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2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

No Hellcat? No Problem

Posted Oct 24th 2014 11:57AM

Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

We all knew That Kid. As a freshman, he was a big kid, overweight but surprisingly strong. Still, he was often picked on for his size. Then, he chatted with the football coach, who convinced him that his true calling was on the team's offensive line. After a season on the freshman squad and a summer of two-a-days, this mild-mannered, husky high schooler returned for his sophomore year as a big, imposing, solid piece of muscle. Needless to say, the same bullies that picked on him were praying he'd forgotten about them as a 10th grader.

That's the V8-powered 2015 Dodge Challenger. It arrived on the scene with a max of 425 horsepower and a bit of a weight problem. It completed its proverbial freshman year with a nice 2011 refresh, where the SRT8 was bumped up to 470 hp, but it still had some work to do.

Enter 2015, and fresh off three months of constant burpees and wind sprints, the newest Challenger is as big and powerful as it's ever been, but it's now got poise and potential, and my goodness, it's fun in a way that Dodge's muscle car has never been.

Driving Notes
  • What you see here is not actually a Challenger SRT – it's the R/T Scat Pack. While the SRT does add wider rubber, six-piston Brembo brakes, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and standard leather, the meat and potatoes of the Scat Pack is the same. Under that long hood sits the same SRT-spec 6.4-liter V8, thundering out an extra 15 hp over last year's car. With peak horsepower arriving at 6,000 rpm, all 475 pound-feet of torque showing up at 4,200 rpm and a 6,400-rpm redline, the 6.4 remains an engine that's happiest being run hard.
  • That's not to say there's a lack of oomph anywhere in its rev range, though. The Challenger Scat Pack would happily annihilate the pair of Goodyear Eagle F1s that call the rear wheels their home, were it not for the electrical super-ego that is the three-mode traction control system. There's a ton of torque, but it's so surprisingly simple to manage, thanks to the predictable throttle response. Sport Mode sharpens that a bit, although the throttle is still easy to modulate, particularly on tip-in.
  • The engine's goodness isn't surprising – the 6.4-liter Hemi has always been a charmer. What's made it better for 2015 is the inclusion of a modern automatic transmission. In place of the antiquated five-speed automatic of the 2014 Challenger SRT and R/T is ZF's exceptional eight-speed unit.
  • As it was in the Jaguar F-Type V6 S I reviewed a few months back, the ZF autobox is a beauty. In automatic mode, it's level-headed and unobtrusive. Switch to manual (and set the transmission to Sport) and the Challenger's aluminum, wheel-mounted paddles become an intuitive and hilariously entertaining way of channeling the engine's power. Upshifts are very quick – 250 milliseconds in Sport versus 400 milliseconds normally – and are accompanied with a sharp bark from the engine on upshifts.
  • For 2015, Dodge has finally paid some attention to the Challenger's suspension, fitting the R/T Scat Pack (and all Super Track Pak-equipped models) with Bilstein shocks, a ride height that's been dropped by half an inch and brawnier sway bars. Also new is a three-mode electric power-assisted steering system, as well as four-piston Brembo brakes.
  • The result of these upgrades is the best-driving generation of Challenger there's ever been. The handling is sharper and more responsive, with less roll through the corners and less squat and dive under hard pedal inputs. Moreover, Dodge has managed to eke out additional feedback through the chassis, making it easier to judge grip levels from the sticky Goodyears. The ultimate handling threshold feels higher, too, like you can really go further before it gives up.
  • The new electric power steering is an improvement over the utterly lifeless rack of the old Challenger, largely because of the way it builds weight. From a small on-center dead spot, heft builds nicely and progressively. Feedback is still limited, but when you turn the wheel, it actually feels like you're helming a 4,000-pound vehicle (that's a good thing). Sport adds even more weight, but it still feels sharp and manageable.
  • Normally, I'd touch on the aesthetics and massively overhauled interior of the 2015 Challenger. But, before testing the Scat Pack, I spent a week with the Challenger SXT. Look for a full and thorough recap on the tech, interior and exterior changes when I review that car in the coming weeks.
  • Pricing for the R/T Scat Pack start at $37,495, which isn't terrible, considering that everything I mentioned above – aside from the eight-speed auto – is a standard item. My tester added the $995 Technology Group (adaptive cruise, forward collision warning), $1,500 Leather Interior Group (heated and vented leather/suede seats, powered tilt/telescopic steering), $495 Driver Convenience Group (blind-spot monitoring, remote start), $1,995 Scat Pack Appearance Pack (HID headlamps, 20-inch black alloy wheels and assorted matching trim bits) and the $695 8.4-inch, nav-equipped touchscreen. Combined with the $1,400 ZF transmission and $995 destination charge, the total price rang up at $45,570.
Before 2015, the Dodge Challenger was the most loyal to the original idea of a muscle car, being both big and very quick in a straight line. While that was fine, it meant Dodge's entry to the reborn segment simply couldn't stand up to more focused competition. This refresh, though, is so comprehensive and so much more finely tuned that you forget about the car's past.

