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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?

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

Vancouver airport hilariously parodies sports car ad... for new luggage cart?

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 6:30PM

Vancouver Airport's Luggage Cart Promo Hilariously Parodies Sports Car Ads

Vancouver International Airport is promoting its new free luggage carts with the hilarious ad shown above that parodies sports car commercials we're used to seeing.

Much like the latest performance car commercial, this ad claims they're lighter, stronger and faster than the old model. A new handbrake makes them safer... And the wheels are made of "dual composite rubber for better grip and durability," according to the airport's video.

Watch the clip above as the fleet of "new and improved" baggage carts rolls out in the slick video produced to promote them. Sporting a "sleek, upright, ergonomic design," the 3,000 carts feature major upgrades, the airport says.

Best of all, these high-performance carts are free to use terminal-wide. Click here to watch the video for yourself.


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Camaro Z/28 and Mitsubishi Starion meet in this nostalgic vision of '87 Japan

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 5:57PM

Orange Orchid music video

The '80s is just far enough away now that it no longer seems like an era defined by Reagonomics and neon clothing. Filmmaker Matt Clark has embraced the look of the music videos of the decade in his new short film titled Orange Orchid, set in 1987 in Chiba and Yokohama, Japan. The video features some great sports coupes of the time and is set to the song I Know There's Something Going On from Abba-alum Frida (along with drumming and backup vocals from Phil Collins).

Clark really embraces the pop-culture look of the era's videos with big hair, a healthy dash of neon, inexplicable smoky rooms and big, over-wrought movements. However, the real stars for us are the pair of '80s sports coupes that also kind of personify the main characters. Nijo in her denim jacket has a modded Camaro Z/28 with huge, dished wheels rockin' that Hellaflush style. Naturally, the Chevy also features some great butterscotch paint and a car phone inside. Alex, the guy pursuing her, forgoes any obvious upgrades in favor a clean, all-white Mitsubishi Starion to go along with his tailored suit and giant cell phone.

We wish this video featured the cars a bit more prominently, but that drumbeat from Collins on this forgotten 80s gem is pretty fantastic, too. Give it a listen in the video.

News Source: Matt Clark via Vimeo

GM admits Cadillac ELR no real competition for Tesla Model S

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 5:00PM

Cadillac ELR

Last year, then-CEO of General Motors, Dan Akerson, made it clear that the company lookouts at the Ren Cen had California automaker Tesla in their sights. "If you want to compete head-to-head with Tesla, and we ultimately will, you want to do it with a Cadillac," he said.

So, given the fact that the Cadillac ELR has a plug and sells for roughly the same price at the Tesla Model S ($77,800 vs $78,250, before incentives) and that Cadillac doesn't have any other electric vehicle on the horizon, you'd be forgiven if you thought that the way that Akerson wanted to challenge Tesla's EV success was with the ELR. Well, you'd apparently be wrong.

"The ELR is a different car, it's a different price point. It's way-different technology." - GM's Mark Reuss

Speaking yesterday in Detroit, GM's head of global product development, Mark Reuss, admitted that the ELR is not the Tesla competitor that Akerson promised. "People like to say the ELR is [competition for the Model S], but it's really not. It's a different car, it's a different price point. It's way-different technology." So, if we follow that logic to conclusion with Akerson's quote from last year, then the only way that Cadillac can eventually compete with Tesla is with a pure electric car, and that seems an outside chance, at best, for the foreseeable future.

Through the end of July, Cadillac has sold 578 ELRs since it went on sale earlier this year. Tesla has sold 15,114 Model S EVs around the world in the first six months of 2014.

For his part, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has already said that GM is headed down the wrong path with plug-in hybrids like the ELR or the Chevy Volt. Speaking about the Volt last year, Musk said, Chevy "sort of created something that's a bit of amphibian," which resulted in a car that's, "Okay but not great."

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News Source: The Detroit News

Meteor sighting over DVP in Toronto caught on dashcam

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 3:59PM

Last night, select Torontonians were lucky enough to spot moving balls of fire across the sky. One driver that goes by the YouTube name of russ0035 was fortunate enough to capture it on his dashcam as he was travelling up the Don Valley Parkway.

While not as dramatic as the meteor showers caught on camera in Russia last year, it's still pretty neat. Meteor showers are common this time of year and there have been a slew of sightings around Toronto in the past month.

The guys here in the Autoblog Canada office aren't convinced it was only a meteor shower... instead, we know the truth is out there. We want to believe.

Check out the video below and let us know what you think.

News Source: russ0035 via YouTube