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HIGHLIGHTS: 2014 LA Auto Show

  • HIGHLIGHTS: 2014 LA Auto Show
  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG S 4Matic stands out in the LA crowd
  • 2016 Mazda CX-3 is the newest KODO designed crossover
  • 2016 Cadillac ATS-V blasts into LA Auto Show

2016 Smart Fortwo to breed more potent Brabus version

Posted Nov 21st 2014 1:59PM

2016 Smart Fortwo

Those in the market for a city car with a bit of pep are undoubtedly pleased that Daimler has slotted a turbocharged three-cylinder engine into its new Smart Fortwo. But it's the only engine confirmed so far for North American dealers, and with only 89 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque on tap, there's still room for improvement. Fortunately Daimler is considering just such a prospect.

Speaking with Smart powertrain engineers while in Barcelona to drive the new Fortwo, Autoblog was told that the prospect of a more powerful Brabus model is indeed on the table, although details and exact specifications are still being worked out. We spotted just such a prototype under development this past summer, when our sources estimated the new Brabus model would offer between 105 and 120 hp. But looking at the relative increases which the venerable Daimler tuner has managed in the past, our appetites are whetted anticipating the possibility of something even more potent.

We could be looking at a new Smart Brabus with nearly 130 hp, which in a six-foot wheelbase could make it a real firecracker.

The first-generation Smart was offered in Europe as a Brabus model with 74 hp and 81 lb-ft, which was more than the output of any version offered in North America. A second Brabus model was then offered (again, sadly not in North America) with 101 hp and 108 lb-ft, which was even more powerful than even the turbo version of the incoming new model. Applying a similar formula, we could be looking at a new Smart Fortwo Brabus with substantially more power – potentially as much as 130 hp and 160 lb-ft. In a vehicle with a six-foot wheelbase, that kind of chutzpah could make it a real firecracker, especially when paired with upgraded brakes, suspension, rolling stock and aero (not to mention the conventional five-speed manual and six-speed DCT that have replaced the troublesome previous automated manual).

That output would also put it in line with the previous Renaultsport Twingo 133 – a model which Renault told us on our recent drive was a rather slow seller. But like the Daimler engineers, Renault spokesmen said they've yet to decide on a final strategy for a sport model of the new Twingo, which was jointly developed with the new Smart Forfour.

Ultimately, we understand that both partners in the rear-engined, rear-wheel drive city car project will likely settle on a performance strategy that both will enact jointly – although with neither the Forfour nor the Twingo coming to North America, our only hope in getting our hands on such a performance-oriented city car will rest on the Fortwo.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Noah Joseph / AOL

Audi A7 Sportback H-Tron Quattro packs plug-in hydrogen powertrain

Posted Nov 21st 2014 1:30PM

The Name Is Almost As Complicated As The Technology

Audi A7 H-Tron

If you think a plug-in diesel hybrid is an expensive proposition, just wait until you hear details about the just-revealed Audi A7 Sportback H-Tron Quattro. The "H" in H-Tron, as you might guess, stands for hydrogen, so say hello to a new concept that combines a plug-in battery system with a hydrogen fuel cell. Yeah, exactly.

Let's start with the numbers. On the plug-in side, the new H-Tron has an 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery that can power the car for up to 31 miles (50 km) on battery power. With electric motors on both axles – it's a Quattro, after all, but a through-the-road hybrid with electronic torque distribution management – the A7 H-Tron uses a hydrogen fuel cell and four (!) H2 tanks to offer about 62 miles per gallon (3.8L/100km) equivalent. Audi says the overall fuel cell stack efficiency is "as high as 60 per cent" while the electric motors operate at 95 per cent efficiency.

Efficiently turning all of that electricity into movement means the A7 Sportback H-Tron Quattro has a total power output of 398.3 pound-feet of torque. The 4,299-pound (1,950-kilogram) concept can allegedly go from 0-100 km/h (0-62 miles per hour) in 7.9 seconds and has a top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph). The car's total range is 500 kilometres (311 miles).

The A7 H-Tron is not the first plug-in hydrogen vehicle concept. That title goes to the Ford HySeries Edge. Mazda also considered putting a hydrogen range extender in the Mazda5 plug-in van.

