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Here are the most disliked car brands of 2014

  • Here are the most disliked car brands of 2014
  • 2015 Cadillac Escalade
  • 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution will get more power before saying goodbye
  • Man who drove Bugatti Veyron into lake pleads guilty, faces 20 years in prison [w/video]

Chris Paukert

2015 North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year list revealed

Posted Aug 17th 2014 5:59PM

This is the first time we can recall the eligible nominees in the truck/utility segment outnumbering the number of qualifying cars.

'Back to school' ads are are spooling up on TVs and in newspapers everywhere, and the auto industry's model picture is pretty clear for 2015, which means it's time for a new North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year long list.

For 2015, the jury will consider some 28 entrants in the car category, and 29 models are in contention for the truck/utility award, a category that includes crossover vehicles. This year's list (click here to view) is as long and varied as the industry itself, with everything from inexpensive subcompacts like the Honda Fit to exotically styled, constructed and powered dream cars like the BMW i8 up for consideration... READ MORE

Choosing the 10 Best Cars for 2014: Behind the Scenes

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to bow at Woodward Dream Cruise?

Posted Aug 5th 2014 10:00AM

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T

A few days ago, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis made an appearance on a popular Detroit morning radio show, Dave & Chuck The Freak on WRIF 101, to talk up the company's Woodward Dream Cruise display later this month. During the interview, Kuniskis gave the hosts an intriguing exclusive that has us thinking that a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat reveal is just around the corner.

While he stopped short of confirming specifics, Kuniskis told the live radio audience:

"I'm going to break something here that we haven't told anybody yet ... We have a very significant performance announcement coming on Tuesday of Dream Cruise ... And then the car that that performance is associated with will also be on site Saturday, so the first time anyone gets to see it will be here in Detroit at Dream Cruise. We'll announce it Tuesday, then come down Saturday and you can see the car.

All of this happened, incidentally, as Kuniskis was about to get into the passenger seat of a 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat with one of the show's radio personalities for a quick drive of the 707-horsepower coupe.

Given all of this, it certainly sounds like the Charger SRT Hellcat (or at the very least, another performance model or technology), will be announced on Tuesday, August 12, and then the car will be shown for the first time on Saturday, August 16 at Dodge's Woodward Dream Cruise display. Of course, with no more specifics to go on, the reveal could be absolutely anything, right down to a new Mopar striping package for the Dodge Dart. That said, we're thinking Hellcat, especially as prototypes of the supercharged four-door have been spotted prowling area streets for some time now.

We'll know soon, but for now, we can hardly wait.

News Source: Dave And Chuck The Freak Podcast via iTunes

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat will hit 320 km/h, burn 5.7L of gas per minute [UPDATE]

Posted Jul 17th 2014 1:00PM

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat burning rubber

Dodge anticipates a 0-60 (0-96 km/h) run in the "mid threes," storming all the way to a top speed of 199 miles per hour (320 km/h).

Autoblog Senior Editor Seyth Miersma will shortly be getting his sweaty mitts on Dodge's 707-horsepower Challenger SRT Hellcat, but he's wisely sitting through a presentation on the car before they let him loose on track and street today. He's been kind enough to send along some of preliminary specs and details about the entire 2015 Challenger family, and they suggest the entire revamped range will be pretty fierce.

The headlining Hellcat is anticipated to get from 0-60 (0-96 km/h) in the "mid threes," says Tim Kiniskis, President and CEO of the Dodge brand, while storming all the way to a top speed of 199 miles per hour (320 km/h). The 707-hp, 650 pound-feet of torque monster is 91-per cent new versus the standard 392 engine, so this isn't merely a case of adding more boost – the crank, pistons, connecting rods, and bottom-end are all new. It takes 80 horsepower just to drive the supercharger. In fact, the Hellcat is so powerful that Chrysler needed new dynos to test the engine – the ones used in Viper development weren't up to the challenge.

As Kiniskis says, this "science-project car" is "not for everybody." Despite having a powertrain that can burn a whopping 1.5 gallons (5.7L) of fuel per minute, when not driven like an utter maniac, it can still return an impressive 20 miles (32 kilometres) per gallon on the freeway. As previously confirmed, this is a drag-racing powerhouse right from the factory, with a quarter-mile time of 11.2 seconds on street tires or 10.8 on drag radials.

To keep all that power on a leash and hitting the ground, the Hellcat will benefit from substantial 15.4-inch (391 mm) front brakes and a three-mode adaptive suspension.

To keep all that power on a leash and hitting the ground, the Hellcat will benefit from substantial 15.4-inch (391 mm) front brakes and a three-mode adaptive suspension (normal, street, race), and buyers will have a choice of a rev-matching eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual. The 8AT gets a 30-per cent increase in its torque capability thanks to upgraded internals, and the manual transmission is derived from the Viper.

