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Watch: Behind the Wheel of the Ultra-Luxurious Volvo XC90 T8

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 20:45

Volvo’s XC90 T8 Excellence brings Volvo into the big leagues with Mercedes-Maybach, Bentley, and Rolls-Royce.

The Volvo XC90 is a 2018 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Finalist. The XC90 T8 Excellence brings the highly regarded SUV to new luxurious heights with its executive rear-seat package. The car is equipped with power seats, which include a heating and massage system. The vehicle also has iPads mounted to the back of the front seats and connected to an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot. Volvo partnered with Orrefors to create custom champagne flutes that are stored in a fridge between the seats.

In our 2018 Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence: The Rear Seat Review, we found that outside of a few weak spots, the interior was impressive. “As a first attempt at this sort of thing, Volvo’s interior team has done an incredible job amplifying a vehicle that was gorgeous and sumptuous to begin with,” we wrote.

At $106,000, this vehicle is Volvo’s most expensive and luxurious vehicle, but it’s much less expensive than rivals offering an executive rear-seat package.

Check out the video above to take a look at Volvo’s XC90 rear-seat package.

The post Watch: Behind the Wheel of the Ultra-Luxurious Volvo XC90 T8 appeared first on Motor Trend.

Categories: Property

Porsche Takes Stake in Rimac

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 19:54

To bolster its EV strategy, Porsche is taking a 10 percent stake in Rimac, the Croatian technology and electric sports car company.

“We feel that Rimac’s ideas and approaches are extremely promising, which is why we hope to enter into close collaboration with the company in the form of a development partnership,” said Porsche Finance and IT boss Lutz Meschke in a statement.

Rimac debuted the C Two hypercar at the Geneva Motor Show in March, featuring 2,000 hp and a range of 650 kilometers (404 miles) on the New European Driving Cycle. On top of these numbers, Rimac claims a 0-60 time of 1.85 seconds. Other than making super powerful cars, the company, formed in 2009, specializes in high-voltage battery technology, electric powertrains, and digital human-machine interfaces.

Rimac C Two

“This partnership now is an important step for Rimac on our way to become a component and system supplier of choice for the industry in electrification, connectivity and the exciting field of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems,” said Rimac CEO Mate Rimac in a statement.

The partnership comes at an opportune time. Porsche is gearing up to introduce the Taycan electric sports car, formerly known as Mission E. It will produce more than 600 hp from two motors when it launches in 2019. This car will spawn a Cross Turismo variant not long afterward. Proving it’s serious about greener powertrains, the company is investing more than six billion euros in electrification by 2022. This money will go toward electrifying its current lineup, creating new technologies, and expanding charging infrastructure.

Source: Porsche

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Categories: Property

2019 Volvo S60 Unveiled at New Plant in South Carolina

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 16:20

With the inauguration of its new plant in South Carolina, Volvo now makes vehicles in the U.S., starting with the new S60 premium midsize sedan. The automaker plans to add production of the next-generation XC90 large crossover in 2021.

Volvo has invested $1.1 billion in the U.S. and the plant will be the sole global source of the S60—the first car Volvo has ever made in the U.S. Half the sedans built in the U.S. will be exported.

The S60 begins production this fall with a lineup that includes the front-drive T5 with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine good for 250 hp. The all-wheel-drive T6 offers a turbo- and supercharged 2.0-liter. There will be two plug-in hybrids, but the U.S. only gets the more powerful T8 Twin Engine AWD plug-in where the gas engine is both turbo- and supercharged for a combined 400 horsepower. We do not get the T6 Twin Engine AWD plug-in hybrid that gets a combined 340 hp. A mild hybrid with a 48-volt system is expected next year.

There will not be a diesel engine available with the S60 for any market in keeping with Volvo’s commitment to have all vehicles electrified starting in 2019 with a goal of 1 million pure EVs or 25 percent of sales by 2025.

Like its midsize counterparts, the V60 and XC60, the S60 rides on the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) and has many of the same features. That includes City Safety with Autobrake that brakes to avoid an oncoming collision and recognizes pedestrians, cyclists, and large animals. Optional Pilot Assist will steer, brake, and accelerate up to about 80 mph and has been upgraded to provide better cornering. Other safety systems include Run-off Road Mitigation, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, and other steering assistance systems as well as optional Cross Traffic Alert with Autobrake.

The S60 gets Volvo’s Sensus Connect infotainment system that can be seen across all its new cars and is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 4G.  The large touchscreen has many menus with vehicle functions and connectivity.

For those who want to add more performance to their T8 plug-in, the Polestar electric performance division is offering Polestar Engineered which upgrades the  wheels, brakes, suspension, and engine control unit, boosting combined horsepower to 415. Instead of 18-inch wheels, the Polestar boasts 19-inch wheels as well as Brembo brakes and Ohlins shock absorbers.

The S60 can be obtained through the Care by Volvo subscription service where there is no down payment, just a flat fee of $775 a month for 24 months, for those who don’t want to buy or lease. Care by Volvo was launched in November and is also available for the XC40 and V60.

T5 models start between $36,795 and $43,895, and T6 models will run from $41,295. The T8, only offered in R-Design and Inscription trims, will start between $55,395 and $56,395. Orders begin today for all S60 models other than the Polestar Engineered version, which will be available for order on June 28. Pricing for that model has not yet been announced, but Volvo says it will sell in limited quantities.

The new Volvo plant is located about 40 miles west of Charleston. The site decision was made back in 2014 in recognition of the importance of the North American market, and the automaker broke ground in 2015. During construction it was known as “Volvo Project Thor.” The idea of building in Mexico was briefly considered and quickly discarded by CEO Hakan Samuelsson.

Initially it will employ 2,000 workers—1,500 will be in place by the end of the year—who will make 60,000 S60s a year, half of them for export. The plant’s capacity is 150,000 vehicles a year with ample land and 2.3 million square feet of buildings. Volvo expects another 2,000 workers to join when it adds the XC90. The site includes the plant, test track, training center, and an office building for about 300 people who work in R&D, purchasing, quality, and sales. Stamping comes from supplier Gestamp.

The plant, which was just inaugurated, has begun making preproduction S60s with Job 1 of saleable sedans coming this fall. The current S60 is made in China and Ghent, Belgium. Production is being phased out of Ghent, but China will continue to make long-wheelbase versions of the S60 for that market.

South Carolina is also home to BMW in Spartanburg and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van plant.

In 2010 China’s Zhejiang Geely, owned by billionaire Li Shufu, bought Volvo from Ford for $1.5 billion and the automaker has flourished under the new ownership.


The post 2019 Volvo S60 Unveiled at New Plant in South Carolina appeared first on Motor Trend.

Categories: Property

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Will Receive More Power

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 10:00

We pretty much already knew Mazda was giving the Miata more power. A Japanese car magazine, Car Watch, reviewed an updated Miata with 181 hp earlier this month. Now, Mazda has confirmed that the U.S.-spec Miata will also receive this sweet upgrade.

The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata will deliver 181 hp from its 2.0-liter engine, up from 155 hp. Torque has increased from 148 lb-ft to 151 lb-ft, and Mazda is promising a richer torque curve throughout the entire rev range. Redline has jumped from 6,800 rpm to 7,500 rpm.

To achieve better performance, Mazda implemented a number of mechanical changes. These include lighter pistons and connecting rods, as well as reconfigured intake ports and higher-pressure fuel injectors for improved efficiency. The engine’s increased valve opening angle and valve lift height, as well as the increased inner diameter of the exhaust manifold, help reduce exhaust loss. Like we learned earlier this month, the Miata will receive a low inertia, dual-mass flywheel that promises to improve smoothness and responsiveness over the previous single-mass flywheel.

The improvements don’t stop there. Mazda also increased the transmission’s final drive ratio from 3.454 to 3.583. Meanwhile, a new exhaust system promises to improve the Miata’s sound.

Mazda will add new safety features to the docket. Finally, the Miata gets a new, standard rearview camera. Newly available features include Traffic Sign Recognition and Smart City Brake Support, which helps drivers avoid frontal collisions at low speeds.

Other updates include an available brown canvas soft top and new black metallic 17-inch wheels. Mazda also says the doors are now easier to open. Peek inside and you’ll notice Mazda revised the cup holders and seat levers. A big upgrade is the car’s new telescoping steering wheel, which can adjust more than 1.6 inches.

Despite all the new equipment, Mazda managed to keep weight gains to a minimum. An aluminum steering shaft replaces the previous steel unit. Thanks to small counteractive measures like these, the car has plumped up just 7 pounds from the previous model.

The 2019 Miata goes on sale this fall in the U.S. More information, including prices, will be announced closer to the launch date.

Source: Mazda

The post 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Will Receive More Power appeared first on Motor Trend.

Categories: Property

2018 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic HSE First Test: Sports Car Aspirations

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 09:00

Of all the cars I’ve driven with Motor Trend over the past few years, my favorite might be the Jaguar F-Type. It’s not the quickest, most powerful, or most expensive sports car we’ve reviewed, but it’s both balanced and emotional. Its agile steering and throaty engine note are just as satisfying as its styling, and it offers everything from a sensible four-cylinder to a supercharged V-8. Jaguar drew inspiration from the F-Type when designing the E-Pace crossover, but it’s another matter altogether if its performance will capture our hearts in the same way as the sports car.

You’ll immediately notice the E-Pace shares visual cues with the F-Type, from the teardrop design of the side windows to the shape of the lights and the tapered-off rear end. In many ways, dimensions for the two vehicles aren’t all that far off. The E-Pace is 3 inches shorter than the F-Type, and its wheelbase is 2.4 inches longer. The model offers 246 hp in base form. But the more powerful version of the E-Pace delivers 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, and you’ll find these same specs on the turbo-four version of the F-Type.

We recently tested this more potent E-Pace crossover. Despite the same engine specs and its sporty looks, the E-Pace doesn’t resemble the F-Type at all in terms of driving experience. Unsurprisingly, the crossover proved slower in 0–60 tests. It hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, a whole second behind the F-Type equipped with the four-cylinder engine.

