Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Best Looking Modern Engine Bays

With the ever growing trend of manufacturers adding more and more plastic into the engine compartment it's become significantly rarer to find modern vehicles with visually appealing engine bays. However, there are always exceptions to all trends and there are new vehicles out there with great looking engines and engine bays. Without further ado here are the best looking modern engine bays.

Ferrari 599 V12

Audi RS4 V8

Chrysler SRT8 V8

Bugatti Veyron W16

Ford Mustang 5.0 V8

Ferrari 458 Italia V8

Mercedes Benz 6.3 AMG V8

Sunday, December 5, 2010

2012 BMW 650i Convertible Design Analysis

At the past LA Autoshow BMW released photos of its third generation 6 series convertible. The latest six series stays true to its Paris concept, changing little in the process of going to production. BMW did throw a curve ball by first releasing photos of the convertible ahead of the coupe. The latest six series certainly makes amends many of the styling transgressions of the last generation, especially in the trunk and headlights area. One journalist described the trunk of the last three series as if someone backed in to a guard rail and dented the trunk. The new six series fixes these shortcomings with a sharp taillight and trunk area. The front of the six series is follows the same general design as the latest seven series, yet integrates well with the rest of the convertible design. Overall the latest sixth series features a significantly cleaner design that does wonders for BMW's top of the line convertible. The torquey turbocharged V8 engine and crisp styling makes the latest six series convertible a serious contender in the grand touring category. Take a look at the photos of the 2012 six series convertible below.

2012 Audi A6 Design Analysis

Audi unveiled its seventh generation A6 sedan this past week and now it's time to analyze its design. Unsurprisingly, the A6 follows a similar design pattern as the A8 and to a certain degree A4 and A7. It also keeps design elements from the previous generation A6 as well. As a brand Audi has prioritized a single cohesive design language between its models over the past few years. This is perhaps the biggest downfall for the new A6 as it lacks some of the excitement associated with new model reveals. Aside from lacking the surprise factor, the A6 nevertheless has a strong and clean design. The all LED headlights look extremely sharp and are better integrated than those of the latest A8. The A1 inspired taillights however look to take a step back from the ones on the current generation A6. The A7 inspired interior does not disappoint and keeps Audi's interior reputation intact. Overall, the A6 features a design that can be considered on the conservative side with a mix of clean lines that like many other new designs is likely to look better in person than in pictures. Nevertheless, here are some (63 to be exact) photos of the new A6 along with two videos to help you form your own opinion.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Volt Gets Its EPA Sticker Also

Hot on the heels of the EPA announcement that the Nissan Leaf will get 99 MPGe, the Chevrolet Volt received its own EPA sticker today. Unlike the all electric Leaf, the Volt is a plug in hybrid and thus has three distinct fuel economy figures. On a full battery charge the Volt will travel about 35 miles while getting 93 MPGe, or only slightly worse than the Leaf. After the initial battery charge runs out the Volt consumes gasoline like a regular car. The EPA rates the Volt at 35 city and 40 highway when running purely on gasoline, these numbers place it slightly above compact cars fuel economy wise. Overall, the EPA predicts that through a mix of electric and gasoline driving the Volt on average will achieve 60 MPG combined, this places the Volt 10 MPG ahead of the Prius. Of course this estimate depends on the amount of driving done with the gas engine running. A long highway drive with no opportunity to recharge will push the MPG down towards 40, while short trips around town will have the Volt's average over 60. While the Volt didn't live up to Chevy's 230 mpg hype claim, its electric efficiency is only slightly behind the lighter Leaf's and respectable in gas only mode.

With both the Leaf and the Volt ready to go on sale this December the electric vehicle battle is on and it's up to the consumer to see which vehicle they prefer. Looking solely at the EPA ratings, the Volt gives up little efficiency while providing a significant range advantage.

