Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why Buy Quattro?

One snowy driveway, One Audi and one BMW. A perfect example of the cliche, "a picture is worth a thousand words." Audi PR couldn't have set this one up any better.

BMW on the left, Audi on the right.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Honda Hybrid Struggles

Honda released the second generation Insight hybrid with expectations that its under 20,000 dollar starting price would result in good sales. However, things haven't gone according to Honda's plan with the Insight having only moderate sales success. Even worse, the Insight sales have come at an expense of plummeting Civic Hybrid sales, as low as 152 sales in the past few month. In fact the Civic Hybrid has the second highest sales decline for the year behind the S200. The Insight itself has also lost some of its sales momentum from its introduction. Overall the situation doesn't look promising for a brand that has deserted performance aspirations for hybrid sales.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

VW to Build a Jetta Coupe

According to Car and Driver Volkswagen might build a coupe that will be around 180 inches long. This would make it about the size of the Jetta so it's not unreasonable to believe that if such a car would come to market it would rely heavily on the Jetta architecture. A concept version of the coupe might come as yearly as the upcoming Detroit autoshow, a good public reaction would certainly raise production possibilities. Speaking of the Jetta, an all new Jetta sedan will go on sale in June of 2010. The article also confirmed that the Passat, Eos, and Tiguan models will receive facelifts to align their styling with the new Golf. It is also unlikely that VW will sell the Phaeton in the states before a completely new model comes in 2014.

Monday, November 30, 2009

2011 Audi A8

Audi had a webcast reveal of the 2011 A8, but here are some press photos with more to follow later. It will be powered by a 372 horsepower 4.2 FSI V8, a 3.0 V6 TDI and 4.2 V8 TDI are available with 250 and 350 horsepower. More impressive are the torque and fuel economy numbers for the diesels, 406 lb-ft and 36 mpg average for the V6 and 590 lb-ft and 31 mpg average for the V8.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Toyota Urban Cruiser Fails Euro NCAP Test, Toyota PR Responds

The Toyota Urban Cruiser, the European version of the Scion xD, received a poor overall rating of 3 stars from the European New Car Assessment Programme. The reason for the three star rating was the poor score of 58% for adult occupant protection. Of the dozen cars tested in the last release, the Chevrolet Cruze had the highest adult protection score of 96%, the second lowest score was 81% for the Chevrolet Spark. The Spark was the only other car not to get a perfect five star overall rating, it got four stars.

Full details of the dozen cars tested.
In response to this poor showing, Toyota PR replied saying that they are surprised that the Urban Cruiser got a three star rating and thought that it's side air bag system should be good enough to get a five star rating. Instead, the Urban Cruiser received zero points in the Euro NCAP pole test, "In the side pole test, the head curtain airbag failed to prevent a hard contact of the head." Toyota spokesman concluded by saying, "Once again, we remain fully convinced that Urban Cruiser is a safe car."

While that is probably true, the fact is that other cars are safer and consumers are free to pick a Toyota competitor that did better in the Euro NCAP test.

The full PR response in an Autocar article is here. Of note is this Autocar blog arguing that the ubiquity of five star ratings (aside from Urban Cruiser) creates the need for a sixth star to distinguish cars with excellent safety from those with very good safety.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chrysler Has A 5 Year Plan, But Will It Work?

Based on yesterday's sales figures the Chrysler group is doing the worst among major manufacturers. To fix the current situation Chrysler has devised a five year plan that will put them on the right track. Chrysler presented the plan to the media during a seven hour press conference, here is a summary of the new products coming from Chrysler.

