 2014 6:31PM

Nissan Leaf autonomous car, front three-quarter view.

Autonomous cars are piloting their way into the wide philosophical sea of ethics. Right now the autonomous cars are unaware of this because the driver's will always comes first, but when we start getting cars that can overrule commands or choose a particular ethical outcome either without or in spite of driver input, we'll have a lot of decisions to make. Which means we have a lot of decisions to start considering right now.

Patick Lin considers some of them in a piece in Wired, starting with the trolley problem - whether a person who has control of a runaway trolley should let it kill five people tied to the track without intervention, or should pull a lever so that only one person on another track is killed. From there, he wonders about the possibility of fixed ethics settings, created by manufacturers, versus user-adjustable ethics settings that, for example, allow a driver to prioritize his own safety over others, or prioritize the safety of children over that of the elderly.

Lin admits that the examples are outrageous in order to stress the point of the question. Still, it's worth a read because we already have cars that can make driving decisions, and it might not be long before "Five-Mode Adjustable Prime Directive" shows up on the options sheet. Head over to Wired to read the full piece.

News Source: Wired

Image Credit: Nissan

Japanese spark plug giant NGK pleads guilty to price fixing, to pay $52M fine

Posted Aug 20th 2014 6:00PM

DSC01779

The ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice into price fixing in the automotive industry has nabbed one more company breaking the law. Japanese parts giant NGK Spark Plug Company agreed to plead guilty to a felony count of pricing fixing and bid rigging in the in the US District Court in Detroit. Its punishment is a $52.1 million criminal fine and to continue to cooperate with the DOJ's sleuthing into the problem.

According to the DOJ, NGK conspired to fix prices on spark plugs, standard oxygen sensors, and air fuel ratio sensors on vehicles from major automakers in the US, including the former DaimlerChrysler, Honda and Toyota, in a scheme that ran from at least January 2000 to July 2011. The charge claimed that the company and its co-conspirators held meetings where they agreed on bids and price quotes that were submitted to the automakers.

With the latest plea, the DOJ has caught 28 companies and 26 executives for price-fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry, and they have collected $2.4 billion in criminal fines. In 2013, the feds brought nine Japanese suppliers down at once, to collect $740 million. Scroll down to read the DOJ's complete announcement of the case.

News Source: The United States Department of Justice via Reuters

Image Credit: Colin / Flickr C.C. License 2.0

Three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer switches to F1 with Caterham

Posted Aug 20th 2014 5:30PM

André Lotterer

While we've seen professional racing drivers bounce back and forth between disciplines, generally speaking, a racer has to choose at some point in his career what he's going to focus on: stock cars, single-seaters, rally, touring cars, endurance prototypes...But we've been seeing a lot of exceptions to that rule in recent years, and the latest exception is André Lotterer.

If you recognize the name that's probably because he's won the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright three times now, one of only about a dozen to have done so. As part of the Audi factory team, he was a member of the winning trio in 2011, 2012 and this year. But he's also driven in a number of single-seater series, including Champ Cars, Formula Three, Formula Nippon and A1 Grand Prix. And now he's moving up to Formula One.

The Caterham F1 team has announced that Lotterer has signed on to drive for the recently emancipated team starting with this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix. Which strikes us as a good place to start, considering he already won the 6 Hours of Spa endurance race on the same circuit just last year, though we might have expected a proven winner like Lotterer might catapult straight into a stronger team for his F1 debut.

This won't be the first time Lotterer will be driving an F1 car, having served back in 2002 as official test driver for the Jaguar team that eventually became Red Bull Racing. He was passed over for the race seat when Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rossa left the team, but with three Le Mans titles (not to mention an FIA World Endurance Championship) to his name, this time he's supplanting Kamui Kobayasi for the hot seat at Caterham.

News Source: Caterham F1 Team

Lamborghini Miura and Countach driven back to back in bid to make Autoblog staff jealous

Posted Aug 20th 2014 5:01PM

Lamborghini Miura and Countach video

For the Autoblog staff, we're in the honeymoon phase following the Monterey car week and Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. In terms of big, huge, labor-intensive events on the horizon, we're free until the beginning of October, when we'll ship off to Paris for its annual motor show. That means we're free to look back on the beautiful metal out in California, which included more than a few classic Lamborghinis, including the Miura and Countach.

