Auto News for Nov. 26

The Auto News column will resume on Dec. 1 so the writer can digest lots of Thanksgiving goodies. My best to you and yours over the holiday.

Bentley Sport Utility Concept

Hot from the rumor mill is word in a Dutch newspaper that the upcoming SUV from Bentley may be named “Bentayga.” If your next question is “where in the world did they get that name from,” here’s the answer. It would be named after a rock formation in the Canary Islands, thus coming fairly close to the Chevy’s “Like a Rock.” And let’s all hope that Bentley makes some styling changes from the prototype that was downright ugly. The concept is pictured. Rumors indicate that the finished product will debut next year as a 2016 model.

An investigation of possible steering problems in Ford Crown Vics and Mercury Marquis models has been closed and there will be no recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the problem could occur in just 1.6 vehicles per 100,000 and six of eight complaints came from a police agency that was able to repair the problem. Involved were model years 2004 – 2007.

Mazda is recalling about 100,000 model 6 cars to repair a problem with the tire pressure monitoring system. Named in the recall are 2014 – 2015 model years. Mazda said if the air pressure drops in all four tires, the loss may not be picked up by the monitoring system.

The Hispanic Motor Press Awards this year go to the Chrysler 200C as the “Best Sedan” and the Hellcat as “Best Sports Car.”

Auto News for Nov. 25

The government’s Energy Information Administration predicts the price of gasoline will be less than $3 per gallon across most of the country by the end of the year. And it believes the price will remain below $3 throughout 2015. This will likely result in more generous incentives on small cars and crossovers as consumers continue to buy up inventories of large sport utility vehicles.

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In Britain, they are trying out what backers call the “Bio-Bus” but the rest of us are calling the “Poop Bus.” It runs on biomethane gas generated from human and food waste. It can run for 186 miles on the stuff and seats 40 passengers. The BBC said it doesn’t smell and actually reduces greenhouse gas emissions by almost 90 percent, despite the stuff it runs on. Here is a great quote from the company that made the bus – It “is actually powered by people living in the local area, including quite possibly those on the bus itself.”

BYD Australia eBus

And yes, it is true that this morning we are kind of following the old “jump on the bus Gus” theme. Yet at the Sydney International Airport in Australia you can ride what backers say is the World’s Longest Range Electric Bus – 155 miles even in heavy city traffic on a single charge. The BYD manufactured bus runs on an Iron-Phosphate battery that is said to contain no toxic electrolytes or heavy metals and can be completely recycled.

“Car sales will remain elevated in November in large part because of Black Friday,” said Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell. It predicts November sales will be up 1.6 percent from November 2013, but down 1.3 percent from October of this year. Edmunds said Chrysler will be the main beneficiary with a sales gain of almost 15 percent year over year.

And Honda has announced production of its 300-millionth motorcycle, a Gold Wing. Honda began mass production of motorcycles in Japan in 1949 and next year will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gold Wing model.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for Nov. 24

Ford announced that its new F-150 with the weight saving aluminum body will carry an EPA rating of 19 mpg city and 26 on the highway for a combined 22 mpg. Ford said that is the highest EPA estimated fuel economy ratings of any gasoline powered full size pickup sold in this country. The rating applies to trucks equipped with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine that packed a nice amount of power in my first drive.

Subaru said its 2015 Impreza has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. When equipped with the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, it did even better capturing the Top Safety Pick+ award.

Dodge_ChallengerSRT_4215_copy

 

Popular Mechanics magazine has named the Dodge Hellcat the Best Muscle Car and the Alfa Romeo 4C as the top sports car. While the Hellcat was kind of a no brainer, the Alfa was cited for its “groundbreaking and functional Italian design” that on a twisty road makes the driver feel they are operating “something that costs three times as much.” But some testers have concluded that it’s a bit basic to be used as a day to day commuter car.

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C

Owners of a Cadillac XTS or Escalade can now get a massage on the way to work. With the right option box checked, you can get front seats that can knead, roll and relax your back. Don’t laugh, this is rather a welcome option on cars that I have tested – in short don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. The desired massage and intensity can be controlled on a touchscreen and settings can be stored in the car’s memory like seat positions.

 

 

A Saturday Special – Concept Cars at the L.A. Auto Show

Concept Cars Not Far From Fantasyland

By Ron Amadon

Okay, these vehicles may never see the light of day in a dealer’s showroom, but we are now roughly a month away from all the fun of Christmas, so let’s fantasize a bit.

