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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

GM Adds Solar Array to Chevy Volt Assembly Plant

May 13, 2011 at 10:27am by Alexander Stoklosa

General Motors is adding a 264,000-square-foot solar array to its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, the facility where it assembles the Chevrolet Volt. While the move clearly showers the Volt’s assembly process with the same warm and fuzzy environmental consciousness exuded by the Volt itself, the solar array also makes keen financial sense, according to GM. Unlike your tiny studio apartment and its $30-a-month electricity bill, the Hamtramck plant’s utility bill is a bit more expensive. GM claims the electricity produced by the solar array will save them $15,000 per year when combined with automated equipment shutdown and other energy-conservation tactics. Oddly, GM also mentions that a recent change to energy-efficient lighting and a few other efficiency tactics will net the plant almost $3 million in energy savings per year, which kind of takes the air out of the solar-array balloon.

The solar array will be installed on a tract of land that abuts the south side of the plant. Given Michigan’s location in the northern hemisphere, the southern exposure affords the solar panels maximum daily sunlight. GM isn’t going it alone in the process of installing the solar panels—Detroit Edison (DTE) is investing $3 million in the solar array as part of an ongoing initiative to proliferate solar setups on the roofs and grounds of private buildings in Southeast Michigan. It isn’t out of the kindness of DTE’s heart; the arrays can feed energy back into the grid, offering the utility another source for juice and easing demands. The array will join other environmentally friendly features already in place at the plant, including an oxidizer that scrubs carbon-dioxide output, the aforementioned energy-efficient lighting, and a 16.5-acre wildlife habitat. Your move, Leaf assembly plant.

Tags: Chevrolet Volt, environment, General Motors |

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Name That Exhaust Note, Episode 87

May 3, 2011 at 5:29pm by Car and Driver

Name That Exhaust Note Episode 87

Hit play for an audio recording of a mystery car’s exhaust note, and then share your guesses or get a few hints from other visitors in the comments below. Be sure to check back on Thursday for the answer!

Tags: Name That Exhaust Note |

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2011 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 – First Drive Review

May 3, 2011 at 2:16pm by Juergen Zoellter

2011 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4

Lamborghini’s latest supercar is both tamer and wilder than ever.

If you happened to be in Rome at the end of April, you might have been planning to hear Pope Benedict XVI deliver his traditional Easter blessing. Finding yourself in a parade of Italian supercars guided by mayor Gianni Alemanno might have been unexpected for foreigners, but is little surprise in Italy. Here, the people are as proud of their sports-car tradition as they are to be home to the Pope. No wonder, then, that Lamborghini chose Rome, the Holy City, as the site of the first drives of its new Aventador LP700-4.

Keep Reading: 2011 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 – First Drive Review

Tags: coupe, Italian, Lamborghini, Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4, supercar |

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2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster – Official Photos and Info

May 4, 2011 at 10:35pm by David Gluckman

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster

A Gullwing without the gullwings will probably be as sweet.

Here’s a first: Mercedes-Benz’s release detailing the 2012 SLS AMG roadster begins by mentioning the development mules that are currently running around Stuttgart, the most recent spy shots of which we brought you a month ago. The press download doesn’t just acknowledge their existence, but explains precisely through which paces they’ve been put. And it’s accompanied by Benz “spy” photography. Forgive us if we feel as though we’ve been played.

Keep Reading: 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster – Official Photos and Info

Tags: convertible, German, luxury, Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-Benz AMG, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, roadster, sports car, supercar |

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2011 Porsche Cayenne S – Short Take Road Test

May 3, 2011 at 6:25pm by Jon Yanca

More horsepower and less weight add up to a winning combo in the Cayenne S.

If you were among the more than 280,000 buyers around the globe who didn’t get worked up when Porsche introduced its first-ever SUV, now you have a reason to be upset—not because all of the hateful stares from purists have finally become too much, but because the second-generation Cayenne is so much improved over the first.

Keep Reading: 2011 Porsche Cayenne S – Short Take Road Test

Tags: crossover, German, luxury, performance testing, Porsche, Porsche Cayenne, Porsche Cayenne S, SUV |

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Monday, May 23, 2011

2013 BMW 3-series Spy Photos – Future Cars

May 3, 2011 at 1:07pm by Jens Meiners

2013 BMW 3-series sedan (spy photo)

Familiar proportions will be applied to some new 3-series variants.

As we inch closer to the 2012 launch of the sixth-generation BMW 3-series, code-named F30, more details emerge—along with better spy shots. The photos seen here reveal a compact sedan that, visually, remains close to the current model: The proportions are virtually unchanged, and, with the tape-covered front and rear lights, it takes an expert to spot the differences.

Keep Reading: 2013 BMW 3-series Spy Photos – Future Cars

Tags: BMW, BMW 3-series, German, luxury, sedan, sports sedan, spy photos |

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McLaren Developing its MP4-12C GT3 to Dominate FIA GT—and Customer Service?

May 4, 2011 at 3:59pm by Alexander Stoklosa

McLaren Racing, McLaren Automotive, and CRS Racing have joined forces under the banner “McLaren GT” to bring FIA GT racers the MP4-12C GT3 racecar. The GT3 is currently enduring a development program designed to put the race car in customers’ hands for 2012. The vehicle has big shoes to fill, being the first McLaren racer provided for the GT series since the F1 GTR. But McLaren isn’t just benchmarking track success for its new baby—the company is also going to focus on customer service. Seriously.

