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How to drive a monster truck, as told by Monster Jam drivers

Posted Oct 21st 2014 3:28PM

How to drive a monster truck

On the surface, it's easy to write off monster trucks as big, dumb and dangerous vehicles, but when you start looking deeper, they get a lot more impressive. At least for the people competing in the Monster Jam series, there's a commitment to safety and some seriously cool engineering to make all of those huge jumps and stunts possible night after night. Of course, driving one of these behemoths isn't exactly easy, either.

Not only do drivers have to deal with bouncing around all the time, they also have in the region of 1,500 horsepower at their disposal, all of which is being channeled into something with some pretty bizarre handling characteristics, too. Just think about it: How many competition vehicles can you think of that sport massive tires and separate controls for the front and rear steering?

If you want some advice, check out this video to hear from the men and women of Monster Jam who are behind the wheel practically every night and then have to fix them to crush more cars the next day.

News Source: Gizmag via YouTube

Michigan Gov. signs 'anti-Tesla' bill, but says rules could change

Posted Oct 21st 2014 2:43PM

Governor Snyder Michigan Anti-Tesla Bill Screen Grab

Don't look for a Tesla store in Detroit anytime soon. Even though the company says a Motor City service center is "Coming Soon," another hurdle was placed in the company's way today when Governor Rick Snyder signed House Bill 5606 into law. The law was introduced by State Representative Aric Nesbitt, who said it is not "anti-Tesla at all." Still, 5606 does clarify and strengthen the state's laws against an automaker selling vehicles directly to consumers, which is why Tesla called on its supporters last week to ask Snyder not to sign the bill into law. That didn't work.

The bill passed the Michigan legislative chambers with overwhelming support last week (106-1 in the House, 38-0 in the Senate) and Snyder said that his team's research found it "doesn't change current law at all." He nonetheless thought it was worth signing, and you can watch him explain why in the video below. He also mentions a letter he attached to the bill saying he's open to future discussions regarding direct vehicle sales. He does not mention his campaign support from numerous auto dealers.

We have asked Tesla for a comment on this latest development and will let you know when we hear back. Last week, the California automaker called the legislation "harmful to consumers."

Takata airbag victim looked like she had been stabbed

Posted Oct 21st 2014 2:15PM

Germany Japan Automotive Supplier

We generally take certain principals for granted. The more water you drink, for example, the healthier you'll be. The more time you spend reading car news on Autoblog, the better informed you'll be. And the more airbags your car has, the safer you'll be. Because airbags equal safety. But that's not what some unfortunate drivers of vehicles equipped with Takata airbags are finding, and tragically finding out the hard way.

A woman named Hien Tran of Orlando, FL, was killed by what looked at first like stab wounds on her neck. It later emerged that the fatal injuries could have been inflicted by the faulty airbag on her Honda Accord. Tran bought her Honda secondhand, and may not have been aware that the airbag issue had not been addressed by its previous owner in a previous recall in 2009.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department is investigating the death, but it wouldn't be the only death resulting from the malfunctioning Takata airbags – in fact, there have been two prior deaths caused by the exploding debris. The units, employed particularly by Japanese automakers like Honda (which owns part of Takata) and Toyota, are the subject of a massive recall involving some 14 million vehicles from 11 different automakers.

One possible explanation for this problem revolves around a propellant that, particularly in humid climates, could deploy the airbag unexpectedly, in some cases even sending metal shards from the airbag's casing flying through the cockpit. To date there have been some 139 injuries reported.

The urgency of the matter has prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue an "act immediately" warning to owners of affected vehicles to get their airbags fixed. However there may not be enough parts for all the airbags in all the millions of affected vehicles to be replaced immediately. Some automakers concerned are addressing the issue first in warm-weather regions before replacing airbags in vehicles located elsewhere, but it will likely take some time before all the problematic equipment is repaired or replaced.

News Source: The New York Times, Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Jens Meyer/AP

Total oil exec killed when plane collides with drunk snowplow driver

Posted Oct 21st 2014 1:30PM

France Earns Total

Sad news out of Russia today, as it's being reported that Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of France's Total Oil, has been killed along with three other people after their plane collided with a snow plow on the tarmac of Moscow's Vnukovo International Airport.

The plane de Margeri was on, a Dassault Falcon, was to fly from Moscow to Paris, after the 63-year-old exec meant with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. According to a statement by Russian authorities, "Investigators are looking at a mistake by the air traffic controllers and the actions of the driver of the snow plow. Apart from that, they will also check the versions of poor weather conditions and mistake by the crew."

"At the current time, it has already been established that the driver of the snow plow was drunk," the statement added. Investigators, meanwhile, have seized all video and audio recordings leading up to and during the incident, Russia's TASS News Agency reported.

