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Updated: 10 hours 18 min ago

Weatherproofing Autonomy – Technologue

18 hours 12 min ago

Waymo, which recently launched its autonomous ride-hailing service in the Phoenix area, is betting big on traditional sensing technologies—including cameras, GPS, radar, and those super-expensive spinning lidar sensors on the roof.

These Waymo cars are essentially beta-testers, which means they are not fail safe. (Remember Uber?) If Waymo happens to have an accident and the fault is found to be with the sensor array, it’s a safe bet Waymo won’t be able to blame a blizzard or pea-soup fog.

An MIT spinoff startup called WaveSense hopes to hasten the arrival of autonomy in regions with, you know, weather, by providing an additional “leg” of the environmental perception stool that is utterly weatherproof: ground-penetrating radar (GPR). There are numerous applications for this technology in use today. Law enforcement locates buried booty or bodies with it, road commissions use it to assess road-bed fitness, it helps utilities locate pipes, and archaeologists rely on it to find the next King Tut’s tomb. Although most of these applications use a much lower-frequency radar than the forward-looking automotive kind—1–3 gigahertz (billion cycles per second) versus 77 GHz—WaveSense uses a frequency that’s way lower still—100–400 megahertz (million cycles per second).

The higher-frequency GPR provides super-high resolution but can’t measure as deep and suffers from “blur” at higher vehicle speeds. It’s also more susceptible to things like trash on a roadway, “thermal drift” as temperatures change, and the inevitable variation in the height of the sensor off the road that comes with vehicle pitch, roll, and payload variation. A 100–400-MHz system avoids these problems and can detect, record, and analyze underground features buried 6–10 feet deep. It also requires just 40 microwatts total, of which only 4 “leak” into the surrounding air. Higher-frequency GPR consume 1,000 times as much power. This radar senses differences in the electromagnetic properties of objects such as pipes, roots, and rocks in the surrounding dirt—all of which tend to be extremely stable over time.

As with camera- and lidar-based positional sensing, the road network must first be mapped by vehicles using essentially the same hardware, correlating GPR imagery with GPS location data. It takes a few passes to ensure the 5-foot-wide beam generates full coverage of a lane. The raw map data can be used for location-correlation, providing lateral/longitudinal accuracy within about an inch, and it works at highway speeds. Sensors that can “see” through 10 feet of dirt are unfazed by a layer of grunge on the lens, and at scale the sensor should cost $100 per vehicle. Another bonus: They mount underneath, so they don’t mar the vehicle’s styling.

WaveSense co-founder and CEO Tarik Bolat acknowledges the technology has some limitations. The radar does not work well in standing water, though deep snow is not a problem. The steel plates in bridges provide insufficient detail, so driving on them is GPR’s blinding “blizzard.” Happily, radar, lidar, and cameras should work fine on bridges, and autonomous cars won’t enter flooded areas. Frost heaves and large variations in moisture content can alter radar reflections of shallower features, but modern road engineering minimizes the risk of these factors, and deeper features typically remain stable over time. Another benefit: It’s difficult for malicious actors to alter or fake underground geography or to spoof radar reflections.

WaveSense is operating on $3 million of seed money and is working with several automakers, Tier 1 suppliers, and tech companies to bring GPR to production. The U.S. military has deployed the MIT-developed GPR technology on autonomous vehicles operating in certain areas in Afghanistan; now WaveSense is targeting early-adopter autonomous delivery and ride-hailing companies and plans to map the top 10 urban metroplexes and the major interstates connecting them—all of which limits exposure to potentially problematic environments like poorly drained or undeveloped roads. Pilot programs with certain partners will begin in the New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, L.A., and San Francisco metro areas, with vehicles testing in late 2019.

WaveSense had me at “$100/car” and “mounts underneath.”

Read more by Frank Markus here:

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Refreshing or Revolting: 2020 Toyota Supra

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 9:30pm

The 2020 Toyota Supra was finally revealed (officially) this week, returning the iconic nameplate to the lineup after an absence of more than 20 years. With such a big gap between this model and the last one, it goes without saying that expectations were high for the successor to the Mk IV, a car that has reached mythical status thanks to its prevalence in pop culture. The Mk V Toyota Supra was never going to please everyone, but will its design please most? Take a look below and decide for yourself.

The 2020 Toyota Supra was inspired by the FT-1 concept of 2014, so we’ve thrown images of that show car in the gallery for reference. And just for kicks, we’ve also included a few shots of the Mk IV Supra. Let’s start with the Supra’s front end. The FT-1 influence is clear, with the production car getting a similarly pointy front bumper inspired by the nosecone on an F1 car and wide-open intake vents in the lower valance. The light signature of the headlamps and LED daytime running lights is pretty close to that of the concept, and you could even argue that the cluster of three projectors is a nod to the MK IV.

From the side, the 2020 Supra looks sleek, but not as sleek as the FT-1. Considering the production car’s significantly shorter wheelbase, we applaud Toyota designers for capturing the general curviness of the FT-1’s profile. Even the double-bubble roof made it to production.

Much of the concept lives on in the Supra’s rear end. The Taillight shape is retained and the trunk lid gets a molded ducktail spoiler—though no active rear wing like the FT-1’s. The rear three quarter view might be the Supra’s best angle, as it highlights its shapely rear fenders.

The interior might be the most controversial aspect of the new Supra, as it’s very clearly BMW-derived. The switchgear, infotainment graphics, and shifter all scream BMW—because they are. Pretty much none of the FT-1’s futuristic, racing-inspired cabin design made it to production, though the center console does have a divider on the driver’s side that could be a vestigial element from the concept’s F1-like cockpit.

What do you think of the 2020 Toyota Supra’s design? Tell us in the comments on Facebook!

The post Refreshing or Revolting: 2020 Toyota Supra appeared first on Motortrend.

Altima-te AWD is the Latest Nissan to Get Snow Tracks

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 8:18pm

Though Nissan’s obsession with tank treads grows tiring, the brand has proven you can put tracks on anything and make it cooler. Case in point: the Nissan Altima-te AWD project vehicle that just made its debut at the Montreal auto show.

The one-off is based on a 2019 Altima and ditches its wheels for a set of heavy-duty tracks. It also gets some cool-looking 7.0-inch fender flares all around to complete the Mad Max-meets-mega-snowmobile effect. Adding the wide-body fenders took about 150 hours of work, according to Nissan, and the Altima’s ride height was increased by 3.0 inches.

It joins a bevy of other tracked Nissans that include the Rogue Warrior and the Nissan 370Zki that made the rounds at a number of other car shows last year. Like the 370Zki, the Altima-te was modified by Motorsports in Action in Quebec. The outfit used a Dominator track system from American Track Truck measuring 30 inches tall, 15 inches wide, and 48 inches long, in case you want to similarly mod your Sentra or Versa.

If you find yourself in the Great White North, the Altima-te AWD will be on view at the Montreal show through January 27 before making tracks for the Toronto auto show the following month.

Source: Nissan

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1993 Ford Mustang Cobra R Sells for a Record $132K at Barrett-Jackson

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 7:13pm

As is usually the case at Barrett-Jackson auctions, this year’s Scottsdale sale is teeming with Mustangs. One of the most notable is this foxy red Cobra R coupe, which sold for $132,000, making it the most expensive Fox Body Mustang ever sold at auction.

This 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R was the 11th of just 107 units made. It features a 5.0-liter V-8 engine paired to a five-speed manual transmission. The Cobra R variants were tuned to produce 235 hp, and were only offered to licensed racers. This one features various upgrades, including a revised camshaft and GT40 cylinder heads from Ford Racing.

The Mustang logged just over 500 miles on the odometer over the past quarter century. It has had two previous owners: a Ford dealer in Connecticut and Jerry’s Classic Mustangs in Alabama. The car has never been dealer-prepped, the listing says, and it has never seen water.

The final year of the Fox Body Mustang generation was 1993. Prior to that, the Fox Body Mustang had served as Ford’s performance flagship since 1979.

