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2019 Mazda3 AWD First Drive: All-Weather Sophistication

Sat, 03/23/2019 - 17:00

During our First Drive of the 2019 Mazda3, we praised the car’s agile handling and superbly executed interior. Now that we’ve driven the new all-wheel-drive variant, we’re happy to report that the sporty compact car is even better to drive with four-wheel traction. The 2019 Mazda3 AWD handles better in all weather conditions, turning it into a sophisticated all-weather driver’s car that puts entry-level offerings from luxury brands on notice.

At a drive event for the 2019 Mazda3, we started the day on a snow course and an icy slalom section. We jumped into a front-drive 2019 Mazda3 sedan first and instantly found it lacked the traction to get up inclines without momentum. All-wheel-drive-equipped cars breezed through the course from a standstill. Mazda’s all-wheel-drive system sends torque where it’s most needed and works with G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC+) to maintain traction, taking into account weather and road conditions.

In the snow, the all-wheel-drive system and GVC+ keeps the Mazda3 sure-footed in the slush by reducing engine torque ever so slightly and applying small amounts of braking to shift weight and power around to keep the car stable. With GVC+ disabled, you immediately notice you’re steering more to keep the car from getting unwieldy. The lack of stability instantly became obvious on a slalom course where a 20-mph lane change easily caused the car’s rear end to step out, forcing the driver to counter the skid with lots of steering input.

On pavement, the all-wheel-drive system makes the 2019 Mazda3 feel predictable when driving enthusiastically. Torque sent to the rear wheels pushes the car out of corners, minimizing understeer and allowing it to rotate. Superbly controlled body motions keep the Mazda3 neutral, and the sharp, communicative steering tells you exactly what the front wheels are doing. The Mazda3’s brilliantly tuned chassis soaks up broken pavement beautifully without disconnecting the driver from the road, making you question the need for adaptive dampers and suspensions on some cars that aim to improve handling without sacrificing ride comfort.

The carryover 186-hp 2.5-liter naturally aspirated I-4 happily revs to redline; however, you feel it working hard at higher elevations. Mazda’s six-speed automatic upshifts quickly but takes a second or two to kick down. Sport mode offers quicker rev-matched downshifts and holds gears longer. We also drove a front-drive Mazda3 hatchback with the six-speed manual and found it to be the liveliest of the bunch. The free-revving four-banger works with the slick shifter and communicative clutch admirably to provide plenty of smiles behind the wheel.

Mazda’s interiors continue to move upmarket, and the 2019 Mazda3’s cabin easily matches those in entry-level luxury vehicles, especially with the two-tone options. Everything you touch from the dash to the armrests feels expensive, and the infotainment controls click and turn with a satisfying sound. Even harder plastics in the rear wouldn’t look out of place in a car donning a three-pointed star or a stylized “L.” Save for some road and tire noise at highway speeds on uneven surfaces, the 2019 Mazda3’s cabin is nearly vault-like. Complementing the spiffy interior is a 12-speaker Bose surround sound system that provides a crisp listening experience and just enough bass to satisfy audiophiles. The latest iteration of the MazdaConnect interface is easier to use but still falls behind Hyundai/Kia’s Blue Link/UVO, Subaru’s Starlink, and FCA’s UConnect.

All-wheel drive should make the 2019 Mazda3 more appealing to consumers living in four-season states, but that’s only one part of the equation. Four-wheel traction along with GVC+ also improves the Mazda3’s driving characteristics on pavement. When combined with its elegant interior, the Mazda3 turns into an entry-level luxury car in disguise. A Signature trim and the CX-9’s 2.5-liter turbo-four are the final pieces that can turn the Mazda3 into a nearly perfect package: fun, chic, and eye-catching.

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Categories: Property

Refreshing or Revolting: Porsche Cayenne Coupe Vs. The Competition

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 22:45

Fastback SUVs are all about the look, considering they provide no practical benefit over traditional utility vehicles. With their dramatic rooflines, they attract customers who want something a little different. The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is the latest entry in this growing segment, competing against the BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, and the new Audi Q8. But which is the best looking of the bunch?

Unsurprisingly, the Cayenne Coupe looks pretty much like the regular Cayenne from up front. Its front fascia has soft edges with rounded headlights, but the large grille gives it some edge. Similarly, the X6 looks like a typical BMW from this angle, sporting the brand’s familiar kidney grille. The Mercedes GLE Coupe has a streamlined feel to its front fascia with a rounded grille, headlights, and lower fascia. The Audi Q8 probably has the most unexpected front end since it looks so different than other models from the brand. Sharp lines abound, and the razor-thin headlights have a unique lighting signature. The grille is set off by a large frame.

Crossover coupes can sometimes look strange when viewed from the side. We would argue that’s the case with the BMW, whose roof rises sharply up front and drops off dramatically in the back. The slope of the Porsche’s roofline looks more natural, and that’s probably helped by the soft lines of the window trim. A soft character line runs high across the doors near the windows, helping the transition from front to back. The GLE Coupe comes in high-performance AMG trims, and its sporty ambitions are apparent through its bold wheels and window spoiler. The Audi Q8 shows off its long hood, sharp body lines, and bulbous rear end from this angle.

In the rear, the Cayenne Coupe offers an active spoiler. It has taillights connected by a rear light bar much like the Audi, which has a bolder lighting signature that matches the look of the front end. In contrast, the BMW features chunky taillights sitting below a large lip spoiler. On the Mercedes, a tasteful piece of chrome trim links together the traditional-looking taillights.

Take a peek inside the Cayenne Coupe’s cabin, and the first thing you’ll notice is the large screen and the thick center console dominated by buttons and switches, and big grab handles on either side. The interior of the X6 looks older, because it is. Swoopy lines cut the dash into various layers, and controls are laid out in a predictable and somewhat uninteresting way. The interior of the GLE Coupe looks particularly dated with the big number touchpad in the center below the screen. Audi interiors rarely disappoint, and the Q8 is another winner. It has a dual touchscreen setup, with the upper screen used for infotainment controls and the lower screen dedicated to climate functions. And who doesn’t love the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit instrument cluster?

So which crossover coupe is the style winner? Let us know in the comments on Facebook.

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Categories: Property

New Customer Referral Program Gives Owners a Chance to Win a Tesla Model Y, Roadster

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 21:30

Tesla ended its customer referral program in early February, citing significant costs associated with the offer. Less than two months later, the automaker is announcing a new referral program, and this one works quite differently.

Under the new offer, Tesla owners and those they refer get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging. Each referral also enters you to win a Founder’s Series Model Y monthly and a Founder’s Series Roadster quarterly. The vehicles will come signed by CEO Elon Musk and designer Franz von Holzhausen. In the case that an owner already has free Supercharging, Tesla is offering two chances to win those awards per referral.

Tesla says the new program saves money compared to the old one. Although the deal is a nice perk, the old referral program was more impressive. In addition to six months of free Supercharging, there were other rewards. A first referral gave you the chance to launch your photo into space. With two referrals, you could snag yourself a Signature Black Wall Connector or a Founders Series Tesla Model S for Kids. Three referrals gave you special wheels or one week with a Model S or Model X; four gave you priority access to software updates; and five gave you invitations to product unveilings.

Tesla says referrals have been an important part of the company’s growth ever since it launched the Roadster in 2008. In one past offer, new Tesla buyers could get $1,000 off their vehicle when referred by an existing owner, while the referrer also received $1,000 toward a new Tesla.

There are a few caveats to the new program. Free supercharging miles expire three years after the most recent miles are added. And if you win one of the vehicle prizes, you can’t win the same prize again, Musk clarified on Twitter. New purchased or leased Model S, Model X, and Model 3 orders are eligible for the program.