LA Autoshow Favorites

With the LA Autoshow behind us it's time to take a look at the best production and concept cars from the show. The list of production models making their debut was significant. Chrysler and Dodge unveiled significantly updated versions of their mid-size sedans and minivans along with the new Durango and Charger. Nissan unveiled its new Quest minivan along with the first convertible crossover in the Murano CrossCabriolet. The Buick LaCrosse with E Assists is interesting as well as it promises high fuel economy from a mild hybrid system. Nevertheless, the CLS 63 AMG takes the best production debut category with its matte paint, huge power, and bold styling. The original CLS is widely known as a styling icon, and it appears that the second generation CLS, at least in the AMG form, does not disappoint.

Mercedes Benz CLS63, click to enlarge

On the concept side, he Subaru Impreza Concept and the Nissan Ellure take the honors as best concepts. Both concepts aim to give the public a preview of how their future production sedans will look like. The Impreza concept gives a good preview of how the next Impreza sedan should look like minus the typical show car elements. While Nissan says that the Ellure concept is not a preview of any specific model in its lineup, don't be surprised to see some of its styling elements in the next Sentra and Altima.

Subaru Impreza Concept

Nissan Ellure Concept

Monday, November 22, 2010

EPA Gives the LEAF 99 MPG

With the Nissan LEAF set to go on sale this upcoming December, the EPA has finally given the car its official fuel economy sticker. Officially the LEAF will have a city rating of 106 MPGe, 92 MPGe highway and 99 combined. Naturally because the LEAF is powered solely by electricity it doesn't use any gasoline, but the EPA is calculating its "fuel economy" ratings on energy consumption. Thus the LEAF consumes electrical energy at a rate equivalent to a gasoline powered car achieving 99 miles per gallon combined. The EPA also estimates that on a full charge the LEAF should be good for about 73 miles of travel. Needless to say these ratings put the LEAF ahead of any other mass produced car to date.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Unrelated But Awesome

Here are the two pieces of automotive news from the past couple of days that are completely unrelated but nevertheless very interesting. First is the first official photo of the upcoming Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Even though Nissan had confirmed its existence a while ago not many believed that Nissan would actually take the top of its well known crossover. The CrossCabriolet represents a new vehicle segment being formed in front of our eyes, which makes it an exciting debut at the upcoming Los Angeles autoshow. As far as the design of the crossover convertible, the transition looks good so far, but we have to wait for top-up pictures before assigning a final verdict.

The second exciting piece of news is Lamborghini's reveal of its brand new 700 horsepower V12 engine. The 6.5 liter V12 features a new design and is said to be lighter than the previous V12s which all shared a common heritage dating back to 1964. Along with the new V12 Lamborghini also revealed a new automated manual gearbox that promises extremely fast shifting times. The V12 and gearbox combo will go inside the Murcielago replacement in early 2011. The latest rumor indicates that it will be called the Aventador. The Aventador and its new V12 are especially exciting because they represent what could be one of the last pure supercars.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cylinder Displacement By Brand

The common automotive saying says that there is no replacement for displacement, but there is no such saying about the best way to achieve more displacement. A company may choose to increase the number of cylinders or they can just build an engine with larger displacement per each cylinder. Having a smaller cylinder usually allows for an engine that can achieve higher RPM, but having more cylinders also increases complexity and weight. After sorting through some data, Kill With Fire has come up with this chart that ranks all of the manufacturer brands by their average cylinder size.

Click on the chart to enlarge it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Warren Buffett on BYD, Unions and Detroit

Kill It With Fire recently had an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity to attend a Q&A session with Warren Buffet. Among the numerous questions answered by Mr. Buffett were a few about the auto industry. As an aside, Mr. Buffett is an excellent public speaker ready to share many funny stories from his life. Mr. Buffett was also extremely generous with his time as he took individual pictures with every attendee. Back on the automotive front, first was a question about Buffett's recent vote of confidence in BYD amid rumors that he might sell his share. Famous for not investing in companies and industries that he does not understand personally, Buffett nevertheless believes that BYD will succeed. Buffett’s reasons behind his optimism about BYD are not based on the company’s battery expertise but are rather much simpler and fundamental. He sees BYD succeeding because it has an excellent management team lead by its CEO Wang Chuan-Fu. Buffett was initially impressed by Chuan-Fu’s ability to turn BYD into a major player in the auto market in under a decade. He was further impressed by Chuan-Fu’s character during the lengthy purchasing process when Chuan-Fu honored the original contract instead of looking for a loophole to void the deal even though his company’s value had gone up fivefold.