To underscore just how well this Mustang performed at auction, let’s take note of a few figures. The most expensive Fox Body Mustang auctioned off until now went for $82,500, and coincidentally it sold at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale in 2017. That car was a 1990 Ford Mustang convertible with 16 original miles on the clock. The Cobra R’s rarity and condition—especially considering most other examples were probably raced—likely pushed it above the $100,000 threshold, but who knows? Maybe the Fox Body’s time has come. If you’ve got a low-mileage 5.0 or SVO, you might want to hang on to it just in case.

Barrett-Jackson ushers in a new year of high-octane auction action during its 48th Annual Scottsdale Auction, featuring some of the world’s most coveted collector vehicles and authentic automobilia collectibles, January 12-20, 2019, at WestWorld of Scottsdale. As in decades past, The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions will be the epicenter of Collector Car Auction Week and entertain thousands of automotive enthusiasts with interactive exhibits, entertainment, and activities. Check your local TV listings to see it live on MotorTrend Network and download the app for exclusive, live coverage.

The post 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra R Sells for a Record $132K at Barrett-Jackson appeared first on Motortrend.

The Cars the Government Shutdown Might Delay

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 6:27pm

As President Trump and Congress feud over the government shutdown, regulatory agencies that test and approve vehicles for sale in the U.S. remain closed. That could impact the launch dates for several much-anticipated vehicles slated for launch in the next several months.

This buzz-kill is in contrast to the public reaction to acres of shiny new vehicles unveiled at media days for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. What’s more, automakers are gearing up for next month’s Chicago show that bills itself as the largest consumer show in America.

Before a new (or significantly re-engineered) car can go on sale, it must be certified by the federal government. Under the Clean Air Act it is the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency. The National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor does the verification. But the lab is among the agencies not being funded during the month-long shutdown.

On the bright side, many new vehicles are not slated to go on sale until spring, and the majority are fall launches. While automakers are concerned if the shutdown goes too long, in most cases there is still time before panic sets in.

Concern is a bit higher for diesel-powered vehicles. The emissions reporting scandal is still fresh in American minds, and many automakers have canceled or whittled down their plans to offer diesel-fuelled vehicles in the U.S.—the exception being large pickups that are huge profit-makers for Detroit. Some diesel-powered vehicles have faced long wait times for certification as federal agencies have been more meticulous in the wake of the cheating scandal.

Keep reading to find out where the new vehicle launches stand at nine automotive brands.

Ram

The EPA completed the federal emission testing and certified the 2019 Ram 2500 heavy-duty pickup—but had not finished testing tailpipe emissions for the Cummins diesel version of the Ram 3500 when the shutdown hit. That process is on hold, FCA CEO Mike Manley confirmed at the auto show. Both trucks are scheduled to go on sale this spring. The automaker says other vehicles are undergoing their normal quality validation testing and no shipments are not being delayed at this time. That includes the 2019 Ram 1500 with a diesel, that is still in the certification process.

Jeep

A Grand Cherokee with a diesel is still in the lineup awaiting its turn for certification.The new Jeep Gladiator midsize pickup is not due until spring so there is no impact yet.

Volkswagen

Volkswagen will show the new Jetta GLI (a standard 2019 Jetta is pictured) next month at the Chicago Auto Show. It is slated to launch in March. Executives think the launch will be OK if federal employees get back to work by the end of January, but it will be tight.

Ford

Ford has a lot of vehicles (GT500, Explorer, Escape, and Lincoln Aviator) slated to go on sale this year, and many of them are in the queue for certification. Nothing is due in the next few months so no delays at this time. But if the shutdown is prolonged, there will be concerns.

The 2020 Ford Explorer is due in June and the Aviator also goes on sale this summer. The GT500 is not due until fall. We have not yet seen the new Escape yet so it likely has more time.

Cadillac

Cadillac’s big XT6 crossover is due this spring so there is still time before it feels any impact as long as the backlog does not become onerous. GM officials say they have no launch delays at this time but, like other automakers, are currently awaiting decisions in the certification process for a number of 2019 and 2020 models.

Porsche

There is some concern that the mid-cycle refresh of the volume-leading Macan could be delayed, as it is slated to go on sale in March. Same applies to the Cayenne Hybrid. The next-generation 911 isn’t coming to the U.S. until July or August so there should be plenty of time to get tested under the wire.

Kia

Kia’s new Telluride three-row crossover goes on sale this spring but no reports of delays at this time.

Hyundai

Hyundai’s new Palisade three-row crossover will be available this summer. At this point, officials say no Hyundai model is on hold awaiting EPA certification due to the shutdown.

Honda

Nothing from Honda is being impacted. The new Passport crossover goes on sale next month but is already certified.

The post The Cars the Government Shutdown Might Delay appeared first on Motortrend.

Barrett-Jackson Hidden Gems: 2012 McLaren MP4-12C High Sport Chassis 9

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 4:20pm

The McLaren MP4-12C is a fascinating supercar. First of all, the fact that it exists is perhaps the craziest part of the story. Sure, McLaren’s flirted with passenger vehicles in the past. Back in the late ’60s, Bruce McLaren himself drove around the U.K. in a prototype M6GT, one of two built back when McLaren was considering competing in Group 4—50 cars would have needed to have been built to meet homologation rules and that number was a bridge too far. Then of course there was the Gordon Murray-designed F1, the legendary car against which all other supercars are forever measured. Then McLaren teamed up with Mercedes to build the Mercedes-McLaren SLR, a machine that was much more muscular German thug (i.e. AMG) than McLaren liked. Then, finally, this thing, the MP4-12C. With it came the decision that, yeah, McLaren was going whole hog and becoming a “regular” car manufacturer.

Was it perfect? No. The MP4-12C had flaws, and we famously ranked it one spot behind a Subaru BRZ at Best Driver’s Car. Hey, that Subaru is pretty great. But the MP4-12C is something else: it is an uncompromised expression of one person’s indomitable will. In this case, that person is former McLaren CEO Ron Dennis. I honestly don’t even know that much about Mr. Dennis, but what I do know could fill a book. A quick anecdote to set the stage: a guy I know once got a ride on Ron’s private jet. Ron had a rule about no shoes allowed inside the plane. Even though it was pouring rain, my friend was forced to remove his shoes, walk up the soaked steps in his socks, and fly to Paris with wet feet. The MP4-12C, therefor, represented what Ron Dennis thought a supercar should be. All the way down to and including the weird name. Flaws aside, McLaren built approximately 1,800 MP4-12Cs (and later 12Cs), as well as around 2000 MP4-12C Spiders. Not a bad start, all things considered.

This particular MP4-12C is a very special edition done by the fledgling MSO, aka McLaren Special Operations, limited to 10 examples, and called High Sport. Initially, only five High Sports were planned, but since the upgrades were all very functional, demand was great and McLaren built five more. First and foremost, power went way up. From 592 horsepower to a devilish 666 hp. The exact same output as the way-off-in-the-future 675LT, as a matter of fact. Visually, you can tell High Sports by the significantly revised front end that previewed the 650S’ schnoz.  You can also tell by the massive air vents on the side of the front fenders just ahead of the wheels. Those come from McLaren’s GT3 effort at the time. The same is true for the high pressure-relieving louvers on top of those same fenders, the rear fascia, and the wing.

This particular High Sport is arguably the most coveted of all. It’s chassis number 9, and was built for a very particular client: Ron Dennis. If it’s not this High Sport then it’s the one that was rumored to have been built for the crown prince of Bahrain, though no one’s seen that one. Anyhow, chassis 9 is the only one of the 10 High Sports finished in the Vodafone Racing Team’s F1 livery. There’s also the additional MSO Red Rocket airbrushed details. Under the “bonnet” you’ll find signatures from the team that drove and crewed an MP4-12C GT3 to a win at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring. Perhaps best of all, the car comes with a signed letter from Ron Dennis, explaining his commissioning of this car. You know, if I’m going to write that book, I should probably get my hands on that letter. Thing is, this High Sport did not sell at another auction a few years back, with a high bid of $900,000. So… no letter for me!