The Challenger still has a bit of a weight problem, and if ultimate performance is your number one priority, both the new Ford Mustang GT and Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE will provide a far better muscle car driving experience. But finally, Dodge has built a Challenger that you'll not only want to drive, but that wants to be driven. That's the kind of yearly change we can get used to.

Vital Stats

6.4L V8
485 HP / 475 LB-FT
8-Speed Automatic
Base Price:
As-Tested Price:

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Brandon Turkus / AOL

Aging Prius, dropping gas prices putting hurt on hybrid, EV sales

Posted Oct 24th 2014 11:32AM

Toyota Prius

"As Prius represents by far the biggest chunk of the hybrid marketplace, where Prius goes, the segment goes," – Ed Kim, Autopacific

Fuel prices in the US have been tumbling for the last several weeks, with the average price of a gallon of gas at $3.120 as of October 20, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That price reflects a serious recent drop from $3.299 on October 6. Reports have even suggested that those low numbers might not change for a little while, perhaps as long as years. While drivers certainly love paying less at the pump, the change may be hurting the market for more fuel-efficient models, including the Toyota Prius.

According to a report from National Public Radio, sales of hybrids, plug-ins and EVs are down around 5 percent for the year, but trucks and SUVs have seen a 17 and 20 percent improvement, respectively. Autoblog Green's By the Numbers reports indicate similar figures of around a 5.4 percent drop so far in 2014. In fact, as of September, green-car sales have endured their fourth straight month of declines. That segment of the market fell 11 percent year-over-year in August and 9.6 percent in September.

"As Prius represents by far the biggest chunk of the hybrid marketplace, where Prius goes, the segment goes," Ed Kim, Vice President of Industry Analysis at AutoPacific tells Autoblog. That paints a bleak picture for hybrids, because at the moment, the Prius is doing pretty poorly. For the year through September, its sales are down 11.39 percent, off by 10.15 percent for just that month.

Of course, the Prius also has things twice has hard. Not only does it have to deal with the falling fuel prices like the rest of its segment-mates, it's about to be replaced. Rumors suggest that some versions of the next generation could get as much as 60 miles per gallon. "I do think that the next Prius will reignite interest in the segment, especially if it offers the 10-percent fuel economy improvement that Toyota has been claiming," said Kim.

That improvement still might make things tough, though. According to Autotrader senior analyst Michelle Krebs speaking to Autoblog via email, "The next-generation Prius – and other hybrids and electrics – have a big challenge against traditional gas vehicles, which keep improving with every version in terms of fuel economy."

Meanwhile, the overall US auto market is booming. As of August, the Seasonally Adjusted Sales Rate showed the best figures since 2006, at about 17.5 million units. "Right now, gas prices are dropping, sales of fuel-sippers are also falling (or at least not growing) and sales of pickup trucks and SUVs, including big ones, are way up," said Krebs. Scroll down to listen to the full report from NPR.
Related Gallery2011 Toyota Prius
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Ex-PR chief Vines accuses Ford of bugging cars, phones

Posted Oct 24th 2014 11:01AM

Ford Motor Co. Defends Explorer''s Safety

Jason Vines, former head of communications at Ford among other automakers, is accusing the Blue Oval of bugging his company phone and his car during the Firestone tire recall for the Explorer in 2001. The allegations have come to light in Vines' upcoming book What Did Jesus Drive? Crisis PR in Cars, Computers and Christianity.

According to The Detroit News, which has an advance copy of the book, Vines (pictured above) claims that after leaving the company, someone with security within Ford advised him that he had been bugged around the time of the recall. The allegations don't stop there, though. Vines further contends that he might not have been the only one to get this treatment, noting that then-general counsel John Rintamaki also believed he was being listened to.

According to The Detroit News, even if it had been a company phone, recording Vines without his knowledge still would have been a felony under Michigan law.

