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2015 Volkswagen Golf R [w/video]

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    2015 Volkswagen Golf R [w/video]
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    Editors' Choice: Top Five 2014 LA Auto Show Debuts
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    2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet
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    Galpin Auto Sports and Fisker turn the Mustang into a Rocket in LA [w/video]
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Is Tesla under investigation from the SEC?

Posted Nov 24th 2014 7:00PM

China Tesla

Let's call this one unsubstantiated at best. Probes Reporter is a site that tries to figure out what's going on behind the scenes by filing a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the SEC. Based on the responses it gets, it guesses whether or not the SEC is investigating companies. Earlier today, Probes Reporter issued a Tweet that says: "Tesla Motors May Have an Undisclosed SEC Probe - Added to Watch List."

Probe Reporter says that it got a letter from the SEC in early October that cited the "law enforcement exemption" of the FOIA in order to deny PR access to the records it was asking for. PR says that this acknowledges "some sort of investigative activity." Probe Reporter also says that about two-thirds of these sorts of exemptions "are confirmed on appeal," so the company's history with this strategy indicates there is a real chance the electric automaker is indeed facing some sort of investigation. Again, we don't know anything for certain.

For now, Tesla hasn't made any official statement on the matter (we've asked, and will update this if we hear anything) and the stock market doesn't seem to care. TSLA was up 1.62 percent today, to $246.72, in part because analysts say this is just a rumor at the moment, according to ValueWalk.

Hyundai and Kia to hit record 8M sales for 2014

Posted Nov 24th 2014 6:30PM

The logo of Hyundai Motors display durin

Hyundai and Kia are on a sales charge in 2014, and parent company Hyundai Motor Group is increasing projections to a record eight million combined units for the automakers by the end of the year – a bump over the original target of 7.86 million vehicles.

According to Bloomberg, the key to the growth is beating expectations in Brazil, China and India, and strong crossover sales are also helping the bottom line. In the US, both automakers are doing well this year. In October, Hyundai saw a six percent dip in monthly sales, but through the first 10 months it sold 607,539 vehicles, compared to 601,773 at this point last year. Kia has done even better with 489,711 units sold from January to October, versus 456,137 for the period in 2013.

The good news is a welcome antidote to negative headlines like investors' anger over Hyundai's $10 billion land purchase in Seoul, South Korea. The two automakers also had to pay a $300 million penalty to the Environmental Protection Agency for misstating fuel economy on some models.

While sales may reach a new record, profits might not grow as much with them. The strong Korean won means that Hyundai and Kia have a tougher time keeping up profit margins compared to Japanese competitors with a weaker yen.

News Source: Bloomberg

Image Credit: Jung Yeon-Je / AFP / Getty Images

Next BMW 7 Series interior spotted

Posted Nov 24th 2014 5:58PM

BMW 7 Series

BMW 7 Series
The next BMW 7 Series looks to be leading a rather dramatic change of the company's interior styling, judging by this new series of spy photos.

In the trio of shots, we can see that the next 7 Series will replace the high-quality plastic buttons of the brand's iDrive, HVAC and secondary audio controls with some very, very pretty aluminum pieces. We can also see what looks like haptic touch controls for some of the HVAC systems. While the 7 Series interior has never been bad, it's lagged notably behind the Audi A8 and new Mercedes-Benz S-Class. This brightwork should be taken as a good sign, then, that BMW is preparing to take the fight to its countrymen. Aside from the handsome new switchgear, the large, wide nav screen looks like a pop-up unit, while it appears to be running a new version of the company's infotainment system.

These spy photos also give us our most detailed look at the 7 Series' new laser headlights. According to our spies, these will be an optional extra, while LED headlights will be standard. The high-output lights will flank a wider pair of kidney grilles that our spies claim will give the 7 a sportier look. Changes in back are still camouflaged, although our shooters claim the new lamps will be more angular than the current car's.

Expect the next 7 Series to make its debut in the second half of 2015, which could indicate a debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
Related GalleryBMW 7 Series: Spy Shots
BMW 7 Series: Spy ShotsBMW 7 Series: Spy ShotsBMW 7 Series: Spy ShotsBMW 7 Series: Spy ShotsBMW 7 Series: Spy ShotsBMW 7 Series: Spy ShotsBMW 7 Series: Spy ShotsBMW 7 Series: Spy Shots

Image Credit: CarPix

Submit Your Questions for Autoblog Podcast #407 LIVE!

Challenge Bibendum, Toyota Mirai, 3 Series Off 10Best

Posted Nov 24th 2014 5:45PM

Autoblog podcast graphic

We're set to record Autoblog Podcast #407 this evening. Check out the topics below or drop us your questions and comments via the Q&A module. And don't forget to subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven't already done so. To take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.