Buffett also touched upon the future of Detroit. He likened its demise to that of New England textile mills that lost out to union free Southern states. Buffett eventually sees the area shifting its lost jobs towards other industries, but does not see Detroit returning to its former glory years.

And for those wondering, the world’s third richest man’s daily driver is a gold Cadillac DTS.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Volkswagen Jetta Commercial Review

All car commercials have the same purpose, to sell cars. However there are three distinct methods of accomplishing this that manufacturers use most often; the "you should buy our car because of its amazing specs and features", the "you should buy our car because its got a huge discount" and the third category that tells you a funny or interesting story that is only slightly related to the vehicle featured. The latest Volkswagen Jetta commercial called "Moonlighting" certainly fits into the third category as it shows a guy moonlighting at odd jobs to save up for his own new Jetta. The jobs that he goes through suck, but in the end it turns out that the Jetta's new low price of 15,995 allows him to buy not one but two Jettas. Overall the commercial does a good job of using light humor to introduce the new Jetta and its lower price. Its minute long format helps to create a storyline without the need to rush through the scenes thus making the ending that much better. View the commercial in its entirety below.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Best of the Paris Motorshow

The biannual Paris Motorshow is always filled with lots of interesting concept and important production debutes, and this year was no different with many exciting and wild concepts taking stage. To make sense of all of the excitement here are the best concept, best Lotus concept, most significant production debut, most outrageous concept and least likely to make it to production technology.

Best Concept

Certainly the toughest category with lots of amazing concepts to pick from including the Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, Audi Quattro Concept, and Jaguar C-X75. However the honor of best concept goes to the Renault Dezir Concept and its Hot Wheels inspired design.

Best Lotus Concept

Lotus deserves and gets its own category for its prodigious output of five concept cars. While all of the sports car concepts featured a very similar design the Elan concept had the crispest and most appealing design with the Espirit concept coming in a close second.

Most Significant Production Debut

This year continued the trend of manufacturers releasing production car debut photos and specifications in advance of the show and thus taking some of the excitement out of the production category. One of the most anticipated production debuts before the show was the Land Rover Evoque. After the dust settled and all of the production cars made their debuts the Evoque was still tops in the category. Featuring fresh modern styling the Evoque brings a new direction for the brand necessary to survive in the future.

Most Outrageous Concept

The Paris motorshow is always good for a few wacky concepts and this year was no different with a handful of four wheeled creations masquerading as cars. However, the Citroen Lacoste Concept takes the win with this collaboration with the famed French clothes brand. Citroen even says they have hopes of making this concept go to production, but it's unknown if they are actually serious.

Least Likely To Make It To Production Technology

A decade or even as recent as a few years ago electric cars were often labeled as pure auto show fantasy land, but with the prospect of actual mainstream battery powered vehicles going on sale this is no longer the case. Thus to make a big splash automakers need to create concepts that use even more innovative and further out technology than battery power. The best example this year was the Jaguar C-X75 concept that featured electric motors at every corner and a pair of micro-turbines for range extension. Jaguar promises exceptional performance and fuel economy that sounds too good to be true, as we can only hope that someday we will finally get our long promised jet powered cars.

Friday, October 1, 2010

September 2010 Sales

September of 2009 was a poor month for automakers as the industry tried to recover from cash for clunkers, thus it was no surprise that September 2010 sales would be significantly higher than a year ago. In fact all but five brands improved their sales upon a year ago and almost all of those brands saw double digit growth. Chrysler paced everyone with a 92% improvement while other domestic brands showed strong sales improvements as well. Luxury brands were led by Infiniti's 25% sales improvement. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the month was the fact that Lexus' 5.5% drop in sales joining the likes of Volvo, Suzuki and Smart.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Cars That Shrunk While Growing

One of the most common complaints about new model redesigns from enthusiasts centers around the fact that every new generation inevitably comes with a a larger footprint. For enthusiasts a bigger new generation of their favorite vehicle usually means more weight which serves as a detriment to performance and handling. A larger vehicle can also suffer from bloated styling compared to its more compact predecessor. However this is not always the case as some models have been able to improve their styling with a more buttoned-down look after a redesign that actually increased the vehicle's size. Here are a couple of the latest vehicles that were able to achieve the feat.

