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72-month loans enticing consumers to buy loaded cars

Posted Oct 2nd 2014 6:00AM

auto sales

Longer loan terms and favorable interest rates are tempting consumers into pricier and more feature-laden vehicles, consequently driving average transaction prices up about three percent since 2009, according to a new report by Automotive News.

It's that first bit, about longer loan terms, that has helped bump transaction prices. The availability of no-interest, 72-month loans, AN reports, is allowing buyers targeting a maximum monthly payment of $500 to spend $6,000 more than on a more traditional five-year loan. Even for those with a more mainstream, $400-per-month target, a 72-month loan means customers can spend an extra $4,800.

Not only is this good news for automakers, who are enjoying rapid sales of pricier cars, trucks and SUVs, but dealers are enjoying the move to six-year loans. "I can't tell you the last time I saw something less than 72 [months]," Pete Munson, general manager of Great Lakes Chevrolet in Ohio, told Automotive News. "They just want the most car for the least amount of monthly payment. They don't look at the overall price of the car."

Kris Byrd, of Sheehy Nissan in Virginia, echoed Munson's statement. "More people will come in and pay for the leather and pay for the navigation," Byrd told AN. "People are coming in and wanting the Rogue SL with the Premium Package and all the bells and whistles."

More than just optional goodies, buyers are moving to bigger vehicles in general, thanks to the generous loan terms. AN reports that sales of compact CUVs is up 14 percent and that overall SUV sales are up 24 percent, both of which compare very favorably to the flat growth rates of compact and midsize sedans. This is far from the first time we've heard that sedans are struggling against CUV/SUV popularity.

What are your thoughts on this? Would you consider a 72-month loan? We'd really like to hear from you, so head into Comments and have your say.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Steven Senne / AP Photo

Honda Civic Type R Concept is the shape of hot things to come

Posted Oct 2nd 2014 5:31AM

Honda Civic Type R

Soon, kids. Soon. The next-generation Honda Civic Type R is finally coming, and we're getting another preview of the hot hatch here at the Paris Motor Show. Of course, this one probably won't be headed to the United States (boo!), but it doesn't mean we can't get excited. After all, we're big fans of little turbo hatches, and from what we know right now, this one sure sounds sweet.

Underneath that new blue paint and red decals is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, reportedly good for 276 horsepower. Honda tells us there's a "steer axis" system with adaptive dampers, and with the push of its +R button, the suspension, steering and torque mapping are all altered to make this Type R even more Type R-ier than before. In fact, Honda says this Civic will surpass every Type R that came before it – that means every Integra, Accord, Civic and even the NSX. Hot diggity.

We've got a fresh batch of images of the Type R Concept up top, and Honda's press release is available below. Hopefully it won't be long before the production car is finally revealed.

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Jonathon Ramsey / AOL

Aston Martin Vanquish Carbon Edition is back in black [w/video]

Posted Oct 2nd 2014 4:58AM

Aston Martin Vanquish Carbon Edition

Earlier this year, I spent the weekend with an Aston Martin Vanquish Volante in a particularly interesting shade of green – the same car you see photographed here, for our First Drive. When it was dropped off, I remember just staring at it, taking in all of its lines, the curves, its pronounced hips – all the details. To say the Vanquish is a gorgeous car is a vast understatement. And here at the Paris Motor Show, the already classy range-topping Aston coupe dons an even more gorgeous appearance in the form of the Carbon Edition.

Aston Martin has already given similar treatments to its Vantage, DB9 and DBS (the Vanquish's predecessor), and the svelte look can be had on either the coupe or convertible models, available in black or white. The car gets black window surrounds, darker headlight trim, gloss black alloy wheels and a stylish herringbone carbon fiber trim in the cabin to go with the quilted leather upholstery.

One thing that's left unchanged with the Carbon Edition is the massive, old-school powerplant underhood: Aston's 6.0-liter naturally aspirated V12 with 568 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. Hitting 60 miles per hour takes just 3.6 seconds, on its way to a top speed of just over 200 mph.

Have a look at the Carbon Aston in our live gallery above, and click below for a short video showing the sleek new Vanquish.

