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2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo

Grand Stature Yes, Ultimate Driving Machine No

Posted Apr 24th 2014 11:57AM

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo

"The Ultimate Driving Machine" has been BMW's tagline for nearly 40 years. Launched in the 1970s, the marketing campaign was a stroke of genius by ad firm Ammirati & Puris, as the phrase helped differentiate the imported Bavarian cars from their fellow European rivals by subtly pointing out that Mercedes-Benz and Audi were offering luxury models, while BMW was selling sporty and youthful driving dynamics. The campaign worked – some would argue that stands among the most effective ad campaigns ever – and countless Baby Boomers embraced the brand's fun-to-drive image by taking delivery of the company's new models.

BMW still boasts that its vehicles are "The Ultimate Driving Machine" four decades later, but the brand is very different today. It offered just a few model lines in the mid-1970s, and only a handful of vehicles within. In 2014, the automaker offers an exhaustive range comprised of nearly a dozen lines with almost 50 different models. To survive and thrive, BMW has decided it must massively broaden its appeal.

One of the latest arrivals to BMW's ever-growing stable is the 2014 3 Series Gran Turismo. The five-door hatchback is best thought of as a smaller version of the company's 5 Series Gran Turismo built on stretched 3 Series platform that, in the case of this test car, shares the running gear of the 328i xDrive sedan. On paper, the five-passenger vehicle checks all the proper boxes with regards to performance, utility and economy. But does this family-focused 3 Series still deliver driving dynamics that qualify it for the title of Ultimate Driving Machine?

Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 2.0L I4
Power:
240 HP / 255 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Auto
Base Price:
$41,450
As-Tested Price:
$54,570

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

Top Gear producer expresses regret over 'light-hearted' racist joke

Posted Apr 24th 2014 11:32AM

The Military Awards London

Generally, when you're globally known like the team at Top Gear and are getting sued for $1.66 million over claims of racism, it's in your best interest to apologize early, often and profusely. You should not, however, apologize a month after the fact, when the furor had already died down. Someone, apparently, didn't teach this lesson to TG Executive Producer Andy Wilman, who has ruffled feathers with an oddly worded apology for the incident, nearly a month after it happened.

"We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word 'slope' is considered by some to be offensive," Wilman said. Claiming ignorance strikes us as a reasonable defense – most of the Autoblog team and many of the readers that commented on our original story had never heard that particular slur. He then eviscerates his defense by saying this:

"When we used the word 'slope' in the recent Top Gear Burma Special it was a light-hearted word play joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it."


Claiming ignorance that a term is racist and then admitting that you were using said term to refer to someone of a different race kind of indicates that you knew what you were up to.

Wilman then bewilderingly goes on to claim that the phrase isn't well known in the United Kingdom, and that the furor seems to be coming from the United States and Australia. This ignores the fact that a Indian-born British actress and a British law firm are the ones suing Top Gear.

All told, this seems like a pretty bad play on the part of Wilman and the TG team.

News Source: Radio Times

Image Credit: Joel Ryan / Invision / AP

Mini interns turn Paceman into Adventure pickup

Posted Apr 24th 2014 11:01AM

Mini Paceman Adventure

With coupes and convertibles, hatchbacks and crossovers, Mini has done just about every bodystyle we could think of, and then a few more as concepts. But it hasn't done a pickup. At least it hadn't until now.

What we have here is a Mini Paceman (that, of course, being the coupe version of the Countryman) which has been transformed into a pickup by a group of BMW interns. It's called the Mini Paceman Adventure, and it's currently on display at the Mini dealership in Munich. According to BimmerToday.de, the project involved not only chopping the roof and installing a makeshift pickup bed, but also reinforcing the body, reforming the underbody and B-pillar, fitting off-road tires (including a spare fitted to a roof rack) and a handful of other minor modifications.

The photos are a little sketchy (although the dealership tells us a better set will be available soon), but from what we can see, it looks like a pretty solid project – one that makes us wonder if the apprentices' bosses might be paying attention. Because next to the Mini Coupe with its oddball backwards-hat roof treatment, this one-off looks as sensible as you'd expect from a group of German interns.
Related GalleryMini Paceman Adventure
Mini Paceman AdventureMini Paceman AdventureMini Paceman AdventureMini Paceman AdventureMini Paceman AdventureMini Paceman AdventureMini Paceman AdventureMini Paceman Adventure

News Source: BimmerToday.de

Image Credit: Mini Müchen

Nissan recalls 3,065 Pathfinders for transmission fluid leak

Posted Apr 24th 2014 10:32AM

2013 Nissan Pathfinder, front three-quarter view

Nissan is recalling 3,065 units of the 2013 Pathfinder equipped with the CVT, due to a potential transmission fluid leak. On crossovers built from April 18, 2012 to October 3,2012 "inadequate clamping force" on the hose connected to the internal oil cooler can cause the hose to come loose and let fluid escape. A severe loss of fluid can cause the transmission to stop working properly.