Source: Tesla

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Categories: Property

GM Preps Michigan Plant for New Chevrolet EV

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 18:00

General Motors Co confirmed on Friday it will invest $300 million in a suburban Detroit assembly plant, adding 400 jobs to build a new Chevrolet electric vehicle.

The largest U.S. automaker has come under heavy criticism from President Donald Trump in recent days over its decision to end production at its Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant earlier this month.

GM officials said the announcement was planned well before Trump’s series of angry GM tweets that started on Saturday. Trump called GM CEO Mary Barra on Sunday to raise the decision to end production at the Ohio plant, which is in a crucial state for the 2020 presidential election. He again ripped the company in a speech in Ohio on Wednesday.

GM has shown no indication it will reverse course and reopen the Lordstown plant.

Reuters reported on Thursday on GM’s investment plans for the plant in Orion Township, outside Detroit.

Chevrolet Bolt and Sonic at GM Orion plant

Last year, GM said it would end production at five North American assembly plants and eliminate about 15,000 jobs, prompting outrage and a two-day visit by Barra to Capitol Hill to answer questions about the job cuts.

GM did not disclose the name or timing of the new GM EV but said it would be built on the same platform as the existing Chevrolet Bolt EV. GM did not disclose the name of the new EV or the timing of production.

The automaker said in total it is investing $1.8 billion in its U.S. manufacturing operations this year, creating 700 new jobs and supporting 28,000 jobs across six states.

Additional product information and timing for the new Chevrolet EV will be released closer to production.

GM said producing the vehicle in a U.S. manufacturing plant supports the rules of origin provisions in the proposed United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement.

In February, GM disclosed that it had hired Ballard Partners, a lobbying firm run by Brian Ballard, a fundraiser for Trump’s presidential campaign. The company has been eager to try to smooth over relations with the White House after Trump first began harshly attacking GM last year.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Categories: Property

New Toyota GT86 Is Coming, Report Says

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 17:43

There were some rumblings that the Toyota 86 may not return for a second generation, but a new report revives our hopes. Toyota’s European marketing boss has confirmed that the company will indeed build a new GT86, as it’s known in Europe.

Matt Harrison told Autocar that the GT86 has been a successful halo model for Toyota. He also reiterated that the new Supra was not intended to replace the GT86. “They are for different audiences and are different products,” he said. “We see a situation where they will sit alongside each other.”

Harrison said it was a “safe assumption” that the second-generation GT86 would keep its ties to Subaru. Originally co-developed with the Subaru BRZ, the GT86 features a Subaru-derived 2.0-liter flat-four Boxer engine. Making 205 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque, a manual-equipped 86 we tested ran from 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds.

The 86 is not a big seller here in the U.S. Last year, Toyota sold just 4,146 copies, down 39 percent from the previous year. We don’t know about Toyota’s plans for the 86 here, and a U.S. Toyota spokesman told us the company couldn’t confirm plans to introduce a new version on our shores when asked for comment. But Harrison makes it clear this car isn’t about sales.

“Its role is not one particularly about volume globally. It’s about adding excitement to the brand and emotional appeal,” he said, adding the GT86 has achieved this goal particularly in markets like the U.K.

Earlier this month, we learned that Toyota wants three sports cars in its lineup, but it’s unlikely to make one smaller than the current 86. Toyota Gazoo Racing chief Tetsuya Tada told Evo, “I believe most people are looking forward to the smallest of the ‘three brothers,’ And when people say the smallest, they expect it would be the most affordable. But in reality coming up with a compact small sports car is quite difficult.”

Source: Autocar

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Categories: Property

Celebrity Drive: Cary Deuber of “The Real Housewives of Dallas”

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 08:00

Quick Stats: Cary Deuber, nurse/star of The Real Housewives of Dallas
Daily Driver: 2018 Porsche Panamera GTS (Cary’s rating: 9 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: See below
Favorite road trip: Texas to Colorado
Car she learned to drive in: 1994 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas
First car bought: 2002 Acura TL

The Real Housewives of Dallas star Cary Deuber grew up with eclectic cars in her family garage, and when it comes to her 2018 Porsche Panamera GTS, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“We’re kind of a Porsche family. My dad collected cars growing up. I remember the Austin-Healey always ran out of gas because the gas gauge didn’t work,” she says, laughing. “We’d sit on the side of the road for hours. But the Corvettes were always very reliable. He was an aerospace engineer, he worked with turbine engines, and he was always very into cars. He still is he, drives a 911 now.”

Deuber originally had a Panamera but switched to a Cayenne because the Panamera’s back seat was a bit too small for a child car seat. Later she settled on the smaller 2016 Macan Turbo. Then last year, she switched from her Macan back to a 2018 Panamera.

She rates her current Panamera a 9, and her old Panamera would’ve been a 7 on a scale of 10. Although she found visibility out of the older model to be not very good, she says the new one improves on that. Plus, she says the new model is “better, faster, peppier.”

Deuber likes the Panamera’s GPS screen and infotainment system better than the Mercedes and BMW she’s previously owned. “Your cell phone is integrated into the car, which I really like. And I bought the fancy stereo system,” she says, with a laugh. “And I love the German engineering.”

When she got the new Panamera last year, Deuber was ready for the change out of the Macan, which she felt was a “mom car.”

“I generally don’t like a big SUV—I’m not an SUV person,” she says. “I want just more of a sporty luxury car. I like the back seat in the Panamera because it’s bigger [than my husband’s]. I really like it. My husband’s car I like, but it’s really small.”

She sometimes drives her husband’s 2018 Porsche 911, which she’d rate an 8. “I like the sportiness of it,” she says. “It’s a fun car to drive. It’s just not that practical for me. Running around all day, running mom errands, it’s a little cumbersome getting in and out of. That would be my only negative about it. It’s beautiful and has the yellow seat belts and the yellow vents. It’s really pretty. And so sporty. It actually doesn’t have the heated seats, but it has a sport seat, so it’s very, very sporty.”

Car she learned to drive in

Deuber learned how to drive in her mom’s 1994 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas. Her parents taught her in their neighborhood outside of Dallas.

“I remember my dad tried to teach me to drive a stick on his Porsche, and it was terrifying. Mark, my husband, eventually taught me to drive a stick on his old 911,” she says.

Learning to drive in a nice Jaguar was a bit nerve-wracking. “It was a bigger sedan, and I was really nervous because I felt like it was a nice car. [My mother] used it for her work in real estate,” she says. “I was always nervous about driving it.”

Her parents gave Deuber a 1993 Nissan 240SX for her 16th birthday. A  month later, she backed it out of the garage and into the Jaguar, which her dad was washing on the driveway.

“He’s very fastidious about his cars, and I totally backed into it and put a huge dent in my mom’s Jag’s. It was not good,” she says, with a laugh. “He was mad. My dad was really pissed.”

Since it was her first car, Deuber logged more seat time in her Nissan than she had the Jaguar. “It was very fun to drive,” she says. “It was a little hatchback. It was pretty cool to have it in high school. I really liked it.”

First car bought A 2002 Acura TL is shown here.

When she began her career as a registered surgical nurse, Deuber bought a new 2002 Acura TL.

“What I liked about that car was that it had the techie stuff in it, it had the cool dash and the lighting,” she says.

At the time she was working for a plastic surgeon in Dallas and needed the car for work. She kept it for six years. “I … was proud that I bought it with my own money and I felt like it was a nice car for me at the time in my 20s,” she says.

The one thing she didn’t like was how the Acura handled. “It’s not German,” she says, with a laugh. “I tend to drive very precisely, and I like really tight brakes and really tight handling and steering. I feel most other cars that aren’t German are a little bit squishy.”