But let’s compare the E-Pace with its direct rivals. A 2019 Volvo XC40 we recently tested made it to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. Similarly, a 2016 BMW X1 xDrive28i AWD and 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic AWD hit the mark in 6.8 seconds and 6.9 seconds, respectively. The Jag’s superior numbers makes sense because it has the horsepower advantage here.

We were more surprised by another test. Although the E-Pace accelerates more quickly than its competitors, it’s slower to brake. This is despite the fact that the brakes bite down sharply when you first press them, giving the impression that they are going to bring you to a full stop quickly. The E-Pace required 130 feet to reach a complete stop from 60 mph. The Mercedes and Volvo only took 120 feet, while the BMW needed 122 feet.

In the figure eight, the crossover rounded the curves in 26.5 seconds at an average of 0.67 g. Among the competitors, the Mercedes came the closest to the E-Pace’s time, making its mark in 26.6 seconds at 0.67 g. Meanwhile, the Volvo managed 27.0 seconds at 0.65 g, and the BMW completed the test in 26.8 seconds at 0.65 g.

Although the Jag’s numbers are certainly reasonable, our test team reported noticeable understeer in the figure eight/skidpad tests.

“I wound up using third and fourth gears, as second is too short at corner exit,” road test editor Chris Walton said. “You have to drive this thing very carefully and well within a defined range of hustle to get the best out of it. Otherwise it delivers wide lines and mushy responses.”

Around town, the E-Pace won’t remind you of the nimble nature of the F-Type. Maneuvering at low speeds requires more turning of the wheel than you’d expect, even in Dynamic mode, and the wheel feels a bit heavy. And we were slightly disappointed with the E-Pace’s fuel economy. In our Real MPG tests, it scored 19.6/24.9/21.7 mpg city/highway/combined. That’s below its EPA rating of 21/27/23 mpg.

Despite sitting on 20-inch wheels, our E-Pace barely flinched over bumps and potholes. The cabin remained composed, though on the rigid side, when driving over imperfect roads, and it exhibited less rolling than our recently tested Volvo XC40. When accelerating onto the highway, this Jag emits a hearty exhaust note that hints at its bond with the F-Type.

One of the best-looking compact crossovers on the market is made even more comely with an optional black exterior package, which adds dark accents to the grille, side vents, and window surrounds. Inside the cabin, the E-Pace borrows the wraparound cockpit design and color schemes from the F-Type. Our model featured sumptuous Windsor leather seats, which were comfortable for long drives. The 10-inch touchscreen that comes standard with this high-trim model is equally as pleasing to the eye, and using the system isn’t so bad once you get the hang of it. We liked the navigation system that recognizes the names of many destinations, so drivers don’t have to type out the entire address. Unfortunately, the small emergency flasher button is positioned right below the screen where your hand might touch while your fingers are operating the controls. So I ended up activating the emergency flashers unintentionally on more than a couple occasions. The clean arrangement of buttons underneath the touchscreen and the simple climate control knobs are refreshing. One point of contention with the interior: It can be more difficult than usual to get into the rear seats. The rear doors don’t open very wide, which makes it inconvenient for loading passengers or cargo.

Depending on the trim, the E-Pace starts between $39,595 and well over $50,000, making it more expensive than rivals. However, we can’t complain about the bevy of features and the extra horsepower this coin affords. Some buyers will see the E-Pace as a more spacious alternative to a sports car, with F-Type looks and growl.

2018 Jaguar E-Pace P300 R-Dynamic AWD HSE BASE PRICE $54,095 PRICE AS TESTED $62,090 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV ENGINE 2.0L/296-hp/295-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,248 lb (59/41%) WHEELBASE 105.6 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 173.0 x 78.1 x 64.9 in 0-60 MPH 6.4 sec QUARTER MILE 15.0 sec @ 91.5 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 130 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.86 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.5 sec @ 0.67 g (avg) REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 19.6/24.9/21.7 mpg EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 21/27/23 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 160/125 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.83 lb/mile

The post 2018 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic HSE First Test: Sports Car Aspirations appeared first on Motor Trend.

Categories: Property

11 Well-Equipped SUVs Under $25,000

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 09:00

Although the average vehicle transaction price these days is well above $30,000, there’s a silver lining for those who don’t want to pay a lot but still want a well-equipped crossover. This list features well-equipped automatic-transmission crossovers priced under $25,000. Keep reading to learn about these crossovers’ cool standard and optional features (plus accessories), crash safety scores, and cargo space capacities. Before you head to the dealership and crack open your wallet, check out the crossovers below to see what you can get for under $25,000, before factoring in regional incentives.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Premium 2.0i AWD: $24,854

With Subaru’s raised-hatchback-like crossover, opt for the mid-level Premium trim to get 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, roof rails, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with orange stitching, automatic headlights, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. All-wheel drive is standard, but the Premium trim also comes with an off-road mode and hill-descent control for light off-road excursions. Even with all that, there’s still room left in the budget for optional accessories: a rubber rear seatback protector, a rear bumper cover, and all-weather floor and cargo mats. Additionally, the Crosstrek delivers 27/33 mpg city/highway, can carry up to 55.3 cubic feet of cargo, and has a five-star NHTSA overall crash rating, the highest rating available.

You’ll Like: Lots of cargo room, impressive off-road capability, good crash safety scores, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard

You Won’t Like: The EyeSight driver-assist package and a proximity key with push-start ignition can’t be optioned at this price point

Motor Trend’s Take: We commended the Crosstrek for its comfortable ride and impressive handling skills during a First Test review. The raised hatchback also offers lots of interior room, good value, and 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Although we wish the Subaru had more power and a better-performing lane keep assist system. We concluded our review by saying, “The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited is capable and dependable, ready to go wherever you want to go, to enable you to do whatever you want to do—your BFF on wheels. It’s an endearing little crossover that’s just a few lb-ft away from greatness.”

2018 Honda HR-V EX AWD: $24,915

Honda’s smallest crossover can be purchased for under $25,000 in the mid-level EX trim with all-wheel drive. The EX trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, heated front seats, automatic climate control, a proximity key with push-start ignition, LaneWatch (a rear-facing camera mounted on the passenger side-view mirror), a 7.0-inch touchscreen, and Pandora compatibility. Honda’s versatile second-row Magic Seats come standard on the EX, but roof rails don’t. The EX trim doesn’t offer any packages, and optional accessories will break the price cap. The HR-V AWD comes with a 27/31 mpg EPA rating (28/34 mpg with front-wheel drive), a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA, and it offers 55.9 cubic feet of maximum cargo room.

You’ll Like: Loads of cargo room, versatile second-row Magic Seats, good crash safety scores, heated seats and moonroof are standard on the EX

You Won’t Like: The 2018 model doesn’t offer automatic emergency braking, Apple CarPlay, or Android Auto, roof rails available only on the EX-L Navi trim

Motor Trend’s Take: The HR-V’s interior offers lots of versatility thanks to the Magic Seat feature and plenty of cargo room considering its small footprint. However, in a First Test review, we didn’t like the subcompact’s acceleration, engine sound, and the location of the USB and 12-volt ports. “For those who put a priority on packaging and reliability over performance, the Honda HR-V is a compelling entrant in the growing subcompact crossover segment,” we concluded.

2018 Nissan Kicks SR FWD: $24,630

Nissan’s new subcompact crossover is packed with value thanks to its low starting price, but all-wheel drive is not available. Staying below the $25,000 price cap, the Kicks can be ordered in the top SR trim that comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, roof rails, a 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, a proximity key with push-start ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert are also standard, and not usually found at this price.

Load up the 2018 Kicks SR with the Premium package, which includes heated front seats, faux-leather seating with orange stitching, and an eight-speaker Bose Personal Plus audio system. Most buyers would be happy with all those features, but you can keep it under $25,000 and still add various packages including Exterior (crossbars and rear bumper protector), Exterior Electronics (puddle lighting and rear parking sensors), Interior Electronics (ambient lighting with 20 available colors and auto-dimming rearview mirror), and Wi-Fi and Apps. For kicks (pun intended), throw in the illuminated door sill plates and carpeted floor and cargo mats, as well. The lightweight Kicks comes with a 31/36 mpg rating and can haul 32.3 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seats folded (though Nissan says there’s an extra 21.8 cubic feet of space in the rear cargo area).

You’ll Like: The lengthy standard features list, automatic emergency braking is standard, high fuel economy rating, optional Wi-Fi capability

You Won’t Like: All-wheel drive is not available

Motor Trend’s Take: The Kicks offers lots of standard features at a low starting price, including automatic emergency braking and a 7.0-inch touchscreen. We were very impressed by the optional Bose audio system and appreciated that even the midlevel SV trim has blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. All-wheel drive is not available, but acceleration feels adequate and the crossover is “pleasant to drive” around the city. We concluded our First Drive review by saying, “The Kicks is surprisingly well equipped with features you actually want, and it boasts killer fuel economy. If all-wheel drive isn’t a must-have, it’s hard to come up with another compelling reason to keep the Kicks off your shopping list.”

2018 Mazda CX-3 Touring AWD: $24,820

The CX-3 is Mazda’s smallest crossover—get the mid-level Touring trim with all-wheel drive and a couple of accessories to avoid going over $25,000. The Touring trim features 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated front seats, leatherette-trimmed seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, keyless quick-entry with push-start ignition, low-speed automatic emergency braking (up to 18 mph), and a 7.0-inch touchscreen display. If you choose AWD, all-weather mats and roof rails can be added (and are included in our price above). If not,  you’ll have enough money for the Preferred Equipment package that includes a sunroof, a seven-speaker Bose audio system, HD radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a cargo cover. The CX-3 is rated at 29/34 with front-wheel drive (27/32 with AWD), comes with a five-star overall NHTSA rating, and can hold between 42.3 and 44.5 cubic feet of cargo (depending on whether the CX-3 has the Bose audio system).

You’ll Like: Low-speed automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert are standard, good crash safety scores

You Won’t Like: No Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, satellite radio and a cargo cover are extra, cargo area could be more spacious, AWD model has a smaller fuel tank

Motor Trend’s Take: Mazda’s CX-3 is fun to drive, has a nice interior, good ride comfort, and good acceleration considering the segment. As with many subcompacts, cargo space is tight and the front armrest covers the cupholders. We ended our First Test review by noting that “the 2016 Mazda CX-3‘s combo of just-enough power and class-leading handling, tech, and interior quality should propel it to [success in the subcompact CUV segment].”