The recall is the result of a safety investigation begun last September, when it was thought a recall could involve 110,000 units of the Pathfinder and Infiniti JX35. Asked for comment about how such a large number of vehicles potentially involved could end up with just 3,065 being recalled, Nissan rep Steve Yaeger told Autoblog that Nissan initiated a service campaign for the issue last year - a service campaign notifies owners to take their vehicles to the dealer for repair of "what is generally not a safety issue" - and that there was a "production improvement" that addressed the clamping issue. The service campaign included the vehicles being recalled, but the recall is limited to just those vehicles that were built before the production-line fix.

Nissan will begin informing affected owners next month, at which time owners can take their vehicles to dealers to have the hose clamp repaired. The press release below from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more information.

News Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Steven J. Ewing / AOL

Range Rover Hybrid brings advanced powertrain to Chinese market

Posted Apr 24th 2014 10:01AM

Land Rover Range Rover Long Wheelbase Hybrid

The Land Rover hybrid models are growing both in terms of offerings and in size. At the 2014 Beijing Motor Show, the brand unveiled the Range Rover Long Wheelbase Hybrid to join the standard version and Range Rover Sport Hybrid.

The long-wheelbase Range Rover's powertrain is identical to what is offered in the standard Range Rover Hybrid. It combines the brand's SDV6 3.0-liter turbodiesel with an electric motor producing 47 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. It grants a total system output of 335 hp and 516 lb-ft, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox from ZF routes power to all four wheels. The company claims the hybrid adds 265 pounds of weight to the SUV. However, it gives a 26-percent improvement in emissions and is rated at about 37 miles per gallon in the EU combined cycle. It can even run purely on electric power for a mile at speeds up to 30 mph, and regenerative braking keeps the system topped up.

The styling remains nearly identical to the standard LWB Range Rover. There are a few Hybrid badges, and that's about it. However, rear seat passengers get to take advantage of the cavernous backseat that adds 7.3 inches of room over the regular Rangie.

Orders for the SUV begin in May, and Chinese deliveries begin around the end of the year. However, like the rest of the hybrid Range Rovers, it likely won't be coming to North America anytime soon. Last year, Land Rover's US boss said the diesel hybrid would come here eventually, but he didn't give a timeframe. We have contacted the company for an update. Scroll down to read the full release about Land Rover's massive new Range Rover Long Wheelbase Hybrid.

News Source: Land Rover

Toyota updates Euro-market GT86 suspension, appearance

Posted Apr 24th 2014 9:31AM

2015 Toyota GT86, front three-quarter view

While we were busy ogling the Scion FR-S Release Series 1.0 with its Yuzu yellow paint and a workover by Toyota Racing Development, and the Japanese Toyota 86 buyers were trying out their Playstation-compatible Sports Drive Logger telemetry system, the European 2015 Toyota GT86 got fitted with some new parts of its own. New on next year's model are stiffer mounts for the front suspension and rear shock absorbers, and new shocks in the back for better damping and less friction. Toyota says the result is sharper steering and less body roll.

Inside, the instrument panel and center console get decorated with a "carbon-fiber motif." There are new shades of pearl white and silver to dress up the outside, and the roof gets a shark-fin antenna for sharper looks and aero. It goes on sale this summer, and you can read everything we just told you in the press release below. We've reached out to Scion to see if we'll get the same upgrades on the FR-S this summer, too, company PR rep Nancy Hubbell telling us, "The European changes are among those being considered for the US model FR-S and we'll have final confirmation soon."
Related Gallery2015 Toyota GT86
2015 Toyota GT862015 Toyota GT862015 Toyota GT86

News Source: Toyota

Jaguar Land Rover calls in handful of vehicles over suspension bolts

Posted Apr 24th 2014 8:44AM

Jaguar XJ, XF and XK

With most recalls seemingly affecting mass-market vehicles, it'd be all too easy to assume, consciously or otherwise, that higher-end automobiles never face such issues. But the main reason we don't see the NHTSA recalling more luxury automobiles isn't because of their quality, we'd postulate: it's because of their relative scarcity.

