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2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray [UPDATE]

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    2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray [UPDATE]
  • Opinion
    This Or That: Fiat 500 Abarth vs. Ford Fiesta ST [w/poll]
  • Quick Spin
    Nissan NV200 Taxi
  • Podcast
    Autoblog Podcast #393
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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

US government moves to mandate car connectivity [w/video]

Posted Aug 21st 2014 4:04PM

connected car illustration

The federal government is inching closer to mandating cars have the ability to communicate with each other, in a move regulators say could reduce crashes while still protecting motorists' personal information.

"By warning drivers of imminent danger, V2V technology has the potential to dramatically improve highway safety." – David Friedman

Called vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V), the technology would use radio frequencies to communicate potential dangers to drivers, and the Transportation Department has begun the rule-making process of possibly making it required equipment in cars, though it could take years for a new law to take effect.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration pointed to two potential features that would use vehicle communication to improve safety: a left-turn assist and a system that detects movements in intersections, which could prevent as many as 592,000 crashes annually and possibly save 1,083 lives.

"By warning drivers of imminent danger, V2V technology has the potential to dramatically improve highway safety," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in a statement.

Image Credit: General Motors

Porsche prioritizes 200,000-unit sales target over exclusivity [w/poll]

Posted Aug 21st 2014 3:33PM

Porsche Panamera production

Would a Porsche still be a Porsche if it weren't as exclusive? That's the question which industry pundits are asking – and customers may soon as well – as the German automaker emerges from the fringe in pursuit of larger volumes.

A dozen years ago Porsche was barely selling over 50,000 units per annum. In a sales surge that has gathered pace as fast as a 911 Turbo, however, it was already hovering around the 100,000-unit mark a few years later. Last year it sold over 160,000, and has targeted 200,000 units by 2018. But it may not even take that long.

Automotive News reports that Porsche has advanced its targets to reach for 200,000 units by the end of this year or the next. The bump in sales would be driven particularly by the introduction of the new Macan, of which it aims to sell 50,000 units annually, starting next year. The Cayenne currently stands far and away as its most successful model. The 911 and Panamera have swapped second place a few times over the past five years, followed by the Boxster and Cayman.

Porsche's pursuit of higher volumes is mirrored by that of Maserati, which has been pursuing a similar path but at lower volumes. Maserati sold barely more than 6,000 units last year, but with the introduction of the new Ghibli sedan and upcoming Levante crossover, aims to reach 50,000 units next year. Ferrari, conversely, has actually been reducing production in order to maintain exclusivity and profitability.

Will Porsche's drive to 200,000 sales erode its desirability?

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Porsche

Watch Audi's Emmy promo, starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Posted Aug 21st 2014 2:58PM

Emmy Awards Promo

A lot of online videos try way too hard to be funny, but the promo from Audi for the 66th Emmy Awards on Monday, August 25, shows that if you put faith in a proven group of hilarious actors, you can strike comedy gold. The short film reunites Breaking Bad stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul as the proprietors of a pawnshop of rare and obscure items called Barely Legal Pawn. They have their own fictional reality show (which really needs to exist) that rips off Pawn Stars, and this segment has comedy veteran Julia Louis-Dreyfus coming in to sell her Emmy award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy as Elaine on Seinfeld. Louis-Dreyfus also pays the title sponsor's bills by subtly incorporating a 2015 S3 into the otherwise car-free gag.

It would ruin the video to spoil any of the jokes; you just need to watch it. Cranston actually bridges the gap here because way before he became famous as Walter White on Breaking Bad, he had a recurring guest role on Seinfeld as dentist Dr. Tim Whatley. If you're a fan of either show or just need a hearty chuckle for today, this one is definitely for you because all three former Emmy winners put in fantastic performances.

News Source: Television Academy via YouTube, Adweek

Honda CR-Z gets much-needed supercharger

Posted Aug 21st 2014 2:30PM

Honda CR-Z supercharger kit from HPD

Honda has really taken its time in getting an aftermarket supercharger kit for the CR-Z to enthusiasts in the US. It's finally on sale, though, and it makes you wonder if the hybrid hatchback shouldn't have had it from the day it went on sale.

The supercharger kit developed by Honda Performance Development boosts output from the CR-Z's 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine to 197 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque, according to Honda spokesperson Jessica Howell, an improvement of 67 hp and 36 lb-ft. It also adds an air-to-air intercooler, high-flow fuel injectors, a recalibrated ECU and new air filter for $5,495, before installation. However, the setup only works for six-speed manual transmission models from the 2013 and 2014 model years. If you want to take things even further, HPD is also offering an optional limited slip differential for $1,375 and sport clutch for $640, according to Howell.

