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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

2015 Volkswagen Golf R [w/video]

Posted Nov 24th 2014 12:00PM

Grip It And Rip It

2015 Volkswagen Golf R

Volkswagen hired a photographer to come shoot the handful of journalists that it brought to drive the 2015 Golf R at Buttonwillow Raceway north of Los Angeles. This fact, though unremarkable in and of itself, was something I hadn't noticed until I was well into my track time – probably ten laps deep on a day that would see me run twice that number. In any event, I noticed the intrepid shooter as he was sprinting from one side of the track to the other somewhere before Turn 2, while I was barreling down the main straightaway, still looking through Turn 1.

In the roughly two-mile configuration of the track that I drove, Buttonwillow is a big, wide-open circuit, largely flat and with excellent overall visibility. On that layout, and just hours into my Golf R experience, I'd already become confident in endeavoring to push the limits of VW's latest blistering hatch. In fact, the easy nature of driving the thing quickly had me overestimating my pace. So when I saw the photog sprint across the tarmac I instinctively slowed way too much, way too early for Turn 1.

Looking back at the incident after I'd pitted for the session, I laughed at myself, knowing I'd have had to be driving almost double my actual speed to put the camera guy in any real danger of being hit. But the experience crystallized what my full test of the R bore out: this is a car that makes you feel much faster than you otherwise would, at least in a competition setting.

The 2015 Golf R is an über hatch that will flatter those hyper-enthusiasts passionate enough to splash out on its steep price tag, but without threatening sales of core models like the GTI and its ilk. That's a good thing for the VW fanboys, to be sure, and, I'd argue, a great thing for the strength of the German brand overall.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

2015 Mini John Cooper Works gets ready to rumble

Posted Nov 24th 2014 11:00AM

Mini John Cooper Works

Mini gave us our first taste of its next-generation John Cooper Works Hardtop in concept form at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. And in fact, we already know that the production version will make its debut at the 2015 Detroit show in January. Fitting, then, that this most recent round of spy shots shows a JCW that's pretty much ready to roll – peel back that yellow swirly paper, and you've pretty much got the final deal.

It's easy to make out the final design for the revised front and rear fascias, and we can clearly see a more robust brake package nestled behind those alloy wheels. Speaking of, we must admit, the wheels here look rather pedestrian for a JCW model, but they could just be prototype rollers and not indicative of the final rolling stock. We expect the flashy red decals of the concept to be offered on the production model, as well, though they could be optional kit.

As reported earlier, power is expected to come from a 230-horsepower turbo-four – a modest increase over the 208 hp from the outgoing Mini JCW. Expect that to route through a six-speed manual transmission, sending turbocharged oomph to the front wheels.

We'll know more when the final product is revealed in Detroit.

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Mini Cooper John Cooper Works Concept Unveiled: This Wacky Looking Car Looks Ready To Drive

Image Credit: CarPix

Ferrari replaces F1 boss with Marlboro exec

Posted Nov 24th 2014 10:30AM

F1 Ferrari Team Principal

Ferrari just finished its worst Formula One season in decades, and if you're thinking heads are going to roll, you're right. In fact they already have, as team principal Stefano Domenicali was dismissed earlier this year and longtime chairman Luca di Montezemolo was axed just two months ago. Now Maranello has announced a new team principal, yet again.

Instead of promoting from within, however, this time Ferrari has called in an outside executive – albeit one with whom it is intimately familiar. His name is Maurizio Arrivabene, and he's served as a senior executive at tobacco giant Philip Morris International, managing (among other areas) the Marlboro brand's sponsorship of the Scuderia. In that capacity he's been sitting on the FIA's Formula One Commission as the sponsors' representative since 2010, giving him a familiarity with how the series is run.

In his new capacity as Managing Director of the Gestione Sportiva and Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari, Arrivabene replaces Marco Mattiacci, who was called up to the post from his previous position as head of the North American office just eight months ago. Back then Mattiacci replaced a similarly under-performing Domenicali. The change may very well have come at the behest (if not insistence) of Philip Morris, which remains the team's main sponsor and is undoubtedly displeased with Ferrari's performance lately. It wouldn't be the first time. After all, Marlboro similarly brokered the deal that put Ron Dennis in charge of McLaren in the early 1980s.

