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2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray [UPDATE]

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    2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray [UPDATE]
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    Autoblog Podcast #393
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Japanese spark plug giant NGK pleads guilty to price fixing, to pay $52M fine

Posted Aug 20th 2014 6:00PM

DSC01779

The ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice into price fixing in the automotive industry has nabbed one more company breaking the law. Japanese parts giant NGK Spark Plug Company agreed to plead guilty to a felony count of pricing fixing and bid rigging in the in the US District Court in Detroit. Its punishment is a $52.1 million criminal fine and to continue to cooperate with the DOJ's sleuthing into the problem.

According to the DOJ, NGK conspired to fix prices on spark plugs, standard oxygen sensors, and air fuel ratio sensors on vehicles from major automakers in the US, including the former DaimlerChrysler, Honda and Toyota, in a scheme that ran from at least January 2000 to July 2011. The charge claimed that the company and its co-conspirators held meetings where they agreed on bids and price quotes that were submitted to the automakers.

With the latest plea, the DOJ has caught 28 companies and 26 executives for price-fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry, and they have collected $2.4 billion in criminal fines. In 2013, the feds brought nine Japanese suppliers down at once, to collect $740 million. Scroll down to read the DOJ's complete announcement of the case.

News Source: The United States Department of Justice via Reuters

Image Credit: Colin / Flickr C.C. License 2.0

Three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer switches to F1 with Caterham

Posted Aug 20th 2014 5:30PM

André Lotterer

While we've seen professional racing drivers bounce back and forth between disciplines, generally speaking, a racer has to choose at some point in his career what he's going to focus on: stock cars, single-seaters, rally, touring cars, endurance prototypes...But we've been seeing a lot of exceptions to that rule in recent years, and the latest exception is André Lotterer.

If you recognize the name that's probably because he's won the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright three times now, one of only about a dozen to have done so. As part of the Audi factory team, he was a member of the winning trio in 2011, 2012 and this year. But he's also driven in a number of single-seater series, including Champ Cars, Formula Three, Formula Nippon and A1 Grand Prix. And now he's moving up to Formula One.

The Caterham F1 team has announced that Lotterer has signed on to drive for the recently emancipated team starting with this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix. Which strikes us as a good place to start, considering he already won the 6 Hours of Spa endurance race on the same circuit just last year, though we might have expected a proven winner like Lotterer might catapult straight into a stronger team for his F1 debut.

This won't be the first time Lotterer will be driving an F1 car, having served back in 2002 as official test driver for the Jaguar team that eventually became Red Bull Racing. He was passed over for the race seat when Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rossa left the team, but with three Le Mans titles (not to mention an FIA World Endurance Championship) to his name, this time he's supplanting Kamui Kobayasi for the hot seat at Caterham.

News Source: Caterham F1 Team

Lamborghini Miura and Countach driven back to back in bid to make Autoblog staff jealous

Posted Aug 20th 2014 5:01PM

Lamborghini Miura and Countach video

For the Autoblog staff, we're in the honeymoon phase following the Monterey car week and Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. In terms of big, huge, labor-intensive events on the horizon, we're free until the beginning of October, when we'll ship off to Paris for its annual motor show. That means we're free to look back on the beautiful metal out in California, which included more than a few classic Lamborghinis, including the Miura and Countach.

Unfortunately, we never had a hope of getting behind the wheel (believe it or not, asking exceptionally wealthy car collectors to borrow their meticulously maintained, extraordinarily rare vehicles doesn't elicit immediate cooperation). Considering this grave injustice, we're left taking solace in the latest video from Car, which sees the British outlet taking spins in both the Miura and Countach. The pair of vehicles served as forbearers to the modern supercar, with the former's early mid-engine layout and the latter's aggressive, wedge-shaped styling.

Take a look at the latest video from the lucky bastards team at Car.

News Source: CARmagazineTV via YouTube

Autoblog Podcast #393

Monterey Car Week, Jeffrey Rothfeder Interview, Woodward Dream Cruise, Dodge Charger Hellcat, Mid-Engine Corvette

Posted Aug 20th 2014 4:45PM

Autoblog Podcast logo

Episode #393 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, and Michael Harley talk about Monterey Car Week, the Woodward Dream Cruise and Dodge Charger Hellcat, and the latest round of mid-engine Corvette rumors. Dan also had the chance to speak with Jeffrey Rothfeder, author of Driving Honda, a new book that takes a look inside the automaker. We start with what's in the garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Check out the new rundown below with times for topics, and you can follow along down below with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!