Post Script: The McLaren 570S took the Best Driver’s Car trophy back to Woking, England, in 2016. All is forgiven. On both sides.

Barrett-Jackson ushers in a new year of high-octane auction action during its 48th Annual Scottsdale Auction, featuring some of the world’s most coveted collector vehicles and authentic automobilia collectibles, January 12-20, 2019, at WestWorld of Scottsdale. As in decades past, The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions will be the epicenter of Collector Car Auction Week and entertain thousands of automotive enthusiasts with interactive exhibits, entertainment, and activities. Check your local TV listings to see it live on MotorTrend Network and download the app for exclusive, live coverage.

The post Barrett-Jackson Hidden Gems: 2012 McLaren MP4-12C High Sport Chassis 9 appeared first on Motortrend.

Tesla Cuts 7 Percent of Full-Time Workforce

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 3:45pm

Despite record sales last year, and profitability in recent quarters, Tesla is reducing its full-time employee headcount by 7 percent. CEO Elon Musk made the announcement in an email to Tesla employees on Friday.

Tesla’s headcount grew by 30 percent last year, which was more than the company can support, Musk said in the note. The email discussed the company’s current challenges, namely making its products more cost-competitive.

Right now, the least expensive Model 3 costs $44,000 before tax credits. This model has the mid-range battery with an estimated 264 miles per charge. Federal EV credits dropped from $7,500 to $3,750 on January 1, 2019 and they will fall again to $1,875 on July 1. We’re still waiting on the lower-price Model 3, which Musk has promised will cost $35,000.

“Tesla will need to make these [job] cuts while increasing the Model 3 production rate and making many manufacturing engineering improvements in the coming months,” Musk said in the statement. “Higher volume and manufacturing design improvements are crucial for Tesla to achieve the economies of scale required to manufacture the standard range (220 mile), standard interior Model 3 at $35K and still be a viable company. There isn’t any other way.”

Tesla made a 4-percent profit in Q3 last year. Preliminary results indicate the company will post a profit again for Q4, but it should be less than the previous quarter. With the help of the higher-priced Model 3 deliveries around the world, the automaker expects to continue a profit in the new quarter. Despite production bottlenecks, the Model 3 was the best-selling luxury vehicle in the U.S. last year.

This is the latest round of layoffs after Tesla announced last June it dropped 9 percent of its workforce. The company noted the duplication of some roles, and said it needed to reduce costs and focus on profitability. It said production of the Model 3 would not be affected by these cuts.

Read the entire statement from Musk here.

Source: Tesla

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An All-Electric Ford F-150 is Coming…Eventually

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 3:00pm

Ford is the king of pickup truck sales, and it wants to stay that way. A big part of the plan is continued innovation, and on the heels of introducing a fully aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup for the current generation, the Blue Oval has confirmed an all-electric F-150 is coming. This model will be in addition to the previously announced hybrid version coming in 2020.

Ford global marketing chief Jim Farley told inventors at the Deutsche Bank Global Automotive Conference in Detroit that plans are in the works to electrify the best-selling F-series truck.

“We’re going to be electrifying the F-Series—battery electric and hybrid,” Farley said, according to the Detroit Free Press.

A timeline wasn’t part of the announcement, nor were any other details such as powertrain information, but a Ford spokesperson tells us that there are plans to debut a pure EV F-150…eventually.

“We are constantly looking at new ways to better serve our truck customers, from materials to features to propulsion systems,” Ford spokeswoman Emma Bergg told us. “We are not specifying timing. We don’t have any other details to share at this time.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time a Ford executive has hinted at an electric F-Series.  Last year, executive chairman Bill Ford had this to say at a celebration of the Ford Rouge manufacturing complex’s 100th anniversary:

“[The F-150 Hybrid is] going to be a truck that takes you farther without sacrificing power and a truck that helps you do more when you get there, with electricity for everything from your tools to your camping gear. And then we’ll keep innovating. When it comes to building the best trucks in the world, we never rest. Whether they’re gas, diesel, hybrid—or when the time comes, fully electric—we will ensure they power the world in a sustainable way and remain Built Ford Tough.”

That sounds more to us like we’ll see an electric Ford F-Series when every other car on the road is electric. But then again, it’s also possible a more immediate plan for an electric truck came together between last October, when those comments were made, and Farley’s confirmation of an EV F-Series this week. One big thing that’s happened since then is Ford’s alliance with Volkswagen. The two automakers will work together on next-gen midsize truck production and also explore collaboration in other areas such as electric and autonomous vehicles.

FoMoCo made an all-electric Ranger from 1998 until 2002, so the company has some learnings to draw upon for an electrified F-series truck, although huge advances in EV tech and adoption will make them of limited use. The Ranger EV had a range of just under 100 miles, for example, while now both Tesla and Rivian Automotive intend to launch EV pickups with more than 400 miles of range. The Tesla truck should arrive after Model Y, while we’ve already seen the stunning Rivian R1T currently slated to roll out in 2020.

We already know Ford plans an all-electric Transit van as well as a Mustang-inspired electric crossover, but is the world ready for an all-electric F-150? Could Ford’s recent partnership with EV-focused Volkswagen help in this endeavor? We aren’t sure, but we don’t expect to see Ford’s all-electric pickup anytime soon.

Source: Ford, Detroit Free PressGreen Car Congress

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Specs Check: 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 vs. Camaro ZL1, Challenger Hellcat

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 12:37pm

We finally got to see the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 at the 2019 Detroit auto show, roughly one year after the car was officially confirmed. Although we still don’t know exactly how much horsepower the new Shelby makes, the Blue Oval brand has given us plenty of other specs to drool over. The GT500 will no doubt be a beast, but how will it stack up against the supercharged pony cars from Dodge and Chevy? Keep reading to see how the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, and Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat compare on paper.

Muscle Mass

The 2020 Shelby GT500 is powered by a supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 that’s related to the engine in the 526-hp GT350 but gets a cross-plane crankshaft instead of a flat-plane. The supercharger is a roots-type 2.65-liter unit that forces air through an air-to-liquid intercooler sandwiched between the blower and the engine. Exact power output remains unknown, but Ford engineers promise more than 700 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. Ford estimates the GT500 can do 0-60 mph in roughly 3.5 seconds, which is the time we recorded for a 2018 Camaro ZL1 in testing.

The number to beat is still 707 hp and 650 lb-ft, the amount the standard Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat makes from its a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V-8. The Hellcat Redeye raises the bar to 797 hp and 707 lb-ft thanks to an engine derived from the one in the limited-production Demon. The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 doesn’t quite make the 700-hp club, but still packs a punch. Its supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V-8 produces 650 hp and 650 lb-ft and features 11 heat exchangers.

Switching Gears

The only transmission offered on the GT500 is a Tremec-sourced seven-speed twin-clutch automatic. No manual is currently available. The Camaro ZL1, meanwhile, offers a choice between a six-speed manual and 10-speed automatic. That 10-speed, which was jointly developed by Ford and GM, was once rumored to have been considered for the GT500. Ford engineers ultimately decided on the twin-clutch because it was already beefy enough to handle the high torque of the Shelby’s supercharged V-8, whereas the 10-speed would need to be reinforced.

The standard Hellcat and Hellcat Widebody can be had with an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual, but the Redeye is only offered with the automatic.

 

Track Capability

Where the GT500 might have the advantage over its high-horsepower contemporaries is its on-track performance. The hood and widened front fenders are made from a composite material to keep weight down. A rear seat delete also helps reduce weight. All GT500s feature electronically adjustable magnetic shocks and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires as standard. A Carbon Fiber Track package adds an adjustable carbon-fiber GT4 wing for more downforce, front splitter dive planes to reduce front-end lift, unique springs and anti-roll bars that lower the car slightly, unique damper tuning, and staggered-width 20-inch carbon-fiber wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. A Handling package additionally gets you a Gurney flap for the wing and strut mounts that allow camber adjustments.

