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2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 Coupe

  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 Coupe
  • 2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster
  • Chevy Camaro 1LE vs Ford Mustang with Performance Pack, surprises ensue
  • MotorWeek remembers retro icons: Toyota Supra and Acura NSX

Audi reveals new TT spec racer

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 6:00PM

Audi Sport TT Cup

We've seen the coupe. We've seen the convertible. We're still waiting on word of the next variant, but before it arrives, Audi has revealed the racing version of the new TT.

Set to form the backbone of the inaugural Audi Sport TT Cup, the competition-spec sports coupe is closely based on the production version packs the same 2.0-litre turbo four and six-speed dual-clutch transmission as the road-going TTS, delivering the same 310 horsepower, but with a push-to-pass boost of an extra 30 hp.

It's also got an active differential, and while the full specifications have not yet been revealed, it's clear that Audi has also outfitted the TT racer with more aggressive aero, track-spec rolling stock and a stripped-out cockpit (complete with the Audi PS1 Safety Seat from the R8 LMS Ultra) to get weight down to from 1,225 kilograms (2,700 pounds) in stock production form to 1,125 kg (2,480 lbs).

The Audi Sport TT Cup will kick off next season in Germany as a support series to the DTM championship with a grid of 24 cars – including 18 permanent spots and six reserved for a changing roster of guest drivers. Aspiring racers will be coached by former DTM and endurance driver Markus Winkelhock and the trophy winner will get a shot at a GT3 race seat.

News Source: Audi

Novel head-up display aims to improve lap times with video-game-like ghost car [w/video]

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 5:00PM

GhostDash Kickstarter

Ever wish racing in real life was more like playing Gran Turismo or Forza? By that don't mean lots of swearing and sideswiping other racers into corners, we think it would just be useful to have all of the game's data available on-the-fly in real life – especially a ghost car for comparing previous laps. A solution for track drivers may be on the way from a company called High Rise Garage thanks to its software and giant head-up display called the GhostDash.

The whole system basically presents the entire HUD from a racing video game as an augmented reality display in an actual moving car. Looking through the 98-per cent transparent screen, a driver can see a ghost car projection running its last lap. At the bottom, there's a display for current speed, the gap and lap times. It's supposed to make learning a faster line much easier. "We believe HUDs and ghost cars are the next step in utilizing the data racers collect to make it easier and safer," spokesman Justin Hayes tells Autoblog. We can see applications beyond racing, too, including basic driver's education programs.

The GhostDash is possible thanks to several pieces of technology working together. The raw data comes from a GPS unit that sends info to software running on a Windows device, which crafts it into an image. A linked projector then displays the HUD on a 15-inch holographic screen that hangs from a mount in front of the driver.

GhostDash isn't quite ready to buy yet, though. High Rise Garage is running a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $43,500 to complete funding for the system, but the company claims the software and hardware work now. The business needs the funds for final development and manufacturing, and the company thinks it can start shipping units in January, 2015.

The Kickstarter campaign is broken into three major tiers. For $40, pledgers just get the software to run on a Windows device (the company recommends a Surface Pro tablet). For $1,900, people also get the projector and screen to display the HUD on. Finally, $3,600 also adds a Surface Pro 3 to run the software and Vbox Sport GPS unit. For the two lower levels, buyers need to supply their own GPS device and GhostDash currently supports three devices with plans to add two more.

Developing this kind of tech is a huge undertaking, but High Rise Garage is already considering the future. It eventually wants to add features like custom maps to support users who autocross and a racing line to the software. Scroll down to watch a video of the GhostDash in action and read the company's press release about it.

News Source: Kickstarter, GhostDash via YouTube

Image Credit: High Rise Garage

BMW i8 with 500+ horsepower in the cards?

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 4:30PM

2015 BMW i8

While BMW makes plenty of machinery to keep enthusiasts interested, its most enticing models are often based on more ordinary ones. That's what made the arrival of the i8 so captivating, emerging as the first stand-alone BMW sports coupe since the M1. But if its dual purpose – trying its best to both embrace the earth and traverse it rapidly – somehow left you disappointed, the next development could prove to fix that.

