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    This Or That: Fiat 500 Abarth vs. Ford Fiesta ST [w/poll]
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Hitchhiking robot nearing end of its journey [w/video]

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 11:29AM

Hitchbot

There was a time when people actually thought it was safe to pick up hitchhikers and would totally give them a lift without a second thought. These days, possibly due to horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hitcher, thumbing a ride is painted as a prime way to get yourself killed. However, a robot doesn't have to worry about such a violent fate. The Hitchbot in Canada recently completed its month-long journey hitching from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia traveling mostly along the Trans-Canada Highway. The bot arrived on schedule at its final destination on August 21.

Hitchbot is the product of Canadian researchers interested in human-robot interaction and testing artificial intelligence and speech recognition tech. That's right, the robot can actually talk to its driver while underway. The whole thing was traceable online thanks to the bot's GPS and 3G connection, and fans could even watch Hitchbot's travels on the project's website, Twitter and Facebook.

According to Visor Down, the Hitchbot made it over 3,700 miles across Canada since setting off in July, and its drivers have been quite courteous. Scroll down to watch a video explaining a little more about Hitchbot and its odyssey across The Great White North.

News Source: Visordown, Hitchbot via Vimeo

Image Credit: Twitter

Volvo credits China, Europe for first-half profitability

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 11:01AM

Volvo S60L

If everything goes to plan, Volvo might be showing the first signs of a turnaround after several years coping with old products and a staid image. The Swedish brand is imminently launching its next-gen XC90 SUV on a completely revised, modular platform and using a cutting-edge family of engines, and it has even more products to take advantage of the fresh components on the drawing board. "We are excited about the launch of the all-new XC90, which marks the beginning of the re-launch of the Volvo brand," said CEO Håkan Samuelsson in the company's announcement. In the meantime, the business is moving back to profitability and is even forecasting growth through the rest of 2014.

In Volvo's recently released financial and sales results for the first six months of the year, volume was up 9.5 percent to 299,013 cars. On top of that, operating income reached 1.21 billion Swedish krona ($175 million) after posting a loss in the same period in 2013. Net income was also improved to 535 million Swedish krona ($77.4 million), which was also a reversal from a negative last year.

With these great results, Volvo is now forecasting 10 percent sales growth worldwide by the end of the year, and the key to it is a booming market in some regions. China, home to parent company Geely, was up 34.4 percent first half of the year. It's now Volvo's biggest market in the world and helped by exclusive models like the S60L (pictured above) and S80L. "We are growing our presence in China and we expect to sell at least 80,000 cars there this year," said Samuelsson in the company's forecast.

Western Europe appears to finally be emerging from its doldrums, as well. Volvo sales there were up 8.7 percent and were improved in Sweden as well. The lone dark spot on the figures was the United States that fell to 29,311 cars in the first half of the year, compared to 32,578 in the first half of 2013. Scroll down to read the company's full announcements.
Related Gallery2014 Volvo S60L
2014 Volvo S60L2014 Volvo S60L2014 Volvo S60L2014 Volvo S60L2014 Volvo S60L2014 Volvo S60L2014 Volvo S60L2014 Volvo S60L

News Source: Volvo via Automotive News - sub. req.

Volkswagen considering a four-door, four-seat XL1

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 10:15AM

Volkswagen XL1, front three-quarter view.

According to a report in Autocar, Volkswagen might have more in mind for the XL1 than mining it for advances to grace the next-generation Golf. Aiming to fight the Honda FCEV due for public consumption next year, we're told VW executives have put a four-door, four-seater version of the XL1 - it could be called XL2 - on the drawing board. The impetus is said to come from the top, with VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch intent on staying in the deep end of "super-efficent vehicles."

Autocar suspects the necessary changes could raise the weight of the car from 1,749 pounds to 2,068 pounds, which would make it four pounds less than the 2,072-pound Up! we drove a few years ago. Crucially, however, the mag thinks the extra capacity wouldn't change the two-seater's 310-mile-per-gallon rating, with tech tweaks and the aerodynamic benefit of a longer car offsetting the weight. Speculation is that the back seats would be staggered like the fronts in order to maintain the XL1's overall profile.

We recently heard about another XL1 variant that's gone off the radar entirely, the Ducati-engined XLR that we thought we'd see at the Geneva Motor Show and that was said to be going into production, so this one could go the same way. The biggest hurdle to making such an idea a reality, though, could be the price: the current XL1 costs 110,000 euros ($146,116). If VW really is going to compete with the Honda FCEV and the Toyota FCV - $70,000 in Japan - that might be where it wants to start.

