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Toyota Camry, Lexus RX to get aluminum parts

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 6:00PM

Earns Alcoa

Ah, aluminum. The lightweight, strong material has long held a following within the premium ranks, but as Ford prepares to launch an aluminum F-150, the material is gaining acceptance among more mainstream automakers. Toyota is one such brand, with a new report indicating that the Japanese giant will add aluminum bits and bobs to some of its upcoming vehicles.

These won't be full, aluminum-intensive treatments like the F-150, however. Automotive News reports that an aluminum hood and liftgate will be coming to the 2016 Lexus RX, and following that, the Camry will get a bonnet built from Element 13 for model year 2018.

As AN points out, Toyota is no stranger to aluminum, using it in Japanese-built models like the Prius and Scion FR-S. The RX and Camry, though, will mark the first time the company's North American factories will use the material, and they'll do so on a significantly larger scale, owing to the higher volumes that the Camry and RX represent.

"Toyota has plans to use aluminum on future vehicles for hood, closures and parts for lightweighting," Toyota's Jana Hartline told AN. "Also, we will increase usage of mix metals and resin materials to enhance lightweighting efforts."

The aluminum for the Camry and RX would likely come from a new joint venture between Toyota Motor's affiliate Toyota Tsusho and Kobe Steel, with an operation that could produce 100,000 tons of aluminum sheet (like what's shown above at an Alcoa factory in Indiana) each year.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Daniel R. Patmore / AP

Ferrari recalls 458 Italia because its trunk is a dangerous place to stow kids

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 5:30PM

Ferrari 458 Italia

Ferrari is recalling 3,000 458 Italia and Spider models and, believe it or not, it's not because they may catch fire. Nope, instead, the issue focuses on anyone that's unfortunate enough to become trapped in the Ferrari's perilously small frunk (front-mounted trunk).

Apparently, should someone find themselves trapped in the car's nose, the interior release handle only lets loose one of frunk's latches. That means that while anyone held captive by the V8-powered supercar won't be in danger of suffocating and will still be able to call for help, the cars are still ultimately in violation of federal safety mandates.

According to Uncle Sam, should someone become trapped in a trunk, like a child, they must be able to open the trunk from the inside and escape. That can't happen in the 458.

It's not clear which model years are covered, although according to CNN Money, only the 458 Italia and Spider are covered by the recall. If you're a lucky 458 Speciale owner, you're clean and clear... we think.

Owners will be notified by Ferrari and will need to return their car to the local dealer for modifications.
Related GalleryFerrari 458 Italia
Ferrari 458 ItaliaFerrari 458 ItaliaFerrari 458 ItaliaFerrari 458 ItaliaFerrari 458 ItaliaFerrari 458 ItaliaFerrari 458 ItaliaFerrari 458 Italia

News Source: CNN Money

Nissan's Nismo celebrates 30th year with video retrospective

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 4:57PM

Nismo 30th Anniversary

Nismo, the motorsports and high-performance arm of Nissan, has a lot of racing success to celebrate in its history and possibly even bigger accomplishments to look forward to. The company is commemorating its 30th anniversary with a video looking back at its most important milestones from each year of its past.

Nismo's job first and foremost at its genesis was to excel at motorsports. It wasn't too long after the division was founded in 1984 that the company made its first of many attempts to take an overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It never quite succeeded in that goal, but still managed to do well in long-distance competition elsewhere. At the same time, Nismo was racking up wins in touring car races in Japan.

Eventually, the division's engineers started dipping their toes into tuning road cars, in addition to going racing. What began as something sporadic has become a growing part of the Nissan lineup with Nismo-branded models of the 370Z, Juke, Note in Europe and the GT-R.

That isn't the end of the Nismo road car expansion, but where it's going exactly is still a secret. According to Nissan spokesperson Dan Passe speaking to Autoblog, the company's motto for the division's future is, "Nothing is off the table."

According to Passe, in terms of numbers, the US is already Nismo's biggest market, and the company is now going through an education process to expose more customers to its high-performance division. That's being done though projects like the Nissan GT Academy to engage young people with the brand and especially through motorsports. Passe says that the automaker is "in conversation with racing teams" to get even more of its cars on the track in America.

Worldwide, Nismo is also making a big jump back to the top class of endurance racing with the GT-R LM to challenge Audi, Porsche and Toyota at Le Mans in 2015. That's some steep opposition, but watch the video for a better understanding of why it's so important to Nissan's motorsports arm to be competing there.

