Archives for June 28th, 2013
Been away from your computer this week and missed all the automotive news? We’ve gathered a few of the top stories of the past week for your convenience.
2012 Chicago Auto Show
Check out our coverage of this week’s Chicago auto show, with news and photos from all the new product debuts. New cars on display at this year’s show range from practical rides like the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT and 2012 Nissan NV200 van, to performance offerings like the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 convertible and 2013 Nissan 370Z.
Tesla Model X Prototype Crossover Revealed with Falcon Door Fixation
Tesla this week revealed the Model X, an all-electric SUV from the maker of electric sports cars. The most notable design touch is what Tesla CEO Elon Musk calls “falcon doors”, which rise up above the SUV’s body when opened. Power will come from lithium-ion batteries in two different sizes, allowing anywhere from 200 to 300 miles per charge. The Model X rides on air suspension and is expected to weigh about 4700 pounds. The car should go into production next year before reaching customers in 2014.
Chevrolet Cruze Wagon Debuting at Geneva Motor Show
Chevrolet will use the Geneva Motor Show to introduce a wagon version of the Cruze. The new variant will be 3.2 inches longer than the Cruze sedan, and will offer between 17.7 and 53.0 cubic feet of cargo capacity, easily trouncing the 15.4 cubes on offer in the sedan version. This is actually the third body style for Chevrolet’s strong-selling compact — although the Cruze is offered only as a sedan, European buyers can also choose from a five-door hatchback. Sadly, chances of the Cruze wagon making it to the U.S. market are close to nil.
Buick Makes eAssist Standard on 2013 Regal, Adds Automatic Option to 2012 Regal GS
Buick announced a mild powertrain shuffle for its Regal sedan. The 2012 Regal GS sports sedan will henceforth offer an optional automatic transmission, expanding the appeal of the formerly manual-only car. Buick says acceleration times and fuel-economy for the automatic Regal GS will be equivalent to the manual-transmission version. Buick also announced that for 2013, the Regal sedan will drop its base inline-four powertrain and make the car’s eAssist mild hybrid system standard. The eAssist drivetrain combines a 2.4-liter inline-four gas engine with an electric motor-generator, returning lofty EPA ratings of 25/36 mpg (city/highway).
New Mitsubishi Outlander Making Debut at Geneva Motor Show
Mitsubishi will show the next-generation of its Outlander crossover in Geneva. The three-row model adopts a new exterior design and is said to have higher-quality interior components than the current Outlander. Additional equipment includes a power liftgate, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and a collision-avoidance braking system. Mitsubishi also will offer a plug-in hybrid version of the new Outlander, with an eco-friendly powertrain derived from the company’s PX-MiEV II concept car. The Outlander goes on sale here toward the end of 2012.
Spied: 2013 Nissan Altima Prototype in Michigan
Though the midsize sedan won’t be revealed publicly for a few more months, we managed to snap photos of the 2013 Nissan Altima testing on a Michigan highway. The sedan appears to have grown a bit compared to the current Altima, with new taillights and a redesigned front grille. Nissan plans for the 2013 car to be a “very strong contender” in a crowded segment that is dominated by the Toyota Camry. There will almost certainly be a hybrid version, with regular powertrain options likely comprising a small inline-four and a 3.5-liter V-6.
Ford Personnel Shifts: Kuzak and Booth to Retire, Huntsman Joins Board
Two senior executives at Ford Motor Company announced their retirement this week, and the Blue Oval announced that a former presidential candidate would join Ford’s board of directors. Ford chief financial officer Lewis Booth, who has been with the company since 1978, will retire April 1. Derrick Kuzack, vice president for global product development, has worked for Ford since 1978 and also will retire April 1. At the same time, Ford says former GOP presidential hopefuly Jon Huntsman, Jr., will join the company’s board of directors. Huntsman previously served as United States Ambassador to China under President Obama, and was governor of Utah.
Spied! 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL in Los Angeles
Mercedes-Benz will soon update its GL-Class SUV, and our colleagues at Motor Trend managed to snap some photos of the next GL driving around Los Angeles. We spy only minor changes to the exterior of this three-row prototype, including restyled taillights and new LED running lights. Instead, expect major changes under the hood. The GL550 will probably stop using a 5.5-liter V-8 in favor of the newer, more efficient twin-turbo 4.6-liter V-8. We can safely expect the next version of the Mercedes GL to debut next year.
