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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat [w/videos]

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    2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat [w/videos]
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    2015 Ford Expedition
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    2014 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles: Part 2 [w/video]
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    How Hollywood furthered our automotive obsession [w/videos]
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2014 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles: Part 2 [w/video]

Hitching A Ride In Morocco's Grueling All-Female Off-Road Rally

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 3:01PM

2014 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles

There were six days left and the hardest of them were yet to come.

In case you missed it, be sure to read Part 1, here.

We stood in the north Saharan desert in Mech Irdane, Morocco under a high sun at 7:00 AM. The all-women's navigation challenge known as the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles was only two days old, and in spite of a cool morning, it was already clear we'd need to make peace with a grueling desert captivity. The desert has no friends.

Part 1 tells the unintentionally intense story of our arrival in Mech Irdane and how we ended up in a broiling nowhere, with 320 women engaged in a colossal game of Capture the Flag. The abstract is that for eight days in March, the 24-year-old rally puts 160 teams of two women apiece in four classes of vehicles, charged with finding 60 flags hidden somewhere in 10,000 square miles of desert, navigating with 55-year-old maps using nothing more complex than a compass and a plotter. It's not a race for time but one for distance – the winner is the team that finds the most flags having driving the shortest distance possible over those eight days. Each team has paid $18,540 to enter. The winning team gets a medal. There are no other official prizes.

There were six days left and the hardest of them were yet to come. Today, we had to get through the dunes of Erg Chebbi.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Jonathon Ramsey / AOL, Nicole Dreon

Tesla halts production to prep for Model X

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 2:15PM

Tesla Model X

That darling of the electric car world, Tesla, is idling production at its factory in Fremont, CA, for the first time in order to expand the factory in preparation for its future Model X crossover. The $100-million renovation will add 25 robots and upgrades to the body shop and assembly line to support the new vehicle.

Since it will be offering two models simultaneously, Tesla will need to be able to keep up with the pace of demand. "This represents the single biggest investment in the plant since we really started operations and enables us for higher volumes," said Tesla spokesperson Simon Sproule to Bloomberg. The new robots will be able to boost production by 25 percent and will allow the automaker to build the Model S and Model X on the same assembly line. There won't be too much downtime at the California plant, though. The upgrades will be finished within the next two weeks.

With these factory updates, the Model X may finally get its electrically powered wheels on the road. The CUV has been delayed multiple times since its announcement. It was originally supposed to be on sale in early 2014, then later in the year, but now the latest news from Elon Musk places the crossover's launch in the second quarter of 2015.

Until the Model X is on sale, the renovations should also provide a nice lift in Model S assembly. In the company's first quarter financial report, Tesla said that it expected the sedan's production rate to grow from about 700 cars per week to 1,000 per week by the end of the year, with the expectation of selling a total of 35,000 of them in 2014. That should help quell demand in new markets like the UK and expansion in Europe.

News Source: Bloomberg

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Sebastian Blanco / AOL

No heads have rolled at NHTSA over GM ignition switch recall scandal

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 1:30PM

Dep't Of Transportation Discusses Vehicle-To-Vehicle Communication Technology

At this point, there's little question that General Motors deserves the bulk of the blame for not recalling the millions of vehicles affected by the ignition switch problem earlier than it did. And to a large degree, GM is facing the music and accepting blame for its mistakes, even if that acceptance won't bring back the 13 or more deaths attributed to the faulty components. But does GM deserve all the blame?

Fingers are now being pointed at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government body responsible for investigating potentially problematic vehicles and ordering recalls where necessary. But according to the administration and the Department of Transportation of which it's part, NHTSA is not to blame.

In fact, while GM has fired 15 employees over the ignition-switch debacle, The Detroit News notes that NHTSA has not dismissed or even disciplined a single employee for not having caught the problem sooner. Both NHTSA chief David Friedman (pictured above, right) and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (behind Friedman) say that the government is not to blame, and needn't be held accountable for not having ordered a recall because it could not have known there was a problem. This despite, NHTSA officials having alerted the agency to the issue back in 2007.

NHTSA may have to face some difficult questions and potential repercussions soon, however, as the commerce committees in both the House and the Senate plan to hold hearings into the matter later this year.

News Source: The Detroit News

Image Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty

How Hollywood furthered our automotive obsession [w/videos]

Our Favorite Cars From The Big And Small Screens

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 1:01PM

Generally, General Lee

The car enthusiast's passion generally isn't founded in any single experience. It is a result of many influences, coming from places like our parents, our surrounding area's culture and, almost always, the media.