News Source: Nissan Newsroom via YouTube

GM's Reuss explains why Cadillac is heading to New York

Product Chief Says Move Will "Elevate" The Brand

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 4:31PM

2015 Cadillac Escalade

"We're going to take it to a place [New York] to change the way that we do business around the brand of Cadillac." – Mark Reuss

General Motors product chief Mark Reuss elaborated Tuesday on Cadillac's move to New York in 2015, saying it will "elevate" the brand and allow it to reach new customers.

"We're going to take it to a place [New York] to change the way that we do business around the brand of Cadillac," Reuss said at an event in Detroit.

About 50 people will set up shop in the trendy neighborhood of Soho, GM confirmed Tuesday. According to Reuss, the roles have not been specified, but it's expected to include sales and marketing staff. A headquarters in the NYC cosmopolitan setting could allow Cadillac to better understand consumers on the coasts, where the brand struggles against Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lexus and others, Reuss added.

"We're not on the radar of some of the people we'd like to be on," he said.

The move to New York represents a complete reset for Cadillac, and it will be cast as a standalone business unit. Reuss said Cadillac's president, Johan de Nysschen, and chief marketing officer, Uwe Ellinghaus, will re-examine the brand's sales and marketing strategy. Cadillac also named a new vice president of US sales, Jim Bunnell, on Monday.

Despite well-received products, Cadillac sales have struggled this year, dropping 4.7 percent to 114,008 units through August.

"We have to have some new thinking in how we go to market," Reuss said. "The brand perception of what these products align to has been lagging."

The move to New York comes as Cadillac prepares to launch as a new flagship sedan to compete with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series and other large luxury cars. Reuss declined to reveal the name of the new Cadillac on Tuesday.

Ironically, the news of Cadillac's move to New York – and away from Detroit – came on the same day as a conference that discussed Michigan's impact on the auto industry. Reuss, a native of Michigan, said he "really supports" the move, noting Cadillac's engineering and design staff will still be based in his home state, where four Cadillac models are also assembled.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

How traffic enforcement could play out on roads of the future

New Systems Offer Potential, But Automated Tickets Already Irk Drivers

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 4:01PM

The applications of connected-car technology may eventually lie beyond the authority of its creators.

On the roads of the future, it's possible that speeding tickets will be doled out by new automated law enforcement systems instead of by police officers in patrol cars.

Systems now being developed by the federal government to handle vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications in an upcoming connected-car era may have the capability to more precisely track the locations and speeds of individual motorists.

Officials behind the creation of these communications systems say V2V and V2I communications are not intended for law-enforcement purposes, and a report issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last month said there's not enough data in the transmissions to link such speeding calculations to individual motorists. But then the agency's top-ranking official said it was indeed possible. He said the roadblocks were in the consumer acceptance of such automated enforcement, not in the capabilities of the system.

"I know there is potential for law enforcement to optimize some of these things, but if we go too far, too fast in that direction, it could create some consumer backlash that could hurt its adoption," said David Friedman, NHTSA's deputy administrator, while speaking earlier this month at a conference of transportation officials in Grand Rapids, MI. "The technology is there, but our initial design is not focused on that."

Though skeptical of its adoption, his statement is the first that acknowledges the technical possibility of such an enforcement system. That's important because, even if enforcement possibilities are not the intent of V2V and V2I systems, the applications of connected-car technology may eventually lie beyond the authority of its creators: laws governing traffic enforcement are largely a function of local and state governments.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Next Toyota Prius coming in 60-mpg 'Eco Grade' version?

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 3:29PM

Next-gen Toyota Prius MPG chart

There's some mystery surrounding the fuel economy level of the next-generation Toyota Prius. The closest we've had to an official number is 55 miles per gallon, which was hinted at by Toyota Motor Corporation's managing officer, Satoshi Ogiso, last year. That number wasn't an official target, but the company even provided a graphic (above) showing how each next generation Prius beat the previous one by four or five mpg. Since the current, third-gen model gets 50, well, we have been left to guess that 55 is the next logical target.

But, according to a new report in Automotive News, the new, fourth-generation Prius that's due next year will come in two versions, with one having a bigger ego – sorry, eco – than the other. AN says that the model will arrive with a standard nickel-metal hydride battery pack in a version that gets "about 55 mpg" and then a new "eco grade" version with a li-ion battery that "will be rated at more than 60 mpg." AN says this information came from company executives who were speaking at an August meeting with Toyota dealers. Our sources within Toyota say that they haven't heard anything about two high-efficiency models, so we'll take this with the requisite grain of salt. The current version of the Prius Plug-In Hybrid does use lithium-ion batteries, but this is the non-plug model the dealers are talking about. We think.