Dodge Brand
  • The Caliber will get a slight restyle with a better interior in 2010. It will be replaced with a Fiat based compact sedan in 2013.
  • The Avenger mid size sedan will get a more significant refresh in 2010 including a new interior, engines, restyling, and improvements in ride, fuel economy and performance. It will then be replaced by a Fiat based car in 2013.
  • Journey and Caravan will receive same updates as the Avenger.
  • New Charger arrives in 2010.
  • A Fiat based small car will come in 2013.
  • A new Viper will come in 2012.
Ram Brand
  • Dakota pickup will be replaced by a unit-body pickup in 2011
  • Ram trucks will be upgraded in 2012.
  • Fiat based commercial vans will come in 2012.
Chrysler Brand
  • Fiat 500 will be sold through select Chrysler dealerships next year.
  • The Sebring sedan and Town&Country minivans will be upgraded much like the Dodge version in 2010.
  • New 300c sedan in 2010.
  • Chrysler receives Fiat based small car, mid size car and crossover between 2012 and 2013.
  • Patriot and Compass receive major upgrades in 2010 and are replaced by one Fiat based SUV in 2013.
  • A smaller SUV will slot below the Patriot/Compass replacement, also in 2013.
  • The Wrangler will receive significant upgrades (interior/exterior) in 201o and 2011 including a diesel engine with start/stop function.
  • Previously debuted Grand Cherokee goes on sale next year.
  • Fiat engine technology (diesel/multiair/direct injected turbos) will be used.
  • Dodge hybrid knowledge will be used by Fiat.
  • 3.6 liter 280 horsepower V6 will be used.
  • Hemi engines survive, new 6.4 liter Hemi with around 450 horsepower will be used!
The use of Fiat technology will certainly help Chrysler, but it's long term success depends on how well the public react to the upcoming Fiat based products which will comprise the majority of its lineup.

Next Generation Dodge Charger Teaser Shot

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

October 2009 Sales At a Glance

October was a gentler month for the auto industry as roughly half of the brands were able to post sales figures that improved upon last October. Hyundai, Kia and Subaru lead all brands with sales improvement of over 40%. Trailing everyone were Smart, Saab and Hummer with over 70% declines. Mercedes, Cadillac and Lexus lead the luxury segment with around 20% improvement. Of note is the appearance of the Ram brand featuring Chrysler's pickups and the Sprinter work van.

(click on chart to enlarge)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mysterious Audi Interior

Here are a few photographs of an intriguing new Audi interior. First thought to be the interior of the forthcoming A8, it is now believed to be a new version of the A4 interior. The most noticeable change to the standard A4 interior is the revised instrument panel featuring a large display between the tachometer and speedometer. While the Audi that the interior belongs to will remain a mystery for now, expect to see the new display and gauges coming to an Audi in the future.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

VW Releases New NMS Sketch

Volkswagen has released a brand new sketch of its upcoming NMS sedan that will be built at its Chattanooga factory that is currently under construction. Volkswagen has recently began to accept applications for factory jobs and the plant is expected to be completed in 2011 with the yet unnamed NMS going on sale in late 2011 as a 2012 model year. It is expected that the NMS will replace the Passat in the Volkswagen lineup. Expect to see familiar VW engines such as the 2.0T, 2.0 TDI, and possibly the 3.6 liter VR6.

New Sketch

Old Sketch

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Polo Sedan Spy Shots

The folks at secretnewcars have the first spy shots of the upcoming Polo sedan. The hatchback version of the fifth and latest generation of the Polo has been on sale in Europe for a few month already, but the sedan is still months away from production. For the first time ever, the Polo appears to be headed for sale in America. VW executives have hinted that the US will receive a sedan and, or a tall hatchback version of the European Polo. Thus, the Polo seen in these spyshots might just be available at your local VW dealer in a coupe of years. Evident from the spyshots is that the sedan version will continue to use the same crisp styling seen on the Walter da'Silva designed 3 and 5 door versions.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Car Worthy of This Blog's Tittle

Pretty much every car posted on this blog until today is a good car. Quite a few are super expensive luxury or sports cars, the rest are your typical mass production cars. Nevertheless they are good at what they do and are generally not bad cars. But all streaks must come to an end and today a car truly worthy of being killed with fire will grace this blog.

The folks at autohome and cheshi have lots of pictures of this "vehicle" and you can take a look if you like doing that kind of stuff to your eyes.

Jianghuai (JAC) Luxury Sedan

To be fair, the rest of the car isn't too ugly, the side view and taillights are reminiscent of the last generation E class, and the interior is better than some cars sold in the US. But the front of the car makes those aspects irrelevant.

