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Porsche working on turbo V12 for Putin limo project?

Posted Oct 25th 2014 6:00PM

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ex

Porsche is best known for building very well-regarded sports cars and better-selling utility vehicles. Come to the company with a big enough bag of cash, though, and the Porsche Engineering division can create just about anything. The group's past projects include working with Harley-Davidson, Mercedes-Benz and corporate cousin Audi, but if rumours prove true, then its latest partner might be the last one you'd expect.

Russian website Wroom reports that Porsche Engineering is building the engine for the Project Cortege government limousine project for Russian president Vladimir Putin. The mill is supposedly a turbocharged V12 displacing between 6.0- and 6.6-litres and making around 800 horsepower. When complete, it will reportedly be built by ZMZ with Russian-sourced parts.

The limo is expected to debut in 2017, according to Wroom, but it's just the beginning of Putin's grandiose plans, which also goes by the name of the Motorcade Project. The same platform is also meant to underpin several vehicles for use by the government, including an SUV, a small bus and a sedan. All of them would reportedly have a longitudinally mounted engine and all-wheel drive.

The Porsche link to Project Cortege isn't entirely new. Russian media snapped a picture of a model of one design a few months back, and that vehicle reportedly had some engineering input from the German company. The work on the limo was estimated to have cost the government between $150 million and $400 million, even at that stage.

However, it might be safe to take the apparent success of this whole scheme with a grain of sale. Putin's project has been in the works for several years. Initially, ZiL created the ZiL-4112P as a new government limousine, but the Russian premier reportedly was unhappy with it. Since then, it's been back to the drawing board.

News Source: Wroom via World Car Fans

Image Credit: Viktor Drachev / AFP / Getty Images

Land Rover spotted testing long-wheelbase Range Rover SVR at the 'Ring

Posted Oct 25th 2014 4:00PM

Land Rover Range Rover L SVR spied

For the past couple of decades, Land Rover has watched pretender after contender try to topple it from its throne as the world's ultimate purveyor of luxury SUVs. The British automaker has answered with an ever-expanding and ever-improving array of entries of its own, capped by a flagship Range Rover that seems to go more upscale every year, positioning itself as the high-riding counterpart to fellow British luxury marques like Jaguar and Bentley. It might even abide by the Leaping Cat, its sister company, launching a crossover of its own – heck, it'll even lend a helping hand or two – but in the case of Bentley, well, it won't be so quick to concede ground. What we're looking at here seems to be the fight it's preparing to put up.

This camouflaged prototype was spotted entering JLR's test centre at the Nürburgring (our base for the day when we drove the XFR-S Sportbrake and other supercharged Jaguar specials recently around the Nordschleife). But what is it, exactly? It appears to be based on the long-wheelbase version of the Range Rover introduced nearly a year ago, but if you look around back you'll see four round tailpipes protruding from under that geometrically camo'd rear bumper – suggesting (even more than its presence at the 'Ring) that something more potent is afoot.

The natural conclusion is that JRL's new Special Vehicle Operations department is preparing an SVR version of the Range Rover L, which would likely feature the same 5.0-litre supercharged V8 as the XFR-S, XJR, F-Type R and (most poignantly) the new Range Rover Sport SVR. The engine will presumably arrive in similar 550-horsepower spec, but could also conceivably go for the 575 horses squeezed out for the Project 7 roadster. A sportier chassis, enhanced aero and upgraded brakes would help keep all that power and heft in check as it hustles VIPs around at breakneck speeds – and give Bentley's forthcoming SUV (which promises unprecedented levels of luxury with a 200-mph (320 km/h) top end a high-speed run for its leather suitcases full of pounds sterling.

Image Credit: CarPix

BMW X4 M40i caught production-ready

Posted Oct 25th 2014 1:58PM

BMW X4 M40i

It seems like BMW is pretty committed to this whole X4 thing. Aside from the current xDrive28i and xDrive35i, we've captured a round of spy photos showing what our spy shooters tell us is a more dynamic M40i model.

