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Watch Sebastian Vettel become first driver to lap Sochi GP circuit

Posted Aug 31st 2014 7:28PM

Sebastian Vettel Infiniti Red Bull racing

In April of last year, Sebastian Vettel and David Coulthard drove the unpaved Sochi Formula One circuit in a pair of Infiniti M sedans, getting both muddy and airborne in the process. Now with tarmac laid down and fences put up, Vettel and Coulthard have gone back to the Black Sea vacation spot for another hot lap, this time in a Q50 Hybrid and without the need for mud flaps.

Sochi has earned the blessing of F1's race director, so now the next test will be the fans. With a healthy amount of wall-and-fencing along the straights, it has shades of Valencia for the viewer. We hope it will be much more exciting than its Spanish counterpart when racing happens on October 12. You'll find more videos below covering Infiniti's visits to the Sochi Autodrom, and a press release on the latest lap.

Infiniti Q50S getting G37's hydraulic steering for 2016

Posted Aug 31st 2014 6:30PM

Infiniti Q50S

Sometimes, new technology doesn't make things better. Take the march of power steering technology as an example. Electrically assisted systems are in vogue at the moment for their ability to increase fuel efficiency, but tuning them to offer good feedback remains something of a dark art. Some automakers get it, but most don't. The previous hydraulically assisted setups just seem to be inherently more communicative when driven with enthusiasm. And it looks like Infiniti might be learning this lesson the hard way.

In talking with Keith St. Clair, the luxury brand's head of product planning, Car and Driver has learned that the Q50S is probably going to ditch its standard electrically assisted steering in favor of a hydraulic system derived from the old G37, a model soon to be renamed the Q40. The system should make the sedan more engaging behind the wheel, but it still won't help those who tick the option box for Infiniti's controversial Direct Adaptive Steering drive-by-wire system.

According to St. Clair, Infiniti's engineers have heard the complaints of critics and previous G37 owners about the Q50S model's electric steering system, and wanted to see what they could do. They didn't have to go far to figure it out – all it required was taking the steering rack off of a G37 and putting it onto the Q50S. After a little tweaking, "the car is a blast to drive," St. Clair reports. Now, the company is said to be fast-tracking the switch, and it could be ready for the 2016 model year.

To be clear, this change is likely going to be for the Q50S only. Electric assistance and Infiniti's DAS steer-by-wire aren't going anywhere, but the S model is supposed to be a little sportier than the rest of the Q50 range. Therefore, the switch to something enthusiasts prefer in a model expressly designed for them would appear to make good sense.

News Source: Car and Driver

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

Lamando is Chinese for VW Jetta CC [w/video]

Posted Aug 31st 2014 4:58PM

VW Lamando

Volkswagen is not messing around when it characterizes its new MQB architecture as modular. It's already underpinning the VW Golf, Audi A3, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia, and will soon form the basis for many more. And here is the latest.

Unveiled at the Chengdu Motor Show in China this weekend is the new Volkswagen Lamando, a four-door coupe similar in size to a Jetta but with the svelter roofline of the larger Passat-based CC to go after the Mercedes-Benz CLA. It's essentially the production version of the New Midsize Coupe concept that previewed its arrival at the Beijing Motor Show this past April, and will be built locally for local consumption by VW's joint venture with SAIC.

Power comes from either a 1.4- or 2.0-liter turbo four mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, with an equivalent price tag below $30,000. Whether this or any similar vehicle ever arrives in North American showrooms remains to be seen, but we'll be watching to find out. In the meantime you can scope it out in the trippy video below and the photos in the gallery above.
Related Gallery2015 Volkswagen Lamando
2015 Volkswagen Lamando2015 Volkswagen Lamando2015 Volkswagen Lamando2015 Volkswagen Lamando2015 Volkswagen Lamando2015 Volkswagen Lamando

News Source: via Carscoops

Image Credit: Volkswagen

This Labor Day, low gas prices mean more cars on the road [w/video]

Posted Aug 31st 2014 3:00PM

Consumer Prices

It's not hard to understand, when gas prices go up, Americans sometimes drive less on national holidays. This year, though gas prices are lower than they have been right before Labor Day since 2010, and that means the American Automobile Association (AAA) is predicting that the number of people taking a road trip of more than 50 miles is expected to rise compared to last year. AAA says that 35 million people will make a 50+ mile trip this year, the highest number since 2008 and up 1.3 percent from 2013. There's a video report on this increase available below.