Favorite road trip

One of Deuber’s most memorable road trips was the time she drove to Colorado. “That was crazy, and there was a huge snowstorm,” she says. “I’m a huge skier. My parents used to go skiing every year, and we used to drive. Even when we lived in Ohio, we would drive to Colorado to go skiing. My parents love to drive.”

She took her road trip to Colorado with some college friends for spring break, driving in a huge snowstorm through the Texas Panhandle. “It was just insane. It was 20 mph for hours, hours, hours through the Panhandle,” she recalls. “The Panhandle can be really bad. … It can be nasty weather, and you have to get gas in New Mexico, I think. But all through there, from the Panhandle up through New Mexico, it’s pretty barren. And you can have some pretty bad weather in the winter.”

But it was fun to drive through the mountains and passes. “Even the snow, I was driving, and it was pretty fast but I made it. I didn’t slide off the road—it was a miracle,” she says with a laugh.

Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Dallas

Fans of the show know that Deuber is a nurse working with her husband Mark, a plastic surgeon, and they have a new practice, Lemmon Avenue Surgery and Laser Center. In high school when she wanted a job to make money and learn skills, she enjoyed being a dental assistant,.

“I always think it’s good for teenagers to work and learn a work ethic and so I started working at 16 when I got my car and I could drive to work,” Deuber says. “I went into my dentist’s office and I cleaned instruments, and that developed my taste for medicine.”

In college she decided she wanted to become a nurse, and after an internship she also got the bug of being in the operating room. Now she also volunteers with ConnectMed.

“I love it. I love operating, I love being a nurse, I love taking care of people,” she says.  “It’s really rewarding. I also do some mission work, sometimes in foreign countries doing burn reconstruction, reconstructive surgery on children. That’s a great way to give back. It’s more than just giving money. Giving money is great—I do that, too—but I really enjoy giving my time, which to me is more meaningful.”

She likes being on The Real Housewives of Dallas, where she can share her perspective on life as a multitasking mother, working with her husband, and launching their new laser center.

“Keeping up with it all can be challenging, but family always comes first,” she says. “I’ve learned how to balance my priorities in the public eye and even stepped away from work a bit to spend more time with my 6-year-old daughter Zuri. Life is still moving full speed ahead as our business grows each day.”

For more information, please visit CaryDeuber.com.

READ MORE CELEBRITY DRIVES HERE:

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Categories: Property

2019 BMW M850i xDrive First Test: Right the Second Time?

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 08:00

A look back at the original BMW 8 Series should make you appreciate the new one even more. Unveiled almost three decades ago, the first-gen 850i enamored us with gorgeous styling, impressive tech, and tanklike solidity at triple-digit speeds. And its big V-12 and six-speed manual gearbox? Very enticing. But overall the 850i failed “to elicit much in the way of a visceral reaction,” we noted. “Handsome but unfulfilling.”

The hard, cold numbers confirmed our feelings. It needed 6.7 seconds to reach 60 mph and 15.1 seconds to reach a quarter mile, trailing cheaper sports cars including a savage slew of Japanese imports like the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 and Nissan 300ZX Turbo. BMW’s M division eventually worked its magic with the quicker and more exciting 850CSi, but it came years later and was relatively rare.

So with that in mind, is the second-gen 8 another lethargic luxobarge like its predecessor? Absolutely not. And it didn’t take us long to reach that answer—just 3.5 seconds to be exact. That’s how quickly the M850i xDrive rocketed to 60 mph in our testing before crossing the quarter mile in 11.9 seconds at 116 mph. Impressive numbers considering its 4,365-pound curb weight.

To make its big car go fast, BMW has stuffed a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 under the hood, good for 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. That’s hooked up to an eight-speed auto and xDrive system that divvies power to both rear and front wheels, resulting in explosive acceleration off the line with little to no wheelspin. Consistent, too, thanks to its launch control system, which is easy to activate.

Things got interesting on the figure-eight course, where we discovered that it’s quite easy to get the rear end loose—it may have all-wheel drive, but the system definitely favors the back wheels. The M850’s 24-second lap is good for a car of this size, but road test editor Chris Walton said it didn’t come easy.

“Jeez, there’s a lot going on here,” Walton noted. “I was constantly sawing at the wheel on the skidpad to maintain a smooth line. It would understeer on entry, then go neutral, then transition into oversteer—all by itself.”

We suspect the rear-wheel steering system is the main culprit here. According to BMW, the back wheels turn opposite of the front wheels at low speeds. And at higher speeds, they’re pointed in the same direction as the fronts. This transition takes place at 45 mph, which just happens to be how fast the M850i is traveling during those crucial moments when it’s entering and exiting the skidpad. Walton also said brake feel could be better and that the Bridgestone Potenza S007 tires were grippy but heated up and lost traction just after a few laps.

OK, so the M850i wasn’t exactly tuned to master our figure-eight course. And although the rear steering system is a nuisance on the figure eight, it’s oddly fun at low speeds, where snaking through a crowded and tight parking lot can feel like a carnival teacup ride. The M850i also shines on twisty roads, as long as you stay within six- to seven-tenths of its limits. But perhaps most important to most buyers is how smooth and calm it is while cruising the boulevard and highway—ride quality is remarkably good considering its sporty suspension (with adjustable dampers) and 20-inch-wheel setup (245/35 up front and 275/30 at the rear). Yes, the sidewalls are extremely short for a car of this size and weight, so prepare to have a bad and expensive day if you encounter any potholes. If you live in a city that’s slow to patch roads, we’d recommend the 19-inch wheels with thicker rubbers, which should still pair well with the handsome sheetmetal.

And yes, the M850i looks good. Ignore any comments about the 8 Series being a simple carbon copy of the 4 Series. That might be true if you’re looking at a small image on the cracked screen of an iPhone 5, but in person, there’s no denying the 8’s commanding presence that the 4 Series simply can’t match (no knock on the 4, which is also attractive).

So right out of the gate BMW’s new flagship coupe is properly quickly. It might not be the Ultimate Drive Machine at the limit, but most buyers won’t care anyway. And it gives us more reason to eagerly await the upcoming M8.

2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe BASE PRICE $112,895 PRICE AS TESTED $118,945 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe ENGINE 4.4L/523-hp/553-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8 TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,365 lb (55/45%) WHEELBASE 111.1 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 191.2 x 74.9 x 53.0 in 0-60 MPH 3.5 sec QUARTER MILE 11.9 sec @ 116.1 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 107 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.99 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 24.0 sec @ 0.84 g (avg) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 18/25/20 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 187/135 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.94 lb/mile

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Categories: Property

My Lunch With Stefano: Lamborghini CEO Teases Future Products

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 20:30

I sat down for lunch with Lamborghini’s CEO, Stefano Domenicali, on the patio at the Polo Lounge inside the still-posh Beverly Hills Hotel. Domenicali was swinging through Los Angeles after visiting Australia (sales are up!) before heading back to Lambo HQ in Sant’Agata, Italy. One day only, and I was lucky enough to enjoy lunch with the man himself. But I should stress, we were eating lunch, talking shop about Lamborghini of course, but also the car world in general. I wish I could report back all the off-the-record comments Stefano made, but what’s below will have to suffice.

Two Doors, Four Seats The Lamborghini Asterion concept, a two-seat GT design study from 2014

Lamborghini is still seriously considering a fourth model. This yet unnamed car would be a GT, 2+2 model, aimed at the Ferrari GTC4Lusso. The real question is chassis. Does Lamborghini go with Volkswagen Group’s MSB chassis that underpins the Porsche Panamera and Bentley Continental GT, or does it use PPE (Premium Platform Electric) from the Taycan and Audi E-Tron GT Concept? Domenicali is taking a wait-and-see attitude, saying that he’s not sure if pure electric will ever be sexy enough to be a Lamborghini. Maybe, maybe not.