Take Jaguar Land Rover, recalls of whose vehicles we only seem to have cause to report about once a year. So if you're figuring they're about due, here you go. The Indian-owned British auto group has just announced two recalls, both regarding suspension components: one affecting Jaguars and another concerning – you guessed it – Land Rovers.

First up we have a recall for 2013 to 2014 model year Jaguar XJ, XF and XK models – a whopping 297 of them – which have been found to have problematic toe links. Separation of the toe link from the rear sub-frame could result in impaired stability and control over the vehicle's direction, so JLR is calling them in to replace the nuts and washers on the rear toe links.

Just as simple is the second recall affecting the 2014 Range Rover Evoque. JLR is calling in a grand total of (wait for it) two units to have problematic bolts in the right-hand rear suspension replaced before they separate from the vehicle. Scope out the full details of both recalls in the notices below.
Related Gallery2012 Jaguar XF
2012 Jaguar XF2012 Jaguar XF2012 Jaguar XF2012 Jaguar XF2012 Jaguar XF2012 Jaguar XF2012 Jaguar XF2012 Jaguar XF

High-tech observatory only uses decades-old diesel trucks

Posted Apr 24th 2014 7:58AM

old trucks at NRAO

Head on out to Green Bank, WV, and you're likely to notice what looks like a giant satellite dish on the horizon. Only it's not a satellite dish. It's actually a fully steerable radio telescope – the largest of its kind in the world. It's funded by the federal government through the US National Science Foundation and operated by National Radio Astronomy Observatory. In short, it's one of the most advanced telecommunications devices in the world. So you'd expect them to service it with suitably advanced vehicles, right?

Wrong. Radio telescopes are hyper-sensitive to interference. That's why this one is located (alongside the NSA installation at Sugar Grove) inside the United States National Radio Quiet Zone. It's also why the NRAO only uses old diesel trucks to get anywhere near the telescope. Some of those trucks are 45 years old, but because they don't use spark plugs, computerized ECUs or even door chimes, they don't mess with the telescope. Head on over to Driving.ca to read exactly why.

News Source: Driving.ca

Image Credit: Raoul Pop

R/C fans' film tribute to Fast and Furious franchise

Posted Apr 23rd 2014 8:00PM

Fast and Furious homage

Fans of the Fast and Furious series have about a year to wait before the seventh installment in the franchise hits theaters, but in the meantime, let this homage to the series made with radio-controlled cars whet your appetite. It might lack the actors, but it nails the automotive action.

Vax Studio, the group that made the video, claims to be a group of amateurs, but these folks are incredibly talented. The short gives a real weight to the cars, despite being made from plastic. The makers even add in some computer-generated effects to liven up the action. At times, they actually look like real cars.

Starring a Nissan GT-R, a classic Camaro, a Nissan Silvia and a pair of modern Camaro police cars, it offers a little something for everybody, and it's definitely worth checking out. Scroll down to watch a car chase in small scale.

News Source: Vax Studio via YouTube, Car Scoops

Mercedes-Benz MLC prepares to take on BMW X6

Posted Apr 23rd 2014 7:15PM

Mercedes-Benz MLC spy shots

Just days ago, we showed you the new Mercedes-Benz Concept Coupe SUV – a swoopy crossover aimed squarely at the BMW X6. We sort of figured from the get-go that this thing had serious production intent, and lo, our trusty spy photographers have just caught this prototype of the slick Benz, likely to be named MLC, out on the road.

Even under heavy camouflage, it's easy to see that the shape of the MLC – including specific elements like the front fascia design and S-Class Coupe-inspired taillamps – have carried over from the concept. Good stuff – despite our tendency to roll our eyes at this whole crossover-coupe class, we can't argue that the Mercedes concept is a pretty handsome creation.

Based on the M-Class, our spies suggest that when the MLC goes into production, it'll use the same suite of engines as its more traditional-looking sibling, including a 3.5-liter V6, twin-turbo 4.6-liter V8, and a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V6. Of course, the concept car was fitted with a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6, so there's also a good chance of seeing that in the production car, as well. We wouldn't rule out a hotter AMG-tuned version, either, with that burly 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 underhood.

Based on just how far along in development the MLC seems to be, we don't think it'll be too long before the production car makes its debut. Our best guess: early 2015. Have a look through the gallery above to see more of the MLC prototype.

Image Credit: CarPix

What next for Alan Mulally?