The Alpha platform-based Camaro ZL1 is already a competent handler is stock form, but to get the best track goodies you need to opt for the 1LE package. The manual-only 1LE is lighter than the standard ZL1, thanks in part to Multimatic DSSV spool-valve shocks in place of the stock magnetic dampers. In addition, the package includes adjustable camber plates, an adjustable rear anti-roll bar, hard-mounted struts, and solid bushings all around. The 1LE also wears wider and stickier Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3R tires. To improve aerodynamics, the 1LE sports a carbon-fiber rear wing, a large front splitter, and dive planes. In 2017, the Camaro ZL1 1LE lapped the Nurburgring in 7 minutes, 16 seconds—more than 5 seconds quicker than a Ferrari 488 GTB.

The Challenger Hellcat is arguably more at home on a drag strip than a road course, but if you’re going to drive any Hellcat around a track, you’ll probably want the Widebody variant. That model is 3.5 inches wider than the standard Hellcat and comes with 20×11-inch wheels wrapped in 305/40-size Pirelli P Zero tires.

The Cockpit

For the most part, the GT500’s cabin is your standard Mustang fare. The dash features carbon-fiber accents, and the digital instrument cluster has a few Shelby-specific graphics. The Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel looks similar to the one in the GT350, with the paddle shifters being one obvious difference. Instead of a traditional gear lever, the GT500 gets an electronic rotary shifter similar to those found in other modern Fords. The GT500 comes standard with two seats (though a rear bench may be an option in the future), and those well-bolstered Recaro buckets look both supportive and fancy trimmed with leather and Alcantara. An 8.0-inch touchscreen running Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is standard.

The ZL1 comes standard with Recaro seats, red seat belts, and a suede-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel. The 8.0-inch central touchscreen offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Chevy’s Performance Data Recorder system is available as an option, and includes a high-definition camera mounted behind the windshield, dedicated microphone, telemetry recorder, and dedicated SD card slot.

The Hellcat comes standard with Houndstooth cloth performance seats, but those seats can be ordered in your choice of two kinds of leather with embroidered or embossed SRT Hellcat logos. The Hellcat gets a flat-bottom steering wheel with backlit SRT logo and a 7.0-inch in-cluster display with unique Hellcat graphics and performance timers. Through the 8.4-inch Uconnect central touchscreen, drivers can access SRT Performance Pages to see various performance data.

Pricing

The starting price for the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 hasn’t been announced yet, but considering that the 2019 GT350 will start at $60,235 and the 2018 GT350R starts at $68,230, it’s a safe bet that the top-trim snake will cost at least $70,000. Chevy charges $64,695 for the ZL1, or $72,195 for one with the 1LE package. The 10-speed auto is a $1,595 option on the regular ZL1. The 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat starts at $61,745 including destination charge and gas guzzler tax. The Hellcat Redeye is priced from $72,845, and the Widebody package adds $6,000 to either variant. The eight-speed auto is a $2,995 option on the “base” Hellcat and Widebody, and comes standard on the Redeye.

The post Specs Check: 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 vs. Camaro ZL1, Challenger Hellcat appeared first on Motortrend.

2020 GMC Sierra Denali HD Shows off Huge Grille

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 11:30am

Chevrolet revealed the 2020 Silverado HD in December, and let’s just say not everyone was a fan of the new look, especially the gaping grille. Now, GMC has released a teaser for the new Sierra HD, and we’re not quite sure what to think.

From this teaser image, we know one thing’s for sure: It’s going to have a huge grille like its Chevrolet sibling. The truck pictured here is the Denali version, which explains why we’re seeing copious amounts of chrome. The headlights look sharp, but we’re not sure how they will look in conjunction with the element that separates them from the grille. We’ll reserve our final judgment until we see the truck in full.

Expect engine choices to mirror those on the new Silverado HD. GM hasn’t released full details, but we know it will receive a direct-injected engine. This unit, paired to a six-speed automatic transmission, is rumored to be a Navistar-sourced 6.6-liter V-8 from MD Trucks. The other engine option will be a Duramax turbodiesel V-8 that delivers 910 lb-ft of torque. That engine will come paired to a 10-speed Allison automatic.

The 2020 GMC Sierra Denali HD will reach dealers in the second half of 2019. So we expect a full unveiling pretty soon.

Source: GMC

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2019 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive: Reviewing a $222K, 680-HP Panamera

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 4:00am

Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive: Let’s unpack all that. Porsche is famous for sports cars. The Panamera is therefore sporty, but with four doors. Turbo S badging indicates it’s the most powerful Panamera in the 18-model lineup, the flagship of the fleet. Now things get tricky. The E-Hybrid bit means this 680-hp Porsche can silently glide 14 EPA-rated miles on pure electric power. And the Executive badge means a stretched wheelbase that delivers rear-seat legroom rivaling an S-Class Mercedes.

A sporty limousine with the efficiency of a hybrid: on paper, this big Porsche adds up to a boiling mass of contradictions. On the road, however, it’s a car that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

We’ve covered the Panamera in detail since its launch in 2016, but to quickly recap, it rolls on the Porsche-developed MSB platform that also underpins the new Bentley Continental GT. The Turbo S E-Hybrid powertrain delivers its 680 hp and 626 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels by way of a 550-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 under the hood and a 136-hp e-motor mounted between the engine and the eight-speed PDK twin-clutch transmission.

Select E-Power, and the sophisticated powertrain control system enables the big Porsche to be propelled solely by the electric motor when there’s sufficient charge in the 14.1-kW-hr battery. Hybrid Auto mode automatically shuffles between the internal combustion engine and the e-motor to deliver optimal efficiency. Porsche’s traditional Sport and Sport Plus modes are anything but traditional in the E-Hybrid. In Sport mode the battery charge is always maintained at a minimum level to ensure the e-motor can support the internal combustion engine. In Sport Plus mode the battery is charged as quickly as possible to allow the e-motor to help deliver maximum performance at all times.

Drivers can also instruct the system to preserve the charge in the battery to ensure the car can be driven solely on the e-motor at their destination. Or they can direct it to completely recharge the battery on the go by allowing the internal combustion engine to produce slightly more power than is needed to drive the car.

As befits the flagship model, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid comes loaded with goodies, including a panoramic sunroof, four-zone climate control, and a 710-watt Bose sound system. Standard chassis hardware includes air suspension, 21-inch wheels, ceramic brakes, and the full complement of Porsche ride, roll, torque vectoring, and traction control systems.

The Executive specification—not available on the Panamera Sport Turismo—adds 5.9 inches to the wheelbase, along with standard rear-wheel steering, adjustable rear seats, and soft-close doors. Base price is $194,800, and, incredibly, even at that price features like adaptive cruise control are optional ($2,890). Other pricey extras fitted to our tester included the sports exhaust ($3,490), larger rear center console ($3,180), and the 1,455-watt, 21-speaker Burmester High-End 3D Surround System ($5,190), bringing the total price to $222,100, including destination. Ka-ching!

Limos are all about the rear seat. The low-slung Executive is not quite as easy to get into and out of as a Bentley Flying Spur or Benz S-Class, but despite the low roofline, there’s plenty of head- and legroom. It’s strictly a four-seater, however, the rear passengers sitting low down either side of the prop shaft, separated by a fixed center console. That’s mainly for packaging reasons, but Porsche engineers say the low H-point also means rear-seat passengers are less likely to suffer motion sickness should the driver choose to get all Walter Röhrl on a winding road. Which is entirely possible…

Porsche claims a 0–60 time of 3.3 seconds for the 5,313-pound, 122.0-inch-wheelbase Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive, though given the blistering 2.8-second 0–60 time returned by the Sport Turismo version of the Turbo S E-Hybrid we tested last year, that number may be on the conservative side. Even so, a 3.3-second 0–60 run would make the big Porsche quicker than the 603-hp, 5,105-pound, 124.6-inch-wheelbase Mercedes-AMG S 63 we tested last year, and—on Bentley’s own numbers—the 626-hp, 5,456-pound, 120.7-inch-wheelbase Flying Spur W12 S. The Porsche’s claimed 192-mph top speed shades the 186-mph terminal velocity of the S 63 but is beaten by the Bentley’s 202-mph top end; though anywhere other than on a German autobahn, these numbers are the stuff of country club cocktail hour boosterism.

