17th April 2014

Jetta CC? VW Challenges Mercedes’ CLA With a Small(ish) Four-Door Coupe Concept [2014 Beijing Auto Show]

Jetta CC? VW Challenges Mercedes' CLA With a Small(ish) Four-Door Coupe Concept [2014 Beijing Auto Show]

The concept of a four-door coupe, pioneered by the Mercedes-Benz CLS and taken up by Volkswagen with the Passat CC, can be taken downmarket. Following the introduction of Benz’s boldly styled CLA, VW is following suit with a four-door “mid-size concept” to be introduced at the 2014 Beijing auto show. Volkswagen’s concept is 181 inches long, 56 inches tall, and 72.4 inches wide, about an inch shorter and lower than the Jetta sedan, but more than two inches wider. Complementing the concept’s low, wide stance are 20-inch wheels wrapped with 245/40 rubber.

The mid-size concept is built atop the VW Group’s modular-transverse MQB architecture and thus is a close relative of the Golf and the Audi A3, as well as the next-generation VW Passat. And with a 220-hp, 2.0-liter TSI four-cylinder, the concept takes appropriate advantage of its corporate parts bin. So equipped, VW estimates the sprint from naught to 62 mph will take 6.5 seconds. The engine will be mated to a dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Jetta CC? VW Challenges Mercedes' CLA With a Small(ish) Four-Door Coupe Concept [2014 Beijing Auto Show]



We expect to see a sporty, high-class interior highlighted with faux-suede accents. Will the mid-size concept make it to series production? We hope so, and we bet VW is carefully watching the performance of the Mercedes-Benz CLA in the marketplace with an itchy trigger finger.

2014 Beijing auto show

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17th April 2014

Acronyms-R-Us: 2015 Honda Fit–Based Crossover to Be Called HR-V [2014 New York Auto Show]

Acronyms-R-Us: 2015 Honda Fit–Based Crossover to Be Called HR-V [2014 New York Auto Show]

Vezel is dead. No, we’re not talking about some unfortunate Russian dissident, but the new Japanese home-market subcompact crossover that’s based on Honda’s natty (and 10Best–winning in past years) subcompact Fit hatchback.

Actually, the Fit-based cute-ute is still coming to the U.S., but has been renamed HR-V to conform to the acronym-based naming strategy that sired the CR-V, its larger cousin. The letters will adorn the little crossover once production of the America-bound version starts later this year at Honda’s new Fit assembly plant in Celaya, Mexico. The HR-V recently was unveiled at the 2014 New York auto show.



In Honda’s defense, the HR-V acronym has been used before on a similar vehicle sold in Europe a decade or so ago, so it has a measure of brand equity at least somewhere in the world. Honda has released some images of the small crossover that show it to have a strong family resemblance to the larger CR-V. One HR-V detail has been confirmed: It will feature the same central-mounted fuel tank and fold-flat Magic Rear Seat as the space-efficient Fit. Other than that, we’re not sure what changes will be made between the Vezel and the HR-V when it arrives, and nor do we know what engine it will get, although it probably will get something heartier than the 130-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder that powers the base Fit hatchback.

2015 Honda HR-V

2014 New York auto show

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17th April 2014

BMW Gets the 228i Back on Track with New Track Handling Package [2014 New York Auto Show]

BMW 228i Coupe with Track Handling Package

We were already enthusiastic about the new 2-series coupe, but BMW turned up the volume with the announcement of a Track Handling package option for the 228i. There’s an $11,000 difference between the base 228i and the much sportier M235i, and BMW is using the new package to bridge that gap.

The Track Handling package will consist of four elements: adaptive suspension, special Michelin Pilot tires on 18-inch wheels, variable sport steering, and upgraded brakes. The package is offered on all 228i coupes, whether equipped with the six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic.

With the adaptive suspension, the car is lower by 0.4 inch and includes front axle and central accelerometers. Working together with data from the steering-angle sensor, throttle position and brake-pressure sensors, a computer analyzes damping needs at all four corners and adjusts each damper in milliseconds in response to road conditions and driver inputs to minimize squat, dive, and roll.

2015 BMW 228i with Track Handling Package wheel

The package also includes variable sport steering with a mechanical steering rack (the crowd goes wild!) and a variable-assist ratio that provides low effort at slower speeds and gradually becomes faster as the car bends deeply into corners.

