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2:30 AM

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BMW's Vision EfficientDynamics concept bound for Frankfurt

Rafay Ansar

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BMW has revealed a radical vision for its future performance-oriented models in a spectacularly styled concept car whose combination of M3-rivaling acceleration and Mini Cooper-beating fuel economy will likely make it one of the stars of this year's Frankfurt motor show.

Called Vision EfficientDynamics, the one-off coupe is a mobile showcase for lightweight construction and plug-in hybrid drive technology, while featuring a variety of futuristic styling, packaging, aerodynamic, lighting and interior ideas under development at the German carmaker's heavily cloaked FIZ development center in Munich. Many of the concepts are planned for use on upcoming BMW road cars, including an exciting Z10 EfficientDynamics range-topping model due by 2015.

At the heart of the concept car is an advanced diesel-electric hybrid system, based on a compact turbocharged 1.5-liter, three-cylinder common-rail diesel engine that will first appear in the second-generation 1-series due in 2011.

The front-mounted engine features a gutsy 163 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque, making it more powerful than the latest and most-economical version of BMW's existing turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. It channels drive to the rear wheels via a version of the Getrag-developed six-speed dual-clutch gearbox introduced on the M3.

The diesel engine is supported by a pair of electric motors mounted at the front of the gearbox, one supplying drive to the rear wheels, the other to the front wheels via a single-speed transmission.

The electric motor for the rear wheels produces 25 kilowatts and 214 lb-ft of torque, but is capable of up to 38 kilowatts for short bursts. The motor driving the front wheels delivers 60 kilowatts and 162 lb-ft of torque, but can supply up to 104 kilowatts momentarily. Altogether, the combined diesel-electric powertrain is good for 356 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque.

This endows the 3,069-lb concept with a power-to-weight ratio close to that of 4.0-liter, 420-hp V8-powered M3, and with a comparable 4.8-second 0-to-62-mph time, according to BMW. At the same time, BMW says its hybrid concept should be good for a combined fuel-economy rating of 90.2 mpg.

Electricity comes from plugging into to the grid, or from regenerative braking and coasting. Recharging is estimated at 2.5 hours at 220 volts, or just 44 minutes at 380 volts. The 187-lb lithium-polymer battery pack produces up to 364 volts and has a storage capacity of 10.8 kilowatt-hours.
white and black cockpit of BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept.
A picture of white and black cockpit of BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept.

The interior of BMW's Vision EfficientDynamics concept includes an iDrive controller.

Depending on the driving conditions, the Vision EfficientDynamics is engineered to run exclusively on its electric motors, the diesel engine or a combination of diesel and electric motors. Maximum range in pure electric mode is estimated at 31 miles, with the diesel engine offering an additional 400 miles.

Together with improved versions of BMW's brake-energy regeneration, auto stop/start and active air control, the Vision EfficientDyanmics also adds a feature to its arsenal to help bolster energy efficiency in the form of what BMW describes as a thermo-electric generator integrated into the exhaust system. Originally developed for use in spacecraft, it converts thermal energy into electrical energy by way of a semiconductor, which is then used to power features such as the steering, air conditioning and seat-adjustment motors.

As well as highlighting technical developments expected in BMW production cars within the next five years, the Vision EfficientDynamics also acts as a template for BMW's future design lineage. The first car to be styled completely under BMW Group design boss Adrian von Hooydonk adopts a radical shape that features ideas that should begin appearing on all BMW models in the near future.

Von Hooydonk's team has attempted to instill visual lightness within the body of BMW's latest concept through the extensive use of glass covering most of the hood, roof, sides and trunk lid. The team also has taken liberties with traditional BMW elements, such as the concept's interpretation of the kidney grille.

Inside, the Vision EfficientDynamics offers 2+2 seating, accessed via butterfly-style doors that extend along the complete side of the car. A prominent center tunnel divides the plush leather-lined interior, which features a futuristic-looking dashboard and associated trim panels mirroring the layered surfacing of the exterior.

A better Bangle?

Since the appearance of the X Coupe concept car at the Detroit auto show in 2001, the design of BMW's road cars has been heavily dictated by what its former design boss, Chris Bangle, liked to describe as flame surfacing--a combination of convex and concave forms within the body surfacing conceived to lighten the visual effect of the sheet metal.

With the unveiling of the Vision EfficientDynamics at this year's Frankfurt motor show, new design boss Adrian von Hooydonk is heralding a new direction in BMW design, described as "layered surfacing." The new look doesn't consign flame surfacing to the dustbin, but instead strives to enhance its effect even further. It involves layering one surface on top of another to improve aerodynamic efficiency and to achieve a more cohesive and harmonious appearance.

For example, the shape of the A-pillars channel the flow of air in the same way as the rear lights with their wing profile, according to von Hooydonk. The concept also boasts very few cooling ducts and a full length undertray, all of which results in a low 0.22 coefficient of drag.

"By using the structure of the surface without adding any appendages, we're able to optimize the air flow," says von Hooydonk, who rose to prominence following the unveiling of the Z9 Grand Turismo concept at the 1999 Frankfurt motor show, a car which previewed the look of today's 6-series.

