24th April 2014

Mini Tweaks for the 2015 Mini Cooper Paceman [2014 Beijing Auto Show]

 2015 Mini Cooper S Paceman ALL4

With its spacious interior, practical five-door body, and seating for up to five, the plus-sized Mini Cooper Countryman is a character-rich crossover that actually makes some sense—its coupe-bodied, four-seat counterpart, the Paceman, not so much. Still, the Paceman is somewhat swoopier-looking and far more exclusive than the Countryman—both traits that appeal to Mini’s contrarian target market. And at a slightly higher price point, the Paceman represents something of a flagship for the Mini brand. READ MORE ››

2014 New York Auto Show Full Coverage

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24th April 2014

BMW Gets All Artsy, Reveals 2014 M4 DTM Car in Dramatic Video

140228_M4DTM_Content__0000_1.jpg.resource.1394620677656

When BMW returned to the DTM series in 2012 with after a two-year hiatus, it wasted no time finding its way back to the podium. Fielding specially prepped DTM cars based loosely—the cars run a purpose-built chassis and series-spec V-8 engines—on its M3, BMW took home the manufacturer’s championship in both 2012 and 2013. To give the fans—not to mention rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz—a sneak peek of what it will be packing when the 2014 season commences at Germany’s Hockenheimring this May, BMW has released short video of its new M4 DTM car.

Flush with dramatic closeups, black and white historic shots, and the obligatory epiphany moment when the camouflage is pulled away and the M4’s engine is fired, it’s the gravitas of the soundtrack that really sells the bit. Sounding every bit like a Tangerine Dream/Wagner mashup composed to rally the Order of the Teutonic Knights before a crusade, it fits the video like a chain-mail codpiece.

BMW says development on the M4 DTM car began well before the start of the 2013 DTM season. By December of last year, the M3 chassis was serving as a a test bed for newly designed suspension bits, and the first models of the M4 DTM car assembled in January. Its inaugural track test was on February 11. Although all DTM cars run series-specific 4.0-liter V-8 engines and six-speed sequential gearboxes controlled pneumatically with wheel-mounted shift paddles, the teams are allowed to choose between 11 different final-drive ratios, permitting some flexibility in setting up he cars for an individual track. The spec-chassis is a carbon-fiber monocoque with integrated fuel tank and steel roll cage.



Those here in the U.S. interested in checking out how the M4 DTM car performs will want to watch the series opener on May 4. You might have to do a little online snooping or up your cable package to do so, but we can say from firsthand experience that DTM is an entertaining brand of motorsport. Until then, check out the video:

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24th April 2014

Aaron Robinson: 25 Years After the Japanese Onslaught, Germany Is Winning

robinson-inline2-

Memory snapshots from Detroit auto shows of my youth: Datsuns parked on candy-red carpet, begging my dad to buy a Renault Alliance (wisely, he bought another Oldsmobile), a Bitter SC, panhandlers in the stairways at Cobo Hall, steam pluming from the manhole covers in a dark, frigid city that the sun seemed to have forgotten. The cymbal crash accompanying the transformation of Detroit’s little January dealer show into the North American International Auto Show in 1989 was the debut of the Lexus and Infiniti luxury divisions of Toyota and Nissan, then doing a good job of plowing Detroit under. Along with Acura, Honda’s upscale division that launched in 1986, this trio of hot rookie brands intended to turn the lights off in Germany next. That was 25 years ago, in case you need another reason to feel old. And it didn’t quite work out as planned, as the sales figures for calendar-year 2013 prove. The bestselling luxury brand in the U.S. last year was Mercedes-Benz, which finished just ahead of BMW by selling about 334,000 vehicles. Mighty Toyota’s luxury division, which once rocked the Germans on their heels with that first sublime LS400, finished only third, with around 274,000 sales. Acura did almost the same business as Audi, or about 165,000 sales, while Infiniti sucked wind at 116,455, joining Lincoln and Volvo as the only luxury brands to actually drop in volume from 2012 despite a resurgent economy and rising car sales overall. READ MORE ››

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24th April 2014

Crewe Chief: Bentley’s Head of Design Finds Inspiration in His Own Garage

Crewe Chief: Bentley's Head of Design Finds Inspiration in His Own Garage

The BMW 3.0 CSi wears none of the CSL’s wild aero kit, making it a solid choice for a Bentley designer.