Autoblog reached out to Ford for comment on the allegations, and spokesperson Susan Krusel responded, saying "We are not aware of anything of this nature happening" – the same exact statement given to The Detroit News.

To add a further to the story, Vines also accuses Bill Ford Jr. of leaking some advance information to The New York Times during the recall. The company reportedly investigated the journalist working on the piece and traced the info back to the Ford heir.

Krusel also sent the following statement to Autoblog:

"The accounts detailed in the book about the Firestone tire crises happened more than a decade ago under a very different leadership team at Ford. As with any retelling of history, memories and accuracy differ from person to person, and this account is no different. During the events, our sole focus was on doing what was right for the safety of our customers. We are grateful for Jason's tireless leadership during the time he served at Ford. We will let the book speak for itself, as we remain focused on creating the next chapter in Ford's history."

Following his time at Ford, Vines became Vice President of Communications at Chrysler Group from 2003 to late 2007. He later took a position leading communications for the Christian publishing division of HarperCollins.

News Source: The Detroit News

Image Credit: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

Porsche rules out Macan, 911 hybrids

Posted Oct 24th 2014 10:16AM

Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid

Believe it or not, between the 918 Spyder, the Cayenne and the Panamera, Porsche offers more plug-in hybrid models than any other brand. Yes, Porsche. But don't expect that trend to continue. At least, not in the immediate future.

According to Top Gear, the E-Hybrid powertrain in the Cayenne and Panamera is too big to fit into the smaller Macan. A future hybrid system could be small enough to fit, but with the current technology still fresh, that'd still be some ways down the twisting road.

It stands to reason, then, that if the system wouldn't fit in the Macan, it wouldn't fit in the Boxster or Cayman, either. But what of the 911? Surely Porsche would like to stick it to BMW and its new i8, and proved it could do a hybrid 911 when it rolled the GT3 R Hybrid (pictured) out onto the race track over four years ago. But Zuffenhausen is reportedly in no rush to put that idea into production – not for the current 911 and not for the next one, either.

Porsche has indeed proven its performance hybrid chops with the 918 Spyder and the 919 Hybrid LMP1 racer. But for now, it looks like the current trio of Porsche PHEVs will have to carry on by themselves.

News Source: Top Gear

Mazda2 production fires up in Mexico

Posted Oct 24th 2014 9:30AM


Mazda has officially kicked off production of the next-generation Mazda2 at the company's new factory in Salamanca, Mexico. Alongside the auto assembly plant, operations have also commenced at the facility's engine machining factory.

"With the start of production of the all-new Mazda2, operations underway at the engine machining plant, and an increase in our annual production capacity, we now have an even stronger production framework capable of supplying global markets with Skyactiv products of the same high quality level as those made in Japan," Mazda de Mexico Vehicle Operation's President Keishi Egawa said in a statement. "At the same time, we are pleased to be able to make a contribution to Mexico's further economic growth."

MMVO joins Mazda's Hofu Plant in Japan and the Auto Alliance factory in Thailand, which commenced Mazda2 production in July and September, respectively.

Scroll down for the full press release from Mazda.
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News Source: Mazda

2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek gets more infotainment, safety tech

Posted Oct 24th 2014 8:45AM

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

A couple of months ago, Subaru rolled out a series of minor enhancements for the Impreza, and now it's performed a similar upgrade to its more rugged counterpart, the XV Crosstrek. For 2015, the XV benefits from available EyeSight driver assistance suite, steering-responsive fog lights and a new 6.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with a seven-inch version on higher-spec models).

Otherwise the 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek and XV Crosstrek Hybrid are essentially the same as the 2014 models they replace. The requisite 2.0-liter boxer four drives to all four wheels as always, with or without hybrid assist, through either a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. Look for the updated model to reach dealers this December, and in the meantime, feel free to peruse the press release below.

News Source: Subaru

Caterham F1 management threatens to walk over ownership dispute

Posted Oct 24th 2014 7:58AM

Caterham at Monza

You might have thought that the Caterham F1 team, currently sitting dead last in the standings without a single championship point to its name, had already hit rock bottom and couldn't sink any lower. But apparently it has. As we reported just recently, Caterham Sports Limited – the factory that produces the F1 cars that the team fields in the FIA Formula One World Championship – was facing bankruptcy. And now, it seems, the team itself could fall apart as well.