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Maybach Pullman, S550 4Matic coming next

Posted Nov 24th 2014 5:31PM

Mercedes-Maybach S600

Mercedes-Benz officially revived the Maybach name as a sub-brand with the reveal of the luxed-up S600 at the LA Auto Show last week, but that's only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the German automaker's new plans for its uber-prestige marque.

Motor Trend reports that Mercedes is planning two additional Maybach variants to launch in the near future, both of them also based on the S-Class. First up, we're told to expect the even longer Pullman limousine to launch, complete with Maybach treatment, at the Geneva Motor Show next March – although this model won't necessarily be offered in America. Whether it will or not, the Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman will be even bigger, more luxurious and more expensive than the one just unveiled.

What is being planned for US customers, however, is an Maybach S550 4Matic. Mating the 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 to all-wheel drive would be a boon for wintery upscale markets, and is reportedly a more feasible option than trying to pair the V12 to the 4Matic system.

As for other model lines, we've heard rumors of a Maybach GL-Class utility in the pipeline, but have yet to receive any such confirmation. Car confirms, however, that we shouldn't expect to see AMG versions of Maybach models. The two are being cultivated as separate pillars atop the Mercedes range – one focused on performance, the other on luxury – and never the twain shall meet. The previous model line did breed a sportier Maybach 57 S, however, and we wouldn't be surprised to see a similar treatment applied to one of the new models should Daimler find there's demand.

In related news, MT also reports that a new S-Class Cabriolet is coming around the corner, and that the G550 is preparing to drop its aging 5.5-liter V8 in favor of the GL's 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6.

News Source: Motor Trend, Car

Behind the scenes of Lotus' spectacular truck-over-F1 jump

Posted Nov 24th 2014 4:59PM

One flew over the coocoo's nest

A Lotus F1 car and the truck in which it's transported may both be powered by Renault and share a common JPS livery, but as far as size and performance are concerned, they're at opposite ends of the spectrum. So if you had to jump one over the other, you'd think it'd be a no-brainer to skip the single-seater over the tractor-trailer. Right? Well that may be the more logical conclusion, but it's not the way the Lotus team and its technology partner EMC decided to go for this latest promo. Instead they jumped the semi over the grand prix car.

The stunt was obviously geared towards publicity, but while they were at it, they set a Guinness World Record for the longest truck jump at 83 feet, 7 inches. The previous record, according to Guinness, stood at 50 feet, 6 inches, and was set on MTV's Nitro Circus on November 17, 2008, by Gregg Godfrey at Rocky Mountain Raceway in Salt Lake City. That record stood for six years, but (as best we can tell) was set without the trailer attached, or the F1 car tracking underneath - which only makes this latest stunt that much more impressive.

You may have seen the promo clip circulating the interwebs late last week, but we've included a making-of video below as well to show how the stunt team managed to pull it all off.

News Source: EMC via YouTube (1), (2)

Parts shortage could mean airbag inflator replacement takes two years

Posted Nov 24th 2014 4:28PM

US-TRANSPORTATION-TAKATA

Drivers in the US might be stuck with quite a wait to get their vehicles repaired under the Takata airbag inflator recall. As things stand now, the Japanese supplier could need as long as two years to produce enough replacement parts to service every affected model in America. If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is successful in making the campaign nationwide, then that timeline could grow even longer.

Mounting government pressure, including a recent Senate hearing (pictured above), is attempting to push a solution. Takata is currently building about 300,000 replacement inflators a month at its Monclova, Mexico, factory, and the company plans to boost that to around 450,000 by January, according to Automotive News. The business is also moving some production to Freiburg, Germany.

Because Takata isn't the only player in the world producing airbags, it might seem that the affected automakers could simply switch companies. However, that likely isn't going to work either. "We have been advised by suppliers that the development and production of a replacement inflator for a particular model by a supplier other than Takata could take a minimum of one year, and could take longer," said Dino Triantafyllos, Toyota chief quality officer in North America to Automotive News.

Actually getting people to bring their vehicle to dealers for the recall is an issue, as well. It only takes about an hour to switch out inflators. However, despite national publicity, documents submitted to NHTSA from eight of the affected automakers indicate only 437,936 vehicles are fixed out of a pool of about 7.5 million, according to Automotive News. With models going back as far as 2000 potentially needing the new parts, tracking down the current owner can be difficult. Just look at the similar problems Jeep is facing over its campaign to protect fuel tanks on older SUVs.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

Cadillac's de Nysschen takes aim at Porsche 911, Cayenne

Posted Nov 24th 2014 3:45PM

2009 Cadillac XLR

Johan de Nysschen has big plans for Cadillac. He's moved the brand from Detroit to New York, revamped its model nomenclature, and planning a raft of new models for the near future – including a $250,000 luxury sedan to take on the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley. But the veteran executive of luxury automakers has some more performance-oriented machinery in mind, too.