Second Generation Porsche Cayenne

The latest Cayenne is an excellent example of a vehicle that grew a couple of inches in every dimension yet appears to be smaller than its predecessor.

Third Generation Toyota Prius

Using the same basic aerodynamic shape of its predecessor the third generation Prius has a much more hunkered down design. Using plenty of sharp creases allowed Toyota to improve every aspect of the second generation Prius's styling while erasing its bloated look in the process.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

EcoBoost V6 F-150 To Tow More than Competitor V8s

Ford says that its 2011 F-150 equipped with the twin-turbo 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6 will tow up to 11,300 pounds, giving it more towing capacity than even the V8 powered competition. Payload capacity likewise tops the competition with 3,060 pounds. Even though the EcoBoost V6 outshines the competition it is still only the second strongest engine in the 2011 F-150 lineup with 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. The top dog engine will be the 6.2 liter V8 that first debuted on the Raptor, it produces 411 horsepower and 434 lb-ft of torque. Also available on the 2011 F-150 is the Mustang sourced 5 liter V8 making 360 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque in this application, rounding out the engine lineup is a 3.7 liter V6 with 302 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. Ford is promising the 2011 F-150s to deliver 20% better fuel economy than the 2010 versions. It will be interesting to find out how the different engines compare in fuel economy once the ratings become official.

The EcoBoost appears to be a very enticing proposition on paper, but only time will tell if pickup buyers will take a gamble on a high tech engine format previously not seen in their domain.

Elite Concept a Game Changer for Lotus

Also debuting at the Paris Motorshow is the Lotus Elite concept that signals a new direction for the brand. Take a look at the Group Lotus website to see for yourself the importance of this upcoming concept to the brand. A few months back Lotus declared itself to be a premium performance and GT brand in the future competing with the likes of Porsche and Ferrari. At the time, the announcement didn't make much sense as the current lineup of Elise, Exige and Evora certainly focuses on light weight rather than grand touring capabilities. The Elite makes a huge leap into the grand touring arena as it distances itself from the weight eschewing philosophies of company founder Colin Chapman and instead brings a heavy dose of power, refinement, luxury and even an optional hybrid system. Powered by a 5 liter V8 (likely of Lexus IS-F origin) Lotus claims an output of 620 horsepower, but it's unclear if this includes additional horsepower from the optional electric motor. Lotus promises excellent fuel economy and C02 emissions from the nearly 3,650 pound Elite when equipped with the hybrid system. While the prospect of a powerful Lotus is intriguing you will have to wait until 2014 to experience it for yourself.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lamborghini Jota Teaser Shows a V10?

Lamborghini has been slowly releasing teaser images of its upcoming Murcielago replacement, rumored to be called the Jota. The latest one is particularly intriguing because it shows what looks to be a V10 engine. This goes against the notion that the Murcielago replacement would continue to use the venerable V12 in an updated form with upwards of 700 horsepower. The current Lamborghini Gallardo V10 is good for 560 horsepower in its most potent form. Certainly the flagship Lamborghini would need more power, it's possible that the V10 would gain a pair of turbochargers to produce additional horsepower. While Lamborghini is missing from the new products list on the Paris Motor Show website, the Murcielago replacement is supposed to makeits public debut in Paris in early October. Regardless of whether the Jota is powered by a V12 or a V10 expect trademark Lamborghini styling and performance to be present.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Updated Bentley Continental GT