Friday, October 16, 2009

BMW ActiveHybrid X6 Delivers 20% Fuel Economy Improvement

BMW's 480 horsepower X6 ActiveHybrid has been rated by the EPA and the results are in, 17 city and 19 highway for a combined fuel economy of 18 mpg. The X6 ActiveHybrid combines the xdrive50i's twin-turbo V8 with electric motors to improve fuel economy. The nonhybrid X6 xdrive50i has EPA ratings of 13 city and 18 highway, and 15 combined. This means that the hybrid powertrain increases city fuel economy by nearly 31% while only giving a 5% boost on the highway. Overall drivers should expect a 20% improvement in fuel economy compared to the regular V8. A better example of the fuel economy improvement is the fact that the ActiveHybrid X6 has a higher combined fuel economy rating than the six cylinder X6 xdrive30i. However, BMW's focus on performance is evident as the ActiveHybrid's improvement in fuel economy is smaller than that seen by General Motor's SUVs which feature similar hybrid technology. Both companies took part in the Global Hybrid Cooperation. Only time will tell if BMW's focus on extra performance will pay off.

BMW X6 xdrive50i, 400 horsepower: 13/18 (15 combined)
BMW X6 ActiveHybrid, 480 horsepower: 17/19 (18 combined) 20% improvement

Cadillac Escalade 2WD, 403 horsepower: 14/20 (16 combined)
Cadillac Escalade 2 WD Hybrid, 332 horsepower: 21/22 (22) 37.5% improvement

Chevrolet Tahoe 4 WD, 320 horsepoer, 15/21 (17)
Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Hybrid, 332 horsepower: 21/22 (22) 29% improvement

Monday, October 12, 2009

Future American VW Timeline

Vw's American lineup is due for a substantial makeover in the next few years. The biggest change will be the introduction of the Chattanooga built New Midsize Sedan to replace the Passat. VW is planning to complete the Chattanooga factory in 2011 which will make the NMS a 2012 model at the earliest. The folks at Jalopnik have seen the latest sketches of the NMS and say that it will be closer in design to the CC rather than the "4 door Camaro" sketch released earlier. Jalopnik also says that the 1.4 liter twincharger 1.4 TSI engine will finally make it to the states. The Golf and Jetta are the most likely candidates for the twincharged engine.

In other news, the 2013 New Beetle will finally get a complete redesign that is said to bring more rear passenger space. Around the same time period VW will also release the recently shown E-UP electric vehicle. Also coming to the US is the second generation Phaeton, but little information is known about it.

Not mentioned are the next Jetta and Touareg which are expected to debut in a year or two. A sedan or a Fit-like version of the Polo is also expected sometime down the line.

Approximate model year timeline

2011 Phaeton/Jetta
2012 Touareg
2013 NMS/Next generation Beetle/Polo?
2014 E-UP

Friday, October 2, 2009

Who Struggled the Most After Cash for Clunkers?

The government's CARS program (cash for clunkers) was extremely helpful for car companies, driving numerous monthly sales records. Not surprisingly, the majority of car companies saw significantly lower September sales compared to clunker powered August sales. Suzuki did the worst of all brands, as it sold 68% fewer cars in September than it did in August. Not counting Saturn and Pontiac, Honda, Chrysler, and Nissan also sold less than half the number of cars in September than they did in August. On the other side of the spectrum, Cadillac, Buick, Porsche and Lincoln actually managed to sell more cars without the clunker program. In the luxury category, Acura did the worst, losing almost a quarter of its August sales, BMW and Lexus both sold 22% fewer cars. Mercedes Benz sold only one percent fewer cars in September, Audi sold only 11% fewer cars.

With the clunker program over, manufacturers will have to find new ways to increase their sales in the future.

September sales in comparison with August sales (click on image to enlarge)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Volkswagen E-UP Electric Concept

Volkswagen has released its latest Up concept. This time the E-UP features all electric propulsion. The lithium ion battery of the E-UP is good for 80 miles of travel before requiring a recharge. VW expects to sell the all electric Up in 2013. The E-UP concept also foreshadows the styling of the upcoming Up cars which will likely come with conventional engines before 2013.

The 135 km/h fast 3+1 seater is driven by an electric motor with a peak power output of 60 kW (continuous power: 40 kW). The motor of the front-wheel drive car, which is mounted in front, develops a maximum torque of 210 Newton-meters right from rest. The driver activates forward or reverse gear via a rotary knob in the centre console. The fact that the E-Up! will also quite clearly offer driving enjoyment is demonstrated by a look at the car's classic 0 to 100-km/h sprint time: 11.3 seconds. The E-Up! develops even greater responsiveness in the intermediate sprint from 0 to 50 km/h in city driving: 3.5 seconds. This dynamic performance is based first on the electric motor's excellent torque characteristic and second on the low kerb weight of the E-Up!, which is just 1,085 kilograms.