Lexus GS F points its gaping grille at the BMW M5

Posted Oct 2nd 2014 4:29AM

Lexus GS F: Spy Shots

A mere trio of weeks after the latest report in the slow-moving Lexus GS F rumor cycle, we have a brand new batch of spy photos of the BMW M5-fighting sedan. Looking more and more production ready – notice the more finished exhausts compared to our last round of photos – the GS F can be seen poking around what we imagine is Germany.

If the RC and RC F Coupes are any indication, it looks like Lexus will start fitting its high-performance models with a new, single-frame version of the spindle grille while a dual-frame grille will be reserved for lesser trims. Backing up that suspicion is the new single-frame grille found on this prototype, marking the first time the suspected F line styling piece has been seen on a GS F prototype.

The aforementioned staggered quad exhausts look good on the GS' rear end, while a none-too-subtle rear spoiler ups the rear's visual flair. The low-profile rubber and the multi-spoke, black wheels are nice touches that work well with the front fascia features, in addition to the new, camo'd grille and substantial brake cooling ducts.

With such a high degree of finality on this prototype, here's hoping we see the production GS F sooner rather than later.

Image Credit: CarPix

2015 Ducati Scrambler is retro and ready

Posted Oct 2nd 2014 4:00AM

2015 Ducati Scrambler

Casual motorcycle fans will know Ducati best as purveyors of cutting-edge superbikes and nakeds, but with the market for retro cycles heating up, the Italian manufacturer has finally unleashed its long-awaited Scrambler. First shown earlier this week at the International Motorcycle Fair in Cologne, Germany, the new bike has also been revealed here at the Paris Motor Show adjacent to offerings from its parent automakers Audi and Lamborghini.

The Scrambler's upright design is seemingly a mix of dirt bike cues and vintage '60s Ducati flair, and it features an 803cc L-twin engine rated at 74 horsepower and 50 pound-feet of torque. The oil- and air-cooled engine employs a six-speed gearbox and a chain drive to get power to the ground, and anti-lock brakes are standard fit. Weight is quoted at 375 pounds dry or 410 pounds all wet and ready to play.

At first blush, we're quite taken with the 2015 Scrambler, as it promises both a more comfortable riding position and real versatility to go along with its handsome trellis frame, thin-spoke wheels backed by Brembo brakes and throwback big-eyed headlamp – the latter secreting LED guts.

When it arrives stateside in January, the Scrambler will carry an unusually accessible price point for a Ducati, as well, starting from $8,495, with an additional trio of trims – Classic, Full Throttle and Urban Enduro to follow wearing $9,995 MSRPs.

Alfa Sprint Speciale racer looks fantastic, sounds even better

Posted Oct 1st 2014 8:01PM

Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale

Nothing quite sounds like a vintage Alfa Romeo four-cylinder engine at full gallop, especially in motorsport trim. With a combination of low-frequency burbling played over a high-pitch scream, they really know how to sing. This week Petrolicious takes a look at a truly unique Alfa Sprint Speciale that's just as adept at competing in the wide-open La Carrera Panamericana vintage race in Mexico as it is snaking through some undulating, tree-lined back roads.

Ostensibly, this is a 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale, although it's really much more the creation of Alfa-restorer Conrad Stevenson. The roof section, including the holes for the windshield and rear glass, is original to one of these fantastic-looking coupes. But everything below that is Stevenson's handiwork. To shape the styling, he combined the original Bertone design with his own ideas to purpose build the car for the challenges of the Mexican race.

As usual, Petrolicious nails every aspect of the production, especially the handheld camera work inside the cabin as the car negotiates the curves. It really communicates the connection between this swoopy Alfa and its builder. Plus, the sound mix lets the engine play its glorious tune.

News Source: Petrolicious via YouTube

What you missed on 10.1.14

Posted Oct 1st 2014 7:30PM

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Lamborghini Shows Asterion hypercar concept

The media days of the 2014 Paris Motor Show might technically start tomorrow, but the party has clearly begun already. The early star in Paris is this Lamborghini Asterion concept, which melds V10 muscle with an electric drivetrain 910 total-system-horsepower. The understated, über-powerful Lambo shared the stage at VW's Group Night with an impressive Volkswagen XL Sport concept, too. Let the show commence!