The dual-battery strategy is certainly a rumor we've heard before. We had thought that the li-ion pack would be for an extended EV range (the current Prius has a barely noticeable EV-only range), but such a pack would be lighter and could boost efficiency, too.

In other words, we look forward to hearing more during the upcoming auto show season.
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Toyota Hybrid World TourToyota Hybrid World TourToyota Hybrid World TourToyota Hybrid World TourToyota Hybrid World TourToyota Hybrid World TourToyota Hybrid World TourToyota Hybrid World Tour

Leno shows some style with a '67 Lancia Fulvia 1.3 Zagato

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 3:00PM

1967 Lancia Fulvia 1.3 Zagato

Given the number of cars in Jay Leno's collection, plus the ones he just gets to drive, it seems like the number of classics that he hasn't been behind the wheel of could be listed on a Post-It note. However, Jay Leno's Garage viewers are in luck this week because they get to watch the host experience a vehicle for the very first time, and he comes away suitably impressed.

The model in question is a 1967 Lancia Fulvia Sport 1.3 Zagato that's owned by auto appraiser and journalist Donald Osborne. It's a good thing that he's around, too, because Jay is pretty clearly out of his element when discussing this beautiful coupe. The two of them end up having a fairly long conversation about not just this car but also the whole history of Lancia.

According to Osborne, the Zagato-bodied version was the top model of the Fulvia range, and the famous coachbuilder made about 7,000 of them between 1965 and 1972. The styling featured a gorgeous mix of razor sharp creases and shapely curves to really set the design apart from its contemporaries, and power came from a 1.3-liter V4 spinning the front wheels.

It's fascinating to watch Leno learning about the car for the first time over the course of the video and then start picking out little details about the Fulvia that he likes. Get educated right along with him in this interesting episode looking at one of the great Lancias.

News Source: Jay Leno's Garage via YouTube

Volkswagen offers Beetle Classic, priced from $20,195*

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 2:31PM

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Classic

The current Volkswagen Beetle already tries to be a fairly retro-looking ride by cribbing styling elements from the iconic original. However, for the new, limited-edition Classic model, VW is hopping into the time machine to grab even more vintage cues. The company is even cutting the price, perhaps in hopes of turning around flagging sales this year. You don't need to wait long for any of these upgrades either because the automaker says that the Classic goes on sale this week for $20,195, *excluding the $820 destination charge. That's $100 less than a bone-stock Beetle.

Starting as a standard Beetle with VW's 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, the Classic edition comes with a six-speed automatic and then adds some retro flair. It includes new vintage-look 17-inch wheels with simulated dog dish polished hubcaps over black spokes. It also comes with a rear spoiler, and the automaker is offering the model in Pure White, Black Uni, and Reflex Silver.

The interior mixes in a few more classic touches but includes modern amenities like a standard navigation system, satellite radio and multifunction steering wheel. However, the seats are finished in a two-tone design combining light brown leatherette on the sides and checked cloth centers, plus lumbar support for the driver's side. The shift knob and handbrake also get wrapped in leather.

If you like the idea of a somewhat more retro Beetle but want to drop the top, have no fear. VW will add a convertible version of the Classic edition in early 2015 for $25,995, before destination, with all of the same interior and exterior changes as the coupe. Scroll down to read the official announcement.

News Source: Volkswagen

2015 Mustang-based Saleen S302 to boast as much as 640 hp

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 1:57PM

2015 Saleen S302 Mustang

2015 Saleen S302 MustangThe Ford Mustang is obviously a famous performance vehicle in its own right, but it often works even better as a platform for the aftermarket to upgrade. With the all-new 2015 model just now hitting the scene, the famous tuners at Saleen are getting their improvements for the new pony car ready for the world. After recently teasing it, the specs for its fresh S302 model are officially here, along with a first look at it in profile.

Of course, the biggest question on everyone's mind is how much power the company can get from the Mustang's V8. With the 2015 V8 model rated at 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet, Saleen expects to bump the Ford factory numbers slightly to 450 hp and 410 lb-ft in naturally aspirated form, or with the benefit of a supercharger, it will rocket the engine's output figures to 640 hp and 565 lb-ft. No matter which powerplant a buyer chooses, there are a wide variety of available final-drive ratios with a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox.