Lithium-ion battery: The car's low weight is quite astounding, given the fact that 240 kilograms are taken up by the lithium-ion battery. The implemented battery's energy capacity of 18 kilowatt-hours (kWh) enables driving distances of up to 130 kilometres, depending on driving style – enough for the city and the drives of most commuters. The E-Up! will be "refueled" in the garage at home, in a parking structure or on the road at one of the future municipal recharging stations that will be enabled by chip card. Depending on the available charging infrastructure and the battery's momentary charge state, the storage battery could be charged to up to 80 percent of its total capacity within an hour.

If the batteries are recharged in a home garage, for example, by plugging it into a 230-Volt household outlet, this would take a maximum of five hours. Generally, off-peak night-time electric rates are very inexpensive. So refueled at night the E-Up! could be driven 100 kilometres for just two Euros in electricity costs (about 14 Euro cents / kWh).

The batteries themselves are housed in the underbody of the E-Up! To optimally distribute the weight of the battery system, it is housed in a special, crash-protected tray in the underbody frame. Air cooling ensures a constant heat balance within the batteries. The fans and heat exchangers needed for this are housed in the front section of the underbody.

Volkswagen Golf R

Here are the first images of the Golf R. A successor to the previous R32 editions of the Golf, the R will come with a 265 horsepower 2.0 turbo engine and all wheel drive. Aside from the all wheel drive and more powerful engine, the R also gets exterior changes from the standard Golf. It has larger air intakes, unique headlights and taillights with LEDs, and signature center mounted twin tailpipes like the ones on the R32s.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Audi A3 2.0 TDI Priced

Audi has announced that the 2010 A3 2.0 TDI pricing will start at $29,950. The A3 TDI gets an EPA fuel economy of 30 mpg in the city and 42 on the highway. The A3 will be available for purchase at Audi dealerships in late November.

HERNDON, Va., Sep 3, 2009 - Audi today announced pricing for the 2010 A3 TDI, its second U.S. clean diesel offering launched this year. Expected to begin arriving at U.S. dealers in late November 2009, the 50-state certified A3 TDI delivers the highest highway fuel economy in the luxury car category – 42 mpg, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

The competitive set for the A3 TDI clean diesel is unique. Only one competitor is currently playing in the field of fuel-efficient compact luxury vehicles, but does not offer the driving experience or the 5-door flexibility that includes 40/60 split rear-folding seats. The Lexus HS 250h offers similar combined fuel economy with hybrid technology, but not superlative highway mileage range. The A3 TDI offers more superlatives in value, including a standard S line exterior sport appearance for 2010, a tighter steering turning circle, a top speed of 130 mph, as well as a 12-year limited warranty against corrosion.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Porsche 911 Sport Classic

The folks at Porsche Exclusive have created an extremely limited edition 911 Carrera S with additional horsepower, double bubble roof, wider rear body, along with other touches. The 911 Sport Classic will be limited to only 250 examples, each one commanding a substantial premium over a regular 911 Carrera S.

Official press release follows below.

Stuttgart. Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, has refined the DNA of the 911 to what must be the most supreme standard of class and style in the 911 Sport Classic available to a strictly limited number of very special 911 enthusiasts. Creating this unique model, Porsche is bringing back the tradition of exclusive small series built in very small numbers. The 911 Sport Classic will be presented at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show and is limited in production to just 250 cars.

This very special 911 from Porsche Exclusive has been developed over a project period of about three years, with lots of love for detail, catering especially for the most demanding group of genuine aficionados. Porsche Exclusive is Porsche's Specialist Department for the most outstanding customised versions of Porsche cars going beyond even the highest standard of the Company's regular production models.

The unique character of this very special 911 comes out at very first sight in the newly developed double-dome roof. A further highlight of this sports car based on the rear-wheel-drive Carrera S is the wider rear body up by 44 millimetres or 1.73" and the wider track on the rear axle. The striking SportDesign front apron with its unique spoiler lip and the rear spoiler fixed in position like the legendary ducktail on the 1973 Carrera RS 2.7 round off the unmistakable look of the 911 Sport Classic. Power comes from Porsche's 3.8-litre with Direct Fuel Injection, increased in this case, also through the introduction of a newly developed resonance intake manifold with six vacuum-controlled switching flaps, by 23 bhp to 408 horsepower for even more outstanding performance.

