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My Lunch With Stefano: Lamborghini CEO Teases Future Products

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 4:30pm

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

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 4:17pm

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.

The post 2020 Kia Telluride First Drive: New City Name and High Hopes appeared first on Motortrend.

Hyundai Tucson N Line Brings Suspension, Cosmetic Upgrades

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 3:45pm

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 - 2:15pm

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 - 1:14pm

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 - 4:00am

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 - 4:00am

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 - 7:45pm

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 - 6:00pm

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 - 5:00pm

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 - 3:38pm

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 - 3:18pm

“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 - 12:50pm

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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We Bring a Ferrari 812 Superfast and Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye to a Drag Strip

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 11:00am

The two big differences between how we test straight-line acceleration versus actual drag racing are surface and tires. When our test team hooks up the Vbox and records 0–60 and quarter-mile times for the 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye and 2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast, we run on street tires on asphalt.

Read the full story on the Dodge and Ferrari right here.

Typically speaking, if you’re at an actual drag strip, your car is launching atop a prepared surface and kitted out with some form of drag slick. The latter is much better for traction. Why else do you think the Dodge Demon ran a 9.65-second quarter mile while the Hellcat Redeye here could only manage 11.8? A scarier name?

With that not necessarily in mind, yours truly and Jethro Bovingdon staged up the Italian and the American at the Christmas tree at Arizona’s Wild Horse Pass dragstrip to see what’s what. Results: Too bad the Ferrari can’t do a burnout. The best time I ran in the Superfast was 10.9 (10.852) seconds at 134.3 mph, compared to the 10.4 at 138.6 our Chris Walton laid down at our Fontana test site. There was simply no way to get heat into the tires before each launch. I’ll tell you this, however: Wanna get the respect of a bunch of strangers at a dragstrip? Run in the 10s on street tires.

The Dodge has no issue whatsoever burning its tires. As such, Jethro was able to preheat the meats and then pop off a 12.0-second run (11.998) at 125.4 mph, a deficit of just 0.2 second and less than 3 mph compared to our Fontana times. Although the Ferrari was the victor, the Redeye was able to achieve more of its potential. What’d we learn? Next time we’ll bring slicks.

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No Comparison: Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye vs. Ferrari 812 Superfast

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 4:00am

There’s an old joke: You ask, “What’s the difference between an elephant and an ant?” The mark answers, “I don’t know, what’s the difference?” You reply, “Come on, you don’t know the difference between an elephant and an ant?”

News flash: The Ferrari 812 Superfast is a much better automobile than the Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye. It just is. I’m mentioning this because Ferrari—like Rolls-Royce and, to a lesser extent, Lamborghini—has this infuriating prohibition against comparison tests. This forbiddance is particularly annoying because modern Ferraris are so good. This 812, the 488, both flavors of Lusso, the new Portofino—I’ve driven them all, and all are wonderful. Nine times out of 10, the prancing horse would mule-kick the competition in the teeth, and that 10th time would be close. So, to reiterate, this ain’t a comparison test, but if it were, the Ferrari stomps the Redeye like an elephant squishes an ant. Chiaro? Prego.

What are you reading then? We car freaks are either living in or just about to enter the end times as far as internal combustion engines are concerned. The automotive world is going electric, and you can’t stop progress. You can, however, toss two fourth-quarter Hail Marys to illustrate just how good our kids ain’t gonna have it.

The Superfast produces 789 horsepower, and Dodge’s super-torquey (707 lb-ft) über Hellcat generates 797 ponies. With the exception of ultra exotics like the 1,479-hp Bugatti Chiron (price tag: starts at $3 million), these two bellowing monsters are the most powerful street cars available for purchase. Both machines are a celebration of what we’ll miss most when they’re gone: big, loud, screaming, thumping, grin-inducing, pupil-dilating, chest-compressing, mother-loving, gasoline-burning engines.

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The question then becomes, what’s it like to drive two cars that possess (within rounding errors) 800 horsepower? More fun than you’re imagining, I promise.

Since the initial Hellcat Challenger with 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque was released, the reviews have read essentially like this: “Great gobs of power, Batman, but what the Hellcat needs is better steering, handling, grip, and brakes. Oh—and it could lose some weight.”