The upgraded brake system features 13.4-inch rotors with fixed four-piston calipers up front; at the rear are 13.6-inch rotors with two-piston calipers. Brake pads are upgraded as well, and for a touch of flash, the calipers are finished in dark blue; the front calipers bear the M logo.

The tires are special Michelin Pilot Super Sports similar to those on the M235i coupe. They’re designed for wet grip as well as dry and the rears are wider for traction. One thing they don’t do is run flat, so a mobility kit is included, consisting of a portable 12-volt air compressor and tire sealant neatly packaged in a nylon carrying case.



Pricing will be announced closer to the package’s July launch date, but it might just make for a compelling compromise between the base 228i and the M235i, especially if your last name isn’t Zuckerberg.BMW 228i Coupe with Track Handling Package

2014 New York auto show

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17th April 2014

Mazda Shows Chassis for Next-Gen 2016 Miata, Calls It a “Table of Contents” [2014 New York Auto Show]

Mazda Shows Chassis for Next-Gen 2016 Miata, Calls It a “Table of Contents”

According to a rather florid press release, the 2016 Mazda Miata chassis on display at the New York auto show is book parts. To wit: “With no richly layered, character line-laden sheetmetal to hide beneath, the Skyactiv-Chassis lays out a narrative of MX-5′s continuing story with a perfectly arranged table of contents.”

To parse that a wee bit, it means the fourth-gen example of the erstwhile Eunos Roadster will apparently wear some bold implementation of the company’s Kodo design language, giving us an excuse to exclaim, “KODO: SOUL OF MOTION” and revel in the warm whonngggg of an imaginary gong hit.

Mazda claims a weight-reduction target of 220 pounds for the next Miata. It’s been a while since we threw an MX-5 on our scales (the current automobile bowed for the ’06 model year, after all), but Mazda claims a 2480-pound curb weight for the most feathery 2014 edition, suggesting that the new car will be lighter than the second- and third-generation cars, but still a shade heavier than the original.

Mazda Shows Chassis for Next-Gen 2016 Miata, Calls It a “Table of Contents”

Judging from the silver-bits-to-black-bits ratio on the display example, expect a heavy dose of aluminum, which fits into Mazda’s “gram-shaving strategy” it touts. If any aspect is deemed extraneous, it is hated and shall be pared. This bodes well for not only the Miata, of course, but also the Fiat/Abarth/Whatever Spider that will use these same underpinnings.



Five bucks to the first mook to stick this rig into a homebuilt Seven. Eight if you let us drive it. We’ll go ten if you paint the thing to match Elvis Costello’s “Everyday I Write the Book” single sleeve.

Mazda Shows Chassis for Next-Gen 2016 Miata, Calls It a “Table of Contents”

2014 New York auto show

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17th April 2014

Mazda Unveils Last Special-Edition Miata Before the ND Arrives: We Hold Our Breath, Accordingly [2014 New York Auto Show]

Mazda Unveils Last Special-Edition Miata Before the ND Arrives: We Hold Our Breath, Accordingly [2014 New York Auto Show]

Love is an act of reciprocity, an outpouring of emotion with mutually sentimental (and sappy) benefits. For a crowd assembled at the Mazda pavilion at the Javits Center at the 2014 New York Auto Show, love was in the air, in the form of overwhelming joy for the universally adored Miata convertible.

The huddled masses—which included owners, journalists, and guests—gathered to hear details of the 25th Anniversary edition Miata, which marks a quarter-century of production for the sports car that embodies so many of the characteristics that define a driver’s car. The 25th Anniversary edition Miata retains many of the visual assets of the MX-5 Club edition, which is to say, a red-and-black paint scheme inside and out, and large blackout wheels. About the car’s Soul Red metallic paint, Mazda says, “it symbolizes the multi-faceted nature of the fiery fiend within.” Bilstein shocks will be standard equipment on 25th Anniversary edition Miatas equipped with the six-speed manual transmission.

For auto show-goers lacking purchase power, Mazda presented an array of Miatas that ran the gamut from lovingly preserved, first-edition models to one-off concept cars. New York was also home to a display of the chassis for the upcoming, fourth-generation ND Miata. Miata project manager Nobu Yamamoto claimed that, while “every part is different,” it stands to be the most coverable Miata to date.



Those enthusiasts with a proclivity for collectors-edition Miatas need to hasten their pace, as only 100 25th Anniversary edition Miatas are designated for export to these United States. But, as they say: you can’t hurry love. Unless you’re in a Miata, which is not very fast to begin with.