McLaren has gone to great lengths to make the customer’s racing experience as trouble-free as possible, working hard to ensure a reliable, affordable (among the private-jet set), and driver-oriented race car with generous parts support. That McLaren seemed to target production-spec levels of drivability and durability shows in its extensive computer simulation of the car’s track manners and aerodynamics before it ever touched tire to track. Of course, once the laptops were closed McLaren took to caning its racer around various tracks in Europe, keeping close tabs on how it held up to the abuse.

The result is surprisingly close to the MP4 road car. Both the carbon-fiber chassis tub and the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine are carryover, although the engine has actually been detuned by almost 100 hp for the racer to maintain a balanced performance envelope. Now making “only” around 500 hp, the V-8 is bolted to a six-speed sequential gearbox co-developed with Ricardo. The exhaust has most certainly been altered—watch the video below to see the GT3 overtake the road car, drowning it out completely with a maniacal shriek layered over a rippling baritone rumble—and is much more free-flowing. The race car’s aero package received a lot of work—and help from McLaren’s F1 engineers—resulting in a new carbon-fiber splitter, door blades (extractor vents), rear wing and diffuser, and louvers on the crests of each front fender. More F1 bits surface inside the GT3, where a Formula 1 steering wheel transmits driver commands and the engine is managed by a racing-spec control unit sourced from McLaren Electronic Systems.

McLaren is targeting a run of 20 cars for the 2012 season, and is using its development program to gain feedback from prospective customers to help their mission to deliver a reliable and successful racecar. McLaren and CRS Racing plan to build 20 more cars through 2013 and 2014, and are banking on their fresh outlook for customer service as being a major selling point next to the GT3’s performance.

Tags: FIA GT series, GT racing, McLaren MP4-12C, McLaren MP4-12C GT3 |

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Novitec Alfa Romeo 8C: Take Good Thing, Add Supercharger

Tuning house Novitec—which specializes in Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Lancia modification—has created what it’s calling the world’s fastest and most powerful street-legal Alfa Romeo. Tapping the experience of its Maserati-focused sister company, Novitec Tridente, Novitec has put together a supercharger package for the Alfa Romeo 8C’s Maser-sourced 4.7-liter V-8 that kicks output up to 591 hp and 434 lb-ft. That’s a bump of 147 and 80, respectively.

Although most of the work involved in pairing a supercharger with the 4.7-liter V-8 had already been done, Novitec had to alter the setup to fit in the engine bay of the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and 8C Spider. The supercharger runs 5.3 psi of boost, and is assisted by a water-to-air intercooler and custom fuel injectors. Novitec also went to the trouble of recalibrating the engine-management mapping to ensure a factory level of harmony among its installed mods.

Novitec claims that the 0-to-62 run drops to just 3.9 seconds in its tuned 8C, and top speed stretches to 190 mph. We’ve estimated that a regular 8C Spider would need 4.4 seconds to get to 60, while the top speed would be drag limited to 181 mph.

In addition to the supercharger, an adjustable coil-over suspension, a stainless-steel exhaust system with an engine-speed-sensitive baffle, and staggered front–rear 21- and 22-inch, five-spoke wheels wrapped in Pirelli ZR-rated rubber are all on offer. Novitec tastefully made no “enhancements” to the exterior of the 8C, even taking pains to design the exhaust system so that it exits through the stock cutouts in the rear lower valance, but the big wheels give the Alfa a nicely aggressive, purposeful look. The tuner does, however, offer the option of a fully customized interior slathered in leather and alcantara in “any desired color,” should you want to go all Mansory purple-Barney on the guts of your Alfa.

None of these bits come cheap—the supercharger kit alone will set you back 19,000 euros, which at current exchange rates is a breathtaking $28,082—not to mention the cost of supplying your own 8C.

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Cadillac ATS-V On the Way, Will Get Twin-Turbocharged V-6 – Car News

May 4, 2011 at 1:27pm by Jens Meiners

2012 Cadillac ATS (artist's rendering)

A V version of Cadillac’s upcoming smaller sedan already is in the works.

With the CTS-V and its awesome, supercharged V-8, GM’s finest brand has a vehicle on par with offerings from Audi’s Quattro, BMW’s M, and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG. And when the next-generation CTS rolls out, it will share its Alpha platform with a softtop convertible and a smaller sedan, the ATS. Given the success of the CTS-V, Cadillac insiders tell us an ATS-V also is a sure thing.

Keep Reading: Cadillac ATS-V On the Way, Will Get Twin-Turbocharged V-6 – Car News

Tags: American, Cadillac, Cadillac ATS, Cadillac ATS-V, Cadillac V Series, luxury, sedan, turbocharged |

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Ram’s Long-Hauler Concept Can Almost Certainly Eat Your Ride for Breakfast

Chrysler’s Ram brand describes its Long-Hauler concept truck as a “dream vehicle for hauling, range, and comfort.” Anybody in a Honda Fit or a Smart ForTwo would likely describe it as their worst nightmare. Indeed, the Long-Hauler is no mere full-size pickup or heavy-duty tow monster. The Long-Hauler instead is based on a Class 5 Ram 5500 chassis cab, upon which Ram dropped a Mega Cab passenger compartment, an 8-foot box, and an auxiliary fuel tank—with the option to add a third tank to live in the bed itself.

At 170 gallons of total fuel capacity, a topped-off Long-Hauler would be carrying more than 1000 pounds of diesel, contributing to an estimated curb weight of 9300 pounds. The truck’s 24-foot length, 197.4-inch wheelbase, and 37,500 Gross Combined Weight Rating make the Long-Hauler “just the truck for those wanting to step up from a traditional Class 3 or Class 4 truck,” according to Ram. Its wheelbase is so long, in fact, that most vehicles can fit between the front and rear wheels of the Hauler, including a Mercedes-Benz E-class and a Volkswagen Touareg.

