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.