12:58 AM

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Toyota closing NUMMI factory in California

Rafay Ansar

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Toyota Motor Corp. plans to close its oldest U.S. auto plant, New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., a venture that once symbolized Toyota's zeal to learn the art of automaking in America.

Toyota's board decided to shut the Fremont, Calif., plant in March. The plant builds the Toyota Corolla and Tacoma.

Toyota has never closed an American factory and has spent the past 25 years carefully avoiding the political and public image stigma of plant closings and worker layoffs.

The move will mean that Toyota will rely on its Corolla assembly plant in Cambridge, Ontario, to fill all dealer orders for one of the market's most resilient models.

The Corolla was the biggest seller under the just-completed federal cash-for-clunker stimulus program.

"After the decision by General Motors to withdraw from the NUMMI joint venture, Toyota conducted a thorough review of its alternatives in light of current and anticipated market conditions," Toyota executive vice president Atsushi Niimi said in a statement. "Based on this review, we have determined that over the mid- to long-term, it just would not be economically viable to continue the production contract with NUMMI. This is most unfortunate, and we deeply regret having to take this action.

"We remain strongly committed to maintaining a substantial production presence in the U.S.A. and North America," Niimi said. "To that end, we will consider moving additional Corolla production back to North America over time."

A more challenging issue will be where to move production of the Tacoma pickup. Toyota builds some Tacomas at a small plant in Tijuana, Mexico. But it also has been struggling with excess plant capacity at its big San Antonio plant, which builds only the full-sized Tundra.

A Toyota spokesman says the company will provide details about closing NUMMI later Friday.


The decision to close NUMMI was largely thrust onto Toyota when partner General Motors walked away from the 50-50 joint-venture during bankruptcy this summer. Toyota and GM opened the plant in 1984 to share resources on a small car based on a Toyota platform.

GM would distribute its version of the Toyota car through its Chevrolet dealerships at a time when rising Japanese market share was beginning to alarm Detroit.

GM provided managers to the joint venture in hopes of learning Toyota's unfamiliar approach to lean manufacturing. Toyota leaned on GM's American managers at NUMMI to learn how U.S. automakers handled human resources, the UAW, legal issues, regulatory and compliance requirements, government relations and other issues.

But things have changed in 25 years. Toyota now has 14 North American factories building cars, trucks, engines and other components. The politically charged U.S.-Japan trade friction of the 1980s and 1990s has eased.

Toyota has found itself in 2009 coping with the problems that dogged its U.S. competitors: excess factory capacity, eroding market share and operating losses. Toyota posted losses of $7.7 billion for the January-March quarter, a worse performance than GM's.

GM's departure from NUMMI this summer left Toyota's new Japanese and North American management team to decide what to do with an uncompetitive plant as it slashed costs around the world.

Big factory

NUMMI employs about 4,700 workers, working in 5.3 million square feet--an enormous plant constructed and closed by GM before Toyota arrived.

It is Toyota's only UAW-represented work force.

To cope with the shrunken U.S. sales market, Toyota has cut back factory schedules at all its U.S. operations this year. It also has stopped one large project in its tracks--a plan to build a $1.3 billion Prius factory near Tupelo, Miss. Toyota recently completed the building shell for that plant and has now ceased activity there.

Toyota has avoided laying off any U.S. workers this year. Instead it has offered employees voluntary buyouts, flexible work schedules, and reduced hours and salaries.

12:46 AM

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Ferrari 458 Italia puts interior on display in new photos

Rafay Ansar


We still have good vibes from the first photos of the new Ferrari 458 Italia, which were released a month ago. So we're happy to get more photos of the new Ferrari in advance of its rollout in Frankfurt next month.

This new batch of photos gives us a first look at the 458 Italia's interior. Ferrari says the design of the steering wheel and gauge cluster is a step forward in ergonomics.

There are no stalks on the steering column of the 458 Italia. Most of the controls are on the steering wheel or grouped into pods that flank the wheel. The design takes its cues from Ferrari's Formula One cars.

Controls on the steering wheel are the turn signals, wipers, suspension setting and engine start. Transmission shift paddles and audio controls are mounted on the back side of the wheel.

The pod to the right of the wheel has controls for the navigation unit, rear parking camera and infotainment unit. The pod to the left of the wheel has controls for cruise control, on-board computer and changing the look of the left display screen in the gauge cluster.

More info on the car, including a video interview with Paolo Pininfarina, chairman of design firm Pininfarina S.p.A, talking about the design philosophy of the 458 Italia, is available at http://speciali.ferrari.com/458italia/index_en.html.

1:02 AM

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BMW expands Mini lineup with two-seat coupe, roadster models

Rafay Ansar


Mini is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its original model by confirming plans for a new compact performance-oriented coupe.

The two-seater, revealed 50 years to the day after the premiere of the first Mini back in 1959, will make its public debut at the upcoming Frankfurt motor show. At the show, the BMW-owned carmaker also will unveil a similarly styled two-seat roadster, which sources say will head into production as part of a strategy aimed at further raising the appeal of the wildly popular and iconic small car.