Speaking with Car and Driver at the Los Angeles Auto Show last week, de Nysschen suggested Cadillac could be ready to launch a flagship sports car sometime in the next decade. The halo model would take aim at the Porsche 911 and do for Cadillac what Audi did with the R8, Mercedes is doing with the AMG GT and Acura once did (and is aiming to do again) with the NSX.

Just what form it would take remains a big unknown, but de Nysschen indicated that the brand would need to be built up further before the sports car would be launched, lest it emerge too detached from Cadillac's image. The last time Cadillac delved into that territory was with the Corvette-based XLR, of which it sold only 15,000 or so examples – far below initial targets.

The 911 rival isn't the only performance model de Nysschen has in mind, however. He plans to further expand the V series into a more substantial sub-brand to include a crossover to take on the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, BMW X5 M and all those many AMG-tuned Mercedes utilities.

The idea of an entry-level model to slot in below the ATS was mooted as well. A range of diesel engines are slated to help Cadillac break into overseas markets in similar fashion to how Maserati has expanded its market reach with oil-burning versions of the Ghibli and Quattroporte. And we wouldn't be surprised to see Cadillac get in on a new flagship SUV being launched by Opel in Europe, either.

News Source: Car and Driver

Fiat looks to retire 'Fix It Again, Tony' by knocking Honda

Posted Nov 24th 2014 2:59PM

Fiat Fix It Ad

Ask Americans what Fiat stands for, and the odds are pretty low that you'll hear, "Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino" to be the answer. The more far likely response is "Fix It Again, Tony." The ignominious moniker comes from the brand's stint selling often unreliable models in the US in the '60s and '70s, and it remains in some minds today. However, Fiat thinks the time is right to challenge the old stereotype, and it's doing just that with a new commercial for the forthcoming 500X compact crossover, while taking some shots at Honda, as well.

In the ad, a guy just wants his Civic repaired, but two heavily accented, Italian mechanics berate his Honda for not being sexy. The boss of the shop eventually promises, "We fix it," and the customer goes inside to enjoy an espresso. At no point is the infamous, "Fix it again, Tony," ever actually uttered, but it's strongly suggested with a sign for Tony's Fix It Shop prominently displayed in several shots.

In an interview with Automotive News, Fiat global brand boss Olivier Francois explained the idea behind the commercial. It "features a skeleton in the closet, the elephant in the room. His name was Tony, and he had to go," Francois said to AN.

The 500X goes on sale in the first half of 2015 in the US and shares a platform with the Jeep Renegade. The CUV is offered with either a 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, or a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 180 horsepower.

The commercial certainly shows courage to take on the Fiat's old stereotype, but the brand has more to beat than just perception. The company came in dead last by a large margin in JD Power's 2014 Initial Quality Study, and it was also at the bottom of Consumer Reports' 2015 Predicted Reliability report. Scroll down to watch the ad for Fiat's attempt to challenge the legacy of Tony.

Kia Sorento bares its claws for X-Men special edition

Posted Nov 24th 2014 2:15PM

Kia Sorento X-Men Edition

We all know what Batman drives. Chrysler even postulated at what Superman would drive with its special Ram Power Wagon. But what would the X-Men drive? According to Kia, the Sorento you see here.

Unveiled to promote the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, this special Sorento has been done up in a unique livery inspired by one of Marvel's superheroes. Just which one, Kia's not saying, inviting fans to vote on its Facebook page – but unless those claws on the front are magnetized, we're pretty sure you can guess.

The special Kia Sorento will be displayed at the Australian Open, which Kia is also sponsoring, and will be followed by a video of tennis star Rafael Nadal teaming up with the team of mutants and jumping in the Sorento to take on a patrol of Sentinels.

This isn't the first time, of course, that we've seen Kia take inspiration from comic-book superheroes, but its previous collaborations – highlighted by a quintet of show cars unveiled at SEMA two years ago – were with rival DC's Justice League.
Related GalleryKia Sorento X-Men Edition
Kia Sorento X-Men EditionKia Sorento X-Men EditionKia Sorento X-Men EditionKia Sorento X-Men EditionKia Sorento X-Men Edition

News Source: Kia

Race Recap: Abu Dhabi GP is reversals, luck, leanness and last dances

Posted Nov 24th 2014 1:32PM

Graphic for the 2014 Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix.

We weren't sure if Alter Ego Nico Rosberg, the one who flew into Brazil and showed Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Lewis Hamilton that he knew also knew how to grab an entire race weekend by the scruff of the neck, arrived in Abu Dhabi. In both Friday practice sessions Hamilton showed Rosberg the way.

Then on Saturday, Alter Ego Rosberg took over, taking the last Free Practice session and then pole position by a whopping four-tenths of a second over Hamilton. Thanks to the gimmicky and soon-to-be-obliterated spectre of double points, if Rosberg won the race and Hamilton finished lower than second, the World Championship would remain in German hands.

