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Autoblog editors come clean about their controversial automotive beliefs

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2015 Toyota Prius Persona special edition arrives in September

Posted Aug 1st 2014 9:29AM

2015 Toyota Prius Persona Special Edition in red

Is the Prius going into "Pimp My Ride" territory? A new official special edition model won't be lowered or have three-wheel motion or anything like that (though that'd be cool), but the world's best-selling hybrid is putting on a few stylish bells and whistles this September.

Toyota has announced something called the 2015 Prius Persona Series Special Edition. Included on the special variant will be 17-inch alloy wheels, a metallic exterior finish, heated power mirrors and chrome shift knob rings and door grips. Inside, you've got special badging and black SofTex fabric stitched with gray. The new Prius Persona will come in two colors: "Blizzard Pearl" and "Absolutely Red." The special edition has base price of $26,985, and the "Blizzard Pearl" option knocks it closer to the $27,400 mark and there's also the $895 (give or take) delivery fee.

Demand for the Prius in the US has plateaued recently as other automakers have broadened their selection of advanced-powertrain vehicles. Through the first half of the year, combined sales of the four Prius variants were down 11 percent from 2013 numbers to about 107,000 units, including about 63,000 of the standard sedans and almost 20,300 of the Prius C compact hybrids. Perhaps there are enough personas out there that sales will get a boost from this special edition. Take a look at Toyota's press release on the 2015 Prius Persona below.

Road Race Motorsports rolls out Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione

Posted Aug 1st 2014 8:45AM

Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione

We've seen some pretty radical modifications based on the Fiat 500 – from the Abarth 695 Biposto to that ridiculous idea to put a Ferrari engine in the back of a Cinquecento – but we never seem to get tired of it. On that note, we bring you the Fiat 500 M1 Turbo Tallini Competizione.

Built by Road Race Motorsports, the M1 takes a tarmac-rally approach and features an extensive list of modifications. For starters, the engine has been retuned to produce 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, helping to knock a second off the 0-60 time (7.2 seconds from the factory). Upgraded brakes net a 20-percent improvement in stopping distance, and Road Race has put a special emphasis on high-speed stability and cornering performance.

Other modifications include a limited-slip differential, carbon-kevlar clutch and a reworked suspension with Bilstein shocks, stiffer bushings and upgraded sway bar, with 16-inch wheels wearing Toyo Proxes rubber. In addition to a full carbon-fiber widebody kit that helps cut 120 pounds off the curb weight, Road Race has given the M1 a new front air dam, side skirts, hood vents, brake ducts and rear spoiler. The interior has similarly been upgraded with racing buckets, five-point harnesses and a roll cage.

Road Race will only build 50 individually numbered examples of what it calls "the only Special Edition Fiat built in the Western Hemisphere... since Fiat's reintroduction to North America." With an extensive list of options, prices range from $15k to $100k.

News Source: Road Race Motorsports

Be a star in a reasonably priced car with the Top Gear Track Experience

Posted Aug 1st 2014 8:01AM

Kia Cee'd on the Top Gear Test Track

You're at the Dunsfold Aerodrome – more popularly known as the Top Gear test track – behind the wheel of a Kia Cee'd. You've got raw talent and know the lines because The Stig just showed them to you. So you cross the finish line in record time, knocking all the other celebrities off the top of the leaderboard. But you're not a celebrity, and nobody's interested in how fast you can drive a reasonably priced car. So you open your eyes and realize it was all a dream. Only it doesn't have to be.

That's because the BBC is cashing in once again on the popularity of its hit car show and inviting members of the paying public to play "our guest tonight" in Surrey, UK. With the Top Gear Track Experience, you get to drive the cee-apostrophe-dee around Dunsfold and take hot laps with The Stig himself. There's even an off-road course for drivers both young and old. All of which sounds rather compelling, if only we lived in the UK and had the £99 and an afternoon to spend.

The program reportedly opens on August 27, with availability depending on the filming schedule.

News Source: The Telegraph

Image Credit: Kia

Xcar goes Radical in a big way

Posted Jul 31st 2014 7:57PM

Inside Radical for XCar

In just a relatively short period of time, Radical Sportscars has proven to be a company true to its name. It only completed its first car in 1997 but has become among the leaders in the world of dedicated track day specials since then. These days it's even dipping its toe into the world of road models with the RXC, which stretches the definition of a vehicle for the street nearly to the breaking point. In it's latest video, Xcar Films sits down with the company's managing director Phil Abbot to talk about the business' genesis and its future.