The automobile plays both major and minor roles in nearly every movie and TV show known to mankind. Today the editors at Autoblog and AOL Autos are paying homage to a few of these, acknowledging the ones that stand out in our minds as having played a profound part in forming our ardor for all things automotive.

Head on past the jump to see the cars from the big and small screen for which our staff still pines. And make sure to tell us about your favorite movie/TV cars, in Comments.

Image Credit: Bruno_me - Flickr

2015 Ford F-150 specs revealed, EcoBoost 2.7L to make 325 hp and 375 lb-ft [w/video]

Aluminum Yields Weight Drop To Around 4,400 Pounds

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 12:33PM



Our new man Greg Migliore is in attendance at a Ford media event at the Blue Oval's Dearborn, MI headquarters today, and he's reported in with a handful of the 2015 F-150 stats that we've been dying to know. Ford is slow-playing the news release here, but we can still offer up some interesting output and performance figures after half-year of waiting.

We have all be quite aware that Ford's shift to aluminum construction would save a lot of weight for F-150 models, and the results we're hearing now are duly impressive. For instance: in Super Crew trim, a 2015 F-150 is a whopping 732-pounds lighter than was its closest 2014-model-year equivalent. That's like hauling three middle-aged dudes to your bowling alley's league night for free. Polish your balls, guys.

Ford isn't willing to offer up any actual curb weights just yet, but if we take that 732-pound loss and extrapolate with the 5,128-pound curb weight of the 2014 F-150 Super Crew with the 3.7-liter V6, we can guesstimate that 2015 models will measure out in the 4,400-pound range. That's impressive.

We also learned just a bit about the new additions to the engine range. The base engine in the F-150 comes in the form of a naturally aspirated, 3.5-liter V6. That mill may be the little brother of the crew, but it still makes 283 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, giving the 4x2 pickup the a maximum payload of 1,910 pounds and a tow rating of 7,600 pounds.

Stepping up one rung on the ladder is the hotly anticipated 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, turbocharged to the tune of 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. In 4x2 guise, that blown mill allows for maximum payload and towing ratings of 2,250 and 8,500 pounds, respectively.

We're obviously still excited to learn actual miles-per-gallon ratings and curb weights for the Ford haulers, but in the meantime, you can scroll below to check out the official press release and an official video of the Blue Oval boys putting the EcoBoost F-150 through its towing paces at the Davis Dam in Arizona.

Related Gallery2015 Ford F-150
2015 Ford F-1502015 Ford F-1502015 Ford F-1502015 Ford F-1502015 Ford F-1502015 Ford F-1502015 Ford F-1502015 Ford F-150

Image Credit: Ford

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat [w/videos]

If You Ain't First, You're Last

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 11:57AM



Darrell Waltrip once said, "If the lion didn't bite the tamer every once in a while, it wouldn't be exciting." The sentiment behind that aphorism is causing my adrenal gland to wake up as Dodge and SRT drivers and engineers – somber-faced to a man – give me the track talk that will precede my driving the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT on the circuit at Portland International Raceway. PIR might not be Daytona, and the 707-horsepower Challenger Hellcat might seem tame to a legend like ol' Jaws, but there's a not-small part of me that's thinking about how hard Dodge's fire-breathing kitty might bite.

Just a few hours previous, I'd gotten behind the wheel of the Hellcat for the first time, letting its hyperbole-spitting, supercharged V8 Hemi pull me yieldingly through Portland's morning commuter traffic. Lulled into a cocky certainty by the Challenger's good manners at low speed, I drove the throttle just a hair too deep, too fast when I ran on to the highway ramp. For just an instant the rear tires were utterly drenched in torque, and the back end of the big Dodge loosened up like a drift car on a wet track. Throttle steer lives at the fleeting whim of your right foot in this car.

It was no big thing to lay off the gas and pull the Hellcat back in line as I entered the highway, but the incident did get me to thinking: What will this car do to me on a road course?

With the track talk ended, I picked up a helmet and a head sock – stand-ins for the whip and the chair every good lion tamer needs – hoping like hell I wouldn't end up as a gravel-track snack for the new biggest predator in the muscle car circus.

Vital Stats

Engine:
SC 6.2L V8
Power:
707 HP / 650 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Auto
Base Price:
$59,995
As-Tested Price:
$65,265

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

Smart spotted testing new Brabus Fortwo

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 11:30AM

2015 Smart Fortwo Brabus prototype

By now AMG has produced versions of just about everything Mercedes makes, right down to the A-Class, CLA and GLA. But while even the smallest of Benzes have fallen under Affalterbach's knife, Daimler's performance division steers clear of the Smart brand and its products. For that, the German automaker collaborates with another legendary Silver Star tuner.

