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Porsche's former CEO Wiedeking to stand trial over VW-share manipulation

Posted Aug 27th 2014 2:30PM

DEU Porsche Wiedeking Haerter Entlastung

Former Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking (left in the above photo) could potentially be facing some time in the slammer after all. The last we had heard, he and former Chief Financial Officer Holger Haerter (right) had avoided a trial in April due to a lack of evidence. However, an appeals court in Stuttgart has looked at the case again and overruled the earlier decision, finding that the executives should be tried for share manipulation during Porsche's failed attempt to take over Volkswagen in 2008, Bloomberg reports.

The judges in the appeal "list numerous indications that could suggest that there was a hidden decision to increase the stake as they could suggest the opposite evaluation by the lower court," said Stefan Schueler, a spokesperson for the court, in a statement cited by Bloomberg. Wiedeking and Haerter put out their own releases saying that there was no merit to the charges.

The prosecutors allege that Wiedeking and Haerter had a plan to buy up VW stock options in 2008 to take the automotive giant over but hid it from investors. The whole thing was a massive failure and eventually allowed VW the chance to acquire Porsche and forced the two execs to step down. In addition to the criminal investigation, hedge funds have attempted to sue the company multiple times in civil court for the same reason, but they have repeatedly failed.

News Source: Bloomberg

Image Credit: Thomas Kienzle / AP Photo

States have failed to spend nearly $540M in federal highway safety grants

Posted Aug 27th 2014 2:01PM

Traffic Fatalities

A new report from the Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General has revealed yet another fiasco in highway funding. No, it's not a misuse of federal funds. Instead, it's a complete and total lack of use for government monies.

In this case, the DOT's inspector general has discovered that over half a billion dollars in highway safety grants have gone unused by the 50 states. These funds were reportedly earmarked for highway safety programs, such as public service announcements and extra highway patrols during busier seasons, according to The Detroit News, rather than actual road and bridge construction.

Still, the lack of use in funds, which were awarded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration between 2006 and 2013, is troubling. After all, as The News points out, highway deaths went up 3.3 percent in 2012, while 5.6 million crashes occurred on American roads.

News Source: The Detroit News

Image Credit: Toby Talbot / AP

Bizarre Levante mule proves SUV will ride on Maserati platform

Posted Aug 27th 2014 1:29PM

Maserati Levante

When Chrysler was developing the current Jeep Cherokee, matte black, lifted Alfa Romeo Giuliettas weren't an unusual site around the company's Auburn Hills, MI headquarters. That's because the Jeep rides on a modified version of the Alfa's platform.

Judging by these images, Maserati is following a similar path for the upcoming Levante. The presence of the modified and lifted Ghibli basically confirms that the company will look in-house for the new CUV's platform rather than outsource it to Jeep (otherwise, we'd be seeing modified Grand Cherokees running about).

The mule's Ghibli body has been fitted with a number of tweaks. Most notable are the higher roof and stretched wheel arches, which we're guessing are an attempt at increasing the sedan's center of gravity and width, respectively, in a bid to match the eventual production model.

Take a look at our gallery of images and let us know what you think in Comments.

Image Credit: KGP Photography

Watch a McLaren P1 get tormented by a BAC Mono at Silverstone

Posted Aug 27th 2014 12:45PM

McLaren P1 vs. BAC Mono

Could there be anything more infuriating than making a million-plus-dollar investment in a vehicle like the McLaren P1, only to take it to a track and find you're unable to outrun a car that costs, without options, about 96,000 pounds ($159,000 at today's rates)?

One P1 driver experienced that sort of frustration while running Silverstone, when he tangled with a very persistent BAC Mono driver. Now, the P1 absolutely decimates the single-seat, closed-wheel track toy on the straights, while losing a lot of ground in the bends. Even on a high-speed track like Silverstone, the McLaren doesn't boast enough of an advantage to keep the Mono at bay.