According to Automobile, BMW is working on a more potent i8S model. The hardcore version of the hybrid sports car would offer more power and a stiffened chassis to make it that much more aggressive. The Bavarian automaker is reportedly still evaluating two potential powertrain options: The first would pair a 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder good for 320 horsepower to an electric motor with another 204 hp. The second would use a 3.0-litre straight six with 480 hp and an electric motor with 109 hp. Both would be mated to a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission and an integrated starter motor packing an extra 27 hp.

Either way, we'd be looking at a combined output well in excess of 500 horsepower – far more than the existing i8's 228-hp turbo three and 129-hp electric motor – dropping the 0-100 km/h time down from 4.1 seconds to an estimated 3.5. Couple that to a more advanced carbon chassis, wider tires and other goodies, and the i8 would be transformed into a far more capable performance machine than it already is.

Automobile says the project is not being undertaken by the M division but by the i brand that developed the i8 in the first place – including new program director Roberto Fedeli who came over from Ferrari. Its arrival would be timed to coincide with BMW's centenary celebrations in 2016.

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News Source: Automobile

Did you know? 1 in 5 vehicles has been recalled this year

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 4:00PM

General Motors Recall

2014 will forever be known as the year of the recalls. General Motors has been the biggest culprit, with over 70 recalls to date, but there have been plenty of other notable recalls competing for our attention this year.

Now, CNN Money is reporting that 2014 has seen a total of 544 recalls, or about two a day, so far. Those recalls have afflicted 52 million vehicles, or about one in every five on US roads alone - that's not even counting Canada! Disturbing as that figure may be, it's made worse by the fact that 2014 has easily eclipsed the previous record of 30.8 million units back in 2004. With another ten weeks left in the year, there remains a solid chance that this year will double the previous total.

While it's easy to chalk up the plethora of recalls to falling reliability, there's a much more obvious reason that so much is going wrong so often. "We all want our cars to do far more than they did in the past," Stericycle VP Mike Rozembajgier told CNN. "It takes a lot of gadgets to make that happen, and that adds to complexity."

With our demand for more and more technology in our cars, it seems likely that 2014 will be far from the last year of huge recalls. Click here to read our article questioning if the auto industry's seemingly endless stream of recalls the new normal?

After GM's Apology: More Than 2 Million Dangerous Cars Still On The Road

News Source: CNN Money

Image Credit: Molly Riley / AP

Aston Martin testing modified Vantage at the 'Ring

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 3:00PM

Aston Martin Vantage prototype

Aston Martin is on the verge of a renaissance that stands to be the biggest shift for the British automaker since it went independent in 2007 – if not since Ford took it over in the early 1990s. It's got a new chief executive, a new engine deal in place with Mercedes-AMG, a new platform under development and – if the new Lagonda sedan is anything to go by – maybe a new design direction in the works. And what do we have here? A test mule that could foreshadow one of the first new models of this new era.

Spied undergoing testing at the Nürburgring (where else), this prototype looks for the most part like the existing V12 Vantage S, but with what look to be even wider wheel arches. The question, then, is what those widened wells are there to accommodate, and the most likely conclusion would be that new Mercedes engine.

Aside from the lack of grille slats inside that trademark opening in the nose and the competition-spec alloys inset in those arches, there's not much else to go on. But that Aston is testing such a prototype at all is evidence enough that work is under way on something exciting, so watch this space.

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News Source: CarPix

Honda to present HR-V, updated Acura ILX at LA show

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 2:30PM

2016 Honda HR-V

Honda has already showcased its new Fit-based crossover around the world. We've seen it in Tokyo wearing the Vezel name and we've seen it in Paris in 'prototype' form. We've even seen photos of the US-spec version. We just haven't seen that North American model in the flesh, but that'll all be fixed next month at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

2016 Acura ILX teaserThat's where Honda will, at long last, unveil the North American version of its new HR-V subcompact. The Japanese automaker hasn't told us much else, save to say that the HR-V will, of course, slot in below the CR-V in North American showrooms. It'll also feature the company's lauded Magic Seat system, "which allows for multiple seating configurations and the ability to fold the second row seat completely flat for added cargo space."