Brabus first worked its magic on the original Smart Fortwo in 2003, packing a warmed-over 700cc engine with 74 horsepower along with upgraded aero and rolling stock. The second-generation Brabus model took things further with a 101-hp 1.0-liter engine and other go-fast(er) goodies. And now that the new Fortwo is upon us, it looks like Brabus is at it again.

Spied with a camo wrap but no visible body cladding, the new Brabus city car is expected to pack more of a punch than its predecessors, with estimates ranging from 105 to 120 hp – which may not be much for most cars, but promises to transform the Smart into something more aggressive, especially when paired with a sportier suspension, dual exhaust and aero kit.

Expect the new Brabus Smart to debut sometime next year, after which it'll be interesting to see how it might square off against a future Renaultsport version of the Twingo with which the new Smart cars share their rear-engined underpinnings.

Image Credit: CarPix

Autoblog Podcast #390

2015 Ford Mustang Specs, 2016 Smart, EPA Wants Road Tests, Autonomous Cars

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 11:21AM

Autoblog Podcast logo

Episode #390 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Steven Ewing and Sebastian Blanco from Autoblog Green talk about the 2015 Ford Mustang specs, the 2016 Smart models, a proposal to add real-world numbers to EPA economy tests and the potential downside of autonomous cars. 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 #390:

play


Topics:

In the Autoblog Garage:
Hosts: Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, Sebastian Blanco
Runtime: 01:33:35

Rundown:
  • Intro and Garage - 00:00
  • Mustang Specs - 34:40
  • 2016 Smart Models - 51:14
  • EPA Tests - 01:02:57
  • Autonomous Cars - 01:11:19
  • Q&A - 01:21:22

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

Production Acura NSX spied getting sharper on the 'Ring

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 10:44AM



Acura hasn't been shy about trotting out the concept version of its upcoming NSX hybrid supercar – we've seen it colorized on Facebook, wearing Super GT drag and running wrapped at Mid Ohio – but until now, we've missed seeing the production version at all. Thankfully, our boys in the field have been diligently camped out by the Nürburgring, just the place for Acura engineers to get the NSX shaken down and ready for the public.

The first thing you'll likely notice (and no doubt appreciate) is that Acura is staying very true to the concept car. The same wind-tunnel-carved wedge shape is in evidence in the car's silhouette, and details like aggressively scalloped engine vents behind the cabin have made it through unscathed.

We do notice that there are some vertical elements at the bottom of the front fascia/grille that appear to be revised, and the mirrors are considerably less slinky than those of the concept car. Still, by and large, we're seeing a direct translation from show stand to real life here.

There haven't been any revelations about the powertrain in recent weeks, so expect the NSX to come fitted with a 400-plus-horsepower V6 engine mounted amidships, along with a series of electric motors for added grunt. Two of the electric powerplants are expected to turn the front wheels, and effect the most impressive-yet version of Acura's Super Handling All Wheel Drive.
Related Gallery2015 Acura NSX Spy Shots
2015 Acura NSX Spy Shots2015 Acura NSX Spy Shots2015 Acura NSX Spy Shots2015 Acura NSX Spy Shots2015 Acura NSX Spy Shots2015 Acura NSX Spy Shots2015 Acura NSX Spy Shots2015 Acura NSX Spy Shots

Image Credit: CarPix

Buick Envision CUV displays full-frontal nudity

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 9:58AM

2015 Buick Envision

Earlier this month, Shanghai GM gave us a glimpse of the production version of the Buick Envision concept revealed at the Shanghai Motor Show back in 2011. And now it's released the first unveiled shot and initial details of the crossover to slot in the considerable gap between the Encore and Enclave.

The new Envision is set later this year to reach Chinese showrooms, where it will be called the Ang Ke Wei, after which we're expecting it to arrive Stateside. The production-ready Envision is about the size of the Chevrolet Equinox or GMC Terrain, but is differentiated by a more upscale treatment and Buick's signature waterfall grille, flanked by Xenon headlamps and LED running lights and riding on 19-inch wheels.

Power comes from GM's familiar 2.0-liter turbo four with direct injection and stop/start ignition, driving 256 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. That's about all that GM's Chinese operation has announced at this point – it's not even clear what platform the vehicle is on – but you can check out the press release for yourself below.

News Source: Buick

Tata to get Jaguar and Land Rover tech, platforms too?