Abbot weaves an intriguing tale. He left school at 15 to become an auto mechanic and eventually branched out into engineering. He didn't become an amateur racer until he was in his 40s. After doing that for a while, he decided that he could build a better mousetrap and set out to build a fast, affordable track car. The company's original Clubsport model was heavier and more expensive than Abbot wanted, but it was enough of a success for the business to push forward.

With the RXC the company is now aiming more at the on-road business. With a US price of $171,280, they aren't cheap, but it's hard to imagine finding a more hardcore vehicle for the street. "Our cars will always be racecars, but if people are crazy enough to put them on the road, then that gives us a good market," said Abbot in the video.

News Source: XCar Films via YouTube

What you missed on 7.31.14

Posted Jul 31st 2014 7:29PM

Daily U-Turn

Thumbs downOur controversial automotive beliefs

Everyone's got an opinion, and some of ours are more unfavorable than others. Whether its one staffer's pro-vote for the Smart Fortwo, or another's dislike of a certain Hellcat-powered Challenger, these not-so-popular beliefs are often kept off the pages of Autoblog. Until now. Read our confessions, here.




Porsche MacanQuick Spin: 2015 Porsche Macan S

We already gave Porsche's Macan Turbo a proper shakedown over in Europe, but back at home, west coast editor Michael Harley was able to take the less-powerful, less-expensive Macan out for a proper drive, on- and off-road. Yes, we hit both track and trail in the new baby Porsche. Have a read in our Quick Spin.




Toyota Camry HybridCR pushes for Camry recall

There's a potential problem with certain Camry Hybrid models from the 2007 to 2011 model years, but Toyota hasn't issued a recall – yet. The folks at Consumer Reports are urging the Japanese automaker to call back some of these sedans due to problems with the brakes. Read the full rundown of CR's claims, here.


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Edmunds' long-term Tesla Model S has been wonderful, woeful

Posted Jul 31st 2014 7:00PM

Tesla Model S

We generally don't report on other outlets' long-term model tests, but Edmunds just completed a 17-month ownership experience with a 2013 Tesla Model S. It's just too interesting not to share.

The site bought a 2013 Model S Performance model for the added range of its 85-kilowatt-hour battery and tossed on a good variety of options for a total price of $105,005, including a wall charger. In terms of driving the electric hatchback, the folks there seemed to love it. There were a few minor gripes, but for the most part it offered sufficient driving range, plenty of space and generally good quality.

However, the ownership experience was hardly flawless. The journalists there were never quite able to hit the Model S' promised range of 265 miles, with a best real-world result of 230.4 miles during their ownership. Also, while they had it, the Model S had a rash of unscheduled trips for service – seven times – and their Tesla left them stranded by the side of the road once.

These weren't just some minor quibbles, either. The drive unit was replaced three times and the main battery once. That massive center info screen had to be manually reset nine times and was completely replaced once, as well. Edmunds writers forgave some of the faults, though. Their Tesla was an early production model, and some of the fixes were a result of technical service bulletins. They never had to pay for any of it, other than buying a new set of tires.

While this is all anecdotal evidence based on just a single Model S, it doesn't make the Model S sound like an easy car to live with all the time. You can get the full skinny on the love/loathe affair directly from Edmunds by clicking here.

News Source: Edmunds

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

NLRB says Mercedes violated Alabama worker rights

Posted Jul 31st 2014 6:31PM

Mercedes-Benz US International Inc.

Mercedes-Benz has run afoul of the National Labor Relations Board after an administrative judge ruled that the company violated organizing rights of workers at the company's Vance, AL factory, which builds the M-Class, GL-Class and the new C-Class.

Judge Keltner Locke upheld the charge that MB told employees they couldn't distribute pro-union literature in the factory's common areas during off-work hours, according to Automotive News. The other charges in the September 3 complaint, meanwhile, were dismissed, with Locke saying the company took "prompt remedial action."

While Locke's ruling comes without penalties, the factory, which is formally known as Mercedes-Benz US International Inc., must tweak its rules to allow off-duty workers to solicit other off-duty workers in certain parts of the factory (parking lots, break rooms, etc.), a right provided by the National Labor Relations Act.

The decision by Locke still isn't sitting well with some of the plant's employees, though. Don White, a 19-year veteran of the facility and one of the parties to the NLRB complaint, is one such worker.

"We're allowed to talk about church, football, anything else," White told AN. "There has been a lot of intimidation to keep us from trying to organize."

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith

Infiniti to get Leaf-based electric sedan after all

Posted Jul 31st 2014 5:45PM

Infiniti LE

Infiniti suffered a huge blow a few weeks ago when CEO Johan de Nysschen jumped ship after two years on the job to take the helm at Cadillac. As boss, he spearheaded change within the Japanese luxury brand and was among the biggest champions of the Q50 Eau Rouge. However, the company is far from sunk. Plans put in place prior to de Nysschen leaving are still on the table, according to Nissan product planner Andy Palmer to Automotive News, and that could mean a rosy future for the once AWOL LE sedan (pictured above) and other models.