The issue appears to revolve around an ownership dispute. Several months ago, Caterham boss Tony Fernandes sold the team to an independent consortium. But according to the new owners, Fernandes has failed to actually transfer ownership. As a result, the management team is threatening to walk if they don't actually get control of the team they claim to have bought. The team recently changed its senior leadership just months after taking it over from Fernandes, and has been switching drivers back and forth between veteran Kamui Kobayashi and three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer.

For its part, the Caterham Group headed by Tony Fernandes asserts that the ownership transfer of the F1 team was contingent on the new owners paying its staff and creditors, something which the automaker asserts the team has failed to do. Reached for comment, Fernandes said: "If you agree to buy a business, you must pay its bills. They have breached that promise and now, sadly, it is others such as the employees and the fans of the Caterham F1 team that will suffer if the team ceases to race."

"We genuinely believed, at the time, that the sale of the team was the best route for the staff and creditors of the Company, as we felt it secured its long term future," added Caterham Group CEO Graham Macdonald. "However, it appears to me that they never had any intention of paying these liabilities."

The ownership dispute only serves to further endanger the team's future viability. But with other parties vying for a spot on the grid, we're sure the team could sell its license easily enough. The only question is over who would get the proceeds. Scroll on down to read the statements from both parties.

News Source: Caterham F1 Team, Caterham Group

Comedians in Cars returning Nov 6, Seinfeld celebrates with Michael Richards

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 8:00PM

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

The fifth season of Jerry Seinfeld's successful comedy series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, will kick off on November 6. To promote that excellent piece of news, Seinfeld teamed up with his old partner in crime, Michael Richards of Cosmo Kramer fame.

Unfortunately, Richards doesn't reprise his beloved role as Seinfeld's wacky neighbor, instead playing an over-the-top CEO for streaming service Crackle, which hosts the web series. It's a bit of an odd spot, to be entirely honest, but it certainly does the job of getting us excited for the upcoming season of CICGC.

As we said, the fifth season kicks off on November 6 and will include appearances by Saturday Night Live alums Fred Armisen and Jimmy Fallon, as well as Kevin Hart and Amy Schumer, among others.

News Source: Crackle via YouTube

What you missed on 10.23.14

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 7:32PM


Toyota TundraQuick Spin: 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Toyota might not be able to keep up with American pickup manufacturers in terms of sales, but that doesn't mean its fullsize Tundra isn't a wholly baked, tough truck. In an effort to attract new buyers, Toyota has released this off-road-ready TRD Pro variant for 2015. Senior Editor Steven Ewing takes one for a quick spin to see what's what.

Hyundai SonataIs Hyundai's new Sonata in a sales slump?

The 2011 Sonata was a massive step forward for Hyundai, and the car was really quite successful. But some insiders suggest that, since the redesigned Sonata launched this year, Hyundai's midsize sedan might be losing some steam. Of course, officials at Hyundai are quick to point out that this isn't necessarily the case. Read both sides of the story, here.

Chevy CamaroChevy spied testing... '80s Camaros?

We know Chevy is hard at work on its next-generation Camaro, but today, our spies captured something rather interesting out on the road. It appears that in addition to new Camaro models, Chevy is testing some modified versions of its third-gen Camaro – you know, from the 1980s. We're not sure what to make of these shots, but they're interesting, nonetheless. Check 'em out, here.

Top Stories

Honda execs take 'quality-related' pay cut after Fit Hybrid's 5th recall

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 7:00PM

2015 Honda Fit Hybrid

Generally, the best policy in life is to admit when you're wrong and just accept the consequences. However, that attitude generally seems to be a bit less common in the world of business – at least without some government or legal prodding. So, it's especially surprising to learn that top Honda executives in Japan are taking a pay cut for the next three months following the fifth recall of the Fit Hybrid (pictured above) in the last 12 months.

According to Reuters, Chief Executive Takanobu Ito is taking a 20-percent pay cut to make amends for the quality issues. Also, 12 other high-ranking executives are taking 10 percent drops in their salaries. In addition to those temporary changes, Honda is creating a new position in charge of monitoring vehicle quality.

The latest recall fixes "noise-related defects," according to Reuters, on both the hybrid and naturally aspirated versions of the Fit, both variants of the Vezel (the sibling to the future HR-V in the US) and the N-WGN. There have also been three recalls for problems with the hybrid's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. None of them have caused reported injuries or deaths, and these issues haven't affected US models.