2018 Hyundai Kona SEL AWD: $24,930

Select the SEL trim with AWD on Hyundai’s new subcompact crossover to keep the price tag below $25,000. Standard features on the SEL include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, a proximity key with push-start ignition, heated front seats, roof rails, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio.

That leaves enough room for the only offered package on the trim level, the Tech package: a sunroof, eight-way power driver seat, foglights, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and a driver attention system. If you don’t need AWD, the budget allows for a few accessories such as carpeted floor mats, an all-weather cargo mat, and mudguards. The Kona delivers 27/33 mpg (25/30 with AWD) and offers 45.8 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats folded down. Upgrade beyond our price cap to the Limited or Ultimate trims to replace the Kona’s 147-hp 2.0-liter I-4 with a 175-hp 1.6-liter turbo-four.

You’ll Like: Can be equipped with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, and a driver attention system (an uncommon driver-assist feature at this price); heated seats and roof rails are standard on the SEL

You Won’t Like: The Limited trim must be purchased in order to get LED taillights, automatic climate control, and foglights; conservative interior design

Motor Trend’s Take: Although the suspension is on the firm side, “it takes a sizable bump or pothole to unsettle the car and bounce you around.” The trade-off is agile handling on winding roads. The optional 1.6-liter turbo-four has plenty of power, and the twin-clutch transmission shifts well. Cargo space is not impressive, but the multimedia system is easy to use and responsive. “If hauling people and gear is your main mission, the Honda HR-V and Subaru Crosstrek will serve you better. The Kona puts style and an entertaining driving experience first, especially with the independent rear suspension on all-wheel-drive models,” we said in our First Drive review.

2018 Kia Soul Plus FWD: $24,515

With the front-drive Kia Soul under $25,000, you can get lots of tech or the more powerful 201-hp turbocharged engine (the most powerful one on this list) but not both. If you opt for the midlevel Plus trim, there’s enough in the budget for the Audio package that adds an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a Harman Kardon audio system, speaker lights, a proximity key with push-start ignition, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. That still leaves plenty in the budget for accessories including crossbars, interior ambient lighting, a rear spoiler, remote start, and exterior puddle lighting.

For the top turbocharged Exclaim trim, any package will take the Soul over the limit, so a $25,000 budget means settling for the 7.0-inch touchscreen without  the Harman Kardon audio system. The Soul is rated at 25/30 mpg with the Plus’ non-turbo engine and 26/31 mpg with the Exclaim’s turbocharged unit. The Soul isn’t available with all-wheel drive, but it can carry between 49.5 and 61.3 cubic feet of cargo depending on whether you’re using the cargo tray. The NHTSA gave the Soul its highest five-star crash rating.

You’ll Like: Having a choice at this price point between a powerful turbocharged engine or a package with plenty of technology, five-star NHTSA safety rating; loads of cargo space

You Won’t Like: Automatic emergency braking and heated seats can’t be purchased at this price point, AWD is not offered

Motor Trend’s Take: Inside, the Soul offers good interior fit and finish, an easy-to-use multimedia system, and a spacious interior. Even though the Soul has a tall body, body roll is well controlled and the hatchback is fun on back roads. The base engines don’t offer much power, but there’s a turbo-four option. After spending a year with a 2.0-liter Kia Soul (the engine option below the newer 201-hp turbo option), we said, “I grew to appreciate what the Soul was good at, realizing that it has more pros than cons. I never would have considered the Soul before my time in it, so it definitely proved me wrong.”

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE FWD: $24,778

The C-HR subcompact comes in two trims but doesn’t offer all-wheel drive. Because the top XLE Premium trim puts the C-HR above the $25,000 mark, stick with the base XLE trim that comes standard with 18-inch wheels, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated rear camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The C-HR also comes standard with a package of driver-assist features that includes adaptive cruise control (the only vehicle on this price-sensitive list with that feature), automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with lane keep assist, and automatic headlights. There’s still some room left in the budget for several accessories: all-weather floor and cargo mats, door sill protectors, foglights, mudguards, a rear bumper protector, and crossbars. The C-HR is rated at 27/31 mpg, comes with a five-star overall NHTSA rating, and offers up to 36.4 cubic feet of cargo space.

You’ll Like: Having adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane keep assist, unmistakable styling

You Won’t Like: No Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or heated seats at this price point, AWD is not offered, small cargo capacity

Motor Trend’s Take: In Motor Trend SUV of the Year testing, we said, “There were kind words for its unique styling, fun handling, and funky interior with embossed diamond motif. But the C-HR’s lack of capability, utility, and features is made all the more galling by the availability of all-wheel drive, a hybrid powertrain, and a modern infotainment system in global markets. A frustrating entry.”

2018 Ford EcoSport SE FWD: $24,605

Ford’s new subcompact crossover stays below $25,000 with the SE trim, front-wheel drive, and two packages. The SE trims comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, foglights, a sunroof, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Our $24,605 EcoSport SE build also includes the Cargo Management package (cargo net and organizer) and the Cold Weather package (all-season floor liners, heated side-view mirrors, heated steering wheel, and a windshield wiper de-icer). The EcoSport comes with a 27/29 mpg rating (23/29 with AWD) and can carry up to 50.0 cubic feet of cargo.

You’ll Like: Rear parking sensors, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio are standard on the SE

You Won’t Like: Lacks driver-assist safety features at this price, mediocre fuel economy, subpar handling dynamics and ride comfort

Motor Trend’s Take: Designed for overseas markets, the EcoSport does not perform well against rivals from the U.S. due to its poor handling, rough ride, small interior, and subpar interior fit and finish. We ended out First Drive review by saying, “If you don’t need AWD, a Kia Soul is better looking, way more fun to drive, and way cheaper; an HR-V brings legendary Honda resale value; and a $25,905 midgrade Subaru Crosstrek with the EyeSight option package gets world-class crash-prevention systems and adaptive cruise control…”

2018 Chevrolet Trax LT FWD: $24,840

Buyers can load up the Chevrolet Trax’s LT trim, but AWD will put the subcompact above the $25,000 mark (before considering regional incentives). The LT trim comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, automatic headlights, LED taillights, remote start, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Wi-Fi hotspot capability. The LT Convenience package (a proximity key with push-start ignition, six-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and deluxe cloth seats with leatherette trim) and the Driver Confidence package (blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and rear parking sensors) can be added. The front-drive Trax delivers 25/33 mpg (24/30 mpg with AWD), comes with a five-star NHTSA overall rating, and offers up to 48.4 cubic feet of cargo space.

You’ll Like: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM are standard, five-star overall NHTSA rating

You Won’t Like: No heated seats or sunroof on models with MSRPs under $25,000

Motor Trend’s Take: The Trax is an average crossover with a decent amount of standard tech. Ride quality is fine (unless you opt for the 18-inch wheels), cornering grip and acceleration are OK, and it lacks stand-out good looks.

2018 Jeep Renegade Latitude FWD: $24,920

Keeping the Renegade below $25,000 is not easy if you want anything higher than the base Sport trim. The Latitude trim features 17-inch alloy wheels (with the automatic transmission), dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights, roof rails, foglights, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Front-drive is necessary because adding all-wheel drive (or additional packages) puts the price north of the limit. If you want all-wheel drive, opt for the Upland trim that sits below the Latitude and above the Sport trim. If you go that route, the 7.0-inch touchscreen is replaced by a 5.0-inch unit, and you lose Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. With front-wheel drive, the Renegade is rated at 22/30 mpg, or 21/29 mpg with all-wheel drive. The subcompact received a four-star overall rating (out of five) from the NHTSA and comes with a maximum cargo capacity of 50.8 cubic feet.

You’ll Like: Lots of cargo space, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard in the Latitude trim

You Won’t Like: No heated seats, sunroof, or proximity key with push-start ignition on models with MSRPs under $25,000, four-star overall NHTSA rating, fuel-economy rating is low for the segment

Motor Trend’s Take: Jeep’s Renegade has a roomy, well-packaged interior and unique styling that stands out from the others on the list. The Trailhawk version provides good off-road capability, but other models with all-wheel drive don’t. Acceleration is average for the segment, but the automatic transmission can be sluggish when power is needed—something that we noted in a long-term update.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE 2.4 FWD: $24,825

Mitsubishi’s most affordable crossover is well equipped and can be purchased for under $25,000 if you opt for the second-highest SE trim without AWD. The SE trim includes 18-inch wheels, a proximity key with push-start ignition, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with red stitching, foglights, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. While still keeping the MSRP under $25,000, you can also order the all-weather floor and cargo mats, crossbars, and a cargo cover. The Outlander Sport is rated at 23/29 mpg with front-wheel drive (23/28 with AWD), comes with a four-star overall NHTSA rating, and holds up to 49.5 cubic feet of cargo.

You’ll Like: Decent cargo space, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto

You Won’t Like: Lacks automatic emergency braking at this price, four-star overall NHTSA rating, mediocre fuel economy

Motor Trend’s Take: The Outlander Sport has not changed much since 2011, and the Mitsubishi shows its age with poor interior fit and finish, lots of engine and road noise, vague steering, and run-of-the-mill handling dynamics. We concluded our First Test review of a 2018 model by saying, “If you’re set on a Mitsubishi, consider the all-new and similarly sized Eclipse Cross. I have driven it, and it’s by far a superior vehicle.”

Larger Options

If the above vehicles are too small for your needs and you still want to stay around $25,000, consider base-model crossovers from the segment one size up. The Honda CR-V (75.8 cubic feet of total cargo space) is the 2018 Motor Trend SUV of the Year. For a $25,245 base front-drive LX trim, you get 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, automatic climate control, a multi-view rearview camera, and a USB port. The LX is equipped with a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated I-4 and is spacious but lacks the more expensive EX trim’s 7.0-inch touchscreen, more powerful 1.5-liter turbo-four engine, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a proximity key with push-button start, and automatic emergency braking.