The average price of gas in the US this past Monday was $3.45 a gallon. Not only is that the lowest price it's been on the Monday before Labor Day in four years, it's also 25 cents lower than it was in the end of June and a dime lower than it was a year ago. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) says that the main reason for the drop is lower crude oil prices from the North Sea. As always, global worries about places like the middle east affect the crude oil price, and the EIA says that the market has a "perception of reduced risk for Iraqi oil exports as well as reports of increasing Libyan oil exports" that is helping to keep prices low.

News Source: US Energy Information Administration, American Automobile Association

Image Credit: Wilfredo Lee / AP

Ford hybrid sales rebound following MPG controversy

Posted Aug 31st 2014 1:00PM

Ford C-Max Hybrid

Ford hybrid customers apparently have very short memories. With two EPA fuel economy reratings in the last year, sales of the C-Max, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ haven't been too terribly dented, Ward's Auto reports.

All three vehicles saw sales dips following the August 2013 rerating, although sales of the MKZ Hybrid had begun to rebound as early as November of that year. C-Max sales, meanwhile, took slightly longer, with sales on a steadily improving course as early as February of this year.

The second rerating, in June of this year, has had an even smaller effect on the Blue Oval's hybrids. The C-Max has actually been subject to a sales increase, while both the MKZ and Fusion saw minor sales drops (less than 400 units between the two in the month following the rerating).

That seems to be peanuts according to Ford spokesman Aaron Miller, who told Ward's the company hasn't really seen a negative downturn.

Part of this, Miller claims, is due to Ford's goodwill payments to owners of affected vehicles, which ranged from $325 to $550 in the first case and $150 to $1,050 in the second case, depending on whether the customer leased or financed their vehicle.

"Our marketing team reported that current owners of those (affected) vehicles did not become dissatisfied," Miller told Ward's Auto. "I believe that the goodwill payments made to our customers helped a lot."

Ford's hybrid sales are actually up 2.5 percent through July, which is below the industry average of 2.9 percent. All things considered, though, that's certainly not as bad as it could be.

News Source: Ward's Auto

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Corvette museum to fill in sinkhole, leave five cars unrestored

Posted Aug 31st 2014 10:58AM

Sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum

Preservation or restoration. That's the question that faces anyone dealing with classic cars, and it's the issue with which the National Corvette Museum is grappling in the wake of the sinkhole that opened up in its midst this past February.

In the months since the damage was inflicted, the museum had planned to keep at least part of the sinkhole open as a sort of memorial and tourist attraction so that visitors could see what happened. Unfortunately, it turned out that keeping the hole open would cost the museum more than closing it up. Much more, if you can believe it: instead of the earlier estimates that initially placed the cost of preserving a portion of the sinkhole at around $500,000, the eventual cost estimates rose to over $1 million.

Even if the museum had the funds in order to do so, the visible portion of the sinkhole would still require 35-foot retaining walls, steel beams and other reinforcements (not to mention proper humidity control required to deal with vapors emitted from the hole) that would have defeated the point altogether. So in the end, the board of directors have voted at its quarterly meeting to completely fill it in.

The hole itself, however, is not the only area in which the museum has had to choose between preservation or restoration. General Motors had originally pledged to restore all eight of the Corvette display models damaged in the natural disaster, but following an outpouring of requests from visitors and fans, both Chevy and the museum have opted instead to keep five of the less-damaged Vettes in the same condition in which they were extracted from the sinkhole.

In the end, Chevy will still restore two of the more substantially damaged Corvettes itself – namely the 2009 ZR1 "Blue Devil" prototype and the 1992 C4 convertible that was the millionth Corvette ever made – and will bankroll the restoration of the '62 model to be undertaken off site. The others will stay as they are. So while you may not be able to see the sinkhole for much longer, you'll be able to see at least part of the aftermath in those heavily patina'd cars for the foreseeable future.