Yes, it’s quick. But where the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive really throws down in the sporty stakes is in the twisty bits. Taut body control, quick steering, sticky tires, and a low seating position make the big Porsche feel two sizes smaller than it really is. There’s none of the deliberation, the slight “do you really want me to do that?” moment you experience in the S 63 or the Flying Spur when hustling those big, fast sedans down a winding road. The Turbo S E-Hybrid simply reacts, grips, and goes.

It comes close to squaring the limousine-as-sports-car circle, this Porsche. Leave the suspension in the standard setting, and the air springs and long wheelbase serve up a ride that’s calm and poised, both around town and on the freeway. And it remains just as composed through the corners, staying flat with no diagonal pitching over midcorner heaves. The rear-wheel steering—which can turn the rear wheels up to 2.8 degrees in the opposite direction to the fronts to effectively shorten the wheelbase—helps the big Porsche deftly dance through tight turns.

But that poise and agility comes at a price: tire noise. The low-profile Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires roar like a freight train through a tunnel on coarse tarmac at freeway speeds, and there’s some slap-patter over road acne around town. With an interior wrapped in leather and Alcantara, dripping with the latest in touch-tech and designer jewelry, the long, low, lavish Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive is dressed to the nines. But you’re always aware it’s wearing sneakers with the tux.

The Turbo S E-Hybrid is thus arguably still more Porsche than limousine, but there’s no question it’s both powerful and efficient. The performance numbers tell the power story. Efficiency? An 1,835-mile road trip from Atlanta to New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, and back saw the big Porsche average 24.1 mpg. And that was achieved with only one full charge put into the 14.1-kW-hr battery, in Atlanta at the start of the trip.

With the powertrain set in Hybrid Auto mode, the Porsche’s electronic brain managed the battery charge and the e-motor’s contribution to our progress the whole trip. Once the battery is depleted, the system uses the internal combustion engine to bring it back to a 5-percent charge. It then uses that charge to enable the e-motor to provide torque fill under acceleration or to power the car on its own for brief stints of light load cruising (the Panamera E-Hybrid can run at up to 86 mph on pure e-power).

The system also allows coasting, shutting down the internal combustion engine when you lift off the gas. There’s very mild liftoff regen (to help increase the distance coasted) but more intense levels of regen under braking, which helps feed the battery in stop-and-go traffic.

To make you feel like a true eco-warrior (despite the fact you’re driving a 17-foot-long luxury car) the E-Hybrid trip computer shows the time and distance it has traveled without the 4.0-liter V-8 running as “zero emissions” values. And all those little e-motor interventions and coasting intervals and regen events add up: Over 1,700 miles, the trip computer showed we’d clocked up 300 miles of zero-emissions running.

Whether cruising at 70 to 80 mph on the freeway, cruising a quiet back road, or mooching around town, the big Porsche returned impressively consistent fuel consumption numbers, with a best of 25.0 mpg and a worst of 23.1 mpg. For context, the official EPA numbers for the Mercedes-AMG S 63 are 17/26 mpg city/highway, and for the 12-cylinder Bentley Flying Spur, 12/20 mpg city/highway. The 2018-model-year Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive is rated 21 mpg combined city/highway when just using the engine, and 49 mpg-e combined city/highway using the hybrid system.

The Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive offers a unique take on the long-wheelbase luxury limousine. It’s sleek yet roomy, fast yet efficient. Most of all, it’s a long-wheelbase luxury limousine that drives like a Porsche, as edgily suave as a tuxedo with sneakers.

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James May Talks “The Grand Tour,” His Cars, and the Best Bath of His Life

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 4:00am

Ahead of The Grand Tour’s third-season debut on January 18, we chatted with host James May about the show’s final season in-studio, what he’s cooking up for the future, and some of his favorite moments from both Top Gear and The Grand Tour with co-hosts Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond.

Photos courtesy of Amazon

MotorTrend: Thanks for making the time for us, James. Can you tell us a bit about what we can expect for season 3 of The Grand Tour?

James May: It’s sort of the same thing but refined a bit. We’ve taken a couple of elements out and streamlined it. So … we sort of do big drives and test cars and muck about and so on, but it’s just slightly better.

MT: The biggest change this season is the elimination of celebrity guests; did you miss that?

James May: No not really, I never did that bit anyway. The thing is, you can do [studies] on them and you can analyze everything to the end [and Amazon] did. We’re not a data driven production, but we know what the fans like, we know when they’re turning off or when they’re fast-forwarding, so we have to accept that we don’t need to do the bits they don’t like, so we won’t.

MT: It actually it seems like a great advantage to have that data and feedback from Amazon available, should you want it.

James May: Well I think that’s the trick actually— it’s when we want it. We don’t make the show around data because that sort of thing is very dangerous. You end up with something a bit like a clinic-ed car; it’s neither one thing nor the other, but we will read [the data] when it suits us.

MT: What’ve been your favorite moments this season, and what’s been your favorite car?

James May: Well, of the road trips it’s going to be a toss-up between Detroit and China. I love Detroit—I’m not just saying this because you’re from MotorTrend. I love Detroit because I’ve been going there on and off for twenty or so years, so I’ve sort of witnessed the changes happening there and I think it’s become a very, very cool place.

I mean if you are a young tech start-up type person, who you know had a beard and a bicycle and a bag full of algorithms, you’d think Detroit was fabulous. If I was in my twenties and I was in that sort of field or even doing what I do now, I could look at Detroit and think “Yeah that would kind of be kind of cool place to hang about.”

So that, and then China just because China is so amazing. We went to the China that most people don’t know; we went to Chongqing. We’re still not even sure how to pronounce it. It’s sort of the Detroit of China in a way. It’s where all the car and motorcycle factories are, and it’s a massive, massive place. It has got something like twenty-five or thirty million people in it. And it’s China, which was just, amazing, because it’s so different. That was a fab experience.

I’m duty bound to say that my favorite car of the series was the Alpine A110 … I actually went out and bought one afterwards because I liked it so much.

MT: I haven’t driven that yet but it looks special.

James May: It’s tremendous! I mean if we can be car bores for a moment, they’ve done what a lot of other supercar makers have failed to. They will make a Ferrari or a Lamborghini and then make a lightweight version where they manage to strip out 30 kilograms, and usually by taking away the bits that you really want like the air conditioning or the radio or whatever.

But with the Alpine they made it small and light from the start, and it does makes an incredible difference because most supercars are too wide. I mean it’s not quite such a problem where you are, but in Europe they’re too wide to be enjoyed on the road where they ought to be fun.

But the Alpine is like—I mean I’ve got a Ferrari 458 as well—is something like 500 millimeters narrower than the Ferrari and that makes a huge difference. It’s a proper—and I don’t like people comparing new cars and old ones—Ferrari Dino.

MT: Since you brought it up, what else is currently in your garage?

James May: I have that, the 458 Speciale, I’ve got a hopeless old Ferrari 308 GTB, a Porsche 911 Carrera 2S—that’s a 997, I’ve had that for a while now, and a BMW i3 because I’m being modern. Oh and I’ve got a little beach buggy as well.

MT: Oh the one from The Grand Tour Namibia special?

James May: Yea exactly, I brought the, well let’s say “the remains” home, and I had it completely rebuilt. It had to have a new body put on it, and it all had to be dismantled because it had saltwater in it. It was a proper mess but it’s now in metal-slate red and it’s got all the shiny bits on and it’s tremendous. I love it.