The Mazda CX-5, with 59.6 cubic feet of total cargo space, is another good choice. Like the Honda, the CX-5’s base front-drive Sport trim starts above the $25,000 mark at $25,145, and comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, LED headlights, low-speed automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. The midlevel Touring trim starts at $27,210 and adds 19-inch wheels, a proximity key with push-start ignition, rear air vents, leatherette seating, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist with lane departure warning.

It all comes down to your priorities. If passenger and cargo room are the most important, consider the larger CR-V LX, but if you want lots of options and features, it’s hard to beat the new Nissan Kicks. Need a capable and safe AWD option? Get the Subaru Crosstrek.

The post 11 Well-Equipped SUVs Under $25,000 appeared first on Motor Trend.

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2019 Honda Insight First Drive: Third Try’s A Charm

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 05:01

Strapping into the original 2000-model-year Honda Insight, I was never more certain about anything: This will be a hit.

Man oh man, here’s the first hybrid sold in America. It’s a radically aluminum, slippery teardrop of a two-seater that looks like an eye-catching cross between a Chiclet and a space-pod dropped from Venus. Brilliant, brilliant car. And in the end, a few engineering professors did in fact, buy them—but there’s only so many of those, and then it quietly disappeared.

In 2009, I stared at the words “All-New Second-Generation Honda Insight.” This was in the context of a showdown with the recently redesigned, third-generation Prius. What can I say—my only defense for picking the four-door, five-seat Honda the winner was temporary insanity. I was way too enthusiastic about its cheapskate cost of ownership during the frightening downdraft of the Great Recession, and not nearly disturbed enough by its otherwise dreariness. In the end, a few car-hating accountants bought them—but there’s only so many of those, and then it quietly disappeared.

So here I am pecking out the words “Honda Insight” for a third time. A bit nervously, too, I’ll admit. If I screw this one up, who knows what’s going to happen. Perhaps I’ll have my writer epaulettes ripped from my shirt sleeves and be pushed out of the car-guy treehouse. However, just maybe, Honda—and I—have finally learned our lesson: A successful car’s gotta be more than a one-trick pony. It’s reassuring, then, that Honda’s packed the 2019 Insight with both the first edition’s caliber of technology and the second generation’s equally compelling value proposition.

For starters, it recycles the full-hybrid blueprints already used in its bigger brothers—the latest Accord Hybrid and Clarity Plug-In hybrid—but simply shrunk everything to about 75 percent scale. The gas engine is a 107-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder (Atkinson cycle, naturally) with its crankshaft offset to decrease rubbing friction. Most of the time, it spins a generator to energize a 129-hp traction motor. But during highway cruising it might instead find itself simply clutched to the drive wheels via a solitary gear ratio to cut out the electrical middlemen to produce maximum efficiency. If the traffic gets feisty, pressing the accelerator pedal past a subtle (admonishing) resistance point (at 75 percent of its travel) soars the engine revs to make maximum juice and acceleration. And when you’re trying to keep a low profile, there’s an EV mode for briefly slinking through the neighborhood when you get home, um, a bit too late.

The other driving modes are the usual trio of suspects: Eco, Normal, and Sport. Each is software-tailored for its own accelerator alertness and enthusiasm for climate controlling. But it’s the cabin’s repertoire of customizable augmented acoustics that grabbed my attention even more: On top of the always-on sound-cancellation of road rumble, any anomalous change in the 1.5-liter’s volume as its rpm changes is artificially smoothed (satisfying our subconscious expectation that the engine’s volume should steadily climb with revs). Then, in Sport mode, there’s even an additional texture—a subtle snarl layered onto what’s, when naked, simply a thin, raspy exhaust. The effect is rather appealing, actually. Except for the occasional long incline when everything gets entirely too raucous.

With 151 system hp, this feels like a fairly brisk car, and Honda’s probably right when it says the Insight will walk away from a Prius. Yet it’ll do that while being nearly as efficient, too; its LX and EX versions (wearing 215/55 R16 tires) return a triumphant 55/49/52 mpg city/highway/combined (that ebbs slightly to 51/45/48 for the top-drawer Touring version rolling on 215/50 R17s). Here’s the eye-opener: Corrected to contemporary EPA methodology, that first-generation teardrop Insight produced mpgs of 49/61/53 city/highway/combined—a single combined mpg better than this loaded-with-features (and modern crash-safety tech), five-passenger sedan that exhibits virtually none of the polarizing bodywork of aerodynamic sculpting.

The car that surrounds the spiffy drivetrain is a mostly reskinned Civic to visually differentiate it, meaning it’s still a practical five-seater with a notably big back seat and a nice-sized, 15.1-cubic-foot trunk. To maximize those cubic feet, Honda situated the hybrid system’s small, lithium-ion battery under the rear seat, shrinking the tank size to 10.6 gallons (though that’s largely offset by the car’s stingy fuel consumption). And Honda’s trunk team defended its cargo capacity through some unorthodox packaging elsewhere. Snooping under the hood, I paused. Where’s the battery? There’s nothing but hybrid guts in the engine bay. I checked the trunk. Nothing there, either. It turns out that the battery is inside the cabin, under the shifter, where somebody realized there was a little bit of room doing nothing.

On the road, the 2019 Insight seems more solid and drives more fluidly than the tenth-generation Civic platform it’s based on. Although its extra sound deadening didn’t subdue the tires’ occasional yowls on grooved concrete highway, it’s way calmer inside than I expected. Its ride is better isolated via hydraulic front suspension bushings (that are even cooled by little underfloor air scoops), and the front, lower L-arms are redesigned for less longitudinal stiffness (for more relaxed bump compliance) but stiffer laterally for crisper steering feel.

The steering itself is variable-ratio, having happily exorcised of the common demons of nonlinearity, while providing quicker responses near lock for zippy parking. At the other extreme—carving through windy back-road hills—steering turn-in is sweetened by a lighter aluminum hood and the subtle antics of the inside front wheel’s brake pads, which can lightly scuff their disc to amplify yaw. Try to drive dead-straight down a strongly cambered road, and the electrically assisted steering will eventually notice your subtle efforts to countersteer and add its own torque to compensate. Stopping a hybrid often means brake pedal feel that’s as predictable as stepping into a bouncy-house, but this one has kudos-worthy linearity, backed by three-setting, easy-reach finger-tap paddles behind the steering wheel.

Indeed, the list of sophisticated standard features here is roll call of greatest hits: adaptive cruise control (down to 0 mph), lane centering, auto high-beams, a multi-angle rearview camera, traffic sign recognition, collision-mitigation braking, heated side mirrors; the EX and Touring versions get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, SMS text messaging, and plenty more.

At prices stepping from $23,725 for the LX, $24,995 for the EX, and $28,985 for the Touring, it seems that the third time’s finally the charm, right? Not so fast.

Despite all its good stuff—fabulous features, even more fabulous mileage, interior spaciousness, completely unexpected driving sophistication, and sheer technological terrificness—Honda is pushing a boulder uphill by debuting a sedan exactly when other carmakers are axing some of theirs. Moreover, it’s risking cannibalizing its two existing, world-class sedans—the Civic and Accord—that still sell well by threading a complicating needle between them. Things will only get harder if gas prices drop, too.

The first- and second-generation Insights failed due to overspecialization; this one risks having learned that lesson too well. It’s a Swiss Army knife of a car: great at so many things that its audience has left the elevator by the time it’s done making its pitch. Which would be a shame because, after 18 years, it’s a story lots of people would enjoy.

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2019 Mercedes-Benz C300 First Drive: A Car That Talks to Itself

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 23:01

Take a quick glance at the exterior of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz C300, and you’d be forgiven for not spotting any conspicuous visual changes. Squint, and perhaps you might notice the revised shape of the bumpers, or the way the standard LEDs brighten up the head- and taillights at night. But that’s about it.

The choice to keep things similar is intentional, Mercedes says. Customers are happy with how the car looks, so why mess with success? Instead, Mercedes’ focus is to bring the 2019 C-Class up to the top of the tech heap, upgrading its electronics architecture to accommodate the latest and greatest safety features—with a few extra tricks added for good measure. Indeed, it might not look all that different, but the big deal here is that the C-Class is much smarter than before.

All of the intelligent drive features found on the S- and E-Class are now available on the smaller C. Semi-autonomous driving is enhanced by the use of GPS data, automatically adjusting speed for curves and intersections, while upgraded radar and camera systems keep an eye on traffic conditions ahead of and around the car. Active Lane Change Assist is also included—engage the turn signal while the system is operating, and it’ll change lanes for you, even leaving the turn signal on until the maneuver has been completed. Automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are also on hand. Even the climate control is now smarter courtesy of GPS, automatically recirculating the air when the car enters a tunnel and reverting to fresh air upon exit.

Inside, the changes are a little more obvious. Buyers can opt for an all-digital cluster that replaces the traditional speedo and tach with a 12.3-inch configurable display. In the center of the console, the “floating screen” is now a little less prominent. Going from a square shape to a squat rectangle makes it feel more harmonious and less of a tacked-on afterthought. It’s bigger now, too, with the standard screen measuring 7.0 inches and the upgraded display clocking in at 10.3 inches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard across the board.

A redesigned steering wheel features the thumb pad controllers from the S- and E-Class, as well. Using little swipes, the driver can use the left one to change the info in the instrument cluster, and the right one to interact with the center display. Continuing with the tactile theme, the COMAND touchpad now offers haptic feedback.

The rest of the interior is a knockout, as it’s been since the C-Class debuted in 2015. My tester wears a domino-inspired scheme, with diamond-quilted white Nappa leather nestled in between swaths of black, part of the optional AMG Line package. And although some might admire the anthracite black open-pore wood trim, it looks a little too artificial and drab for my tastes. The warmth of the brown walnut wood is a much better complement.

In the 2019 C300—the base trim for U.S. buyers—a new 2.0 turbo-four makes 14 more horsepower than the old engine, for 255 hp, while torque stays steady at 273 lb-ft. Peak torque now arrives 500 rpm later at 1,800, likely contributing to the slight manufacturer-estimated dip in 0–60 to 5.9 seconds from 2018’s 5.8.

Part of the horsepower increase comes from how the new twin-scroll turbocharger gets its twist on. Instead of exhaust gases hitting the turbine all at once, it’s now divvied up into two cylinders at a time, providing a more even and metered flow of air. Think of it like blowing out candles on your birthday cake: A big heave of breath might have more power behind it, but it’s the controlled exhale that lasts longer.