Powering the monster is a 6.7-liter Cummins turbo-diesel inline-six. The turbo-diesel’s 800 lb-ft of torque is fed to the pavement through an Aisin six-speed automatic and a four-wheel-drive transfer case.

The interior features 2+2 leather seating with power-adjustable foot rests for rear-seat passengers and a “high comfort” driver’s seat. A refrigerator and tray tables live between the two rear seats, complemented by front and rear 115-volt and 12-volt power outlets and Wi-Fi connectivity, making for a highly productive interior—one could even say it would be perfect for keeping busy over a long haul.

Ram is clear that the Long-Hauler is just a concept for now, and as such there is little in the way of pricing information. But nothing about this rig is likely to be cheap—it would have to be positioned above the $36,395 Ram 3500—and fill-ups alone will make your heart stop: At current diesel prices, it would cost more than $700 to fill. Ram will be touring the beast about the country in the coming months to measure consumer interest, but if fuel prices continue their upward march, Ram may have a tough sell on its hands.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

2011 Mazda CX-7 Grand Touring, an AW Drivers Log Car Review:

the 2011 Mazda CX-7.
The turbo four in the Mazda CX-7 is rated at 244 hp.

NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: The Mazda CX-7 is one of the more handsome midsize crossovers on the market to my eye. The sheetmetal hangs smartly, and the fender flares, curves and piercing headlights create a dashing image for a kiddie hauler.

Inside, it's a bit plain, other than the glowing reddish-orange dials for the tachometer and speed. The seats are comfortable, and the mostly black setting presents well.

The CX-7 drives with a little sportier ethos than most utes in this class, and it channels the spirit of Mazda. That's an accomplishment, since not every vehicle feels like its namesake. The steering has an appropriate feel, with just enough weight at certain times, and the chassis is comfortable at nearly all times. The Mazda CX-7 is well-mannered yet not floaty.

This tester is well-equipped, and it's an easy ute to recommend.

AUTOWEEK.COM EDITOR DALE JEWETT: This is one comfortable cruiser. The exterior has just enough sporty styling cues--such as the beefy wheel-arch flares, the aero-shaped high-intensity discharge headlamps and the slight upward jog of the beltline at the C-pillar--to set it apart from the growing number of boxlike crossovers on the road.

Inside, this well-equipped Mazda CX-7 is comfy. The wide center stack puts all of the controls within easy reach--although the layout contains many buttons and knobs, meaning it can require more than a quick glance from the road to find the function you seek. And the fact that the large knob in the center of the stack handles tuning for the radio--not the traditional knob on the right--fools most passengers for the first few minutes.

The stack is topped by two small screens--a full-color monitor for the navigation and backup-camera functions, and a monochromatic orange readout for HVAC, phone and radio functions.

For me, the navigation/reverse LCD screen is too small--which again can pull your eyes off the road for too long or too frequently to get the information. This is an issue shared with our long-term Mazdaspeed 3, which uses the same system. I'll take my nav data on a bigger screen in the middle of the center stack, please.

From a driving standpoint, the 2011 Mazda CX-7 skews toward the sporty side of the spectrum. There's plenty of pep from the turbocharged four-cylinder engine--I would have guessed it was a six-banger before looking at the specs. The suspension is firm but not too harsh. Pothole season is in full bloom in Michigan. You hear every road imperfection the CX-7 rolls over, but it won't spill your coffee.

The driver's seat is supportive, with a strong heater unit. Steering feel is OK, although given the sports nature of this crossover, more feel and less assist would be welcome.

Rear-seat legroom is decent, even with the front seats at maximum rearward travel--regular adults won't feel as if they've been banished to the penalty box back there. And the cargo area swallowed a sizeable Costco run without the need to lower the rear seatbacks.

This 2011 CX-7 has almost every bell and whistle available from Mazda, which I'm certain pushes its sticker price close to the $40,000 mark. This crossover is luxurious, but you can get the same goodness and save a few thousand if you're careful checking off option boxes on the order sheet.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: The as-tested price is rather shocking. However, this is the range-topping Grand Touring trim with AWD and the upgraded turbocharged engine. Just for the heck of it, I went to the Mazda site and built a fully optioned Grand Touring model, and it came to $37,360!

Besides the powertrain stuff, what does our $34,260 tester come with? Well, there's xenon headlights, fog lights, 19-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, moonroof, automatic climate control, power front seats, keyless entry, push-start ignition, Homelink, Bose sound system, navigation and a backup camera. All of that is standard on the Grand Touring. So it's certainly a well-equipped vehicle we have here.

This actually is one of the top midsize crossovers in my book. Being a Mazda, you can expect sharper than average handling, quick-witted steering and ultimately a more entertaining drive. Mazda does a good job of tuning all of its cars for a sportier feel. That equates to a ride that isn't as comfortable, but for the people who are willing to give up a little in the ride-quality department for better handling reflexes, Mazda is your car company. I'm not saying the Mazda CX-7 is overly jarring, because it isn't. It's just rougher than, say, a Ford Edge and a Chevrolet Equinox.

The upgraded engine has good midrange punch and the automatic gearbox is smooth. However, don't bother with the transmission's manual shift mode. It's slow and will just enrage you. The brakes offer strong grab with good pedal feel.

