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Five reasons to love or hate the culture of North American cars

  • Five reasons to love or hate the culture of North American cars
  • 2015 Honda CR-V
  • Morgan Plus 8 Speedster hits the track versus BMW R Nine T
  • 2014 Cadillac ELR

Watch Dale Earnhardt Jr. review a Chevy Spark

Posted Oct 1st 2014 8:01PM

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chevy Spark Review

As a NASCAR driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., gets to be a spokesman for many, many things. His team's sponsors range from eBay, to Hellman's Mayonnaise, to Wrangler clothing, to Mountain Dew. The number 88's biggest sponsor, though, is Chevrolet.

So, when we hear that Junior is going to "review" a Chevrolet Spark, you can forgive us for raising an eyebrow. This video comes from one of the #88 car's most visible sponsors – Kelley Blue Book – and sees the wildly popular driver sample the brand's smallest offering, delivering praise and smiles through gritted teeth.

It's kind of terrible. Take a look and see what we mean.

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News Source: Kelley Blue Book via YouTube

Jay Leno's Mercedes 600 is dictator chic

Posted Oct 1st 2014 7:00PM

Mercedes-Benz 600 Kompressor

Here's a fun fact: certain classical songs double as excellent driving songs. Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries is one such example. So, as soon as you here those iconic notes, be certain you're in for some seriously cool sheet metal. Any Mercedes-Benz 600 would qualify for such a musical treatment, but Jay Leno's example is doubly worth a look.

Fortunately, the car collector/comedian is all too willing to show off his brown beauty as part of the latest episode of Jay Leno's Garage. Leno is just one of the, sometimes disturbing, list of owners of the big sedan, which includes a wide range of dictators and Jeremy Clarkson.

His example is truly pristine, restored by 600 expert Karl Middelhauve. The complex hydraulic system receives plenty of attention from Leno, as does the expansive and impressive craftsmanship in the cabin. Finally, Leno takes the boat of a car out for a ride.

Take a look at the full video on the legendary Mercedes 600.

News Source: Jay Leno's Garage via YouTube

James Bond's Goldfinger Aston Martin still missing after 17 years

Posted Oct 1st 2014 6:00PM

James Bond stolen DB5

James Bond is inextricably linked with British motoring, especially Aston Martin, but the spy with a license to kill is missing one of his most famous cars. The original DB5 packed with gadgets for the movie Goldfinger has been lost for the last 17 years with no leads as to its whereabouts.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the original release of Goldfinger – the third film that came out in the James Bond series. The movie was a smashing success in its day and forged the connection between the super spy and Aston Martin. After all, the car was every little boy's dream with machine guns in the front fenders, tire cutters in the wheels, an ejector seat and other amazing gadgets.

After it's life on the big screen, the original gadget car eventually ended up in Boca Raton, FL, at least until 1997. That's when a real-life Auric Goldfinger heisted the DB5, and it hasn't been seen since. A recent report from WPTV from West Palm Beach, FL, talked to people from the area familiar with the caper and its status today.

Assuming the car is still intact, Bond's Aston Martin would likely be worth several million dollars on the open market these days. For example, a DB5 that appeared in Goldfinger and Thunderball sold in 2010 at auction for $4.6 million.

Click here to check out the video for the full story on this long lost movie star.

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2015 BMW S 1000 RR looks to retain sportbike supremacy

Posted Oct 1st 2014 5:00PM

2015 BMW S 1000 RR

The BMW S 1000 RR is already a pretty potent member of the superbike ranks, but BMW is revealing a host of upgrades for this two-wheeled lightning bolt at the Intermot 2014 motorcycle show that should make it even faster.