Here are the first photos of what Bentley calls the New Continental GT. The New CGT gets a heavy infusion of Mulsanne styling in many key areas. The headlights gain LED functionality, rear fenders and decklid are sculpted a la the Mulsanne while a bigger grille and bumper finish out the exterior upgrades. Inside the GT receives significant upgrades as well with a new dash, bigger information display and reworked controls. The W12 twin-turbo engine is also updated with 15 additional horsepower, it now puts out 567 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. The GT also recieves an improved and quicker shifting gearbox. The extra horsepower coupled with the improved gearbox and less weight (66 pounds) drops the 0-60 sprint by two-tenths of a second. The updated engine also gives the GT an extra MPG city and highway on the EPA test. Perhaps the biggest and most surpsiging piece of news about the updated Continental is the future availability of a 4 liter turbo V8. Expect the Audi derived V8 to produce at least 400 horsepower when it debutes in about a year. Bentley is promising C02 reductions of 40% with the V8 compared to the W12. If this turns out to be true, this would result in some very respectable fuel economy figures with a possiblity of up to 25 mpg highway. If you like to read the fine print for all of the details click here. If you are lazy, then don't click anywhere you already read enough. Instead look at some photos below.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

2011 Dodge Durango

After a series of teaser images Dodge has finally unveiled its full size SUV Dodge Durango. For a while it was rumored that Dodge would can the Durango name and the SUV pictured here would actually be called the Magnum, a name previously used on the wagon version of the Charger. While the rumor never materialized the new Durango looks much like an SUV version of the Magnum than an evolution of the previous Durango. The wide front grille and overall proportions give the new Durango a hunkered down look missing in the segment. Aside from a somewhat dissapointing liftgate area, the Durango easily trumps its competition in the styling arena. Given its sporty design one can only hope that Dodge makes an SRT version with the 450 or so horspower strong 6.4 liter Hemi. While that's a fantasy for now, the Durango will without a doubt feature the new 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 and the latest version of the 5.7 liter Hemi V8. Unlike some of its competition the Durango also brings some decent towing capacity, 6,200 pounds with the V6 and 7,400 with the Hemi. If you like, you can read a few more words about the Durango here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Year After Cash For Clunkers: August 2010 Sales

The automakers happily used the government's Cash for Clunkers program last August to stat pad their sales figures. It’s no surprise then that without government incentives only a baker's dozen brands were able to improve upon last year's sales, a commendable feat for those brands. Once again Cadillac and Buick delivered incredible sales increases for GM of 83.1 and 66 percent. On the strength of its newly launched Cayenne and Panamera models Porsche sales grew by 33%. The vast majority of the brands posting sales increases do business in the luxury sector, and thus did not benefit much from the C4C program last year. The Chrysler group was one of the best performing mainstream brands posting a modest improvement overall. On the other hand Nissan, Honda, and Toyota were unable to come close to clunker driven sales of a year ago, dropping 31, 33 and 36% respectively.

Click on the Christmas colored chart to make it huge.

Monday, August 30, 2010

EPA Goes Back To School With New Fuel Economy Ratings

The EPA in conjunction with the Department of Transportation today showed two variations of upcoming fuel economy stickers. The stickers will be changing to accomodate electric and plug in vehicles. One of the options shown includes a school grading style system for the vehicle's overall "greeness", from A+ to D. You can't Fail according to the government. The other proposed labeling system looks a lot more like the current window stickers. The updated labels also show the fuel economy/energy consumption of electric vehicles and plugins in gallon equivalents. For example one of the EPA labels shows an electric vehicle getting 98 mpg equivalent. This means that this vehicle will travel 98 miles on the same amount of energy contained in one gallon of gas. The labels also split up plugin vehicles like the upcoming Chevy Volt into their elecric modes and gas. One label shows a proposed plug in vehicle achieving 65 mpg equivalent on electricity and getting 38 mpg on gasoline once the battery is drained and the gas engine kicks in.

While a letter grading system is perhaps unnecessary and makes for silly looking window sticker, the EPA did the right thing by utilizing the miles per gallon equivalents for the electric and plugin vehicles. This eliminates the unrealistic ratings for plugin hybrids promised by some eariler. This system also allows the consumer to compare the overall efficiency of an electric vehicle or a plugin hybrid to vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines.

