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2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat vs. SRT Viper

  • 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat vs. SRT Viper
  • 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
  • BMW M4 vs. Lexus RC F in Head 2 Head sports coupe showdown
  • 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

Chris Paukert

2015 BMW i8 sets everyone's tongues wagging in Northern Michigan

Posted Oct 31st 2014 7:00PM

2015 BMW i8 in Northern Michigan's Tunnel of Trees

2015 BMW i8 parked in front of Good Hart General StoreLike few other cars we can remember, people want to talk about the 2015 BMW i8. Drive one, and you'll soon find out what we mean. They stop you at gas stations. They accost you in Walgreen's parking lots. They stream out of neighborhood bars, beers in hand.

At least, that was our experience this week during Autoblog's Technology of the Year testing. We had the pleasure of driving the plug-in hybrid BMW sports car up to and around Petoskey, MI, a resort town where seeing such exotics is rare enough, let alone in the off season. It made for some interesting conversations – so we began writing down some of the comments the butterfly-doored coupe inspired. Here's a sampling:
  • "Wanna race for pinks? I'll go easy on you." – Acne-covered teenage pizza delivery driver in a sad-looking Ford Taurus parked at a Valero gas station near Grayling (which incidentally didn't actually have gas).
  • The proprietor of the Good Hart General Store, a quaint food emporium/post office nestled into the area's famed M-119 'Tunnel of Trees' route, gestured toward me and then said to a woman in the store: "I've almost got him talked into $5,000 and my Jeep." Her laughing response: "Yeah, bullshit!"
  • "Is that a 'boy car' or a 'girl car'?" – Female cashier at Pond Hill Farm, a farm/pumpkin patch/trout pond/tasting room/pickler/pig race complex.
  • "Is that a Lamborghini, or is that a Ferrari?" – Father with son carrying pumpkins.
  • "Well, you must be quite pleased with yourself." *Pauses and again looks at i8* "Understandably." – 20-something woman carrying a tiny sweatered dog.
  • "That looks like you're driving the future." – Walgreen's clerk who followed us out to the parking lot after we stopped to buy some pens.
  • "I have to ask, with that gorgeous car, are ya'll lost?" – Friendly patrol officer who followed us for eight miles (13km) through the Tunnel of Trees, only to turn around and question us in front of the Legs Inn.
In short, this road-bound flying saucer attracts more attention than any exotic we've driven. We're just glad it's so good to drive, or all the impromptu conversations it inspired would've been a lot more awkward.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

2015 Ford Focus 1.0L EcoBoost

Posted Oct 14th 2014 11:57AM

Is A 1.0L EcoBoost Enough For The Blue Oval's C-Segment Fighter?

2015 Ford Focus 1.0L EcoBoost

Sitting down at the pre-drive briefing with Ford engineers ahead of sampling the refreshed 2015 Focus, water bottles clinked as we wet our whistles before Q&A. While pouring a glass, we noticed something stamped on the bottle label: "1L." One liter. We were palming the exact displacement of the EcoBoost engine our group was about to drive. This was undoubtedly coincidence (such bottles litter every conference and dinner table in Europe) but it served to drive home just how small the total swept volume of Ford's wunderkind powerplant really is. It's tiny.

Of course, this isn't our first run-in with the little triple – we've sampled its turbocharged charms before in Ford's smaller Fiesta. At that time, we found it had plenty of poke for the subcompact, but the larger C-segment Focus carries around another 450 pounds (204 kilograms) or so and pushes a wider profile through the air. Would the three-cylinder have the stuffing to make the most of the Focus' athletic chassis, or would it be a letdown? Would it be the same as it was when we tested it in a Euro-spec Focus a couple of years ago? There was nothing left for it but to head out on the bucolic roads surrounding Versailles the day after the Paris Motor Show and find out for ourselves.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

2015 Kia Rio freshens up for France

Posted Oct 5th 2014 4:00PM

2015 Kia Rio at the 2014 Paris Motor Show, front three-quarter view.

We've always felt that the current-generation Rio is styled with European flair, so good on Kia for showing its refreshed new look here at the Paris Motor Show.

The B-segment hatchback's aggressive looks get modestly more so for the new model year, with a revamped tiger nose grille and new light fixtures, along with a pair of hash marks in the fog lamp area. To us, the current car, introduced for 2012, still looks quite fresh, but we like the subtly new light fixtures and suite of new wheel designs.

Interior highlights include a rationalized centre stack with updated audio and navigation systems, revised cloth on EX models and additional brightwork around the air vents.

Mechanically, the European-spec Rio will offer a range of four engines ranging from 74 to 108 horsepower and benefit from an available stop/start system to maximize fuel economy. We're not sure if the latter technology will be available in our market, but we fully expect the North American model to continue with its 1.6-litre Gamma four, which in the 2014 model generates 138 hp and 123 lb-ft and is paired with either a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox.