Nissan Previews Invitation Concept Ahead of Geneva Debut
Nissan also previewed a car that will be unveiled in Geneva, the Invitation concept. It foreshadows a European-market hatchback that will fit between the Micra and Juke in Nissan’s lineup. The Invitation is based on the company’s B/V platform, which underpins the new Versa sedan. However, it’s unknown whether this car will ever be sold in America. When it goes on sale in Europe in 2013, the car will be badged as the Nissan Note.
First Drives: 2012 BMW 335i, 2012 Toyota Prius C
This week we drove a powerful German sports sedan and a small, thrifty Japanese hybrid. The former was the 2012 BMW 335i, the gutsiest version of the new F30-generation 3 Series currently on sale. The 300-hp 335i is plenty fast and rewards drivers with excellent handling, but we wish the BMW had more steering feel. At the other end of the automotive spectrum is the 2012 Toyota Prius C, which packs the company’s famous Hybrid Synergy Drive into a small hatchback body. The Prius C is an excellent hybrid car that feels even more refined than prior versions of the Prius, but the subcompact’s interior doesn’t feel as upscale or attractive as in non-hybrid competitors like the Ford Fiesta and Kia Rio.
By Jake Holmes
With its launch right around the corner, which should take place in ‘late 2012’, the Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell was recently spotted in what looks to be production form undergoing testing in Germany. Aimed as a more-or-less direct competitor for the R8 e-tron, it features a 526 hp power output, which is achieved using four electric motors (two on each axle).
It can also travel up to 190 km (120 miles) one a single charge, drawing juice from a 48 kWh battery pack, and can reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in four seconds dead. However, being more powerful, 450 kg heavier and four-wheel drive, it will be a completely different vehicle, when compared to the regular, V8-powered car.
Also, with the weight of the batteries concentrated deep in the center of the car, it should corner just as flatly as the Tesla Model S, for instance, benefitting rather than suffering from the extra weight of the batteries, and with a weight distribution of 46:54, it should also handle decently, as well.
❐ Check out the Spyshots: Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell Spotted in Silver photo gallery
There is no denying the merit of the Tesla Model S, for truly being the first EV one would actually consider buying without having to make any real compromises over a conventionally-powered alternative. Now, while it is slowly gaining acceptance in its home market, the US, Tesla intend to bring and sell it in Europe, as well, as the Europeans, and especially the West-Europeans are a really green bunch.
Now, the first Model S has arrived in Germany, and a lucky few have already had a chance to take it for a spin! Furthermore, in Germany, the car can be easily maxed out on the autobahn, though that action might drain the battery too quickly. Elon Musk said, regarding the Model S and Europe: "Our goal has always been to build the best car in the world and set new standards for safety, range, design and performance. We have achieved this with Model S in North America and now it's time to introduce the extraordinary Model S driving experience to Europe."
The Model S should be available for purchase as of next year, and we’re sure that if they don’t bump up the price too much, Europe may even become a bigger market than the US, as people here have been waiting for a car like this for a while now, and instead of buying a very limited range Nissan Leaf, they can save up some more and buy the base Model S.
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Chalk up another huge accolade for the Tesla Model S electric car: Consumer Reports has awarded it 99 out of 100 points, and said it’s the best car the magazine has tested since 2007.
In fact, the magazine’s descriptions of the luxury sport sedan brim with adjectives.
The Tesla Model S “is brimming with innovation, delivers world-class performance, and is interwoven throughout with impressive attention to detail,” writes the normally sober consumer publication.
Driving the Model S electric car is “like crossing into a promising zero-emissions future,” and the version tested, with its 85-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, is “easily the most practical electric car we’ve tested.”
CR reports that it gets a real-world 200 miles from that capacity, which is rated by the EPA at 265 miles of range. (The 60-kWh version is rated at 208 miles.)
The Model S was lauded for its quiet operation, its acceleration and roadholding, and its efficiency.
It wasn’t perfect, CR noted, suffering a broken windshield that had to be replaced and a problem with the radio (fixed by a software update that was downloaded through the car’s mobile-network connection).
The missing point was docked because the Model S takes roughly six hours to recharge its battery pack.
Jake Fisher, CR’s head of auto testing, put even that drawback in context when he enthused: “If it could recharge in any gas station in three minutes, this car would score about 110.”
Clearly the CR staff pretty much fell in love with the electric sport sedan.