As superhero legends caution us, with great power comes great responsibility, and in this case, the Hellcat will get a valet mode that mandates second-gear starts, a 4,000-rpm rev limit and lowered power overall.

On the other end of the Challenger spectrum, the V6 SXT model checks in with 305 horsepower and is expected to get to 60 mph (96 km/h) in six seconds flat for a base price of US$26,995 while achieving up to 30 miles (48 km) per gallon on the freeway. The 5.7-litre V8-powered R/T model returns with 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque for US$31,495. Under the new Hellcat sits the previous king of the hill 392 model, which for US$45,995 also receives the Hellcat's big brakes, along with creature comforts like a Harman/Kardon audio system. With 485 hp and 475 lb-ft, the 6.4-liter 392 will peg 60 mph (96 km/h) in 4.1 seconds and still achieve 25 mpg on the freeway.

The 2015 Challenger range hits showrooms next month, and Dodge is expecting to receive a lot of return customers – they say the Challenger enjoys a 78-per cent loyalty rate, and their buyers are the youngest in the segment, with an average age of 46. We have a feeling they'll be entertained.

UPDATE: Official press release with all pricing information added below. Click here to see our original post discussing Challenger Hellcat pricing. *Canadian pricing/info still to be announced.

How GM almost screwed up Toy Story, Cars, Monsters Inc. and more

Posted Jul 13th 2014 6:00PM

Given Just 7 More Days, GM Would Have Changed Entertainment History

Cover of Creativity, Inc., the new book from Pixar co-founder Ed CatmullGeneral Motors came within one week of buying Pixar in 1985, and would have subsumed the then-fledgling computer company to use its technology to help aid car designs. That surprising almost-was historical wrinkle comes courtesy of Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, in his new management book, Creativity, Inc.

At the time, Pixar was more of a computer hardware company than an animation studio. Had the deal gone through, it would have likely "put an end to our dream of making the first [CGI] animated feature film," Catmull says in the book. There would have been no Toy Story, no Cars, no Ratatouille, no WALL-E and no Monsters Inc. It's not even clear if the name Pixar would have survived – it's likely that GM would simply have subsumed the organization into its design department.

The aborted GM deal, about which little has been revealed beyond its existence (it was mentioned in an earlier book, David A. Price's The Pixar Touch), is fascinating to ponder. Catmull (above) said the failed negotiations to buy the then-ailing Lucasfilm computer division actually involved the automaker and Philips, the Dutch engineering and electronics giant. "General Motors was intrigued because we were leading the way in the modeling of objects, which they felt could be used in car design," says Catmull. Philips was interested in the technology behind the Pixar Image Computer, which could read huge amounts of data from imaging machines like CT scanners or MRIs. Those two pieces of technology made Pixar a sweet acquisition target, one GM and Philips valued at around US$30 million. The companies had agreed to pay George Lucas $15 million and invest a further US$15 million in Pixar's operations in order to consummate the deal.

In reading Creativity, Inc., it's not entirely clear what scuttled the deal, but in the book's afterword, Catmull makes it sound like Pixar executives were upset when the deal fell through. "We'd made a promising match with General Motors, only to be left at the altar," he says. In a recent lecture as part of the DFJ Entrepreneurial Series at Stanford, Catmull expounded a bit, saying the deal fell apart when "with General Motors – the EDS part – the Ross Perot holdovers and the car people got into a war with each other." EDS, of course, being Electronic Data Systems, the technology and services company that the one-time presidential candidate sold to GM in 1984.

Instead, Apple's Steve Jobs "swooped in" to help prop up Pixar, and the rest is animation history. Today, Catmull is president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. He, and thousands of Buzz Lightyear, Mike and Sully, and Lightning McQueen fans are probably eternally grateful the deal was never realized.

News Source: Creativity, Inc., DFJ Entrepreneurial Series

Image Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg / Getty, Pixar

Nissan Cube dead for 2015

Posted Jul 9th 2014 6:30PM

2014 Nissan Cube - blue

2014 Nissan Cube - blue - rear 3/4 viewAnother class cut-up has graduated from our motor pool. The Nissan Cube's indefatigable weirdness was likely both its chief selling point and its Achilles Heel, but Autoblog sources say that after a six-year run in the US, the niche player has been scrubbed from the Japanese automaker's lineup.

The move is hardly unexpected – there was confirmation from Nissan Canada that it was pulling the plug on the asymmetric little front-driver in its market back in May, and sales have not exactly been sparkling here in the States, either. In June, Nissan shifted just 336 Cubes, down 23.8 per cent year over year. So far this year, Nissan has sold 2,294 units, a sales pace off 30.9 per cent versus 2013. At its peak in 2010, the Cube remained firmly a niche vehicle, selling 22,968 units.