Still, the quality concerns come at a rough time for Honda globally. While it tackles these problems in Japan, over five million vehicles in the US could potentially still need repairs due to faulty airbag inflators from Takata.
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News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Honda

Trion Nemesis to unleash 2,000 American horsepower in 2016

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 6:29PM

Trion Nemesis

If it seems to you that everyone and their cousin wants to get into the hypercar game, you're right. We see new supercar startups popping up all the time. Some make it to production and some don't, and while it may be too soon to render verdict on this latest project, we hope it's one that comes to fruition.

The company is called Trion Supercars, and its bid for high-speed glory is called the Nemesis. We first reported on the project back in the spring, but a few more details – and a handful of additional images – have surfaced, whetting our appetites and giving us a clearer idea of what to expect.

Targeted squarely at the likes of the Bugatti Veyron and Koenigsegg Agera, the brief for the Trion Nemesis calls for a 9.0-liter, twin-turbo V8 driving around 2,000 horsepower through an eight-speed sequential transmission to all four wheels. If Trion does its considerable homework, that should be enough to propel it to its anticipated top speed of 270 miles per hour, reaching 62 in 2.8 seconds.

Trion Supercars aims to have the first prototypes – being built by California-based coachbuilder N2A Motors – ready by February, after which it plans to build 50 units at over $1 million apiece starting in at the beginning of 2016. We wouldn't be surprised to see that cost inflate by the time it reaches the road, though, joining similar world-beating hypercar projects like the Hennessey Venom F5 and SSC Tuatara in the high-speed pipeline.
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In the future, you might be able to stop car thieves with a text message [w/video]

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 5:45PM

Texting Standoff Negotiations

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Faced with a family member's carjacking, entrepreneur Kelvin Macharia Kuria wanted to do something to stem the massive problem with vehicle thefts in Nairobi, Kenya. Still in his early 20s, he founded a company called Sunrise Tracking in 2012 to do just that, and Macharia has come up with a novel way to potentially get people's cars back, according to CNN.

Sunrise's main business is signing clients and installing GPS devices to track their vehicles. The users also have access to their own cars' location data. Other companies already offer this service, of course – what makes Sunrise so interesting is that it then goes even further in an effort to get its customer's property back.

First, the company uses closed-circuit television systems that can snap photos of thieves. However, if a vehicle is stolen, then the owner has an easy solution. Sending a special text message immobilizes the car until it can be retrieved. To be drivable again, it just takes dispatching a second message.

As CNN points out, even this immobilization-by-text technology isn't entirely unheard of. But it's still an intriguing example of someone like Macharia seeing a local problem and finding a way to craft a business around solving it. Scroll down for a video from CNN that delves deeper in the story behind Sunrise Tracking.

News Source: CNN

Image Credit: Mark Bugnaski / AP Photo

Five awesome Lego car creations

So Much More Than Toys, These Cars Are Grown-Up Fun For Enthusiasts

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 4:59PM

Lego Chevy Corvette

Lego cars are among our favorite toys. They're fun for play, and if built properly, great to display. With that in mind, we've crafted a list of some of the best creations we've seen. Some are on sale now, while others are merely the work of fanciful enthusiasts. There are even a couple that you definitely cannot buy (we'll explain).

Our choices are diverse, including everything from a diminutive 1969 Chevy Corvette to a fullsize Ferrari Formula One racecar. These are just five projects that caught our eye – there are many more out there – so if you don't see your favorite Lego car on the list (or if you have your own creation), please tell us about it, in Comments.

Image Credit: Lego Ideas, Lego, Super Awesome Micro Project, Ferrari

Motorists losing right to see automated license-plate reader data [w/videos]

Three Recent Court Cases Pit Law Enforcement Against Privacy Advocates

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 4:29PM

License Plate Reading Devices Fuel Privacy Debate

Law enforcement agencies know a lot about the whereabouts and daily habits of millions of American motorists through the use of automated license-plate readers.

Motorists, on the other hand, don't know much about the records police officers have collected through the use of these machines. These records are getting harder to obtain.

"What it says is that we're all suspects in waiting," – Steve Orr

Even though the vast majority of these records involve ordinary drivers not accused of any crimes, law-enforcement officials are increasingly withholding license-plate reader data from public purview. Three court cases filed within the past month could go a long way in determining whether the public has a right to see this data.

Advocacy groups, reporters and private citizens behind these lawsuits all believe the records will shed light on how police officers collect and utilize records that can paint detailed portraits of a motorist's private life. But at a time when more Americans are growing concerned over widespread surveillance techniques and mass collection of personal data, authorities are justifying their decisions to keep this information secret by claiming the records are all part of ongoing investigations.

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