The 911 Sport Classic comes exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox. PCCB Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes ideally reflecting the sporting character of this exclusive 911, PASM sports suspension lowering the entire car by 20 mm or 0.79", as well as the mechanical rear axle differential and custom-made 19-inch wheels with their rim star painted black all come together to offer a perfect match for the character of this most exclusive car.

The very special, highly sophisticated interior of the 911 Sport Classic bears powerful testimony to one of the core competences of Porsche Exclusive and is characterised by new materials never used before even by Porsche. One example is woven leather made up of smooth leather strips and woven yarn featured on the seat centrepieces of the newly designed adaptive sports seats complete with light-grey piping and on the door panels.

The dashboard including a wide range of inserts and add-on components is finished in Espresso Nature natural leather, providing a distinctive contrast to the exclusive body paint in Sport Classic Grey.

Marking the introduction of this special limited edition model, Porsche Design Driver´s Selection is likewise introducing a range of new and very special products at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The limited edition AluFrame Trolley as well as a polo-shirt, a cap and a personalised lanyard take up the colour concept of the 911 Sport Classic, and in good time for the introduction of the new car a top-quality 1:43 model will also be available.

Sales of the Porsche 911 Sport Classic are starting in January 2010.
The Euro base price of the car without value-added tax and national specifications is Euro 169,300.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

August 2009 Sales

As expected the CARS program elevated car sales in the United States. Automaker's August sales reports make this clear with most brands having best monthly sales of the year, some brands produced best sales numbers in years while Hyundai and Honda had their best month ever. Luxury automakers, were not as lucky as the CARS program did little to raise their figures. The only exception was Audi which was able to lift its sales by 26%.

Overall Toyota lead all brands with 202,196 cars sold followed by Chevrolet, Ford and Honda.

Kia, Subaru and Hyundai lead all with sales increases of 60.4, 52 and 47 percent respectively. Saturn was the biggest loser of the month with a 58.4% drop.

August 2009 Sales by Automaker

Click on graph to enlarge.

First Official Lexus LF-Ch Photo

Lexus has released the first official photo of its upcoming hatchback concept. The hybrid powered concept will preview a Lexus vehicle that would compete with the Audi A3 and BMW 1 series. Expect the actual production car to have a normal rear bumper, bigger rear window and perhaps different taillights.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Figuring out VW's US Strategy

For some time it's been known that the future of VW in America will depend on two new sedan models, the NCS and NMS. The New Compact Sedan is VW's Civic/Corolla "figther" while the New Midsize Sedan would compete with Accord/Camry. Currently the Jetta and Passat fill those roles, even tough neither matches up with the competition perfectly. The Jetta is generally slightly larger than the competition while the Passat is smaller. In both cases the VW sedans are more expensive than the competition. The NCS and NMS are supposed to adress these issues along with catering to American tastes. The NCS will be built at VW's upgraded Mexican facility while the NMS will be built at VW' brand new Chattanooga factory.

Recently The New York Times published an article in which the VW of America CEO Sefan Jacoby said that the NMS will be called the Jetta. Essentially using the Jetta badge on a car that will in spirit replace the Passat. While this appears like a strange decision as it could make the next Jetta be almost a foot longer than the current one, it has merit behind it. The Jetta has been VW's best selling nameplate in recent history and thus is far better known to the consumer. This would give VW's newest product a familiar name. Of course, it would also mean that the NCS can no longer use the Jetta name.

According to VW's official sketches the NMS should look something like this.

Today Inside Line has published some spy shots of a VW sedan which they are calling the Jetta. They are also saying that it's also the NCS, which goes against the Times article. Regardless, the spy shots represent the best visual evidence of an upcoming VW sedan. Size wise the ptototype looks more like the current Jetta than a true mid size sedan (190+ inches long). But spy shots can be deceiving.

More photos here.

In related news, a Detroit Press article has revealed that VW is also planning to build a three row crossover vehicle to compete with the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and others. The same article also mentions a new New Beetle.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Toyota 4Runner Preview

Toyota has released a photo that shows a glimpse of the upcoming 4Runner. While only a portion of the front of the SUV is visible, Toyota is going with a rugged off-road look with straight character lines compared to the current 4Runner. The released photo appropriately shows the new SUV doing some rock crawling, highlighting the fact that the 4Runner will remain a traditional off-road worthy SUV and not a city worthy crossover. Expect more information in the near future.