Confirmation of the coupe and roadster pairing comes less than a year after Mini revealed that it would build a new four-wheel-drive SUV in the mold of its high-riding Crossman concept. Together, this trio of new models will double the number of Mini derivatives on sale within the next three years--a move that analysts say will help boost the company's worldwide sales above 400,000 annually, despite increased competition in the form of the upcoming Audi A1, the Citroën DS3 (both Frankfurt debuts) and the recently introduced Alfa Romeo MiTo.

Although it is described as a concept and the official line is that no decision on production has yet been made, the Mini Coupe to be revealed in Frankfurt is no mere fantasy destined to be toned down in appearance and mechanical makeup before it reaches dealerships. High-ranking Mini insiders revealed to AutoWeek that the production version due out in 2011 will be a virtual carbon copy both in looks and in the hardware that lurks beneath.

The Coupe was styled by a team working under Mini design boss Gert Hildebrand. He has retained the retro appearance of existing Cooper models while infusing an added dash of sportiness in the heavily angled windshield, the low roofline and the dedicated trunk lid. The result is a less boxy car than the Cooper. With a height of just 53.4 inches, it's also a lot lower. Traditional touches include blackened pillars to give the coupe the same floating roof design found on other Minis.

Inside, the Coupe swaps the four-seat layout of the Cooper for a simple two-seat arrangement, with the space in back used to extend trunk capacity. While the concept car boasts a luxurious leather-lined interior, production versions of the Coupe will come with the same materials and trims used on existing Mini models.

Under its steel skin, the Coupe uses the same front-wheel-drive platform, as well as the aluminum-intensive MacPherson-strut front and multilink rear suspension and electro-hydraulic steering system from existing versions of the Mini. All of that hints at typical agile-driving characteristics and firm ride qualities for the production car, which is expected to be priced at about $36,000 when North American sales begin in 2012.

In keeping with the performance slant evident in its exterior styling, Mini has endowed its Frankfurt concept with the same turbocharged 1.6-liter, 208-hp, 206-lb-ft four-cylinder gasoline engine used in the Cooper S John Cooper Works model.

Nothing is official yet, but expect the top-of-the-line Mini Coupe to hit 60 mph in less than 7.0 seconds and to reach a top speed of about 150 mph. Production versions of the new car should also be available with the less powerful 172-hp turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine from the Cooper S, according to Mini sources.

1:02 AM

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General Motors is dropping corporate logo from all vehicles

Rafay Ansar


The small, silver GM badge has been placed near the front wheel of the automaker's vehicles since 2005.

General Motors is dropping the GM logo on its cars and trucks.

The badge is a small silver square with "GM" embossed on it. It's usually on the lower edge of the front fenders.

"With the focus really turning toward our four core brands, the feeling was, let's gradually get away from the GM logo," GM spokesman Pat Morrissey says. The logos will be removed gradually, but GM provided no timetable.

In April 2005, the Pontiac G6 was the first vehicle of the current lineup to get the GM logo. Since then, the badge has gone on most GM products.

But those inside GM say another reason to eliminate the badge is to distance GM's stronger brands, such as Chevrolet and Cadillac, from GM's image as a taxpayer-supported company just out of bankruptcy.

1:10 AM

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Maserati GranCabrio is set for a Frankfurt debut, will go on sale this year

Rafay Ansar

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Maserati will debut the GranCabrio, its first four-seat convertible, at the Frankfurt motor show.

The GranCabrio is a soft-top variant of the four-seat GranTurismo. It has a roof that opens or closes in 28 seconds and will go on sale by the end of this year. The price is expected to start at 125,000 euros in Europe, or about $179,000 at current exchange rates.

The convertible was styled by Italian design house Pininfarina, which also styled the GranTurismo and Quattroporte sedan for the Fiat S.p.A. subsidiary.

The GranCabrio is powered by Maserati's 440-hp, 4.7-liter V8.

Maserati says the GranCabrio's 115.7-inch wheelbase--the same size as the GranTurismo--is the longest in its category, giving more room for rear passengers.

The GranCabrio completes the three-car Maserati family with the GranTurismo and Quattroporte sedan.

The car will add volume to the company's sales, especially in the crucial U.S. market, which is expected to be the biggest market for the convertible.

Maserati's unit sales were down 48.2 percent to 2,326 in the first half, which the company said was in line with a 47-percent decline in its market segment.

1:08 AM

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Pigskin and sheetmetal: Redskins host car event this weekend

Rafay Ansar


A Bentley was on display at last year's event.

With fall just around the corner and summer car-show season beginning to fade, a nice transition will be held this Sunday when the Washington Redskins play host to their second-annual Redskins Rides event.

Pigskin and sheetmetal fans can satisfy their dual addictions with the show at the Redskins' practice facility in Ashburn, Va.

Last year, more than 3,000 attended the event, and players Antwaan Randle El, Jason Campbell and Chris Cooley were among the headliners who appeared from the team.

This year, cars, 'Skins players, food, cheerleaders and music are on tap for the event, which runs from noon to 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youths, and children ages three and younger are free.