The result is a happy little mill, delivering a healthy dose of grunt throughout the rev range with only small pockets of turbo lag on occasion. Even in the upper revs, Mercedes’ 2.0-liter retains its composure, avoiding the thrash and clatter that befalls other four-cylinders. Only at much higher speeds on the autobahn does the C300 begin to show any kind of strain.

Throw it into a corner, and the C300 quickly reminds you that it’s tuned for comfort, not agility, even with the suspension set to its Sport setting. Of course, if it’s more chutzpah you’re after, Mercedes offers the C-Class in C43 guise. And even though the nine-speed automatic delivers its gear changes in a mostly refined fashion, at times it was a little too eager to hold gears after a spirited start. Calm down, C300, I’m just leaving the mall at rush hour.

Speaking of malls, C300 can also notify you if it’s been broken into, or if someone smacks into it while it’s parked, and can similarly tell you if the vehicle is being towed. Details of the incident are beamed to the Mercedes Me app as well as displayed on the center display during startup. In the event of an impact, this optional system uses the accelerometer and anti-theft sensors to determine where the car was hit and indicates the area on an illustration within the alert. Assistance can be summoned if the damage interferes with driving. It’s also technically possible for the car’s cameras to record the incident, though current privacy laws prevent this part of the feature from being activated.

So although the C300 might not look that much different at first glance, the tech has taken a big leap forward. The 2019 C300 sedan will arrive on dealer lots later this year, joined once again by convertible and coupe versions. Pricing has yet to be announced, but expect a slight bump in starting MSRP from the 2018 models. All that new tech comes at a price, after all.

Photos of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz C300 Cabriolet and 2019 Mercedes-AMG C43 variants are featured in the gallery below.

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First Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor Rolls off the Line

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 21:00

Tesla has begun production on the dual-motor Tesla Model 3. It only took 3 weeks to produce the all-new assembly line for the Model 3, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Musk announced the news on Twitter earlier this week.

Amazing work by Tesla team. Built entire new general assembly line in 3 weeks w minimal resources. Love u guys so much! Pic of 1st Model 3 dual motor performance coming off the line …

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 16, 2018

The higher-performance version of the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive Tesla Model 3 will hit 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, the automaker says. Another variant, however, will take 4.5 seconds to reach 60 mph. It will also have a top speed of 140 mph, whereas the new performance version will reach 155 mph. Both versions will boast a range of 310 miles per charge.

Tesla has now cut 9 percent of its workforce; however, production of the Model 3 will not be affected. Musk wrote in a company email revealed earlier this month, “We have made the difficult decision to let go of approximately 9% of our colleagues across the company.”

Tesla failed to hit its production goals for the Model 3 by the end of the first quarter. Now, Tesla is trying to hit a weekly Model 3 production rate of 5,000 cars by the end of this month.

Source: Tesla

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2020 Rivian Pickup and SUV First Look: Elec-Trucks

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 19:00

Earlier this month, Angus MacKenzie’s story “Tesla Killers: Rise of the E-Machines” detailed the headwinds that will face Elon Musk’s enterprise as mainstream automakers ready some 50-plus new battery-electric vehicles for production by 2025. Not mentioned in that piece are the startup EV disrupters we’ve covered that also hope to muscle in on the long-distance EV space—companies like Lucid Motors, Faraday Future, NIO, and Byton. Most of these have made loud noises about ambitious launch plans in the U.S., and some have clearly gotten out a bit over their skis. A fifth such startup is Rivian Automotive LLC, an American company that’s made almost no noise whatsoever to date, despite having toiled quietly for nine years toward a scheduled launch of two battery-electric trucks in mid-2020: a pickup and a three-row SUV that will deliver “the acceleration of a Ferrari with the off-road capability of a Rover or Jeep.”

The company was founded in 2009 by RJ Scaringe, who holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT, where he was a researcher in the Sloan Automotive Laboratory, a green transportation incubator. His original plan was to bring a high-performance electric coupe to market, and that plan looked viable enough to get buy-in from some early investors that included retired Chrysler design boss and Motor Trend Car of the Year judge Tom Gale. This initial round of capital funded construction of a running prototype by 2011; but by then the automotive landscape had changed enough to prompt a rethink of the product and business plan to include the aforementioned trucks, which will mostly share a running skateboard chassis design. Along with this shift in focus came the current name of the company—Rivian, which is simply a mashup of syllables from Indian River, after the Florida Intracoastal Waterway along which Scaringe grew up.

The new and improved business case helped Rivian secure significant funding from fellow MIT alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel. He currently serves as chairman and president of Abdul Latif Jameel Company Ltd—a Saudi conglomerate that owns several renewable energy subsidiaries around the world and has a large automotive footprint in the Middle East (at times claiming the distinction of being the world’s largest independent Toyota/Lexus distributor). This funding source has helped Rivian expand to an enterprise that employs 350 people in four locations: A large, open and airy sleekly modern R&D center and headquarters in Plymouth, Michigan, a western suburb of Detroit; two locations in California—Irvine, where the battery and control systems are developed, and San Jose, which is responsible for connectivity and autonomy; and a 2.6-million-square-foot assembly plant in Normal, Illinois. The plant formerly built the beloved Mitsubishi Eclipse and came with equipment for stamping, injection molding, body shop, paint, and final assembly of 250,000 vehicles per year.

Few specific details about the products themselves have been revealed as of yet, but Scaringe grabbed a dry-erase marker and drew me a picture of where he’s aiming to place his electric trucks in a crowding marketplace that he expects to gradually transition from an ownership model to one in which travelers pay for usage. His whiteboard talk starts with a single axis showing commodity transportation at left and aspirational brands at right. Today’s ownership setup causes sales to distribute along a bell curve: low on the Mitsubishi Mirage left end, high in the loaded-Camry middle, and low again on the Mercedes-Benz right end. He reckons the use-based economy will rearrange that distribution, with high demand for low-end, cheap vehicles on short trips (think Uber X), reduced interest in today’s median mainstreamers, and rising demand at the aspirational end of the spectrum for vacations, longer journeys, and more predictable trips. Because no new startup can reasonably hope to succeed on both ends of that distribution, Rivian will leave the commodity end to the established players and focus instead on the aspirational end.

Next he adds a vertical axis where the up direction represents “comfortable/inviting” and down represents “impressive/showy.” Scaringe sees the Tesla Model X fitting squarely in the lower right quadrant along with most European high-performance SUVs. These emphasize splashy styling and impressive performance at the expense of practicality, with function following form. The Rivian products will aim for the upper right quadrant—still aspirational and high-performing but considerably more practical, inviting, and casual. Think of a Patagonia jacket versus a Hugo Boss twill overcoat.

Will Rivian’s funding dry up before it gets to production as Faraday Future’s seems to have done? Can a second American startup tap into the Apple-like buyer devotion and mania Tesla enjoys? Keep it tuned here to find out as we approach an anticipated official unveiling this November.

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Honda Civic Type R Sets New Record at Spa-Francorchamps

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 17:50

The Honda Civic Type R has been breaking lap records left and right. This time, the hot hatch clocked a time of 2 minutes, 53.72 seconds at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, a new record for a production car with front-wheel drive.

The new time chips away at the record set by the previous generation Type R. Back in 2016, the old Type R completed the course in 2 minutes, 56.91 seconds.

The Spa-Francorchamps circuit is a long track measuring around 4.35 miles. Along with very fast straights and high-speed corners, it also features elevation changes and difficult low-speed sections. Piloting the hatch through this tough track was Bertrand Baguette, former FIA WEC LMP2 class world champion. He now drives the Honda NSX-GT in the Super GT series with Nakajima Racing.

The new generation Type R has set two other lap records around the world. In 2017, a production development car went around the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7 minutes, 43.8 seconds, the fastest time for any front-wheel-drive production car. The car also set a front-wheel-drive record time of 2 minutes, 1.51 seconds at the Magny-Cours GP circuit in France.

The Civic Type R packs a 2.0-liter inline-four with 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed through a six-speed manual transmission. In our tests, we clocked the hatch hitting 60 mph from a standstill in as little as 5.0 seconds.

Through the summer, the Type R will attempt to break records at Silverstone, Estoril, and the Hungaroring. Check out the video below to watch the Honda Civic Type R set a new record at Spa-Francorchamps.

Source: Honda

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2018 Ford Mustang GT Interior Review: Retro-Modern Ambiance

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 09:00

The 2018 Ford Mustang recently got a refresh, and with it came some cool new features that make the iconic pony car feel more modern. As with the pre-refresh Mustang, the face-lifted model still feels retro, even with the available tech. With many consumers continuing to trade in cars for crossovers, models like the Ford Mustang need more than visceral performance to stay appealing. Luckily, Ford also gives you plenty of ways to personalize the interior ambiance and, in the case of the GT, enjoy its muscular demeanor with plenty of aural drama.

Tech-Savvy and User-Friendly

Ford’s Sync interface comes standard on the 2018 Mustang GT, and it’s easy to use even in its most basic form. For maximum user-friendliness, opt for the Sync 3 system, which gets you an 8.0-inch touchscreen that’s quick to respond and has a logical layout for all off its functions. On the base GT trim, you can add navigation for an extra charge.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard on all models with Sync 3, allowing you to access apps including Spotify, Google Maps, Apple Maps, iTunes, and Pandora. Ford’s Sync 3 interface is also the first to offer an onboard Waze app to navigate through traffic even easier; soon it will also gain Amazon’s Alexa, which we hope will play well with Siri and Google.

Supportive and Daily Drivable

Most sports cars have seats that prioritize holding you in place over comfort. Not so in the 2018 Mustang. The standard bucket seats hold you in place well when you’re having a great time on winding roads or the track yet remain comfortable for daily driving. There’s good lumbar adjustment so you can get the right amount of support to avoid getting sore during your commute. Although the seats look flat, there’s plenty of side and thigh support. Unlike in most vehicles, the front seats are only partially powered: The sliding and lumbar operations are electric, but the recline function is manual.