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 9:13AM

Tata Nano

Since buying Jaguar Land Rover, Indian automaker Tata has generally left its luxury arm's platforms and technology alone. However, those days might be gone. The two of them are gradually growing closer with coordinated development and rumors of shared platforms. And it looks like all of that work and money is finally going to pay off with an actual vehicle in the near future.

According to Australian website Drive, Tata wants to make its cars more attractive to buyers outside of India, and to do that the company knows it must improve quality. The Indian company is being careful, though, because it doesn't want to dilute the Jaguar or Land Rover brands with cheap models. "You're going to see in the future a lot of sharing of technologies and platforms over time, but you won't see a JLR with a Tata badge on it," said Darren Bowler, managing director of Tata's Australian distributor, to Drive.

According to Bowler, these future vehicles are already on the way. Tata and JLR have a global platform in the works for 2017 that both companies could use for cars or crossovers. He also hinted that Jaguar's new Ingenium engines could be shared among the brands in the future, too.

The latest pronouncements align rather closely with previous rumors. Earlier this year, reports emerged that Land Rover and Tata were considering a shared platform for the next-generation Freelander. The Landie would be aimed at its normal luxury, off-road market, and the other would be cheaper and more mainstream.

News Source: Drive

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

Jaguar builds F-Type to support Tour de France team [w/video]

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 8:26AM

Jaguar F-Type Coupe Team Sky Concept

The Tour de France is typically a two-wheeled affair, dominated by cyclists yearning to capture the prestigious yellow jersey. While the 2014 event winds its way through Europe, Stage 20 will see an altogether different conveyance wind along the route between Bergerac and Périgueux – the Jaguar F-Type Coupe.

As part of its partnership with the British cyclists of Team Sky, Jag has enlisted its new Special Operations division to build a one-off F-Type Coupe, based on the 550-horsepower, supercharged R model.

SpecOps has removed the rear glass and come up with a creative solution to mount a pair of Team Sky's racing cycles in the back. Aside from that upgrade, the cabin boasts new upholstery in the colors of Team Sky's traditional livery. A separate power supply has been established below the bikes in what's left of the trunk, which provides juice for a set of radios and microphones, so that the team's director can communicate with the riders.

Now, before the wealthy amateur cyclists of the world dial up their local dealer and attempt to order their very own F-Type with a bike rack in place of the rear window, Jaguar has already stated that it will not be putting this one-off into production.

Scroll down and take a look at a video of the new car's build process, as well as a the official press release from Jaguar. And keep an eye open for the F-Type on July 26, when Stage 20 of the 2014 Tour de France is ran.

News Source: Jaguar via YouTube

US Marines testing GUSS automated vehicle that could save lives

Posted Jul 21st 2014 7:59PM

GUSS autonomous army vehicle

The machine you see in the video here is the Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate. Called GUSS for short – because who doesn't like a handy-dandy nickname – this vehicle, as its proper name suggests, is capable of operating without a driver.

It's possible to get in and drive, as you'll see in the video below, but the novel part of GUSS is that it uses a series of sensors and on-board computer programming to navigate itself over all kinds of terrain, day or night, no matter the weather. The machine above is undergoing testing by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab during Rim of the Pacific 2014 at Kahuku Training Area on Oahu, Hawaii, according to the video's description.

Based on a military machine that's more like an armored ATV than a Jeep, GUSS is only capable of moving at speeds up to five miles per hour, which makes it a bit less useful than, say, an automated HMMWV, but it's still just a prototype, and we're sure the technology will spread. To see the self-driven vehicle in action, scroll below.

News Source: AiirSource via YouTube, Gizmodo

What you missed on 7.21.14

Posted Jul 21st 2014 7:31PM

Daily U-Turn

Ford ExpeditionFirst Drive: 2015 Ford Expedition

It might not be totally all-new, but Ford's refreshed Expedition now features updated looks and twin-turbocharged power underhood. Of course, there are still plenty of old bones underneath that shiny sheetmetal. Does the big Ford have what it takes to compete with the rest of the fullsize set? Find out in our First Drive.




Gazelles RallyRallye Aïcha des Gazelles: Part 1

The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, now in its 24th running, is an all-female off-road rally through Morocco. It's one of the most grueling, challenging motorsports events in the world, and our man Jonathon Ramsey rode along with this year's competitors to see what it's all about. Read the first part of our two-installment story, here.




Chevy SSChevy SS getting 6MT, magnetic ride

Aw, yeah. Rumors had been circulating for a while regarding Chevy's SS performance sedan getting a much-needed manual transmission and magnetic ride suspension for the 2015 model year, and now, thanks to the official order guide, we've finally got confirmation of these updates. Consider us on the edge of our seats.



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