Rambo Lambo 2

Lamborghini has also looked into the feasibility of doing a hardcore off-roader, a true LM002 successor. As the brand is well aware, Jeep Wrangler sales are stronger than ever (the 15th best-selling vehicle in America in 2018), and there’s already a yearlong wait to get the new AMG G 63. Because of the Rambo Lambo, Sant’Agata has the authenticity needed to bring a near-military off-roader to market. Also driving their interest is the fact that values of LM002s are through the roof. Not only that, but customers are approaching Lamborghini hoping to buy the modern classic. However, as only 347 were ever built, the demand massively outstrips the supply. Domenicali would not comment past the fact that Lamborghini has looked into the feasibility of such a vehicle.

Row, Row, Row Your Lambo

Lamborghini looked into manual transmissions for special editions of both the Huracán and Aventador. Porsche has proved conclusively to Volkswagen Group that there’s a market for high-end sports cars with row-your-own transmissions. Specifically, the reintroduction of the GT3 manual (with more than a 50 percent take rate) and the surprise success of the GT3 Touring. The problem for Lamborghini is cost.

Even if it charged a $25,000 premium for, say, the Aventador, and offered 200 units, that $5 million would not come even kind of close to covering the cost of converting the Aventador’s ISR seven-speed box from auto to manual. Also, because the Aventador is mechanically unique, there’s not a properly sized manual lying around that Lambo could just plop in.

What about the Huracán, you ask? True, the Huracán is based on the Audi R8, and the R8 used to have a manual transmission (as did the Huracán’s predecessor, the Gallardo)—just use that! No such luck, as that lovely gated six-speed is long out of production and would cost too much to be viable. How does Porsche do it? How can the GT3 offer a manual as a no-cost option? Easy. That particular gearbox is an old racing box. It’s been in production for years, if not decades. The tooling’s all paid for.

Bottom line—although Lamborghini would like to offer manual transmissions to its customers, it simply can’t.

Best Year Yet Until the Next

Lamborghini sold nearly 6,000 cars last year, and it’s on track to sell 8,000-plus in 2019. I remember when 4,000 raging bulls was cause for celebration. Food for thought: Ferrari production is capped at 7,000 units. Why so many Lambos? Urus. Demand has been even higher than expected for Lambo’s second-ever SUV. While kids on Instagram take great pleasure in saying it looks like a Pontiac Aztek, nearly everyone who has driven one (hi, Mom!) realizes what a serious performance beast it is. Whatever the final tally is, Domenicali would like to cap production at around that number. To build more would dilute the brands’ appeal.

 

 

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Categories: Property

2020 Kia Telluride First Drive: New City Name and High Hopes

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 20:17

During my early days at MotorTrend, there was a running joke in the office that our long-term Kia Borrego was abandoned. Long-term test vehicles typically stay for a year, but our burnt orange Borrego was a fixture in #MTGarage for almost twice as long before it finally went back to Kia. Coincidentally, just as we were saying bye to the Borrego, so was the rest of the U.S.—Kia discontinued the SUV after just one model year on the market after it fell short of sales targets.

It wasn’t because it was a bad SUV. In fact, the notes in our logbook were generally positive. But ultimately we thought its worst feature was timing. With high gas prices a not-too-distant memory and a recession on buyers’ minds, there had been better times to launch a full-size, body-on-frame SUV.

It was an admirable risk for Kia but apparently not one worth taking again. Almost a decade after the Borrego’s demise, the new 2020 Kia Telluride debuts on a more practical front-drive-based unibody platform aimed directly at big sellers like the Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, and Toyota Highlander.

The Telluride makes a strong first impression based on styling alone, especially compared to the aforementioned competitors. Sure, it has a simple and boxy silhouette, but Americans can’t seem to get enough of boxes on wheels (see Mercedes G-Class). Exterior brightwork is also restrained, with a few interesting touches like the upward kink at the bottom of the B-pillar. The taillights—which Kia describes as an “inverted L”—are the most polarizing design element, but they fit well on the Telluride and look sharp lit up at night.

The 2020 Telluride’s size also contributes to its eye-catching looks. It stretches 196.9 inches long and stands 78.3 inches wide, making the Telluride almost 8 inches longer and 4 inches wider than the Sorento while sharing similar dimensions as the Volkswagen Atlas, Pathfinder, and Pilot. It’s big inside, too—Kia claims total interior volume is a cavernous 178.1 cubic feet, and that the 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row of seats is the best in its segment.

Kia’s largest crossover is estimated to weigh between 4,100 and 4,500 pounds, and the sole powertrain available to lug around that weight is a 3.8-liter V-6 rated at 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. That’s mated to an eight-speed auto that sends power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is optional. Four drive modes adjust powertrain and steering behavior (Smart, Eco, Comfort, and Sport); AWD models get additional Snow and AWD Lock modes, the latter of which evenly distributes power to all four wheels. Smart and Eco drive the front wheels; Comfort and Snow mode send up to 20 percent of power to the rear wheels. That number jumps to 35 percent in Sport mode. A rear air suspension setup is available to keep the Telluride’s ride height at optimal levels.

For our first stint at the wheel, Kia handed us keys to a Telluride AWD with its navigation set to take us through the winding roads and majestic canyons starting in Gateway, Colorado, and ending at the crossover’s namesake town of Telluride. Would we have liked more power, especially at highway passing speeds? Absolutely. But the powertrain is adequate for small ski towns with low speed limits and feels on par for the segment. We’ll be eager to see how the Telluride performs with a cabin full of passengers and gear, and against its competitors like the upcoming Ford Explorer with its tempting array of turbo engines, including a base turbo-four pumping out 300 hp and 310 lb-ft.

Suspension tuning hasn’t always been one of Kia’s strengths, which is why we were a tad surprised by how well the Telluride handles. The crossover is satisfyingly planted through fast sweepers at speeds that most owners likely won’t explore, and the ride feels taut yet smooth while cruising. It’s quiet, too. Colorado’s roads are relatively well maintained, so we’ll see how the Telluride handles the more challenging road surfaces back home in Los Angeles. But overall the Telluride feels solid and well put together—we noted little to no squeaks or rattles during a light off-road excursion.

That feeling of solidity carries on inside. Material quality and ergonomics are good, and so is overall visibility. Sitting high on the dashboard is a responsive and intuitive touchscreen infotainment system. Value has always been a strong point for Kia, and it’s no different with the Telluride. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trim levels, as are push-button start, five USB ports, and satellite radio. Higher trim levels get a large 10.3-inch infotainment screen (8.0-inch is standard), wireless phone charging, Bluetooth connectivity for two phones, and a total of six USB ports (two for each row). We drove a fully loaded SX model with the Prestige package that adds more goodies including a head-up display, Nappa leather, and a suede-like headliner.

The as-tested price for our top-of-the line Telluride AWD (including the $2,000 Prestige Package) was $46,860, which is about $2,200 less than a loaded Pilot Elite AWD. The base model Telluride LX starts at $32,735 and is competitive with Highlander ($32,425) and Pilot ($32,495), while the midlevel S and EX models start at $35,035 and $38,135, respectively. Kia predicts Telluride S and EX will make up 66 percent of total sales.

Other notable features include Driver Talk and Quiet Mode, which are standard on EX and SX. The former features a microphone that allows the driver to communicate with second- and third-row passengers. Quiet Mode cuts audio for both rear rows, allowing kids to sleep or play Nintendo Switch without enduring their parents’ boring podcasts or talk radio shows. An eight-passenger setup with a middle-row bench is standard, while a pair of second-row captain chairs (heated and ventilated on the SX with the Prestige package) is optional. Access to the third row is easy: Simply press a button on the upper edge of the second-row seat. Back-row seating should be comfortable for two average-sized adults or three kids, but taller folks will likely have to get creative to avoid hitting the headliner.

