Login to your account
Not a member? Register now.

Subscribe To The Blog:

Follow Us

Auto Industry News
And Car Reviews

Lola Produces Prototypes Under New 2011 Regulations

On: Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 2:34PM | By: John Welch

New Lola Chassis test 2

I might have written a little piece on the ALMS Northeast Grand Prix last weekend. In that article I may have stated that Lola will no longer build Coupes. I was wrong; they will no longer build short wheelbase coupes, like the Dyson Mazda, but they will produce a long wheelbase Coupe; think Drayson-Judd. Also, try not to confuse Dyson with Drayson, annoyingly similar team names, I know.

The new Lola Coupe, the B11/80, will feature the same ACO mandated "blow-over" fin as the B11/40 open top prototype. This fin is intended to interrupt a car's momentum if it gets up on two wheels and is trying to turn over, possibly crushing the driver. These regulations were spurred by an accident at Monza in 2008. Stéphane Ortelli's Courage is seen here nearly beheading Allan McNish as it flips and rolls, causing a broken ankle for Ortelli and Gawdawful signage space on the backs of post-2010 LMPs. Funny thing is, this sort of incident has NOT happened since. Scott Sharp's crash at Petit Le Mans last year was caused by hitting an errant Porsche 911 while cresting a blind hill at 140 mph, so it doesn't count. Before going into the new Lola Coupes, I offer video of Ortelli and Sharp, flippity flipping their prototypes into oblivion, inside yon post . . .

Recall Woes: Toyota Steering Issue

On: Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 10:34AM | By: John Welch

2003 Toyota Avalon test 2

The new Toyota Avalon is sort of cool. Considering its front-drive, luxo-barge nature, I'm surprised to hear myself say such a thing. Or 'type' of thing as the case may be. The Avalon is equipped with a stout V6, LED lighting, and the most engaging "MadMen60'sPopCulturePanAmStewardessDrivingIsAsEasyAsFlying" ad campaign. I'm becoming afraid that I may like the Avalon solely because of the 60s air-travel themed marketing. Seriously, these commercials are very well done.

Too bad the older Avalon models have quality concerns, specifically a steering issue involving much more then crappy electronic power steering programming. Toyota will add 373,000 Avalon sedans, model years 2000 through 2004 to its growing list of recalled vehicles. According to a statement released by Toyota, the steering lock bar in these vehicles could break under certain conditions. How hard are blue-hairs driving these cars exactly? Of all the things that fall apart on cars; I don't think I have ever heard of a steering lock bar malfunctioning. Which is to say, NO ONE has reported any sort of injury because of this issue. After how poorly we Americans handled the issue of unintended acceleration (to be clear: 80% of those cases boiled down to some yokel mashing the gas pedal instead of the brake. Toyota can't make you pay attention while driving, Dummies, and shouldn't be blamed for injuries or deaths it did NOT cause . . .) Toyota is learning from its mistakes and nipping this issue in the bud . . .  instead of covering it up for six years (lookin' at you, Inaba!)

You didn't think I would crack on the American public without jabbing Toyota a little bit, did you? As of 10:28 a.m. EST there is no offcial NHTSA release regarding this issue; The 'Shopper will post it and recalls involving Volvo, Subaru, BMW, and Nissan when the actual Avalon report is released . . .

Porsche Confirms 918 Spyder Hybrid

On: Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 10:07AM | By: Chris Weiss

Porsche Confirms 918 Spyder Hybrid test 1-1

After months of indications that it would produce the 918 Spyder Hybrid, Porsche confirmed the hybrid coupe for limited series production. The Geneva Motor Show concept will be built in Porsche's Zuffenhausen plant and will supplant the Carrera GT as Porsche's flagship sports car, showing the world that hybrid powertrains can do more than just cut emissions.

Porsche arguably upstaged the entire 2010 Geneva Motor Show when it unveiled the 918 Spyder Hybrid the evening preceding the official start of the show. Easily one of the most fascinating concepts at the show, everything about the hybrid supercar was intriguing. Performance figures were impressive: 3.2 seconds to 62 mph, 198 mph top speed, and the fastest Porsche around Nurburgring with a lap time under 7:30. Porsche's fuel economy claims were equally lofty: 78 mpg in the European cycle and 70 grams of CO2 per kilometer. By all indicators, the 918 Spyder rang the opening bell on a new generation of supercars capable of producing heavyweight power and performance figures while drastically cutting pollution.