News Source: National Corvette Museum


Volvo PV444 turns 70

Posted Aug 31st 2014 8:58AM

Volvo PV444

Volvo has made all manner of vehicles over the course of its long history, including coupes, convertibles, hatchbacks, sedans, wagons and SUVs. But the vehicle that started it all was the PV444.

Or rather, we should say, the PV444 is what re-started it all. Because while it wasn't Volvo's first model, it was the first one it produced after the war. Monday, September 1, will mark 70 years since the PV444 first debuted at the Royal Tennis Hall in Stockholm pictured above, where the company received 148,437 visitors.

That presentation there took place shortly before the end of World War II when the vehicle wasn't even finished yet. A team of 40 engineers and designers were still fine-tuning the final version, but were eager to show the public what it would start building after the last bullet was fired and peace would return to Europe.

The exhibition garnered 2,300 pre-orders (though we doubt that's what they were called seven decades ago and in Swedish). It would take Volvo another few years to begin delivery, but once it did, people got Gothenburg's first small car, built on a monocoque chassis with an overhead-valve engine – all pioneering features at the time. That OHV engine displaced 1.4 liters and offered just 40 horsepower, and all those initial examples were painted black with green interiors.

The first examples delivered to the United States arrived in Los Angeles on August 15, 1955, and established Volvo's presence in the North American market. Though Volvo had only made 2,000 cars at that point, it ambitiously set the production goal of 8,000 units for the PV444... and ended up building 200,000 of them by the time production ended in 1958. That total is 440,000 if you include the updated PV544 that followed until 1965. In short, it was a pivotal model for Volvo, and one worthy of celebrating.
Related GalleryVolvo PV444
Volvo PV444Volvo PV444Volvo PV444Volvo PV444Volvo PV444Volvo PV444Volvo PV444

News Source: Volvo

The sunniest Ferrari collection you've ever seen, shot for Forza mag

Posted Aug 30th 2014 7:02PM

Ferrari Collection in Tennessee

There's a stable of about 40 beautiful prancing horses hiding in a Tennessee garage. These thoroughbreds aren't out to win the next Triple Crown, though. Instead, this is one of the best collections of Ferraris in the world where you would probably least expect it.

Photographer and auto journalist Clint Davis went there to write a story about collector Phil Bachman for the Ferrari-focused Forza magazine, and he took some dazzling photographs to go along with his words. At the same time, he brought along a friend to film their day meeting Bachman and his sublime collection.

Amassing this many sensational vehicles would be amazing anyway, but Bachman takes his Ferrari obsession even further. He prefers to get his cars in yellow and tries to get the last production example of a given model. In fact, he already has a reservation for the final LaFerrari. You can probably figure out in what color. Keep your eyes open here for glimpses of a plethora of vintage beauties, but the star of the show might be a yellow FXX.

News Source: Clint Davis, Keown Films via Vimeo

There are ways to sneak Tesla Model S into Russia for just 6.5M rubles

Posted Aug 30th 2014 5:00PM

Dmitry Grishin Tesla Model S

Tesla Fever has extended far and wide, winning over critics and everyday enthusiasts alike. The company is rapidly expanding its efforts both in its home market and abroad, but for some of its wealthy fans, that move isn't happening quite fast enough.

Dmitry Grishin is one such enthusiast. The 35-year-old multi-millionaire founder of Russia's is a big fan of Elon Musk's operation, so much so, in fact, that he's decided not to wait for sales to begin in the Russian Federation. Instead, he's gone off on his own and simply imported a Model S to get around Moscow.

The acquisition was not easy, as detailed by The Verge, and Grishin's car isn't quite as full-featured as a Model S sold in America – he's forced to use his phone's data connection rather than the car's . But, Grishin clearly has no regrets, spending a total of $180,000 to bring the EV to Moscow. In fact, Grishin has gone so far as to say he'd invest in the American EV manufacturer, if it hastened the brand's arrival in the motherland.

