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Fast & Furious Supercharged ride coming to Universal Studios

Posted Apr 10th 2014 7:03PM

Fast & Furious Supercharged ride posterGive us an afternoon behind the wheel of a genuine driving machine and that's all the amusement we could ask for. But amusement and theme parks have been wise to cater towards automotive enthusiasts as well – whether it's with a single attraction at an existing park like the famous Test Track at Epcot or the Cars pavilion at Hollywood Studios, or a dedicated facility like Ring Werk at the Nürburgring or Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.

Now it appears they'll be one more attraction to get car fans through the gates, this one coming to Universal Studios in California next year.

The new ride is called Fast & Furious Supercharged, and as you might have guessed, it's being set up as an experiential take on the popular movie franchise. Visitors will ride in on the Studio Tour tram which will roll onto a hydraulic platform shifting in every direction as they're immersed in the exciting action all around them on a 50,000-square-foot lot. The attraction is set to open sometime in 2015 as part of a $1.6 billion expansion being implemented over the course of the next 25 years, which is quite a long-sighted plan considering that the park - the oldest of the Universal resorts - has only been around for 50 years.

News Source: FastFurious via Twitter

Toyota unveils two new small displacement engines

Posted Apr 10th 2014 6:31PM

Toyota small-displacement engines

Toyota introduced a pair of brand-new engines in Japan today, that it says will eventually spawn 14 different variants by 2015. Where these two engines stand out in today's world, is that neither mill boasts direct injection, and both are naturally aspirated.

The larger of the two is a 1.3-liter, while the smaller engine, a 1.0-liter, was developed in collaboration with Daihatsu. What makes these two unique is that they both use the Atkinson cycle. Now, we aren't going to bore you by explaining just what this is - there's Google for that. Suffice it to say, Atkinson engines are highly efficient, but that efficiency comes by sacrificing power. That's why they're so popular in hybrids, which can offset the power losses.

This focus on fuel efficiency extends throughout the new engines, which also benefit from tweaks like a cooled exhaust gas recirculation system and a trick intake port, while the 1.3 employs Toyota's iE variant of variable valve timing. Both engines can be fitted with stop-start tech. According to Toyota, when fitted with stop-start the 1.3 should provide around a 15-percent bump while the 1.0-liter will increase economy around 30 percent, when they arrive on the road.

We're not going to lie, the non-hybrid Atkinson system is a question mark. But according to General Manager of Powertrain Planning Shouji Adachi, it shouldn't be an issue.

"There is always the challenge of lower performance in torque," Adachi-san told Automotive News. "For the new engines, we were able to resolve these issues."

We're presuming that what Adachi is referring to is Toyota's use of high compression ratios on both engines - 13.5 in the case of the 1.3L and 11.5 in the 1.0L. Using a higher compression ratio allows the engine to develop more power thanks to increased thermal efficiency. In the case of the 1.3L, max thermal efficiency is at 38 percent, which Toyota says is quite good. The 1.0L is just a smidge behind, at 37 percent.

So, power concerns momentarily swept aside, where to do we think these engines will end up? According to AN, non-hybrid, JDM compacts will be the first to use the new engines. From there, though, it's really anyone's guess where these engines and their variants will end up. Scroll on down for the short press release on the two engines, from Toyota.

News Source: Toyota, Automotive News - sub. req.

Senate committee votes to keep driver black box data private

Posted Apr 10th 2014 6:01PM

Automotive Black BoxDrivers are one step safer to having improved privacy behind the wheel. The Senate Commerce Committee has granted bipartisan approval to legislation that aims to protect the information on automotive Event Data Recorders (EDR), also known as black boxes. The committee concluded that the vehicle owner is the one who owns the information stored on the device.

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) first proposed the rules last year. The legislation stipulates that the owner or lessee of the vehicle is the only person entitled to the data in the black box, outside of a few specific conditions. The information can still be accessed if authorized by a court or if the owner consents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may collect data for recalls, but personal information must not be disclosed in the process. Finally, law enforcement may use the data if needed following a crash. According to the senators, 14 states already have data recorder privacy laws.

