Auto News for Feb. 19

McLarenGTR_01

The track dedicated McLaren P1 GTR will make its debut at the Geneva show next month. The design is said to pay homage to the yellow and Green F1 GTR that dominated the 24 hours of Le Mans 20 years ago. A 3.8 liter twin turbo V8 is matched to a lightweight electric motor to generate 789 horsepower.

Lotus Evora lotus-evora-400-rear-exteror1

Lotus will return to these shores with the Evora 400, a more upscale version of its flagship sports car. Power will come from a Toyota sourced 3.5-liter V6 rated at 400 horsepower tied to a six speed manual transmission. Lotus claims a top speed of 178 miles per hour with a 0-60 run of just 4.1 seconds. Lotus said the car will make its return visit toward the end of the year after a debut at the Geneva show.

Production of Subaru’s horizontally opposed “Boxster” engine has now reached 15 million units since it was first developed 49 years ago. Subaru said the design allows the engine to be fitted lower in the engine bay, helping lower the vehicle’s center of gravity to improve driving stability and handling. History has proven them to be long lasting as well.

Edmunds.com reports the average used car price hit $16,800 last year and that is a record high. It is also a 5.7% increase from 2013. Demand was strong for cars coming off leases that were reconditioned – the “certified pre-owned market.” Oh that’s right, there is no such thing as a “used” car anymore.

Cadillac will air three ads during Sunday’s Academy Awards show including one that doesn’t include a single picture of any of its cars. It instead uses a speech made by President Theodore Roosevelt in an effort to remake the brand’s identity. You can see the ad, named “The Arena” on YouTube. Cadillac said the ad is a “redefining statement of our core values.”

 

 

 

 

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Auto News for Feb. 18

Rolls

A Rolls-Royce SUV? YES! Leaders of the luxury car maker have confirmed that development is underway of “a car that that offers the luxury of a Rolls-Royce in a vehicle that can cross any terrain.” Chairman Peter Schwarzenbauer and CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes said the vehicle will offer “effortless luxury” and “all-new aluminum architecture” that will carry “the Spirit of Ecstasy into the future.” They said the parent firm, BMW, backs the move and “the journey towards this all new Rolls-Royce begins now and we will keep our customers, enthusiasts and media informed of our progress along the way.” They said the move to build the new vehicle came at the urging of “discerning customers” and further noted that Rollers of the past have “conveyed pioneers and adventures like Lawrence of Arabia across the vastness of unexplored deserts and over mountain ranges.” This announcement should keep the rumor mill going for years.

It should be noted that this will be all-aluminum architecture, so perhaps Ford was not so radical with its new F-150?

How is General Motors doing? The Wall Street Journal reports that both Warren Buffett and George Soros have increased their holdings in the auto maker. Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway increased its holding by 1 million shares while Soros picked up 728,938 shares. Neither involved a player to be named later.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen now has a 25 percent market share in Europe and has a commanding lead over contenders. PSA Group has the second largest market share at just 10.8 percent. It makes Peugeot’s and other brands.

Ford has hired one of the brightest auto analysts in the business to improve its global sales. John Casesa will report directly to CEO Mark Fields and will be the senior leader and corporate officer overseeing global strategy and business development. Casesa was a senior managing director of Guggenheim Partners, where he led the firm’s automotive investment banking activities. Ford wants to grow its sales in China and improve its sales outlook in Europe.

A start-up company in China is giving a new Tesla to everyone who has been with WiFi Master Key for more than four months, according to CNBC. It will be a year-end bonus as China begins its Year of the Sheep. The deal will cost the company $4.8 million but it is not clear how many workers will qualify.

A former GM official, Dan Akerson, said Apple should not enter the auto making business, but instead, concentrate on better automotive electronics. There have been numerous unconfirmed reports that hundreds of Apple workers are developing an electric car. Akerson said Apple shareholders should not be happy that the company is entering a low-margin, heavy manufacturing business with questionable long term prospects. Those outside the auto business do not understand the regulatory and safety requirements that a start-up would face, he said.

One of the smartest guys in the car biz just got a nice raise. Daimler AG gave Dieter Zetsche a 1.4 percent pay hike to $9.4 million after Mercedes reported record deliveries of its products last year.

Sears Auto Center is backing a contest to find the most pothole plagued city in the country. It has created #PotholeProbs where residents can submit pictures of potholes in their community. The city that records the most submissions will receive an exclusive deal on alignment services.

I would nominate Boston but no one can find the potholes yet.

 

Auto News for Feb. 17

Honda is trimming production at six factories due to a lack of parts tied to the dock strike on the west coast. Honda said with the huge backlog of container shipments it does not have a sufficient supply of several critical parts to keep production lines running smoothly and efficiently in the Midwest and Ontario.

bmw-2-series-gran-tourer

We are about a month away from the next big international auto show, this one in Geneva. When it opens to the public on March 5 BMW will debut a seven passenger three row 2 Series Grand Tourer. BMW calls it the first model in the premium compact class that can carry that many occupants. At this time, it is not known if this minivan (in U.S. terms) will be offered here. They will also talk about a refreshed 1 Series.