Autoblog Podcast #393:

play


Topics: In The Autoblog Garage:
Hosts: Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, Michael Harley
Runtime: 02:10:41

Rundown:
  • Intro and Garage - 00:00
  • Monterey Car Week - 37:08
  • Jeffrey Rothfeder - 52:17
  • Woodward 2014 - 01:28:11
  • Mid-Engine Corvette - 01:44:30
  • Q&A - 01:56:53

Get the podcast:
[UStream] Listen live on Mondays at 10 PM Eastern at UStream
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes
[RSS] Add the Autoblog Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator
[MP3] Download the MP3 directly

Feedback:
Email: Podcast at Autoblog dot com

Review the show in iTunes

Land Rover lets us inside LR2-replacing Discovery Sport

Posted Aug 20th 2014 4:29PM

Land Rover Discovery Sport moonroof

We're now less than two weeks away from the unveiling of the new Discovery Sport, and Land Rover is continuing the piecemeal reveal of its new small sport-ute, this time giving us a glimpse of its interior space.

Though the video below seems to focus more on the company's partnership with Virgin Galactic, it does give us a look at the new baby Landie's cabin, complete with its flexible 5+2 seating layout and expansive opening moonroof (which we figure has to either stack two panels of glass or else roll back solid panels).

Previewed by the Discovery Vision concept in New York, we can now confirm that the Discovery Sport will replace the LR2 in Land Rover's US lineup next year, when it will be sold alongside the LR4 – the only model that will, for now, retain its alphanumeric nameplate in America. Stay tuned for the reveal on September 2 and scope out the footage below in the meantime.

News Source: Land Rover

NHTSA launches VIN search tool for finding recalls

Posted Aug 20th 2014 4:00PM

Right to Repair

We've already seen more vehicles recalled this year than any year on record. General Motors alone has issued campaigns covering about 25.75 million cars in the US. Finally, with 2014 more than half gone, it appears that the rate of these announcements is finally starting to slow, but that still leaves tens of million of drivers needing to know whether their vehicle needs a safety fix. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is offering a solution with a simple new way for people to make sure whether their car or truck is covered under one of these recalls.

The new government website allows people to type in their model's Vehicle Identification Number, and the system spits out whether the vehicle is subject to recall campaigns. The launch coincides with NHTSA's mandate that major automakers allow customers to search for uncompleted campaigns on their models. Each company is required to update the data at least once a week, and the regulator's service is tied to this information.

The agency's VIN lookup is certainly a step in the right direction, and it could be extremely useful when buying a used car to double-check its repairs. However, the system could probably still use a bit of work. At this time, it only lists recalls on the vehicle that aren't yet repaired, instead of all possible campaigns. To get that info, an owner would have to separately search the existing NHTSA database. It also doesn't list manufacturers' customer service or other non-safety campaigns. Scroll down to read the regulator's full announcement about the new program and the response from the National Automobile Dealers Association.

News Source: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [1], [2]

Image Credit: Steven Senne / AP Photo

Watch these NHRA top fuel dragsters pull successive barrel-rolls

Posted Aug 20th 2014 3:00PM

Drag race at Brainerd

To win a race, you have to finish the race. It's the first lesson of racing, no matter what kind you're into. In drag racing, though, if your opponent crashes out – as is not uncommon a sight – then victory is yours. But what if both dragsters fail to make it to the finish line?

That's what racing fans witnessed this past weekend when the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series arrived in Brainerd, MN. That's where both Don Kritzky and Monte Green rolled their top fuel dragsters one after the other, causing the unusual and noteworthy crash captured in this video. Green was reportedly treated on the scene while Kritzky was airlifted to a hospital in Minneapolis (we're working to get further word on his condition and will update you if we learn more).

News Source: NHRA via YouTube

2015 Ford Mustang RTR teased ahead of SEMA debut

Posted Aug 20th 2014 2:33PM

Rendering of the 2015 RTR Mustang that will be shown at SEMA.