The higher-performance hunchback follows in the footsteps of BMW's other sub-M cars like the M235i. In fact, much like the high-po 2 Series, the M40i is expected to make use of a 3.0-litre, turbocharged six-cylinder, developing 365 to 375 horsepower.

Aside from that, the rest of the X4 M40i fits the brief of other near-M models, with a more aggressive body kit, larger wheels, firmer suspension and brawnier brakes. Expect some mild tweaks inside, too, including sportier seats and an M-specific steering wheel.

Judging by the uncamouflaged nature of this tester caught testing on Germany's Nürburgring, production will kick off before the end of the year, perhaps in December. That means a LA Auto Show debut is likely, provided BMW opts to sell the hotter X4 in the North American market. Take a look above for our full gallery of spy photos.

Related Gallery2015 BMW X4
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Image Credit: CarPix

Allan Hill, last resident of Detroit's iconic Packard plant may get pushed out [w/video]

Posted Oct 25th 2014 1:00PM

Allan Hill lives at the Packard Plant

The old Packard Plant in Detroit is one of the city's icons. All at once, it represents the vibrant history of the Motor City, its rocky past decades and the chance for something new to spring up. Despite the Packard buildings sitting empty for years, there's still life there. Among other things, it's a common spot for artists to practice their work, including Banksy several years ago. However, recent demolitions might bring a final end to the famous spot as we know it and threatens to make the site's only legal resident homeless, along with it.

According to The Detroit News, Allan Hill has been living in a warehouse on the Packard Plant campus for about the last eight years. He has become the site's caretaker of sorts by trying to prevent further destruction there and giving tours to visitors.

Now, the owner of the warehouse is putting the building up for sale, as part of increased development at the dilapidated factory. Read The Detroit News' report to learn more about Hill and the plant's future, and scroll down to watch a video about this fascinating man and his home.

News Source: The Detroit News

The List Shorts #0530: Change your own oil

Posted Oct 25th 2014 12:00PM

Change your own oil

Having your oil changed falls under Car Maintenance 101, but doing it yourself has been a right of passage for generations of auto enthusiasts. Patrick McIntyre of The List heads to Avus Autosport in Glendale, CA for some tips on how to properly swap the synthetic on an older model BMW.

Watch as Patrick checks "change your own oil" off of his list in this Shorts video – perhaps it'll inspire you to get under your own car this weekend.

Why narrower 10-foot roads may be safer than 12-foot roads

Posted Oct 25th 2014 10:00AM

Bicycle Buffer Zones

We live in a society where more is generally considered better. We want improved fuel economy from our cars, more data from our phones and a better picture from TVs. But when it comes to engineering some roads, giving drivers more room might not actually be an advantage. There's some evidence that switching from the current 12-foot standard for lanes to 10-foot-wide lanes for urban streets could boost safety. The change might potentially mean around 900 fewer fatal crashes each year.

An article on CityLab, a site that brings scientific thinking to the questions of urban life, investigates the current state of traffic engineering for lane width, and the author lays down a compelling argument about making things narrower. Two-feet might not sound like a lot, but when multiplied over the whole roadway, you end up with quite a bit of extra real estate to play with.

The piece explains some of the reasons that 12-foot lanes are the standard in the first place and then breaks each of those arguments down to show that they might be a fallacy. If nothing else, the story makes you think more about traffic engineering than you probably have in years. Read the whole story for yourself, here.

News Source: CityLab

Image Credit: Richard Vogel / AP Photo

Toyota Prius + gets refresh in UK, is it coming here?

Posted Oct 25th 2014 9:00AM

Toyota Prius +

Toyota has unveiled a mid-cycle refresh of its seven-passenger, UK-market Prius +, known here in North America as the five-passenger Prius V. The revised hybrid MPV now boasts looks inspired by Toyota's more aggressive compact stylings as seen on its new Yaris and Aygo – particularly in the redone front fascia.

The new LED headlights are the most obvious change, sporting a sharper style, while the vertical slats that bookend front fascia are much larger and deeper, and are now home to LED running lights. The lower grille is also newly enlarged and trimmed in black plastic. Changes out back are far less noticeable, with the biggest tweak being a new diffuser that's been integrated into the rear bumper.