The biggest additions to the latest 1000 RR are its new cylinder head, lighter valves and different intake cam to tweak even more power from the bike's 1.0-litre, four-cylinder engine, and BMW now rates it at a claimed 196 horsepower (or 199 horses if you go with the European measurement, converted from 146 kilowatts), a boost over the first-gen's 193 ponies, and 83 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed gearbox. Those adjustments would probably be enough to make the cycle a tick faster alone, but the Bavarian engineers also cut 8.82 pounds (4 kg) to bring the motorcycle's weight with a full tank of fuel to a feather-light 450 pounds (204 kg). Much of that diet comes from the redesigned exhaust that cuts about 6.6 pounds (3 kg) off the scales.

Cradling that tweaked engine is a redesigned, lighter frame with fully adjustable springs. The bike also comes standard with Race ABS, stability control, seven-step variable traction control and three riding modes. In terms of styling, all of these changes are communicated through an updated fairing with repositioned, though still asymmetric, headlights.

For buyers who want even more customization for their ride, BMW is happy to oblige. The company claims that the 1000 RR is the first model in the superbike class to offer optional cruise control. There's also an available dynamic traction control system that senses the cycle's lean angle and adjusts things accordingly. Those heading for the track can tick the box for Pro Riding mode that adds Slick and User settings, launch control and a programmable pitlane speed limiter. To shave a few more tenths off a lap, there's the HP Gear Shift Assist Pro system that allows for clutchless gear changes. Scroll down to read BMW's immense press release on the S 1000 RR for every detail you could ever want to know about this updated motorcycle.

News Source: BMW

Infiniti Q80 Inspiration Concept previews a fullsize future of luxury

Posted Oct 1st 2014 4:30PM

Infiniti Q80 Inspiration Concept

Infiniti Q80 InspirationWell, this certainly looks like a concept, doesn't it? From the wide, portal-esque door openings to the boat tail rear window design, there's just so much about the Infiniti Q80 Inspiration that looks like it would never actually reach production that we're impressed the automaker had the gumption to put the machine together and show it off at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.

This marks the first time that Infiniti has shown any sort of real intent to enter into the rarefied air of the fullsize luxury sedan segment since the Q45, populated as it is by the likes of the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Those are extremely heavy hitters to market against, and Infiniti sounds anxious to throw its hat in the ring.

"We aim to do this with elegance, style, and emotion," says Francois Bancon, Infiniti Vice President, Product Strategy. "This car is making a statement. Q80 Inspiration is a precursor of a production model in this segment and, as such, integral to our future."

Infiniti says we should expect to see production powertrains within the next two years that use the kind of technology debuted in the Q80 Inspiration. A twin-turbocharged, 3.0-litre V6 engine is paired with one or more (details are scarce, sadly) electric motors to provide 550 horsepower and on-demand all-wheel drive. What's more, Infiniti is quoting 42.8 miles per gallon (5.5L/100km) and CO2 emissions of about 129g/km for this concept, though we don't know how those figures are calculated or on what driving cycle. In any case, power and efficiency are always welcome.

The Q80 Inspiration previews a future fullsize luxury sedan from Infiniti.

Inside, Infiniti says it wanted to pack as much technology into the Q80 Inspiration as possible, without overcomplicating the driving experience. In addition to driver-activated autonomous capability, both the driver and passenger get innovative Head-Up Displays projected on the windshield, while rear-seat passengers each get their own touchscreen units. Leather and Alcantara appear to cover just about everything else.

We wouldn't expect all of the truly showstopping details to make it into production, but the overall flowing design ethos, along with what Infiniti is calling its human-centric take on high-tech interior and autonomous driving technology seem likely to join its turbocharged drivetrain buoyed by a brace of electric motors as likely additions to a future fullsize luxury sedan from Infiniti.

There's plenty more information to glean from the official press blast below, along with a full image gallery above.

News Source: Infiniti

Audi TT Sportback Concept evolves the five-door breed ahead of Paris debut

Posted Oct 1st 2014 4:00PM

Audi TT Sportback Concept

One week after a leaked sketch ran on these very pages, Audi has introduced the latest member of a "potential TT family," according to Audi board member Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg. This is the TT Sportback Concept, a five-door, 400-horsepower version of the brand's stylish sports car and at this point, it looks darn likely to herald the debut of a third body style for Audi's design icon.