No Fake Sounds Here

With a thundering, high-revving 5.0-liter V-8, the 2018 Mustang GT doesn’t need any artificial sound enhancement or to funnel its engine note through speakers so the driver and passengers can hear it. Even with the normal exhaust, the engine growls with authority, giving the car a character befitting a pony car.

Should the standard exhaust not be enough, Ford also offers the Mustang GT with an active exhaust system with quad tailpipes. This system has multiple modes including Quiet, Sport, and Track, the latter of which opens up the exhaust flaps for a full-on sensory assault. Should you want to be respectful to your neighbors, the Mustang will happily close its exhaust flaps in Quiet mode, giving you a more serene driving experience that still hints at the power under the hood.

Light Up Your Mood All Day, Every Day

The 2018 Ford Mustang is one of a few non-luxury-branded cars with a mood lighting system. Unlike the mood lighting found in Mini models, the Mustang’s changes more than just the color of the lights on the door handles, cupholders, and foot wells. It also changes the color of the standard analog gauges, giving the interior a more cohesive and streamlined look than even some luxury vehicles that offer the feature.

Analog or Digital?

The base Mustang GT comes with a small instrument cluster display and analog gauges. These are easy to read, display all the necessary information, and offer some adjustments including the mood lighting. The instrument cluster display also shows some key info such as oil life, service intervals, and engine temperature.

On higher trims, the Mustang comes with a fully digital instrument cluster similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. There are multiple configurations to choose from, and you can customize the digital cluster’s colors separately from the mood lighting, so there’s no shortage of ways you can personalize it to your taste.

Track-Ready Seating Is Optional

Should you want something more supportive for track duty, Ford offers Recaro front seats when you opt for the Performance Package Level 2 on the GT. The seats are also available on the EcoBoost Premium and GT Premium trims. On the base Mustang GT, the Recaro seats are upholstered in cloth; the EcoBoost Premium and GT Premium grades come with leather. GT Premium models can also be had with two-tone red and black leather or black leather with blue contrast stitching. Unlike the standard seats, the Recaros have a fixed headrest and offer more aggressive side bolstering. There’s more aggressive thigh support, as well.

Cloth or Leather Even at Over $40,000

Leather is available starting at the GT Premium trim, which also gets you heated and ventilated front seats. If you’re opposed to the idea of cow hides covering your seats, Ford will happily sell you a Mustang GT with cloth. Don’t expect a steep discount for the cloth seats, though. If you add all the go-fast goodies, a Mustang GT with cloth upholstery will still cost over $40,000.

Don’t Cram in the Back

Coupes don’t always have the most comfortable rear seats, and the 2018 Ford Mustang GT is no different. The fastback roofline cuts into headroom, and the legroom is minimal, so the back is best for small children or as an extension of the trunk. Convertible models offer more headroom if you put the roof down, but don’t expect much improvement in space for your legs.

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2018 Ford Mustang GT First Test: Should You Pony Up for the Automatic?

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 09:00

Did you know you can get a $47,000 Ford Mustang GT with cloth seats? In fact, if you keep adding options (including a $229 illuminated Mustang badge), you can get the price of a cloth-upholstered pony car up to nearly $50,000. We weren’t testing this particular Mustang for its accessories or its orange paint, though. We were much more interested in its 10-speed automatic transmission and how it would compare to the six-speed manual we tested last winter.

In terms of acceleration, it wasn’t even close. The automatic Mustang ran from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, a full half second quicker than the manual version. In the quarter mile, it was exactly the same story. The automatic Mustang ran it in 12.1 seconds at 118.8 mph, a half second quicker (and 3.7 mph faster) than the manual car.

“It’s this much quicker than the same car with a six-speed manual because, yes, the shifts are faster (and more in number), but the tach never swings in and out of the power band,” noted road test editor Chris Walton. “Also, there’s a significant mechanical force advantage with the 10A. Ford chose the ratios for a reason.”

Braking performance was also excellent, though no different than that of the manual version. Both cars stopped from 60 mph in 104 feet. “Extremely firm pedal, almost wooden,” Walton wrote. “Very little dive and no ABS buzz, pulsation, or tire sound. Good fade resistance, however.”

In our handling test, the Mustang averaged 0.97 g on the skidpad and ran the figure eight in 23.9 seconds at 0.84 g. The former is slightly off the stick-shift’s figure, and the latter is marginally better.

“Nice, smooth power, and I’d agree with Chris that there wasn’t too much Ford-fade after a few laps. The brakes’ resistance to overheating seemed pretty good this time. In cornering, there’s the usual need to probe the throttle to dance the car out of the understeer penalty box,” wrote testing director Kim Reynolds. He did, however, take issue with the steering, saying, “The steering’s linearity leaves everything to be desired, and I couldn’t predict a steering correction to stop it.”

For some people, the quicker shifts and improved acceleration will be a benefit on the track. Especially if they can’t justify the Shelby GT350’s higher price tag. But most people who pick the automatic over the manual will probably do so because they want the Mustang GT experience without the need to shift their own gears.

In that regard, the automatic Mustang is mostly a success. It rides and handles almost identically to the manual version. Commuting to and from work on the famously congested Interstate 405 was much less of a workout than it would have been in the manual car. There was no real learning curve, and I didn’t have to spend time getting adjusted to the clutch because there wasn’t one. You also don’t have to worry about making sure someone knows how to drive your car before you toss them the keys.

The automatic also does nothing to mess with the Mustang’s sounds. The optional active exhaust sounds incredible, and as Walton pointed out, it does a great impression of a race car at wide-open throttle. Plus, with remote start, you can enjoy the sound as you approach to your car.

That said, the transmission has its issues. Presumably in pursuit of better fuel economy, “It keeps the engine out of its powerband, and that’s exactly what you don’t want in a high-revving V-8,” said associate online editor Stefan Ogbac. “It’s quick, but this isn’t an ideal transmission for this type of engine.”

Chris Walton had similar issues during the acceleration tests. “Drag mode with traction control off in S-Drive was best,” he wrote. “Otherwise, it was too clever for itself by half, short shifting, throttle pulling, etc.”

The 10-speed isn’t necessarily bad. It just doesn’t feel like a fully integrated part of the Mustang package. Knowing how enjoyable the manual version is makes the auto’s shortcomings even more frustrating.

As for the cloth seats, we say pass on those if you can stretch your budget. The fact that they’re easier to get dirty and harder to clean than leather means the novelty of owning a Performance package–equipped Mustang GT with cloth seats will probably wear off quickly. Do pick a bright color such as our tester’s Orange Fury paint job, though. If you’re going to buy a car that stands out, you might as well really stand out.

2018 Ford Mustang GT BASE PRICE $36,090 PRICE AS TESTED $46,765 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe ENGINE 5.0L/460-hp*/420-lb-ft* DOHC 32-valve V-8 TRANSMISSION 10-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,860 lb (55/45%) WHEELBASE 107.1 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 188.5 x 75.4 x 54.3 in 0-60 MPH 3.9 sec QUARTER MILE 12.1 sec @ 118.8 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 104 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.97 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 23.9 sec @ 0.84 g (avg) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 16/25/19 mpg* ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 211/135 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.02 lb/mile * hp/torque values derived from 93-octane fuel; EPA mpg from 87-octane

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2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC Prototype First Ride

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:07

The Tesla-fighters just keep coming. We’ve driven the Jaguar I-Pace. We’ve had the download on the Audi e-tron, ridden in the Porsche Mission E concept. And now we’ve been up close and personal with a near-production prototype of the Mercedes-Benz EQC, the first Mercedes designed from the wheels up as an electric vehicle. More sleepless nights are ahead for Elon Musk.

The EQC is an all-wheel-drive crossover, roughly the size of the GLC SUV, with e-motors mounted front and rear and an underfloor battery pack that will be rated between 70 and 75 kW-hr once final durability testing is complete. Engineers are keeping exact details under wraps until the EQC makes its public debut in September, but total system output will be about 400 hp, with 516 lb-ft of torque. Range will be between 200 and 240 miles.

The EQC is built around the MRA components set used for Mercedes’ regular E-Class, C-Class, and GLC models. That means a steel body and some packaging compromises. Unlike the innovative I-Pace, whose short overhangs and elongated cabin take full advantage of its bespoke, aluminum-intensive skateboard platform and compact e-motors, the EQC’s proportions are similar to those of a regular internal-combustion-engine Mercedes.

This means the ECQ can be built on the same production line as the regular C-Class and GLC, requiring only one additional assembly process beyond those used to build the others—the installation of the battery pack. Daimler therefore has the ability to flex EQC production up or down by as much as 25 percent without requiring extra investment or leaving expensive machinery standing idle. Jaguar Land Rover has gone all-in with the I-Pace, whose unique platform will also underpin the rumored Road Rover and next-generation XJ. Daimler is hedging its bets. “We just don’t know what the initial demand for electric vehicles will be,” admits a Stuttgart insider.

We hitched a ride with test chief Bastian Schult while the EQC was undergoing hot-weather testing just outside of Almería in Southern Spain, a region that looks and feels eerily like inland Southern California. Daimler currently has 90 EQC prototypes under test, and the car Schult is driving is one of 30 built using production tooling. Apart from the camouflage, some ungrained plastic parts, and final software tweaks, it’s basically production ready.

Underneath the blackout cloth draped over much of the interior is familiar Mercedes hardware, including the steering wheel and switchgear. The EQC gets the large single-screen instrument panel and infotainment display first seen in the current S-Class, but with MBUX, the new touchscreen user interface that debuted recently in the redesigned A-Class.

Schult presses the start button, engages drive, and the EQC glides away. After a few miles, two things are clear: The EQC is extremely quiet, and it rides beautifully. There’s no hint of electric motor whine—Schult says the development engineers made a conscious decision to banish all noise from the powertrain—and road impacts are felt rather than heard. Combined with measured body motions and a remarkable lack of fore and aft pitch, the EQC feels as regal on the road as an S-Class.

The EQC’s power and torque outputs are virtually identical to those of the Jaguar I-Pace, and when Schult plants his right foot, the Mercedes lunges forward with the same instant urgency. The management of the power and torque flows of the two e-motors is very different, however. In gentle cruising, the EQC uses only the front e-motor, which features a different armature winding from the rear to improve efficiency. As soon as the driver demands more power, the rear e-motor shoulders the load, and the powertrain management system can funnel almost 100 percent of the torque to the rear wheels if needed.