Mazda Introduces 25th Anniversary Miata

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17th April 2014

And Then There Were 10: SRT Unveils New Limited-Edition Viper [New York Auto Show]

And Then There Were 10: SRT Unveils New Limited-Edition Viper [New York Auto Show]

Just when you thought the SRT Viper Anodized Carbon Special Edition package couldn’t get any more exclusive, SRT goes and announces that 10 of the 50 vehicles scheduled for production will be built with Time Attack Group performance upgrades. When said Viper debuted in Los Angeles late last year, we—and just about everyone else—figured the SRT Viper Anodized Carbon Special Edition GTS had pretty much cornered the market on Anodized Carbon Special Edition Vipers. But SRT proved us wrong, finding just a tad more venom to squeeze out of its 640-hp, two-seat, matte-finished snake.

What’s In a Name?

The 10 cars in question, henceforth to be known as TAGACSEPVGTS (Time Attack Group Anodized Carbon Special Edition Package Viper GTS) models, will be built as numbers 41–50 of the series, ensuring the limited-edition run will finish with a bang. Essentially, what sets the TAGACSEPVGTS apart from the mere mortal ACSEPVGTS (Anodized Carbon Special Edition Viper GTS) is hardware of the go-fast variety.

In this case, the easiest route to get to from fastville to even-fasterville is by taking a trip through the parts bin of the TA (Time Attack), slowing only long enough to pick up all of its functional chassis and aero parts along the way. This includes matte-black lightweight forged-aluminum wheels, Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires, solid sway bars, two-mode Bilstein dampers tuned for on-track performance, and carbon-fiber decklid spoiler and splitters that produce a total of 339 pounds of downforce at 150 mph. Track-duty spec two-piece Brembo brake rotors, adapted from the 2010 Viper ACR-X race car, add to an increased thermal capacity for additional resistance to brake fade.

2015 SRT Viper GTS Time Attack Edition

Just as with the ACSEPVGTS, orange interior accents and stitching and carbon-fiber trim highlight the interior. Faux suede wraps the knee-blockers and door bolsters, in addition to serving as the headliner. The seats are covered in a mix of Nappa leather and faux suede, and get the orange stitching treatment as well. The Metallic Matte Black and satin exterior finishes—SRT claims they are the first and only application of the finishes on a Chrysler vehicle to date—are highlighted with Satin Black Vapor accents on the exhaust bezels, fuel-filler door, carbon brake ducts, and rear-end applique.



Passengers oblivious to the numerous overt clues that they are riding in arguably one of the most limited of editions in Viperdom will gently be reminded of the fact by the requisite numbered dash plaque in front of them. After all, it’s not every day one gets to ride in one of only 10 genuine TAGACSEPVGTSs to emerge from within the city limits of Detroit.

And Then There Were 10: SRT Unveils New Limited-Edition Viper [New York Auto Show]

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17th April 2014

50 Years Later, Another Mustang Sits Atop the Empire State Building [New York Auto Show]

50 Years Later, Another Mustang Sits Atop the Empire State Building [New York Auto Show]

In 1964, Ford placed a new Mustang on the 85th-floor observation deck of The Empire State Building. The skyscraper’s freight elevators have not grown since then. The Ford Mustang, on the other hand, has. At the 2014 New York Auto Show, Bill Ford was speaking with a measure of reverence about the company’s pony car; mentioning that his very first automobile was a 1975 Mustang II. As he spoke, a photo splashed across the screen; an original 1964-1/2 ’Stang and the new model. The image of the pair was even more jarring than the 901/991 press shots Porsche’s been bandying around over the last year. The original car looked positively dainty and delicate when paired with the new, slab-sided, elongated behemoth. It makes sense, then, that this new Mustang had to be cut into twice as many pieces to fit into the iconic skyscraper’s elevators.

After the first press day of the show, we walked the mile or so down to the Empire State Building. After getting lost on the 79th floor, we finally made it up to the 85th. There was no hoopla. No signage. But tucked off in a corner of the observation deck stood the 2015 Mustang, a crowd milling around it, but not necessarily focused on it. They were just as interested in the view of Manhattan from the Midtown landmark. The yellow car just seemed like a nice little bonus.