The cabin is OK. The overall design is nice with attractive trim pieces and an intuitive layout for all the controls on the center stack. The seats are comfortable, too. One common complaint from CX-7 owners I've talked to is the inexpensive-looking carpet. One person described it as a step above felt and said it's impossible to vacuum out dirt particles.

Again, this is one of my favorite midsize crossovers overall. If you can do without some of the bells and whistles on the Grand Touring, you can get a Touring model in AWD which starts at $28,750. That's certainly a lot easier on the old wallet.

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: The Mazda CX-7 is one of my favorite small utes. It's good-looking inside and out and has ample power (but no more, and it's a little noisy), a smooth transmission and zippy handling for a ute. It's a pretty nice vehicle.

It could be better, though. The ride is a bit too firm with Detroit's potholes sending small shivers and shakes into the steering column. I thought it was noisy, especially on the freeway. It's noisier than, say, a Ford Edge.

The interior is a bit of mishmash to me, with multiple textures, hard and soft plastics, etc.

I don't know that I'd want one over an Edge, but I definitely would take it over something like a Dodge Journey, though.

A couple of years ago, I was in Switzerland driving one of these with Mazda's Sky diesel four-cylinder, which didn't have nearly the power this four does, but it had quite a bit more torque. That car had a six-speed manual transmission, the diesel was torquey and the CX-7 was fun to toss around in the Swiss hills. Supposedly that combo is coming here in 2012. We'll see. It could be good.

2011 Mazda CX-7 Grand Touring

Base Price: $34,135

As-Tested Price: $34,260

Drivetrain: 2.3-liter turbocharged I4; AWD, six-speed automatic

Output: 244 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,787 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 19/16.9 mpg

Options: Rear bumper guard ($125)

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Chevy Salutes U.S. Troops with Honor and Valor Edition Camaro SS, Expands Military Discount Program

May 4, 2011 at 5:16pm by Steve Siler

2012 Chevrolet Camaro SS "Honor and Valor" Edition

In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, General Motors has announced that it will expand the military discount it currently gives to active service members. For the month of May, the discount will be available to retirees of all branches of the U.S. armed forces, as well as spouses. The discount applies to most Buick, GMC, and Chevrolet models, and chops from $500 to $4000 off the vehicle’s MSRP.

GM Honor and Valor BadgeFolks who buy or lease Chevrolets through the program this month can get a fancy, dealer-installed “Honor” badge affixed to their new vehicle, a distinct upgrade from a flat yellow-ribbon magnet slapped on the trunk. Chevrolet also states that it will donate $100 for each person who takes advantage of the discounts to Cell Phones for Soldiers, a nonprofit group that helps military members on deployment call home for free.

The best news, however, is the announcement of a 99-car run of limited-edition 2012 “Honor and Valor” Camaro SS coupes. Available in Victory Red, Summit White, or black (what, no blue?), the Honor and Valor Camaro gets a uniquely painted body kit, a white body stripe, black leather seats, and of course, the aforementioned Honor badge, in addition to the rumbling, American-as-it-can-get 6.2-liter V-8 with a choice of manual or automatic transmission. (We say get the manual, as it hooks to the 426-hp LS3 in place of automatic models’ 400-horse L99.) The Honor and Valor Camaro will officially debut at Indy 500 military personnel parade on May 28, but is available to order now at

2012 Chevrolet Camaro SS "Honor and Valor" Edition Front

Tags: Chevrolet, Chevrolet Camaro SS, military |

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Buick Getting a Version of the Opel Astra GTC, May Get Astra-Based Convertible – Car News

May 4, 2011 at 2:31pm by Jens Meiners

Buick Getting a Version of the Opel Astra GTC, May Get Astra-Based Convertible

The tri-shield will grab some more Opels for importation.

We recently reported on the next Opel Astra GTC, a three-door Astra derivate that should compete with the Hyundai Veloster and the Europe-only Volkswagen Scirocco. You may recall that the GTC’s somewhat-pedestrian predecessor was sold in the U.S. as the Saturn Astra hatchback. The new car is wider and sleeker than that failed experiment, and we now have confirmation that it, too, will be sold here—as a Buick. The tri-shield brand may offer a convertible Astra on our shores, as well.

Keep Reading: Buick Getting a Version of the Opel Astra GTC, May Get Astra-Based Convertible – Car News

Tags: American, Buick, hatchback, Opel, Opel Astra GTC |

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2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 – Long-Term Road Test Intro

May 4, 2011 at 11:23am by Jared Gall

The big Mini with four doors and four driven wheels joins our fleet for 40,000 miles.

While the Mini family has grown quite a bit since the brand’s resurrection, the drivetrain portfolio remained a one-man band. The hardtop, convertible, elongated Clubman, and upcoming coupe and roadster all are limited to front-wheel drive. Introduced for 2011, the Countryman finally changed that, offering all-wheel drive for the first time in the reborn brand’s history.

Keep Reading: 2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 – Long-Term Road Test Intro

Tags: British, hatchback, long-term, Mini, Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4, Mini Countryman, performance testing, turbocharged |

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Nissan Gives More Information on NYC Taxi—And The Small Van We May Be Seeing in Dealerships

Nissan and the City of New York announced yesterday that Nissan’s NV200—a compact, car-based van—will be the exclusive new taxi for the five boroughs beginning in 2013. Since then, Nissan has released additional details about the future yellow submarine, and, just as important, that information gives us a clearer picture of the compact van the company will sell to American consumers, too.