As the intelligent YouTube commenters (yes, we're surprised by this too) point out, though, there could be a number of reasons why the Mono is so able to hassle and pass the P1. First, it's quite clear that the BAC driver knows the circuit far better than the McLaren pilot, as evidenced by his lines, particularly through Stowe and the Club/Vale complex (this could be chalked up, as one commenter says, to the lead car driving with his mirrors). The BAC is probably running a more aggressive tire than the P1, which in turn appears to be handicapping itself by not running its most aggressive aero setup. Finally, remember that the McLaren is a fully street-legal vehicle, full of safety gear and crash-worthiness as required by law.

Still, the fact that this relatively affordable track toy is able to hound and pass one of the world's premier performance machines is a particularly impressive feat. Take a look at the video to see what we mean.

News Source: Oliver Webb via YouTube

2014 Kia Forte Koup SX

The Softer Side Of Sport

Posted Aug 27th 2014 11:58AM

2014 Kia Forte Koup SX

The Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra have long followed similar paths, with each available in a four-door sedan, a five-door hatch and (most recently) a two-door coupe bodystyle. The recent death of the Hyundai Elantra Coupe in the US may be threatening to change the narrative on these two affordable compact lines, of course, but the Korean two-doors have a lot in common under their distinct skins. Their most recent iterations came to market under the power of the same 2.0-liter, 173-horsepower four-cylinder paired with six-speed automatic transmissions and riding atop MacPherson strut front suspensions and torsion-beam setups out back. Each arrived weighing between 2,800 and 3,000 pounds and could be had in base form for less than $20,000. Considering this, the empirical performance stats figured to be similar.

There's an important distinction to be made, however. Rather than offer a simple two-door version of a four-door car, like Hyundai did with its Elantra Coupe, Kia has gone to lengths to craft a vehicle with its own unique attitude and attributes. Kia has embraced a sportier stance with its two-door Forte Koup, offering up a standard six-speed manual and going further in an effort to craft a more unique, aggressive coupe design.

That drive to be different was further accentuated last year, when Kia raided Hyundai's parts bin and plucked out the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the Veloster Turbo. The resulting car is decidedly different than any other Forte we've tested, while also feeling like a better all-around product than the smaller hot hatch it stole its engine from. To see just how much better, we drove the Forte Koup SX for a week and set about seeing how this enhanced model stacks up as a performance offering.

Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 1.6L I4
Power:
201 HP / 195 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
Base Price:
$20,600
As-Tested Price:
$25,285

News Source: Copyright 2014 Brandon Turkus / AOL

2015 Volvo XC90

Everything You Need To Know About The XC90 And The Future Of Volvo

Posted Aug 27th 2014 11:27AM

Volvo XC90

The new XC90 isn't just about the new XC90 – it's as much about the new generation of Volvos that will result.

Around the turn of the millennium, Volvo seemed like the perfect automaker to make a crossover. It had, after all, already established for itself a reputation for building all-wheel-drive wagons for transporting families in safety and comfort. But while its competitors marched one by one into the luxury utility market, Volvo held out. That was, anyway, until the debut of the original XC90 in 2002. And it's never looked back since.

Over the past baker's dozen years of production, Volvo has produced over 600,000 examples of the XC90 – not to mention another half-million or so of the smaller XC60 that followed. In other words, the decision to build the XC90 in the first place may very well have been among the smartest that Volvo has ever made. But after an unusually long lifecycle, Volvo has finally retired the first-gen XC90, and it's replacing it with the model you see here. And with it, it's ushering in a bold new era for the Swedish automaker.

After a series of three particularly handsome concept cars and even more teasers and advanced details, we're finally looking at the new 2015 Volvo XC90 here at its birthplace in Sweden. The big-production live reveal with media in attendance from around the world is testimony in and of itself to the importance of the new XC90's arrival to a marque that's always had a loyal following and is, after a period of stagnation, only growing. Because the new XC90, you see, isn't just about the new XC90: it's as much about the new generation of Volvos that will result.