50 Years Later, Another Mustang Sits Atop the Empire State Building [New York Auto Show]

They didn’t seem to notice or care that the guy having his photo taken with the car was the grandson of Henry Ford either. Post photo-op, Ford mentioned to us that the original car had only been a three-piece deal. The new model? It had to be cut down to six individual assemblies—ones that could be pieced together in six hours, as the observation deck’s only closed between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. each day. When we turned in the night before, we’d just been pelted with a lashing of freezing rain. By the time Bill Ford arrived in the morning to shoot some video to accompany the auto-show presentation, the sun had come out, but even the native Michigander noted the unpleasantness of the morning temperature.



Regardless, the thing’s assembled and up there right now. If you’re in New York, it’ll be sitting there, 1000-plus feet above Manhattan, all day on April 17. Go give it a gander. Seriously, when was the last time you were up there, New Yorkers? When Aunt Mildred finally made the long-threatened trek out to visit from Herminie, PA?

Mustang at the Empire State Building
2014 New York Auto Show Full Coverage

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17th April 2014

2015 Subaru Outback: The Vehicle That Prophesied the Crossover, Evolved [2014 New York Auto Show]

2015 Subaru Outback: The Vehicle That Prophesied the Crossover, Evolved [2014 New York Auto Show]

In a desert some 20 years ago, Blazer-driving baddies were chasing Paul Hogan, who easily outmaneuvered them with his Australian accent and the “world’s first sport-utility wagon.” Those early TV commercials for the Subaru Outback, little more than a jacked-up Legacy wagon, were prophetic. Looking at the car-based crossovers saturating today’s SUV market, it’s no wonder the Outback has lasted five generations. READ MORE ››

2014 New York Auto Show Full Coverage

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17th April 2014

An American in China: Lincoln Launches Itself in the Far East [2014 Beijing Auto Show]

Lincoln China experience

Lincoln’s going big in China—both literally and figuratively.

Lincoln has announced what’s been expected for some time: It will enter the lucrative Chinese market. Ford’s luxury division plans to have five models on offer in China by 2016, with the MKZ and upcoming MKC crossover leading the charge. Later, Lincoln will add the Navigator, as well as a “mid-size luxury SUV,” which we take to mean the next MKX, and “an all-new full-size luxury sedan,” which intrigues us.

We expect to have more information on that mysterious sedan soon, but in the meantime, allow us to break down Lincoln’s ambitious plans for China. The automaker expects to open 60 dealerships in 50 cities throughout China within the next 18 months, although the initial rollout is far more modest. By this fall, just eight dealers in seven cities will have opened. More important, however, is Lincoln’s fresh start—it’s never sold cars in China before, so it is revamping its customer-facing business to try and snare luxury buyers in one of the hottest car markets on the planet.

Lincoln China experience

Lincoln’s proposed “Personalization Studio,” complete with giant monitor to show configurator.

Lincoln’s hitting the reset button and rolling out a new dealership concept, one that trades a “sales-and-service transaction” to a “relationship-based experience model” dubbed The Lincoln Way. Highlights include an open and inviting dealer environment, “sales and service transparency,” and a Personalization Studio. Some aspects are good, like Lincoln’s assignment of a dedicated three-pronged sales team consisting of a Host (builds relationship with customer), a Master (product specialist who can help customers configure cars), and a Craftsman (maintenance duty) to handle customers’ needs from walking in the door to the actual purchasing process. Others are creepy, such as a license-plate reader that identifies every potential new customer as they arrive at the store and lets salespeople personally greet each customer.



Lincoln China experience

For now, the new dealership concept will remain in China, although all Lincolns sold in China will be imported from North America. (Lincoln indicated to us that expanding the Chinese dealer experience to other markets is being looked at, but the timeline could be a lot longer, given the hurdles involved with such an ambitious image overhaul and existing dealers.) Lincoln’s recently introduced “Black Label” specification will be available in China, too, but will go by the cooler-sounding “Presidential” moniker. Lincoln, which has seen tepid interest in the States for some time now, desperately needs a win in China—we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out, but if Buicks are popular in the Far East, who’s to say Lincolns won’t be, too? Especially with the kind of heady service Lincoln wants its dealers in China to provide.

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17th April 2014

Modernizing Muscle: 2015 Dodge Challenger Debuts [2014 New York Auto Show]

2015 Dodge Challenger
Does this car look familiar? Of course it does, especially if you remember those thrilling days of yesteryear, 1970–’71, when the Challenger challenged the Mustang, the Camaro, the Firebird, and others in the pony-car sweepstakes with Hemi muscle and snappy styling. READ MORE ››

2014 New York Auto Show Full Coverage

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