Available as either a coupe or convertible forms, Saleen will offer its S302 in three trim levels – White Label, Yellow Label and Black Label. The White Label is the only naturally aspirated one of the bunch, but it still benefits from upgrades like a new exhaust, limited-slip differential, improved suspension, heat extractor hood and rear wing.

The real action is in the supercharged Yellow and Black Labels. The Yellow version basically follows the same path as the White trim, except with extra power. However, the Black gets the full suite of mods, including a center induction hood, side skirts, a new rear fascia integrated with the exhaust, further suspension upgrades, illuminated sill places, leather and Alcantara seats, plus a whole range of optional colors.

The company is currently taking reservations for the S302 for $2,015 (we see what you did there, Saleen). Scroll down to read the company's brief press release about its latest, tuned Mustang, and click through the gallery to read the whole order guide, including this supercharged pony car's specs.
Related Gallery2015 Saleen S302 Mustang
2015 Saleen S302 Mustang2015 Saleen S302 Mustang2015 Saleen S302 Mustang2015 Saleen S302 Mustang2015 Saleen S302 Mustang2015 Saleen S302 Mustang

News Source: Saleen

Volkswagen unveils Tristar truck concept in Hannover

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 1:30PM

Volkswagen Tristar

Pickups may not be the first type of vehicle you associate with Volkswagen, but the German automaker does make a handful – even if they aren't available in the US. There's the Amarok we recently drove in the UK and the new Saveiro recently revealed in Brazil. And at the International Commercial Vehicle show in Hannover, Germany, VW is presenting the pickup concept you see here.

Based on its T-series vans, the Tristar concept is being shown on the 30th anniversary of the original Syncro – the most rough-and-tumble, jack-of-all-trades version of the T2 van. It bears what will likely be the design of its next-generation commercial vehicles, but with a short pickup bed behind its extended cab, all packed into a short wheelbase. That pickup bed, incidentally, is split into two parts, with a watertight compartment under the load floor.

Inside you'll find a 20-inch foldout tabletop tablet and even an onboard espresso machine packed into a clean, simple and flexible cabin space designed to suit professionals and surfers alike. It's all motivated by a 2.0-liter TDI inline four with 200 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque driven through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox to all four wheels. 0-62 is quoted at 10 seconds flat, with top speed pegged at 115 mph.

News Source: Volkswagen

Audi UrQuattro gets the Petrolicious narrative

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 12:44PM

Petrolicious: Audi Quattro

Audi started a revolution in the world of rallying when it paired an all-wheel-drive system with a turbocharged, five-cylinder engine and a rakish, three-door body. That car, the Quattro, didn't just upset the entire balance of the World Rally Championship, it (eventually) led to a transformative effect on the consumer car market.

But we're not just interested in this car simply because history has proven the UrQuattro to be important – we love its sharply creased looks, its offbeat soundtrack and its gravel-spitting abilities. Evidently, so does the crew from Petrolicious, as they've lavished their lenses upon the car. This particular model hails from 1983, and has covered a healthy 175,000 miles, says owner Manuel Leon Minassian. His first experience with the Ur (meaning "original") came in Beirut, where the car received plenty of praise from students at his school.

That first encounter led to a long passion for the Quattro, culminating in his purchase of this car four years ago. Take a look at Minassian and his Audi in the latest video from Petrolicious.

News Source: Petrolicious via YouTube

2015 Porsche Cayenne S

Turbo V6 Makes Best-Selling Porsche More Potent Than Ever

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 11:57AM

2015 Porsche Cayenne S

Oh, Porsche.

Just as the dust settles over the 911 GT3's no manual gearbox kerfuffle, the Germans have gone and yanked the yummy naturally aspirated 4.8-liter V8 from the Cayenne S and replaced it with a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6. Is nothing sacred in Porscheland?

Perhaps not... but that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Porsche famously once said they'd never build a diesel, but when they did, it was actually rather stellar.

All 2015 Cayennes get subtly reworked front and rear ends, with a wider looking nose and bladed intakes feeding intercoolers, while reworked headlamps and taillights emphasize a family resemblance to the Macan. New suspension bushings and bearings combined with reworked shock internals provide sharper handling and a greater range of damping adjustability, while the standard equipment list gets a much needed boost, so to speak, with features like auto stop/start and bi-Xenon headlights. New options include rear seat air vents and smart cruise control, among others. But apart from the S E-Hybrid's new plug-in configuration and its lithium-ion battery, the most notable change in the lineup is the Cayenne S's jettisoning of the V8.