Like most BEVs, the EQC offers both high and low regen modes, the former strong enough to slow the car almost to a halt without the need to touch the brake pedal. But drivers can also choose a mode that allows the EQC to sail, with no regen whatsoever slowing forward motion, and a fourth mode that automatically optimizes regen protocols to make the EQC feel like an internal-combustion vehicle with an automatic transmission. These two modes endow the EQC with a marvelous flowing gait along freeways and open roads that’s unlike that of any other BEV.

A couple of quick laps of the Circuito de Almería racetrack partway through our ride showed the EQC to be quick and composed when driven with intent. And, unlike a Tesla, it had no problem with sustained full-power laps. Default handling mode is mild understeer, but Schult was able to lift mid-corner and get the EQC to rotate, the rear wheels sliding to pivot the nose toward the apex, without obvious intervention from the stability control system. The ability to precisely control an e-motor’s power and torque outputs means the conventional ESP system now only intervenes when it senses a major loss of grip, Schult explains; minor interventions are handled by the powertrain software, which can apply countermeasures four times faster.

With its height-adjustable suspension and 20-inch wading depth, Jaguar’s I-Pace is aimed at both Tesla’s 75D Model S hatchback and Model X SUV. So is the EQC—with one essential difference. Schult says that despite its all-wheel drive and SUV visuals, the low-slung battery pack under the floor means EQC is strictly an on-road vehicle.

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Toyota Scores First Victory at Le Mans

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 20:30

On its 20th attempt, Toyota has finally won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Japanese automaker nabbed the top two positions, leading other competitors by a considerable margin.

The No. 8 TS050 Hybrid took the checkered flag after 388 laps around the Circuit de la Sarthe in France. Behind the wheel was Fernando Alonso, two-time F1 world champion and a Le Mans rookie. Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima also piloted the race car to victory after enduring a number of upsets with Toyota in the past. The No. 7 car TS050 Hybrid led for long stretches but suffered a fuel issue late in the game. By the end of the race, it had trailed off just two laps behind the winning car to score second place. Rebellion Racing took third place, 12 laps behind Toyota.

Toyota’s victory marks the second time a Japanese automaker has won Le Mans, the first time being Mazda in 1991. Toyota’s No. 8 car had started from pole position, as Toyota had in 1999, 2014, and 2016.

With Audi out of the picture, Toyota has had a better chance of winning Le Mans in the last few years. But 2016 saw an unfortunate failure on the final lap. In 2017, Toyota lost its shot at victory again. Its race-leading No. 7 TS050 Hybrid had a clutch problem at the tenth hour, and then another Toyota was hit from behind and caught on fire. A third car had an issue with its front motor but managed to place eighth.

Source: Toyota

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Audi CEO Arrested in Dieselgate Probe

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 17:30

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler was arrested in Germany on Monday in connection to the diesel emissions scandal that broke in 2015. Stadler is one of 20 current or former Audi employees under criminal investigation related to potential fraud.

Officials said the executive was detained over concerns he might seek to suppress evidence, reports the BBC. Audi confirmed to media sources that Stadler was taken into custody, although it wouldn’t comment about the ongoing investigations. “The presumption of innocence continues to apply for Mr. Stadler,” an Audi spokesman told NPR.

Munich prosecutors said last week they had searched Stadler’s home for evidence. Stadler, who has worked with Audi since 1990 and became chairman of the board in 2007, is under investigation for alleged “fraud and indirect improprieties with documents,” reports The Associated Press.

Just a week ago, German prosecutors fined Volkswagen $1.2 billion for diesel cheating. Volkswagen Group has admitted to using software that helped cars pass pollution tests but then disabled the emissions controls in real-world driving. Another high profile figure under scrutiny in the diesel scandal is former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, who was indicted in May on charges of conspiracy and fraud related to the emissions cheating.

According to prosecutors, Stadler could be released as early as next week if he cooperates with investigators. Last month, Audi said it discovered emissions-related problems in an additional 60,000 cars. Audi had halted deliveries of A6 and A7s with a certain type of diesel engine after it found a previously unidentified issue with emissions software.

Source: CNN Money, NPR, Reuters

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MT Classic: Sampling Three Vintage Mercedes-Benz G-Wagens

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 09:00

When you’ve produced a vehicle continuously for 40 years, odds are there are gonna be some good ones. So to celebrate the milestone launch of the second-gen 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center provided a half dozen ’80s G-Wagens for us to sample. Here are the three coolest.

Read about the new 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class in this First Drive review

As I’m a child at heart, I naturally gravitated to the 1981 230G Fire Truck. Powered by a 102-hp 2.3-liter I-4 backed by a four-speed manual, this G-Wagen convertible spent most of its working life with an Italian fire department before being rescued by the Classic Center. For a truck fast approaching 40, the 230G was pretty peppy and happy to rev, though the gearbox had long, vague throws. All driving impressions are irrelevant because the cherries work—I was endlessly entertained by responding to imaginary emergency calls.

Moving chronologically, I took an off-white 1985 230GE four-door down a light off-road course. Powered by a “high-output” 125-hp version of that same I-4 mated to a four-speed auto, the 230GE was hideously slow in the most charming way possible. I basically had to keep the gas pedal pinned to the floor to get anywhere, but it handled off-roading just fine. Even when bombing down dirt back roads, the link between the old G-Wagen and new G-Class is pretty apparent—both ride exceptionally well off-road and are happy to eat any punishment you dish out.

My favorite was a gorgeous roofless blue 1989 300GD Cabriolet complete with plaid(!) seats, a 3.0-liter diesel I-5, and a four-speed manual. Despite producing just 87 horsepower on a good day, the 300GD was a blast. The clattery turboless diesel didn’t have a tach, so it needed to be driven by ear. But it was so slow to rev that it wasn’t a problem. The gearbox was surprisingly direct with long, tractorlike throws. Steering was slow and vague but really not much worse than the final 2018 first-gen G-Wagen. Ultimately it comes down to the special experience the Mercedes provides. Time to hit Craigslist.

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Enzo and the Damsels – Reference Mark

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 09:00

There are the automotive icons who are household names. Then there are those who work diligently without public recognition to create the magic that makes those icons famous. Those two groups are the subjects of fascinating new books.

Quick: What do the automotive child seat, head-up display, door lamps, adjustable lumbar supports, retractable seat belts, childproof rear-door and -window lockouts, and the in-car Dictaphone all have in common?

These creations were all proposed, designed, or invented by female car designers—in an era well before the rise of modern feminism. These women, bold forebears of a movement in a then (and still) male-dominated business, are profiled in Damsels in Design: Women Pioneers in the Automotive Industry.

Written by Constance A. Smith—a graduate of Pratt Institute hired into GM’s advanced design studio during the Chuck Jordan years—Damsels follows a biographical and technological approach to the women who contributed to Detroit design between 1939 and 1959 and beyond.

You think the Mad Men environment only applied to the advertising industry? Any woman entering the auto industry back then had to fight through institutional discrimination that shepherded them into soft sciences such as PR, HR, and legal. Design was men’s work, not something for “a mere slip of a girl,” as Studebaker designer Jake Aldrich referred to Audrey Hodges—who won the internal contest to design the hood ornament for the 1950 Champion.

Often hired as token color and trim “decorators,” these progressive professional artists and industrial designers bashed through the sheetmetal ceiling to create notable work—including landmark concept cars such as the 1957 Olds Mona Lisa, 1958 Olds Rendezvous, 1958 Corvette Fancy Free, and 1958 Chevrolet Impala Martinique. Virginia Van Brunt penned many of the 1950s Lincolns. The interior design of the 1973 Chevy Titan 90 tilt-cab truck—led by Jayne Van Alstyne—was renowned for its NVH advances (before ergonomic comfort was considered important). In charge of Chevrolet’s interior design, Suzanne Vanderbilt oversaw the layout of the Chevy Vega (which was Motor Trend’s 1971 Car of the Year).

Sometimes the accomplishments were more whimsical: Remember KITT from the TV show Knight Rider? Ripped off from a Firebird lighting concept done for Sylvania by Ruth Glennie.

But these women’s achievements were often quiet personal victories. They were frequently paid less than their subordinates. Pregnancy meant a pink slip. And when Bill Mitchell replaced Harley Earl atop GM Design, Mitchell cut short the nascent damsels movement for blatantly sexist reasons that were prevalent and acceptable at the time.

Painstakingly researched and archived, with hundreds of rare and private photographs, Damsels offers a rarely seen glimpse into the early history of automotive design and development.

Contrast those profiles to the 954-page eponymous hagiography of Enzo Ferrari. Books about this industry legend come a dime a dozen (seriously, check out Amazon). But this latest telling by one-time Ferrari USA public relations guru Luca Dal Monte takes the tale of the racer-turned-automaker beyond the usual fables into new, untold places.

At 3 pounds, 6 ounces, this biography is fit more for a beach bag at the Hamptons than a carry-on from LAX to BLQ. And although the narrative has perhaps lost some of its linguistic enthusiasm in the translation from the original Italian, Dal Monte’s book fills the collective consciousness with Enzo stories previously only told among close friends and family.

Dal Monte’s digging through decades of racing results accounts for a thorough chronicling of Enzo’s early years—which will be a delight for fans of obscurity and arcana. But it takes 400 pages to reach Enzo striking out on his own with his first Ferrari-built racing machine, so those expecting a rollicking start will be disappointed.

Those who are patient, however, will learn the narratives of what made The Man tick: the dealings and deceptions, the rages and the crises of faith, the loyalties struck and disloyalties damned. Perhaps the best summary of the man—and the book—comes halfway through: “Although you might not necessarily like Ferrari, his personality was so overwhelming that a single word from him was enough to focus all the adrenaline in one’s body.” Such leaders come once in a generation. And Dal Monte’s book is a fitting tribute.

More by Mark Rechtin:

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2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast First Test: More Is More

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 09:00

Even Colin Chapman, famous for, among other things, his take on the old maxim, “less is more,” put turbos on the Lotus Esprit. Because sometimes more is more. No one who drove a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta would argue it needed more power, yet its successor, the 812 Superfast, has just that.

