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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry




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.


GM Announces Price of Chevy Volt

On: Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 9:42AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


GM Announces Price of Chevy Volt  test 1-1

GM has finally announced the official price for the Chevy Volt, the first extended range electric vehicle to be mass produced by GM.  A brand new Volt will cost buyers $41,000 MRSP, compared to its number one competitor, the Nissan Leaf selling for a little over $32,000.  After the $7,500 tax credit, the bottom line price drops to a much more realistic $33,500 (but the Nissan Leaf’s price will go down proportionally, as well).


Ford Will Charge More for the 2011 Explorer with Fewer Ponies

On: Tue, Jul 27, 2010 at 11:58AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Ford Will Charge More for the 2011 Explorer with Fewer Ponies test 1-1

Ford is setting a brand new trend as it announces the new price structure for the new redesigned 2011 Explorer, asking consumers to do something rather out of the ordinary: pay more for an the engine option with less horsepower

Going against a historical track record of charging more for an engine with more hp that the automotive industry has had since its inception, Ford will be charging a premium for the 4-cylinder engine when the Explorer is launched at the end of this year. Contrary to most other trim levels offered, The Explorer’s 3.5 liter V-6 will be the standard option and the smaller 4-cylinder, with over 50 less horsepower, will be the next price level up.

According to Ford, the value of the smaller engine lies in its cutting edge technology that allows an SUV to realize the fuel economy of a Toyota Camry at 19 mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway. SUV owners looking for a new roomy 4x4 that gets decent gas mileage can now have their cake and eat it too! In fact, according to a recent Bloomberg news article, the seven passenger 2011 model Ford Explorer now gets 30% better fuel efficiency than last year’s model.  

The Explorer’s engineer, Jim Holland, stated, “We really want to make a statement that the old baggage on fuel economy with the Explorer is gone; to get great fuel economy it takes technology, and it’s our view that people will pay for that.”

Critics are saying that Ford will be hard pressed to convince the public that there is more value in a smaller engine, particularly now that gas prices have gone down 34% from 2 years ago when some pumps were reading $4.11 per gallon, according to Jim Hall, principal of automotive consulting firm in Birmingham, Michigan.

“Why would you want to pay more for fuel economy when gas prices are going down?” Hall said. “People have very short memories.”


 

BMW to Sponsor U.S. Olympics

On: Tue, Jul 27, 2010 at 11:00AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


BMW to Sponsor U.S. Olympics test 1-1

At a recent news conference in New York, BMW and the U.S. Olympic Committee came to an agreement that BMW will be the very first imported car manufacturer to sponsor the Olympics and a 6-year contract has been signed between the two entities. The 24 million dollar deal will replace the 2008 agreement that General Motors had when it  sponsored the Beijing Summer Games.

"Part of our company's ethos is to really become part of the culture of countries where it sells cars," said Jack Pitney, vice president of marketing for BMW of North America. BMW engineers plan to assist USOC to upgrade the technology for athletes, a new helmet design that is more aerodynamic is just one example of how BMW will assist in supporting the Olympic games. BMW will also help the USOC with fundraising.

BMW will be the “official mobility partner," which is a term that was created to encompass a wide range of forms of transportation that BMW will provide for the games.

BMW will sponsor the bobsled and skeleton, speed skating, swimming, and track and field. This not the first time that the German automaker has supported American athletes; in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics BMW also stepped up to the plate.






 


Audi To Launch RS5 Sports Coupe In North America in Early 2012

On: Tue, Jul 27, 2010 at 10:53AM | By: Chris Weiss


Audi To Launch RS5 Sports Coupe In North America in Early 2012  test 1-1

When Audi first introduced the 450-hp RS5 coupe at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, it wasn't clear whether or not it would be offered in the North American market. Audi clarified this in April, when word from its high-end Quattro GmbH division confirmed that the RS5 would make it across the Atlantic. At the time, deliveries were speculated for early-2011 or even as early as the third quarter of this year. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until sometime in early 2012, as Audi North America chief Johan de Nysschen told the NY Times today.