That stands in harsh contrast to its experience with the Fisker Karma range-extended electric car, which died during a track test and was raked over the coals in a scathing test report.
The Tesla Model S doesn’t yet receive a “Recommended” rating from Consumer Reports, because the magazine doesn’t yet have reliability data on the car, which has only been delivered since last summer.
To read the magazine’s full test report, you’ll have to have a Consumer Reports login.
But you can watch the magazine’s video summary above.
Mercedes-Benz have adopted a rather clever marketing strategy to promote their all-electric B-Class F-Cell, a car which does not emit any CO2, as the video clearly points out at every possible opportunity. The award-winning ad features a B-Class F-Cell, which is covered on one side with what can only be described as a LED-based screen which is malleable and it can be made to follow the shape of the car (more or less), has cameras attached to the other side.
This enables it to display whatever the cameras are recording on the other side, and play it in real time on the LEDs. It works almost too well, and considering the fact that car companies are able to create such technologies with relative ease, we wonder if this kind of idea hasn’t already been implemented by (the much more advanced) military forces of the world’s developed countries – to hide tanks, as well as anti-tank guns.
We hope, however, that this technology will be used for good, and not to cause even more destruction than we currently have. On the plus side, if this becomes commercially available, we will soon be able to buy clothes which will render us invisible – five more years, we say.
2008 tesla roadster motorauthority 020
The Tesla Roadster is no longer on sale, and with attention on the recently-launched Model S, the upcoming Model X crossover and a rumored BMW 3-Series-sized Tesla sedan, it may be some time before the company produces another sports car.
That means you’re limited to used vehicles, and what better model to go for than a little-used example previously owned by Hollywood superstar George Clooney?
Where many celebrities own a token Toyota Prius, Clooney went the whole hog and bought a Tesla Roadster–a 2008 “Signature 100″ model, to be precise.
Inside Line reports that the car, with only 1,700 miles on the odometer–no doubt thanks to George’s busy schedule–will cross the auction block on August 19, during the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
It’s expected to fetch $100,000-$125,000, but rather than filling Clooney’s coffers the money will go towards the Satellite Sentinel Project, an organization that helps prevent wars in southern Sudan by monitoring the borders between north and south Sudan.
“This is an incredible opportunity to purchase a modern collector car with all the right elements: one-owner, celebrity provenance; historical significance; limited-edition rarity and philanthropic ties”, said David Gooding, president and founder of Gooding & Company auctioneers, who will sell the car.
The Obsidian Black Metallic Roadster is number 0008 from the run of 100 special editions, and features a two-tone leather interior.
Tesla Motors wants to build a competitor to the Nissan Leaf, CEO Elon Musk told Bloomberg. Musk said that his electric-car company would develop a more affordable model that was nicer and more desirable than the Nissan Leaf.
Musk admitted to Bloomberg that his company’s only current offering, the Model S, has somewhat limited appeal because it is very expensive. He says Tesla will develop a more affordable model that would compete with — and beat — the Leaf (pictured).
“With the Model S, you have a compelling car that’s too expensive for most people… And you have the [Nissan] Leaf, which is cheap, but it’s not great. What the world really needs is a great, affordable electric car,” Muks told Bloomberg.
Musk said the more affordable Tesla would be priced below $40,000 and would have a range of about 200 miles per charge. It will reportedly go on sale within three or four years’ time. The 2013 Nissan Leaf starts at $29,650 (including an $850 destination charge), and has an EPA-rated 75-mile driving range.
In an interview last year, Musk told us that Tesla would launch a $30,000 electric car in three to four years’ time. He said the scaled-down Model S design would be “about the size of a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4,” both cars which are significantly larger than the Nissan Leaf hatchback. Still, he said that Tesla’s key market was, “for premium sedans above $50,000.”
Earlier this year, Tesla design chief Franz von Holzhausen reiterated that the company is preparing, “an Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Volkswagen Jetta type of vehicle that will offer everything: range, affordability, and performance.” He claimed the car would cost as little as $30,000.
However, Tesla’s confirmation that it will launch a cheaper car comes only a few months after the company eliminated the most affordable version of the Model S sedan. The company killed off the option for a 40-kWh battery pack because only four percent of Tesla Model S customers asked for it.
Tesla is also planning an electric crossover called the Model X, but the company says production of that model has been delayed until 2014. Tesla did, however, fully pay off its U.S. Department of Energy loan ahead of schedule.
By Jake Holmes