The updated Sohari, Korea-built Rio goes on sale in Europe early next year as a 2015 model. For our part, we've reached out to Kia Motors America to find out if and when North American customers can expect to see these exterior and cabin upgrades, and will update this story when we hear more. In the meantime, check out our high-res gallery above and the official press release below.

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News Source: Kia

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Jonathon Ramsey / AOL

Mini Superleggera Vision Concept keeps us hangin' on [w/video]

Posted Oct 3rd 2014 12:59PM

Mini Superleggera Vision Concept live at 2014 Paris Motor Show

Mini's Superleggera Vision Concept may not be a Paris Motor Show debut, but this is the first time we've seen this stunning all-electric roadster in the metal, having been first shown on the tony shores of Lake Como at Villa D'Este in May. While it's small in stature, it's still big on both presence and detail, from its overall stubby yet sleek proportions to its Union Jack taillamps, Jaguar-esque rear fin and elegant rearview mirrors.

We still don't know much more about what powers this Touring Superleggera coachbuilt showcar, as any powertrain specifics are conspicuous by their absence, but we'd welcome both a pure electric version and something powered by the BMW/Mini turbocharged three-cylinder currently making the rounds in the new Mini Cooper.

Last we heard in September, any decisions on a production future for the Superleggera Vision have been tabled, with word being that a further six months of study is planned before Mini decides to greenlight or nix the project. We'd love to tell you that the fact that it's here in Paris is a great sign, but we wouldn't believe us, either.

Related GalleryMini Superleggera Vision Concept
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News Source: Mini

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

Audi TT Sportback Concept debuts with five-doors in Paris

Posted Oct 2nd 2014 9:15AM

Audi TT Sportback Concept

That German automakers seem singularly fixated on filling any white space between their models isn't new – the last decade-plus has seen their showrooms overflowing with niche models, some of which seemingly occupy sub-genres of sub-genres. To our eyes, there's often diminishing aesthetic and utilitarian returns to go along with the heightened price tags that accompany these models, but we're beginning to think Audi is tackling its personal diversity initiative best. Unlike the often heavy-handed designs from rivals (we're looking at you, BMW), Ingolstadt seems to be doing doing a more graceful job of carving out models between models. The latest proof of this is the TT Sportback Concept, just unveiled here at the Paris Motor Show.

After showing off its Allroad Shooting Brake Concept in Detroit and, more recently, in the Offroad Concept in Beijing amidst rumours of the TT sports car platform expanding into an entire family, we're not surprised to see this more utilitarian five-door hatchback showcar here in France. This, despite the fact that Audi already counts similarly proportioned A5 Sportback and A7 Sportback models in its lineup.

Of the TT line extension concepts, this Sportback certainly looks the most production ready, with a bare minimum of showcar tinsel masking realistic proportions and detailing. We think it's quite handsome from stem to stern, even if it's a bit familiar looking. The design incorporates Audi's trademark big-grille look with the TT's prominent arched roofline and heavily radiused fenders, along with a rear lighting graphic that subtly echoes the A3. Despite its leggy looks, the TT Sportback Concept is surprisingly compact, spanning less than a foot (305 mm) longer overall than the production 2016 TT despite its 4.7-inch (120-mm) longer wheelbase and extra set of doors. Those sleek looks come at least partially as the result of an overall height that sits 1.2 inches (30 mm) lower than the TT coupe.

The gutsy 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder underhood punches out 400 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque through a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox and Audi's trademark Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Audi claims that the powertrain combination will go from 0-100 km/h (0 to 62 miles per hour) in 3.9 seconds, which sounds an awful lot like RS-level performance to us.

Related GalleryAudi TT Sportback Concept
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News Source: Audi

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

2014 Cadillac ELR

Posted Sep 29th 2014 12:10PM

2014 Cadillac ELR

Well, this is awkward.

A few years ago, Audi Of America's boss Johan de Nysschen went on record describing the Chevrolet Volt as "a car for idiots." Fast-forward to earlier this summer, and the well-regarded executive suddenly found himself in a new office with new business cards bearing the title: President, Cadillac. That means that among other challenges, de Nysschen is now tasked with selling the ELR, a car that is, at its core, a Volt in a sportier, less utile frock wearing a price tag that's twice as expensive.

Frankly, it's not a prospect we imagine the South African executive and recent Infiniti boss relishes. Just about nobody is buying the ELR – Cadillac has sold but 774 examples of its plug-in hybrid coupe this year and it presently has an almost a 200-day supply according to Automotive News. What's more, those numbers actually represent big improvements over just a few months ago, before GM started heaping on the incentives. The cynic in us says that the bad news for De Nysschen is that he's got a borderline sales-proof car in his new corporate garage. The good news? Cadillac customers apparently aren't idiots.

Before we go any further, let's get back to that elephant in the room: Price. There's no way to be kind here – General Motors has saddled its 2014 Cadillac ELR with a scarcely believable bottom line: $78,250. Even arithmophobes like us can work out that that means it costs as much as a base ATS Coupe and a Chevrolet Volt combined. That, in our book, is unforgivably bad math – the sort of computation logic understood only by buyers of the Aston Martin Cygnet, or perhaps those who signed off on the Allante's assembly process back in the '80s, a process that involved flying uncompleted cars over the Atlantic in custom-outfitted Boeing 747s. Twice.