"EDRs can serve a useful function by helping to make cars and streets safer, but access to the data should be treated as personal except under very specific circumstances," said Senator Hoeven in a statement on his website.

Black boxes are already installed in over 90-percent of vehicles and track data like speed, braking, airbag deployment and some even know the vehicle's location. Previously, NHTSA proposed that all future vehicles must come with data recorders. According to The Detroit News, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and Volkswagen, has given support to the committee's rules.

Ward's releases 10 Best Interiors list for 2014

Posted Apr 10th 2014 5:28PM

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

While we're still a ways off from the automotive awards season proper, where things like North American Car and Truck of the Year, Motor Trend's Car of the Year and Car and Driver's Ten Best are named, that doesn't mean there aren't trophies being handed out to deserving automakers. Ward's 10 Best Interiors being one of them.

As the name might imply, the magazine focuses on the very best interior treatments in the US market. Whereas some awards purposely exclude extreme, high-dollar offerings, Ward's considers them - the only requirement is that a vehicle has a "new or significantly redesigned interior."

Ward's offered up the list of winners in simple, alphabetical order, and it only seems fair to do the same:
We'll admit to being surprised by a pair of these - the Kia Soul and Jeep Cherokee - while the rest make a fair amount of sense. What's most remarkable is the huge range of prices, from the $24,010 Kia to the $372,800 Rolls-Royce.

What do you think of Ward's findings? Do you agree? Are there any vehicles that should be included in this list? Post your thoughts down in Comments.

News Source: Ward's Automotive

Reflecting on the Ford GT on its 10-year anniversary

Posted Apr 10th 2014 5:00PM

Ford GT

Ten years ago, during the bright-eyed enthusiasm of the early 2000s and before the collective automotive industry did its best Titanic impression, we had the Ford GT. An everyman's supercar like there'd never been (remember, this was before 638-horsepower Corvettes were a thing), the GT arrived with a supercharged, 5.4-liter V8 that produced 550 horsepower and graced this retro-styled rocket with an easy, sub-four-second sprint to 60 miles per hour.

Equal to the GT's performance were its looks. Inspired by the GT40 racers that dominated Le Mans and bested Ferrari in the 1960s, the sleek, low, almost-reptilian look of the GT was the absolute pinnacle of the retro styling that so defined the early 2000s.

Crank and Piston put together a video celebrating the ten-year-old GT, arguing that Ford is a bit too busy with the next-gen Mustang, which turns 50 next week, to do it themselves. In the short clip, there is gratuitous engine noise and supercharger whine, not to mention scenes of the white-on-red GT prowling the deserts and streets of Dubai. It's a bit short, but very nicely shot. Scroll down, have a look and be sure to turn up those speakers before getting started.

News Source: Crank and Piston via YouTube

General Motors announces another big ignition-related recall

2.19 Million Cars Called In For Additional Problems

Posted Apr 10th 2014 4:28PM

General Motors CEO Mary Barra finishes her testimony before a Congressional subcommittee last week.

The company is recalling 2.19 million of the same models to fix a problem that allows keys to be removed from ignitions that are not in the "off" position.

Replacement parts for cars at the center of a massive General Motors recall for defective ignition switches began arriving at dealerships across this country just this week. If car owners have already gotten repairs made, they'll need to make an additional trip to their dealerships. On Thursday, General Motors said there's another safety problem plaguing the same vehicles.

The company is recalling 2.19 million of the same Chevrolet Cobalt, HHR, Saturn Ion, Sky, Pontiac G5 and Solstice models to fix a problem that allows keys to be removed from ignitions that are not in the "off" position.

In at least one case, a vehicle rolled away in a parking lot and resulted in a crash and injury, according to GM, which said it is aware of "several hundred" complaints about keys coming out of ignitions. The company will fix the ignition lock cylinders to prevent the problem.