News Source: Autocar

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

Infiniti extends long-wheelbase Q50 L for the Chinese market

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 9:30AM

Infiniti Q50L

Want to sell your luxury sedan in China? You're going to need a long-wheelbase model. Not because the still-dominant Chinese government mandates it, or because the customers are taller, but because Chinese buyers tend to like being chauffeured around in the back of their luxury sedans instead of driving themselves, so the priority is on rear-seat space over driving dynamics.

We've seen the likes of Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo all roll out long-wheelbase versions of their compact and midsize sedans specifically to cater to Chinese tastes. Even Infiniti – which now bases itself in Hong Kong – offers a long-wheelbase Q70 L not only in China but around the world, and has now bolstered its extended offerings with the reveal of the Q50 L, set to debut at the Chengdu Motor Show later this month.

Set to be produced locally for the local market, the Q50 L adds nearly two inches to the wheelbase of the Q50 to the benefit of rear-seat legroom. Power comes from Infiniti's 2.0-liter turbo four offering 208 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, driving to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission with drive-by-wire steering.

News Source: Infiniti

Bugatti surprises with Vitesse 1 of 1 edition

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 8:45AM

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse 1 of 1

Bugatti had plenty to showcase at Pebble Beach this year, unveiling not only the final Legend edition but also bringing the entire series together for one big happy family reunion at the same location where, one year ago, it presented the first such special edition. But those weren't the only special edition Veyrons on hand in Monterey this week.

When we first saw this yellow and black Veyron driving around Alsace last month and figured at the time that it must have been the final Legend edition in tribute to Elisabeth Junek. It turned out to be neither when the series closed out with the Ettore Bugatti edition with a decidedly different color scheme, which left us scratching our heads as to what the Bumblebee treatment was all about, but now we know.

In addition to the Ettore Bugatti edition, the most exotic French automaker also arrived at Pebble Beach this year with the Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse 1 of 1 edition. Commissioned by a customer in Singapore, this one-of-a-kind Vitesse roadster revives a favorite color scheme of the Bugatti family that adorned many of its vehicles from the company's heyday, including a Type 41 Royale, a Type 55 and a Type 44 like the one beside which it was presented, furnished for the occasion by the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, CA.

The black and yellow livery continues from the exterior into the open cabin with its laser-perforated leather and also features an anodized, hand-polished grille laser-cut with the owner's initials PL and a Bugatti logo placed on the underside of the rear wing . Scope it out in the high-resolution image gallery above and the press release below.

News Source: Bugatti

2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 priced at $78,995

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 8:00AM

Chevy Corvette Z06

Want to get your hands on the most powerful vehicle GM has ever made? It may be time to call your bank manager, financial adviser and whoever else helps you get your monetary ducks in a row, because Chevy has now revealed pricing information for the new 2015 Corvette Z06.

Pricing starts at $78,995 for the coupe and $83,995 for the convertible. Both those figures include destination, but don't include things like tax, title, license and optional equipment. And as we revealed when the order guide surfaced, there is some enticing optional equipment on offer.

An extra $2,995 will get you the Carbon Fiber Ground Effects package with enhanced aero. $7,995 will get you the Z07 Performance Package with Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, upgraded tires and even more aggressive aero. There are three trim levels available and a host of other packages and options you can read all about in the press release below, from the Premium Package leather trim to the Performance Data Recorder.

No matter which way you set it up, though, you're getting a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 with 650 horsepower and just as much torque. And though the price of entry may seem high, it comes down to a downright steal compared to the six figures Chevy got for the previous ZR1 (whose place the new Z06 effectively takes) and which Dodge gets for a new Viper.

News Source: Chevrolet

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

Answering that age-old question, can you drift while being tazed?

Posted Aug 21st 2014 8:04PM

Drifting while tazed

Many people tolerate a lot of distractions while doing their jobs and still get things done. Chris Forsberg is a veteran drifter who is very accomplished at his profession, but the question is: just how good? Forsberg's stripped car doesn't have any incoming texts, but there is a guy next to him putting a Taser to his chest.

Forsberg is challenged to enter a corner for a drift, and his torturer, Tony Angelo, tazes a different part of Chris' body in hopes of making him lose concentration and control. Things start off somewhat mild, but Angelo tries a little bit harder during each run.

Of course, it would ruin everything to tell you whether Chris does lose control, so you just have to watch to find out. Don't worry about his safety too much, they're on a closed track with safety personnel nearby. Warning, there is a fair bit of explicit language, as you would expect from a video of two people being tazed repeatedly.