News Source: Audi

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Jeremy Clarkson in trouble again over tweet, says it wasn't him

Posted Nov 21st 2014 1:00PM

Amber Lounge Fashion Monaco

There's a trend developing when it comes to the controversial host of the BBC's Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson. On the one hand, there have been more than a few times where the presenter inserted his foot very deep into his mouth with some racist or culturally insensitive joke. There are other times where the 54-year-old's guilt can certainly be questioned. We think this might be one of those times.

A photo emerged on Clarkson's Twitter account that showed a sign that read "Entrance to slope," which the host captioned with, "This is just obscene." The photo and caption could be seen as a reference to Clarkson's dressing down by the UK's equivalent of the Federal Communications Commission, OFCOM, after his comments during Top Gear's Christmas special. In that episode, the TG team built a bridge over a Thai river, which ended with a local man crossing it, with Clarkson pointing out that there was a slope on it. This double entendre led to an uproar in the UK press, a reprimand from OFCOM and a $1.66-million lawsuit from an Indian-born actress.

Considering that saga, it could pretty easily be alleged that Clarkson's tweet is simply making light of the situation. This time, though, Jezza says he wasn't the one behind the ill-conceived tweet, claiming he left his phone unattended before deleting the offending image.

What do you think? Is this much ado about nothing? Is Clarkson, once again, being insensitive? Scroll down for the Clarkson's string of tweets, including his slightly not-safe-for-work response to outlets like ​The Daily Mirror and The Independent (it involves a Shetland pony), and then make your argument in Comments.

News Source: The Independent via The Daily Mirror

Image Credit: Mark Thompson / Getty Images

Car and Driver 10Best list cracked by Tesla Model S, BMW 2 Series

Posted Nov 21st 2014 12:30PM

Tesla Model S

Car and Driver 10Best LogoCar and Driver is keeping the new blood pumping into its annual 10Best cars list with three new entries making it on for 2015 and a perennial favourite falling off. Among the biggest shocks this year is that the BMW 3 Series and 4 Series are no longer named, despite years of some portion of that lineup earning a mention. In another surprise, the Tesla Model S (specifically in S 60 trim to fit under the US$80,000 cost cap) makes it to the 2015 tally and is the only electrically motivated member of the group.

Despite the loss of the 3 Series, BMW isn't entirely shut out this year because the M235i gets its name on the list. Car and Driver argues that the little coupe feels like a welcome throwback to the E46 chassis M3 of the early 2000s. In addition to the Model S, the final newbie to the annual group is the 2015 Ford Mustang GT. The inclusion of these new members knocks the Audi A6/A7 family and Ford Fiesta ST out from the 2014 rundown.

The other seven models carry over from last year, including the Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, Honda Accord, Mazda3, Mazda6, Porsche Boxster/Cayman and Volkswagen Golf/GTI.

The 2015 10Best cars list certainly seems to have something for everyone from the hot hatch fan to the family man and even the green car driver, thanks to the addition of the Tesla. Head over to Car and Driver to read its detailed explanations for each vehicle's inclusion, but if you think there's a model blatantly missing, let us know in Comments.

News Source: Car and Driver

Image Credit: Car and Driver, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Porsche, Tesla, Volkswagen

2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet

Posted Nov 21st 2014 12:00PM

Four Rings, Four Seats, For Fun

Audi A3 Cabriolet

When my 758-mile (1,342 km) journey on the A3 TDI Challenge came to an end in Boulevard, CA, Audi had a very nice consolation prize waiting for me: the 2015 A3 Cabriolet you see here. And with miles left to drive before reaching my hotel in Coronado (just outside of San Diego), what better way to celebrate my personal victory of achieving nearly 3.9 L/100km or 60 miles per gallon in the TDI than to run the rest of the route in couple of turbocharged A3 droptops? After all, the efficiency part of my drive was done, so it was time to have some fun.

The A3 Cabriolet comes to market just as the sun sets on another four-seat convertible from the Volkswagen Group stable: the Eos. That car, often criticized as being too expensive, is technically replaced by the Beetle Convertible as far as VW-badged products go. But for those who still prefer something a bit more upmarket, the A3 Cabriolet will fill the void nicely, and with more style and grace than the Eos ever had. Read on.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Steven J. Ewing / AOL

Dissecting the biggest factors in why millenials aren't driving

Posted Nov 21st 2014 11:30AM

Drive It Home

Millennials are driving less than previous generational groups. It's a reality which North America is dealing with at the moment, which automakers are trying their best of overcome and which sociologists are apparently studying with increasing intensity. The question is, why?