Back in 2012, Infiniti promised that it would have the LE on the market as a premium electric sedan by 2014. It was supposed to share the battery pack with the Nissan Leaf but with a more powerful, 134-horsepower motor. But have you seen one on the road recently? The luxury EV was eventually shelved, but de Nysschen pledged the idea wasn't dead. Maybe now is a better time for it. According to Automotive News, the LE is rescheduled to launch in 2017 or 2018. The latest version would use the Leaf platform but with a more potent, next-gen battery to give it a range over 90 miles.

Of course, the LE isn't the only thing on the way from Infiniti; it also appears to be planning a two-pronged approach for small cars. Palmer recently tweeted that the company would build the forthcoming Q30 hatchback and QX30 crossover in the UK in 2015. Additionally, the automaker is firing up a new joint venture factory in Mexico with Mercedes-Benz; building compact models there starting in 2017. According Automotive News, the Mexican-built models will be more US-focused while the UK-built ones will appeal more to Europeans.

Finally, it looks like de Nysschen's plan for a flagship Infiniti sedan may still see the road too around 2018. It will be called either the Q80 or Q90 and use four-door coupe styling with a turbocharged V6 boasting about 600 horsepower, according to AN. For a guy who is no longer with the company, he appears to still be casting a long shadow over its future products.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

Hyundai readying Juke rival with 'edgy, dynamic styling' for 2017

Posted Jul 31st 2014 4:58PM

2011 Hyundai Curb Concept

Love it or hate it, the Nissan Juke has drawn attention to itself and to its maker. Little wonder, then, that Hyundai wants to follow a similar formula.

According to our compatriots over at Edmunds, Hyundai has a whole raft of new products in the works – as you'd expect from the world's fourth-largest automaker – including replacements for the current Tucson and Elantra sometime next year, but also a subcompact crossover to target the Juke, not to mention tiny softroading rivals like the forthcoming Chevrolet Trax. Details at this point are few and far between, but it appears Hyundai is committed to making it as zany as the Nissan it will target. The Korean automaker revealed the Curb concept (pictured above) along similar lines at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.

Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski tells Edmunds not to expect a mini Tuscon, but to "Think of maybe something that looks like a Juke or something that has edgy, dynamic styling." Considering how off-the-map Hyundai went with the Veloster and its unconventional array of doors, we know the Korean automaker can think outside the box for this Gen-Y crossover. Whether the edge tiny CUV market has space for more than the Juke, however, is another matter. One way or another, look for the tiny Korean crossover to arrive sometime in 2017.
Related GalleryHyundai Curb Concept
Hyundai Curb ConceptHyundai Curb ConceptHyundai Curb ConceptHyundai Curb ConceptHyundai Curb ConceptHyundai Curb ConceptHyundai Curb ConceptHyundai Curb Concept

News Source: Edmunds

GM also sheds parts from its pickups to boost payload ratings [UPDATE]

Posted Jul 31st 2014 4:30PM

Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD

The row between Ford and Ram over who boasts the best-in-class tow rating for heavy duty pickups has revealed a number of things. Chief among them is a report that Ford removes items like the spare tire, jack, radio and center console from its trucks in a bid to lower its base curb weight, and therefore its gross vehicle weight.

For those that need a refresher, GVW is the combination of a truck's curb weight plus its payload. Gross vehicle weight rating, meanwhile, is the maximum amount of weight a vehicle can handle, and it's also used to classify pickups. In Ford's case, tweaking the GVW by removing parts allows it to station the F-450 among the so-called Class III pickups. This is despite the fact that it's hewn from stiffer stuff than the average Class III and has the elevated towing capacity to prove it.

Ford explains away these deletions, saying a customer could order their vehicle in such a manner. It has also come to light that Ford is not the only automaker to engage in such practices.

General Motors started deleting the rear bumper and swapping in alloy wheels for heavier steel wheels for its 2014 pickups (both light-duty and heavy duty models). This is despite originally claiming that it did no such thing, a statement GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson told Automotive News was a mistake.

Wilkinson, like Ford, justifies the practice, explaining to AN, "You can delete the rear bumper, which some business customers do so they can install a custom bumper or other equipment on the back of the truck."

What are your thoughts on this? Is the process for figuring out tow ratings and GVWR too easy to manipulate? We want to hear from you. Head into Comments, and let us know what you think.