Unveiled at the expansive Volkswagen group night celebration ahead of the 2014 Paris Motor Show, the TT Sportback Concept is the most evolved version of a form factor that's seen a slow striptease throughout 2014, first with the Allroad Shooting Brake Concept in Detroit and, more recently, in the Offroad Concept from the Beijing Motor Show.

For Paris, the car being shown by Audi is absent traditional concept car traits like oversized wheels, miniscule mirrors and bizarre interior treatments, giving it a far more production ready appearance than either of the previous TT-based concepts. The exterior, meanwhile, is clearly reminiscent of the third-generation car (that roofline is pure TT), although there are a number of styling decisions that remind us of the compact A3, particularly in regards to the taillights.

This heavy production basis does not, we're guessing, extend to the engine bay, which is home to a 400-horsepower, 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder. That zesty powerplant and its 332 pound-feet of torque allows the TT Sportback to hit 100 km/h (62 miles per hour) in a scant 3.9 seconds. A seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission manages this grunt, and shifts the 2.0T's power to a Quattro all-wheel-drive system.

We'll have much more on the TT Sportback Concept and everything else coming from the Volkswagen Group at the 2014 Paris Motor Show in the coming days. In the meantime, scroll down for the full press release from Audi, and check out the brand's newest concept car in the gallery, above.

News Source: Audi

Volkswagen XL Sport brings high-performance fuel-sipping to 2014 Paris Motor Show

Posted Oct 1st 2014 3:30PM

Volkswagen XL Sport

Just over one year ago, we reported on rumours that Volkswagen was pairing with its then-new corporate cousin, Italian motorcycle maker Ducatti, to build a high-performance version of the XL1, a vehicle that we (actually, I) said would be a "firecracker," thanks to its super-low curb weight, slippery aerodynamics and alleged 190-horsepower engine. Now, only slightly late for its rumoured Geneva Motor Show debut, VW is trotting out the so-called XL Sport to the 2014 Paris Motor Show.

Total output has jumped to 197 horsepower, thanks to the presence of a Ducatti 1199 Superleggera V-twin, which has been mated up to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. In addition to screaming its way to 11,000 rpm, the two-cylinder engine will help the XL Sport zip to 100 km/h (62 mph) in a brisk 5.8 seconds before reaching a top speed of 270 km/h (168 mph).

270 km/h (168 mph) is a lofty speed for a 200-hp vehicle, and it wouldn't be possible without VW's obsessive streamlining of the XL Sport's body.

That's a lofty speed for a 200-horsepower vehicle, and it wouldn't be possible without VW's obsessive streamlining of the XL Sport's body. Featuring a 0.258 coefficient of drag, it's not as efficient as the standard XL1's 0.189, thanks to the presence of wider tires, increased downforce and additional cooling ducts. Still, the XL is sleek enough for VW to claim the title of most aerodynamic sports car.

A pushrod rear suspension and forged magnesium wheels are just a few of the race-minded items underpinning the XL Sport, indicating that on top of being a quick little scamp, it should prove a capable dancer.

While Volkswagen is planning on building 250 XL1s, at this point there's no indication that the XL Sport will be sold to the public. We're guessing that question could depend on the public's reaction to the unique sportster when it makes its debut in the coming days at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.

Scroll down for the full press release from Volkswagen, and then head into the gallery and take a closer look at the XL Sport.

News Source: Volkswagen

Lamborghini reveals Asterion LPI 910-4 hybrid hypercar concept

Posted Oct 1st 2014 3:01PM

Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4

There are automakers that roll out concept cars regularly as a matter of course, and there are those that rarely do. Lamborghini falls squarely in the latter category, which makes the vehicle you see here - revealed just a day before the Paris Motor Show - such a rare treat.