Kia is confident the Telluride will earn top safety marks from the NHTSA and IIHS, and buyers should feel good about the long list of drive assist systems including Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance, and Lane Follow Assist (which essentially combines LKA and adaptive cruise). Telluride EX and SX get Highway Drive Assist, which Kia considers Level 2 semi-autonomous capability due to its ability to handle most highway steering and adjust to speed limits.

When it comes to efficiency, the EPA rates the FWD Telluride at 20/26 mpg city/highway, 19/24 for AWD. Those numbers are on par with Pilot and Highlander and slightly better than Atlas and the Chevrolet Traverse.

And with that, Toyota, Honda, and Ford have another serious contender in the crowded field of large three-row crossovers. With handsome looks and a well-rounded package, the new Telluride should have no worries about being abandoned.

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Hyundai Tucson N Line Brings Suspension, Cosmetic Upgrades

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 19:45

We’ve heard rumors that Hyundai will introduce a high-performance Tucson N making as much as 340 hp. Still no official word on that front, but we do know Hyundai is rolling out a less aggressive but still sporty N Line version of the compact crossover.

The Hyundai Tucson N Line is coming to Europe with cosmetic and mild performance upgrades. Look for new bumpers, a dark mesh grille with a dark chrome frame, and dark 19-inch alloy wheels. The dark theme extends to the side mirror housings, rear spoiler, lights, and window frames. Open the doors, and you’ll find sport seats outfitted in a mix of leather and suede, branded with the N logo. Other accents include red stitching, alloy pedals, and an N gear shift lever.

Software changes promise a more linear steering feel on top models, Hyundai says. Also on top trim versions, the suspension springs have been updated to provide 8 percent greater rigidity up front and 5 percent more in the rear. Sadly, power upgrades aren’t part of the N Line treatment, at least not in the Tucson’s case.

We have reached out to Hyundai to see if there are plans to bring the Tucson N Line to the U.S. Considering our love for crossovers, including the sporty ones, we imagine it would be a good fit. Hyundai first introduced N Line to the U.S. with the Elantra GT.

Check out the gallery below for a closer look at the European-spec Tucson N Line.

Source: Hyundai

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2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe First Look: Porsche Joins the Party

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 18:15

Argue over the semantics if you will, but four-door coupes are a thing. So, too, are four-door coupe SUVs. BMW offers the X6, X4, and X2; Mercedes-Benz has its GLE and GLC Coupes. Audi’s flagship Q8 flirts with the format, as does the forthcoming electric-powered E-Tron Sportback. And now here’s Porsche arriving fashionably late to the party with the 2020 Cayenne Coupe, scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. this fall.

Porsche’s tardiness might seem surprising, given the company prides itself on building sport utility vehicles that are sportier than most. But the bean counters at Zuffenhausen dictated the Coupe variant had to wait until the development of the third-generation Cayenne, when the cost of unique panels and other hardware could be factored into the financials of the whole program.

And Porsche is expecting a big return on the investment: Insiders say the Coupe could account for up to 30 percent of global Cayenne volume. Although they acknowledge some cannibalization of existing Cayenne sales is inevitable, they also anticipate poaching a significant number of customers from BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The Cayenne Coupe shares its basic structure and mechanical hardware with the regular Cayenne. Two versions of the Coupe will be available at launch: the entry-level model powered by the 335-hp, 332-lb-ft single turbo V-6; and the Cayenne Turbo Coupe, which has a 541-hp, 567-lb-ft variant of Porsche’s versatile 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 under the hood. The V-6 Coupe will start at $76,550, the Turbo Coupe at $131,350 (including $1,250 destination). That’s $9,600 and $5,500 more, respectively, than Porsche currently charges for its corresponding regular Cayennes, though that gap will likely narrow once pricing for the 2020 regular models is announced.

What does the extra money buy you? In terms of performance, nothing. Porsche claims the V-6 Coupe will hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and has a top speed of 151 mph, while the Turbo Coupe is good for a 0–60 mph time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 178 mph. In other words, they’re no quicker than regular Cayennes. What you’re paying for is a restyled Cayenne with some extra goodies. Both models come standard with Porsche’s Sport Chrono Package and a panorama sunroof, for example. The V-6 Coupe rolls on steel springs with PASM-controlled shocks and sports 20-inch wheels, while the Turbo Coupe comes with air suspension and 21-inch alloys; it also gets Porsche’s PSCB surface-coated brake package with its signature white calipers.

In terms of sheetmetal, the Coupe shares only its hood, front fenders, front door skins, and lights with the regular Cayenne. The A-pillars have been angled further back to deliver a faster windshield angle—the windshield itself is shallower—and the roofline has been lowered 0.8 inches. The cant rails arc gracefully rearward into 0.7-inch-wider rear quarter panels to create what design chief Michael Mauer calls the Porsche ‘flyline,’ providing the framing for a greenhouse graphic that overtly echoes that of the iconic 911. The rear backlight is steeply raked; the large rear hatch incorporates a fixed spoiler at its top edge and an active spoiler that nestles in the vestigial rump at the lower edge of the rear window. This lower spoiler deploys 5.3 inches into the airflow at speeds above 56 mph to improve stability.

The interior is virtually identical to that of the current Cayenne, which is no bad thing given its well-executed mix of technology, materials, and colorways. The Coupe comes standard in four-passenger trim, with two pseudo-bucket seats separated by a cubby and a large fold-down armrest. (A regular bench is available as a no-cost option.) The rear seat is mounted 1.2 inches lower than in the regular Cayenne to provide more headroom. This means 6-footers will fit, but the setup means the Coupe’s rear seat doesn’t slide fore/aft as it does in the regular Cayenne, as there’s no room for the mechanism underneath. The backrest can still be reclined, though.

The decision to make the panoramic glass roof standard on the Cayenne Coupe is more than just an amenity. Its dark coloring artfully disguises the fact the roofline doesn’t sweep down from the B-pillar as dramatically as the greenhouse suggests it does. Similarly, the carbon-fiber roof (part of the optional Lightweight Sports package) is left clear-coated, the side benefit of which, of course, is you can show your buddies what you spent the extra money on. The package saves about 48 pounds, most of it in the roof. It also includes weight-reduced 22-inch wheels; different side skirts, wheel-arch trim, exhausts, and front vent graphics; and sporty checked cloth seat inserts.

If you fervently believe form should follow function, the very idea of a four-door coupe SUV will make your head explode. However, as GM’s Alfred Sloan figured out almost 100 years ago, the secret to success in the auto business isn’t dictating to customers what they should drive, but creating something they want to drive. Porsche knows the 911 gets the glory, but it’s the Cayenne that makes the money. In that context, making a Cayenne look—squint hard—a little more like a 911 probably makes good business sense.

 

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Ford F-150 Excels in IIHS Passenger-Side Small Overlap Crash Test

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 17:14

The Ford F-150, Nissan Titan, and Ram 1500 earned top scores in the passenger-side small overlap test from IIHS. But the agency says most pickups need better protection in this area.

The test involves a vehicle’s right front corner crashing into a rigid barrier at 40 mph. IIHS started issuing these ratings in 2017 over concerns that automakers were focusing more on driver-side safety.

IIHS has rated 11 crew cab pickups in the passenger-side test. The Honda Ridgeline and Toyota Tacoma scored just “Average.” Five vehicles earned a lower score of “Marginal,” including the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Canyon, GMC Sierra 1500, and Nissan Frontier. The Toyota Tundra was rated “Poor.”