Head over to The Verge and check out the full profile on what must be on of Russia's biggest Tesla fans and his acquisition of the Model S.

News Source: The Verge

Image Credit: Dmitry Grishin

Anti-UAW VW workers move to form own union

Posted Aug 30th 2014 3:01PM

VW Announcement

The struggle over unionization at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, TN, continues to get more complicated. There's now a second union fighting to organize at the plant; although this one is staunchly against the actions of the United Auto Workers. At the same time, the UAW is still signing up voluntary members to its recently created Local 42 at the facility and is reportedly near having a majority of the hourly employees on its side.

The new, anti-UAW union campaign is being spearheaded by employee Mike Burton, according to Reuters, and he calls his group the American Council of Employees. He claims to already have 108 signatures in support of his organization. Burton believes that the UAW is harmful to businesses, and his goal is to force another vote to determine a preferred union among workers.

The UAW was initially defeated (712 to 626) when it attempted a union vote at the Tennessee plant in February. However, UAW secretary-treasurer Gary Casteel told Reuters that Local 42 has already signed up over 700 members. If it can reach a majority of the roughly 1,500 employees, the group hopes VW might consider recognizing it as the factory's union.

VW's own labor leaders have supported unionization with the UAW in Chattanooga in the past as a means of getting it a seat on the company's Global Works Council. It's currently one of the company's only major factories in the world that isn't a member, but it needs an organized workforce to do it.

The political turmoil at the factory comes right before a major expansion. VW will build its new midsize, seven-passenger SUV based on the CrossBlue Concept in Chattanooga by the end of 2016. The new model will add about 2,000 new jobs and 538,000 square feet to the plant as part of a $900 million investment.

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Erik Schelzig / AP Photo

Audi recalling 70k TDI models worldwide over braking problem [UPDATE]

Posted Aug 30th 2014 1:00PM

Audi A7 TDI

Audi is issuing a recall covering some 70,000 vehicles worldwide, due to problems with their brake boosters. According to Automotive News Europe, diesel-powered examples of the A4, A5, A6, A7 and Q7 are all being called back due to this issue.

The report indicates that while the brakes in these vehicles still function, the enhancing power from the booster may fail due to a possible leaky membrane.

All of the affected vehicles are powered by the 3.0-liter TDI turbodiesel V6, and were built between March and December of 2012. It is unclear as of this writing how many of these vehicles are in the States, though remember, US customers are not privy to 3.0 TDI examples of the A4 or A5. Autoblog has reached out to Audi for specific numbers, and we'll update this space when we hear more.

UPDATE: Audi spokesperson Mark Dahncke confirmed that this recall affects 1,814 vehicles in the United States – all 2013 model year Q7 TDI vehicles built between June 5 and November 29, 2012.

Weekly Recap: Volvo's $11-billion gamble

Plus: Notes On The 2015 Ford Mustang, Elon Musk And The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Posted Aug 30th 2014 11:02AM

2015 Volvo XC60

It's ambitious, but Volvo is spending money on core products built on qualities that have made the brand successful in the past.

Just how much does it take to revive an iconic premium brand? How does $11 billion sound? That's what Volvo's Chinese owners are spending to give the Swedish company one more shot to make it as a global carmaker.

It's a make-or-break proposition. Volvo must get it right, as even deep-pocketed parent company Zhejiang Geely Holding Corp. has limits. The money will fund a product blitz with fresh yet authentic Swedish design, improved technology, new engines and, as always, a focus on safety. It's ambitious, but Volvo is spending money on core products built on qualities that have made the brand successful in the past.