This is a separate problem than the one allowing ignition switches in the same models to inadvertently move from the "run" to "accessory" positions, which can turn off both the engine and airbag systems. That defect has led to 13 deaths, and subsequently, Congressional inquiries into why the company didn't recall affected vehicles sooner.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Ferrari planning sleeker FF coupe?

Posted Apr 10th 2014 4:01PM

2012 Ferrari FF

There are a lot of things you could call the Ferrari FF. Innovative, advanced, pioneering, ponderous... beautiful may not be one of them, though. Because while it does pack Ferrari's first all-wheel drive system, it doesn't pack it into a very pretty shape, alternately described as a chopped shooting brake or stretched hatchback. Word has it, though, that Ferrari is working on a solution.

That solution, according to Car and Driver, would be to chop it down into an FF coupe. Apparently separate from the SP FFX project that ultimately emerged as a one-off, this rebody could potentially solve the FF's stylistic shortcomings and attract more buyers, while retaining the 6.3-liter V12 engine that drives 651 prancing horses to all four wheels. But here's where it gets tricky: if Ferrari simply sloped the roofline and got rid of the rear seats, the finished product would end up precariously close to the F12 Berlinetta, albeit with an extra set of driven wheels.

We'd sooner guess that Maranello would lengthen the form slightly to keep the rear seats, add a trunk and give it a more graceful profile, though the elongated form of the preceding 612 Scaglietti strikes us as what Ferrari was trying to get away from with the FF in the first place. And guessing is as good as we've got at this point, as our attempts to get more from Ferrari PR resulted in a sad (if predictable) "no comment."

Whatever form it takes, C/D projects that the FF coupe could arrive later this year or early next, bringing with it some other minor cosmetic changes. Its price tag would likely hover, like the existing FF and F12, around the $300,000 mark, making it a natural competitor to the Rolls-Royce Wraith, Aston Martin Vanquish or a well-equipped Bentley Continental GT Speed.

News Source: Car and Driver

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

Peugeot reveals Beijing-bound Exalt concept in full

Posted Apr 10th 2014 3:31PM

Peugeot Exalt Concept

The other day we brought you the first image and initial details of Peugeot's new concept car. Now the French automaker has presented the show car in full, revealing an innovative take on the automobile using a variety of unusual materials.

Picking up where the show-stopping Onyx concept left off two years ago, the Exalt concept adopts a similar approach, but applied to a four-door form. The elegantly muscular body stretches almost 15 and a half feet (4.7 meters) long but just 51 inches (1.31 meters) high, riding square on 20-inch wheels. But it's what that bodywork is made of that sets it apart. The bare metal panels that form most of the vehicle's surface are beaten into shape by hand just as they once were, while the back portion is covered in a unique sharkskin-like textile.

Inside it's all bare metal with aged leather trim that's clamped (not cut), with surfaces covered in a wool-based woven material, offset by ebony wood trim, basalt fiber (that's said to be more environmentally friendly than carbon) and 3D-printed inserts that hide the speakers. Everything's controlled by programmable toggle switches, and there's even an air filtration system that disinfects the cabin's surfaces when the vehicle is stationary and unoccupied.

The whole package weighs just over 3,700 pounds, making it a little bit smaller but several hundred pounds lighter than a Mercedes-Benz CLS, yet its hybrid powertrain makes it more potent than all but the V8 versions of the former. Under the hood is a 1.6-liter inline-four with 270 horsepower, while the back axle is powered by a 50kW electric motor to give the Exalt concept a combined output of 340 hp and through-the-road all-wheel drive.

Peugeot is presenting the Exalt concept at the Beijing Motor Show in a couple of weeks, but you can scope it out here in the high-res image gallery above and the press release below.
Related GalleryPeugeot Exalt Concept
Peugeot Exalt ConceptPeugeot Exalt ConceptPeugeot Exalt ConceptPeugeot Exalt ConceptPeugeot Exalt ConceptPeugeot Exalt ConceptPeugeot Exalt ConceptPeugeot Exalt Concept

News Source: Peugeot

Watch this adorable 2-year-old freak out over her first car wash

Posted Apr 10th 2014 2:59PM

toddler in a carwash

Unless you yourself are a parent – and even then – being forced to watch videos of other people's kids is a special kind of torture. But every once in a while we come across a clip that makes us smile instead of scowling or rolling our eyes. This is one of those clips.