First Drive: 2015 Renault Twingo

Just in time for the Paris show, we get a drive in the all new, rear-engined-runabout from Renault. Sharing the same platform that will underpin the upcoming generation of Smart cars here in the US, the first-impressions of the nippy, Europe-only Twingo present and interesting preview. Read on to find out if the thrid-gen Twingo has what it takes to regain sales prominence in the Old World.




Corvette Z06 will do 0-60 in 2.95 seconds

We all expected that the 650-horsepower 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 would be very quick, but until this morning we didn't understand just how bonkers the spec sheet would be. Nailing the 60-mph figure in less than 3 seconds is wild, but so is achieving a radical 1.2 gs on the company skidpad. If you're like us, you're probably drooling to know what this new monster 'Vette is actually like to drive; satiate a bit of that curiosity with some more Z06 facts and figures, here.



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General Motors names new cyber security chief

Posted Oct 1st 2014 7:01PM



General Motors made a splash earlier this month when it announced it would add wireless hotspots to many vehicles in its 2015 lineup and introduce more advanced technology going forward.

It's probably no coincidence, then, that the company recently named its first-ever director of cyber security. GM announced that Jeff Massimilla, a former engineering group manager in charge of infotainment systems, would assume the new role.

Massimilla, sitting in the driver's seat in the above picture, is a University of Michigan engineering graduate who has focused on center-stack technology throughout his career at GM and also recently served as a program manager for Cadillac CUE. He'll head a team that's tackling one of the most vexing challenges in the auto industry right now – keeping vehicles secure.

Cars have becoming mobile computers in recent years. Dozens of small computers on each vehicle run every conceivable system, from seat-belt tensioners to telematics units to brakes. As vehicle software becomes more advanced and cars use real-time data for safety information, the security of these systems has gained importance.

GM's WiFi hotspots, which offer users a 4G connection available through its OnStar infotainment system, push the technology and needs for security one step further. In its advertising, the company says the availability of an integrated WiFi hotspot provides a more powerful connection than a smart phone or mobile hotspot for consumers.

Researchers fear these external-facing infotainment units are precisely the point hackers will target. "We consider it to be the holy grail because of its range," says Chris Valasek, director of vehicle research at IOActive, a software security company.

There are no reports yet of an actual cyber attack co-opting a vehicle on American roads, but researchers have demonstrated it is possible to both remotely and physically compromise a car and manipulate key functions, like steering and braking. Earlier this month, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told automakers he wanted them to collaborate on ways to standardize security procedures and develop protocols by the end of next year.

Massimilla has served in a variety of roles during his tenure with GM, previously serving in the company's next-generation infotainment department and as a director of global validation. In his new role, he'll report to Ken Morris, GM's vice president of global product integrity.

Image Credit: General Motors

British Honda CR-V looks tough, gets diesel and 9-speed auto

Posted Oct 1st 2014 6:31PM

Honda CR-V European Model

Honda just took the wraps off of its thoroughly updated 2015 CR-V for the US, with a touch more style and improved powertrain to provide more torque and better fuel economy. In our First Drive, we found that all of the changes really focused the CUV even more towards the desires of its audience of mostly families. European crossover shoppers don't have to wait too long to see these tweaks for themselves and get a few exclusive upgrades of their own.

While US models get a torquier gasoline engine, Europe loves its diesels. Therefore, the CR-V over there benefits from a more powerful 1.6-liter i-DTEC oil-burner that produces 158 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This new addition is only available on the four-wheel drive version, and it replaces the previous 2.2-liter diesel in the lineup. Also as opposed to the CVT here, there's now an optional nine-speed automatic gearbox across the pond.

According to Honda, the new diesel with a six-speed manual drops emissions by 11 percent compared to its predecessor. Opting for the nine-speed auto makes things 20 percent cleaner in contrast to the previous 2.2-liter CR-V with an auto.

Aesthetically, the latest European CR-V is essentially identical to our refreshed model. It wears the same updated front end with a new grille and LED running lights. It also has the tweaked rear with a chrome bar running across the hatch and slightly altered taillight design. The dark wheels of this show car do add an air of brutishness that we haven't seen before, however.