Development of the supercharger kit has been ongoing for years. We first saw it on the CR-Z Mugen RZ in 2012 in Japan, in which it barely bumped power to 153 hp. Later at SEMA, Honda improved things to a more respectable 185 hp. Then in 2013, we actually got to drive an early version boasting 190 hp and found it a solid improvement over the stock powertrain. It appears Honda had some further tweaks to get things to the current 197 ponies. More good news: assuming you get the package installed at a dealer, the car maintains the balance of its 5 year/ 60,000 mile Honda limited powertrain warranty.

Is this too little too late, though? The CR-Z is already dead in Europe, and it makes you wonder how much longer it can stick around here. In the meantime, the supercharger kit does give the hybrid hatch something that it really needs – power to back up its sporty looks, though no mention is made of how the modification impacts fuel mileage. Scroll down to read HPD's full announcement about the supercharger.
Related Gallery2014 Honda HPD CR-Z
2014 Honda HPD CR-Z2014 Honda HPD CR-Z2014 Honda HPD CR-Z2014 Honda HPD CR-Z2014 Honda HPD CR-Z2014 Honda HPD CR-Z2014 Honda HPD CR-Z

News Source: Honda

Image Credit: Related images copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

Mazdaspeed2 supermini hot hatch under consideration

Posted Aug 21st 2014 2:01PM

2016 Mazda2

Though the Ford Fiesta ST and Fiat 500 Abarth (and arguably the Mini Cooper S) may stand pretty much alone in the North American market, in overseas markets, supermini hot hatches are a big deal. Unfortunately, challengers like the Volkswagen Polo GTI, Seat Ibiza Cupra and Renault Clio RS 200 Turbo never make it to our showrooms, but word has it that there's soon to be a new entry on the market.

That would be the Mazdaspeed2, which would be badged in certain markets as the Mazda2 MPS. Speaking with Australian site CarAdvice.com.au at the launch of the Mazda2 on which it would be based, the Japanese automaker's global sales chief and the hatchback's deputy product manager hinted that such a product is definitely being discussed, even if it hasn't yet been approved.

This wouldn't be the first time such a notion were entertained, as Mazda has shown numerous performance concepts based on the previous Mazda2/Demio over the years, but none have come to fruition.

If green-lit for production, the Mazdaspeed2 would likely pack a small turbocharged engine (potentially one being developed for the new MX-5 Miata) rather than a larger naturally aspirated one. Additional upgrades would also be in store, including larger rolling stock and brakes as well as upgraded aero and suspension components. Of course the question of whether the Mazdaspeed2 would make it to North American showrooms is another matter entirely, but let's see if the Zoom-Zoom brand actually builds it first.
Related Gallery2016 Mazda2
2016 Mazda22016 Mazda22016 Mazda22016 Mazda22016 Mazda22016 Mazda22016 Mazda22016 Mazda2

News Source: CarAdvice.com.au via World Car Fans

FIA says FRIC no to trick suspensions in F1

Posted Aug 21st 2014 1:32PM

Pastor Maldonado's Lotus at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix

There are few fields in the world where you'll find engineers working as feverishly as they do in Formula One. With races sometimes won and lost by fractions of a second, every little bit counts, so each team retains legions of engineers, all dedicated to finding the tiniest performance edge... without running afoul of the ever-constricting regulations.

This season, one of the most controversial advances has been known as FRIC, and while it's been effectively sidelined for the last few races, reports from the motorsport press indicate that is has now officially been banned by the FIA.

So just what is FRIC? It stands for Front and Rear Inter-Connected suspension. Now, if you're thinking that independent suspensions are the most advanced form available, you're right, but F1 teams have been toying for years with ways to interlink the suspensions at each wheel. Why, you ask? For a number of reasons. For one, it allows for redistribution of suspension dive at the front or rear, which means that under hard braking or acceleration – when the car would either pitch back or forward – the car can be kept more stable. That, in turn, means not only are all four tires loaded evenly and optimally, but the team can also run a more aggressive aero package. It also means that the car can be set up with a softer suspension, allowing the driver to attack the curbs more aggressively, without sacrificing underbody aerodynamics.

Several teams had been running FRIC systems that move hydraulic fluid between the front and rear suspensions, but voluntarily agreed to cease using them for the last two races at Hockenheim and Budapest. Now, the FIA, having apparently deemed FRIC an unfair advantage in contravention of the sporting regulations, has reportedly banned the system altogether. So while those cars may not be running on an even keel any more, at least they'll all be on an even playing field.

Xcar takes a closer look at the electrifying Renovo Coupe

Posted Aug 21st 2014 1:01PM

Renovo Shelby electric car

Xcar Films went to Pebble Beach and gave ex-Intel engineer and Renovo Motors CEO Christopher Heiser a platform to talk about his new electric supercar based on the Shelby Daytona Coupe. The relevant nuggets: 500 horsepower and 1,000 pound-feet of torque from direct-drive twin sequential axial flux motors powered by a lithium-ion battery, 0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds, top speed over 120 mph, 2,500 pounds, $529,000 to purchase.