In this video, one Max Gibbons of Honolulu takes his daughter (along with her mother) for a ride through an automatic car wash for the first time. The resulting reaction from the two-year-old in the child seat, we have to admit, is pretty damn amusing. But we'll let you watch it below to judge for yourself, as some 160,000 people already have done on YouTube.

News Source: Max Gibbons via YouTube, Daily Mail

Production Lexus NX leaks online

Posted Apr 10th 2014 2:30PM

Lexus NX

Lexus NXThe first photos of the new Lexus NX crossover have leaked onto the web over a week before its official debut at the Beijing Motor Show. These pictures are pretty blurry, but there is no mistaking that they show off the Japanese luxury brand's smaller, premium CUV.

While the teaser only gave us a glimpse at its pointed strip of LED running lights and angular grille, the new image proves that the CUV is definitely not afraid of sharp edges. However, compared to the original concept, it looks almost sedate. The production version drops the knife-like side mirrors for more conventional units, and the grille appears narrower. The vertical intakes at the edges of the front are dulled slightly but still present. The NX is indeed a polarizing vehicle – we'll be interested to see it in person. After all, we've grown to like the new IS after our first, shocking reaction. We should give Lexus some credit, too, for not following the premium CUV styling herd.

Seen elsewhere, these's an exterior photo that hints at a powertrain configuration. The bumper reads NX 300h, which likely indicates that there will be a hybrid version of the CUV. This is likely the same combined 220-horsepower system with a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine and electric motor found in the IS 300h in Europe. There is no word on whether that model will be sold here. It's rumored to be offered with a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as well. More details about the new Lexus are expected in China later this month.

2014 Easter Jeep Safari kicks off with six concepts

Posted Apr 10th 2014 2:00PM

Jeep Wrangler MOJO

The 2014 Easter Jeep Safari is set to begin this weekend in Moab, Utah, and while it's sure to be a blast for Jeep enthusiasts from all corners of the world, we're looking forward to the wild, off-road ready concepts that Jeep will be bringing to the red rocks. As you can see in our handy headline, there are six such vehicles in total, each of which sports a variety of tweaks and custom bits.

Unlike in years past, where Jeep graced us with some outrageous concepts like the Mighty FC or J-12, this year's vehicles are a bit more restrained and a bit more buildable by enthusiasts. That's not by accident, officials tell us. They wanted to put this year's focus on attainable vehicles and accessories from Mopar and Jeep Performance Parts that existing owners can use to augment their own vehicles. So let's get to it.

We'll start with the Wranglers first. There are three concepts of the jeepiest of Jeep coming to Moab - the Level Red, Maximum Performance and Mojo. The Level Red and the Mojo (seen above) are similar from a suspension and engine standpoint. Both boast a two-inch Jeep Performance Parts lift kit, which officials tell us is coming to market in the next few months. There are a pair of Dana 44 crate axles on both the front and rear, while a Jeep Performance Parts Rock-Trac transfer case has been fitted. The 3.6-liter V6 engines on both Jeeps can breathe a bit easier thanks to a new cold-air intake and exhaust system.

Where these two Jeeps differ, though, are in their wheel/tire packages and aesthetics. The Pitch Black and TorRed Wrangler is a two-door model that rides on 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires with prototype 17-inch beadlock wheels. A Mopar half-door kit and bumpers donated by the Rubicon Tenth Anniversary model round out the exterior treatments. The black-and-red paint scheme is carried from exterior to interior, with the latter highlighted by Katzkin leather. Finally, a prototype accessory rail for the inside rear tailgate stands ready to hold items like a first aid or tow straps.

News Source: Jeep

Tesla strikes back against Lemon Law King over Model S dispute [UPDATE]

Posted Apr 10th 2014 1:33PM

Vince Megna and Tesla Model S

*UPDATE: We have now also received a statement from the Model S owner in question, which has been added below.