The 2015 XC90 will be the first vehicle to roll off the assembly line as a result of these efforts. As our Noah Joseph reported from the reveal in Sweden this week, the crossover embodies all of Volvo's aspirations. It's based on the company's Scalable Product Architecture that will be used for all of the company's models in North America. It draws power from the Drive-E engine series, including a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 316 horsepower thanks to turbocharging and supercharging, and a plug-in hybrid variant that also uses both forced-induction systems to pump out 400 hp.
Related Gallery2015 Volvo XC90
2015 Volvo XC902015 Volvo XC902015 Volvo XC902015 Volvo XC902015 Volvo XC902015 Volvo XC902015 Volvo XC902015 Volvo XC90

Image Credit: Volvo / Ford / Elon Musk via Twitter / Mazda

Ecclestone vows revenge after F1 trial settlement

Posted Aug 30th 2014 8:57AM


At times, it seems all too easy to imagine Formula One bigwig Bernie Ecclestone holding a cat and laughing maniacally like a James Bond villain. He just seems like a horrible person to be on the wrong side of. Now that Ecclestone has put his bribery trial in Germany behind him, his enemies had better watch out because Bernie is scheming for revenge.

"Now I am in a position where I have got a little bit more time and I shall follow my old idea in life: 'Don't get mad, get even.' I haven't got mad but I'm going to get even," said Ecclestone to UK newspaper The Independent. His first target is reportedly German businessman Dieter Hahn from Constantin Medien. Hahn tried to sue Ecclestone for undervaluing F1 shares to allow competing company CVC to buy them but lost.

It's possible that CVC might be putting those shares, which amount to 35 percent ownership of F1, up for sale in the future, and Ecclestone may be angling to buy them back himself. "Lots of people have looked at buying Formula One. Until they start looking at what they have got to pay, it is coffee-shop talk," said Ecclestone to the newspaper. Though, he claims buying the stake isn't a priority for him.

Ecclestone paid $100 million to German prosecutors in early August to have the charges against him dismissed. He was accused of bribing a German banker for preferential treatment and could have faced up to 10 years in prison. Ecclestone told The Independent that the prosecutors came to him first to offer the deal, and they previously said that the F1 supremo's advanced age was also a contributing factor.

News Source: The Independent

Image Credit: Ben Stansall /AFP / Getty Images

Jaguar design boss Callum reinterprets classic Mark 2 for himself [w/video]

Posted Aug 29th 2014 8:00PM

Jaguar Mark 2 By Callum

As the man behind the styling of basically every Jaguar since the mid 2000s, two things should be known about Ian Callum – he's a big fan of the brand, and he can bloody well get whatever kind of Jag he wants.

His newest car, though, is not what you might expect. Rather than an F-Type or an XJ, Callum has gone old school, and commissioned a custom, resto-modded Jaguar Mark 2.

Designed by Callum and built by Classic Motor Cars in Shropshire, England, the Mark 2 was an 18-month project between the designer and the garage. The essentially new car draws its power from a 4.3-liter engine that's been pilfered and modified from an XK. It's mated to a five-speed manual transmission.

The suspension has been dramatically altered, with a new independent rear suspension, and upgraded springs and adjustable dampers at all four corners, as well as new front and rear roll bars. The result is a ride that sits 1.18 inches closer to terra firma. A new power steering system should also add some life to the Mark 2's rack.

Aesthetically, Callum has crafted a stunner. 17-inch, split-rim, multi-spoke wheels start the excellent design, while new, functional louvers have been fitted into the Mark 2's fenders. The interior is a leather masterpiece, done in a shade of red that is usually reserved for couples behind closed doors. As Callum's creation is meant to be a more modern version of a classic vehicle, a new flip-out touchscreen system has been fitted that will allow the designer to bump whatever tunes he sees fit.

"This is a very personal statement. A long held notion that, although the Mark 2 has always been a beautiful car, it could be even more exciting in shape and performance. Whilst maintaining the purity of the car's form, I wanted to add a number of modern twists to the design. Simplification and clarity was my objective," Callum said in a statement.

Objective completed, Mr. Callum. Take a look below for the press release and the video on the Mark 2 by Callum, and then scope out the gallery of images up top.
Related GalleryJaguar Mark 2 By Callum
Jaguar Mark 2 By CallumJaguar Mark 2 By CallumJaguar Mark 2 By CallumJaguar Mark 2 By CallumJaguar Mark 2 By Callum

News Source: Jaguar


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