MT: That was quite the trip you guys took. What will season 4 look like given you’re going to leave the studio and focus on road trip specials? Is that a hard change to make?

James May: I suppose it’s hard in that it’s the end of a very, very long process that we’ve been doing together for 17 years or so. But I think in terms of the show, it’s a good idea, because again, looking at the data and just going by hearsay and things people say to me on the streets and in pubs, it’s the big films where we go and get three interesting cars or whatever and drive about and pick each other to death—it’s the bit that we’re best at, and it’s the bit that people like the most. So as we getting a bit old and fragile we should concentrate our energies and consolidate our talents and do the bit we’re good at, so that’s what we’re doing. Plus we don’t have to keep going to [the tent in] Jeremy’s garden which was getting a bit annoying.

Photos courtesy of Amazon

MT: What’s your dream destination for next season?

James May: Ooh that’s a good one. There’s still quite a few bits of the world that we haven’t been to, although we have been to a hell of a lot of it now. I would like to do some more bits of South America, and I’d like to do more bits of America because I still haven’t seen that much of the middle; I’ve been all around the edges of the States, but not the middle. And I’ve never been anywhere sort of in Malaysia, or that whole bit between Southeast Asia and Australia, so I’d quite like to see some of that.

But you have to bear in mind we’re not actually going on holiday, we have to go where there’s a good story rather than where we fancy being, otherwise we’d just make programs in the Maldives.

MT: Past the next season, what does the future hold for you guys, and could you ever envision retiring?

James May: Well yeah, to be honest, yes, one day. I think Churchill said, “We’re nearer the end than the beginning.” We must be because I can’t possibly do it for another 17 years, but I think there’s still a bit in us left. As we won’t exhaust ourselves doing the studio, maybe that will spin us out a bit longer.

MT: Seventeen years of television with Clarkson and Hammond is a long time—what’s been your favorite moment?

James May: I think, to be honest, it’s pretty mundane, but it’s either [on Top Gear] when we went to the North Pole, or it’s the moment where we got back to the base camp. I got in the bath after however long it was–you know, covered in my own cheese, and having to sleep in a tent with Jeremy Clarkson was just f–king awful. That bath was one of the highlights of my life.

I think more recently I suppose it’s actually in the [coming] series, where there’s a big road trip in Mongolia where we all had to share the car. I’m using the word “car” rather generously, because we cobbled the thing together ourselves. Mongolia is a fascinating country but there isn’t much there, so it’s pretty medieval living when you’re on a road trip, so getting to the end of that [was memorable]. The bath wasn’t quite as good, but the sense of relief was enormous. We’re still alive, and I haven’t become a murderer so you know, that’s like a double whammy.

MT: Why do you think you guys have been so successful on Top Gear and now at The Grand Tour for so long?

James May: It’s a complete bloody mystery isn’t it? I don’t know. I mean people dismiss it, they just say, “well its such great chemistry,” or something like that. I mean that must be something to do with it, but it’s not quite as simple as that, which is why it’s so difficult to replicate. It’s actually quite a delicate, frail thing that we have. And a certain amount of it is based on a mutual loathing I think; same as it is in rock bands and the actors in long running soaps. I’ve often said that everybody on Friends probably hated each other, so there’s a bit of that in it. And I think it’s also probably because of the old adage about three people in the meeting, one of them is always redundant, and there’s a certain amount of that. One of us at any moment in the show is always actually redundant and that, that sort of fuels us in a way.

Photos courtesy of Amazon

MT: Are there any films you wish you could go back and do differently?

James May: Actually you know there’s not much; I think the way we did them is pretty good or excellent. That sounds like a totally conceited way of putting it. We did a special in India when we did Top Gear, when we look back at it, we think, “Well actually we could have done a better job than that.” You only do your best work once; everything else is always done better.

And there are some small things in my own shows. When we did Man Labs and we went to try and catch a lightning bolt, and it was so futile. I look at it and think now, “Why did we ever kid ourselves and that might work?” I mean it is quite funny when things don’t work, but that so obviously wasn’t going to work, we wasted everybody’s time.

MT: With presumably more downtime next season, would you ever do a standalone show on Amazon Prime? Maybe programing like you had on your Unemployment Tube on YouTube?

James May: It’s funny you should say that because I haven’t actually proposed food to Prime. I think they would look at me and think, of all the people that we could choose in the world, which is pretty much everybody, I don’t think they would choose me to do a cooking show. But there are some moves afoot to do something with food online, a bit like my Unemployment Tube. But there’s not going to be some fabulous glossy cookbook for you to try out but it’s going to be, let’s call it, “garage cooking.”

MT: That’s the best kind of cooking.

James May: Well I think it is. It’s one implement, one utensil, you know.  You cook it and eat it with one hand ‘cause the other one is covered in Castrol oil or whatever. That’s sort of the direction I’m heading in.

MT: Are there any stories you keep pitching to The Grand Tour where you keep getting told no?

James May: Yes. There’s one about bicycles, they said no. There’s a thing I’ve got about going to the moon, but we’re not really obviously. But they’ve said no to that. There was one I proposed—not to Amazon it was actually the BBC several years ago—I pitched a program called “The Antiques Bonfire” where we set people’s antique furniture on fire, but they didn’t like that either.

I also came up with “The Pissed Olympics” because everybody was really worried about the effects of steroids and things in sports. I said, well why don’t you level the playing field by saying everybody goes to the Olympic village, they don’t have access to anything, but they have to drink eight cans of strong lager and then do the pole vault or the triple jump, it would be tremendous to watch. They didn’t like that either, it was really weird.

Photos courtesy of Amazon

MT: I think you’ve got an untapped market there. Back to cars for a moment, what coming automotive trends most excite you? Autonomous cars? EVs?

James May: Well I don’t really believe in autonomous cars—not in the way they’re popularly considered in the general press. I think the idea of Tesla-type autonomy on freeways—I can see that working, and I can see it being very beneficial.  Cars can go faster, closer together, and it would be safer. But I think most people have in their minds you will soon have an autonomous car that they can fall asleep in, in the back, drunk, whilst it drives them home through the city. I just think we’re a long, long way from that. It’s such a complicated idea, because you’re basically talking about robotics and no branch of science has been more consistently disappointing than robotics. We’re supposed to have robot butlers and things by now, but you can barely make a robot throw a tennis ball into a bucket, so I’m not sure about that.

I think the electric revolution is interesting. I’ve got an electric car, not really for environmental reasons, but just because I think it’s interesting. I think ultimately—and I do know some people who are working on this—the car will move off the road and into the sky in some way, because that’s where the space is. That’s where autonomy would work because the only other thing to worry about is the other cars, or pods or whatever we’re going to call them. I’m not sure if that will happen in my lifetime, but I have believed it for a long time. Car makers will have to think upwards rather than forwards.

In the short term, I like reconfigurable dashboards and connectivity. I love all that stuff. I like all the colors and things that you get on the dash of modern cars, because when you look at old ones, everybody loves instruments and so on, but they’re actually pretty boring compared to what you get today.

MT: Yeah, digging into the digital dashboard on your i3, for example, is pretty neat considering all the information available.

James May: Yeah and you can change it, a bit like the Apple watch, and have a different style of instrument today, or a different style of readout. And there’s little things, like on my Alpine, when you turn the lights on at night, the gear display which is in the middle between the two main instruments like it is in a Lambo–stars come out behind the numbers and the numbers of the gears rush at you from space. It is really cool. I look at it too much and I’ll eventually have an accident because I’m changing gears and watching the stars come out, because I do love all that stuff.

MT: Last question, biggest automotive regret?