What the Taxi Drivers Get

The NV200, which is already in production and is sold in other countries, is naturally well-suited for the rigors of New York taxi duty: Sliding doors are perfect for narrow streets and pose no risk to passing cars or hapless cyclists; there’s loads of headroom, and ample space for luggage and cargo. To further cabify the NV200, the taxi version will feature a transparent roof, and a mobile device charging system (though Nissan’s mum on whether that’s simply an AC outlet or some kind of induction charging mat). Nissan also touts a “low-annoyance” horn, which we take to mean one that’s less loud, and also flashes the exterior lights simultaneously. Exterior lights will also flash when the vehicle’s doors are open, alerting other drivers who are sure not to care about disembarking passengers. Nissan has set the MSRP of its NV200 taxi at $29,000—it seems pricey, but bear in mind that this includes all the trimmings for non-stop passenger hauling.

What We, the Consumers, Get (Hopefully)

There’s just no sense in Nissan importing or building domestically a small van if the only sales are to the 13,000-strong fleet of yellow cabs in New York. Even if other livery companies in other cities get on board the NV200 road train, the business case isn’t there. We reported previously that Nissan wants to bring an additional small van to the U.S., and it looks like the NV200 will be it.

Underhood, Nissan tells us, the taxi will pack a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It’s difficult to imagine the company paying to federalize a completely new engine for the NV200, meaning the mill is probably the 2.0-liter out of the entry-level Sentra. In that application, the engine makes 140 hp and 147 lb-ft, and is hooked to a continuously variable transmission. It’s possible, of course, that Nissan’s got a new 2.0-liter four in the works for applications in other vehicles, too—unfortunately, it’s just too early to say what will power the NV200, on dealer lots or waiting in front of Gray’s Papaya.

We’ll be looking for news from Nissan about the NV200's rollout in cities—and hopefully, in dealer showrooms too. We love us some vans!

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Mini to expand Goodwood trim across model range

by Noah Joseph (RSS feed) on May 2nd 2011 at 1:29PM

Mini Inspired by Goodwood
Mini Inspired by Goodwood – Click above for high-res image gallery
Tasteful application or shameless marketing ploy – say what you will about the Goodwood edition Mini, but it's here to stay. According to reports, the retro hatchback trimmed out by Rolls-Royce craftsmen is just the first of many.

Although the special-edition "Mini Inspired by Goodwood" – borrowing its handle from the ancestral home of the Spirit of Ecstasy – will initially be produced in a limited run of 1000 examples, word has it that the name will be applied to an entire range of top-of-the-line offerings. In that way, the Goodwood range will parallel the performance-oriented John Cooper Works trim level as the luxury-oriented pinnacle model for Mini.

So should we be expecting Goodwood editions of the Convertible, Clubman, Countryman and the various other Mini body styles in the pipeline? It would seem that way. But while their interiors may be festooned with plush cornsilk leather and glossy burlwood veneers, don't go looking for a V12 under the hood.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cadillac Planning to Offer Four-Cylinder Engines for Several Models

May 2, 2011 at 2:35pm by Jens Meiners 2010 Cadillac XTS concept

Cadillac will offer four-cylinder engines in a number of future models. The compact engines should make for a stark contrast with the dinosaur-gulping euphoria that is the company’s supercharged LSA V-8 in the CTS-V.

Unlike Cadillac’s other forays into engine downsizing—including one motor, the 8-6-4, that was at least intended to downsize itself while in use—this attempt should be quite a lot more functional. The upcoming full-size Cadillac XTS and compact ATS sport sedan sedan will offer turbocharged Ecotec four-cylinder engines; we’d expect these units to make between 220 and 260 hp—although we hope they’ll be at the top end of that scale.

We’ve learned that if shoppers respond positively to the notion of four-cylinder Caddies, the company is also considering adding a four-cylinder option to the SRX crossover and next-generation CTS as well. Since we live in an increasingly China-focused automotive world, there’s an additional case for using the force-fed Ecotec: Its 2.0-liter displacement gives GM a tax advantage in the all-important Chinese market.

The big question is whether customers will go for a four-banger on Cadillac’s American home turf. Chances are that from behind the wheel, most drivers wouldn’t notice the difference between a high-output turbo four and a more traditional V-6. Moreover, with Cadillac’s focus on matching European model offerings, this move makes sense: Audi has long offered Americans a turbocharged four in its A4, and an A6 with the same engine is on the way. BMW is bringing its own two-liter turbo four to the U.S. next year, and Mercedes-Benz is set to do the same with the C250 sedan and coupe.

It’s a rapidly changing automotive market, but we still have a bit of a difficult time swallowing the notion of a Cadillac with a four-cylinder engine—even if it sells well, even if it offers plenty of power, and even if it returns respectable fuel economy. This is a company that, in the early 1930s, offered a V-12 as its mid-level engine; the range-topper was a V-16. Then again, that engine made 165 hp. Maybe a turbo four with 260 ponies ain’t so bad after all.

Tags: Cadillac, Cadillac ATS, Cadillac CTS, Cadillac XTS, General Motors |

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New York City Picks Nissan NV200 Small Van as Future Yellow Cab

After considering a large number of proposals, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission announced today that it has selected a small van from Nissan, called the NV200, as the Ford Crown Victoria‘s heir apparent as the yellow cab for New York City. This will give Nissan an exclusive 10-year contract to supply New York City taxi operators with vehicles.

The selection process began in 2009, when Ford’s Crown Vic went into full zombie mode. Since then, companies operating yellow cabs in the five boroughs have been free to supply politically correct vehicles; most are Ford Escape hybrids, and the rest of the city’s roughly 13,000 yellow cabs are comprised of Volkswagen Jetta TDIs, Toyota Siennas, Priuses, Nissan Altima hybrids, and even the occasional Lexus RX400h or Toyota Highlander hybrid.