From the May 2014 issue of CAR and DRIVER magazine

Luc Donckerwolke has held a wide range of design positions within the VW-Audi family. He joined Audi in 1992 and was chief designer at Lamborghini by 2003. In 2011, he became boss of the Volkswagen Group’s advanced design and since late 2012 has been chief stylist for Bentley. And his ­personal car collection, including a Lamborghini Miura, is even more impressive than his résumé.

C/D: We hear you have a fantastic car collection.
LD: Actually, I am quite frustrated and ashamed not to drive them. My new professional challenges plus a shoulder surgery forced many into hibernation. Let’s talk about the cars I managed to drive in the past few months: A white BMW 3.0 CSi that was a childhood dream—the Batmobiles at Spa-Francorchamps left me desiring this car. There is a black-on-black Porsche 993 Carrera S, and earlier this year, a white 930 Turbo 3.3 seduced me. I am looking for a long-hood 911—ideally a 1972 911S. My goal is to enjoy at least one of each of the four generations of air-cooled 911s.

Crewe Chief: Bentley's Head of Design Finds Inspiration in His Own Garage

Top: 1978 Porsche 930 Turbo. Bottom: 2008 Lamborghini Murciélago LP640

C/D: Anything else?
LD: My holy grail is a Facel Vega II coupe. I admire its elegant proportions, and it is proof that French luxury values could be applied to the automotive field. A lost idea today, sadly! And obviously a Murciélago will have to join the collection.

C/D: What impact does your collection have on your work?
LD: My vintage cars remind me that only pure, essential design makes a car iconic. Every day, I mentally scan the design ­models in my studio in order to define their essential elements.



C/D: You’ve designed a lot of cars. Which is your favorite one?
LD: The Lamborghini Murciélago, because of the human story behind it. I got adopted by a family, the Lamborghini family. I was in the middle of a divorce, and I had only one compensation to this difficult situation: work, work, and work. My air-intake concept [the motorized cooling ducts] would have been rejected by a lot of R&D departments, but Lamborghini’s Ufficio Tecnico made it possible, and that really created the soul of the Murciélago.

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24th April 2014

Dept. Of Energy Rolls Out Latest Strategic Plan for Automotive Tech, Design, Energy Sources

2014 Porsche 918 Spyder Battery

Despite the Energy Department’s latest rah-rah report embracing an ” ‘all of the above’ energy strategy,’ battery-electric cars will continue to dominate federal mandates curbing carbon emissions from the nation’s vehicle fleet.

Automakers reading the department’s “2014–2018 Strategic Plan” will note that nothing has really changed since President Obama announced the first wave of battery development funding and $7500 EV tax credits in 2009. As it announced in January 2013, the DOE wants to drive EV battery costs down from the current sub-$400/kWh average to $300/kWh in 2015 and eventually down to $125 in 2022, in which a theoretical 300-mile electric car would cost $35,000 including five years of electricity.

Diesel isn’t mentioned—which makes Audi’s TDI rally last fall in D.C. seem a bit limp—and nowhere is cheap, plentiful, and domestically produced natural gas cited as a vehicle fuel. Fuel cells get a passing mention to reduce costs by 25 percent and increase efficiency to 60 percent by 2020. Ethanol, continually promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency and mixed with regular gasoline, will see additional production from up to three refineries that make the alcohol fuel from switchgrass and plant waste. Federal incentives for hydrogen and natural gas in vehicle fuels have not been renewed.



But despite the DOE’s emphasis on EVs—including workplace charging—automakers won’t need to rush away from fossil fuels. Earlier this month, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz restarted the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program to fund automotive suppliers developing new tires, engines and lightweight materials. The program was halted shortly after Fisker defaulted on its $192 million loan last year and later went bankrupt. In March, a new Environmental Protection Agency rule will make California’s stricter emission laws the national standard by 2017 along with lower-sulfur gasoline. And in 2017, the EPA will conduct a midterm evaluation of its stringent CAFE fuel economy standards which could lower requirements for future models.