Look for vintage and exotic cars, and the categories will include best classic and best custom. There's also an award for the best ride brought by a Redskins player.

Proceeds from the event go to the Easterns Community Care Foundation and the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation.

1:16 AM

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You don't have to wait until 2011 to go topless in a Camaro

Rafay Ansar


Newport Convertible Engineering will open up a Camaro for you. Cost of the conversion starts at $16,000.

Spending $16,000 or more to make a Camaro into a Camaro convertible isn't a rational decision, but we can certainly understand people wanting one.

We drove the concept version of this car from Chevrolet two years ago ("Top This!" AW, July 2, 2007) and loved it. Back then, Chevrolet planned to release a convertible version of the new Camaro in November 2009, but an economic cliff intervened, pushing production to the second quarter of 2011. You could die of Camaro lust by then, or you could buy your Camaro convertible from Newport Convertible Engineering in Placentia, Calif.

Newport Convertible has always done a solid engineering job (fit and finish being another matter). They reinforce the windshield frame, the roof pillars, the rear seatback area and the undercarriage to compensate for the loss of the top structure. Newport claims that all of that reinforcement doesn't increase the curb weight of the car. We didn't have a scale when we drove one.

Regardless, we took this one over railroad tracks, parking-lot speed bumps and the worst asphalt Placentia had to offer. While there was a fair amount of higher-frequency movement through the windshield frame and the body at speed, the lower-frequency, bigger bumps did not translate into cowl shake. We found it to be a fundamentally solid car. The top stayed in place well, secured by two manual latches. Visibility was good, and wind intrusion was minimal inside the cabin.

Not everything about an aftermarket Newport Convertible will be quite as buttoned-up as the car coming from the manufacturer in 2011. But if you're willing to put up with such inconveniences, contact Newport at www.newportconvertible.com, and the company will happily accept your deposit.

12:18 AM

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Ebay-GM partnership generates interest but limited sales

General Motors Co.'s effort to sell new cars on eBay in California is generating interest but recording few sales on the Internet auction site.

In the first nine days of the program, GM dealers listed 16,228 vehicles on eBay and completed 45 sales, according to data available on the Web site.

But GM said the eBay exposure is prompting customers to visit dealerships to complete sales that aren't recorded on eBay.

"It's way too early in the program to have any concrete understanding of what's going on," said John McDonald, GM spokesman.

Mark Borjan, a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealer, said he listed 70 vehicles on eBay and sold seven, but only one is recorded with eBay.

"I've sold some vehicles to people that saw the vehicles on eBay, but they didn't buy them on eBay. They called, came in and bought them," said Borjan, owner of Golden Hills Auto Center in Paso Robles, Calif. He sells about 300 new vehicles annually. Said McDonald: "eBay is generating leads. A big part of this is about generating awareness of GM products in the California market."

eBay said the GM eBay Web site had 630,000 visits in the first week and logged more than 960,000 searches of listed vehicles.

California is a tough market for GM. The automaker's market share is about 13 percent, according to McDonald. GM's national share through seven months this year was 19.6 percent.

Also, California's economy has been hit hard by the recession. Even Toyota, which dominates sales in California, has seen a 42.9 percent decline this year.

The Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick and GMC vehicles are not being offered in eBay's traditional auction format. Instead, vehicles are listed at the manufacturer's suggested retail price, along with any incentives offered. A consumer can either buy the vehicle immediately at that price - which no one did - or submit an offer below the listed price. It's up to the dealer to accept or reject the offer.

GM said 225 dealerships are participating in the eBay pilot program, which started Aug. 11 and runs through Sept. 8.

2:00 AM

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Jaguar XJ vs. Porsche Panamera, an AutoWeek popularity contest

Dueling beauties--the new Jaguar XJ and Porsche Panamera sedans.

Seen last week in California: the redesigned Jaguar XJ sedan is parked next to the new Porsche Panamera sedan. As far as we can tell, it's the first time that these two new cars have stood side by side, a world exclusive. And we want to know--which one would you put in your garage? Let us know in the Comments section below.

1:20 AM

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Cadillac joins Lexus atop study of customer satisfaction

Rafay Ansar


Cadillac joined Lexus as the brand with the most-pleased customers this year, as Detroit makes held three of the top five posts in an annual University of Michigan study of customer satisfaction.

Cadillac rose from No. 2 last year to match Lexus with a score of 89 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, released Tuesday. The industrywide tally was 84, or 2.4 percent above last year's and an all-time high for the index, begun in 1994.

Customer satisfaction for all Detroit brands grew from just over 81 last year to just below Asian automakers' score of 84. European companies topped the ranking with 86. This year's near-parity with Asian companies marks the closest the Detroit-based automakers have come to that group of rivals since outscoring them in 2000.

Claes Fornell, director of the University of Michigan's national quality research center, said part of the Detroit makes' increased satisfaction stems, oddly, from declining sales. As less-satisfied customers don't return to automakers, the remaining customer base is smaller but more satisfied, Fornell said.