While Heiser spends almost six minutes talking about the car and what it means to him, almost all of it is information we already know. When he gets to the bits that perk our ears, like when the mentions of advanced technology and upgraded parts, he skips the details. After four years of having to drive it at night to keep the secret, we don't even get to see more of what's inside, much less a daytime run with the Xcar chaps.

So we'll look forward to the next installment. In the meantime, this one's another beautiful entry in the Xcar catalog.

News Source: XCAR Films via YouTube

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

This Or That: Fiat 500 Abarth vs. Ford Fiesta ST [w/poll]

Which Hot Hatch Is Best? We Argue It Out...

Posted Aug 21st 2014 12:31PM

Fiat vs Ford

They're pretty darn similar. And yet our views are oh so different.

If you guys could read the transcripts of our editors' chat room, you'd know that we're a pretty argumentative bunch. It's always good-spirited stuff (well, usually), but when we're not obsessively covering this or that, we're usually fighting about one car being better than another. We're all enthusiasts here, and our automotive tastes run the gamut from the weird and unusual to the decidedly mainstream – we all feel strongly about specific cars in a given segment. While it usually makes for good conversation, if we're passionate enough, it can turn into a tomato-throwing showdown.

I'm pretty well-known 'round these parts as the hot hatch guy, and anyone who's listened to the Autoblog Podcast recently has heard me rave about lovely little turbo cars like the Volkswagen GTI or Ford Fiesta ST, specifically. But I'm not the only one with a burning desire for some functional, affordable performance goodness – every one of us can find a hot hatch or two to really get behind.

In that spirit, we're kicking off our new This Or That segment with a discussion about my favorite class of car. For my money and thrills, nothing beats the Ford Fiesta ST. But ask managing editor Jeremy Korzeniewski the same question, and he'll cast a vote for the Fiat 500 Abarth. I think he's dead wrong, of course, but on the contrary, Jeremy scoffs at the level of my love for Ford's pint-sized puncher.

So, who's right? Read through our arguments below, vote in our poll, and sound off with your own opinion in the Comments.

Nissan NV200 Taxi

Gypsy Cabbing In Nissan's Plucky People Mover

Posted Aug 21st 2014 11:57AM



"You're a long way from home!"

When I signed up to drive a pre-production version of the Nissan NV200 Taxi, I expected to have a higher-than-normal level of interaction with the public at large. However, while I was hoping for unsuspecting Ann Arborites to perhaps hail me down, or maybe even get a hop-in when stopped at an intersection, I didn't really think I'd be hassled in parking lots so much. And yet, almost as if all of the Dad-Joke energy in the universe was drawn to my tall, yellow ride, seemingly everywhere I parked I heard some iteration of the phrase above.

Har har, guys.

So, my week as a taxi driver didn't go as I'd planned – not a single fare was earned. But I did get a good sense for why and how Nissan is making another significant push into the workaday world of commercial vehicles.

Driving Notes
  • My NV200 test vehicle wore a 2013 model year designation but was technically specified as a 2014 taxi model with New York City livery.
  • Though Nissan NV200 taxis are popping up, or about to, in markets all over the country, my test car was liveried for New York City where the model is now in service. It was NYC taxis and other fleet cars that honed the NV into the vehicle you see here; cabbies and passengers helped tailor its content to fit real needs.
  • From a passenger perspective, this means the luxury of room, if not luxurious materials. The rear bench seat has acres of legroom to go with just enough width to fit three abreast. There's also room for a fourth passenger in the front, though that sorry sucker will miss out on amenities like a really big rear entertainment screen (sadly non-functional in my demo car) and easily accessible 12-volt and USB charging ports. There are even independent climate controls for passengers that get too hot or cold.
  • As I mentioned, materials and surfaces tend towards durable and not stylish. Nissan tells me that the simulated leather seating surfaces are easy to clean, which I can believe, and also anti-microbial, which seems like a great idea. One extra effort against cold and flu season.
  • The driver's seat, meanwhile, has a breathable cloth surface on the seat bottom and back that is also a little bit grippy, for what it's worth. The seat itself is pretty flat and soft, perhaps designed to wear well, but it won't be the most supportive chair for long stints behind the wheel.
  • The driver also faces one of the most austere dashboards and instrument clusters I've seen in some time – though that's hardly unexpected for a work vehicle. The 5.8-inch infotainment display is unspectacular in view of regular passenger cars, but is kind of a high-end feature in this segment. Everything else, from the hard-surfaced steering wheel to the flinty gray and black plastics and the basic switchgear all seems aimed at long life and cost reduction.
  • Handling is actually very direct and nippy for the tall-but-short (wheelbase) NV200. Quick steering allows for easy maneuverability, both at low speeds and between lanes, and forward and lateral visibility are excellent, allowing for confident swashbuckling with traffic. Comparisons with the outgoing Ford Transit Connect are apt, and accurate.
  • And the powertrain? Well, I'll just say that each one of the 16-valve, 2.0-liter four's 131 horsepower are called into regular service. That power output, with 139 pound-feet of torque, is enough to move this little van around in city traffic without major penalty, but your 85-year-old, Lincoln Towncar-driving grandpa wouldn't be fooled into calling it "quick." Mat the throttle, listen to the continuously variable transmission let the engine drone, and check you watch – you're not going anywhere terribly soon. Hey, it's a taxi, not a racecar.
  • Fuel economy is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city (25 on the highway), which is about double what the ubiquitous Ford Crown Victoria cab is regularly reported as getting in service. Though it's fair to mention those figures are less impressive than those observed by the Ford Escape Hybrid cabs that have seen an explosion of popularity in NYC.
  • I'm hardly an expert, but this NV taxi feels as though it's smartly constructed for drivers and fleet companies, while still offering easy, comfortable transport for riders like you and me. And if you happened to see a version in Michigan, wearing NYC stickers and being driven by a large Dutchman, flag it down – you'll probably get a free ride and a high-five.