To Dodge’s eternal credit, its answer to that near-unanimous, near-ubiquitous criticism: Add more power! (I love that.) Even if nothing good happens in terms of instrumented testing. The Redeye’s 0–60 time actually increases when compared to the Widebody Hellcat Challenger, and although its quarter-mile time drops by a tenth, that’s not something I’d brag about or spend money on. The figure-eight time also shaves a tenth. Braking is greatly improved—104 feet from 60 mph versus 112—so there’s that. Did I mention the Redeye is 32 pounds heavier than the 4,489-pound Widebody Hellcat?

The increase in trap speed is worth analyzing, as it’s an improvement of nearly 3 mph. That means we know that the ever-so-slightly detuned Demon engine under the wide-nostril hood is making the power but the Redeye is even more traction limited (see the 0–60 time) than its little bro. So although stoplight racing might not be the Redeye’s raison d’être, roll-on racing—say, 50 to 150 mph—leaves almost nothing to be desired. Trust me.

I say “almost” because, well, I drove the 812 Superfast. Ferrari lists the top speed as 211 mph, which is pretty fast. But in a world filled with Koenigseggs and the aforementioned Chiron, I wouldn’t call 211 mph “superfast.” I would call the Superfast super quick (which is super-veloce in Italian, but that’s a Lamborghini descriptor and hence verboten).

The sprint to 60 mph takes just 2.8 seconds. Kids raised on Instagram IV drips will scream about how the Tesla Model S 100D Ludicrous+ is quicker (2.3 seconds), as is the Porsche 911 Turbo S (2.5 seconds) and McLaren 720S (2.5 seconds). It’s all a video game at the end of the day. What’s crazy about the 812 is that this bright yellow GT is naturally aspirated, rear-wheel drive, and heavy (3,845 pounds). Look at the only other similarly powered rear-driver I can think of—the 755-horsepower Corvette ZR1. On sticky R-compound tires, the lighter Chevy needs 3.0 seconds to hit 60 mph, and the Corvette out-torques the Ferrari by 185 lb-ft.

Then comes the quarter mile. The 812 Superfast smashes it in 10.4 seconds at 138.6 mph. Bye-bye, Tesla (10.5 seconds at 125.0 mph)! See you later, Porsche (10.6 at 129.6)! The lightweight, twin-turbo 720S is quicker (10.1 seconds at 141.5), but the carbon-tubbed Brit weighs 678 pounds less than the fizzing Italian. The 720S is also the quickest non-million-dollar hybrid hypercar we’ve ever tested, and it’s (probably) underrated by 100 hp. To reiterate how superveloce the 812 Superfast is, the somewhat lighter (3,650 pounds), similarly powerful ZR1 runs the quarter in 10.8 seconds at 133.1 mph.

The Ferrari aces the figure eight in 23.3 seconds, a full second quicker than the Hellcat Redeye. With this metric, the 812 is a half second behind the ZR1 (22.7 seconds), but the Ferrari is on street tires. Pirelli Corsas would probably drop it very close to the magical 22-second barrier, where merely excellent-handling cars are separated from the best there is. Braking from 60 mph is 99 feet, and anything under 100 feet is world class—doubly so on street tires.

OK, so how are these two to drive? What are they like? How do they feel? I entered into these vehicles with a romanticized vision of grand touring: “Dearest Gertrude, I fear that the fear we fear the most has come to pass: Our stores of caviar are depleted. I must venture forth from Paris to Odessa (where else?) to procure more. Keep the bubbles warm and bubbly chilled. Ta!” (Side note: Modern-day Euros would just jet to the Black Sea on Ryanair for 5 euros a leg.)

As such, I assumed that the car to cross the Continent in would be the 812 Superfast. Nope! One thing that surprised me about the duo is that the Dodge is a far superior grand tourer—a more willing, comfortable, and compelling travel partner. Kowalski never had it so good. The Superfast is much less comfortable. And louder. The stereo isn’t as good. The seats are harder and don’t recline. And on and on and on. Still, I can’t remember a super sled that can hit crazy speeds (“Can we just say, ‘No more than 150 mph,’ your honor?”) as quickly and easily. That V-12 just rips.