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24th April 2014

Volvo S60L Plug-In Hybrid Concept Debuts in China, Isn’t Much of a Concept [2014 Beijing Auto Show]

Volvo S60L Plug-In Hybrid Concept
Before you dismiss this long-wheelbase Volvo S60L plug-in hybrid concept debuting at the 2014 Beijing auto show, keep in mind that it likely is headed to the States soon. Well, of course, a plug-in hybrid Volvo wouldn’t arrive in the U.S. in China-friendly long-wheelbase guise, but the hybrid technologies showcased in this S60L concept should hit our market with few changes regardless of which model Volvo decides to put it in. READ MORE ››

2014 New York Auto Show Full Coverage

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24th April 2014

Saleen Automotive Plans Orange County–Aggro Tesla Model S

Saleen Tesla Model S

Though he’s tweaked plenty of models over the years, when one thinks of Steve Saleen, one has a tendency to recall the hot Fox-body Mustangs that brought his name into the mainstream car-guy vernacular. Save for the emphasis on performance, the Tesla Model S could safely be considered the Fox Mustang’s inverse. It’s expensive, technologically advanced, and a fetish object for the elite—a country light-year from a live-axle-’n’-pushrods pony car.

It also happens to be Saleen’s next platform for modification. The project was announced a couple of months back, promising that sketches would be forthcoming. Now said sketches have arrived and we’ve gotta say, they don’t look too bad. The most glaring change is the aggressive smoothening of Franz von Holzhausen’s nose, a move that genericizes the front end and leaves it looking more than a little like a body-kitted late fourth-gen Camaro.

Saleen Tesla Model SWheels reminiscent of American Racing’s venerable Torq-Thrusts fill the wheel wells, while the gaps between the spokes are consumed with carbon-ceramic brake rotors. The rear fog lights gain a chrome surround above the diffuser, and the taillight-spanning trim bar receives Saleen badging. Naturally, there’s a spoiler. The blazing paint’s a shade called “Orange County Orange.” We’re hoping San Mateo County Khaki will follow it as an option.

Saleen’s still mum on performance upgrades to Elon’s electro-machine. We can only hope they’re appropriately eye-bending.



Saleen Tesla Model S interiorSaleen Tesla Model S

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24th April 2014

Recall Throwdown: Analyzing Automakers’ Recall History in the Past 30 Years—Who Is Worst?

Recall Throwdown: Analyzing Automakers’ Recall History in the Past 30 Years—Who Is Worst?

Mercedes-Benz has the lowest recall rate and BMW is quickest at issuing them, according to a study looking at nearly 30 years of federal data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The study, taken by Boston metro–based car-listing website iSeeCars, totaled U.S. vehicle sales from 15 major automakers and their subsidiaries from 1980 to 2013. To give sufficient time for the initial run of cars to permeate the market, they then compared those numbers against each automaker’s total recalls from 1985 through March 10 of this year as submitted to NHTSA. With simple math, the results rank the automakers by the percentage of recalled cars as compared to their total sales, sourced from Ward’s. Only automakers that sold at least 1 million cars within the 33-year window were included, which excluded Jaguar, Land Rover, and other small, low-volume marques.

Recall Throwdown: Analyzing Automakers’ Recall History in the Past 30 Years—Who Is Worst?

General Motors, despite ugly accusations against its “cost culture” from the ignition-switch fiasco, ranked third best, with 65 percent of its total sales subject to recalls, or roughly two recalled vehicles for every three sold. (The study doesn’t include GM’s later expansion of its most recent recall to 2.2 million cars.) Mercedes-Benz was first, with 28 percent, followed by Mazda at 55 percent. By the time you hit Chrysler, Volvo, and Volkswagen, the ratio becomes one-to-one, with Hyundai checking in as the automaker with the highest recall rate.

Recall Throwdown: Analyzing Automakers’ Recall History in the Past 30 Years—Who Is Worst?

In terms of an automaker’s recall timeliness—the very point which angered lawmakers over GM’s ignition-switch issue and Toyota’s unintended-acceleration fiasco—BMW was tops, with 87 percent of its recalls conducted during the first three years of a model’s sale. In that same measure, Nissan was second and General Motors third again, both at 85 percent. Mercedes fell to 81 percent and Toyota scored last, with only 68 percent of its recalls performed after the first three years of the earliest named models.