Nissan North America's Dan Passe, senior manager of product communications, maintains that "We are continuing to sell the 2014 Cube and we haven't made an announcement about future model plans," but Autoblog sources indicate that an official announcement will be coming in the next couple of months, and the Cube has been conspicuously left off of an exhaustive 2015 lineup "Charting the Changes" announcement released on Tuesday.

For now, it's unclear whether the third-generation Cube will continue to be sold beyond North America, or whether a fourth-generation is in the cards, but we wouldn't bet on the Brave Little Toaster making a return appearance. Either way, Nissan has a pretty full small-car stable, what with its Versa Sedan, Versa Note, Sentra, Juke and Leaf EV – not to mention the Micra being available in the Great White North.

America's once-burgeoning 'box car' segment appears to have sputtered out, with the original practitioners of the movement being either long gone (Honda Element) or hanging on by their aging fingernails (Scion xB). Only the Kia Soul managing to find long-term success.

Even with their utilitarian dimensions, it could be argued that every one of these box cars have been faddish by design, so it's fair to assume a shorter shelf life. As Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst for IHS Automotive reminded us, "Even Scion's xB was intended to be a one-generation vehicle," adding, "when you have something that unique and unusual... just continually refreshing it doesn't cut it."

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2015 Fiat 500 Abarth automatic targets broader appeal

Posted Jul 8th 2014 6:00PM

2015 Fiat 500 Abarth with automatic transmission

2015 Fiat 500 Abarth automatic gearshift leverThere aren't many manual-transmission-only offerings on the North American market, and now there's one fewer. The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth has just gone into production with a newly available automatic option.

We've known that the hair-raising, high-performance Cinquecento has been scheduled to get a two-pedal setup for some time, but now we have more specifics on the gearbox itself. According to Fiat, the six-speed automatic is derived from the same Aisin unit used in the standard 500, but it's been substantially reengineered to cope with the 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo engine's added power. Allison Singer, a vehicle integration engineer on the 500 Abarth's development program tells Autoblog that the modifications to the gearbox include "gears that have been reinforced and a few extra clutch plates," among other changes. Unfortunately, there are no paddle shifters, as the 500's steering wheel was not designed to accommodate them, but at least there's a +/- manual gate on the gearshift lever.

Interestingly, the automatic brings with it substantially different power numbers than its manual counterpart. The new model receives 157 horsepower and 183 pound-feet of torque, which is 3 horsepower less than the manual, yet it packs a whopping 13 pound-feet more torque, which should aid drivability. By comparison, the five-speed manual 2015 Abarth registers 160 hp and up to 170 lb-ft. New features that come with the auto include a dedicated sport mode, rev-matched downshifts, fuel-cut upshifts, shift logic that holds gears in corners and 'fast-off' situations, along with sharper throttle tuning. Despite the added torque, Singer admits that "The manual will probably be a tiny bit quicker as far as performance goes," but she is confident that the transmission's availability will open the car up to a much broader market of buyers.

Ariel Gavilan, Head of Communications for Fiat North America, concurs, telling Autoblog, "There are some young kids who might not know how to drive a manual... yet [with the automatic] they still won't miss the essence of Abarth." That widened appeal should help improve Abarth sales, which are already on a solid upswing, with sales up 16 per cent year-to-date through the end of May, according to Gavilan.

​All 2015 model-year 500s feature a new seven-inch screen (like that of the battery-powered 500e) that replaces the analog gauges in last year's instrument cluster, among other minor changes.

2015 500 Abarth models in both hardtop and convertible bodystyles have begun rolling off the line at Fiat's Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico as you read this, and production of the first auto-equipped 500 Turbo models (which share the Abarth's powertrain without most of its visual upgrades and hardcore suspension) are also getting underway.

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2015 Lincoln MKC

Posted Jul 8th 2014 12:15PM

2015 Lincoln MKC

Back in 2012, Lincoln claimed its comeback bid was finally underway with the new-for-2013 MKZ. But don't you believe them – the renaissance won't actually begin in earnest until the shapely compact crossover seen here reaches showrooms in big numbers. That's because while the four-door MKZ was indeed a proper step toward rebirth, the 2015 MKC is the first wholly conceived vehicle under Lincoln as a standalone brand, a move first announced back in 2012.