The British magazine, Autocar, said Kia will show off a hatchback concept car called the Sportspace. It said this could be an indication of where future styling may be headed for the Optima. The Sportspace carries a 1.7-liter diesel-electric powertrain with a very futuristic interior.

Moving upscale, Bentley will unveil a two seat sports GT concept to rival Ferrari and Aston Martin. A Rolls-Royce concept called “Serenity” will offer a “luxurious silk-inspired interior” according to Autocar. And Aston Martin will spill more details of its own supercar aimed at the McLaren GTR.

It should be quite a show!

 

Auto News for Feb. 16

2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S

Dodge is returning the shaker hood to the Challenger lineup on three models with the HEMI V8. “After selling out last year’s Shaker model production in just four days, our hardcore Challenger customers demanded we bring back the Shaker,” said Tim Kuniskis, President and CEO of Dodge and the SRT brands. The R/T Shaker and R/T plus Shaker can be ordered now with a top of the line 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker model available for customer orders in March.

Pictured are the 2015 Challenger 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker, 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker, and the 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker.

Automotive News reports the next generation Jeep Wrangler, due in 2017, will keep the floating solid axles that are the key to its excellent off road capabilities. Jeep fans were concerned the Wrangler would get an independent suspension system to reduce weight, AN reported.

GM is recalling more than 81,000 Chevy Malibu, Malibu Maxx and Pontiac G6 from model years 2007 and 2007 to correct a steering problem. A defect in a sensor assembly could cause the power steering to fail. If you think there have been a lot of recalls recently you would be right. A total of 63.95 million vehicles were recalled last year and that is a record, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal report that Apple is working on an electric car that sort of resembles a minivan. Apple is in no comment mode about the story. The two newspapers said Apple has hundreds of people working on the secret project that carries the code name “Titan”.

The Ford Fusion leads the list of good buys among sedans, selling for an average of 14 percent off the MSRP, according to TrueCar. It was followed by the Hyundai Elantra and the Chrysler 300C that are selling at least 10 percent below MSRP.

 

Weekend Road Test – A FUN GTI

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Volks Golf GTI

Is All That Stuff True?

By Ron Amadon

(Freezing cold) DAMASCUS, MD. – From the pages of the buff magazines in this country to Top Gear, Car, and EVO in Great Britain, often warring auto writers have been united on one thing.

The GTI is simply great fun to drive – built like a tank, with incredible road holding, good power, an upscale interior, first rate ergonomics, and yet at home when dispatched on more mundane tasks to grocery stores, hardware outlets,  yet classy enough for a night out on the town.

Writers can get carried away with the first test of a car and say it’s the greatest thing on wheels until the inevitable comparison article when some flaws emerge that were not obvious months earlier. Such is NOT the case with the GTI.

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Car and Driver has had it on its “10 Best List” for nine years. Automobile has named it an “All Star” for the seventh time, and Motor Trend named the entire Golf family “Car of the Year.” Even Yahoo said “Yahoo” when it tested one.

And for 2015 the Golf GTI got even better. Kind of like Tiger Woods with a better back.

VW gave it an additional 10 horsepower and 51 lb-ft of torque to 210 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Check the box for the $1,495 Performance Package and you get another ten ponies, an electronically controlled limited slip differential and larger brakes. After all, the fun must stop sometime!!

That extra oomph made the test GTI very responsive even with the six speed DSG dual clutch automatic with a set of the best paddle shifts I have ever engaged. Look for a 0-60 run just a hair over six seconds – about the most enjoyable six seconds you will have this year. In urban traffic the automatic would seek out the lowest gear resulting in a feeling that the engine was bogging down a bit yet a quick paddle downshift fixed that.

It should be noted that a six speed manual transmission is also offered. It would go nicely with the “Tornado Red” exterior paint scheme.

Here is what sets the GTI apart from some very worthy competitors such as the Mini Cooper and the Subaru WRX. You get not only excellent road handling and power in a refined hatch but an interior featuring lots of soft touches, key controls that are a finger-tip away, seats that are all day comfortable but still cradle you like your Mom did, nearly 53 cubic feet of storage out back, and the ability to scare the hell out of two rear seat passengers.

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Some might find the ride a bit on the stiff side, but that is the trade-off for the excellent handling you can enjoy on great roads, like those in eastern West Virginia. You will want to engage the “Sport” mode in such situations.

The test car was a top of the line Autobahn model that only comes as a four door with the navi system, a 12-way power driver’s seat and a so-so Fender audio system among other items.