Mattiacci's swift replacement comes at the end of a disastrous season for the Scuderia. Following yesterday's season finale in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari finished fourth in the constructors' standings behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams. The last time it finished the championship in such poor shape was in 2010 when Felipe Massa was injured and the team scrambled to find a replacement. But even then it managed to win at least one race and land on the podium another five times. Fernando Alonso finished on the podium only twice this season while Kimi Raikkonen struggled further back. This year marked the first time Ferrari failed to win a grand prix since 1993, and even then Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger managed more podiums than the team scored this season.

News Source: Ferrari

Image Credit: Luca Bruno/AP

BMW says SUVs killed the sports car market

Posted Nov 24th 2014 10:00AM

2014 BMW Z4

In many ways, we're living in a golden age of automotive performance. After all, it's possible to show up at a Dodge dealer, hand over about $64,000 and storm away with a 707-horsepower Challenger Hellcat in Canada. Or for those who prefer a touch more luxury, the BMW M4, Mercedes-AMG C63 and latest Cadillac ATS-V offer between 425 and 503 horsepower, depending on your pick, with a bit more poshness. However, none of these powerful vehicles fit the classic definition of a two-place, droptop sports car, and according BMW head of sales Ian Robertson, that's because the segment is very much in the doldrums.

According to Robertson, two factors seriously wounded the classic sports car market. First, the global economic crisis of a few years ago put a serious hurt on sales, according to Bloomberg. Further worsening the situation, the boom in popularity of luxury SUVs and crossovers in the past few years hasn't allowed for much recovery. Even car-hungry China hasn't helped much because of the smog in many cities and preference among some of the very rich there to be chauffeured.

Combined, Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK sales peaked around 114,000 units a year in 2007, but they are only expected to reach 72,000 annually by the end of the decade. Robertson is pretty pessimistic about the market's comeback too. "Post-2008, it just collapsed. I'm not so sure it'll ever fully recover," he said to Bloomberg.

Despite the downturn, there's no reason to start eulogizing the sports car. The ones that are available or are coming make for some fantastic offerings. They range from the V8 power of the Chevy Corvette to the more lithe styling of the upcoming 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Plus, a new Audi TT droptop is on the way. There's no reason to write the segment off yet.

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News Source: Bloomberg via Live Mint

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL / BMW

Why you should run out and buy a vintage Aston Martin Lagonda right now

Posted Nov 24th 2014 9:00AM

Aston Martin Lagonda

Aston Martin LagondaAston Martin has a reputation for crafting some of the world's finest luxury GTs, and with a little help from James Bond, it has also become a quintessential British brand. While the company's models are known for combining speed and luxury, they certainly aren't recognized for being inexpensive. However, there might be a way to get the Aston badge and potentially make a little extra money if you ever decide to divest. Bloomberg suggests looking outside the mainstream by taking a closer look at the original wedge-shaped Lagonda (pictured above).

First shown in the mid '70s, the Lagonda looks like nothing else on the road before or since. Early models feature pop-up headlights and styling so sharp the sedan appears to be slicing through the air, even while sitting still. Later revisions softened the design slightly, and even Aston Martin's modern reinterpretation (inset) doesn't go as far as its predecessor. The interior is what really makes the Lagonda famous (or infamous), though. With instruments displayed on LEDs or CRT screens, depending on model, it's like the science fiction in there. Power is provided by a 5.3-litre V8 quoted at around 280 horsepower, according to Aston Martin.

Unfortunately, the Lagonda's avant-garde styling and reputation for unreliability hasn't garnered much love for the super saloon over the years. Aston Martin only made 645 of them by the time production ended in 1989. The tide appears to be turning, though, and the sedan's value is rising strongly. According to Bloomberg, citing Hagerty, prices currently average about $44,000, up 61 per cent since 2010, and the later, somewhat more reliable examples are up 85 per cent. Perhaps those values are soaring because those lining up for the new Lagonda (a.k.a. Taraf) are looking for a historical counterpart to display alongside their next car.

Head over to Bloomberg to get the full story on why it might be time to reconsider these once unloved four-door Astons.

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News Source: Bloomberg, Aston Martin

Image Credit: Aston Martin

Why turbo compounding may be the next big thing in powertrains

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 8:00PM

Cutaway of a turbo compounding setup in a gasoline engine.


Turbo compounding is the process of using a turbo run off exhaust gasses to provide additional power to the crankshaft via gearing or a hydrodynamic coupling, or to power a generator that distributes energy via a power electronics module. The technology isn't new - the aerospace industry introduced the concept in the 1940s - but an article in Car and Driver says it could be "the next big thing in energy recovery" for automotive engines.