When we asked Tesla Motors for a statement on the lawsuit filed by the "King of Lemon Laws" the other day, the company told us that it does not comment on pending litigation. Fair enough. That's a standard response. But the company has since felt the need to comment on the issue using its own company blog.

In a post called "When Life Gives You Lemons...," the Tesla Motors Team called lawyer Vince Megna (indirectly) an "opportunistic lawyer" and basically called him a liar. To wit: "... there are factual inaccuracies in the lawyer's story." Tesla says that the three claimed incidents when the Model S owner in question asked the automaker to buy the car back did not happen (Tesla acknowledges it happening once). And then the company basically says the owner was breaking his car on purpose:

... the car's fuse blew on three occasions. Each time, our engineers explored all possible explanations and were never able to find anything wrong with the car. Still, just to be sure, we replaced several parts that could have been related to the alleged problem – all at no expense to the customer. When the fuse kept blowing despite the new parts, and faced with no diagnosis showing anything wrong with the car, the engineers were moved to consider the possibility that the fuse had been tampered with. After investigating, they determined that the car's front trunk had been opened immediately before the fuse failure on each of the three occasions. (The fuse is accessed through the front trunk.) Ultimately, Tesla service applied non-tamper tape to the fuse switch. From that point on, the fuse performed flawlessly.

We've got the entire response below, along with Megna's response to Tesla's statement. The key line: "There are companies, great companies run by Billionaires, that force consumers to give up their Freedom of Speech and Right to Trial by Jury just for the opportunity to buy an electric car." You can watch Megna's original video introducing the world to this case here.

Two GM engineers put on paid leave pending recall investigation [w/video]

Posted Apr 10th 2014 1:00PM

GM CEO Mary Barra Testifies At Senate Consumer Protection Panel Over Recall

The internal investigation General Motors is conducting regarding its response (and responsiveness) to the ignition switch recall might be having its first effects. The company has put two of its engineers on paid leave. According to The Detroit Free Press, this action took place after a briefing by its internal investigator, former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas. The engineers haven't been officially identified by GM.

"This is an interim step as we seek the truth about what happened. It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is best for GM," said CEO Mary Barra in the statement. GM recently created a new program called Speak Up for Safety that asks workers for ideas to make vehicles safer.

An early indication that some engineers might be in trouble came during the Senate hearing into the recall. Senator Claire McCaskill singled out a specific engineer for allegedly covering up the problem and claimed that the automaker held back important documents in legal cases. Barra admitted during the questioning that she was waiting for the results of the internal investigation before deciding what further action to take.

Much of the issue can be traced back to a spring that GM changed in its faulty ignition switches, but the part number wasn't altered. Senator McCaskill claims this is a sign of a cover-up. Not changing the number also led to a third round of the recall because the company couldn't identify which cars had properly functioning switches.

Recent reports indicate that regulators believe GM isn't being fully compliant in the investigation. The automaker didn't answer about a third of the 107 questions posed to it by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the organization has levied $28,000 in fines against the company. Scroll down to watch McCaskill's questions to Barra and read the announcement. We've contacted GM for more information about the engineers, and we'll update this story when he hear back.

News Source: The Detroit Free Press, CSPAN, General Motors

Image Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Watch this cement truck roll into Toyota minivan from driver's point of view

Posted Apr 10th 2014 12:34PM

Cement Truck Crash

If you've been having an easy day and haven't received your daily dose of unmitigated terror, then this video is for you. Dr. Guan Zhu, a Texas A&M professor, caught the above view on his dashcam in College Station, TX, as a cement truck ran a red light, lost control and rolled into his Toyota Sienna minivan.

Although he received only minor injuries, Dr. Zhu says that he blacked out during the accident. The truck driver also avoided serious injuries, and the Sienna took the hit rather well too. Scroll down to watch the footage and report from KBTX. Hopefully, this is as close anyone else ever gets to a terrifying event of this nature.

News Source: KBTX

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