James May: I’ve always tried to say I don’t regret selling any of the cars I sold, because at the time it must have been the right thing to do otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. But, I sort of wish I had kept my Alfa Romeo 164, which I had, oh god, about 25 years ago. It would probably feel terribly clunky and old fashioned now, but I love that 3.0-liter V-6. It was the first time I’d ever had a new car and it was the first time I’d ever had anything that was vaguely special, and it did sort of, I’m not going to say, “change my life” because that’s too corny, but it did. It was a good pick me up. It propelled me forwards.

MT: Literally and figuratively! Well, thanks very much for making the time for us, James. Looking forward to watching the next season of The Grand Tour.

James May: My pleasure, cheers.

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Report: Lotus Cars Will Be Built in China

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 5:50pm

Back in 2017, Geely bought a majority stake in Lotus to reinvigorate the struggling brand. Now the Chinese conglomerate will build Lotus cars in a new plant in its home country.

Reuters first reported the news, citing company job advertisements and government documents. The plant in Wuhan city in the Hubei province will produce up to 150,000 vehicles a year, according to a document posted on the website of the province’s planning authority. Plans for the new factory were apparently approved last month.

It’s unknown how much space the Geely plant will devote to Lotus. But the Wuhan Development Zone confirmed in a statement that production at the plant would include “Geely’s Lotus project.”

The plant has been approved to build various types of vehicles, from traditional combustion cars to hybrids and all-electric vehicles. Geely’s website shows job advertisements for the Lotus project at the plant. A production start date is not clear at this point.

With the new arrangement, Lotus can benefit from Geely’s large scale and enjoy greater production volumes. Geely has its hands deep in the auto industry, having purchased Volvo for $1.8 billion, and also maintaining a stake in Daimler, the owner of Mercedes-Benz.

Lotus wants to expand its lineup with an SUV, which could be built in China. Unnamed sources told Reuters that Lotus would likely build SUVs instead of sports cars initially at the Wuhan plant. In a joint statement, Lotus and Geely expressed the desire to expand Lotus’ manufacturing reach around the globe, while noting that Norfolk, England, was still the brand’s manufacturing home.

In early 2018, Automotive News reported on Lotus’ ambitious expansion plans under then-CEO Jean-Marc Gales. The brand would add two new sports cars and an SUV to its lineup all within the course of four years. One of the sports cars will sit on an updated version of the Evora’s bonded-aluminum platform, while the other will have a carbon-fiber tub.

Source: Reuters

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Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-in Updated for Europe

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 3:45pm

The Hyundai Ioniq arrived three years ago as the Korean automaker’s answer to the Toyota Prius line. Now, Hyundai is updating the Ioniq, giving it a slightly flashier but still modest look. Hyundai announced the update specifically for Europe, although many of these changes will likely also come to the U.S.

In these pictures, the Ioniq features a new grille with a mesh pattern instead of vertical slats. The headlights and side vents on the front fascia have also changed. Out back, Hyundai switched up the taillight signature.

Inside the cabin, you’ll notice a new infotainment setup. The 10.25-inch screen, available as an option in Europe, gets over-the-air update capability. The current Ioniq sold here in the U.S. comes with a choice of a 7.0-inch or 8.0-inch screen.

The European model features a “Green-zone Drive Mode,” which automatically tells the powertrain to use more energy from the electric motor in certain areas to preserve the environment. Standard safety features include front collision warning and avoidance and lane keep assist. Adjustable regenerative braking is also standard.

All these changes apply to the new hybrid and plug-in hybrid Ioniqs, which arrive in Europe during the second half of this year. Hyundai will announce details on the updated Ioniq Electric at a later date.

We’ve reached out to Hyundai for more information on the Ioniq for the U.S., and will update this post as soon as we hear back.

Source: Hyundai

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Spied! 2020 Land Rover Defender Plays in the Snow

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 1:30pm

Land Rover isn’t keeping its Defender prototypes a secret. Last month, the automaker released pictures of a camouflaged Defender getting muddy and posing with the Statue of Liberty. Now, we’ve caught the SUV playing in the snow looking a little different than before.

This new prototype receives a different wrap that highlights its boxy shape. The windows aren’t quite as covered up as on the first prototype, and it also features a new set of wheels. Land Rover made a bigger attempt to cover up the corners of the front end, however. If you take a peek at the rear, you’ll notice this prototype isn’t wearing a spare tire like the previous prototype.

The Defender will make its official debut sometime this year before going on sale in the U.S. in 2020. Expect it to retain the same toughness of the original model, but with a more modern interior amenities and improved safety. In recent years, Land Rover has hinted the updated model is intended to appeal to a new generation of buyers as well as current Defender owners. It will sit on the same aluminum-intensive architecture as the Land Rover Discovery.

Check out the full gallery of 2020 Land Rover Discovery photos below.

Photo source: CarPix

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Jeep Tests Car-Sharing and Subscription Services

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 6:00am

Jeep is testing car-sharing and subscription services for owners of its vehicles.

Two pilot programs with Jeep owners in Boston will start next week and run for three months, Tim Kuniskis, head of Jeep North America, tells MotorTrend.

A peer-to-peer pilot car-sharing program will select 100 new Jeep owners who can make money by renting their vehicle to others. Jeep will partner with the personal car rental app Turo for the pilot program. Kuniskis said that, fittingly, Turo’s top peer-to-peer shared car is a Wrangler.

The 100 Jeep owners will be able to rent out their new vehicle to help offset costs. The owner gets to offset payments while Jeep benefits from getting a prospective buyer into a Jeep for a day or two. It is a longer, real-world test drive where the renter talks to the owner, instead of a dealer, about how they like the vehicle.

“We want to see if people see this as a way to offset their payments,” said Kuniskis. “Are they interested in loaning their new car to offset a $600 a month payment? For would-be buyers it might help them decide whether they want to make a $45,000 purchase. Am I sure I want to do this. Let me talk to someone who has had one for a year.”

There is concern that automakers are pricing themselves out of the market and people simply can’t afford a new car. Only a third of vehicles sold are less than $30,000, and people are spending 10 percent of their household income on a vehicle, said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist with Cox Automotive.

Today 93 percent of miles travelled are with a personally owned car, said Isabelle Helms, Cox vice president of research and market intelligence, who released a mobility study today. Owning a car costs an average of $0.50 a mile compared with $0.25 to ride public transit, $1.30 for ride-hailing, $1.50 for car-sharing, and $0.80 for a subscription service. When alternatives to car ownership reach about 60 cents a mile, she expects ownership to drop significantly to only 61 percent. Cox forecasts subscription services will become popular, rising to about 10 percent of miles travelled while ride-sharing and ride-hailing will be in the 1 percent range.

Jeep is also starting a three-month trial subscription service, again with 100 Jeep owners, who will have access to other FCA products such as a Ram pickup to deliver some mulch or a minivan for a family trip.

Kuniskis says some of the challenges preventing subscription services from taking off include price and the range of vehicles offered. The advantage of FCA is the ability to get a truck or a minivan or a Charger or a Challenger. “We think the breadth is helpful.”

Another challenge is the dropoff and pickup of the vehicle, so the pilot program will be tested in different ways. Some will include dropoff and pickup while others will test a program where they must handle the logistics themselves. Having two test groups will gauge how important that part of the service is and show if it affects utilization rates. Because this is only a three-month trial, FCA will use Avis to supply the vehicles so dealers don’t have to take on the expense and have the inventory in stock for the pilot.

The participants would not be charged for the service, but ultimately a subscription service would have a charge.

The Jeep programs, if implemented fully after the test periods, will build on the existing Jeep Wave membership program that offers a concierge service with a 24-hour hotline, some maintenance, same-day rental, access to VIP events, parking, and other perks. Jeep Wave was always meant to be an umbrella of bigger things Jeep wanted to do, Kuniskis said.

“We’re going slowly to make sure we’re doing it the way the Jeep owner would want us to do it, and making sure it’s right for the brand,” said Kuniskis.