"This is going to be more sustainable than having a large, diversified mass of buyers, who tend to be less satisfied than the customers of competition," he said. "Not only is a smaller, more-satisfied customer base less difficult to grow, it is also much easier to defend against competitive inroads."

Better customer satisfaction should mean more domestic-car owners make repeat purchases and fewer of them choose different brands for their next vehicle, Fornell said.

Top-five barrier

Lincoln-Mercury cracked the top five by scoring an 88, tying for third with Buick and Honda. Lincoln-Mercury saw a 6 percent gain from last year, displacing Toyota among the top five. Toyota kept its score at 86, just three points from the top, while falling into a tie for seventh.

Overall, Ford Motor Co.'s customer satisfaction increased 5 percent, Chrysler Group's, 4 percent and General Motors Co.'s was up 2 percent. That puts Ford "slightly above" GM in overall customer satisfaction, Fornell said. The two companies are tied if the tallies exclude Pontiac, which GM is discontinuing, and Saturn, which it is selling. The study data lumps other brands that GM and Ford are shedding into its "Other" category.

Volkswagen sustained the greatest improvement, advancing 6.2 percent from last year to tie for seventh with a score of 86. That marks the first time since 2004 that VW has outperformed the industry average. Fornell attributed the gain to improved quality and a near doubling of advertising spending.

Ford's U.S. sales have fallen 29.7 percent this year, while the automaker has boosted share. GM's 37.7 percent drop and Chrysler Group's 42 percent slide have been steeper than the industry's 32.1 percent decline.

8:19 AM

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Hyundai Tucson teased ahead of Frankfurt motor show

Rafay Ansar

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Hyundai has released a teaser shot of the next Tucson, which will be shown at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

The ute will arrive in the United States early next year, and more specifics will be available closer to launch.

It will wear different badging around the world and will be called the ix35 in Europe. Hyundai confirmed that the ute will still be named the Tucson in the United States.

The ute was styled at Hyundai's European design center in Russelsheim, Germany, and takes cues from the ix-onic concept from the Geneva motor show.

7:25 AM

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1965 Shelby Daytona Cobra sells for $7.25 million at Monterey auction

Rafay Ansar


The championship-winning 1965 Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe CSX2601 sold for a record $7.25 million on Saturday at an auction in Monterey.

The sale is believed to be a record for an American car at auction. Bob Bondurant drove it to victory in the 12 Heures du Reims--fittingly on the Fourth of July in 1965 to secure the FIA title. It was the first championship for an American team in the GT class, beating the vaunted Ferrari.

The Cobra had a string of successes that year, winning the GT class at Monza and at the Nürburgring and taking second at Spa. It also later appeared in the movie Redline 7000 and was briefly owned by Bondurant, who sold it in 1969.

The car was the headliner at the Mecum auction held in Monterey as part of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance weekend. It was sold wearing its title-clinching race livery from 1965. It's one of six Cobras from that era whose success helped establish Shelby--and the United States--as a force in motorsports around the world.

1:29 AM

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2010 Devon GTX shown at Pebble Beach concours

Rafay Ansar


The 2010 Devon GTX, a 650-hp supercar from California design house Devon Motorworks, was shown Saturday at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

The speed demon will cost $500,000 and go on sale in the first quarter of next year. Just 36 cars will be produced per year by the company. The GTX is Devon's first product.

Power comes from an 8.4-liter V10 that makes peak horsepower at 6100 rpm. It's one of the most powerful naturally aspirated engines ever, and it's paired with a six-speed manual transmission.

A racing package adds $25,000 to the sticker.

The body is aircraft-caliber carbon-fiber. The interior also uses the material to reinforce the racing seats, and also features leather and chrome fittings. Daniel Paulin was the designer.

It was tested at Willow Springs Raceway and Laguna Seca. Former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Justin Bell was among those who participated in the car's validation.

"It was not a specific goal to set track records at that stage of validation, but the car outperformed even our aggressive goals," Bell said in a statement. "We are looking forward to additional testing, where I'm certain the GTX will eclipse any time we've set to date."

1:31 AM

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Infiniti virtually reveals 2011 M sedan at Pebble Beach

Rafay Ansar

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Infiniti revealed the 2011 M sedan Friday night with a virtual introduction at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

The third generation of the luxury liner has a long hood, flared fenders that channel the Essence concept and a coupe-like roofline. It goes on sale in the spring of next year.

It will come in two versions. The M56 will get a 5.6-liter V8 making more than 400 horsepower--30 percent better than the current model--but fuel economy is still improved about 10 percent. The M37 will get a 3.7-liter V6.

The new M sedan will measure about an inch wider and half an inch lower than the current car, while maintaining the same length. This is meant to give it a sportier stance, said Infiniti design Vice President Shiro Nakamura. Also look for 20-inch wheels.

A blind-spot intervention technology will also be available. It pulls the car back into its lane if the driver tries to change lanes into another car.

Infiniti projected the image of the new M sedan onto a foam block using virtual video mapping. The live reveal is in December in Los Angeles.