News Source: The Hoonigans via YouTube

What you missed on 8.21.2014

Posted Aug 21st 2014 7:30PM

Daily U-Turn

This or That: Fiat 500 Abarth vs. Ford Fiesta STThis or That: Fiat 500 Abarth vs. Ford Fiesta ST

Two of Autoblog's editors argue the finer points of hot hatches in a point/counterpoint rundown between the Fiat 500 Abarth and Ford Fiesta ST. Arguments are made, but no firm conclusions drawn. Feel free to offer your own opinion in our completely unscientific poll.



Quick Spin: Nissan NV200 taxiWe take the Nissan NV200 taxi for a Quick Spin

What in the world is Autoblog doing testing a taxi? Good question. You see, this isn't a Ford Crown Victoria, or even a Ford Escape Hybrid. The bright yellow machine in question is, in fact, the brand-new Nissan NV200 that you're about to see infiltrating the streets of the busiest city in America: New York. Just what you should expect after hailing the taxi of tomorrow is discussed herein.




Honda Fit small front overlap crash testHonda vows to improve 2015 Fit crash test score, will retrofit 12,000 cars for free

When the IIHS tested the brand-new 2015 Honda Fit, the car scored a disappointing "Marginal" in the difficult small front overlap crash test. Honda has vowed to reinforce the Fit with a stronger steel front bumper beam, which the IIHS says will boost its rating to "Acceptable," and the company will retrofit 2015 models already sold – approximately 12,000 cars – free of charge.



Top Stories

Kia Soul EV ad campaign charges up with sexified hamsters

Posted Aug 21st 2014 6:58PM

Kia Soul EV Hamsters

It's official: Kia's adorable Soul-hawking Hamsters have crossed that line. It was one thing when they first hit the scene, and we got a small chuckle out of their trimmer looks for the refreshed, 2014 Soul. This, though, is too much.

This is Kia's latest commercial for the 2015 Soul EV, and it starts off typically enough. The hamsters seem to be tinkering in a laboratory attempting to modify a standard, gas-powered Kia. But then, some Weird Science-like trickery occurs and, well, the results are rather disturbing.

You'll need to watch yourself if you want to experience the horror. Take a look, and then head into Comments and let us know what you think.

News Source: Kia Motors America via YouTube

American rookie Alexander Rossi to make first F1 start in Belgium

Posted Aug 21st 2014 6:30PM

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice

For the first time since July of 2007, an American driver will take to the grid for a race in the Formula One World Championship. That man will be 22-year-old Alexander Rossi, a Californian widely touted as the next great hope for American F1 fans following his steady climb through the open-wheel ranks.

Rossi will be taking the seat of Marussia F1 driver Max Chilton, who has been subbed out "while contractual issues are resolved," according to the team's statement on Formula1.com.

"It goes without saying that I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to race in Formula 1 for the first time," Rossi said, according to F1.com. "I cannot thank the Marussia F1 Team enough for the faith they are demonstrating in me."

At this point, Rossi will fill in at this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps, only, with Marussia team principal John Booth saying the American's race debut wasn't originally in the cards.

"Naturally we hope to resume normal service with respect to our established race driver line-up as soon as possible, but for now we wish Alexander well for the weekend ahead and we look forward to seeing him in action," Booth said.

News Source: Formula1.com

Cadillac ATS to go racing in 2015 as CTS.V.R replacement

Posted Aug 21st 2014 6:01PM

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

Cadillac has been racking up victories with the CTS.V.R in Pirelli World Challenge racing for two model generations now, including recent GT class championships in 2012 and 2013. However, even winning racers eventually have to retire, and it looks like the CTS may be taking a bow at the end of the season. In its place, Caddy is reportedly working on a new racecar based on the ATS Coupe, and it might even get to compete internationally.

According to Racer, Pratt & Miller Engineering is leading the development and is already lapping the ATS racecar in Michigan for testing. It reportedly drops the CTS' V8 in favor of a twin-turbocharged V6 powering the rear wheels. Since this is the same team behind the hugely successful Corvette Racing program and the current CTS.V.R, the latest car appears to be in good hands.

The new model would also adhere to GT3 rules, according to Racer, and that might signal a big change for Cadillac's motorsports program. It means that the ATS could be sold to teams in the numerous series around the world that accept these vehicles. That would broaden the luxury coupe's exposure and put it up against GT3 racecars from premium brands, like Bentley, Porsche and McLaren. If it wins, the change could be a marketing bonanza for the brand.

Autoblog spoke to Cadillac spokesperson Brian Corbett about the brand's future in motorsports. He wouldn't confirm any details about the company's plans for next season, but he confirmed that "there's no plan to leave" Pirelli World Challenge racing. He said there would be more specifics at a later time.