Nissan’s NV200 beat out the similarly sized Ford Transit Connect, as well as a Turkish company’s clean-sheet proposal; the latter company, Karsan, even suggested building its van in Brooklyn. (For a further Turkish connection, it’s worth noting that all Ford Transit Connects sold in the States are imported from Turkey.) While the NV200 isn’t sold in the U.S. in any form, Nissan has said it plans to expand its van offerings here beyond the hideously truckish NV. Unlike the body-on-frame NV, however, the NV200 is car-based, and is a fairly conventional vehicle in markets like Europe, where small vans are popular.

Interior of the European Nissan NV200. You can fuhgedabout ours having a stick.

We expect yellow NV200s to begin hitting New York’s streets in 2014, and they will proliferate as the existing motley collection of taxis wear out. To avoid the 25 percent chicken tax on trucks, Nissan may want to build the NV200 in the U.S.; this especially makes sense, as we fully expect Nissan to offer the small van to retail consumers. It’s also unclear what will power the NV200. In Europe, the van is offered with a choice of tiny gas or diesel engines. Neither of these is suitable or economical for Nissan to bring to the U.S., so we expect that the company will install a four-cylinder engine already familiar to the American market, like the 1.8-liter powerplant used in the Cube, Sentra, and Versa.

While 13,000 vehicles isn’t a tremendous number, New York City’s taxi choices influence fleet selections for other cities as well, as the big companies that operate regionally like to have a standard vehicle and set of replacement parts and tools.

Unfortunately, neither Nissan nor the City of New York has given any impression that there will be any changes to the incredibly annoying video clips forced on rear-seat taxi passengers.

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2011 Scion tC Manual – Short Take Road Test

May 2, 2011 at 8:02pm by Jared Gall

2011 Scion tC

Scion’s two-door is perfect for learning to drive a manual—but little else.

What Is It?

It’s the cheapest version of the most mundane Scion. Opting for the manual instead of settling for the automatic saves you $1000. While the tC was redesigned for 2011, it takes a real Scion fan (um, anybody? Hello?) to tell the difference. The look is little changed, but every body panel is in fact new, and the result is a rounder, sleeker overall shape.

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Tags: hatchback, Japanese, performance testing, Scion, Scion tC, sport compact |

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2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder, an AW Drivers Log Car Review:

EXECUTIVE EDITOR--AUTOWEEK.COM BOB GRITZINGER: I read all the poetic writings of my fellow editors last fall, both of whom painted a glorious picture of running top down along the California coast in this superbly appointed Porsche Boxster. My drive was of a different nature entirely, but equally enjoyable--maybe more so.

I dropped the Spyder's top in my driveway in suburban Detroit on a bright, sunny morning. The temp was hovering just below 50 degrees as I rolled out, my Scottish woolen cap tight on my noggin and a matching scarf tied around my neck. With the heat running warm, and the Spyder running even hotter, my 80-mile run was pure Michigan heaven. Partway through the drive, I tired of the freeway and instead shot off an exit ramp and took to the two-lane blacktop back roads for most of the trip.

Like all Boxsters, the car is a blast to drive, and this one, with its extra power and sportier suspension, is the best Porsche Boxster ever. The car positively carves up the road, with little doses of controlled four-wheel drifting thrown in, just where you'd expect to find the limit. It's also the most expensive Boxster ever, and for that, you get the privilege of removing and storing the top manually. It's easy to learn though, and I found it possible to restore the roof even after sundown, with minimal light.

One phrase I heard repeated several times during the weekend was that the Boxster has come to be known as a chick car, as the woman's Porsche. I, for one, am not ready to give up opportunities to drive Porsche's most balanced and most fun driving machine just because someone has decided to tag a label on it. Sex change? It'd have to at least be considered to avoid living the rest of your life without driving another Boxster.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR ROGER HART: I have to agree with Bob, this is the best Boxster ever. The roof on this car is merely a suggestion for keeping out the elements. It's a joke, really. You can stick your entire hand between the window and the roof--so much for security. My guess is that it would keep you mostly dry in a heavy rainstorm, but I wouldn't bet on it. This car is meant to be driven with the top stowed.

The extra power is noticeable, along with the slight weight reduction. The steering on this car is just terrific. You feel as though the steering is directly attached to your brain: think where you want the car placed, and it is there. The suspension is tight, way too tight for many of the roads on my commute. You feel every little bump and expansion joint. And the seats are great for carving up two-lanes or maybe on a track, but they're probably not the right choice for a car that is more for cruising than performance.

This is a specific tool for a specific job--like for track days. Sure, it will do other things, much like Secretariat could have also pulled a wagon, but it would have been a major-league waste of talent.

MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: I already waxed on and off about driving this car in California, so there's not much to add here. However, I know what Roger means in his comments about the roof, but it's unfair to call it a "joke." You need to look at this car in a context that applies to its intended purpose. Porsche made it like this deliberately, as a bit of a throwback to the old Speedster and Spyder. If you look at the section in the owner's manual that covers the above-mentioned roof, I believe it refers to it as a "weather screen" or "deflector" or something like that; it's made perfectly clear that the top is not meant to be kept on.

This car is made for driving with the top down, and its stiffer suspension and low ride-height are made for top-level handling, freeway comfort be damned. It's good to point these things out to the masses, but I hate to list these things as negatives, when Porsche never presented them in any sort of false light or said it delivers anything more or less than what it does. If you say to yourself, "Well jeez, this thing is cool, but I wish it were a little more comfortable and that the top were more practical when up or down," guess what? There are these two cars called the Boxster and Boxster S that meet those criteria. Go buy one of those.