Fuel economy is 25-33 mpg with the automatic and the GTI likes premium unleaded gas.

Best of all you can get into a base GTI S model with the stick shift for an MSRP of $24,395. The test car with a $995 Lighting Package and a $695 Driver Assist Package bottom lined at $33,205.

The Driver Assist Package adds front and rear Park Distance Control and Forward Collision Warning system. With that package, the GTI got a Top Safety Pick + rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, its highest rating.

The Lighting Group brings BI-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and Adaptive Front-Lighting system.

The bottom, bottom line comes from Top Gear. It said “the best done better than ever.” I fully agree.

Auto News for Feb. 13

Honda Pilot Honda_Ridgeline

Honda used the Chicago Auto Show to unveil the 2016 redesigned Pilot that is 3.5 inches longer and 300 pounds lighter. The third generation Pilot is a three row SUV with either a second row bench seat for maximum seating capacity or two captain’s chairs that make it easier to access the third row. Under the hood will be a new 3.5-liter V6 but Honda is not ready to give us any power figures yet. It will be tied to either a six speed or a nine speed automatic. There will be a new all-wheel drive system, a feature that Honda says most buyers prefer. For the first time, a panoramic sunroof will be offered and for those who get thirsty Honda claims an 82 quart cooler can be stowed behind the third row seat. The new Pilot will be launched in the spring and Honda said an all new Ridgeline pickup will join the lineup within the next two years. Honda released a teaser drawing of the new truck.

Trail'ster Concept

Somewhat smaller was the electric all-wheel drive Trail’ster concept at the Kia stand. It really is a more rugged Soul designed for some mild off roading with skid plates, and two and a half inches more ground clearance. There are more rugged shocks and Perelli Winter Carving 245/45-19 snow tires. The concept, dreamed up at Kia’s California studio, also has a roll-top canvas roof. It is primarily powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four with 185 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque with a six speed automatic. It is matched with an electric all-wheel drive system on the rear axles intended for low speed assist, enhanced launch acceleration and improved traction in bad weather. Kia claims the concept can travel for up to three miles on pure electric power under light throttle. Under normal driving the electric motor will assist the gas turbo during acceleration calling for greater power and torque. In bad weather, the electric all-wheel drive system will do its thing when it detects the front wheels are losing traction. Whether the Trail’ster will ever be produced may depend on the feedback Kia gets on the auto show circuit.

mitsubishi-concept-gc-phev

Mitsubishi give the world a look at a full size crossover concept called the GC-PHEV, the GC standing for Grand Cruiser and the rest, Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle. It is a full-size crossover with a supercharged V6 pared with an electric motor, eight speed automatic transmission and full time all-wheel drive. Mitsubishi said the drivetrain will deliver 335 horsepower and the unit will conquer “even the most daunting terrain and road conditions.” It can travel up to 25 miles on full electric charge. The concept seats four in bucket seats with access to what is called a “Tactical Table” – a touch screen located in the center of the cabin extending from front to back for in vehicle communication and infotainment features. It would automatically react to connected smartphones that are placed on it, sort of a modern day version of “don’t make me come back there.” The onboard battery can also supply an owner’s home with up to 1,500 watts of electrical energy during a blackout. With a fully charged battery pack and a full tank of gas to recharge the battery, the system can provide nearly two weeks of emergency power to the average household, Mitsu claims. Kudos to the maker for a concept that looks very different from anything else on the road. Like the design or not, and some have already called it the Mars Lander, it certainly would not enter a neighborhood unnoticed. Based on Mitsubishi saying this concept is the “return of a legend” my guess is that a lot of the features here will be included in the return of the Montero at some future date.

Ford’s striking new GT car will be built in Markham, Ontario, in partnership with Multimatic Inc., a firm that has previously produced some hot Ford cars such as the Boss 302R. The GT should appear in showrooms next year.

J.P Morgan has downgraded Tesla shares after the company missed fourth quarter results. It also cited increased competition for electric cars.

Along that line …

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GM has confirmed it will invest $160-million in its Orion, Michigan plant to produce a long range electric car. It would be based on the Bolt concept car that was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. GM is aiming for a range of more than 200 miles and a price tag of about $30,000. ed.

2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab 4x4

Luxury pickup trucks are all the rage among customers these days thanks in part to lower gas prices. They are a profit making dream come true for manufacturers. To that end, Ram has introduced a slightly restyled top of the line Laramie Limited with lots of chrome. It will hit the market in the second quarter.

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Also refreshed was the Toyota Avalon that will feature two suspension systems for 2016. One prioritizes a comfortable ride while the other is said to provide a more dynamic and responsive driving experience.

Public television’s MotorWeek has named the Mustang as its “Best of the Year” pick saying it “stood out amongst stiff competition for its eye catching retro-inspired exterior design, modern drivetrains, honest quality and over all progression.”