Unfortunately, we never had a hope of getting behind the wheel (believe it or not, asking exceptionally wealthy car collectors to borrow their meticulously maintained, extraordinarily rare vehicles doesn't elicit immediate cooperation). Considering this grave injustice, we're left taking solace in the latest video from Car, which sees the British outlet taking spins in both the Miura and Countach. The pair of vehicles served as forbearers to the modern supercar, with the former's early mid-engine layout and the latter's aggressive, wedge-shaped styling.

Take a look at the latest video from the lucky bastards team at Car.

News Source: CARmagazineTV via YouTube

Autoblog Podcast #393

Monterey Car Week, Jeffrey Rothfeder Interview, Woodward Dream Cruise, Dodge Charger Hellcat, Mid-Engine Corvette

Posted Aug 20th 2014 4:45PM

Autoblog Podcast logo

Episode #393 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, and Michael Harley talk about Monterey Car Week, the Woodward Dream Cruise and Dodge Charger Hellcat, and the latest round of mid-engine Corvette rumors. Dan also had the chance to speak with Jeffrey Rothfeder, author of Driving Honda, a new book that takes a look inside the automaker. We start with what's in the garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Check out the new rundown below with times for topics, and you can follow along down below with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!

Autoblog Podcast #393:

play


Topics: In The Autoblog Garage:
Hosts: Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, Michael Harley
Runtime: 02:10:41

Rundown:
  • Intro and Garage - 00:00
  • Monterey Car Week - 37:08
  • Jeffrey Rothfeder - 52:17
  • Woodward 2014 - 01:28:11
  • Mid-Engine Corvette - 01:44:30
  • Q&A - 01:56:53

Get the podcast:
[UStream] Listen live on Mondays at 10 PM Eastern at UStream
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes
[RSS] Add the Autoblog Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator
[MP3] Download the MP3 directly

Feedback:
Email: Podcast at Autoblog dot com

Review the show in iTunes

Land Rover lets us inside LR2-replacing Discovery Sport

Posted Aug 20th 2014 4:29PM

Land Rover Discovery Sport moonroof

We're now less than two weeks away from the unveiling of the new Discovery Sport, and Land Rover is continuing the piecemeal reveal of its new small sport-ute, this time giving us a glimpse of its interior space.

Though the video below seems to focus more on the company's partnership with Virgin Galactic, it does give us a look at the new baby Landie's cabin, complete with its flexible 5+2 seating layout and expansive opening moonroof (which we figure has to either stack two panels of glass or else roll back solid panels).

Previewed by the Discovery Vision concept in New York, we can now confirm that the Discovery Sport will replace the LR2 in Land Rover's US lineup next year, when it will be sold alongside the LR4 – the only model that will, for now, retain its alphanumeric nameplate in America. Stay tuned for the reveal on September 2 and scope out the footage below in the meantime.

News Source: Land Rover

NHTSA launches VIN search tool for finding recalls

Posted Aug 20th 2014 4:00PM

Right to Repair

We've already seen more vehicles recalled this year than any year on record. General Motors alone has issued campaigns covering about 25.75 million cars in the US. Finally, with 2014 more than half gone, it appears that the rate of these announcements is finally starting to slow, but that still leaves tens of million of drivers needing to know whether their vehicle needs a safety fix. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is offering a solution with a simple new way for people to make sure whether their car or truck is covered under one of these recalls.

The new government website allows people to type in their model's Vehicle Identification Number, and the system spits out whether the vehicle is subject to recall campaigns. The launch coincides with NHTSA's mandate that major automakers allow customers to search for uncompleted campaigns on their models. Each company is required to update the data at least once a week, and the regulator's service is tied to this information.

The agency's VIN lookup is certainly a step in the right direction, and it could be extremely useful when buying a used car to double-check its repairs. However, the system could probably still use a bit of work. At this time, it only lists recalls on the vehicle that aren't yet repaired, instead of all possible campaigns. To get that info, an owner would have to separately search the existing NHTSA database. It also doesn't list manufacturers' customer service or other non-safety campaigns. Scroll down to read the regulator's full announcement about the new program and the response from the National Automobile Dealers Association.