UPDATE: This story originally stated that gross vehicle weight rating was a combination of curb weight and payload. To clarify, GVWR is a fixed figure, which a vehicle's curb weight and payload cannot exceed. The story has been edited to reflect this.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Chevrolet

Man dies after car crashes into bee-infested house

Posted Jul 31st 2014 3:59PM

honey bee, hive bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), bee swarm leaving a beehive, Germany

Leaving buildings vacant can present all kinds of dangers, as officials in Michigan in particular have found in recent years. But this tragic incident has to be a new one.

A 54-year-old man was driving his Hyundai down Spruce Road in the town of St. Charles, MI on Wednesday afternoon, but when he got to a curve in the road (just west of the M-52), he didn't turn, and his car went straight into an unoccupied home. Well, we should say that is was unoccupied by humans. In their place, the house was infested with bees. When rescue workers arrived at the scene, they were reportedly "driven back by swarms of bees," according to local news.

Sadly, the unfortunate driver died in the accident, but It does not appear to have been the bees that killed him directly. Although the Saginaw County Sheriff's Department is still investigating the matter, preliminary reports suggest that the man suffered from a "medical emergency" (such as a heart attack, from the looks of things) before his car ever left the road.

News Source: MLive

Image Credit: Blickwinkel / Alamy

Maine patrolman saves a speeder's life

Posted Jul 31st 2014 3:33PM

Offier Mike Harrington

If speed kills, then the logical conclusion would be that police pulling over speeders are saving lives. Whether you accept that premise or not, however, one patrolman in Maine actually did save a man's life when he stopped him for breaking the speed limit.

Officer Mike Harrington of the Kennebunk Police Department had stopped one Gavin "Scotty" Falconer for driving over the 25-mile-per-hour speed limit in the coastal town in Maine, when Falconer, 84 years old, collapsed over his steering wheel. Officer Harrington sprung into action, pulled Falconer out of the car and initiated CPR.

Falconer woke up the next day in the hospital with his life restored... and a warning citation for speeding, which Harrington had apparently already started writing before Falconer collapsed. Watch the full story in the video here.

News Source: WMTW via YouTube

Autoblog editors come clean about their controversial automotive beliefs

Our Staff Voices Their Unpopular Opinions... How About You?

Posted Jul 31st 2014 3:00PM

thumb down

We all have controversial opinions. Be it whether you think the Nissan Juke is actually pretty attractive, manual transmissions aren't always better, or you honestly didn't hate the Pontiac Aztek, we all harbor some persuasion, be it big or small, for which we catch copious flak upon expression.

In recognizing that all of us here at Autoblog harbor at least one viewpoint that stubbornly goes against the grain of popular opinion among auto enthusiasts, we've decided to come clean with them right here, proudly speaking our minds in a mature, structured manner – a striking contrast to how these things tend to come up while debated in the office.

We'd also like to invite you to share your unpopular and controversial opinions with us and the Autoblog faithful down in Comments. Don't be ashamed – this is a safe place.

News Source: Copyright 2014 AOL

2015 Ford F-150 appearance guide takes the truck from mild to wild with options

Posted Jul 31st 2014 2:34PM

2015 Ford F-150

2015 Ford F-150 Trim GuideWe already know that the 2015 Ford F-150 has a base price coming in at just $395 more than the 2014 model, despite all of the new standard tech and aluminum-intensive construction in the upcoming version. Now the Blue Oval is finally giving us an idea of what that extra money actually buys customers, with the release of the appearance guide for its latest pickup.

The guide basically explains everything you could want to know about what changes occur among the multitude of trims on the 2015 F-150. There are five levels for the new truck. Although, that is something of a misnomer because most of them are also available with either Sport or Chrome packages, plus the FX4 Off-Road option with Hill Descent Control, an electronic-locking rear axle, off-road shocks and skid plates. With 13 available colors, including 4 new ones, and 14 wheel designs in various sizes, pickup buyers should have no problem specing one to fit their style.

The lineup starts out with the base XL with a black grille and fascia and 17-inch wheels. However, across most of the range the Sport and Chrome packages are also available to add either body-color or chrome accents, respectively. Next up is the XLT with a standard chrome grille but also available with a black, billet-style one with a body-color surround. Things really start getting plush with the Lariat model with leather trim, a three-bar front end and 18-inch wheels. The King Ranch sticks with that look but adds power running boards, 20-inch wheels and two-tone paint. Finally, the top-dog Platinum is all about bling with yet another frontal design, chrome door handles and mirror caps, a big logo running across the tailgate and more.

All of the options are certainly a lot to take in, and Ford clearly doesn't want any potential customers to fall through the cracks in terms getting exactly what they want from their F-150. Check out the gallery to see all of the differences between the trims for yourself.

News Source: Ford

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL, Related images copyright Ford

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