12:49 AM

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BMW to show production hybrid X6, 7-series at Frankfurt motor show

Rafay Ansar


A pair of fire-breathing hybrids from BMW based on the X6 and the 7-series will be revealed in production guise at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

The ActiveHybrid X6 arrives in the United States late this year, followed by the ActiveHybrid 7 in the spring of 2010. Both hybrids combine electric motors with powerful twin-turbo V8 engines to boost output, performance and fuel economy, while retaining the looks of the popular conventional versions.

The X6 hybrid has a total output of 480 hp and 575 lb-ft of torque. It can run from zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. But it can also run completely on electric power up to 37 mph. The range in electric mode is just 1.6 miles.

BMW says fuel consumption is reduced 20 percent on the European cycle but did not announce EPA figures.

The X6 has all-wheel drive and a two-mode transmission; one stage is for stop-and-go traffic, the other for higher speeds. It has a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The battery pack is nickel-metal hydride.
The ActiveHybrid 7-series
A picture of The ActiveHybrid 7-series

The ActiveHybrid 7-series

Hybrid flagship

The 7-series hybrid boosts power to 455 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque for BMW's top luxury liner. It also uses a different battery technology--lithium-ion--for its hybrid powerplant. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic.

This car can hit 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, and BMW says fuel economy will be 15 percent better than what the 750i gets. It also has an auto start-stop feature and regenerative brakes.

The hybrid 7 is fitted with 10-spoke, 19-inch alloy wheels and gets special badging. Inside, the instrument cluster has displays to inform the driver of efficiency. Like the conventional version, the hybrid 7-series also will be available in a stretched-wheelbase model.

1:38 AM

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2010 BMW X6 M: Fast and fun--whatever the heck it is

Rafay Ansar

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Barreling around the racetrack, there's little lean entering the corners, plenty of thrust on exit and a monster amount of grip everywhere, and if it feels taxed at all, it's ever so briefly as the nose aims left and up from turn five for the steep climb out of the esses.

Road Atlanta is plain ol' fast, and the BMW X6 M does well to keep pace, spilling gobs of power all over the track, blazing down the long back straight to nearly 140 mph, maneuvering like no two-and-half-ton pile of metal should. It's exhilarating stuff, to be sure, only we're left asking very many questions, and all of them are: Why?

Why would BMW make an all-wheel-drive M vehicle? Or an automatic M? Or an M ute at all?

Truth be told, the regular X6 makes little sense. It's a sport-ute (regardless of BMW's insistence on calling it a “sport activity vehicle”) with most of what makes the breed useful--that is, cargo hauling--lopped off in the name of coupelike styling while keeping the penalties intact, namely, a high center of gravity and lots and lots of mass. Stuffing it full of 555 hp, offering a bevy of performance-enhancing electronics and slapping a big M badge on its sloping butt makes it a heckuva lot of fun, but it's still a quirky vehicle with little compelling argument for its existence except that it's, well, compelling.

And for some enthusiasts, that's all that matters, which, we suppose, answers all those whys.

The magic for turning its 5,247 pounds into a road-going rocket is the specially tuned M engine, based largely on the 407-hp, twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 found in the X6 xDrive 50i and the 750i. BMW swapped out the regular turbochargers on the base 4.4-liter for a pair of high-efficiency twin-scroll units, which themselves feed off a unique exhaust manifold that shuttles the outflow from paired but opposing cylinders to each scroll. This ensures a delivery of almost constant exhaust pressure to each turbo-charger, making throttle response almost immediate and turbo lag virtually undetectable.
A view from the back of the 2010 BMW X6 M.
A picture of A view from the back of the 2010 BMW X6 M.

A view from the back of the 2010 BMW X6 M.

Torque pours out in piles wherever you ask for it, too, and in any of its six gears, a full 500 lb-ft is on hand from 1,500 rpm to 5,650 rpm, which helps propel the X6 M to 60 mph from a standstill in about 4.5 seconds. Throw in some curves, and the X6 M feels nearly as fast and just as stable, partly because of BMW's active roll-stabilization system, which locks up the antiroll bars in response to body lean.

Although we'd prefer some version of a dual-clutch box over the automatic, the six-speed transmission, largely a carryover unit from the regular X6, does bang out the shifts in quick fashion, either left in full auto mode or when accessed via a pair of big paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.

Stopping duty falls to a giant set of brakes, four-piston calipers squeezing 15.6-inchers up front with single-pot rears on 15.2-inch discs. Like the tranny, the suspension makes its way from the standard X6 largely intact; its double-wishbone front and multilink rear get stiffer springs and dampers, while the whole body sits a half-inch lower. Still, even with its standard 20-inch wheels and run-flats, there's enough space in the wheel wells that the X6 M looks as if it could stand to drop another couple of inches. At least.

The only visual giveaways that this X6 gets the M treatment, beyond the badging,

are those larger wheels, vents just behind the front

fenders, bigger air intakes up front and four tailpipes peeking out back. All told, the X6 M will run you $90,550. That quirky styling comes at no extra charge.