Behind Hamilton came the Williams duo, again, with Valtteri Bottas ahead of Felipe Massa. Daniil Kvyat did swell to put his Toro Rosso in fifth, Jenson Button was just as swell getting his McLaren into sixth. Kimi Räikkönen outqualified his Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso for the third time this year, the pair taking seventh and eighth on the grid. Kevin Magnussen lined the second McLaren up in ninth, Jean-Eric Vergne making the top ten for Toro Rosso in his last race for the team. To be clear, that was the final grid for race: Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel had both qualified in the top ten but were sent to the back of the grid when their Infiniti Red Bull Racing front wings were deemed illegal. They'd start from the pit lane, which was still ahead of Romain Grosjean in the Lotus, who took so many penalties for new engine components that he started the race in Turkey.

At lights-out on Sunday, well, it was pretty much lights out.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AP / AFP | Getty Images, AOL

Editors' Choice: Top Five 2014 LA Auto Show Debuts

In Which We Pick Our Favorites From Los Angeles

Posted Nov 24th 2014 12:45PM

2014 LA Auto Show

It's often easy to jump to conclusions about what will absolutely steal the show at an automotive expo. Something ultra-sexy, fast, and exotic? Safe bet. A brown, Swedish shooting brake? Sounds like a winner to us. But sometimes, when the votes are tallied, we even surprise ourselves. And that's exactly what happened with this round of editors' picks for what we liked best at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Oh sure, you'll see those fast, powerful, concepty machines in the list of our favorites. We aren't going to rock the boat too much here, and the final vote tally was seriously close, as you'll see. But rather than cast our first-place vote to something outrageous and fantastical, we went for something that checks all the right boxes and is actually a production vehicle. Rather than spoil the results for you, though, we invite you to scroll down and check out the full roster.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Steven J. Ewing, Drew Phillips / AOL

2015 Volkswagen Golf R [w/video]

Grip It And Rip It

Posted Nov 24th 2014 11:59AM

2015 Volkswagen Golf R

Volkswagen hired a photographer to come shoot the handful of journalists that it brought to drive the 2015 Golf R at Buttonwillow Raceway north of Los Angeles. This fact, though unremarkable in and of itself, was something I hadn't noticed until I was well into my track time – probably ten laps deep on a day that would see me run twice that number. In any event, I noticed the intrepid shooter as he was sprinting from one side of the track to the other somewhere before Turn 2, while I was barreling down the main straightaway, still looking through Turn 1.

In the roughly two-mile configuration of the track that I drove, Buttonwillow is a big, wide-open circuit, largely flat and with excellent overall visibility. On that layout, and just hours into my Golf R experience, I'd already become confident in endeavoring to push the limits of VW's latest blistering hatch. In fact, the easy nature of driving the thing quickly had me overestimating my pace. So when I saw the photog sprint across the tarmac I instinctively slowed way too much, way too early for Turn 1.

Looking back at the incident after I'd pitted for the session, I laughed at myself, knowing I'd have had to be driving almost double my actual speed to put the camera guy in any real danger of being hit. But the experience crystallized what my full test of the R bore out: this is a car that makes you feel much faster than you otherwise would, at least in a competition setting.

The 2015 Golf R is an über hatch that will flatter those hyper-enthusiasts passionate enough to splash out on its steep price tag, but without threatening sales of core models like the GTI and its ilk. That's a good thing for the VW fanboys, to be sure, and, I'd argue, a great thing for the strength of the German brand overall.

Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 2.0L I4
Power:
292 HP / 280 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
Base Price:
$36,595

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

2018 Jeep Wrangler to get 8-speed auto

Posted Nov 24th 2014 11:30AM

2014 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler

Remember when the Jeep Wrangler had a three-speed automatic? That wasn't that long ago – as recent as the 2007 redesign – but Chrysler is keen to leave those days behind on the dusty trail. The current model ushered in a four-speed, then a five-speed, but the latest intel indicates that an eight-speed automatic is in the cards.

According to a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and cited by Automotive News, Jeep plans on fitting its eight-speed automatic transmission to the next-generation Wrangler. Chrysler already uses the ZF-sourced slushbox on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ram 1500, Chrysler 300, and versions of the Dodge Challenger, Charger and Durango. But according to the SEC filing, the Auburn Hills automaker intends "to use this transmission in all of our rear-wheel-drive vehicles, except for heavy-duty versions of the Ram pick-up truck and the SRT Viper."

AN says that Chrysler wanted to slot the transmission straight into the current Wrangler, but it wouldn't fit. Between the transmission and shift to aluminum construction, the next-generation Wrangler promises to deliver a significant reduction in fuel consumption. In correspondence with Autoblog, however, company spokesmen declined to comment on the eight-speed's suitability towards either the current Wrangler or the upcoming one.
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