A horde of journalists from all over the world, (I hope some were from Buffalo), witnessed the hoopla that surrounded the dream cars unveiling just a short run up the 5 from Disneyland.

Chevrolet Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo Concept

An eye catcher was the Chevy Chaparral 2X Grand Tursimo that its maker said “celebrates the future of automotive design and innovation.” You won’t see one on the road but you can drive it, sort of. Chevy was playing games with us on this one, since it was invented for the PlayStation 3 racing game, Gran Turismo 6. “Audacious and ambitious” GM said, and I agree.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Concept

In the real world, you are much closer to one day driving the Colorado ZR2 concept. This one is designed for those who want to take their midsize truck off road and for GM to showcase the 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine that will arrive in the Colorado lineup later next year. It is four inches wider than the production truck with increased approach and departure angles, something that comes in mighty handy when the pavement ends. There are flip out aluminum tow hooks and the front fascia incorporates a built-in winch. It rides on 18-inch wheels with electronic locking front and rear differentials. Will it ever hit the market? My bet is yes with a toned down appearance. One must remember that Chevy introduced the ZR2 in 1994 in the S-10 pickup.

Bentley

If you are rich enough to afford a Bentley, you want the very finest materials, somewhat audacious style and lots of power. That brings us to the Bentley Grand Convertible that its maker subtly proclaims “redefines the luxury of open-air driving.” Added Chairman and CEO Wolfgang Durheimer, “We will ensure that this car – if it reaches the roads – will be a highly exclusive, extremely limited collector’s piece.” A 6.7-liter twin turbo V8 with 530 horsepower and 811 lb-ft of torque hides under the hood. Fourteen naturally tanned leather hides merge together with diamond quilting to cover the seats. The tonneau that covers the retracted convertible top features the largest piece of wood veneer ever applied to a Bentley with mirror-finished and dark stained Burr Walnut “fashioned entirely by hand.” My guess is Bentley will produce this car and it will be expensive, but that’s just me going out on a limb.

iROAD_007

Very different was the updated Toyota i-Road concept that combined “the convenience of a motorcycle with the comfort and stability of a car.”  Well it could catch the attention of passersby. This latest version of “urban transport” is less than three feet wide with a turning radius of three feet or so. It seats two, is electrically powered, with a range of 31 miles, and is currently being tested on the streets of Tokyo.

Autodesk VRED Design 2014 SR1

Making its North American debut at Volkswagen was the GTI Roadster concept powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 rated at 503 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. It is matched to a seven-speed DSG dual clutch automatic with a top speed just a notch under 200 mph. However, it is highly unlikely you will ever see one on the street since designers were given free rein to come up with a real life version of a car originally conceived for a video game. So there are a lot of real world items, such as safety equipment, that are missing. But as I said at the outset, this is a day for fantasizing, and as the Christmas catalogs roll in, a perfect time of the year to do it.

 

Auto News for Nov. 21

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BMW’s i3 has been named Green Car of the Year over four other finalists. Green Car Journal called it a “milestone vehicle in many respects.” The i3 has lots of sustainable materials inside, and offers a gasoline engine generator that extends the driving range to about 100 miles.

Volkswagen has made no bones about the fact that it wants to be the top selling brand worldwide over Toyota. To that end, VW will spend $106 billion over the next five years on its products, factories and technology.  “We will continue to invest in the future to become the leading automotive group in both ecological and economic terms,” CEO Martin Winterkom said.

Arizona is suing GM for $3 billion over the automaker’s claim that it is not responsible for products produced before its bankruptcy in 2009. It is the latest dispute involving the “old” GM and the “new” GM. The automaker said Arizona “misrepresents the facts” and it intends to “vigorously” defend itself.

Experian said the percentage of auto loans that are at least a month overdue rose 3.7 percent from July through September. Those two months past due are up 8.6 percent. It cited the growth in subprime loans to customers with a checkered financial record. The majority of the market remains in prime risk category.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s call for a nationwide recall of Takata airbags has won the backing of the Triple A. Because vehicles are bought and sold across state lines, it is in the best interest of consumers to expand this recall to all states, the auto club said. It called Takata’s handling of the matter unacceptable.

AAA also predicted that more than 46 million of us will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, the most since 2007. Road trippers likely will pay the lowest Thanksgiving price for fuel in five years. More than 89 percent of travelers will move about on the roads. (After all, even the recently tested Scion tC had more rear seat room than virtually all airliners.)

Road & Travel magazine has named the Kia K900 as its International Car of the Year for the third year in a row.