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Noah Joseph / AOL

Man who drove Bugatti Veyron into lake pleads guilty, faces 20 years in prison [w/video]

Posted Aug 27th 2014 11:00AM

Bugatti Crash

Remember the guy who caught on video driving a Bugatti Veyron into the Gulf Bay in Texas? Well, he's now facing a few decades behind bars. You might wonder why some seriously bad driving in a million-dollar supercar could lead to such a long stint in the slammer. Well, Andy Lee House of Lufkin, TX, pled guilty to wire mail fraud in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas. As it turns out, crashing the car was all about getting an insurance payout.

According to The Lufkin Daily News reporting on the case, House wrecked the Veyron in November 2009 after purchasing it for $1 million and insuring it for $2.2 million. His plan was allegedly to ruin the Bugatti, pay back his loan and pocket the rest. After crashing it, House left the car running in the salt water to make sure the supercar's engine sucked in enough H2O to thoroughly destroy it. Of course, the incident was captured on video by passing motorists, and that messed up his scheme. House hasn't been sentenced yet, but he could face up to 20 years in federal prison.

According to our earlier story on the case, House at one point tried to use the creative alibi that the reason he left the Veyron running for so long was that he was being bitten by mosquitos and didn't want to go back to the car to shut it off. Before the crash, he also reportedly tried to pay someone to steal the car and torch it. This Bugatti didn't stand a chance. Scroll down to watch the video that started it all. Warning: it does contain some explicit language.

News Source: Lufkin Daily News, Jomgarza via YouTube

Consumer Reports says Ram 1500 tops fuel economy fight [w/video]

Posted Aug 27th 2014 10:15AM

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Consumer Reports takes its independent vehicle testing procedures seriously. In an era when we have to question the EPA's official ratings thanks to recent re-evaluations from Ford and Hyundai, an independent voice is important. So, when CR says something is the best, it's worth paying attention to.

The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel has "about the same fuel-economy numbers that we typically see in a midsized SUV." – Jake Fisher

In this case, CR took a look at the fuel economy of the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and found that it came out on top of the fullsize pickup truck pack. The Ram did so with 20 miles per gallon overall and 27 mpg on the highway. CR gave the truck a total road test score of 82. The EPA says that the EcoDiesel 1500 gets 28 mpg on the highway, 20 mpg city and 23 mpg combined. Comparing official EPA numbers, the Ram is also the best among trucks in its class. It's nice when people agree on something.

As we know from first-hand, long-distance experience, you can push the 1500 EcoDiesel to 38 mpg. CR found in its own testing that the truck had, "about the same fuel-economy numbers that we typically see in a midsized SUV," said Jake Fisher, CR's director of automotive testing, in a statement.

Speaking of midsized SUVs, CR also announced this week that the new Toyota Highlander Hybrid got the top spot in CR's ratings in that category. CR liked pretty much everything about the SUV, saying that the "transitions between electric power and the gas engine are seamless" and that, "the new Highlander also handles better, with a steadier ride and reduced body lean in corners." You can find more at the CR website, in the October print issue of Consumer Reports or in the video and press release below.
Related Gallery2014 Ram 1500 Diesel
2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Jonathon Ramsey / AOL

12-year-old golfer wins Volvo for hole-in-one [w/video]

Posted Aug 27th 2014 9:29AM

12-year-old wins a Volvo with a hole-in-one

Some people just have all of the luck. Natasha Oon, a 12-year-old girl in Malaysia, was recently attending the 40th RSGC Ladies Amateur Open Championship at the Royal Selangor Golf Club with her parents. On a whim, she teed up a shot with her eight iron and scored a hole-in-one. That would have been impressive for a girl her age by any standards, but she didn't see the sign that said making the shot also won her a new Volvo XC60 T5. Not a bad prize for a tween who won't be allowed to drive for at least a few years.

So what does any good 12-year-old do with a CUV? Give it to her parents of course. According to website Paultan, she plans on giving the crossover to her mom and told her, "this is the car that you will use to drive me to school every day." Scroll down to watch video of Oon receiving the oversized key to the Volvo with her family and a brief interview with her about what she was thinking when she found out she won a car for sinking a fantastic shot.