And the car itself … allow my Head 2 Head co-host Jethro Bovingdon to explain: “Mind a bit blown. Turns like a mid-engine car, slides like an E60 M5, accelerates like a McLaren F1, noise and engine response from the gods.” I concur as he continues: “Utterly astounding that Ferrari’s front-engine ‘GT’ is this sharp and capable. I find it slightly depressing that spending all that money is genuinely worth it (because I can’t afford the interior carbon-fiber trim, let alone the car), but it’s uplifting that Ferrari pushes and pushes to develop something this wild and yet usable.”

View more Head 2 Head episodes RIGHT HERE.

Should you think this is exaggeration, the McLaren F1 LM could do 0–100–0 mph in 11.5 seconds. This Ferrari? 9.5 seconds. That’s insanity. By the way, that pesky McLaren 720S does 0–100–0 mph in 8.8 seconds, which is insanity on angel dust. The Redeye is, in some ways, as equally crazed. The F8 Green Dodge did the 0–100–0 mph dance in 11.8 seconds, unbelievably just 0.3 second off the McLaren F1 LM (I feel nuts just typing that) but a light-year or so away from the Ferrari’s performance. Mostly because there’s no traction. As Jethro said, driving the Redeye is like driving a normal car in the wet.

If you pore over your back issues of MotorTrend, you’ll observe a funny phenomenon. Each time a new chapter of the horsepower wars gets opened, the old superlatives come out to play. The 400-hp car launches like a trebuchet. With 500 hp, the thing is like a Saturn V rocket. 600? An F-16. 700? To quote myself, a Hellfire missile! Therefore, essentially 800-horsepower cars ought to accelerate at the speed of light squared with more power than Rome at the height of its glory. And that’s all true, obviously.

Of more significance is that 800 horsepower works. Both cars, as different as they are, are capable, livable, and most important, totally usable in the hands of mere mortals. Superlatives aside, there’s nothing to fear but fear (and depreciation) itself. More presciently, the upcoming electrification of the automobile is going to allow for comparable/greater power levels, at even lower price points. Can’t wait! Doubly so because I now know there’s nothing to be scared of.

I can’t imagine two front-engine, rear-drive, approximately 800-horsepower cars being more different. “Odd couple” doesn’t begin to describe it. The Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye is an extreme taken to an extreme. It’s as ridiculous as it is wonderful, as unnecessary as it is desirable. The thing is a you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me caricature of a muscle car. If I may be so bold as to recommend one change to the inmates running the Dodge asylum: 900 horsepower. Never let the bastards get you down!

As for that Ferrari, the 812 Superfast is an all-singing, all-dancing virtual impossibility of a supercar. The 812’s V-12 is the greatest engine ever made. No? Name a better one. I’ll wait. The seven-speed dual-clutch rivals, if not bests, Porsche’s PDK in terms of shifting perfection. A real gobsmacker. You know, a 30-year mortgage at 4.4 percent would be only $2,376 a month. Want. So much want.

Were this a comparison test, I would now swiftly, conclusively declare the Ferrari the winner. Since it ain’t, I’ll have to end it by saying people on Redeye budgets need not concern themselves with half-million-dollar Ferraris. Besides, the Mopar has more power. And those lucky enough to afford the 812 can afford a Redeye, too. Carry on.