Turbo compounding is a way to take advantage of wasted exhaust gasses to provide more power to the engine. In the cutaway above, the compressor in the upper right (blue arrows) is powered by the turbine wheel to its left (red arrows) to send boosted intake air to the engine. The turbine, however, is also sending exhaust gas down the plumbing to its left, where another turbine connected to a shaft drives a set of gears, essentially a high-ration transmission ultimately connected to the crankshaft in the lower left.

Bowman, which engineers electrical compounding systems for power generation and heavy vehicle sectors, says its solution can increase efficiency by to seven per cent with no negative impact. Mechanical compounding is said to supply gains of around five percent, but can have a negative impact depending on engine load.

Engine maker Detroit Diesel won the Truck Writers of North American Technical Achievement Award for its DD15 engine that uses mechanical compounding, and Scania and Volvo also use the tech for their truck engines. When it comes to automaker implementation, we might be looking at Formula One engine makers first: the new 1.6-litre turbo V6s use electrical compounding to run the MGU-H motor/generator to power a battery that provides extra boost during a lap.

News Source: Car and Driver

BMW 2 Series to wear 230i, M240i nameplates

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 5:59PM

BMW M235i

BMW might not be done tweaking its naming scheme quite yet. Of course, at this point, the jumble of numbers on the back of the Bavarian models has no connection to what's under the hood. So there's not much reason to stop changing the monikers now.

As Autoblog reported a few months ago, BMW is slotting upgraded, turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines called the B48 and B58, respectively, into the 3 and 4 Series. If this happens, the 328i/428i would become the 330i/430i, and the 335i/435i would turn into the 340i/440i.

Obviously, this change hasn't happened yet, but the same member of 2Addicts, a portion of the larger Bimmerpost community has now claimed that the 228i and M235i would get the same treatment. They would become the 230i and M240i, respectively, with the new engines.

The exact source of this information isn't entirely clear. The user claimed to have access an inside source of future BMW model data. In one update to the thread, the person warned that the info isn't for certain but considered it "BMW's best laid plans."

The decision to alter model names with the introduction of new engines would seem to make at least some sense. We wish the numbers didn't seem plucked out of the air, though.

News Source: 2 Addicts, F30 Post

How to turn a Dodge airport tug into a trail slayer

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 4:00PM

Dirt Everyday Dodge Diesel Truck Build

Sometimes, having a ton of fun requires takes a ton of work. Just nine days before the so-called Ultimate Adventure 2014, the folks behind 4-Wheel & Off-Road had 40 tasks to complete in order to turn the ratty truck pictured above into a machine that could excel on treacherous off-road trails while still being able to handle highway jaunts. Much of process behind the build was chronicled on the latest episode of Dirt Every Day.

The team's vehicle started life as a 1990 Dodge tug truck that spent part of its life hauling around airplanes. The builders hung on to the Cummins six-cylinder diesel, but they tossed out practically everything else for the project, with some seriously heavy-duty replacement parts for the transmission, transfer case, axles and a whole lot more. The process was certainly a ton of work, but the end result looks like a fantastic crawler.

Sure, it might have been easier to bring a truck that was already prepared, but where would the fun in that have been? Stay tuned until the end of the video for a few glimpses of the completed Dodge and peek at some of the punishment it goes through.

News Source: Motor Trend Channel via YouTube

Mitsuoka manages to make Orochi even weirder with Evangelion edition

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 3:00PM

Mitsuoka Ocochi Evangelion Edition

Sports cars don't come more bizarre than the ungainly Mitsuoka Orochi. We thought we were rid of the puckered-face, Toyota-powered Japanese oddity when Mitsuoka revealed the Final Edition earlier this year, but it seems the Orochi has a little more left to give of its awkwardness, as you can see from this latest Evangelion edition.

Created in tribute, such as it is, to the cult classic Neon Genesis Evangelion anime television series, this limited edition Orochi is distinguished, as you can plainly see, but its colorful treatment that makes it look like something George Clinton (of Parliament-Funkadelic fame) would drive.

Aside from the psychedelic paintjob, the Evangelion edition is essentially the same as any other Orochi, right down to the 3.3-litre Toyota-sourced V6 and five-speed automatic transmission. It's based on the Gold Premium spec and comes fully loaded with nav, backup camera and Alcantara upholstery.

Only eleven examples will be made, available by application at 7-Eleven convenience stores across Japan (yes, really), each carrying a price tag of ¥16,000,000 – about $155k at today's rates. Which may seem like a princely sum, but if that's what it takes to send the Orochi into retirement once and for all, we say it's well worth it.

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News Source: Mitsuoka, 7 Eleven

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