The interior gets a light freshening, too, with fresh trimmings around the switchgear, as well as a new 4.2-inch TFT display in the center mounted instrument cluster. The latter includes a new "Eco Judge" function designed to help owners drive more efficiently through a point-based reward system.

Cosmetics aside, Toyota has also tweaked the suspension damping, added additional sound deadening and adjusted the powertrain to comply with Euro6 emission standards.

Now, what's all this mean for our Toyota Prius V? Will we see a similar refresh to our North American market vehicle? Well, we'd love to tell you yes or no, however, our calls to Toyota have thus far gone unanswered. As soon as we hear back, we'll be sure to update this story with an answer.

Until then, scroll down for the full press release from Toyota UK and check out the refreshed Prius + in our gallery.

News Source: Toyota

Nissan GT-R goes on Rockies Alberta adventure with Epic Drives

Posted Oct 24th 2014 8:00PM

Nissan GT-R Epic Drive

Years after its original debut, the Nissan GT-R remains a much-feared, well-regarded entry in the sports car landscape. Sure, many of its original competitors are onto new generations these days, but Nissan has continually improved the GT-R, giving it meaningful tweaks almost every year since it came to the US market for 2009. Reviewers also just seem to keep finding things to praise about the all-wheel drive, turbocharged coupe. In this episode of Epic Drives, the GT-R proves that in addition to being a quite pleasant road trip companion around the province of Alberta, Canada, in a pinch it can go off-road to herd some horses, too.

At its heart, Epic Drives amounts to half travelogue and half driving review. So in between snaking the GT-R through some picturesque roads, host Arthur St. Antoine takes a tour of Alberta and the Canadian Rockies. If you're in the mood to take a drive in the Nissan through a landscape that blends the looks of a prairie, the Alps and fjords, then have a seat and check this video out.

Related Gallery2015 Nissan GT-R
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News Source: Motor Trend Channel via YouTube

Image Credit: Related images copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

Berkeley findings says motorcycle lane-splitting safer than ever [w/video, poll]

Posted Oct 24th 2014 7:00PM

Motorcycle Commuter Safety

The latest study seems to indicate that riders are better off splitting lanes than ever before.

In some parts of North America, the concept of a motorcycle buzzing between lanes of slower traffic is a foreign concept, but it's an accepted practice in others. Each year since 2012, The Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at the University of California, Berkeley, conducts a study to check acceptance and safety of lane-splitting in the state, where the act is legal. The latest study seems to indicate that riders are better off splitting lanes than ever before.

Among California motorcyclists, lane-splitting is becoming increasingly accepted. In the study, 80.6 per cent of riders report doing it on freeways, about the same as before. However, of them, 37.3 per cent of them say it happens "Always" compared to 30.9 per cent in 2012.

On non-freeways, 71.4 of riders split lanes, up 10.3 per cent from 2013. Of them 32.9 per cent say it happens "Always," up 7.6 per cent from a year ago. Furthermore, 62.1 per cent of people split on both types of roads, up 7.5 per cent form 2013.

With more people splitting lanes, the question of its impact on safety arises, and the study indicates that the act is getting less dangerous, too. The UC Berkeley study shows 4.7 per cent of riders on freeways were hit by a vehicle while lane-splitting in 2014, down from 8.6 per cent in 2013 and 11.8 per cent in 2012. Non-freeways have seen a similar decline to just 2.0 per cent in 2014 compared to 7.4 per cent last year and 8.3 per cent in 2012. Motorcyclists saying they nearly hit a car or had one try to block them are both lower this year, as well. Drivers are seemingly also finding the practice more acceptable, too.

This year's study includes info from 1,660 respondents, including 951 drivers and 709 motorcycle riders, and it paints a fairly positive picture about the safety of lane-splitting. The entire 51-page study can be read here in PDF format, and scroll down for a report about the study from CBS News.

What do you think of lane-splitting? Vote in our poll below, then have your say in Comments.

Do you think motorcycle lane-splitting is safe?

News Source: California Office of Traffic Safety, CBS This Morning via YouTube

Image Credit: Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee / MCT / Getty Images

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