News Source: Paultan, LiveLifeDrive.com via YouTube

Image Credit: Facebook

MA drivers named nation's most accident prone

Posted Aug 27th 2014 8:44AM

Blinkah Warning

If you're hoping to avoid a car accident, even a minor fender bender, it might be best to avoid Massachusetts at all costs. In the tenth annual Allstate America's Best Drivers Report, cities in the Bay State took three of the four worst spots in the study. In two areas, drivers are more than twice as likely to be in a collision than the national average.

You might expect a big city like Boston to be the worst of the bunch, but Worchester actually takes the ignominious honor this year as the most likely place in the nation to have a car accident, according to the Allstate data. The average driver there goes just 4.3 years between collisions, compared to the national average of about every 10 years. Bean Town ranks as second worst with a crash every 4.4 years, and drivers in Springfield go 5.4 years on average. Only Washington D.C. was slightly worse with 5.1 years between accidents.

On the other end of things, if you want to keep your car sparkling, you might want to consider Fort Collins, CO. Drivers there go 14.2 years between accidents – 29.6 percent better than the national average. It's the fourth year that the city has topped the rankings.

Allstate's report is based on data from its own claims in the 200 largest US cities, and this year's study looks at accidents from January 2011 to December 2012. The investigators then apply a weighted average to the numbers to determine the final rankings. It defines a crash as "any collision resulting in a property damage claim." Scroll down to read the press release about this year's analysis or check out Allstate's interactive map for the last decade of rankings. If you want to see all of the results in order, you can also download the report as a PDF, here.

News Source: Allstate [1], [2], [3]

Image Credit: Michael Dwyer / AP Photo

Elon Musk says 'right on' to letter asking for new Model S features

Posted Aug 27th 2014 7:57AM

Elon Musk Tesla Open Letter Ad

If you want to get Tesla CEO Elon Musk's attention, taking out a full-page ad in his local newspaper will apparently do the trick. That's what two self-proclaimed "very highly satisfied" Model S owners did, asking for a few small changes in the popular EV. In response, Musk Tweeted a picture of the ad and wrote, "Ad taken out in Palo Alto Daily [News] by two Model S owners is right. Many of the suggestions will be implemented soon." The ad also appeared in the Palo Alto Weekly.

You can see all of the requests by clicking the image above, but we'll mention some of them here. Improved voice-activated phone dialing, better sensors (like blind-spot monitors), redesigned sun visor, automatically closing charging port door and then the big one: Tesla ads.

Tesla isn't talking about when the new features will be available, but if any of those items are unlikely in the near future, it's Tesla advertisements. After all, why pay for media attention when a simple Tweet about other people paying for your ad can get tremendous amounts of attention?

News Source: Huffington Post, Teslarati

Which is more fuel efficient, driving with a pickup's tailgate up or down?

We Find Out With A 2015 Ford F-150, A Wind Tunnel And A Smoke Wand

Posted Aug 26th 2014 7:57PM

2015 Ford F-150

Thanks to the smoke wand in the wind tunnel, you can actually see the difference in our video.

Should you drive with your pickup truck's tailgate up or down? It's an age-old controversy that's divided drivers for decades. Traditionalists will swear you should leave the tailgate down. Makes sense, right? It would seem to let the air flow more cleanly over the body and through the bed. But there's also a school of thought that argues trucks are designed to look and operate in a specific manner, and modern design techniques can help channel the airflow properly. So don't mess with all of that: Leave the tailgate up.

Which is true?

To solve this tailgate debate, we went inside the wind tunnel at Ford to test the aerodynamics of the 2015 Ford F-150. The model's exterior design manager Brad Richards explained that the new truck was designed with purposeful edges and shapes that look imposing, yet still allow the F-150 to maintain strong aerodynamics. "We think this is the toughest F-150 by far, but also the most efficient," Richards said.