News Source: Racer

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Steve Siler / AOL

Honda exec says US market near capacity, could hurt subprime buyers

Posted Aug 21st 2014 5:28PM

AUTO SALES OUTLOOK

Is there a point in the US auto industry where companies should start considering the welfare of their customers ahead of selling more cars? American Honda Executive Vice President of Sales John Mendel thinks that level exists, and we may be getting very close to it.

According to Automotive News, Mendel believes that finding more customers in the market could require pursuing subprime buyers and offering longer-term loans. However, he refuses to use those tactics. While selling models this way can improve things briefly, the strategies hurt resale prices and lower vehicle profits over time. The company won't do "stupid things in the short-term that damage the person who bought yesterday," he said to Automotive News. "It's a very, very short-term tactic especially in the subprime area."

American Honda, which combines the Acura and Honda brands, has seen market share decline from 9.7 percent to 9.1 percent through July 2014, according to Automotive News, and Autoblog's By the Numbers stats showed it posted falling sales in five of the seven months with data this year. Though, Mendel claims that was partially because the company focused on retail sales over fleets. The delays of the launches for the Honda Fit and Acura TLX likely didn't help either.

The rise of subprime loans is an emerging trend in the auto industry. A recent study by Equifax found that the total amount in outstanding auto loans was the highest it ever recorded and up 10 percent from a year ago. It also found that the total balance from subprime buyers had reached $46.2 billion, an eight-year high. The feds appear to be getting interested too with GM's financial arm under investigation for how it securitizes its lending to these customers.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Carlos Osorio / AP Photo

Matthew McConaughey dusts off his Lincoln Lawyer jacket [w/videos]

Posted Aug 21st 2014 4:58PM

Matthew McConaughey as Lincoln spokesman

Alright, alright, alright. Easygoing Texan Matthew McConaughey has enjoyed a career renaissance recently with critically acclaimed roles in Dallas Buyers Club and True Detective, and the actor has just signed a multi-year deal with Lincoln to become the luxury brand's spokesperson. The first ads starring McConaughey should hit televisions and the internet soon.

McConaughey's campaign has his pitching starting out with the company's pivotal new 2015 Lincoln MKC compact crossover. "Lincoln is an iconic, American brand and I like where they are heading with their transformation," he said in the announcement of the deal. The appears to be really throwing some money into these ads, too. Not only has it hired A-list talent in front of the camera, Nicolas Winding Refn, best known for Drive, is directing the spots.

Of course, this won't be McConaughey's first noteworthy ride in a Lincoln. Back in 2011, he starred in The Lincoln Lawyer, a legal thriller about at attorney would did business out of a 1980s Town Car. The MKC should certainly prove to be a much better driver than that.

Scroll down to watch a video of McConaughey talking about why he is joining the brand and his thoughts on campaign's message to "Live In Your Moment." Also, you can check out the first trailer for the broadcast version of the commercial and read Lincoln's full announcement.

News Source: Lincoln, Lincoln Motor Co via YouTube

Dallara working on its own sports car project

Posted Aug 21st 2014 4:34PM

KTM X-Bow GT

If the name Dallara doesn't ring a bell, you're probably not a racing fan. Because while Dallara is, like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Pagani, a performance automaker based in northern Italy, it focuses on racing cars and doesn't produce cars for the road. At least not under its own name, anyway. But that's about to change.

Speaking with Car magazine, company founder Gian Paolo Dallara indicated that his firm is working on its own sports car project that will hit the market in 2017. The vehicle is tipped to use a carbon monocoque chassis with a high-output, lightweight turbo four mounted amidships. It may offer an open roof of some sort, but don't expect much in the way of creature comforts. Dallara is tipped to make no more than 100 examples per year, with a price tag of around $100,000 – that is, if it were to be offered Stateside altogether, which we're afraid it likely won't.

When reached for comment, Dallara CEO Andrea Pontremoli would only confirm to Autoblog that his boss did indeed speak with the journalist who wrote the report, but would not disclose any details (or even the existence) of such a project.

Though this would be the first road car to bear the Dallara name, it would not be the first one it has developed. In addition to building racing chassis for such disciplines as Formula 3, Formula E and Indy, Dallara helped develop the Alfa Romeo 4C, KTM X-Bow (pictured above), Bugatti Veyron and Maserati MC12. Prior to starting his own firm, Paolo had worked for Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini as well, working on such noteworthy road-car projects as the 250 GTO and Miura.
Related GalleryKTM X-Bow GT
KTM X-Bow GTKTM X-Bow GTKTM X-Bow GTKTM X-Bow GTKTM X-Bow GTKTM X-Bow GTKTM X-Bow GTKTM X-Bow GT

News Source: Car

Image Credit: KTM

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