Drifter Vaughn Gittin, Jr. and his tuning shop, RTR has shown off a preliminary rendering of the tuned 2015 Ford Mustang it's going to rock this year's SEMA show. About two months after that, they'll start showing up fully built in select Ford dealerships, plus garage rats can order the parts through Mustang RTR or American Muscle.

Hardware and numbers are still secret, but we're told the Mustang RTR will be available in both four- and eight-cylinder variants and in two states of tune, Spec 1 and Spec 2. We drove a 2012 version of the Mustang RTR and declared it not bad, a noteworthy progression over the model that preceeded it. There's a press release below with Gittin's words on the announcement and a couple of high-res images to whet your appetite for Las Vegas.

News Source: Ford Racing, RTR via Facebook

Police arrest chairman, managers of Chinese auto parts firm whose factory blast killed 75

Posted Aug 20th 2014 2:29PM

China factory explosion

Chinese police have arrested three individuals in connection to the deadly explosion at an auto parts factory outside Shanghai nearly three weeks ago, Reuters is reporting.

Among those three is Wu Chi-tao, the chairman of Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products, the company that operated the factory in Zhoushan, roughly 80 miles west of Shanghai. The company's general manager and the manager in charge of workplace safety joined Chi-tao in custody, China's state news agency, Xinhua, told Reuters.

Previous reports indicated that five of the company's executives were already in custody following the blast, although it's unclear if Chi-tao and the other two managers were counted in that total.

The blast at the factory, which polishes wheel hubs for General Motors China, killed 75 people and has injured 185, and is currently being blamed on illegal production methods and poor safety facilities. PRC President Xi Jingping has since issued a nationwide crackdown on factory safety in response to the disaster.

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Hyundai Prius-Fighter Hybrid could preview next attack on Toyota's champion

Posted Aug 20th 2014 2:01PM

Hyundai Prius-Fighter Hybrid spy shot

Hyundai is no stranger to the hybrid game, selling a gas-electric version of the Sonata in the US since 2011. The 2015-model-year version gets 38 miles per gallon combined, which is certainly admirable but not quite in the same league as the hybrid champion Toyota Prius (50 mpg combined). New spy shots reveal that Hyundai might be finally ready to targeting the non-plug-in fuel economy leader. Why else would some mysterious Hyundai prototypes be cruising through the desert hills with a few Priuses in tow?

Our photographers believe these mules hint at an all-new hybrid model, which makes us think of the Blue Will concept from the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. At the time, Hyundai said the concept could be a preview of a future dedicated hybrid that would compete with the Prius.

We don't know what it all means for sure, but our spy photographers found four heavily modified Elantra GT prototypes driving around with a standard Prius and a Prius V. As if that wasn't enough of a clue, the four changed Elantras represent different approaches Hyundai might be using to go after Toyota, since there were two versions driving by our photographer's lenses, with different rear extensions indicating that both the standard Prius and the larger V might be in Hyundai's sights.

Despite the inclusion of a battery pack and a high-voltage cable running under the car, there was no obvious sign of a plug, so the old rumors of a Sonata PHEV will likely remain in the dustbin for now. Unless that strange rectangle of tape on the gas cover is hiding something surprising, of course.

Image Credit: Glenn Paulina / KGP Photograhpy

Cadillac dealers frustrated over Escalade production snarls

Posted Aug 20th 2014 1:29PM

2015 Cadillac Escalade, front three-quarter view.

Lincoln went through it during the launch of the MKZ last year, Jeep went through something similar with its Cherokee launch, and now the 2015 Cadillac Escalade has apparently caught the bug: dealer delivery delays because of quality control checks. Automotive News reports that Cadillac dealers have been waiting three times longer than usual - a month or more - from the time an Escalade leaves the assembly line to when it gets delivered. Worse, dealers are saying they don't always know where their vehicles are in transit, or when they are set to arrive. The situation has upset customers who have put down deposits and things have gotten so bad that some dealers have reportedly stopped taking pre-orders.