News Source: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [1], [2]

Image Credit: Steven Senne / AP Photo

Watch these NHRA top fuel dragsters pull successive barrel-rolls

Posted Aug 20th 2014 3:00PM

Drag race at Brainerd

To win a race, you have to finish the race. It's the first lesson of racing, no matter what kind you're into. In drag racing, though, if your opponent crashes out – as is not uncommon a sight – then victory is yours. But what if both dragsters fail to make it to the finish line?

That's what racing fans witnessed this past weekend when the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series arrived in Brainerd, MN. That's where both Don Kritzky and Monte Green rolled their top fuel dragsters one after the other, causing the unusual and noteworthy crash captured in this video. Green was reportedly treated on the scene while Kritzky was airlifted to a hospital in Minneapolis (we're working to get further word on his condition and will update you if we learn more).

News Source: NHRA via YouTube

2015 Ford Mustang RTR teased ahead of SEMA debut

Posted Aug 20th 2014 2:33PM

Rendering of the 2015 RTR Mustang that will be shown at SEMA.

Drifter Vaughn Gittin, Jr. and his tuning shop, RTR has shown off a preliminary rendering of the tuned 2015 Ford Mustang it's going to rock this year's SEMA show. About two months after that, they'll start showing up fully built in select Ford dealerships, plus garage rats can order the parts through Mustang RTR or American Muscle.

Hardware and numbers are still secret, but we're told the Mustang RTR will be available in both four- and eight-cylinder variants and in two states of tune, Spec 1 and Spec 2. We drove a 2012 version of the Mustang RTR and declared it not bad, a noteworthy progression over the model that preceeded it. There's a press release below with Gittin's words on the announcement and a couple of high-res images to whet your appetite for Las Vegas.

News Source: Ford Racing, RTR via Facebook

Police arrest chairman, managers of Chinese auto parts firm whose factory blast killed 75

Posted Aug 20th 2014 2:29PM

China factory explosion

Chinese police have arrested three individuals in connection to the deadly explosion at an auto parts factory outside Shanghai nearly three weeks ago, Reuters is reporting.

Among those three is Wu Chi-tao, the chairman of Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products, the company that operated the factory in Zhoushan, roughly 80 miles west of Shanghai. The company's general manager and the manager in charge of workplace safety joined Chi-tao in custody, China's state news agency, Xinhua, told Reuters.

Previous reports indicated that five of the company's executives were already in custody following the blast, although it's unclear if Chi-tao and the other two managers were counted in that total.

The blast at the factory, which polishes wheel hubs for General Motors China, killed 75 people and has injured 185, and is currently being blamed on illegal production methods and poor safety facilities. PRC President Xi Jingping has since issued a nationwide crackdown on factory safety in response to the disaster.

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Hyundai Prius-Fighter Hybrid could preview next attack on Toyota's champion

Posted Aug 20th 2014 2:01PM

Hyundai Prius-Fighter Hybrid spy shot

Hyundai is no stranger to the hybrid game, selling a gas-electric version of the Sonata in the US since 2011. The 2015-model-year version gets 38 miles per gallon combined, which is certainly admirable but not quite in the same league as the hybrid champion Toyota Prius (50 mpg combined). New spy shots reveal that Hyundai might be finally ready to targeting the non-plug-in fuel economy leader. Why else would some mysterious Hyundai prototypes be cruising through the desert hills with a few Priuses in tow?

Our photographers believe these mules hint at an all-new hybrid model, which makes us think of the Blue Will concept from the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. At the time, Hyundai said the concept could be a preview of a future dedicated hybrid that would compete with the Prius.

We don't know what it all means for sure, but our spy photographers found four heavily modified Elantra GT prototypes driving around with a standard Prius and a Prius V. As if that wasn't enough of a clue, the four changed Elantras represent different approaches Hyundai might be using to go after Toyota, since there were two versions driving by our photographer's lenses, with different rear extensions indicating that both the standard Prius and the larger V might be in Hyundai's sights.

Despite the inclusion of a battery pack and a high-voltage cable running under the car, there was no obvious sign of a plug, so the old rumors of a Sonata PHEV will likely remain in the dustbin for now. Unless that strange rectangle of tape on the gas cover is hiding something surprising, of course.

Image Credit: Glenn Paulina / KGP Photograhpy

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