2010 BMW X6 M


BASE PRICE: $90,550

DRIVETRAIN: 4.4-liter, 555-hp, 500-lb-ft twin-turbocharged V8; AWD, six-speed automatic

CURB WEIGHT: 5,247 lb

0-60 MPH: 4.5 sec (est)

FUEL ECONOMY (EPA): 17 mpg (est)

1:27 AM

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Chevy Volt to get 230-mpg rating for city fuel economy, General Motors says

Rafay Ansar

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General Motors expects that the Chevy Volt will get an EPA city fuel-economy rating of 230 mpg, and a combined fuel economy rating of triple digits, CEO Fritz Henderson said Tuesday.

The ratings will be based on a new test that the EPA is developing for plug-in electric hybrids. The highway and combined figures were not announced. The Volt is expected to travel 40 miles on electric power before a generator kicks in to extend the range to more than 300 miles.

"The Volt is becoming very real, very fast," Henderson said with emphasis Tuesday morning at an event to showcase GM's new products.

Henderson estimates it could cost as little as 40 cents to fully recharge the Volt.

"A car that can achieve triple digit fuel efficiency can and will be a game-changer for us," he said.

The price of the Volt has not been announced, but it is expected to be around $40,000. Henderson said a possible $7,500 tax break could make it more affordable for many buyers.

He did admit there are still hurdles for the car--namely--recharging it in urban areas where street parking is common.

Henderson also said that GM is developing a new small Cadillac sedan that will be positioned below the CTS. He did not say when the new Cadillac would go on sale. Rear-wheel and all-wheel drive will be features. Henderson confirmed that the CTS coupe and a high-performance V version will go on sale this year.
GM CEO Fritz Henderson announces that the Chevy Volt will get 230 mpg in city driving.
A picture of GM CEO Fritz Henderson announces that the Chevy Volt will get 230 mpg in city driving.

GM CEO Fritz Henderson announces that the Chevy Volt will get 230 mpg in city driving.

The Volt and new Cadillacs are part of a product blitz of 25 new vehicles GM is launching through 2011.

2:53 AM

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2010 Cadillac SRX: A new standard for GM's luxury crossovers

Rafay Ansar

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A few years after Lexus touched off the luxury-crossover craze with its RX 300, Cadillac chose to offer the SRX--a completely different, angular tall wagon with a rear liftback built on its rear-drive CTS sedan chassis.

Although the SRX was excellent, its showing in a marketplace seeking stylish RX-like crossovers wasn't good. Since it introduced the SRX as a 2004 model, Cadillac has sold a total of 120,000; Lexus sells about 90,000 RXs every 12 months.

Cadillac appears to have learned from that lesson with the 2010 SRX, a true luxury crossover in every sense. The five-seat, two-row model, on sale now and more widely available in September, offers the perfect combination of panache, power and practicality that has drawn droves of buyers to the growing luxury-crossover market.

The SRX has a lot riding on its chiseled haunches, and it delivers, with an impressive array of technology, powertrains and road presence worthy of the wreath and crest. Tops in the techno department is the Haldex all-wheel-drive system with electronic limited-slip rear differential. The system, with some improvements, is lifted directly from the Saab Turbo X. It produces impressive grip and stability using power, rather than braking, to correct its path and dig its way around corners. The optional (and recommended) AWD system is mated to a 3.0-liter direct-injection V6 that produces 265 hp and 223-lb-ft of torque. An optional turbocharged 2.8-liter, 300-hp, 295-lb-ft V6 shared with Saab will be available only on AWD models in October. Six-speed automatics are used in all models. Power from the base 3.0-liter is ample and well managed by the gearbox; waiting for the turbo may not be necessary.

The chassis is not derived from the similarly sized Saturn Vue and Chevrolet Equi-nox; the SRX employs all-new architecture. Buy your SRX with AWD and the uplevel 20-inch wheels, and you also get Cadillac's continuously variable “real-time” damping.

The suspension system is miraculous in the way it undetectably smooths bumps by adjusting shock rates in response to road conditions. The net effect is a vehicle that remains planted and poised. The system also provides ample body control in cornering, despite the vehicle's tall stature and two-ton-plus weight. Those used to the dull ride of Cadillacs past will complain that the SRX suspension is too taut, while CTS owners will find it just about right. Steering is spot on and steady, but we found the brakes somewhat underwhelming though capable.

There's a lot to like inside, from the stitched leather surfaces, to the information reports in the center of the speedometer, to the LED turn-signal “repeaters” in the instrument panel. Fits are excellent throughout, and the layout of all the various systems is good though a little busy. The rear seatbacks fold completely flat, opening up a huge expanse of cargo space.

Another view of the SRX crossover.

The 2010 SRX represents Cadillac's first car under the umbrella of the “new” General Motors. If GM keeps making cars like this, it certainly won't be the last.

2010 Cadillac SRX


BASE PRICE: $34,155

DRIVETRAIN: 3.0-liter, 265-hp, 223-lb-ft V6; FWD, six-speed automatic

CURB WEIGHT: 4,224 lb

0-60 MPH: 7.8 sec (mfr)


2:55 AM

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New Porsche 911 Turbo gets a bigger engine and cranks out 500 hp

Rafay Ansar


There are plenty of good reasons to go to the Frankfurt motor show in September, but this seals the deal--Porsche will use the show for the rollout of the new 911 Turbo in coupe and convertible versions.