Posted Apr 23rd 2014 6:29PM

Alan Mulally

Alan Mulally has emerged as a hero when it comes to American manufacturing. He came to Ford in 2006 after serving as head of Boeing's commercial aircraft division, streamlined operations, sold off the costly elements of its Premier Automotive Group and saved Ford from having to be bailed out by the federal government like its cross-town rivals Chrysler and General Motors did. But as we reported mere days ago, he's widely expected to step down from the chief executive's office at Ford shortly.

So what's next for one of the most successful executives in the business? Hard to say, but don't expect Mulally to disappear into retirement. Though he didn't ultimately take the top job at Microsoft, industry insiders expect to see him in another influential position – likely as a board director or even chairman of another company. (We say "another company" and not Ford because while Bill Ford may have stepped aside as CEO to bring Mulally on board in the first place, we don't see him giving up his chairmanship of the board also.)

Mulally has likely already lined up his next move, and could either announce what that move will be as soon as Ford confirms Mark Fields as his successor, or could wait awhile. Insiders speculate that he could leverage his transportation and aerospace experience into a position at General Electric or a major airline, his manufacturing expertise to benefit a company like Procter & Gamble or his management skills at a consultancy firm.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Ford

First production Hongqi L-Series sells at Beijing Motor Show for $800,000

Posted Apr 23rd 2014 6:01PM

Hongqi L5, front three-quarter view

The Hongqi has arrived, and with it the greater hopes that powerful Chinese will ride in symbols of Chinese power. The Honqi L5 sedan produced by China's FAW Group, first unveiled last year (and called the L9 at the time), is - in some circles - intended to be among the homegrown replacements for the millions of foreign luxury cars the Chinese government purchases for important officials. Shown at this year's Beijing Motor Show in production guise and now available to civilians as well, a Chinese businessman bought the first one for "at least five million yuan" ($801K) according to Bloomberg.

About the length of a Rolls-Royce Phantom and weighing 7,000 pounds, there's an all-aluminum 6.0 liter V-12 up front with 402 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque, a hydro-pneumatic suspension and "intelligent" 4-wheel-drive technology below. The passenger quarters mix modern and retro with a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel of sixties design, hand-carved, cloud-motif wood inlays surrounding a stack of digital displays and celadon-jade door handles.

A sub-brand of Chinese automaker FAW, "Hongqi" means "red flag" and the L5 mimes cues from the CA770 sedan FAW built in the fifties for the country's leaders. With its features, price and ostentation, private-sector Mandarin moguls might also make it the Chinese word for "Gatsby."
Related GalleryHongqi L5
Hongqi L5Hongqi L5Hongqi L5Hongqi L5Hongqi L5Hongqi L5

News Source: Bloomberg, Autoweek

Citroën CX-R concept makes late debut from China

Posted Apr 23rd 2014 5:30PM

Citroën C-XR Concept

We obsessively covered the 2014 Beijing Motor Show, but apparently Citroën decided it had one more vehicle to debut to join its DS 6WR and DS 5LS R at the Chinese show. This C-XR Concept is far less wildly styled than the two other models, however, as this concept is actually quite close to production spec.

The C-XR blends the styling of Citroën's hatchbacks with some SUV cues. Up front, it has a wide, chrome grille that links directly into the headlights, and lower down, there are vertically mounted LED running lights. The rear pillar has C-shaped chrome accents to link the chrome roof rails and belt line.

The concept isn't really meant to go off-road, but it gets a dash of ruggedness from its protective wheel arch cladding and raised ground clearance. The interior is still a secret, but the top does have a large panoramic sunroof to let light in. The concept's powertrain uses the company's THP 160 petrol engine with stop/start and an automatic gearbox. Scroll down to read the full release about the concept.
Related GalleryCitroën C-XR Concept
Citroën C-XR ConceptCitroën C-XR ConceptCitroën C-XR ConceptCitroën C-XR ConceptCitroën C-XR ConceptCitroën C-XR ConceptCitroën C-XR Concept

News Source: Citroën

Footkhana pits Ken Block against Neymar Jr.

Posted Apr 23rd 2014 5:00PM

Footkhana

Whether you're going for speed or for show, professional driving is as much about working the pedals as it about man-handling the wheel and shifter. And nobody does it quite like Ken Block. But is his fancy footwork up to par with that of an international soccer star like Neymar?

That's what sponsor Castrol set out to find out with this latest video. Called Footkhana, it pits the Brazilian footballer against the American rally driver for a little round of friendly Gymkhana-style competition. It's not the first time we're seeing a car used on the soccer pitch – Top Gear had that covered years ago – but for the legions of sports fans who like their motorsports as much as they do their footie, it's a must-see. Check it out below.

News Source: Castrol via YouTube

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