Alongside the HR-V, Honda's luxury division will also be showcasing a revised version of its ILX sedan at the LA show as well. Acura hasn't revealed precise details of what revisions are in store for its smallest sedan – or a more detailed photo than the teaser inset at right – but it is promising "a comprehensive update that include a potent new powertrain, more forceful, sporty exterior styling and a substantially upgraded interior design."

News Source: Honda

Total oil exec killed when plane collides with drunk snowplow driver

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 2:00PM

Total CEO Chistophe De Margerie Killed in Moscow Plane Crash

Sad news out of Russia, as it's being reported that Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of France's Total Oil, has been killed along with three other people after their plane collided with a snow plow on the tarmac of Moscow's Vnukovo International Airport.

The plane de Margeri was on, a Dassault Falcon, was to fly from Moscow to Paris, after the 63-year-old exec meant with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. According to a statement by Russian authorities, "Investigators are looking at a mistake by the air traffic controllers and the actions of the driver of the snow plow. Apart from that, they will also check the versions of poor weather conditions and mistake by the crew."

"At the current time, it has already been established that the driver of the snow plow was drunk," the statement added. Investigators, meanwhile, have seized all video and audio recordings leading up to and during the incident, Russia's TASS News Agency reported.

De Margeri has been with Total since 1974, when he graduated from Paris' Ecole Superieure de Commerce business university. He took the helm of the French oil company, Europe's third largest, in 2007. He was affectionately known within the company as "Big Mustache."

"It's a huge loss to the industry and its future focus," former Shell Oil CEO John Hofmeister told the BBC. "What he has done for Total in repositioning the company to return to integrity and sound operations is deeply respected and highly regarded."

According to the BBC, Total did not have a succession plan in place, only indicating that de Margeri's successor would come from within. The company's board will be assembling as soon as possible.

News Source: BBC

Image Credit: Jacques Brinon / AP

English Bulldog is the friendliest motorcycle passenger ever

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 1:00PM

Bulldog on a motorcycle

Dogs are man's best friend, and motorcycles are a ton of fun to ride. Combine the two of them, and the result might be even better than either one alone.

Need proof? Just look at this happy pup caught on video. While this might not be the safest thing we've ever seen, it is adorable, especially since the owner was kind enough to put some vintage-look goggles (doggles?) on for some extra protection and serious cafe racer style. Plus, this English Bulldog appears to be extremely happy while cruising around. The cute canine is even courteous enough to wave at other riders with its owner.

Click here to watch, as it's sure to make you smile and then hit the jump to watch these funny dogs caught enjoying car rides too.

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News Source: Jim Michael via YouTube, Visor Down

2015 Subaru Outback

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 12:00PM

A Crossover Without Compromise

2015 Subaru Outback

Realistically, many enthusiasts give horrible, horrible car buying advice. They will recommend something bizarre, inappropriately high performance, compromised or utterly impractical for a given consumer's needs, and they'll almost never recommend something that makes sense. And then they'll come up with 3.7 million reasons why the leading vehicle someone is thinking about is a bad choice.

Or maybe that's just what I do.

Regardless, if you poke, prod, bother or just get us drunk enough, eventually you'll begin getting honest feedback. And more than likely, we'll tell you, in hushed tones, about the many virtues of very, very boring cars. We'll talk about why the Toyota Camry is actually a pretty decent purchase or we'll explain how spacious and feature laden the Nissan Versa is.

The reason for withholding recommendations of bland offerings like the aforementioned Toyota and Nissan is that there are not really a lot of vehicles that suit the often peculiar whims of the auto enthusiast while also ticking the boxes of the average consumer. Unless, of course, you're looking to drop about $30,000 on an all-wheel-drive crossover, because that's an easy one to answer – just buy a Subaru Outback.

As a high-riding, sedan-based crossover, it'll appeal to your mundane, practical-minded sensibilities, while as a nouveau wagon with a boxer engine and some personality, enthusiasts won't feel guilty about recommending it to you. I came to this conclusion following a long week with a 2015 Outback Premium 2.5i, the brand's mid-range, volume-level entry.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Brandon Turkus / AOL

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