In its concept form, the 918 combines the RS Spyder's 500-hp 3.4-liter V8 engine with electric motors mounted on the front and rear axles. Battery power for the motors comes from a mid-mounted lithium-ion battery pack. All told, the coupe pulls 718 horses out of its powertrain, with a seven-speed PDK transmission handling shifting duties.

Arbitration Cases Settled For Chrysler Dealership

On: Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 10:04AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Arbitration Cases Settled For Chrysler Dealership  test 1-1

The verdict is in for Chrysler arbitration cases; final count: 73 wins and 32 losses for Chrysler Corporation resulting from law suits that were filed against the company when it closed 789 dealerships after bankruptcy in 2009. The arbitration hearings, which were mandated by Congress, began in April this year and continued through the middle of July, with the final decisions being announced this week.

The arbitrators that ruled in favor of Chrysler made reference to the company’s post bankruptcy strategy to merge Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, and Jeep together into single dealerships. 

For the dealerships that won their cases, the main factors that supported the decisions were how fast Chrysler closed the dealerships, as well as how many total dealerships were closed; in fact, the Inspector General for the U.S. Troubled Relief Program had investigated those issues as well.

Lawyers who represented the dealers stated that more of them would have won provided the audit by Neil Barofsky had been released, giving arbitrators access to the information gathered from the audit before making their final decisions.


Enterprise to Rent Out Nissan Leafs in Eight Cities

On: Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 9:16AM | By: Chris Weiss

Enterprise to Rent Out Nissan Leafs in Eight Cities  test 1-1

Want to get some on-road testing time behind the wheel of an electric vehicle without committing to buying one? Nissan and Enterprise announced this week that you'll get just that opportunity beginning this January. The Japanese automaker is selling a fleet of 500 Leaf electric vehicles to Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The rental company will distribute the EVs to eight separate locations, allowing car renters the opportunity to give the new electric car an extended test run.

Enterprise, which owns Enterprise, Alamo, and National car rental brands, will introduce the Nissan Leaf models to the Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Nashville, and Knoxville markets this winter. It's not yet clear if there will be a premium for Leaf rentals, but Enterprise does offer hybrid vehicles at an increased rental price over gas-powered models so electric vehicles are expected to be priced similarly.

The move by Enterprise seems like a positive one all around: consumers in the cities included will have the opportunity to try Nissan's electric vehicle, Nissan will familiarize the market with EV technology, and Enterprise will make a visible move toward embracing clean technology.

Treasures on Display at Bobby and Steve's Auto World Classic Car Show

On: Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 9:09AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Treasures on Display at Bobby and Steve's Auto World Classic Car Show test 1-1

It was a glorious Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis, Minnesota June 24th, 2010. Car owners and enthusiasts were getting geared up for the 10thannual Bobby & Steve’s Classic Car Show. Hoods were propped up while car owners kicked back in the shade. Nearly every vehicle on the premises was worthy of being featured. Three cars in particular were brought to my attention and the respective owners were able to pass along some interesting information about their prized possessions.

Ford Provides Video Details Of New Explorer Off-Road and Safety Features

On: Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 5:05PM | By: Chris Weiss

Ford Provides Video Details Of New Explorer Off-Road and Safety Features  test 1-1

A day after its big, hyped-up Facebook reveal, the 2011 Ford Explorer has shown up in a series of videos. Ford uses the short clips to provide some hands-on footage of new features of the Explorer, such as the 4WD system's terrain management and Trailer Sway Control. Ford's photo and video team must have made a killing off of the new crossover.

The 2011 Explorer has been a big story this spring and summer, and continues capturing headlines. Ford introduced the newly ordained crossover on Monday, and followed up with a few videos that provide a closer look at the Explorer in action. More specifically,  the videos help to show consumers exactly what the Explorer's new technological features can do on road and off.

Toyota Expects Next Prius Model To Be Built In U.S.

On: Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 2:26PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Toyota Expects Next Prius Model To Be Built In U.S. test 1-1

According to a Toyota executive, the fourth generation Prius model may be manufactured in the United States. Toyota had historically planned to produce the Prius at its Mississippi plant, but decided to build the Corolla there instead.

"The main components for the Prius—such as the motor and battery—are not mature enough for local production," Executive Vice President Atsushi Niimi said. "We expect that they'll be ready with the next remodeling."
The exact location for the new site for the 2016 fourth generation Prius production has not yet been announced. 