2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye 2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD Front-engine, RWD ENGINE TYPE Supercharged 90-deg V-8, cast-iron block/alum heads 65-deg V-12, alum block/heads VALVETRAIN OHV, 2 valves/cyl DOHC, 4 valves/cyl DISPLACEMENT 376.3 cu in/6,166 cc 396.4 cu in/6,496 cc COMPRESSION RATIO 9.5:1 13.6:1 POWER (SAE NET) 797 hp @ 6,300 rpm 789 hp @ 8,500 rpm TORQUE (SAE NET) 707 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm 530 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm REDLINE 5,800 rpm 9,000 rpm WEIGHT TO POWER 5.7 lb/hp 4.9 lb/hp TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic 7-speed twin-clutch auto AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 3.09:1/2.07:1 4.38:1/2.76:1 SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Control arms, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar Control arms, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; control arms, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar STEERING RATIO 14.4:1 11.9:1 TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 2.0 1.8 BRAKES, F; R 15.4-in vented, grooved 2-pc disc; 13.8-in vented, grooved disc, ABS 15.7-in vented, drilled, carbon-ceramic disc; 14.2-in vented, drilled, carbon-ceramic disc, ABS WHEELS 11.0 x 20-in forged aluminum 10.0 x 20-in; 11.0 x 20-in, forged aluminum TIRES 305/35R20 107Y Pirelli P Zero 275/35R20 102Y; 315/35R20 106Y Pirelli P Zero (PZ4) DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE 116.2 in 107.1 in TRACK, F/R 65.6/65.7 in 63.5/64.8 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 197.5 x 78.3 x 57.5 in 183.3 x 77.6 x 50.2 in TURNING CIRCLE 38.9 ft 41.1 ft CURB WEIGHT 4,521 lb 3,845 lb WEIGHT DIST, F/R 57/43% 47/53% SEATING CAPACITY 4 2 HEADROOM, F/R 39.3/37.1 in 37.0/- in (est) LEGROOM, F/R 42.0/33.1 in 44.0/- in (est) SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 58.5/53.9 in 55.5/- in (est) CARGO VOLUME 16.2 cu ft 12.0 cu ft TEST DATA ACCELERATION TO MPH 0-30 1.8 sec 1.2 sec 0-40 2.5 1.7 0-50 3.3 2.3 0-60 4.0 2.8 0-70 4.8 3.4 0-80 5.8 4.1 0-90 6.8 4.9 0-100 7.8 5.8 0-100-0 11.8 9.5 PASSING, 45-65 MPH 1.6 1.1 QUARTER MILE 11.8 sec @ 128.0 mph 10.4 sec @ 138.6 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 104 ft 99 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.95 g (avg) 1.03 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 24.3 sec @ 0.82 g (avg) 23.3 sec @ 0.93 g (avg) TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1,500 rpm 2,200 rpm CONSUMER INFO BASE PRICE $73,190 $343,712 PRICE AS TESTED $91,740 $474,489 STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL Yes/Yes Yes/Yes AIRBAGS 6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain 4: Dual front, front side/head BASIC WARRANTY 3 yrs/36,000 miles 3 yrs/Unlimited miles POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles 3 yrs/Unlimited miles ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 5 yrs/60,000 miles 3 yrs/Unlimited miles FUEL CAPACITY 18.5 gal 24.3 gal EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 13/22/16 mpg 12/16/13 mpg ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 259/153 kW-hrs/100 miles 281/211 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.22 lb/mile 1.43 lb/mile RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded premium Unleaded premium † SAE Certified

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Spied! Second-Gen Nissan Juke Keeps the Funk Alive

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 7:45pm

Nissan may have discontinued the Juke here in the U.S., but we haven’t forgotten about it. Its looks were just as polarizing as the way it drove. While some thought it was quirky and fun-to-drive, others considered it a cramped econobox. Either way, the second-generation Nissan Juke is on its way, at least for global markets. And it appears to have changed quite a bit.

Unless the camouflage is leading us astray, the prototype appears to have slim headlights. This look is quite a contrast from the bug-eyed appearance of the previous model, which placed the daytime running lights atop the fenders parallel with the hood. The lower lamps, which could again serve as the car’s actual headlights, are still round but are smaller now. The grille forms a deeper V, giving it a bolder look, and the lower vents have changed.

The model keeps its small size, but it appears that the Juke loses its distinct hips. The taillights also look more streamlined.

Autocar reports that the new Nissan Juke will likely be revealed later this year and go on sale in 2020. Expected powerplants include turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder and 1.3-liter four-cylinder engines.

A new Juke is long overdue, considering the first generation debuted in 2010. It’s unclear if the new model will arrive Stateside, but we’re not getting our hopes up since the Juke was never a strong seller here. Besides, Nissan recently gave us a new mini-crossover called the Kicks. While that compact CUV offers strong value, it doesn’t have nearly the amount of personality as the Juke, nor does it offer all-wheel drive.