Still, a lower recall rate doesn’t necessarily indicate an automaker is putting out higher quality cars that are more reliable. Nearly every automaker has had major hiccups on new models that may not spread across an entire lineup, and, really, no one is going to claim that a 10-year-old BMW is as bulletproof as a similar-vintage Camry. Automakers, by nature, also try their hardest to avoid recalls, hence the existence of technical service bulletins, lemon buybacks, recall expansions of cars that were previously omitted, “Salt Belt” rules that allow automakers to restrict a vehicle recall’s population, and all sorts of questionable reasons anyone can read on the NHTSA database. Those attitudes might change given the acid bath GM is now taking over its having turned a blind eye to a serious issue for more than a decade.

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24th April 2014

The SCADpad: Solving a Parking/Living Problem We Didn’t Know Existed

SCADpads "Europe" and "Asia" next to one another

There’s a pretty hefty stigma attached to living in something on wheels—but what about when a group of design students and faculty from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) get their hands on a mobile home? And what happens when that group declares it has stumbled upon a potential solution to urban housing by capitalizing on bountiful, car-provided infrastructure: Putting trailers people can occupy in parking garages? We’d ask another dramatic-sounding question regarding the trailers’ names—SCADpads—but we can probably guess your answer.

Anyway, SCADpads are tiny dwellings built out of typical dual-axle cargo trailers, and they’re designed to fit in a standard 16×8-foot parking space. (Or, as SCAD puts it, a roughly 135-square-foot area.) Three SCADpads have been built and placed in an Atlanta garage, each with its own design theme, and they’ll actually be used by students for a trial period. A largely architectural undertaking, the SCADpad project nonetheless saw interdisciplinary input from students, faculty, and even some alumni, and is an exercise in the oh-so-architectural buzz-wordy notion of “adaptive re-use.” (The process of reclaiming declining or underutilized infrastructure for the betterment of society and blah, blah . . . ) Okay, we admit that part is boring, and you might be asking “what does this have to do with cars?”

SCADpad "Europe"

Well, one of the assumptions behind the SCADpad project is that as fewer and fewer people drive or own cars, parking structures in the U.S. increasingly will themselves be underutilized. SCAD’s analysis reveals the U.S. boasts some 105 million parking spaces, which would mean there are five for every car; it adds—in a very Ron Burgundy–esque tone—that more than 50 percent of spaces are vacant 40 percent of the time. We’re confused by percentages of percentages 100 percent of the time, but we get where the school is coming from.



Given that many parking structures occupy urban territory, the college’s proposal actually begins to sound prescient, if a little overthought. We mean—hello? Westfalia/California Volkswagen campers have existed for decades, people, and they fit in most any parking garage—unlike, we must point out, these rather tall-looking trailers. That said, these look a lot nicer than a musty old pop-top, and SCAD probably wouldn’t be teaching its students much if it proposed everyone buy a Vanagon or Eurovan to adaptively re-use a parking space. For more information and images on the SCADpad project, head here.

SCADpad "North America" interior

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24th April 2014

Super ‘Slade: Hennessey Blower Kit for 2015 Cadillac Escalade Adds 137 hp!

2015 Cadillac Escalade Hennessey Performance Engineering

Because 420 horsepower, roughly 6000 pounds, and a brick-like body aren’t recipe enough for terrible fuel economy, Hennessey Performance Engineering has unveiled its latest go-faster package, and it’s intended to beef up Cadillac’s already beefy 2015 Escalade with a huge increase in power. 

Indeed, Hennessey’s HPE550 gear bumps the Escalade’s 6.2-liter V-8 from 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque to 557 horsepower and 542 lb-ft. Those are big increases, and they come by way of a supercharger kit that comes complete with a Hennessey engine computer calibration, an intercooler, and professional installation. The tuner even tosses in Hennessey-embroidered floor mats, numbered plaques for the dashboard and engine, and HPE550 badges.



Running a gentle 6 psi of boost, Hennessey says the HPE550 should be perfect “for sneaking up on the unsuspecting Mercedes GL63 AMG or Range Rover Sport.” We dig that mentality, even if Benz and Rover owners won’t. Of course, efficiency probably isn’t the HPE550 kit’s strong suit, but if you’re going to be visiting your local pump frequently, you might as well have 557 Europe-stomping horsepower instead of a mere 420, right?

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