Ford F-150

The F-150 performed the best in the test, says IIHS. It earned “Good” scores in each of the injury measures tested. The structure held up well in the crash, and the seat belts and airbags worked to control the movement of the passenger and driver dummies. Neither dummy recorded any potential injuries. In contrast, the Tundra was seriously compromised. The A-pillar intruded into the passenger’s space, and the passenger dummy’s head hit the grab handle attached to the pillar. In a real life crash of this severity, a dummy would likely injure his or her right lower leg, and injuries to the right hip would also be possible, according to the agency. The Tundra’s structure from 2007 is considered quite old, although the Frontier has the oldest structure dating back to 2005.

Toyota Tundra

IIHS says it isn’t surprised that pickups are falling a bit behind in this test. These vehicles took longer than other vehicle segments to master the driver-side small overlap test, which is the same type of test applied to the vehicle’s left front corner. This test has just one dummy, however, while the passenger-side test has both a driver and  front passenger dummy. Frontal crashes are more severe for heavier vehicles like pickups because the kinetic energy involved depends on the weight of the vehicle.

“We commend Ford, Nissan, and Ram for providing state-of-the-art crash protection for both drivers and front passengers of their large pickup models,” said David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer, in a statement. “As a group, however, the pickup class still has a lot of work to do.”

Although it performed just OK in the passenger-side test, the Honda Ridgeline remains the only pickup to receive a Top Safety Pick award. It has a “Good” headlight rating, unlike other vehicles in the category.

To qualify for the award, vehicles only need an “Acceptable” rating in the passenger test. They must also score “Good” in the driver-side front overlap test, moderate overlap front test, side test, and roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as “Advanced” or “Superior” in front crash prevention and at least “Acceptable” in the headlight category.

Source: IIHS

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2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo First Test: Fashionable and Practical

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 08:00

Since its debut in 2009, the Kia Soul has been winning consumers’ hearts with its combination of usability, youthfulness, and character. Although it arrived late to the boxy hatchback segment, the Soul became one of Kia’s best-selling models and outlasted the Honda Element, Scion xB, and Nissan Cube. With its original competitors gone, the 2020 Kia Soul straddles the compact car and subcompact crossover segments with tidy dimensions and a roomy interior.

The 2020 Soul’s upright greenhouse provides generous accommodations and great visibility. Passenger space is ample all around, even for tall adults. The seats are also raised just enough to make getting in and out a breeze—no climbing or crawling necessary. With all seats up and the false floor lowered, the cargo areas easily swallowed two large check-in bags during an airport run. Folding the 60/40 split rear seat backs and removing the cargo cover turns the Soul into a cavern. The only subcompact crossover to come close to the Soul’s 62.1-cubic-foot max capacity is the Honda HR-V at 58.8 cubic feet. In the compact car realm, only the Fiat 500L and Volkswagen Golf SportWagen and Alltrack surpass the Soul with over 65 cubic feet of maximum capacity.

A solidly built interior with a healthy dose of style complements the 2020 Soul’s avant-garde exterior. From the soft molded bits up front to the harder grained plastics aft of the front seats, materials feel substantial. Some variants feature door trims with crystal patterns, two-tone upholstery, and contrast stitching. The GT-Line Turbo’s groovy multicolored mood lighting pulsates with your music, upping the Soul’s appeal a couple notches.

The turbocharged, top-of-the-line Soul GT-Line 1.6T presents itself well at the track, too. Hyundai-Kia’s punchy 1.6-liter turbo-four has little turbo lag, allowing the Soul to hit 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and lap the quarter mile in 15.0 seconds at 93.7 mph. The turbocharged Soul outruns every subcompact crossover we’ve tested except for the equally quick front-drive version of the Hyundai Kona 1.6T. Among compact hatchbacks, the Honda Civic Sport and Hyundai Elantra GT Sport come closest, but even those are at least 0.7 second and 0.5 second behind to 60 mph and the quarter mile, respectively.

Road test editor Chris Walton noted that the Soul 1.6T bogs initially before power comes in and spins the tires slightly. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic likes to short-shift to get to the highest gear it can get away with, causing hesitation in heavy traffic. In Sport mode, the transmission holds gears longer and responds to accelerator inputs quicker, allowing the powertrain to operate smoother in all driving conditions.

The 2020 Soul balances ride and handling nicely, thanks to quick, accurate steering, well-controlled body motions, and an improved chassis. The car corners securely, and the suspension shrugs off all but the nastiest road imperfections. Testing director Kim Reynolds enjoyed the Soul’s quick turn-in on the figure-eight course, which it finished in 26.8 seconds with a 0.66 g average. Walton praised the Soul’s brakes, which had good bite and fade resistance, stopping from 60 mph in 114 feet. Front-end dive is minimal, and stopping distances remained consistent after four consecutive attempts. Away from the track, stopping power remained consistently strong, and the pedal felt reassuring. On the highway, however, plenty of wind buffets over the A-pillars, and it only gets worse in windy conditions. Models shod with larger alloy wheels also suffer from lots of road and tire noise on uneven surfaces.

At least Kia’s UVO interface is supremely intuitive to use. The responsive 10.3-inch touchscreen and logical center stack layout effectively eliminate any learning curves. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work flawlessly even when used alongside the native system. The 640-watt Harman Kardon surround sound system on the GT-Line Turbo turns the cabin into a rich, rolling soundscape.

Active driver assistance features are available on select models, and these operate with commendable polish. The lane keeping assist accurately centers the vehicle even through gentle corners at highway speeds. Adaptive cruise control, which is exclusive to the GT-Line Turbo, leaves the right amount of space between you and the vehicle in front even in its closest setting. When the vehicle ahead slows down or someone merges (or cuts) in front of you, the system adjusts the car in a smooth, subtle manner, minimizing the chances of jerking occupants around.

The 2020 Kia Soul continues to bring design flair without compromising daily drivability. Although the latest iteration has matured, its eccentric personality lives on stronger than ever, especially in the turbocharged model. Combining small-car proportions with crossover-beating interior space, the Soul embraces its segment-defying design, especially now that it’s the last box standing.

2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo BASE PRICE $28,485 PRICE AS TESTED $28,965 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback ENGINE 1.6L/201-hp/195-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch auto CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,123 lb (62/38%) WHEELBASE 102.4 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 165.2 x 70.9 x 63.0 in 0-60 MPH 6.5 sec QUARTER MILE 15.0 sec @ 93.7 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 114 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.86 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.8 sec @ 0.66 g (avg) REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 28.3/35.3/31.0 mpg EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 27/32/29 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 125/105 kW-hr/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.67 lb/mile

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2019 Acura RDX A-Spec Long-Term Update 3: Soup Success

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 08:00

Few luxury cars handle my soup as well as our long-term Acura RDX. Driving performance is incredibly important, but entertaining daily drivers will fall short if they can’t meet certain everyday tests—in my case, one is how well it handles a to-go container of soup. For its segment, the 2019 RDX is one of the best in interior space and functionality.

Whenever we visit our favorite Mediterranean restaurant, I leave with a decent-sized to-go container of creamy chicken with leek soup. Mmm. With the Acura, I don’t need to force the container into the covered storage area between the driver and front passenger, put it on the floor, or use the cargo area, either. Our long-termer holds my soup snugly at the bottom of the center stack’s storage area underneath the gear-shift buttons. That open compartment is also where you’ll find a second USB outlet (rear-seat passengers get their own two USB outlets), a 12-volt outlet, and aux-in connectivity. Aside from holding soup, a small pizza box, or an occasional light sweatshirt, I don’t use the space often. Still, every time I need somewhere to put something small, I’m glad I’m driving an RDX.