2015 North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year Award finalists

Posted Sep 24th 2014 1:00PM



2015 model-year cars and trucks are starting to filter into dealers in earnest, and with that, the newly expanded jury from the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year awards is getting serious about assessing this year's talented new crop with an eye toward doling out the awards in January.

Back in the beginning of August, the NACTOY jury released this year's long list of around 60 new vehicles that it would consider for the awards. While that list basically included everything slated to go on sale in the 2015 model year, this tighter list of 10 cars and 12 truck/utility/crossover vehicles highlights the products that the self-funded, independent and non-profit jury of North American auto writers have determined to be worthy of closer inspection and consideration.

This year, no one automaker dominates the short list, but Ford, General Motors and Toyota have tied with three nominees apiece. The Blue Oval's contenders include Mustang, F-150 and the Lincoln MKC, while Toyota has its redesigned Camry, Highlander and Lexus NX crossover. Finally, GM's slate is made up of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins and the Tahoe SUV. Audi, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz have scored a pair of nominations each.

Click here to see the full list and hit the jump to continue reading.

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Aussie Mazda MX-5 Miata specs leak suggests power loss

Posted Sep 15th 2014 9:59AM

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata - studio front three-quarter view

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata engine spy shotMazda's 2016 MX-5 Miata reveal didn't include much in the way of specifications, but the car's debut seems to have blown the lid off of the rumourmill, with the latest word out of Australia including fresh claims of curb weight and engine output.

Before delving into the findings from Motoring.com, we're going to take a moment to find a few grains of salt. It's not that we don't trust the Oz publication, it's just that we wouldn't be surprised to learn their car's specifications will vary from that of our eventual North American car.

Of course, we don't expect the footprint of the new ND model to itself to differ much – it will still be the most compact Miata ever – overall length is expected to check in at just over 154 inches – that's about 1.4 inches shorter than the original NA Miata and over 4 inches shorter than today's NC generation, yet it'll ride atop a longer wheelbase and be slightly wider while sitting lower to the ground.

Motoring.com sources indicate that a 1.5-litre Skyactiv four-cylinder will nestle low in the ND's engine bay, with a rating of just 96 kW – that's 129 horsepower, a 13-per cent drop in power over the Aussie-spec 2.0-litre four in the current Miata. Torque figures were apparently not disclosed by their source, but the publication expects the torque figure to come in above the 144 Nm (106 pound-feet) of the top-spec 1.5-litre four in the forthcoming Mazda2.

Countering that apparent shortfall is the car's hotly anticipated drop in weight. The ADM MX-5 is said to weigh 1,020 kilograms – that's just under 2,250 pounds – meaning Mazda would make good on its claimed 100-kg (220-pound) diet for the car. To put that number in perspective, ponder that a NA-spec 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C has a curb weight of 1,118 kilograms (2,465 pounds). True, it's about 3 inches longer, but it's also a car with a carbon-fibre tub, aluminum subframes, fiberglass skin and a deep-discount interior. Credit the Miata's shrinking footprint, an increased use of aluminum and a by-the-gram approach to engineering. Some back-of-the-envelope calculations reveals that's close to a 10-per cent weight drop, which should go a long way toward compensating for the loss in power.

We've previously heard rumours of the Miata having a Skyactiv engine displacing anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 litres, with the smart money seemingly being on Mazda's 2.0-litre engine seen in its Mazda3 compact. Despite the power drop, this 1.5-litre four could well provide enough motivation even for North American buyers, but we still wouldn't be surprised to see the 2.0 fitted to our cars.

Mazda has confirmed that the 2016 MX-5 Miata will make its auto show debut at the Paris Motor Show early next month... will it also take the opportunity to attach some more specifications to the next generation of its iconic roadster? Here's hoping. In the meantime, we've reached out to Mazda for clarification on these alleged specs and will get back to you if we learn more.

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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata design walkaround

Posted Sep 15th 2014 8:58AM

Mazda North America Director of Design Derek Jenkins points out lines on 2016 MX-5 Miata

By now, you've likely read what we think of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata's new looks both inside and out, and you've probably pored over the available photos and started to make up your own mind about the roadster's radically more aggressive new appearance.

More than likely, however, you haven't heard much from Mazda itself about its new design, and we're here to remedy that. Join Autoblog as we go over the new Miata from tip to tail with Derek Jenkins, Mazda North America's director of design. Jenkins, a veteran of both Audi and Volkswagen design studios, has been with the Japanese automaker for nearly four years, and he's kept a close eye in the ND Miata program along with his team in Irvine, CA.

Check out our video to see Jenkins explain his team's exterior and cabin handiwork and to learn a little more about why the new model graduates from the Miata's historically cute and friendly aesthetic to something altogether more assertive.

Image Credit: Gallery copyright 2014 Ronnie Fung / AOL

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