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This Or That: Fiat 500 Abarth vs. Ford Fiesta ST

  • This Or That: Fiat 500 Abarth vs. Ford Fiesta ST
  • Pharrell Williams' Happy gets a JDM tuning twist
  • 2015 BMW M4 gets initiated into the club
  • Answering that age-old question, can you drift while being tazed?

Caparo packing 700 hp into new T1 Evolution

Posted Aug 23rd 2014 3:00PM

Caparo T1 Evolution

There are a lot of automakers that throw the term "racecar for the road" around, but few have ever taken the recipe quite as far as the Caparo T1. And now it's coming back in an even more extreme form called the T1 Evolution.

Originally launched as the Freestream T1 before the project was taken over by British engineering concern Caparo, the T1 was designed by engineers previously involved in the original McLaren F1 with the idea of building a Formula One racer you could actually drive home. When it appeared on Top Gear, it set the lap record (but wasn't recognized because it didn't meet the show's criteria). Sometime thereafter the vehicle kinda fell off the map, its extreme setup proving a little too hardcore for most. But we're glad to report it's coming back.

The teaser image above was released on the Caparo Vehicle Technologies website with a few key details about a version dubbed the Caparo T1 Evolution. For one, it'll pack 700 horsepower. For another, the chassis is being updated. There's a new suspension in the works, the cockpit is being reworked to be more comfortable and usable, and there will be new telemetry and communications systems, ABS, traction control and stability control.

All of which ought to make the T1 more usable, but also even more extreme. Considering that the existing version, thanks to its featherlike construction and 575-hp 3.5-litre V8, already packs one of the highest power-to-weight ratios in the business, the new version ought to border on insanity.

Related GalleryCaparo T1
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News Source: Caparo

Car companies used to cook up sales with recipe books

Posted Aug 23rd 2014 2:00PM

Ford cookbook

The evolution of automotive marketing has undergone a number of strange phases. Few, though, match the strangeness of the 1930s to 1950s, when automotive marketers turned to cookbooks as a means of promoting their vehicles. Yes, cookbooks. We can't make this stuff up, folks.

This bizarre trend led to General Motors distributing cookbooks under the guise of its then-subsidiary Frigidaire. Ford, meanwhile, offered a compilation of recipes from Ford Credit Employees (shown above). The cookbook-craze wasn't limited to domestic manufacturers, though. As The Detroit News discovered, both Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen got in on the trend, although not until the 1970s.

The News has the full story on this strange bit of marketing. Head over and take a look.

News Source: The Detroit News

Image Credit: erikamara

Volvo details upcoming XC90's new scalable platform

Posted Aug 23rd 2014 1:00PM

Volvo XC90 chassis

In two weeks' time, we'll be boarding a flight for Stockholm for the live reveal of the new Volvo XC90. But before we do, Volvo has revealed another round of salient details regarding not only its new crossover, but a whole range of new vehicles to share its architecture.

Volvo XC90 headlightThat platform is called Scalable Product Architecture, and it follows the latest industry trend towards modular platforms. The product of four years' development, the new platform uses high-strength boron steel to optimize weight and rigidity. The scalable architecture, set to underpin the next-generation S60, V60, XC60, S80 and anything larger, offers designers more flexibility in terms of proportions. It can be adapted to a wide range of vehicles of different shapes and sizes, designed from the get-go to incorporate a range of powertrains (including the XC90's new twin-charged hybrid system) and all the latest safety technologies you'd expect from a Volvo.

The XC90, Volvo has revealed, will also offer increased interior flexibility, with movable second and third rows to optimize cargo space and legroom as needed. That third row is designed to accommodate children (or small adults) up to five-foot-seven. Meanwhile the image inset above gives us our first glimpse at the new XC90's styling, with T-shaped running lights inspired by Thor's hammer.

News Source: Volvo

Tesla Model S driver goes from Mexico to Alaska, loves the experience

Posted Aug 23rd 2014 12:00PM

tesla model s

As range anxiety lessens, and more chargers are installed along major roadways, increasing numbers of people are taking road trips in their electric vehicles. The Tesla Model S in particular has become the go-to vehicle for electric touring. When equipped with the 85-kWh battery pack, the Model S offers up to 426 kilometres (265 miles) of range, which is a respectable distance to cover in one sitting. It's still notable, though, when a Model S driver makes a particularly long trek, especially when much of the route is mostly devoid of Tesla Superchargers.