The Acura scores more points on my evening commute. The adaptive cruise control isn’t as effective or as customizable as that of my last long-termer (a 2017 Audi A4), but our RDX’s cupholders are truly versatile. Beside the two cupholders is a slim and open rectangular storage area with a USB outlet where you can charge your phone and store a wallet or some keys. To pass the time in Los Angeles rush-hour traffic, I eat carrots. With the rollable cover closed over the cupholders, my bag of boredom carrots sits conveniently on a high perch, with my charging phone and other small items out of sight underneath. Another cool touch: The soft armrest at the back of the center console can be moved forward over the cupholders, helpful if you’d rather have a comfortable place to rest an elbow instead of a second cupholder. Although no one should rush to buy the RDX because its storage solutions are so helpful, I appreciate knowing I don’t have to sacrifice versatility when upgrading to a luxury crossover.

The same is true with the RDX’s backseat. The backrest doesn’t recline, but there’s room under the front seats for feet, and the floor is nearly flat, which increases the amount of perceived space. Sit behind the front seat adjusted for your driving position, and chances are you’ll think the RDX is spacious, more so than some luxury crossovers in this price range. I wish the backs of the front seats weren’t hard, but the Acura’s back-seat package is still mostly a strength.

Walk to the cargo area, and the positive picture continues. Leave the rear seats in place, and you’ve got 31.1 cubic feet of cargo space. It’s sizable even before you pull one of two cargo-area levers to fold down the left or right side of the rear seats. The real magic begins once you lift up the cargo floor, revealing a long, hidden storage compartment 6 inches deep. Lift up the cover more, and you’ll see another smaller storage area (and a shallow third one). Innovative storage solutions don’t scream, “I’ve made it,” but luxury-car buyers often pay a hidden tax by eschewing mainstream cars, in the form of interior space. The RDX helps minimize that spatial sacrifice.

Where we see room for improvement is with the RDX’s awful rear visibility. There’s no easy fix here—and properly adjusted side mirrors help—but we’d welcome any improvement that doesn’t result in the next RDX resembling the Subaru Forester or Honda Passport—two sensible and spacious models with boxy designs. In the RDX, even fold-down rear-seat headrests (for when they’re not in use, as in some XC60s) or slimmer hinges for the power liftgate would be appreciated. If you don’t mind the bold 2019 RDX’s subpar outward visibility, know that the luxury crossover’s interior functionality absolutely lives up to the “utility” part of sport-utility vehicle.

Read more about our long-term 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec:

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Audi Squeezes More Than 600 HP Out of its New Turbo-Four Race Engine

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 23:45

Four-cylinder racing engines making big power is nothing new, but a four-banger designed to make big power and last an entire season is. Audi has unveiled its engine for the 2019 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) season: a turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 that it says produces more than 610 hp and can run for approximately 3,700 miles.

Unlike other series, DTM requires teams to use the same engine for an entire season. For 2019, that includes nine races each covering various distances, in addition to practice and qualifying sessions. That’s a lot to ask of an engine pushing as much as 50 psi of boost. To help ensure longevity and reliability, Audi says it spent two and a half years developing the engine. Of that time, roughly 1,000 hours were spent testing on a dynamometer.

“The format of the DTM is a great challenge,” Stefan Dreyer, head of powertrain development at Audi Motorsport, said in a release. “The long mileage, distributed to many events with short runs, is really tough. Plus, the four-cylinder engine’s vibration behavior totally differs from that of the V-8. That posed a huge challenge during the development of the engine and also to our dynamometers.”

The 2.0-liter replaces the old naturally aspirated 4.0-liter V-8 Audi previously ran in DTM. The switch largely comes down to the series’ bigger focus on fuel consumption for 2019. Regulations now require that cars consume no more than 95 kg of fuel an hour (or 100 kg/h when using the short-term “push-to-pass” 30-hp boost). According to Audi, that’s comparable to what was expected of diesel engines in the past. To further challenge engineers, the new rules also allow engines to make 100 hp more than last year. Audi says moving to a four-cylinder allowed it to achieve that delicate balance of power and fuel efficiency.

As a bonus, the new engine is also significantly lighter than the V-8 it replaces. The whole powertrain weighs just 187 pounds, which brings the total dry weight of the RS 5 DTM to less than 2,200 pounds. With 610 hp on tap, that means the car has a power-to-weight ratio of 1 horsepower per 1.6 pounds.

The new engine makes its debut on May 4 for the season opener at the Hockenheimring. Here’s hoping some of its tech trickles down to Audi’s production four-cylinders eventually.

Source: Audi

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Volkswagen Boss: VW Needs to Earn “Significantly More Money” With its Cars

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 22:00

The Volkswagen brand is cutting 7,000 jobs as it prepares to roll out new electric cars, which are less complex to build and don’t require as many workers. Now a week later, Volkswagen Group boss Herbert Diess is pushing for the company to be more efficient so it can achieve its goals.

“We must earn significantly more money with our cars so that we can invest in the future,” Diess said in a meeting in Wolfsburg, Germany. “We must become leaner, more flexible, faster, so that we can keep up with the new competitors. We must leverage the potential of this great Group and this great factory in Wolfsburg.”

Volkswagen’s namesake brand has struggled in terms of profitability. Last year, the operating margin for the brand dropped to 3.8 percent. For 2022, VW is estimating a 6 percent margin. The brand is funneling resources into a host of EVs under the ID label, including a hatchback, crossover, sedan, and a reinterpretation of the Microbus. The Group aims to build 22 million electric vehicles in the next 10 years.

It takes 30 percent less time to assemble electric cars, VW says. Plans for early retirement of some staff will help reduce the workforce by 5,000 to 7,000.

Diess’ laser focus on profits has put him in the spotlight recently. The CEO has been under scrutiny for invoking Nazi-era rhetoric in a management meeting. He reportedly told his managers, “Ebit macht frei,” or “Profits will set you free,” talking about Porsche’s strong profit margins. This sounds similar to “Arbeit Macht Frei,” or “Work will set you free,” a phrase seen on the entrance of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. “At no time was it my intention for this statement to be placed in a false context,” Diess said in an apology on his LinkedIn page, reports Forbes. “At the time I simply did not think of this possibility.”

Source: Volkswagen, Reuters, Forbes (1,2)

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Ford Invests $850 Million in Flat Rock Plant for EVs, Next-Gen Mustang

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 21:00

Ford Motor Co said on Wednesday it is adding production of a fully electric vehicle at a second North American plant as part of its $11 billion investment plan set last year.

The No. 2 U.S. automaker said it is investing about $900 million in southeast Michigan and creating 900 jobs through 2023 as part of its electric vehicle push. That includes a plan to invest more than $850 million to expand production capacity at its Flat Rock, Michigan, plant to build EVs.

“When we were taking a look at our $11 billion investment in electrification, it became obvious to us that we were going to need a second plant in the not-too-distant future to add capacity for our battery electric vehicles,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, said in a telephone interview.

Ford is negotiating an alliance with Germany’s Volkswagen AG to work together on electric and autonomous vehicles. Hinrichs said those talks have been positive, but that there was nothing to announce.

Ford in January 2018 said it would increase its planned investments in electric vehicles to $11 billion by 2022 and have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup. That investment figure was up from the previous target of $4.5 billion by 2020.

Automakers have been boosting investment in the development of EVs in part because of pressure from regulators in China, Europe and California to slash carbon emissions from fossil fuels. They also are being pushed by electric carmakers like Tesla Inc.

Of the 40 vehicles, Ford said at the time that 16 would be fully electric and the rest would be plug-in hybrids.

The Flat Rock plant, which currently employs 3,400 people, builds the Ford Mustang and Lincoln Continental cars. The plant investment includes adding a second shift and funding to build the next-generation Mustang.

Ford already was planning an all-electric sport utility vehicle in 2020 that will be built at its Cuautitlan, Mexico, plant.