It's called the Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4, and if you're familiar with Sant'Agata nomenclature, you're probably already picking apart its specs based on those letters and numbers: LP for longitudinal posterior, telling you this is, like all other contemporary Raging Bulls, a mid-engined supercar. 910 tells you how much metric horsepower it packs. The 4 tells you it's all-wheel drive. But along with the name Asterion, borrowed from a mythical minotaur (a hybrid man-bull, for those unschooled in Greek mythology), it's the letter I – standing for "Ibrido" – which speaks of the novelty of this concept.

That's right, you're looking at the first gasoline-electric hybrid Lamborghini. A plug-in hybrid, in fact, that can travel 50 kilometres (31 miles) on electricity alone. The powertrain combines the 5.2-litre V10 and seven-speed DSG from the Huracán (good for 610 metric horsepower) to a trio of electric motors (good for another 300) to bring total output up to a claimed 910 – equivalent to 897 hp by our standards - assuming all four motors are running at peak output at the same time. That makes it the most powerful Lamborghini we've ever seen, and puts it in league with the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari. The result is a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time quoted at three seconds flat and a top speed of 320 km/h (199 miles per hour), or up to 125 km/h (78 mph) in pure electric mode.

That's right, you're looking at the first gasoline-electric hybrid Lamborghini.

Of course there's more to the Asterion than its powertrain, exceptional as it is. The striking form is pure Lambo, all sharp angles, intersecting lines and big vents. Closer to the softer Huracán than the pure visual aggression of the Aventador, the concept has a longer front deck vaguely reminiscent of the Miura. The interior, like those of every production Lambo since Urraco (and the LM002) is a pure two-seater, rendered in a decidedly lighter tan and brown but with all the requisite carbon-fibre trim. The doors open more out than up, something in between the Huracán's conventional portals and the Aventador's scissors, in a similar (but more aggressive) approach to the swan doors you'd find on an Aston Martin.

The big question, of course, is whether Lamborghini has any intention of building the Asterion, and any answer at this point would be pure speculation. But considering how much attention (and what big price tags) its rivals have garnered for their hybrid hypercars, and the capacity Lambo has created for producing small runs of rare machinery like the Veneno and Sesto Elemento, our reaction would likely be more delighted than shocked. Whether or not the Asterion itself ever reaches customer hands, though, you can bet that the hybrid powertrain eventually will, in some form or another.

News Source: Lamborghini

Chevy Silverado Toughnology Concept gets ready for SEMA

Posted Oct 1st 2014 2:31PM

Silverado Toughnology Concept

Aluminum is the big buzzword in the pickup world these days, especially with the upcoming 2015 Ford F-150 shedding over 700-pounds (317 kilograms) by switching to the lightweight metal. The question on pundits' and buyers' minds is when (or if) General Motors and Ram Trucks could make a similar shift. However, Chevrolet is showing that there is still room for good-ole' fashioned steel in the truck world with its Toughnology Concept.

The Toughnology concept is based on the 2015 Silverado 1500 with a 5.3-litre V8 in LTZ trim and clearly takes aim at naysayers proclaiming the end of metal's use in trucks. It uses about 67 per cent ultra- and high-strength steel in its cab. According to Chevy, not only is the material around 30 per cent lighter than conventional carbon steel but also offers improved strength too.

The automaker even takes an obvious shot at Ford in the concept's announcement saying that the use of high-strength steel "offers significant mass savings at a lower cost than aluminum, which helps keep down the overall vehicle cost." Clearly, it knows where the competition is.

Chevy wants to bring the Silverado's underpinnings to the fore, and it paints the Toughnology in a shade of silver that emulates the colour of raw steel. If that doesn't get the message across, it even has the molecular model for the metal on the side of the body. Further styling enhancements include a black hood, mesh grille, 22-inch wheels and tinted headlight covers. For some boosted capability, the concept also has a new air intake, performance exhaust and upgraded brakes.

Like the Colorado Sport concept, this one is on display both at the State Fair of Texas and at the upcoming SEMA show. Find the full release about the truck, below.

Related GalleryChevrolet Silverado Toughnology Concept
Chevrolet Silverado Toughnology ConceptChevrolet Silverado Toughnology Concept

News Source: Chevrolet