"If you look at unemployment, housing, and other economic indicators there's not much good news. I think it will take time for the market to recover," Niimi said, adding he did not agree that the U.S. market could bear above 12 million units in 2011.

The history of Prius production has a strong connection to the rising fuel prices which resulted in a shortage of Priuses back in 2008 when Toyota announced that the best selling hybrid would be built at a new plant in Mississippi. The Blue Springs plant had originally been intended for building the Highlander SUV, but as the market demanded more Prius models due to soaring prices at the pumps, Toyota changed its plan.


LF-A Waste of Money?

On: Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 2:21PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

LF-A Waste of Money? test 1-1

At the end of last millennium, Japan all but completely bowed out of the supercar market. Only the Acura NSX held on for another few years until 2005, but even now that car has come and gone. The world was worse off without its road warriors from the Far East.  

Slowly but surely, however, Japan has returned to the high horsepower wars. Mitsubishi left the 3000GT VR4 by the wayside, and came to play with the Evo. Mazda brought back RX franchise and moved it a notch forward from the 7 to the 8.  Nissan continued the Z legacy from the twin turbo 300ZX to the 350Z and then the 370Z. They even raised the bar by bringing the heralded Skyline to the states in the form of the almighty GT-R. It's been only five years since the end of the NSX, and the world has been waiting with bated breath for an NSX replacement that has been scheduled and canceled more times than the average colonoscopy appointment. In 1998 the king of the Toyotas and, arguably the imports of the decade, the Supra, ceased sales in the US. After more than a decade, Toyota has finally returned to the market with a high powered street fighter in the form of its premium brand Lexus.  

MINI To Take The Countryman Rally Racing

On: Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 11:45AM | By: John Welch

MINI To Take The Countryman Rally Racing test 1-1

The WRC (The FIA World Rally Championship, if you prefer)  has seen its number of factory-sponsored competitors dwindle in the last few years. Hyundai, Peugeot, Mitsubishi, and even the mighty Subaru have all left the sport since 2007, leaving only Ford and Citroen to duke it out in the hills of Acropolis, the snows of Finland, the rains and gravel of Great Britain.

Like every struggling motorsport organization, the WRC decided to change its rules and attempt to attract more manufacturers through lower costs. Naturally aspirated engines are now strongly advised, and turbocharged engines cannot measure more than 1.6 liters. It will be difficult to push this size engine to the 300 or more reliable horsepower the old 2.0 units were making, but in a few years we should see the return of air restrictors as engineers find ever increasing gobs of power.

One of the manufacturers willing to take on the small bore turbo challenge is MINI, and they aren't taking their rally campaign lightly. Teaming up with Prodrive, the company is responsible for building many successful race cars, Subaru's championship winning WRC team included. Utilizing the nearly-new Coutryman model, MINI and parent company BMW plan to live up to the brand's already prestigious racing history. Their last international rally win coming at the 1967 Rally Monte Carlo; the team is anxious to get a car built and testing underway.

MINI will run a limited schedule in 2011, and look for a full campaign from 2012 on. Their deal with the FIA is for 3 to 4 years, and if successful they will commit to the WRC further.

Porsche Developing New Hybrids and Electrics For Next Year

On: Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 10:18AM | By: Chris Weiss

Porsche Developing New Hybrids and Electrics For Next Year  test 1-1

Like its parent company Volkswagen, Porsche is hard at work on a new generation of hybrid and electric vehicles that will begin making their way to the market in 2011. The Stuttgart automaker unveiled the Cayenne S Hybrid at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show and announced this week that a Panamera S Hybrid will share a powertrain with the Cayenne model and launch shortly after it. The company is also deep in the works on an electric vehicle, with testing set to begin next year.

The hybrid powertrain that underpins the Panamera S Hybrid will be the same supercharged 333-hp 3.0-liter V6 and 47-hp electric motor pairing that was detailed for the 2011 Cayenne S Hybrid. That powertrain promises to boost efficiency by 20 percent in the Cayenne and offer all-electric driving.

Porsche came out with its hybrid flags flying this past March in Geneva, offering a look at three hybrid vehicles and concepts. The first was the Cayenne S Hybrid, and the other two were the 918 Spyder Hybrid and the 911 GT3 R Hybrid.

The race-specific 911 GT3 R Hybrid features a pairing of two front-axle-mounted 82-hp electric motors and a flywheel generator, which gathers energy from braking and powers the motors when accelerating. This combination teams with a 480-hp rear-mounted flat-6.