Cadillac says it has the delay, called "dwell time," down to two weeks, and it expects to cut that to a week by the beginning of September. The company said "a lengthy quality-assurance process on some interior parts" has caused the lag, the report citing additional issues with figuring out which vehicles should be delivered first. A spokesman said that more trucks have been put in the distribution system to work through the backlog, but it's clear it's still going to take some time to set things right, with one dealer telling AN that cars ordered in February and March still haven't arrived.

Brand chief Kurt McNeil said additional personnel are at the Escalade's Arlington, Texas factory to speed up the checks, and spreadsheets tracking every order have been distributed to field staff. Even with the snafu, though, the Escalade is Cadillac's best seller through July.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Brandon Turkus / AOL

Buick shows US dealers 2016 Cascada convertible

Posted Aug 20th 2014 1:01PM

2013 Opel Cascada

The affordable four-seat convertible has become a largely forgotten genre in the States, especially with the death of the Chrysler 200 Convertible. Of course, there are still premium options from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz – not to mention more overtly performance-oriented droptop pony cars from Chevrolet and Ford – but if you want an affordable cruiser, you're kind of out of luck. That may be about to change, however, with renewed rumors of the Opel Cascada (pictured above) making it across the Atlantic wearing a Buick badge.

According to GM Inside News, Buick showed off the Cascada to US dealers last week, with renewed word that the company plans to bring it over from Europe for the 2016 model year. The US version will reportedly be practically identical to its German cousin in terms of styling, but the powertrain underneath is less certain. According to GMI, it may use the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that is available in Europe with either 168 horsepower or 197 hp.

The Cascada rides on GM's Delta II platform, which also underpins the Verano, and the latest rumor certainly provides even more evidence that the convertible is probably on the way. Speculation about the droptop started when GM CEO Dan Akerson said last year that the car was on his wish list to bring over. Then, the US trademark on the name was reserved earlier this year, and the release was speculated for sometime in early 2016.

When Autoblog reached out to Buick for comment, company spokesperson Nick Richards gave us the predictable corporate line, "We don't comment on speculation or rumors." Still, when we drove the Cascada back in 2013 in Germany at GM's invitation, we thought it would be a good fit for US roads. It sounds like the convertible might not be too far from actually driving on them.

News Source: GM Inside News

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

Motorcyclist cut off, unreal crash caught on dashcam

Posted Aug 20th 2014 12:32PM

Russian Dashcam bike crash

Eastern Europe. Dashcams. They go together like vodka and more vodka. In today's installment, we have what is arguably one of the most remarkable crashes we've ever witnessed.

A car, in what may be Belarus, attempts to change lanes right at the unfortunate moment that a motorcyclist – who looks to be traveling way too fast – does the same. While the impact could have been far, far worse for all parties involved, the results are still enough to leave you wondering how the heck it happened like it did.

Take a look and see what we mean.

News Source: Kruszon1984 via YouTube

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray [UPDATE]

We Test The Advanced New 8-Speed Automatic To See How The Majority Live

Posted Aug 20th 2014 11:57AM



UPDATE: Our sources at Chevy have updated their estimate of the cost of the eight-speed automatic from $1,800 to $1,725. We've changed the text to reflect the new number. Per the same source, we have also included an estimated as-tested price, though we'd like to reiterate that pricing is not final.

If the world were populated exclusively with Autoblog commenters, Chevrolet probably wouldn't even offer an automatic transmission in its 2015 Corvette Stingray. Somehow the desire to drive with three pedals and the willingness to leave your two cents on a digital car review are inexorably linked.

But, of course, the comment section of our fair website is not the real world, exactly. The reality is that some 65 percent of Corvette C7s sold so far have been equipped with two pedals. During the 2014 model year, that has meant that the almost universally lauded new Stingray has shipped mostly with a six-speed automatic that wasn't up to the technological standards of the rest of the car.

When he reviewed the C7 for the first time, our own Michael Harley had these, not-minced words to say about the existing 6AT:

"The traditional six-speed automatic seemed to extinguish the C7's performance edge. I found it softer, slower and more lethargic (even paddle-initiated shifts had annoying lag). Even though it was every bit as quick in terms of outright acceleration, the gearbox took much of the excitement out of the driving experience."

Clearly there was room to improve.