De Margeri has been with Total since 1974, when he graduated from Paris' Ecole Superieure de Commerce business university. He took the helm of the French oil company, Europe's third largest, in 2007. He was affectionately known within the company as "Big Mustache."

"It's a huge loss to the industry and its future focus," former Shell Oil CEO John Hofmeister told the BBC. "What he has done for Total in repositioning the company to return to integrity and sound operations is deeply respected and highly regarded."

According to the BBC, Total did not have a succession plan in place, only indicating that de Margeri's successor would come from within. The company's board will be assembling as soon as possible.

News Source: BBC

Image Credit: Jacques Brinon / AP

Jay Leno takes a Surfin' Safari in a 1937 Ford Woodie Restomod

Posted Oct 21st 2014 12:44PM

1937 Ford Woodie Restomod

Woodie wagons were a major part of surfing culture in the 1960s, offering coastal style and a ton of room, and they even earned a mention in the Beach Boys' classic song Surfin' Safari. This week, Jay Leno's Garage takes a look at two modern, restomodded examples of these style icons.

Unlike a lot of restomods, builder Scott Bonowski keeps these wagons looking almost completely stock on the outside, and all of the upgrades are hidden underneath the timber. You can't tell by looking at it, but the '37 Woodie (pictured above) has independent front and rear suspension, disc brakes and a Ford 5.0-liter V8 under the hood.

Beyond the mechanical aspect, the craftsmanship into the wood is astounding. Bonowski claims there are between 30 and 50 coats of varnish on this wagon. It makes these woodies as much of a piece of fine furniture as a vehicle to drive.

Leno might be taking his garage to television sometime soon, but until then, we still get to enjoy Jay heaping some love on fantastic cars once a week. Take a tour of two of these intriguing classics in his latest video.

News Source: Jay Leno's Garage via YouTube

2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 Coupe

Beauty Masks A Formidable Beast

Posted Oct 21st 2014 11:57AM

2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

This is the most beautiful car currently offered by Mercedes-Benz.

With apologies to the aggressive and undeniably attractive Mercedes-AMG GT, the brand-new successor to the supercar throne vacated by the dearly departed gullwinged SLS, the S-Class Coupe as seen in the images scattered through these pages is particularly evocative, with flowing lines from front to plunging rear that somehow recall early pre-war streamlining while still coming across as thoroughly modern and completely refined. It's a shape that will get noticed in traffic, generating gentle nods of approval, subtle stares and longer-than-normal glances from those with discerning automotive tastes, without attracting the kind of pre-teen attention garnered by less practical, though similarly expensive, machinery.

Considering the shapely bodywork parked before me set against the shockingly beautiful autumn colors of Rhode Island and the sweet, salty smell of ocean tides, the actual driving dynamics of the S550 Coupe I was about to experience seemed, for a brief moment, to be superfluous to the experience at hand. That is, it felt that way until slipping into what may be the most comfortable and accommodating driver's seat ever made, a move affording me the chance to revel in the cabin's almost overwhelming embrace of accoutrements and technology.

Vital Stats

Engine:
Twin-Turbo 4.7L V8
Power:
449 HP / 516 LB-FT
Transmission:
7-Speed Auto
Warranty:
48 months / 50,000 miles
Base Price:
$119,900
As-Tested Price:
$150,000 (est)

News Source: Copyright 2014 Jeremy Korzeniewski / AOL

EPA to scrutinize auto fuel economy tests, issue revised guidelines

Posted Oct 21st 2014 11:15AM

EPA Proposes Changes To Ethanol Mandate In Gasoline

Following the lowering of estimated fuel economy figures from companies like Ford, Hyundai, Kia and even a handful of Mercedes-Benz sedans in the recent past, the Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down by mandating new mileage testing procedures by the end of the year, after first considering some changes months ago. The improved evaluations should make the numbers that buyers see on the window sticker of a vehicle closer to what they experience in the real world.

The most significant alteration is issuing specific protocols governing the coast-down test, according to Automotive News. The examination gathers data on things like drag, rolling resistance and drivetrain friction as a vehicle cruises from 80 miles per hour to a complete stop. That information is then used to program dynamometers for further driving analyses, but currently, the exact procedure varies by company. Inaccurate figures from the assessment were reportedly responsible for Hyundai and Kia's fuel economy mark down and one of the changes for the Ford C-Max.

The other big change closes a loophole that allows automakers to test the fuel economy for a single model and then apply it to others with the same powertrain and weight class. This is the same issue that forced Ford to re-rate the C-Max in 2013.