The updated European CR-V will get its debut at the upcoming Paris Motor Show, and it'll be built at Honda's plant in Swindon, England. Scroll down for the company's full announcement.
Related GalleryHonda CR-V European Model
Honda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European ModelHonda CR-V European Model

News Source: Honda

Skoda introduces new Paris-bound Fabia Combi wagon

Posted Oct 1st 2014 6:00PM

Skoda Fabia Combi

Škoda may not get the bulk of our attention, but it's hard to argue with the nearly 1 million vehicles it moved last year. In terms of sales volume, that makes Škoda the third biggest division under the Volkswagen Group umbrella (after VW and Audi). The Octavia accounted for over a third of that, but despite having been introduced back in 2007, the Fabia remains its second most popular model worldwide. Good thing it's got an all-new model on the cusp, then.

The Czech automaker revealed the new Fabia a little over a month ago, but it's not just the hatchback which Škoda plans to unveil this week at the Paris Motor Show. Joining it will be the Fabia Combi you see here, the stretched-roof wagon version that's the most popular in its segment with over a million sold since its initial introduction in 2000.

Launching across Europe in January, the new Škoda Fabia Combi aims to build on that success with greater cargo capacity, improved efficiency and emissions numbers, and a long list of new features ranging from an adjustable cargo floor to an ice-scraper integrated into the fuel filler cap.

Longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, the new Fabia Combi will be available with a choice of three gasoline and three diesel engines ranging from 75 horsepower to 110, mated to manual or dual-clutch automatic transmissions, with stop-start ignition and brake-force recovery as standard.
Related Gallery2015 Skoda Fabia Combi
2015 Skoda Fabia Combi2015 Skoda Fabia Combi2015 Skoda Fabia Combi2015 Skoda Fabia Combi

News Source: Skoda

September 2014: Cooling Off As The Leaves Change Edition

Posted Oct 1st 2014 5:30PM



Autumn is upon us – at least for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere (happy Spring, friends in the Southern!) – and that means the weather is cooling off, the leaves on the trees are changing into beautiful colors and the hot, hot sales months of summertime are slowing down. Well, for the most part, at least.

Trucks and SUVs led the charge in September, with Jeep posting the month's second-highest increase (its 47 percent was bested only by Maserati, which, while impressive, operates in much smaller volumes...), General Motors reporting a 42-percent light-truck increase and Ram tallying a solid 25-percent gain. Ford, for its part, claims to be diligently managing its F-Series pickup volumes in anticipation of its brand-new, completely redesigned 2015 F-150.

As far as record streakers go, Subaru deserves a solid tip of the hat, its 31-percent gain last month being the 34th straight month of sales increases. Volkswagen, on the other hand, has been headed downward for quite some time now, and its 19-percent drop in sales marks the 18th straight month of decline. In other news, it's nice to see Volvo in the green after several months in the red, and we again have to hand it to Mitsubishi, which, despite what we'd describe as a pretty woeful set of products to push, posted a 39-percent gain last month.

Feel free to peruse past sales recaps by checking out our By The Numbers category here.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata will rock 2.0L SkyActiv engine in US, 1.5L elsewhere

Posted Oct 1st 2014 5:01PM

2016 Mazda Miata

Let the speculation finally end – we know what will power the next-generation 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata, and it's not turbocharged. The US model will get a SkyActiv 2.0-liter engine and six-speed manual, while models in the rest of the world have a 1.5-liter engine, confirming earlier rumors.

Unfortunately, Mazda isn't letting loose how much power either of these mills make just yet. For sake of comparison, the current SkyActiv 2.0 in the Mazda3 produces 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, and the 1.5-liter in the UK (and elsewhere) has about 99 hp and 110 lb-ft of twist. However, the current Miata produces 167 hp and 140 lb-ft.

But fret not droptop fans. The company's brochure from the 2014 Paris Motor Show confirms, "all available drivetrains have been specially tuned for the all-new MX-5," which at least hints at the possibility of more performance. Also, even if the numbers remain untouched, the new Miata should feel even more sporting on the open road. That's because Mazda says the new model weighs in the neighborhood of 2,200 pounds; with that in mind, the 2016 car would boast around 14.19 pounds per horsepower versus 14.85 lb/hp in the present MX-5. Progress!