You can let your voice be heard and tell the EPA which label it should use here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mid Cycle Facelifts

Most brands often find themselves in a position where their product has been out for a few years and is starting to look stale, but the next generation is still in the design phase. Enter the mid-cycle facelift, an opportunity for the brand to make a few changes in styling to create some excitement for a product facing newer competition. With this in mind let's take a look at five of the best mid-cycle facelifts of recent times.

Ford Fusion

Ford did an excellent job updating the Fusion, significant changes to the grill and headlights at the front and rear tail lights easily improved the Fusion's styling. New engines rounded out this very comprehensive facelift.

Saab 9-3

Another excellent and comprehensive refresh gave the 9-3 a significantly fresher design while unfortunately doing little to improve sales.

Audi A4

When the last generation A4 debuted it was a competitive car but had an overall design that was only so-so. Enter the Fusion like makeover that completely transformed the A4, giving it much fresher look.

Honda Accord

Honda didn't make too many changes on the last generation's facelift. However, new taillights made a huge difference in style. The same can't be said about the updated taillights of the 2011 Accord.

Volkswagen Passat

Volkswagen did a good job of improving the last generation Passat. The changes were significant enough to give the facelifted Passat the B5.5 designation versus the B5 of the "original".

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lancia Stratos Shows Europeans Can Do Retro Too

The Internet has been a buzz over a possible rebirth of the Lancia Stratos. A few grainy spy shots of a retro inspired Lancia Stratos surfaced a coupe of days ago, but now it looks like the car pictured here will actually be bilt. The original Lancia Stratos was a rally car for the road last seen in the 1970s. The rumor is that it will be reborn as a limitied edition Ferrari V8 powered super car in the near future to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Check out more photos of the retro styled Lancia here.

Ford Mustang Boss 302

Ford has recently shown its latest Mustang special edition, the 2012 Boss 302 channels its inner 1969 namesake for exra performance. Power from the 5.0 V8 is up to 440 (from 412) and torque now stands at 380 lb-ft. Ford claims substantial changes to all aspects of the Mustang, suspension, brakes, and stylilng. Read the full upgrades here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

July 2010 Sales

July sales were generally positive for the automakers as two-thirds of the brands showed improvement. General Motor's Cadillac and Buick led everyone and were the only brands to more than double their sales from last July. Chevrolet, Ford, and Nissan reported sales increases while Honda and Toyota reported small sales drops. On the luxury front Acura and Infiniti had strong rebound months with sales improvement of 50 and 38 percent respectively. Cash for Clunkers played a small part last July but August will be a real challenge for the automakers to improve upon last year's clunker driven sales.

click on the graphic to magically increase it in size

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Updated Veyron Hits Top Gear Track

The even faster Bugatti Veyron SS is quicker also. The Stig takes the black/orange Veyron around the Top Gear track and not surprisingly goes quicker than the regular Veyron. How quick? Watch to find out how the 1,200 horsepower Veyron stacks up against other hypercars. And if you can, watch the entire episode as it's one of best in some time.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ford Explorer Reborn As A Crossover

The exremely-well-selling-back-in-its-day Ford Explorer returns as a crossover fit for modern times, according to Ford. It will feature a 3.5 liter 290 horsepower V6 engine and a two liter turbocharged Ecoboost four cylinder with 237 horsepower but only 5 lb-ft less torque than the V6. Ford promises fuel economy to be on par with a V6 powered Camry for the "premium" priced Ecoboost option. Time will tell how many buyers will pay some additional money for extra fuel economy while giving up performance to the standard engine. Read the Ford press release here.

Audi A7 Unveiled

Here are some first high quality photos of the new Audi A7. The A7 is a five door hatch that is bigger than the current A6 but smaller than the A8, just like the name implies. At launch it is available with three V6 engines. The US will get the 300 horsepower 3.0T paired with an 8 speed auto. Read the press release for all the facts here.