According to Automotive News, the agency is also planning to continue with successful policies like auditing the fuel economy of more models to make sure they match manufacturers' ratings. It may also force companies to double-check mileage results from pre-production examples against the final version of a vehicle.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

VW confirms Euro Passat will get CC and Alltrack spinoffs

Posted Oct 21st 2014 10:31AM

2015 Volkswagen Passat

Volkswagen certainly isn't afraid to make the most of a platform, especially in Europe. Just look at all of the versions of the Golf that you can buy across the pond. Now, with the Euro-market Passat just hitting the market over there, the folks in Wolfsburg are already getting their latest creation ready for future variants. According to Car and Driver, VW confirmed in its employee newsletter that the wagon is ready to go, and the CC, Alltrack and GTE plug-in hybrid are all in development.

At this point, the US and Euro-market Passats really only share a name and a badge. The latest Euro model rides on VW's MQB platform. Meanwhile, the North American version is supposed to get a thorough refresh for the 2016 model year.

Among the Euro Passat variants, we might get the CC here. Rumors indicate that VW is evaluating two possible designs for it. One of them is reportedly a fastback, four-door coupe à-la the Audi A7, and the other one is a mystery. The company is even considering building it in the US. There could be a bit of a wait for it, though, because according to Car and Driver, the current CC remains in production for about the next two years.

The Alltrack will likely remain in Europe as a pumped up, soft-road version of the wagon, and the Passat GTE plug-in hybrid would be interesting, but kind of unlikely considering the differences in Passat models, even with its frugal 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and electric motor offering a total system output of 215 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque.

2015 Green Car Of The Year finalists announced, run alt-fuel gamut

Posted Oct 21st 2014 10:00AM

VW e-golf 2015 Green Car of the Year Finalist

The 2015 edition of the Green Car of the Year award is following right in the footsteps of previous years with a variety of alt-fuel powertrains making the just-announced finalists list. You've got your plug-in vehicle (the BMW i3), your compressed natural gas (the Chevy Impala Bi-Fuel), your high-efficiency diesel (the Audi A3 TDI), your 40+ mile-per-gallon gas engine (the Honda Fit) and, finally, a car that can do a little bit of everything (the VW Golf).

The Golf is available – at least in some parts of the US – with three different powertrains: a 2.0-liter diesel, a gasoline engine and all-electric drive. The Impala can burn either natural gas or gasoline in its 3.6-liter engine. The A3 is an efficiency champ, able to get 73.5 mpg on some European tests. The i3 can be a pure electric vehicle or come with a short range extending engine. And the Fit brings 41 miles to the gallon in a practical, affordable package.

The GCOY award is announced every year at the Los Angeles Auto Show by Green Car Journal. The committee doesn't just take the fuel-saving technology into account, but also a vehicle's "availability to the mass market." Last year, the Honda Accord Hybrid/Plug-In Hybrid won top honors, following up on wins from the Ford Fusion models (plug-in hybrid and hybrid) for 2013, the Honda Civic Natural Gas for 2012 and the Chevrolet Volt for 2011.

News Source: Green Car Journal

Land Rover to send off Defender with SVR special

Posted Oct 21st 2014 9:30AM

Land Rover Defender Challenge by Bowler

Jaguar Land Rover has made plenty of drool-inducing, time-warping performance machines, but most of them – from the XJ220 to the F-Type – have come from the Jaguar side of the equation. That's where the British automaker's new Special Operations division came in with the new Range Rover Sport SVR, transforming one of Land Rover's off-roaders into a Nürburgring-conquering performance ute. But it won't be the last.

According to JLR Special Operations chief John Edwards in speaking with Autocar, the division is searching for its next project. And that could – and it seems likely will – come down to a special send-off for the long-serving Defender.

Land Rover's most hardcore, no-frills, rough-and-tumble model has been in production essentially unchanged since 1983, making it as old as some of the writers here at Autoblog (though sadly much younger than some others... -ED). It's slated to be retired next year in favor of an all-new model, but before it does, JLR apparently plans to send it off with a muscled-up performance model.

Don't take that to mean that the Defender will be stripped off its off-road capabilities in an effort to make it perform better on the track, though. According to Autocar, Land Rover is looking to the Dakar rally and the old Camel Trophy for inspiration, suggesting that we could be looking at a British take on the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor of sorts... or a production version of the Defender Challenge truck (pictured above) made together with noted LR tuner Bowler. All of which strikes us as rather enticing, though it may be a while before we get to see the finished product in the metal.

News Source: Autocar

Cutting edge car designs layering it on

Posted Oct 21st 2014 8:44AM

2015 BMW i8

Design themes in the automotive industry tend to ebb and flow in trends: jelly bean styling, retro design, flame surfacing... we could go on (and probably would if we were better schooled in the language of design), but you get the point. So what's the next big thing in automotive design? Layers.