When the RS5 hits, it will mark the return of Audi's high-end performance RS models to the U.S. The coupe will settle in above the S5 and A5. It features a 450-hp V8 engine, a slightly tuned version of the 4.2-liter V8 used in the Audi R8. The engine is mated to a dual-clutch seven-speed S-tronic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddles. The V8 and gearbox team up to deliver 317 lb-ft of torque, a 0-to-62-mph run of 4.6 seconds and an electronically-limited 155 mph top speed. The latter can be increased to 173 mph upon request. Despite its speed and performance, the RS5 provides an Audi-sourced fuel economy of nearly 22 mpg.

Other aspects of the RS5 include the Quattro all-wheel-drive system with a crown-gear differential, designed to allow shifting in torque between the two axles—up to 70 percent can be delivered to the front and up to 85 percent to the back. In standard setting, the all-wheel configuration is set at 40:60, with the majority going to the rear wheels to enable sporty handling. Torque vectoring technology works with the all-wheel drive to improve traction and cornering, and three drive modes—auto, comfort, and dynamic—alter the settings of the steering, transmission, differential and engine to meet the driver's demands.


Ford Launches the 2011 Ford Explorer

On: Tue, Jul 27, 2010 at 10:16AM | By: Chris Weiss


Ford Launches the 2011 Ford Explorer  test 1-1

After several weeks of teasers, Ford unveiled the 2011 Explorer in an unprecedented Facebook debut on Monday. The new Explorer has taken a step away from the large, gas-guzzling SUV mold, moving toward a lighter, sleeker, more efficient model that offers just enough off-road and towing capability for the average user. In doing so, Ford promises an SUV that offers the roominess and rugged durability of Explorers of old combined with class-leading fuel economy of the next-generation.

“Our objectives for Explorer dynamics were threefold,” said Carl Widmann, vehicle engineering manager. “The first element was to greatly increase on-road comfort, capability and driving dynamics. The second was to maintain the ‘any road, anytime, anywhere’ capability of the previous model. Finally, we aimed to apply technology to the task of safely towing, as V6 Explorer models are rated up to 5,000 pounds. We think customers will be pleased with the next-generation Explorer on all three counts.”

The 2011 Explorer drops the body-on-frame construction of past Explorers in favor of a Taurus-based unibody platform, moving it into the crossover segment. It has lost nearly 100 pounds thanks to the slimmer platform and lightweight materials like the aluminum hood. Aerodynamics have been increased through additions like the harmonized front air dam and rear spoiler.


Closing of Mercury Will Cost Ford $500 Million

On: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 4:22PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Closing of Mercury Will Cost Ford $500 Million test 1-1

Closing Mercury will cost Ford nearly $500 million, Ford CFO says.  A June auto news reported that Ford Motor Company plans to stop the production of the 71 year old brand, Mercury in the fall of 2010, and then sell the remaining Mercury inventory by the end of the year, a decision that according to a recent GM Inside News Report, could cost Ford nearly $500 million as stated by Ford CFO Lewis Booth.

Booth told Automotive News that “Ford took special charges of $247 million in the first half of 2010 to cover the cost of ongoing dealer reductions and shuttering the Mercury brand. He estimates the total cost to close the brand will be twice that amount.”

Booth also stated that 700 of the total 1,700 Mercury Franchises have already signed an agreement to close up shop after being offered cash compensation which accounts for the lion’s share of the expense that Ford will incur to close Mercury down.  When the original announcement was made back in June, Ford announced that it would be presenting a termination agreement with a buyout that included approximately $200,000 per dealership.