Patrick Dempsey will continue to compete in the Sports Car World Endurance Championship next year and that includes racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The actor joined the Porsche motorsport family in 2013 and has just now re-upped for 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles Auto Show Update

Mitsu concept 3

Mitsubishi has been on a roll of late in this country with its October sales up sharply thanks to the Outlander and Outlander Sport. Now it has displayed a wild looking vehicle at the L.A. show called the “Concept XR-PHEV” that “hints at the upcoming direction of U.S. Mitsubishi cars.” The plug in hybrid electric was brought to L.A., the company said, to “reinforce the message that Mitsubishi is here to stay in the U.S. market.” Solar panels in the roof will charge the auxiliary equipment battery. The speedometer, tach and other key displays/readouts are placed along the top of the dashboard at the base of windshield to “ensure the driver keeps his or her eyes on the road …” Power comes from a 1.1-liter 3 cylinder turbocharged engine and a high efficiency electric motor for a combined 295 horsepower. The front engine, front drive concept is said to have a 53 mile cruising range.

Acura ILX

Acura rolled out the 2016 ILX with a new powertrain featuring a 2.4-liter 201 horsepower VTEC four with 180 lb-ft of torque with an 8-speed speed dual clutch transmission for all models. Acura said that is up 51 horsepower and 40 lb-ft compared to the outgoing 2.0-liter engine. There are some minor styling changes and a new ILX A-SPEC package with 18 inch alloy wheels and trunk spoiler.

2015 Nissan JUKE

Nissan said the 2015 redesigned Murano will carry a starting price of $29,560. It also showed off the JUKE sport with some minor front and rear design changes including projector beam headlights and LED accent lamps. Super Black and Cosmic Blue are new colors.

 

Auto News for Nov. 20 – L.A. show update – C&D’s Top Ten

Audi concept

Audi gave us a hint of future designs in the form of the prologue show car, and many feel it is a look at what the upcoming A9 model might look like. It is somewhat shorter than the current A8. The concept car sports 605 horsepower from a 4.0-liter biturbo V8 and a 0-60 time of just 3.7 seconds. “A luxurious lounge,” is how Audi describes the interior with an infotainment system that “brings driver and passenger into dialog with one another.” Basically there is a touchscreen that runs the full width of the dash panel that will allow, for example, the co-pilot to select a navigation route and forward it to the driver. Presumably that could include pleadings for a coffee and bathroom breaks.

2016-mercedes-maybach-s600

Mercedes introduced a new luxury car with an old name – Maybach. It is 8.1 inches longer than the S600, on which it is based, with much of the extra room going to those in the rear seats. There is a panoramic sunroof, along with the expected leather trim, leg rests to the rear, massaging seats and two silver-plated champagne flutes. Under the hood is a 6.0-liter twin turbo V12 (!) offering 523 horsepower. Mercedes will offer this car next April at a starting price of somewhere around $200,000.

2016 Honda HR-V

Arriving early next year will be a new small crossover from Honda based on the Fit. Called the HR-V it will feature multiple seating/cargo modes including the Fit’s reconfigurable second row “Magic Seat.” Look for 58.8 cubic feet of storage space helped by the fact that it will be about 9 inches longer than the Fit. A 1.8-liter four is up front with 138 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque mated to a CVT. Two-wheel or all-wheel drive will be offered and there will be three trim levels. No word yet on price.

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Wowing them at the Lexus stand was the LF-C2 concept in the form of a 2+2 roadster. “The LF-C2 concept shows what’s in store for our brand’s future design direction,” said Jeff Bracken, Lexus group vice president and general manager. It is 185.6 inches long or roughly three inches shower than a Mustang. No word on power trains, but it sure was a looker and something should spark some convertible life into the Lexus lineup.

2014_LAAS_Scion_iM_Concept_015

Scion announced that it will be overhauling its lineup with the announcement that a production version of the iM concept car and another new Scion model will be displayed in April at the New York show. It also plans to bring three other new products to market in three years. The concept iM is pictured.

Here’s some welcome news from Volvo. It announced a “Complete renewal” of its entire model range in five years with its CEO saying the brand will “not only stay in the U.S., we will prosper.”

So some good news from Scion and Volvo and now it is on to day two for the press at the L.A. Show and naming of the Green Car of the year.

Elsewhere:

Car and Driver is out with its Top 10 cars of the year. They are the BMW M235i, Cadillac CTS, Corvette Stingray, Ford Mustang GT, Honda Accord, Mazda 3 & 6, Porsche Boxster/Cayman, Tesla Model S 60 and the Volks Golf/GTI. You can see more in the January 2015 edition.