No, not the "levels" Kramer ranted about when remodeling his apartment on Seinfeld, but layers. It's about adding a three-dimensionality to a vehicle's surface, exposing some of the elements underneath and making room for active aerodynamic components. It's something that BMW has championed with the i8 and which McLaren embodied as well with the P1. Its rival LaFerrari adopts the approach too, as have a handful of concepts like the Toyota FT-1, Aston Martin DP-100 and (maybe to a lesser extent) the Maserati Alfieri.

"With the McLaren P1, we used a 'shrink wrapped' approach," Frank Stephenson wrote in correspondence with The New York Times. "Like an exoskeleton, we were able to expose distinctive features and uncover what doesn't have to be hidden."

Considering the lust-worthy dream machines where the trend has kicked off, we should only expect layered design to further permeate the industry, trickling down to vehicles more people can actually afford... and not just six- and seven-figure hybrid hypercars.
Related Gallery2015 BMW i8: First Drive
2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive

BMW celebrates with M4 DTM Champion Edition

Posted Oct 21st 2014 8:01AM

BMW M4 DTM Champion Edition

Go back just a few seasons, and Germany's DTM touring car series was a straight-up competition between Audi and Mercedes-Benz. But BMW rejoined the race in 2012, winning both the drivers' and constructors' titles on its first year back and celebrating with a special matte-black M3 DTM Champion Edition. Last season, it won the constructors' championship but not the drivers', and this year it did the opposite. In short, it's been an impressive comeback for the Bavarian automaker, and to celebrate this year's accomplishments, it's followed up with the new M4 DTM Champion Edition for Europe you see here.

Based on the new M4 coupe – which forms the basis for BMW's DTM challenger as well as its pace car – the Champion Edition is distinguished by its special livery: The orange grille frame, the matte black hood and trunk with multicolored stripes, the black stripes along its shoulder and rocker panel, and the blacked-out 19-inch wheels all to pay homage to champion Marco Wittmann's racecar, as does special lettering on the rear windows.

Other enhancements include black front splitter and skirts, carbon front flaps and mirror caps, rear spoiler and carbon diffuser, while autographed sill plates and carbon interior trim with the car's serial number adorn the cabin. Only 23 examples will be offered, symbolic of the number adorning the winning tin-top racer and the flank of this special edition as well.

In related news, BMW has also announced that Wittman has renewed his contract with BMW and is also set to test drive a Toro Rosso F1 car as a reward for having won the DTM championship.

News Source: BMW

DeLorean DMC-12 illustrates how a good idea goes bad with Xcar

Posted Oct 20th 2014 7:57PM

Xcar Delorean DMC-12

When John Z. DeLorean set out to build a car, he had good intentions – it'd be small, efficient, sporty, affordable and safe, complete with a rust-free, stainless-steel body. The outcome, though, was a lamentable mess, a coupe whose prestige rests more with its gullwing doors and its star-making role in Back To The Future than in its actual driving character.

Among the many knocks on the DeLorean DMC-12 was its shoddy quality (courtesy of its Northern Ireland factory), its anemic 2.8-liter V6 and an automatic transmission whose shifts registered on the geologic scale. The suspension was overly soft, the steering numb and the brakes left a lot to be desired.

None of that, as Xcar explains, really matters. The DeLorean is still a deeply cool car. Take a look at the latest video from the video outfit to see why.

News Source: XCARFilms via YouTube

What you missed on 10.20.14

Posted Oct 20th 2014 7:32PM

uturn

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster

The V12 Vantage S is indeed the shining star in Aston Martin's lineup these days, what with its screaming V12 engine and 565 horsepower on tap. Now, Aston has given its S treatment to the V12 Vantage roadster, making it the most powerful, quickest-accelerating, and fastest production roadster money can buy. Michael Harley takes one for a quick spin in Palm Springs, here.




TranslogicTranslogic: Detroit's bike culture

It may be the Motor City, but there's a huge subculture of two-wheeled enthusiasts living in and around Detroit these days. In the latest episode of Translogic, host Jonathon Buckley takes a look at a few of the cool things happening for bike enthusiasts in The D, including a tour of Detroit Bikes, a ride through the Slow Roll, and a cruise with the East Side Riders.





Joe GrahamMan arrested for doing donuts in '68 Camaro

There's the old stereotype that cops love donuts, but that isn't completely true. Doughy treats aside, burning rubber might be a whole lot of fun for drivers and passengers alike, but to law enforcement, it's a big no-no. Take this story, for instance, where a man was arrested for doing donuts in his 1968 Camaro with his son. That said, it all took place in the parking lot next to a town hall and sheriff's office. Watch the video report and let us know what you think.



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