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2018 Kia Stinger GT Long-Term Update 4: Crashing for Science

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 4:00am

This might surprise one or two of you: I’m not perfect. Which is why on a clear, sunny Saturday afternoon, I backed “my” long-term Kia Stinger GT into the neighbor’s Kia. Most accidents happen within 2 miles of home. In my case, 200 feet. Accidents happen, cars can be repaired, insurance exists for a reason, etc. More important to you, dear reader, is that the “incident” afforded me the chance to get into a different (though still red) Kia Stinger GT for a few weeks to compare and contrast it to our 20,000-plus-mile warhorse. Turned out, the crash was a good thing. No, really!

The single worst thing about our long-termer is the transmission lever. The car pops itself into neutral constantly. Pull the handle back toward drive too aggressively, and bam, you’re in neutral, not drive. Mind you, this is the optional, fancy shift-by-wire shifter. It drives me crazy in terms of annoyance, plus it’s dangerous. Imagine expecting the car to go and instead it just rolls forward slowly. Terrible at an intersection. It’s so bad that I called Kia. I was assured the bum shifter is because our car is an early build Stinger. To Kia’s point, the Stinger still has a decal from the launch of the car. This red GT is definitely one of the first cars to come off the line (“pre-pro” as such machines are called in the biz).

Now, if the transmission lever were a model-wide defect, then the short-term replacement car would suffer from the same ill, right? Wrong. The short-term Stinger GT had no such troubles. Moreover, I spent a bunch of time trying to reproduce the flaw (violently putting the car in gear, whacking it forward with the palm of my hand) from the other car, and I couldn’t.

In the third update, back when this Kia “belonged” to Alex Nishimoto, he complained of a rattle in the driver-side window. He took it in for service, and the tech “lubricated” the window seals. True story. Well, the problem still persists. I can report, however, that the replacement Stinger GT made no such noise. The nice PR person at Kia assured me that the rattle was due to our car being a pre-pro, and I am—sigh—once again choosing to believe the party line. And yes, I’m getting soft.

One more difference between the two cars: The crash victim is a RWD Stinger GT. The replacement car turned out to be AWD. This allows me to make a key observation after driving two vehicles essentially back to back for the same duty cycle: Unless you absolutely need all-wheel drive, buy the rear-driver. The biggest difference is that the steering feel is worlds better. But everything about the Stinger—its sportiness, the joy of just driving around—is better. More so than you might think.

Good thing I crashed her, eh?

Read more about our long-term 2018 Kia Stinger GT:

 

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2018 Honda CR-V LX FWD Long-Term Update 4: Going Abroad

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 4:00am

With more than 12,000 miles on the odometer, our Honda CR-V LX has gone to many places, including past the southern border. I traveled to Nogales, Mexico, for personal reasons and ended up splitting the 10-hour road trip in two days—from Redondo Beach, California, to Tucson on day one and Tucson to Nogales on day two. It took me about 8 hours to get to Tucson and a little over an hour to get to Nogales. Despite driving mostly on interstate highways, this was the perfect time to test the pros and cons of the base CR-V.

First, the pros. Despite the LX being the cheapest CR-V Honda offers, the seats are actually quite comfortable. I drove from SoCal to Phoenix (about five-and-a-half hours) without the need to stretch or stop for a break. The cloth seats are long enough to support your thighs, and they provide enough cushion, but I admit that I needed to stretch and walk for a bit when I stopped for gas in Phoenix. The rest of day one, I felt relaxed and didn’t need to stop again.

One of the things I enjoy the most is the CR-V’s seating position. The driver has a clear view all around, and the center armrest moves forward to provide a more comfortable position. Even the space for the rest pedal is big enough to move your foot around and keep it relaxed. Long road trips are also a good time to evaluate the stereo system, and although the CR-V LX has only four speakers, the sound is quite good. When the sun visor moves to the side window, it provides an extension that covers the top part of the glass, which was nice when driving back to the West Coast.

Even though I avoided driving at night on this road trip to Mexico, I drove back home in the evening after the SEMA Show in Las Vegas and was initially worried about how well the halogen headlights would illuminate the road. But after I saw the wide swath of brightness, I knew I had nothing to worry about. My only complaint is that because of the lack of a rear privacy glass, I had the reflection of many 18-wheelers’ headlights on my face. I found myself deflecting the rearview mirror quite a few times.

Although Interstate 10 is nicely paved most of the way to Tucson, when the pavement was in bad shape, the cabin suffered from loud tire noise. Higher CR-V trims have better insulation materials, and this is one of the things to consider when buying the LX (another is the lack of Honda Sensing active safety tech). This was also noticeable after I’d crossed the border and drove on poorly paved roads in Mexico, though the suspension handled the potholes like a champ.

I also missed Apple CarPlay on this road trip (the LX doesn’t offer CarPlay or Android Auto). Although “my CarPlay” consists of a magnet that holds my iPhone steady on top of one of the air vents, I prefer to see the navigation on the higher trims’ 7.0-inch screen. It’s also safer to use Siri with CarPlay and to play your tunes and podcasts with it.

Overall, I was pleased with how the CR-V LX performed. I still think this is one of the best values you’ll find in the segment despite its short list of standard equipment, but its comfort, driving abilities, and versatility are high on the list.

Read more about our long-term 2018 Honda CR-V LX FWD:

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Lego Lets You Build Your Own McLaren Senna for $14.99

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 7:45pm

Got the hankering for a McLaren Senna? Sorry, you can’t have one. Even if your financial portfolio can absorb the roughly $958,966 hit required to take delivery at today’s exchange rates, the hypercar is way, way sold out and has been since shortly after its debut in December 2017.

But wait, what’s this? It’s Lego to the rescue! The Danish toymaker has released a new brickified Senna model perfect for your desk as part of its popular Speed Champions family, a lineup that currently includes the Bugatti Chiron, Dodge Demon, Porsche 919, Ferrari F40, vintage Mustang fastback, and more.

As it has with the other vehicles, Lego worked hard to scale down the proportions as best it could, working with blocky elements to create a swoopy profile. The Senna design is already sort of slab-sided to begin with, so that part was perhaps simpler. According to McLaren, this 219-piece set should prove easier to assemble than the real-life Senna, which requires 300 hours from start to finish.

If you need to do any additional aerodynamic testing, each Speed Champions Senna comes with a wind-tunnel turbine, as well as the requisite minifig driver and a spare set of wheel caps.

Each set stickers for $14.99, meaning you can pick up nearly 64,000 Lego Sennas for the price of one real-deal hypercar. The set is available via Lego’s online shop and on store shelves now.

Source: Lego

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Mini Celebrates Six Decades With Special Model for 2019

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 7:00pm

Turning 60 isn’t so bad, especially when you still look cute in British Racing Green. The classic Mini made its debut in the summer of 1959 and to celebrate its 60th Anniversary, the marque is rolling out an exclusive special-edition car called—and this is so very like BMW, Mini’s corporate parent—the “60 Years Edition.”

The car will be available in two- or four-door Hardtop body styles, and each can be ordered in some global markets with one of four engines (two gas and two diesel) that range between 136 and 192 horsepower. You can probably guess which ones will be offered here in the U.S., and if you said the gasoline-powered mills, you’d be right. Here, buyers can spec the 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder engine or the 2.0-liter turbo-four, as well as a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions.

Aside from the groovy green seen here, exterior paint choices also include Midnight Black, Moonwalk Gray, Melting Silver, and Mini Yours Lapisluxury Blue. Those shades are combined with a splash of Pepper White or Black for the hood, roof, and mirror caps, and it all rolls on exclusive two-tone 17-inch wheels.

So your mates know how truly special your Mini is, there are plenty of “60 Years” logos inside and outside as well. The interior receives a sporty leather steering wheel, Dark Maroon leather sport seats, and other bits of upgraded trim. Optional goodies include LED head and fog lights, clear turn-signal lenses, LED taillamps with a Union Jack design, and more.

Fancy this special-edition Mini? Th 60 Years Edition goes on sale in March in the U.K, with U.S. availability likely coming later in the year at an as-yet undetermined price.

Source: Mini

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