 “The plan is in place and we're having very fruitful discussions with our dealers,”


Lime Rock SlugFest; CytoSport Scores Second Victory

On: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 11:46AM | By: John Welch


Lime Rock SlugFest; CytoSport Scores Second Victory test 1-1

So maybe the title of this article is slightly misleading. Saturday, at Lime Rock, CytoSport/Muscle Milk was able to hand the Porsche RS Spyder its second post-Penske victory, but its first over-all victory this season. What in the huh am I talking about? Lime Rock Park saw one, combined LMP class (a very dismal field of five cars) take to the tarmac. CytoSport took its first victory at Sebring, but because the prototypes were still separated into LMP1 and 2, it was only a class victory. Seriously, that race featured a duo of Peugeot 908s; it was over before it began.

Ahem, technically its first victory, Klaus Graff and the CytoSport crew made it as exciting as the limited car count would allow. Raining and slippery during qualifying on Friday, Patron-Highcroft was able to use their tractable HPD V8 to great effect, taking the pole handily over the rest of the field. Saturday's race, however, was completely dry, the changing conditions giving the upper hand to more powerful turbo and 10-cylinder cars. The start was gnashed-teeth exciting, the Dyson Mazda, Intersport Lola and Drayson Lola-Judd all cramming into Turn 1, a piece of real estate barely the width of a country lane. The Dyson Mazda came out of the turn in the lead; followed by Lord Drayson's Union Jack-splattered Lola, Jon Field's Lola coming up in third position.

The Dyson Lola coupe dominated the first few rotations, a sight for sore eyes. Lola will not build any more LMP Coupes, so this may be the last season we see this gorgeous design scooting around American tracks. The Dyson team is to be applauded for taking risks: switching from the proven RS Spyder to the Lola, squeezing nearly 700 bhp out of a 2-liter four pot, laughing in the face of E85, and going straight for IsoButanol. These moves have done much to endear this team to me, and they deserve a victory as much as anyone on the grid. Alas, Saturday, July 24th was not that day . . .


World's Fastest Production Car Battle Heats Up

On: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 9:17AM | By: Chris Weiss


World's Fastest Production Car Battle Heats Up  test 1-1

On a bright, sunny July 3 afternoon, Bugatti driver Pierre Henri Raphanel slowly fastened his helmet, pulled his racing gloves over his digits, and took the wheel for what would become a run of legend. With more than a little help from the ginormous, grumbling 1,200 hp W16 engine of the flamboyant, black-and-bright-orange Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport, Raphanel set a new production car world speed record that was verified by the Guiness Book of World Records, who were there to witness the feat. His time? 268 mph, a full 12 mph over the previous record held by SSC Ultimate Aero TT. The only trouble for Bugatti now is that SSC is back with a new and improved Ultimate Aero and has its sights set squarely on Bugatti's new record. We'll see what type of supercar they'll be challenging it with in just a few short weeks.


Ford Reports Second-Quarter Profits Up 13%

On: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 8:56AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Ford Reports Second-Quarter Profits Up 13% test 1-1

Contrary to what many financial analysts predicted, Ford Motor Company’s second-quarter profit has reached $2.6 billion, a 13% increase, marking the fifth quarter in a row that Ford has been able to report the good news. Sales have been up for Ford Motor Co. as a result of the new redesigned the Taurus, and many new fuel efficient models that have been launched this year, which have shown that Ford continues to be a success in the marketplace.

Ford’s total sales climbed to $31.3 billion, which is quite an increase over last year’s numbers, which were reportedly only $27.2 billion.

In a recent conference call, Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally stated, “Overall, our performance this year gives us great confidence going forward.”  He continued, “We are ahead of where we thought we’d be.”

Paying off debt has been a big goal for Ford and analysts say if the company continues the track record it has set so far this year, that goal should be attained by the end of 2011. According to analyst Shelly Lombard: “It can give the company more flexibility and ultimately improve the way they’re perceived on Wall Street.”

Analysts predicted a 41-cent rise in stock shares but Ford reports stock earnings at 68 cents per share, to $12.73. Ford shares had fallen as low as $1.26 in 2008.

According to a recent Associated Press article posted on www.kval.com, Ford, which had mortgaged everything to avoid taking government bailouts as well as bankruptcy, is now “reaping big rewards and stealing business from stumbling rivals.”