Porsche on Friday gave us photos and details on the newest 911. Here are the high points:

-- New 3.8-liter flat-six engine rated at 500 hp. The new engine is fitted with direct fuel injection and a variable vane turbocharger for more boost at lower engine rpm.

-- The seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission is an option.

-- Opt for the PDK and you get a three-spoke steering wheel with shift paddles.

-- Add the Sport Chrono package and you get displays for the launch control and sport/sport plus modes integrated into the steering wheel.

-- Porsche says the new 911 Turbo will rip from 0 to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds. Top speed is 194 mph. Yet the 911 Turbo won't get hit with a gas-guzzler tax in the United States, Porsche says.

The new 911 goes on sale in Germany in late November. We think we'll see it here in the States soon after that.

12:50 AM

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Bugatti Veyron loses nothing in translation to convertible

Rafay Ansar

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A picture of The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport will rocket from 0 to 62 mph in 2.7 seconds.
The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport will rocket from 0 to 62 mph in 2.7 seconds.

When Bugatti launched the Veyron, the world was a very different place. More people had money, for sure, and far more moneyed folk were happy to show the world what they could afford.

Into a very different world marches the convertible version of the Veyron, the nearly $2 million Grand Sport. Even those people who have money are finding it prudent not to demonstrably splash it around, even if this car is--almost certainly--the most astonishing convertible ever built.

Other things have changed, too.

When Bugatti launched the Veyron, there was no public consciousness about it. It was just another oddly shaped machine that barely drew a look. That's all gone. Even in car-hating France, people know what the Veyron is. And they love it. They cheer for it. They raise their thumbs for it. They take photos on raised Nokias. When it parks, they call their friends, who all come down to take their own photos.

This is what Ferraris used to be in the 1960s--but faster, stronger and better built.

Taking the roof off any car is dangerous. Convertibles don't feel as composed in corners, they struggle in crash safety, and their windscreens wobble on bumpy corners. Not the Veyron. The carbon-fiber chassis was redesigned around the windscreen pillars, down in the sills and behind the driver to cope with the forces.

And what forces. Nothing in series production accelerates the way a Veyron does, and the Grand Sport lost nothing in translation from the coupe. It's a touch heavier, at 4,387 pounds, but it will still disdainfully explode past 62 mph in 2.7 seconds and smash beyond 124 mph in 7.3 seconds, and 186 mph--considered an end-goal speed for most sports-car makers--will be dead and buried in 16.7 seconds.
The four-turbo, 7.9-liter W16 in the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport is rated at 1,001 hp.
A picture of The four-turbo, 7.9-liter W16 in the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport is rated at 1,001 hp.

The four-turbo, 7.9-liter W16 in the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport is rated at 1,001 hp.

And in spite of Bugatti claiming not to have done much to the driveline--with 1,001 hp, 921 lb-ft of torque and a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox--Bugatti heard few complaints about urgency. The noise pedal unveils the biggest change from coupe to convertible.

If you're not careful, both Bugattis will crush the air out of your lungs so hard that you'll feel as if you've been spit out of a submarine. Yet with the roof off (and stowed somewhere other than in the Veyron, which can't carry it), the Grand Sport becomes involving and passionate and menacing in ways the coupe never could.

If you could level one criticism at the monster W16, four-turbo Veyron 16.4 coupe, it is that the noise didn't match the fury that the engine must have felt to propel the damned thing so brutally. Not anymore. The induction starts it all at low revs, followed by the exhaust, and at about 1,500 rpm, the turbos begin their demonic whistle. None of them will cede superiority to the other, and it becomes an escalating cacophony, bellowing and bruising the air around it.

If anything, the Grand Sport is even easier to drive. The lateral grip is prodigious, the brakes (on a public road, at least) are unfailingly strong, the all-wheel drive still works superbly, the springs are a fraction softer, and the Michelin tires are more progressive when they run out of grip (which takes some doing).

The cynical ones might think that a convertible Veyron obviously would be a lesser Veyron. They are wrong.

Only 150 Grand Sports ever will be built, and it's hard to imagine the day when it ever will be outclassed, outsprinted or outposed. Against most machines, it's expensive. Against other things that line up at the million-euro mark (the Ferrari Enzo, the Maserati MC12, the Lamborghini Reventón, to name a few), the engineering runs so deep it's a bargain.
Bugatti redesigned the Veyron's chassis around the windshield pillars for the convertible version.
A picture of Bugatti redesigned the Veyron's chassis around the windshield pillars for the convertible version.

Bugatti redesigned the Veyron's chassis around the windshield pillars for the convertible version.


2009 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport


BASE PRICE: $2 million (est)

POWERTRAIN: 7.9-liter, 1,001-hp, 921-lb-ft, quad-turbocharged W16; AWD, seven-speed dual-clutch sequential manual

CURB WEIGHT: 4,387 lb

0-62 MPH: 2.7 sec