Vital Stats

Engine:
2.0L I4
Power:
131 HP / 139 LB-FT
Transmission:
CVT
Base Price:
$29,700

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

Lincoln Navigator facelift only has to last until 2016 replacement

Posted Aug 21st 2014 11:30AM

2015 Lincoln Navigator

The Navigator is not only Lincoln's longest-serving nameplate – dating back to 1998 when the final Town Car was introduced – but it's also the oldest model still in the brand's portfolio. The current Navigator arrived on the market in 2007, and underwent a refresh just a few months ago for the 2015 model year. The updates were subtle, but if you're waiting for an all-new model, it's just a couple of years down the road.

According to Automotive News, Lincoln is already working on an all-new replacement for the current, long-serving Navigator, which will be revealed two years from now in the middle of 2016 as a 2017 model. At that point, we're expecting it could switch (alongside the Expedition) to the new aluminum architecture introduced on the Ford F-150, seeing as how the current model is based on the old F-150.

In the meantime, the refreshed Navigator ditches the big 5.4-liter Triton V8 in favor of a more economical 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and wages war in two wheelbase lengths against the V8-powered competition in the form of the Cadillac Escalade (and Escalade ESV), the Land Cruiser-based Lexus LX and the Infiniti QX80, which is based on the overseas Nissan Patrol.
Related Gallery2015 Lincoln Navigator
2015 Lincoln Navigator2015 Lincoln Navigator2015 Lincoln Navigator2015 Lincoln Navigator2015 Lincoln Navigator2015 Lincoln Navigator2015 Lincoln Navigator2015 Lincoln Navigator

Lotus said to be planning new sedan, crossover [w/poll]

Posted Aug 21st 2014 11:00AM

Lotus Eterne Concept

Lotus has been in limbo in recent years. After former CEO Dany Bahar revealed his plans to build six new models, its parent company was sold, Bahar was sacked, his plans were canceled and a new CEO was hired in the form of former Peugeot chief Jean-Marc Gales. The industry has been waiting ever since to find out what Gales would do with the storied marque, and now we seem to have some indication.

Reports coming in from Malaysia indicate that Jean-Marc presented to the board of parent company Proton a plan for Lotus to build a new sedan and crossover. Though details are scarce, and may seem downright blasphemous for an automaker that built is reputation on lightweight sports cars, it would not be the first time that the House that Colin Built has toyed with either idea.

The company presented the APX crossover concept at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show, and the Eterne sedan concept as part of Bahar's far-reaching plans at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. The new plans may use these concepts as starting points or could go another direction entirely.

Of course Lotus would not be the first sports car manufacturer to branch out into sedans and CUVs. Porsche has done both with great success. Lamborghini has presented concepts for both as well. And Maserati is well on its way to expanding its lineup with two new sedans already on the market and a crossover soon to follow. Aston Martin already offers a four-door and has toyed with the idea of a crossover as well, and even Bugatti has showcased sedan concepts, which would seem to leave dedicated supercar manufacturers like Ferrari and McLaren (not to mention the likes of Pagani and Koenigsegg) as the only holdouts that won't entertain the notion.

Should Lotus build a crossover and/or sedan?

Related GalleryLotus Eterne Concept
Lotus Eterne ConceptLotus Eterne ConceptLotus Eterne ConceptLotus Eterne ConceptLotus Eterne ConceptLotus Eterne ConceptLotus Eterne ConceptLotus Eterne Concept

News Source: Utusan via Motor Authority

Image Credit: Lotus

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