Teaser of Ford Mustang-inspired electric SUV

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker also said on Wednesday that it will build its first self-driving vehicles for use by commercial customers at a new manufacturing center in southeast Michigan starting in 2021, and will build its next-generation North American Transit Connect commercial and passenger van in Mexico starting that same year.

The next-generation Transit Connect small van will be built at Ford’s Hermosillo, Mexico, plant and increases U.S. and Canadian vehicle content consistent with the proposed new North American trade agreement, the company said. The vehicle is now built in Spain.

Hinrichs said he is optimistic Congress will approve the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit Editing by Susan Thomas)

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Volvo Will Put Cameras Inside its Cars to Monitor Driver Behavior

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 19:38

Many people are still getting used to the advanced features in today’s cars, from lane keeping assist and steering assist to that beep you hear every time you want to switch lanes and a car is in your blind spot. But this is only the beginning. In its quest to completely eliminate driver deaths, Volvo is taking more drastic steps to reduce accidents. Starting in the early 2020s, Volvo will put cameras inside its vehicles to monitor a driver for unsafe behaviors. If cameras and sensors detect the driver is intoxicated or distracted, it can take actions to keep drivers safe.

Volvo says there are many ways to detect an impaired driver. A car could detect a lack of steering input, extreme lane weaving, and slow reaction times, and take a look at the driver’s eye movement. In the case that a driver seems impaired, the car could react by reducing its speed or alerting the Volvo on Call support service. As a last resort, it could slow down and safely bring itself to a stop.

The automaker says it will announce specific details at a later date, such as the exact amount of cameras and their positioning in the cabin. The cameras will roll out to all Volvo models eventually. The process will start with Volvo’s next-generation SPA2 vehicle platform.

Just a few weeks ago, Volvo announced it will limit the top speed on all of its cars to 112 mph. This will begin next year on 2021 model-year vehicles. The automaker will also introduce what it calls a “Care Key” that allows Volvo buyers to set a speed limit on their car before handing it off to their teenagers.

The automaker previously announced its goal to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries in its new cars by 2020. Volvo says that it has realized technology alone will not achieve this goal, so it has broadened its scope to focus on driver behavior.

“We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver’s behaviour, to tackle things like speeding, intoxication or distraction,” Volvo Car Group president and chief executive Hakan Samuelsson said in a statement announcing the speed limit. “We don’t have a firm answer to this question, but believe we should take leadership in the discussion and be a pioneer.”

Considering that almost 30 percent of traffic deaths involved intoxicated drivers in 2017, Volvo is right to consider driver behavior a big part of the safety equation. And Volvo isn’t the only automaker to do so. Some cars today have attention assist features that monitor your steering patterns to detect drowsiness. And gaze recognition technology is nothing new. To help drivers issue vehicle commands, BMW is introducing it on the iNext with a camera integrated into the instrument cluster. But should driver monitoring involve something as potentially invasive as cameras inside the vehicle that can tattle on you? And how would Volvo protect your privacy? Do consumers want this technology? Those are the lingering questions.

Source: Volvo

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Why Lexus is Investing in Racing – The Big Picture

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 19:18

“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” It’s a marketing line as old as the automobile. When Henry Ford raced—and famously beat—rival automaker Alexander Winton on the Detroit Driving Club’s 1-mile oval at Grosse Pointe in 1901, it wasn’t to prove who was the better driver, but whose was the better car. Racing made the reputations of Alfa Romeo and Jaguar and Porsche and Bentley; even aristocratic Rolls-Royce used its victory in the grueling 1913 Alpine Trial to enhance its reputation as builder of “the best car in the world.”

And it’s still an article of faith among many automotive marketers: Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari are each reportedly spending $400 million making sure their brands stay at the pointy end of this year’s Formula 1 field. Hyundai is said to pour about $100 million a year into its World Rally Championship team. And with battery electric vehicles about to go mainstream, no fewer than eight automakers, including Audi, Nissan, and India’s Mahindra, will tip at least $200 million into this year’s all-electric Formula E championship.

“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” It’s why, as the darkness falls on serried ranks of RVs and a thousand glowing campfires, I’m watching a pair of growling, bewinged Lexus RC F GTD racers hustle through the twisting infield road course section of Daytona International Speedway as the legendary Rolex 24 settles in to the rhythm of the night.

It’s almost 30 years since I first drove a Lexus. The original LS 400 was the sedan that changed the world, a car so refined and beautifully crafted that it shocked an entire generation of engineers in Stuttgart and Munich and Ingolstadt.

But the brand that positioned itself as the young upstart shaking up the luxury vehicle establishment is now inescapably part of that establishment. As it approaches middle age, Toyota’s luxury arm is seen by many as a legitimate Mercedes, BMW, and Audi alternative—and it’s become one without spending the cubic dollars on motorsport its rivals have.

So why go racing now?

“We want to move the brand in a little more exciting, fun direction,” explains Cooper Ericksen, vice president of Lexus product planning and strategy. “Motorsport is an effective way to get in front of consumers and put yourself out there.”

That move is being driven from the top: Toyota boss Akio Toyoda, who put himself front and center of the Supra reveal at the Detroit auto show earlier this year, has made clear his desire that both the Toyota and Lexus brands be sprinkled with motorsport fairy dust.

Akio knows Lexus has no choice. Building the best sedan in the world was enough to stake your claim as a legitimate premium brand 30 years ago. Today you have to prove your premium road car can run with the best on the racetrack, too. The 42-car GTD class at Daytona (very closely related to the international GT3 and GTLM categories) included factory-developed cars from Acura and Audi, Ferrari and Lamborghini, BMW and Mercedes-AMG, and, of course, Porsche. In the 2019 Blancpain GT Series for GT3 cars in Europe (which subscribers can watch on MotorTrend On Demand), the GT3-spec Lexus RC F’s rivals also include Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar, McLaren, and Nissan.

Lexus—well, Toyota—can build world-beating performance cars. Back in the early 1990s Toyota dominated IMSA; it threepeated the Daytona 24 in 2006, 2007, and 2008; and has been a consistent resident of the NASCAR winner’s circle (though it was less fortunate in its foray into Formula 1).

The only question is, do Toyota and Lexus have the commitment today? We’ve seen the automaker dabble in fast, fun cars like the Supra, MR2, and Lexus LFA, then allow them to wither and die as it concentrates on building Camrys, RAV4s, and Lexus RX crossovers.

The roadgoing Lexus RC F Track Edition—all wing and carbon fiber and rumbling exhaust—is a promising start. But I’ll know the company is truly serious about performance and racing when I can drive the next-gen version to see a Lexus going wheel to wheel with a Porsche at Daytona 10 years from now.

Over to you, Akio …

More from Angus MacKenzie:

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New BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Model to Get Front-Wheel Drive

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 16:50

BMW will soon offer a more practical variant of the 2 Series. A four-door version of the small car will make its debut at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show in November, the automaker confirmed today.

Although the current 2 Series coupe and convertible are rear-drive based, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe will sit on the automaker’s latest front-drive architecture. We spotted early prototypes driving in the snow, so it’s likely that the model will also offer all-wheel drive. It will ride on the UKL platform like the 1 Series, which will be redesigned later this year but isn’t expected for the U.S. BMW says the 2 Series Gran Coupe will share “a multitude of technological developments” with the new 1 Series.

BMW showed off the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s back end in a new teaser image. We can’t tell much from the photo, but it looks like it sports a different set of taillights than those on the current 2 Series coupe and convertible. A tasteful spoiler complements the lights.

BMW hasn’t announced engine options, but expect the U.S. model to use a 2.0-liter turbo-four as standard equipment. The sedan will compete with the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Audi A3.

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe goes on sale globally in the spring of 2020.

The 2018 BMW 2 Series coupe and convertible are shown below.

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