Photo source: CarPix

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2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 Coupe Gets a Redesign

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 7:01pm

Mercedes offers the GLC Coupe to those looking for something a little different from a traditional crossover, and now, the model is getting a face-lift. For 2020, the rakish SUV boasts an updated exterior and a new infotainment interface.

According to the specs provided by Mercedes, the GLC 300 Coupe shrinks slightly in length. The model is 3.0 inches shorter, while maintaining the same width and wheelbase. Height has increased by almost an inch, however. In terms of exterior design, look for updates to the grille, headlights and taillights, and front and rear fascias.

Like the regular GLC crossover, which was also recently updated, the Coupe features a new 2.0-liter turbo-four with 255 hp, an increase of 14 hp from last year. Torque remains steady at 273 lb-ft.

Inside the cabin, you’ll encounter new upholstery options. But the bigger news is the improved technology. The model benefits from the MBUX interface, which has a new voice control system that allows drivers to issue commands by saying “Hey Mercedes.” There are many other ways to interact with information in the car. The model receives a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The old rotary push button on the center console has been replaced by a new touchpad. The steering wheel is also new with touch control buttons for operating different functions.

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe now has gesture control recognition and navigation with augmented reality, in which arrows are superimposed directly onto the touchscreen image, making it hard to miss a turn. Expect the latest driver aids, including active lane change assist, steering assist, and route-based speed adaptation.

We’re still waiting for Mercedes to release full specs for the GLC Coupe lineup. But we do know the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe will debut at the New York auto show next month. Sales begin by late this year.

Source: Mercedes-Benz

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Mercedes-Maybach SUV to be Built in Alabama

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 5:30pm

Mercedes confirmed it will build a Maybach SUV, reports Automotive News. The SUV will enter production in Alabama alongside the GLS, which is due for a redesign soon. With an expected price tag of around $200,000, the SUV would be the most expensive passenger vehicle made in the U.S.

The new model will likely debut in China this year and go on sale early next year, AN says.

Mercedes previewed a potential Maybach SUV with a concept last year, although it looked a bit more like a high-riding sedan. The Vision-Mercedes Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept featured four electric motors making a total of 738 hp and a range of more than 200 miles per charge. The concept was bold and unique looking, especially riding on 24-inch wheels. Inside, the opulent interior featured white Nappa leather, rose-gold diamond stitching, and a fine-china tea set in between the two rear seats.

Expect the production model to sport unique visual treatments that will differentiate it from the regular GLS, including different designs for the front grille, lights, chrome trim, and wheels. As we previously reported, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS will likely offer a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine. The engine could make more than 577 hp, if it’s similar to the one found in the new AMG G-Class.

Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler says the Maybach GLS is a “halo car.” “It will help build the Mercedes brand, no question,” he said. The model will compete with other ultra-lux SUVs like the Bentley Bentayga, Rolls-Royce Cullinan, and Lamborghini Urus.

Mercedes is looking to expand the Maybach lineup to other models. “We’ll logically extend it where it makes sense,” Exler said. “I cannot imagine you will have a Maybach A-Class. But on the top luxury cars, to have the luxury edition makes a whole lot of sense for us.”

The automaker is also working to expand its Alabama plant with a new battery facility. In the early 2020s, the Alabama plant will make vehicles under the automaker’s EQ subbrand.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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Is Fiat Chrysler Planning a Merger With Peugeot?

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 5:15pm

Fiat Chrysler shares jumped on Tuesday to the top of Europe’s STOXX 600 after the president of Peugeot family holding company FFP told French daily Les Echos he would support a new deal and suggested Fiat Chrysler was among the options. “With them, as with others, the planets could be aligned,” Robert Peugeot was reported as saying, asked about targets for acquisitions or mergers. Fiat Chrysler (FCA) declined to comment.