Mazda promises to end the anticipation and announce the actual outputs for these mills later.

News Source: Mazda

Image Credit: Copyright Ronnie Fung 2014 / AOL

How the DOD could have saved $100M by blowing up 1,000 trucks

Posted Oct 1st 2014 4:31PM

Air Force; Airmen; aircraft; vehicles;

What's $100 million among the armed forces? Well, when that $100M is spent shipping unnecessary military equipment back from Afghanistan to the United States, it serves to shine some light on military waste.

According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, the US Marine Corps and Army burned over $100 million during a one-year period shipping unneeded MRAPs and other vehicles from Afghanistan back to the US. As many as one out of every nine Army and USMC vehicles shipped back to the US is "unneeded," says the GAO, while each individual vehicle could cost as much as $107,400 in shipping fees.

As many as one out of every nine vehicles shipped back to the US is "unneeded," while each one could cost as much as $107,400 in shipping fees.

Instead, it may have been more cost effective to destroy the surplus trucks and leave their remains in Afghanistan. Of course, such a move would put a major ding in the DOD's controversial 1033 program.

"Due to ineffective internal controls, the Army and Marine Corps may be incurring unnecessary costs by returning equipment that potentially exceeds service needs or is not economical to return and repair," the report says, according to Army Times.

Between October 2012 and October 2013, the DOD returned or destroyed nearly 15,000 vehicles. The total cost of recovering equipment from Afghanistan is expected to hit $6 billion, Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told Army Times. The recovery is proceeding on schedule, but the waste of $100 million is still raising some eyebrows among members of congress.

"The Government Accountability Office underscores that the DOD can and should do a much better job in preventing unnecessary costs by taking some common sense steps in managing its surplus military vehicles. We simply cannot afford this type of waste and ineffectiveness," Sen. Tom Carper, a democrat from Delaware and a member of the Homeland and Government Affairs Committee, said.

What are your thoughts? Is the recovery of MRAPs and other military vehicles, regardless of the cost, preferable to destroying them? Should the DOD have planned better for after the end of operations in Afghanistan? Have your say in Comments.

News Source: Army Times

Image Credit: Senior Airman Nichelle Anderson / USAF

Audi TT Sportback Concept evolves the five-door breed

Posted Oct 1st 2014 3:58PM

Audi TT Sportback Concept

One week after a leaked sketch ran on these very pages, Audi has introduced the latest member of a "potential TT family," according to Audi board member Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg. This is the TT Sportback Concept, a five-door, 400-horsepower version of the brand's stylish sports car and at this point, it looks darn likely to herald the debut of a third body style for Audi's design icon.

Unveiled at the expansive Volkswagen group night celebration ahead of the 2014 Paris Motor Show, the TT Sportback Concept is the most evolved version of a form factor that's seen a slow striptease throughout 2014, first with the Allroad Shooting Brake Concept in Detroit and, more recently, in the Offroad Concept from the Beijing Motor Show.

For Paris, the car being shown by Audi is absent traditional concept car traits like oversized wheels, miniscule mirrors and bizarre interior treatments, giving it a far more production ready appearance than either of the previous TT-based concepts. The exterior, meanwhile, is clearly reminiscent of the third-generation car (that roofline is pure TT), although there are a number of styling decisions that remind us of the compact A3, particularly in regards to the taillights.

This heavy production basis does not, we're guessing, extend to the engine bay, which is home to a 400-horsepower, 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder. That zesty powerplant and its 332 pound-feet of torque allows the TT Sportback to hit 62 miles per hour in a scant 3.9 seconds. A seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission manages this grunt, and shifts the 2.0T's power to a Quattro all-wheel-drive system.

We'll have much more on the TT Sportback Concept and everything else coming from the Volkswagen Group at the 2014 Paris Motor Show in the coming days. In the meantime, scroll down for the full press release from Audi, and check out the brand's newest concept car in the gallery, above.
Related GalleryAudi TT Sportback Concept
Audi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback ConceptAudi TT Sportback Concept

News Source: Audi

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