Actually naming a car “super fast,” regardless of historical justifications, requires the same sort of “damn the torpedoes” approach to car building. It had damn sure better be fast or forever be mocked as a triumph of arrogance over engineering. Fortunately for Ferrari, there’s no risk of a Mondial T redux.

The 812 Stoopidfast, as tester Chris Walton took to calling it, is exactly what it claims to be. It’s among the top five quickest rear-wheel-drive cars we’ve ever tested and far and away the quickest front-engine, rear-drive car. Every quicker two-wheel-drive car—McLarens, other Ferraris, and a Porsche—is aided by a mid- or rear-engine platform that shifts weight to the rear wheels at launch to increase grip.

How quick? How about 2.8 seconds to 60 mph and a 10.4-second quarter-mile pass at 138.6 mph? Even in the modern pantheon of supercars, a 0–60 time under 3.0 seconds is damn impressive. The 812 really gets its legs farther down the road, where its quarter-mile time vaults it ahead of cars like the Ferrari 488 GTB and McLaren P1, though the P1 carries slightly more speed.

All this from the only purely naturally aspirated car in the group. If there’s never another new naturally aspirated V-12 developed—and the possibility becomes more likely every day—this will be the greatest swan song ever sung. With 6.5 liters of lung, Ferrari’s 789-hp, 530-lb-ft V-12 is equal parts musical instrument and mechanical precision. It makes you want to pass other cars, not to show off but to share this aural perfection with them. It’s classic V-12 F1 car in the tunnel at Monaco good.

For the fullest appreciation, make liberal use of those long, delicate shift paddles. The seven-speed twin-clutch transmission does a fine job of shifting for you in all circumstances, but it doesn’t seem to understand how sinfully glorious this engine sounds at redline. The computer knows the torque peak is well below the rev limiter and will let the engine dig out from 5,000 rpm. But there are another 4,000 rpm on the dial, and their voices must be heard. This world will be a colder place when this engine is gone.

Such an evangelist am I, I took to giving other editors three pieces of advice before they drove this car: The auto engine stop/start switch is by the map lights; use a light touch; and drive it at 9,000 rpm every chance you get.

About that second bit: Everything happens very quickly in the 812, in part because every input is hair-trigger sharp. So sharp that for the first 30 minutes you drive it, you’ll feel like it’s twitchy and high-strung. Eventually, though, you learn to slow your inputs—steering, braking, throttle—more than you thought you could. You slow them to the point where you’d barely get a reaction from a normal car, but the 812 will feel like magic. Then it flows down the road perfectly.

Once you’ve had a taste, legal limits will never do. All perception of speed is perverted, such that the car won’t feel fast until you’ve left the double digits well behind. At this point, it will occur to you that you don’t seem to be spending much time at wide-open throttle. It seems like a heinous oversight on your part, but it’s OK. This car is so powerful that trying to get to wide-open throttle just for the sake of it will cause you to drive erratically. You’ll always be at full throttle or full brake, never enjoying the in-between. Waiting for the appropriate time and place for full throttle makes it all the more rewarding, and everywhere else, the throttle’s adjustability allows you to fine-tune exactly the amount you need for any given situation.

It gives me great pleasure to write that, because it wasn’t the initial impression from our instrumented testing session. There, the 812 put up fantastic numbers but felt loose and a bit unrefined. On the figure eight, it wanted to be manhandled. Driving delicately just got you midcorner understeer. Coming in hot with a healthy portion of trail braking delivered extra bite from the front tires and rotated the rear slightly. Once the understeer was managed, you could aim for the exit and roll on the throttle, at which point it became all about managing power oversteer. The ultra-quick steering and easily adjusted throttle make it easy to do a little drift off the exit, and even with a slight rear weight bias and front-mid-engine placement, it’s not snappy like a mid-engine car. If you’re using CT Off mode rather than ESC Off, the computer will let you hang the rear end out, provided you’ve got it under control, but just wood it, and the nanny will straighten you right out.

Out on the road, absolutely none of that matters. The 812 is far too quick for you to ever worry about limit understeer or trail braking. The car has so much grip that if you were actually going fast enough to worry about any of that, you wouldn’t have time to think about it. The car shrinks around you in the best possible way, right up until there’s a car coming the other way on a narrow road and you instantly remember how wide it really is.

Even more important is how much better all of this behavior is than the F12. A few years ago, I wrote, “Too much power for public roads,” in my notes after I tried to hustle the F12 down a back road where a Corvette and a 911 were getting away from it. The F12 just couldn’t put the power down, and it only got hairier when we lined the three cars up for a drag race. Piloting the F12 from the middle position, I fought a fishtail through second gear on every pass, praying it wouldn’t get away from me and take out another car. The 812 isn’t like that at all. Whatever Ferrari’s done to the suspension, the Side Slip Control computer has turned a wild child into a straight-A student.

Accelerating in the 812 doesn’t have the jump-to-hyperspace feel of today’s latest turbocharged supercars but rather a short swelling of intention followed by a long, continuous burst of acceleration that feels like it ought to let up at any moment but never does. It’s naturally aspirated perfection we so rarely get anymore, and grabbing the next gear at redline almost feels like a turbo boost hitting. Pulling an upshift at the exit of a long sweeper feels as though the outside rear tire is somehow digging in a little harder and pushing you out of the corner with some secret reserve of power.

The 812 does have a few bad habits left, though. For one, the braking isn’t as strong as you think it is. It stops hard, but the car weighs 3,845 pounds (about 150 pounds less than the F12) and you don’t realize that until you need to turn triple-digit speeds into medium double digits for the next corner. ABS intervention comes on sooner than you expect, and it’s in no small part due to how fast you’re traveling. The car is far more enjoyable when you brake early than trying to wait until the absolute last second.

The other downside is its touchiness in city driving. You need only blow kisses at the pedals to get a mature reaction from the car. The slightest bit of aggression will get you a tenfold return from either. Everything with this car is done with the smoothest and most minimal effort; the trick is to never ask for more. Touch the gas lightly, and be patient while the transmission lets the clutch out. Pushing it harder won’t make it work faster; it’ll just dump the clutch and snap your head back. Same with the brakes: Touch them nicely, and let them work. They don’t bite all at once, but they do their job fine without you micromanaging them to a stop.

When I was making notes about the 812 for this review, my phone autocorrected Superfast to “superfluous,” almost as if Siri had been eavesdropping on my drive. Is it? Absolutely, in every sense of the word. A car like this is as unnecessary as it is ostentatious, and that’s what makes it wonderful.

2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast BASE PRICE $340,712 PRICE AS TESTED $465,509 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe ENGINE 6.5L/789-hp/530-lb-ft DOHC 48-valve V-12 TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch auto CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,845 lb (47/53%) WHEELBASE 107.1 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 183.3 x 77.6 x 50.2 in 0-60 MPH 2.8 sec QUARTER MILE 10.4 sec @ 138.6 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 99 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 1.03 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 23.3 sec @ 0.93 g (avg) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 12/16/13 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 281/211 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.43 lb/mile

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A New Ford Concept Helps Blind People “Look” Out the Window – Technologue

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 09:00

My own love of travel incubated in the back seat of a 1969 Chevy Townsman wagon, as it racked up 170,000 miles performing numerous Homeric crisscrossings of the United States. In an era before rear-seat video, onboard Wi-Fi, and smart devices, my sisters and I mostly looked out the windows. We drank in the amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and endless fruited plains for hours at a time.

I shudder to imagine how tedious and cruel such slogs would have seemed had any of us been blind. But Ford just unveiled a concept that promises to help blind passengers enjoy the passing scenery as well.

Dubbed “Feel the View,” this emerging technology springs from a tiny corner of the Blue Oval empire: Ford of Italy, ad agency GTB Roma, and an Italian tech startup called the Aedo Project. Aedo was recently founded by a couple of professors from the University of San Marino to develop devices that assist visually impaired people, especially children.

The initial prototype for Feel the View is a clear 9.8-inch-square touchscreen that sticks to the vehicle’s side window without obscuring the view of sighted passengers. Along the top of the screen is a control panel that incorporates a camera. To “see” what’s out the window, the user presses a button to snap an image of the passing scenery. The device pixelates this image and converts it to grayscale. This image is then reproduced on the clear touch screen by means of vibrating individual pixels comprising the image. The tiny vibrators can generate 255 discernable levels of intensity representing as many shades of gray. The darkest blacks give the strongest vibration; pure white is completely still.

The device integrates with the vehicle’s Wi-Fi internet connection and audio system to provide the user with added context for interpreting the image (the device only renders still images, not moving video). The photograph is sent to the cloud, where artificial intelligence interprets the many various elements in the scene. Then as the user’s fingers pass over various features in the image the audio system describes the image in basic terms, like “snowy mountain” or “tree.”

According to Ford Italia spokesperson Marco Alù Saffi, patents are still being filed for this emerging technology, so the parties are not yet ready to share the specifics of how Feel the View is generating those vibrations. We do know that light-emitting diodes incorporated into the screen provide proximity sensing that activates the vibration generators in only those areas of the screen that are being touched.

This certainly isn’t the first attempt at rendering graphic images on a tactile display. Disney Research developed TeslaTouch (no relation to Elon Musk’s automaker), using an “electrovibration” technology that simulates texture as a finger passes over a screen’s surface via tiny discharges of electrostatic energy. Nothing actually moves, and a stationary finger wouldn’t feel much, so this isn’t likely to be Ford’s approach. Apple has patented a haptic touch pad (indicating potential use in future CarPlay applications) that locally deforms areas of the screen by forcing fluid out through a grid of tiny orifices just beneath the surface. “Bubble displays” like this tend to be on or off, black or white. They’re great for temporarily defining buttons or ridges or producing temporary Braille text (as Bitlab’s Android-based tablet does), but such fluid bubbles aren’t going to be able to oscillate fast enough to produce 255 frequencies of vibration.

If I were setting out to design such a gizmo, I’d probably try to make piezoelectric nanostructures do my vibrating work. Of course, if I were blind, I wouldn’t give a rip how it worked, I’d just be eager to try any new two-dimensional haptic display promising this many “shades of gray” after so many years of haptic black and white.

Read more by Frank Markus here:

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