Guy Hall, the president of the Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association, drove his Tesla Model S from the US/Mexico border outside of Yuma, Arizona to Fairbanks, Alaska in just 17 days. He calls the trip the T5 (Tesla Tijuana to Tundra Tour), and he encourages other people to make the journey, despite the challenge of driving through areas that are sparsely populated.

Charging "slows you down to take a break. I've met some marvelously nice people here." – Guy Hall

Driving through California, Oregon, and Washington isn't too difficult. North of Vancouver, British Columbia is where charging starts to get a little tricky. Hall says that when gas stations with electrical outlets were few and far between, he stopped at RV parks to charge (a trick of the Tesla tripping trade we've seen before). Hall made use of his charms, and would offer rides in his Model S to curious employees at mechanic and welding shops in return for the opportunity to more quickly charge his battery using their 240-volt outlets. While the trip took quite a bit longer than it would have in the Ford Taurus Hall owned before switching to EVs, it allowed him to soak in the beauty of his surroundings, meet people along the way and answer questions about the Model S. Charging "slows you down to take a break," says Hall. "I've met some marvelously nice people here."

Guy Hall now hopes to turn the T5 trip into a sort of event, where EV drivers who make the trip in the shortest amount of time could win a trophy. If you're interested in making a similar journey, Hall has posted his route from Sacramento northward, here. Read more about Hall's journey at News Miner, or read his thread at Tesla Motors Club.

Tesla Connects US Coast-to-Coast Supercharger Network

News Source: News Miner

Image Credit: Tesla

Google testing the autonomous motorcycle waters in California

Posted Aug 23rd 2014 11:00AM

Ghostrider, DARPA two-Wheeled entrant

Apparently not content to field a fleet of four-wheeled autonomous cars, reports are floating in that the Internet giant has petitioned the State of California to allow the testing of autonomous motorcycles, as well. The team at Google, apparently led by engineer Anthony Levandowski, has designed and built a riderless motorcycle cleverly called Ghostrider that is capable of travelling to a predetermined destination without a rider.

According to Visordown, Ron Medford, the director of safety for Google's self-driving car program, wrote a letter to the appropriate officials in California, suggesting that the tech company wants to test alternative forms of autonomous transportation. "It is certainly possible that future testing could include motorcycles or larger commercial vehicles," he said. "If some innovator can demonstrate that testing autonomous technology on such vehicles is safe, then they should be allowed to test."

Not everyone agrees with that sentiment, however. Earlier in the year, Levandowski's personal home was targeted by a group of activists calling themselves the Counterforce. A non-violent protest was staged at his private Berkeley residence due to his work for Google's autonomous driving and mapping programs.

We're not quite ready to anoint Google as the real-life Cyberdyne Systems or its self-driving technology the real-world Skynet, but we are watching its autonomous programs – be they two-, four- or 18-wheeled – with interest. Moto-Terminator, anyone? Just kidding... mostly.

UPDATE: For more on the specifics of what Google is trying to do – namely, get the legislation changed so that it doesn't preclude any specific vehicle types, not necessarily building its own two-wheeled drones – check out this article from Jalopnik.

News Source: Visordown

Image Credit: Ryan Somma / Flickr

Chevy teases new Niva concept for Moscow debut

Posted Aug 23rd 2014 10:01AM

Chevrolet Niva Concept

It's not every day that a new Niva comes along. Lada has, after all, been producing its version since 1977, and through a joint venture between AvtoVaz and General Motors, a Chevy-badged version since 1998. Sure, there's been talk of creating a new one. Bertone even gave it a facelift a few years ago. But what we have here could be the biggest step forward in the history of one of the oldest models still on the road.

Chevrolet Niva ConceptThat is, if it's actually put into production, because what we're looking at here is a concept. Set to be revealed later this month at the Moscow Motor Show, this new Chevrolet Niva concept hints at a potential replacement for the long-serving Lada and Chevy off-roader that predates even the pioneering Suzuki Sidekick.