UPDATE: Car and Driver has "spy" photos of the 4Runner from all angles.

More photos here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mini Shows Its Coupe Concpet Before Frankfurt Debut

Mini has released photos of its upcoming Frankfurt coupe concept car. The coupe looks very much the same as all of the other Mini below the windows, above the windows it has a chopped coupe profile. The coupe is naturally a two seater and Mini says that it is almost two hundred pounds lighter than the regular Cooper. While the coupe is a concept for now it might go into production in a few years.

Click here for more photos.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bentley Mulsanne

Bentley has finally unveiled its long awaited new model. The Mulsanne, named for the famous portion of the Le Mans track, will become the top of the line Bentley model. The pinnacle of Bentley design and engineering does not disappoint. The design is reminiscent of the Arnage, but is forward enough to begin a new chapter of Bentley tradition.

Bentley hasn't released interior photos nor specifications of the Mulsanne. However, the Mulsanne is larger than the Arnage and the V8 is said to only share turbochargers with the Arnage.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Infiniti Teases Its New M Before Today's Debut

Infiniti will show its 2011 M sedan to the public today at Pebble Beach, but it has already released a teaser image showing the headlight and part of the grille. It looks like the production M will borrow a few design cues from the Essence concept car. The headlights and a concave bend to the hood are reminiscent of the well received concept. The rectangular grille is similar to the concept's, but looks to be an evolution of the one seen on the FX. Expect to see the entire M before the day is over.

The Live Webcast of the New M Presentation Will Be August 14th @ 6:30PT/9:30 ET Here

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Audi Prices 2010 S4 Under $46,000

Audi of America has priced the 2010 S4 at 45,900 dollars, a savings of 2,710 dollars when compared to the last S4 sedan sold in the US. The lower starting price for the S4 places it closer to its main competition, BMW's 335i and 335i xDrive sedans. Audi has also announced that the 2010 A5 Cabriolet will start at 42,000 while the S5 Cabriolet starts at 58,250.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

BMW 7 Series and X6 Hybrids Focus on Performance rather than Fuel Economy

BMW has released the full scoop on its long anticipated pair of ActiveHybrids. Both the X6 and 7 Series hybrids use the 4.4 liter twin-turbo V8 as the basis of the hybrid system. The X6 is a dual mode hybrid using technology developed with GM, Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz, used on vehicles such as the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid. The X6 uses two electric motors which combined with the turbo V8 results in 480 total horsepower and a huge amount of torque, 575 lb-ft to be exact. The 7 series uses a simpler hybrid system that places a smaller 20 horsepower electric motor between the V8 and a new 8 speed automatic transmission. Of note is the fact that the turbo V8 is good for 440 horsepower in ActiveHybrid 7, which is more than in the regular 750i. The combined maximum horsepower of the Active Hybrid 7 is 455 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. BMW quotes a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds for the Active 7 and 5.4 seconds for the X6 hybrid, this makes the Active 7 3/10th quicker than the 750i while the ActiveHybrid X6 trails the X6 xdrive50i by a tenth. On the other hand, BMW expect the ActiveHybrid X6 to get 20% better fuel economy than the 50i while the ActiveHybrid 7 only manages 15% better than 750i. Using simple arithmetic one would expect that the Active 7 might get an EPA rating of 17/25 compared to the 750i's 15/22. Same type of math results in the ActiveHybrid X6 possibly being rated @ 16/22 compared to 13/18 of the regular version. Official EPA numbers and prices are expected to be released later in the year.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chevy Volt To Possibly Get 230 MPG

GM made a big announcement that its upcoming Chevy Volt could get an EPA city rating of 230 miles per gallon. Sounds amazing, doesn't it? What doesn't look to be as amazing is the fact that the 230 mpg figure results from some magical calculations. The Volt is a range-extended electric vehicle, once the battery is drained it turns on its internal combustion engine and uses gasoline. GM says that the Volt can travel 40 miles before the battery is drained. At this point calculating the fuel economy rating of the Volt becomes complicated. The 230 mpg figure is only possible if the Volt completes the EPA's fuel economy test solely on electric power and then completes the test again powered by the gasoline engine. In the end the Volt ends up using .22 of a gallon of gas to travel 51 miles, resulting in the 230 mpg figure. But this completely ignores the electrical energy used up. Like all things in life, it's not free either. And most likely comes with emissions as well. The GM press release also states that the Volt will use up 25 kilowatt-hours of electrical energy to travel 100 miles in the city. Thanks to this handy chart 25 kilowatt-hours contain the same amount of energy as 3/4 of a gallon of gas. This means that in pure electric mode the Volt would only travel 134 miles using the same amount of energy that's in a gallon of gas, thus cutting down the 230 mpg figure to 134. And since the Volt's battery is only good for 40 miles, the last 60 miles would be powered solely by gasoline. GM expects the Volt to achieve about 50 mpg when the battery runs out.