That said, if you're shopping this car and your dealer doesn't give you a test drive or at least clue you in to all of this, then it is doing you a massive disservice.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: It's hard to argue with a regular Boxster for its balanced, mid-engine chassis, but this Spyder takes it up a few notches. It's the most eager Boxster I've ever driven, with its lighter curb weight, slight engine improvements and tighter suspension.

This is the lightest vehicle available in Porsche's current range, thanks to a number of things. For example, there are aluminum doors to save 33 pounds, lightweight seats to cut 26 pounds, an aluminum rear lid to shave seven pounds, and the ever-confusing two-piece manual soft top eliminates another 46 pounds. That's not to mention the other small details, like the elimination of the interior door handles in favor of cloth straps and the lightest 19-inch wheels in Porsche's lineup. All told, if you compare the Boxster S with PDK to the Spyder version, there's a weight difference of 176 pounds.

There's been a little work done to the engine. Power compared to the Boxster S increases by 10 hp and 7 lb-ft of torque. That's not much, but more important is that peak horsepower comes 800 rpms later than the S, at 7,200 for a fatter powerband.

Suspension tuning is also new, with a 0.8-inch lower ride height, standard limited-slip differential and the aforementioned lighter wheels. On top of all that, this thing looks badass. The lower side windows and rear lid with the dual bulges to hark back to the Carrera GT really make the Spyder standout.

But with any Porsche, the drive is the best part. This thing effortlessly blitzes through corners with monstrous grip and reacts to commands instantly. Steering feel and the amount of feedback you receive through your finger tips is something all sports-car makers should strive to match. Also not much of a shock are the strong brakes. It's true that the ride is harsh, and if you put any value in ride comfort, you best move along. But if you're into bombing around back roads and track days, this is the Boxster you want.

The sport seats offer support in all the right places to keep you comfortably locked down in place. They can be a chore to get in and out of, but it's worth the effort for the added benefits.

The engine's wide powerband makes spinning the engine up to its 7,500 rpm redline a joy with good throttle response. And as good as these ZF-developed dual-clutch gearboxes are, please make mine a manual (which saves another 55 pounds). Thankfully, this car had proper paddles installed on the steering, instead of those dreaded shift blocks. Of course, you have to pay $490 for those, but it's well worth the added cost.

So yes, this is the best Boxster to date. In fact, it's probably the best mass-produced roadster available today for enthusiasts.

2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

Base Price: $62,150

As-Tested Price: $75,200

Drivetrain: 3.4-liter H6; RWD, seven-speed dual-clutch sequential manual

Output: 320 hp @ 7,200 rpm, 273 lb-ft @ 4,750 rpm

Curb Weight: 2,866 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 23/19.8 mpg

Options: Seven-speed PDK transmission ($3,420); PCM 3.0 with extended navigation ($3,110); automatic climate control ($1,760); bixenon headlights ($1,560); Sport Chrono package plus, including analog and digital chronometer, sport button ($1,320); Sound package plus, including seven loudspeakers, 185-watt output, glovebox CD storage ($700); self-dimming mirrors and rain sensor ($690); steering wheel with paddle shifters ($490)

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Of Mormon Meteors and Bluebirds: Boys of Bonneville Documentary

Today, the Bonneville Salt Flats are the domain of hot rodders. Serious men, many of them, but men competing for records in a variety of defined classes. Ultimate land speed record attempts have moved to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert and now, with the Bloodhound SSC’s crew gearing up to break their own record, the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa. There’s just not enough room at Bonneville to go 1000 miles per hour. But for much of the 20th century, the 3,000-acre salt pan in Western Utah was the mecca for ultimate land-based velocity.

Right there at the beginning was David Abbott Jenkins, a Salt Lake City contractor with a penchant for speed and endurance. In fact, Ab’s record runs on the salt weren’t what we think of when we consider competition at Bonneville in this day and age. Rather than two-way measured-mile blasts, his custom-built Duesenbergs made endurance runs, following a circle laid out on the salt. Bear in mind that factory support back then meant Augie Freakin’ Duesenberg was out on the pan with Jenkins, coming up with on-the-fly engineering solutions to make his cars go faster.

And once Jenkins set the ball rolling, John Cobb and Sir Malcolm Campbell came skipping across the pond to make use of Jenkins’ playground. The hot rodders whose cars had become too fast for the El Mirage and Muroc dry lakes made the 700-mile trek up from Los Angeles. Art Arfons came out from Ohio to run a series of his notorious Green Monster cars. This very publication has even taken vehicles out in search of glory, perhaps most memorably a 3rd-Gen Trans Am piloted by Csaba Csere to a speed of 200mph. On its roof.

Though other cars had run on the salt before him, the foundation of Mythic Bonneville, Temple of Speed was laid due to Jenkins’ efforts, and now there’s a documentary, Boys of Bonneville: Racing on a Ribbon of Salt, narrated by actor/racing driver Patrick Dempsey and featuring interviews with Jay Leno and RAF Colonel Andy Green—the man who broke the sound barrier in Richard Noble’s Thrust SSC. It premiered at the Sarasota International Film Festival last month and is now touring the country in fits and starts. (Screenings, of which only one is scheduled right now, will be listed here.) Needless to say, we’d like to see it on Netflix Instant or Hulu posthaste.

Boys of Bonneville Movie TrailerVimeo.

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Hitting the g spot in Lamborghini's latest:

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Lamborghini Aventador Track-Day.