That's an important distinction, because Lincoln's newfound emancipation from Ford's design and development processes has given the struggling marque both the corporate wherewithal and the will to develop a more fully formed product. The four-wheeled result seen here is a surprisingly cohesive luxury CUV, one with significantly more aesthetic and dynamic separation from its Ford Escape sibling than the MKZ and its Fusion counterpart. Said another way, after flogging Lincoln's latest for hundreds of miles over canyon roads outside of Santa Barbara, we've come to understand that this is far from a re-grilled Dearborn special with luxury tinsel – it's a bona fide standalone product that readily displays the sort of clear differentiation seen in platform cousins like the Audi Q3 and the Volkswagen Tiguan. It's the real deal... READ MORE

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

Why the 2015 Lincoln MKC is 'holding some powder'

Posted Jul 7th 2014 5:01PM

2015 Lincoln MKC - front three-quarter view, red

The 2015 Lincoln MKC is the newest vehicle added to the brand's upcoming arsenal and surprisingly, it's worth caring about for many good reasons. So with Lincoln's MKC compact premium crossover now finding its way into dealerships, why aren't you seeing its likeness plastered on billboards and barraging you on television? It's because Lincoln is "holding some powder."

Those are the words of Lincoln's global director, Matt VanDyke, who tells Autoblog Canada that the company is holstering some of its marketing guns because it's keen to avoid repeating the ill-timed efforts that blighted its last rollout, the MKZ. That vehicle's launch early last year was beset by various delays related to manufacturing and quality. The cadence issue was so dire that by the time the model reached showrooms in volume, Lincoln had already blown most of its budget on things like Super Bowl ads that ran weeks or even months before customers could check one out in person. It was a particularly trying series of events for parent Ford because the MKZ and its oversized marketing spend were charged with relaunching the Lincoln brand to the public.

Keen to avoid repeating the same timing issue and mindful of consumers' habits at this time of year, Lincoln is taking a different strategy with the MKC. According to VanDyke, "What we don't want to do is try and fight the summertime – people using television being down, and other mass media when school's out. New television shows aren't on." Of course, that doesn't mean Lincoln is sitting idle. VanDyke says, "By no means are we quiet during the next 90 days. This year, we're going to really spend the next 60 to 90 days using digital and social media, in-theatre advertising and the like, and once we have full availability at dealerships, we'll really ramp up the advertising later on in the summer." Part of that early media effort includes immersive digital marketing like Lincoln's clever Dream Rides web experience.

So while you may not be seeing any 2015 Lincoln MKC commercials while you're watching your favourite primetime sitcom, know this: they're coming.

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2015 Lincoln MKC Sneak Peek

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

World's Best Dad invites Lamborghini owners to son's birthday party

Posted Apr 29th 2014 7:15PM

The resulting unalloyed joy, as you'll see in the footage below, is priceless.

One of my defining moments as a budding car enthusiast came the first time I got to see a Lamborghini up close. I was out visiting a relative with my mother and sister in LA, and I took the change of scenery as an opportunity to look for more exotic cars than my middle-class Midwestern upbringing would usually encounter. We were on a walk, when off in the distance I saw – and heard – something extraordinary: An early '80s Lamborghini Countach, black with those bronze five-hole wheels, pulling into a parking spot. My mom still takes great joy in periodically retelling the events of that day, and as the story goes, I joyfully took off without warning, chasing the car down the street shouting "Lamborghini!" "Lamborghini!!" in my best eight-year-old Italian accent.

I must've still been adorable, because the owner not only let me sit in his car, scissor door open and ridiculous grin on my face, he left me playing around in its interior, nonchalantly telling me to shut the door when I was done. Just like that, he left, disappearing into a shop across the street. I can't tell you how long I sat in the car, or how many photos I demanded my mother take of me with my borrowed Bell and Howell, but I can remember being astounded at how low it was – I could crouch as if sitting on the bumper and still see over it! That was around 30 years ago, and I still have a couple of those dog-eared pictures.

Funnily enough, my memorable Lamborghini encounter is pretty similar to that of the young boy featured in this video. At age seven, however, Jacob is clearly ahead of the curve. As the story goes, his father left a message on Lamborghini Los Angeles North's Facebook page, asking if someone with "a kind heart" would help him help make his Lamborghini-fanatic child's birthday wish come true. And "come true" it did, with the dealership helping organize not just a ride-along in an Aventador, but also a small cavalcade of other Lambos, all of which all showed up unannounced at his house on Jacob's birthday. The resulting unalloyed joy, as you'll see in the footage below, is priceless.

As car enthusiasts, most of us have been lucky enough to have memorable defining car experiences, those fleeting moments in our personal back catalogs that have come to mean so much more than they first appeared to be. Thanks in part to the kindness of Lamborghini-driving stranger several decades ago, I still make a point of inviting onlookers of all ages in for a closer look whenever I am fortunate enough to have the keys to something nice.

I suspect after his grand, Lamborghini-filled birthday, young Jacob will grow to do the same when he's an adult... because that's how new car enthusiasts are born.

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