While the Volt is a fascinating concept that is poised to change how people commute daily, GM's 230 mpg quote looks to be powered by hype.

The breakdown of Volt's EPA test come from here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

2011 Audi A8 Spyshots

Only a few days ago foxsyndication released an image of how they think the next A8 will look like. The high quality of the images even lead some to believe that it was the real deal. However, the actual A8 sedan has recently been caught undergoing hot weather testing in Arizona. While the A8 is still fairly heavy camouflaged you can see the general profile of the upcoming A8. Of note is the flipped over Mitsubishi grille out front, though I don't see many people thinking that this is the next Gallant. Conflicting reports have said that Audi will present the new A8 to the public at either a private event, the Frankfurt auto show, the LA auto show, or maybe even next year's Detroit auto show. When Audi finally does show the A8, it's likely that it will be the first Audi to use a 4 liter forced-induction V8 with around 400 horsepower and an 8 speed automatic gearbox. A future S8 version might come with the RS6's 580 horsepower twin turbo V10 and the European market is likely to get the 500 horsepower V12 TDI diesel.

Click for lots more A8 spy shots.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Corvette Racing GT2 C6R

Corvette racing has unveiled its latest racing creation, the ZR1 based GT2 challenger. The GT2 race version of the Corvette is the successor to the incredibly successful GT1 version, but there are some key differences. The GT2 version obviously complies with GT2 rules and therefore does not have telemetry or ceramic brakes. The GT2 version also rides on an aluminum frame compared to the steel frame of the GT1 C6R. Aerodynamic components have undergone some changes making the GT2 version visually look closer to the road going ZR1 Corvette. The V8 engine has also been downsized, the 6 liter V8 produces 470 horsepower @ only 4800 RPM and a mighty 535 pound feet of torque @ 4500 RPM. The GT2 Corvette will run its first race at this week's Mid-Ohio ALMS race on August 8, where it will find competition from racing versions of the Ferrari F430, Porsche 911, BMW M3, Ford GT, Dodge Viper and Panoz Espirante.

Monday, August 3, 2009

July 2009 Auto Sales

July 2009 sales are out and everything is looking a little better as seven brands recorded better sales than a year ago. Many other brands reported sales down ten to twenty percent, much better than before when many companies had sales drops of over 30 percent. The government's clunker program was effective for mainstream manufacturers, but not as helpful for luxury brands which continued to see hefty sales drops. Below are July sales by brand.

Click the image to enlarge.

Friday, July 31, 2009

VW Polo for the US?

When Volkswagen released information about its latest generation Polo, they also announced that the US will not get the hatchback version. Instead, Americans will get sedan and a Fit-like versions of the Polo. German magazine Auto Bild has created a few illustrations of the Polo in sedan, plus size, and wagon form. When the Polo actually comes to the US it should look like the sedan in the illustration and possibly like the Polo Plus. This is the first time the wagon version has been mentioned, but it could be another possibility for the US market. It is expected that the Polo for the United States will be built at the upgraded VW plant in Mexico.

Original Auto Bild article in German

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bugatti Bordeaux/Royale

A pair of leaked teaser photos of the upcoming Bugatti give only hints at how the production version might look like, but here is a better look at the new Bugatti. Clearly visible is the split rear window and the controversial 8 exhaust pipes that were seen on the teasers. The future Bugatti sedan is said to share a lot of components with the Veyron hypercar, including its 1,001 horsepower 8 liter W16 engine. By using the powertrain out of the Veyron, Bugatti can minimize costs. To make an even better business case it is also possible that the Royale chassis might be shared with future Bentleys. Expect the upcoming sedan to possibly be called the Royale, Bordeaux, or Atlantic. Regardless of the name it will be as extravagant and as expensive as the Veyron.

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