All of this matters, as loyal Ford truck buyers expect the F-150 to look a certain way, but the Blue Oval is also projecting fuel economy gains thanks to the new truck's use of lightweight aluminum. And no matter how light the truck is, fuel-economy gains could be wiped out with poor aerodynamics. With that in mind, Ford styled the truck to maintain its beefy look, but also beat its predecessor in the wind tunnel. Ford paid close attention to a new, lower air dam, mirrors that were redesigned "a dozen times" and a small lip on the rear tailgate. Acting as a spoiler, the lip allows air to cleanly detach from the body. Thanks to the smoke wand in the wind tunnel, you can actually see the difference tailgate up versus tailgate down in our video.

Ford remains tight-lipped about the F-150's fuel economy numbers, but it admits dropping the tailgate would increase drag by about eight percent – and sandbag fuel economy. Even for older models without the fancy spoiler, you're hurting efficiency and lowering your gas mileage when driving with the tailgate down, argues Richards.

So there's your verdict, straight from the wind tunnel: Leave the tailgate up.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 / AOL

What you missed on 8.26.14

Posted Aug 26th 2014 7:31PM

Daily U-Turn

Volvo XC90Meet the 2015 Volvo XC90

It's been a long time coming, but the 2015 Volvo XC90 is finally here. It has a simple, clean design (which most people seem to like), a really nice-looking interior, and a range of efficient yet powerful engines. It'll be priced from $48,900 in the US (for a T6 AWD model), and you can read all about it in our reveal post, here.





BMW R NineTRiding the BMW R NineT

BMW's motorcycle history is indeed storied, but the German maker is diving into new territory with its R NineT. It's a fully customizable, cafe racer-style bike, and has been in development since 2011. Contributor Susan Carpenter spent two weeks with BMW's newest bike, and gives a full report in our First Ride review.





BMW DriftmobBehind the scenes of BMW Driftmob

BMW's Driftmob ad featuring the new M235i coupe was a huge production. So big, in fact, that the company wanted to tell the story from a behind-the-scenes perspective, and invited Autoblog to be the only US media outlet on hand during the ad's filming in Cape Town, South Africa. Read about everything that went into filming the Driftmob spectacular, here.



Top Stories

Toyota celebrates 30th anniversary of Land Cruiser 70 with Japan rerelease [w/videos]

Posted Aug 26th 2014 7:00PM

Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series Re-release

It's a common refrain among auto enthusiasts to bemoan the current models being sold for being overly complex and expensive and to wish that automakers would just make vehicles like the old days. Sure, they might not have been as safe or efficient, but there was often a certain rugged simplicity that's gone today. Well, Toyota is actually doing it and thinks there's enough demand to put the Land Cruiser 70 back into production in Japan for its 30th anniversary. Sadly, it's only for one year.

The original Land Cruiser 70 served a long life in Japan from 1984 to 2004. Even today, the proven model remains in production in some regions abroad. People in its home country still love the vehicle though, and Toyota is brushing off the mothballs to give customers what they want. For the first time ever there, it's also offering the double-cab pickup version in addition to the traditional enclosed body. The company thinks that it can move about 200 of these classic trucks this year, which isn't too shabby for a vehicle that's three decades old.

Looking at the pictures above, these look like the same old Land Cruisers, but Toyota is updating them slightly to meet modern safety rules. The grille, hood and headlights are all tweaked, and they now come with airbags and anti-lock brakes. A 4.0-liter V6 is under the hood making 228 horsepower (170 kilowatts) and 266 lb-ft of torque (360 Newton-meters), and the only available gearbox is a five-speed manual. Part-time four-wheel drive is standard. If you're really afraid of getting stuck in the wilderness, locking front and rear differentials and a winch are available as options.

Prices for these throwbacks start at 3.6 million yen ($34,600) for the SUV or 3.5 million yen (33,700) for the truck. Scroll down to watch some videos of these awesome "new" models showing what they can do off-road, and to read Toyota's official announcement.

News Source: Toyota, Toyota Global Newsroom via YouTube [1], [2], [3]

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