Shares in the Italian-American carmaker were up 5.2 percent by 1050 GMT, while Peugeot gained 2.7 percent, helping boost Europe’s autos index which was up 2.5 percent. Peugeot’s remarks came on the heels of reports the group’s CEO Carlos Tavares is open to deals and that Fiat, General Motors, and Jaguar Land Rover could be ideal partners.

FCA’s new boss Mike Manley, who took over after deal-making guru Sergio Marchionne died last year, said this month the carmaker was open to pursuing alliances and merger opportunities if they make sense and strengthen its future. FCA is often cited as a possible merger candidate because of its strong exposure to the North American market, where it generates the lion’s share of profits, and because of its popular Jeep, RAM and Maserati brands.

“PSA is essentially an EU pure play as things stand (roughly 90 percent of consolidated unit sales in EU) so an acquisition of a company with a broader reach would make strategic sense,” said Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst.

Investors and analysts alike were wary of betting on an imminent deal, though, mindful of potential antitrust obstacles. “Although we believe that some M&A could materialize in the automotive sector, we do not expect it in the short term,” said Mediobanca Securities analyst Andrea Balloni.

(Reporting by Helen Reid, Danilo Masoni, and Agnieszka Flak)

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General Motors Considers Its Options Following Lyft IPO

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 4:30pm

As Lyft Inc cruises toward an initial public offering this month, one of the big winners will be General Motors Co, whose stake in the ride-hailing firm could be worth as much as $1.27 billion. GM is not talking about its plans for that investment, and investors polled by Reuters, owning a collective 35.7 million shares, do not have a consensus view. Some believe the No. 1 U.S. automaker should hold on to it for strategic reasons, while others want the money returned to shareholders through buybacks or a special dividend.

“Unless GM can leverage its investment in Lyft to accelerate its own robo-taxi ambitions with Cruise, we believe it would be appropriate to cash out its stake to repurchase its own under-valued shares,” said Michael Razewski, a partner with Douglas C. Lane & Associates, which owned about 2.6 million GM shares at the end of 2018. Cruise Automation is GM’s self-driving car unit.

Lyft on Monday launched the investor “roadshow” for the March 29 IPO, and it said it to sell Class A shares at $62 to $68 a share. GM owns more than 18.6 million Class A shares, according to the Lyft filing, meaning its investment at the outset could be worth $1.16 billion to $1.27 billion. GM invested $500 million in Lyft in January 2016. With a 180-day lock-up period during which GM cannot sell and the expected April IPO of larger rival Uber Technologies Inc further stoking interest in the ride-hailing sector, the value could subsequently rise.

GM spokesman Tom Henderson said the automaker is happy with its Lyft stake, but declined to discuss future plans for the shares. Lyft spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna had no comment. Several shareholders would like to see GM sell the stake and use the proceeds to repurchase shares or pay a special dividend.

“If I want to buy Lyft, I’ll go do it myself,” said Scott Schermerhorn, managing principal with Granite Investment Advisors, which owns more than 210,000 GM shares. “Take the proceeds and invest it in something that’s core to their business or give it back to shareholders.”

However, Jacques Elmaleh, portfolio manager with Steinberg Global Asset Management, with almost 24,000 GM shares at the end of 2018, said it is too early to write off the relationship. “I’d be inclined that they hold onto it and see how it plays out,” he said.

Some of GM’s larger investors – the United Auto Workers retiree healthcare benefits trust, hedge fund manager David Einhorn and T. Rowe Price Group Inc – declined to comment. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc did not respond to a request for comment. GM’s former president, Dan Ammann, joined Lyft’s board as the companies eyed developing networks of self-driving cars together. However, there have been few signs of cooperation. Ammann – who now leads Cruise – left the Lyft board in June 2018.

Analysts have speculated GM will eventually sell shares in Cruise or spin it off, and the incentive plan disclosed last month for Ammann pointed toward a possible IPO. Kyle Martin, analyst with Westwood Holdings, which owns more than 30,000 GM shares, would just as soon see GM sell the Lyft stake and use that money in Cruise.

“That’s a meaningful amount of money that could certainly help them close the gap with Waymo and put them even further ahead of Ford,” he said, referring to technology leader Alphabet’s Waymo and GM rival Ford Motor Co.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman and Jonathan Stempel)

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