That's the question which Citylab, a website run by The Atlantic, seeks to answer in this latest piece of analysis. According to the site, there are a number of factors to consider, each of which contributes in its own way to the decline in American driving.

For one thing, Millennials are relocating to city centres where driving is less prevalent. For another, the study finds, white North Americans drive more than other ethnicities, and the ethnic diversity of North American society is on the rise. Education plays a factor in that more educated adults tend to drive more than those with lower levels of education, as do income levels – and while the Millennial generation may be more educated than those that came before, their income levels have dropped.

Millennials are also living more by themselves, starting families later, getting their driver's licences later and buying cars later. Environmental factors and the influence of technology also play their part, painting a picture of a wide array of factors spelling bad news for cars and drivers. Head on over to Citylab for the full detailed breakdown.

News Source: Citylab

Image Credit: Bret Hartman/AP

Volkswagen Golf R 400 Concept still makes us swoon

Posted Nov 21st 2014 11:00AM

Volkswagen Golf R400 Concept

We know, we know – this hot little guy isn't really new or anything. Volkswagen first rolled out the Golf R 400 concept in Beijing earlier this year, and since its debut, we've heard rumours that the German automaker might-perhaps-maybe-hopefully build the thing. Its showing here in Los Angeles simply marks the first time it's debuting in North America, and honestly, we can't get enough. So here it is, again. Hello, Golf R 400 – we love you.

And what's not to love? What starts as a normal Golf R gets better with a more aggressive appearance, big wheels, some tasteful neon yellow accents, and a whole mess of power. The original concept packed 395 horsepower from an overblown 2.0-litre turbo-four, though the most recent reports suggest a production version could produce over 400 hp. To keep it all in line, the concept has all-wheel drive. And inside, it's the same functional, comfortable Golf we've always loved.

There's nothing left to say, really. We love this car, and you should, too. Check it out in the gallery above.

Toyota Mirai offers promising tech, unfortunate looks

Posted Nov 21st 2014 10:30AM

2016 Toyota Mirai

Is there some rule that all cutting-edge, ultra-efficient or emissions-free vehicles need to look, uh, weird? No? Then would anyone care to explain the Toyota Mirai, a vehicle that for all it's hugely, wildly promising technology, will forever be pigeonholed based on its odd styling?

Looks aside, the Mirai represents a big gamble for Toyota, which isn't only selling a hydrogen-powered car – a risky venture in itself – but teaming up with Air Liquide to build 12 hydrogen filling stations across the northeast. And once that's done, it plans on leasing the US$57,000 sedans for just US$499 month (Canadian availability is not yet known), a figure that includes free hydrogen (there is a reason for that, though). Like we said, this is a big gamble.

Of course, we still can't get over its looks, which you can more closely analyze in our live gallery, available above. Have a glance.

Mini forgets to bring car to LA, shows Citysurfer concept scooter

Posted Nov 21st 2014 10:00AM

Mini Citysurfer Concept

See that red thing? It's the Mini Citysurfer Concept. It is not, in case you were wondering, an automobile. Yet despite this apparent shortcoming, Mini has placed it on a plinth at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show.

The electric scooter weighs in at 18 kilograms (40 pounds), can hit 25 km/h (15 miles per hour), cover 16-25 km (10 to 15 mile)s and can be folded up and charged in the trunk of a Mini Cooper (or any other vehicle with a 12-volt outlet and a roomy enough cargo area). According to the British marque, these qualities will give the scooter's owner the "spontaneous and convenient mobility even in those sections of an urban area not accessible to motorized vehicles."

It's not terribly difficult to see the appeal, as Mini explains it. With urban congestion becoming an increasingly serious problem – and some cities beginning to ban cars outright – the idea of an easy to charge and easy to stow runabout is extremely attractive. That's doubly true in the case of the Citysurfer, which is rather well equipped, as far as scooters go.

It rides on pneumatic tires with a disc brake on each end, while the vital electrical bits are protected from dirt and rain by the scooter's trim. In terms of rider comfort, the Citysurfer features a height-adjustable steering shaft and smartphone holder, so riders can navigate over the last mile of the trip.

Take a look below for the official press release on the Citysurfer Concept from Mini, and then head into Comments if you'd be interested in this sort of solution for urban driving.

News Source: Mini