Thankfully, I can now report that the improvements have been made, and that the new, General Motors-designed Hydra-Matic 8L90 is up to the task of shifting one of the best sports cars in the world. Take heed, 65-percenters.

Driving Notes
  • With some fantastic, many-geared automatic transmissions on the market from specialized companies like ZF, GM engineers knew that their unit would need to be world class. To that end, they concentrated on improving performance without sacrificing durability; all while needing to satisfy the challenging packaging requirements of the Corvette. Aluminum and magnesium have been used to reduce rotational mass, while pressed steel parts can still be found in the torque-bearing bits of the trans. A chain-driven, binary-vane oil pump in the sump has even been optimized for low- and high-speed engine loads. All of that helps to make this 8AT incredibly fast acting and responsive, while also improving fuel efficiency.
  • And it's strong. The trans was designed around the upcoming Z06, meaning it had to be rated to handle more than 650 pound-feet of torque.
  • Down to it then. Executing shifts in manual mode feels dual-clutch quick, for sure. The Chevy guys were puffing out their chests talking about the speed of this 8AT versus Porsche's PDK, and the truth is that the reaction time from paddle-pull to upshift is right there. At least, as that's what my imperfect human brain can suss out – any advantage to the quickest dual clutches I've yanked would require a machine to judge.
  • For my money though, and for the love of the 65-percent, the real test comes when you leave the lever in D. I actually did all but one of my laps of GM's dizzying Milford Road Course in full auto mode, and found the programming and response time of the trans to be impeccable. Set to Race mode, the software seemed to have me in the right gear for every corner entrance and exit, holding each of the short ratios for maximum power delivery as I ran up the few straight bits.
  • I got a hot lap with one of the GM hotshoes, as well, which confirmed outright capability of the 8L90. I may not have believed my driver's rhetoric alone – he told me he was quicker in full auto than when shifting for himself – but on his lightning lap, I could hear the car clicking off gears in synchronization with the needs of the track.
  • As for driving on public streets – of which I did for perhaps 50 miles – the AT is just dandy, too. To be fair, it's over the course of spirited-back-road driving that the involvement of a manual transmission is most enjoyable to me. But the eight-speed had no issue going from leisurely cruising to the occasional moment of massive corner attack, and back again.
  • For daily driving, Chevy says 8AT owners will see a 3.5-percent improvement in fuel economy. Preliminary EPA estimates show ratings of 29 miles per gallon on the highway, 16 in the city and 20 combined (with the standard engine). What's more, I was told those numbers should continue the Corvette tradition of being easy to achieve in the real world (something owners are strangely likely to brag about).
  • Oh, and the new auto is quicker to 60 mph, too – 3.7 seconds to do the deed with the Z51 performance package. That's a tenth quicker than the manual, for the record.
  • It is also just a bit more expensive. Though full pricing for the MY15 cars hasn't been given yet, I was told the eight speed will add $1,725 to the sticker price, versus the $1,600 asked for the outgoing automatic.
  • There's no question that the great things we had to say about the 2014 Corvette stay true for 2015, too. The handling at a race pace is sublime with occasional moments of scariness if you, like me, don't go to work in head-to-toe Nomex. I was particularly impressed with the overall grip of the car, even after I did half a lap of MRC in some light rain. This is a balanced, poised machine until you get silly with it (and even then, it's still fun).
  • On a personal note, and repping for the really tall guys everywhere, I will say that there's less room in the cabin for my six feet and five inches than I'd like, at least when I'm wearing a helmet. On public roads, I felt a bit cramped laterally, but not so badly that I'd feel the need to, you know, not drive a Corvette. On the other hand, if you're really tall and looking for a car to track, you might want to measure out carefully.
To sum: the 2015 Corvette Stingray is a brilliant sports car made better for most of its actual buyers with this transmission. It may not be the purist's special, but it is a highly advanced unit that will offer real gains for many drivers, and is closer than ever to the goodness of the enthusiast-darling stick shift. You may not love my saying it, Average Autoblog Commenter, but you really should respect these AT chops.

Vital Stats

Engine:
6.2L V8
Power:
460 HP / 465 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Auto
Base Price:
$53,000 (est)
As-Tested Price:
$65,680 (est)

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

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