By BOB GRITZINGER on 5/02/2011

At first I thought maybe it was just jet lag, or travel lag, related to doing a superquick three-day trip from Detroit to Rome and back to drive the 2012 Lamborghini Aventador. But after rejoining the morning commuter traffic back in Motown, piloting one of our more mundane test cars, it's safe to say that I'm suffering from the aftereffects of tearing around a track for a day in the 690-hp Aventador. Though I never came close to the car's 217-mph top speed, after hitting a mere 149 mph on several occasions, I'm certain that I felt the car's full impact.

Consider a few of the Aventador numbers:

-- 0 to 60 mph in less than 2.9 seconds, or the time it takes your TV remote to change a channel.

-- 0 to 124 mph in 8.9 seconds, or the time it takes for a traffic signal to change from yellow to red (we assume that's in places without red-light cameras and allegedly "quick" yellows).

-- 0 to 186 mph in 24.5 seconds, or the time it takes to power up your iPad.

-- 124 to 0 mph: 420 feet, or a little more than the typical distance from home plate to the center-field fence in a major-league ballpark.

-- 60 to 0 mph: 98.5 feet, or the distance of a 32-yard field goal.

-- Quarter-mile: 10.5 seconds

-- Acceleration force: 1.5 g's

And all of that comes with a 13.5-mpg combined fuel-economy rating from the EPA. Your mileage, obviously, may vary.

AutoWeek loves passionate comments and debate, but remember that you're part of a diverse community. Critique statements or articles, not people; talk about the automotive world, but skip the rhetoric, hate speech, and obscenities. Above all, be respectful. While we can't read every post, this site is moderated and AutoWeek will remove comments as we see fit. Questions? Email

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The Continental: Time in Detroit and Some Premium-Brand Tidbits

The Continental

Each week, our German correspondent slices and dices the latest rumblings, news, and quick-hit driving impressions from the other side of the pond. His byline may say Jens Meiners, but we simply call him . . . the Continental.

2011 Nissan Juke SLThis edition of The Continental is brought to you from Detroit, where I spent a week following the New York auto show, attending a wonderful and touching memorial service for David E. Davis, Jr. (followed by a splendid gathering of many of the industry’s great names) and generally catching up with my colleagues at Car and Driver in Ann Arbor. It also provided a nice opportunity to sample some vehicles not sold in Europe, such as the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor (needs to be louder) and the Infiniti M56 (rough around the edges, but really fast). The trip to and from New York was undertaken in Car and Driver‘s long-term Nissan Juke, a car that I liked a lot less than most of my colleagues. It is quick, but it doesn’t sound sporty at all, its gearbox is notchy, and the interior looks and feels downright cheap. The gimmicky G-force meter, which doesn’t provide actual numbers, does not make up for the lack of real sporting qualities.

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini made a brief appearance in a speech delivered by UAW chief Bob King in front of the Automotive Press Association here on Tuesday. They provided context for a diatribe against Michigan governor Rick Snyder and his attempt to cut back on the privileges enjoyed by the UAW. This union has arguably played a pivotal role in bringing Detroit’s auto industry to its knees, despite King’s description of the UAW plants as shining examples of quality and productivity. King now hopes to play a role in the non-unionized transplants of foreign carmakers, with whom he holds “confidential meetings” on the matter. His calculation: Should one of them fall, the “social pressure” on the others will bring them down as well. King’s vision? A seat on the board of every American automaker, such as his “brothers and sisters” in Germany enjoy.

It was an interesting speech. How can you have a democracy without collective bargaining, King asked rhetorically, and went as far as likening policies that aim to liberate the industry from the stranglehold of the unions to “human rights violations,” which would be exposed globally. Preparing to hold trials?

Premium Tidbits

Audi is—rightfully—promoting its A7 Sportback as an automotive designer piece. I just wonder why it is displayed in the bright ads (like on a huge display on Broadway in New York) with the S-line package, which adds boxy front air intakes and is an afterthought to the clean design of the standard A7.

Cadillac is going to be part of the trend towards customization and individualization, the brand’s marketing director Jim Vurpillat tells me. Some of it is going to be factory-installed, some dealer-installed, but “we won’t do 5 million variations like BMW,” he submits jokingly. The German carmakers, of course, have been known for their endless options lists, which generate handsome margins but also add incredible complexity to the manufacturing process.

Lincoln is pondering a performance line to underscore that it is serious about its status as a premium brand. Nothing has been decided, but I think it would be great to have performance variations of the MKS and the next MKZ.

So whom do premium brands benchmark? I asked around for a bit, and it emerges that Audi tops the list by a wide margin, followed by BMW. Lincoln takes a close, analytical look at Lexus and Cadillac as well. Conspicuously absent from the list is Mercedes-Benz, which should give the former global standard of automotive quality and engineering something to think about.

Audi will continue to race with diesels at the 24 hours of Le Mans, the most fascinating race on the planet despite its impossible media-credentials policy. This year, Audi will use a single-turbo, 3.7-liter, V-6 diesel instead of last year’s twin-turbo, 5.5-liter, V-10 diesel. Power is rated at around 532 hp, and the racing experience will be utilized for series production development. Good.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

2011 Saab 9-4X – First Drive Review

May 1, 2011 at 12:01am by Tony Swan

The last of the GM-based Saabs.

Here is today’s crossover conundrum: When is a Cadillac SRX not a Cadillac SRX? Answer: When it’s a Saab 9-4X.

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Tags: crossover, luxury, Saab, Saab 9-4X, Scandinavian, SUV, turbocharged |

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