Vital Stats

Twin-Turbo 3.6L V6
420 HP / 406 LB-FT
8-Speed Auto
Base Price:
As-Tested Price:

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Basem Wasef / AOL, Porsche

Chrysler and Google launch virtual 200 factory tour [w/video]

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 11:27AM

Chrysler 200 Factory Tour from Google

Google is no stranger to showing off some of the most interesting automotive destinations in the world, like the museums for Lamborghini and Ducati, or even a Tesla showroom. However, it's taking that technology even further with a new, in-depth look of the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant where the Chrysler 200 is made. Unlike these earlier online excursions, the new Chrysler factory tour is a fully guided experience that includes several 360-degree videos explaining many parts of the production process.

"Just as we pioneered a completely new Chrysler 200, we are pioneering a new way for consumers to research a vehicle. The Factory Tour is an opportunity for us to prove to consumers that the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 is not one ever built before," said Olivier Francois, Chrysler's chief marketing officer, in the company's release.

Chrysler was already pretty proud of its nearly $1 billion in recent updates to the Sterling Heights factory having released a look at the 200's assembly process earlier this year. However, the new Google tour goes far deeper by including 12 videos, and between highlighted stops, viewers can swing the camera all over to get a full view of the action. The whole thing is an intriguing way to show the way a modern car gets built.

You can take the Chrysler 200 Factory Tour for yourself, here. Just keep clicking on the blue arrow along the way to follow the guided view. Or scroll down to watch a video showing a few of the sights and read the full announcement for the collaboration.

News Source: Chrysler via YouTube

2015 North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year Award short list released [UPDATE]

Posted Sep 23rd 2014 10:57AM

North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year award closeup

UPDATE: Ford has just informed the NACTOY jury that the 2015 Edge will not go on sale in time for consideration. Thus, it has been removed from the short list and the story below has been updated accordingly.

2015 model-year cars and trucks are starting to filter into dealers in earnest, and with that, the newly expanded jury from the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year awards is getting serious about assessing this year's talented new crop with an eye toward doling out the awards in January.

Back in the beginning of August, the NACTOY jury released this year's long list of around 60 new vehicles that it would consider for the awards. While that list basically included everything slated to go on sale in the 2015 model year, this tighter list of 10 cars and 12 truck/utility/crossover vehicles highlights the products that the self-funded, independent and non-profit jury of North American auto writers have determined to be worthy of closer inspection and consideration.

This year, no one automaker dominates the short list, but Ford, General Motors and Toyota have tied with three nominees apiece. The Blue Oval's contenders include Mustang, F-150 and the Lincoln MKC, while Toyota has its redesigned Camry, Highlander and Lexus NX crossover. Finally, GM's slate is made up of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins and the Tahoe SUV. Audi, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz have scored a pair of nominations each.

2015 North American Car of the Year Short List
  • Acura TLX
  • Audi A3
  • Chrysler 200
  • Ford Mustang
  • Honda Fit
  • Hyundai Genesis sedan
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Toyota Camry
  • Volkswagen Golf/GTI
2015 North American Truck/Utility of the Year Short List
  • Audi Q3
  • Chevrolet Colorado
  • Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Ford F-150
  • GMC Canyon
  • Lexus NX
  • Lincoln MKC
  • Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
  • Nissan Murano
  • Porsche Macan
  • Subaru Outback
  • Toyota Highlander
At this still-early stage in the yearly judging, most jurors have not driven every nominee due to late vehicle availability (e.g. Nissan Murano), but the panel has been encouraged to give vehicles the benefit of the doubt in voting when culling the nominees down from long list to short list in order to ensure they get their just consideration.

The jury will now focus on getting quality time behind the wheel of each vehicle, including the opportunity to drive the vehicles back-to-back in a group setting this fall before another round of ballots go out and a vote is cast to determine the three finalists in each category. The top six vehicles will then be revealed ahead of a final round of testing, analysis and voting. The winners will be revealed at a press conference that opens the Detroit Auto Show.

Which vehicles do you think should take home the coveted crystal? Which vehicles do you think will? Have your say in Comments.

Full Disclosure: Author is a NACTOY jury member.

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