Details are as sketchy as the teaser images released with the press release below (which we've included in translated form as well), but we do know that it'll be rugged. It'll also have 16-inch wheels fitted with all-terrain rubber, underbody protection, air snorkel, light guards, roof rails and auxiliary lighting to make it, in concept at least, "the perfect choice for buyers who love their country [Russia] and want to enjoy its vast open spaces at any time of the year."

News Source: Chevrolet

Next-gen Toyota Tacoma mule caught towing in the desert

Posted Aug 23rd 2014 9:00AM

Toyota Tacoma mule

With the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon set to arrive in dealers in the near future, it's high time Toyota got to work on a replacement for the Tacoma, a vehicle whose present generation debuted in the middle of the Bush Administration. Now, we have images of that new pickup undergoing testing.

Our spy photographers picked up this heavily modified mule undergoing tow tests in the desert. It rides on a modified version of the current Taco's frame, as evidenced by shots of its undercarriage, although our spies cite the lack of riveted sections as indications that the current truck's footprint should remain unchanged.

Aside from underbody changes, this particular Tacoma featured a six-speed manual transmission, which we're expecting to be joined by a six-speed automatic. The current four- and five-speed autos found on the current truck will almost certainly be killed off. Marching to the grave with those slushboxes will be the two-door Regular Cab body style. Our spies are expecting Toyota to focus its efforts on the larger, more accessible Double Cab.

Take a look up top for the heavily detailed gallery of images of the new Tacoma in action. Expect the next-gen Tacoma to arrive later in 2015, likely as a 2016 model.

Image Credit: KGP Photography

This Or That: Fiat 500 Abarth vs. Ford Fiesta ST

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 8:00PM

Which Hot Hatch Is Best? We Argue It Out...

Fiat vs Ford

They're pretty darn similar. And yet our views are oh so different.

If you guys could read the transcripts of our editors' chat room, you'd know that we're a pretty argumentative bunch. It's always good-spirited stuff (well, usually), but when we're not obsessively covering this or that, we're usually fighting about one car being better than another. We're all enthusiasts here, and our automotive tastes run the gamut from the weird and unusual to the decidedly mainstream – we all feel strongly about specific cars in a given segment. While it usually makes for good conversation, if we're passionate enough, it can turn into a tomato-throwing showdown.

I'm pretty well-known 'round these parts as the hot hatch guy, and anyone who's listened to the Autoblog Podcast recently has heard me rave about lovely little turbo cars like the Volkswagen GTI or Ford Fiesta ST, specifically. But I'm not the only one with a burning desire for some functional, affordable performance goodness – every one of us can find a hot hatch or two to really get behind.

In that spirit, we're kicking off our new This Or That segment with a discussion about my favourite class of car. For my money and thrills, nothing beats the Ford Fiesta ST. But ask managing editor Jeremy Korzeniewski the same question, and he'll cast a vote for the Fiat 500 Abarth. I think he's dead wrong, of course, but on the contrary, Jeremy scoffs at the level of my love for Ford's pint-sized puncher.

So, who's right? Read through our arguments below, vote in our poll, and sound off with your own opinion in the Comments.

Here's the Youabian Puma in motion

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 6:57PM

Youabian Puma

Want to know the low point of my trip to Monterey for last week's Car Week festivities? It wasn't the four-hour layover in Phoenix or getting stuck in the horrible traffic surrounding the event. No, it happened at the Concorso Italiano, when after strolling through the fields of gorgeous Alfa Romeo Montreals, Maserati Meraks, shockingly rust-free Lancia classics and the largest and most varied collection of Ferrari and Lamborghini gorgeousness that I've ever laid eyes on, I stumbled across this – the Youabian Puma.

Why it was at the Concorso, I've no idea. But there it was, in all its big – and I mean big – blue fury, standing in stark contrast to the beautiful sheetmetal that populated the lawn at Monterey's Black Horse Golf Course.

This is, so far as we recall, the first time we've seen the Puma in motion and playing in traffic. In case you somehow missed its memorable debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November, we're now offering you the chance to see this curvy, US$1.1M leviathan for yourselves. It's worth watching, if only to better appreciate the scale of the Puma out on public roads. It's quite... something.

News Source: Youabian Puma via YouTube

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL