Archives for August 25th, 2013

Tesla Model X a Hit With $40 Million in Orders



Tesla has recently revealed their third ever vehicle, the Model X crossover, Thursday evening at its Design Studio in Southern California. The car is on offer with a dual motor all wheel drive and the option of a 60 or 85 kWh battery. The most potent version is supposedly capable of reaching 60 in just 4.4 seconds, and with figures like that it’s no wonder that order have begun rolling in.

Now, to the uninitiated into the world of EVs (read: people who don’t work for Google or Microsoft) the car still seems like a gimmick. But you know what isn’t a Gimmick about the Model X? $40 million worth of advanced orders before the car has even reach consumers!

At least that’s what they want us to believe ahead of the company’s official quarterly results. Now, we don’t know how many of those are binding, but it’s still a lot of money.

The compelling nature of the product created massive media attention and resulted in the Model X being the third most searched term on Google,” Tesla said in a statement. “On Thursday evening, the night of the reveal, traffic to teslamotors.com increased 2,800 percent. Two-thirds of all visitors were new to the website.”

By Mihnea Radu

Cadillac ELR Convertible Rendering: What If?



Cadillac is the sort of car company that lets their products do the talking. Working under the presumption that American luxury is still an ideal, and that it needs to be completely different to the Europeans, they've decided to put a four-seater electric coupe into production.

The ELR is based on the same architecture and layout as the Chevy Volt, but will probably cost twice as much due to being packed with more luxury features – simple stuff like sueded microfiber, chrome, wood and available carbon fiber finishes throughout.

The elegance of the small frame and the spectacular LED headlights inspired the automotive world, and graphics manipulator Theophilus Chin decided to turn the car into a convertible. This would be the very first 4-seater electric convertible in the world. What's more, Cadillac knows how to take care of the luxury aspects, so the ELR Convertible would be something completely different from the sporty Tesla Roadster.

We think the ELR looks even better as a convertible than a coupe. Think about it: electric motor driving the wheels, electric motors opening the roof, and you in charge of everything.

By Mihnea Radu

2013 Automobile Of The Year: Let The Testing Begin – Rumor Central

2013 Automobile Of The Year: Let The Testing Begin

It’s that time again. No, we’re not talking college football, major-league baseball post-season action, or even habitual trips to the cider mill for freshly-pressed juice and sugary treats. It’s time for Automobile’s editors and contributors to break out of the offices, retreat to a secretive spot in western Michigan, sample some of the latest and greatest sheetmetal on the market, and ultimately name one vehicle as the 2013 Automobile Of The Year.

Our testing and deliberation runs this entire week, and here’s a quick peek at what cars we’re bringing along in tow. One of these contenders will ultimately be named the 2013 Automobile of the Year. We won’t publicly name a winner until November, but if you want to keep tabs on our testing and thought process, you’re in luck. Turn to Automobile’s Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter (look for the #AMAoY hashtag) to come along for the ride!

2013 Acura ILX Premium

The manual transmission is one of the best to come from Honda to date — the clutch is perfectly weighted and boasts linear take-up, and shift throws are smooth, short, and positive.”

Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC I-4

Power: 201 hp @7000 rpm

Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $30,095

As-tested: $30,095

 

2013 Audi RS5 Coupe

“With its silky engine, lively differential, and stout brakes, the RS5 is every bit worthy of the RS badge.”

Engine: 4.2-liter DOHC V-8

Power: 450 hp @8250 rpm

Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Drive: 4-wheel

Base price: $69,795

As-tested: $75,820

2013 Audi S7

“Luxury, performance, and style — the S7 delivers everything the A7 does, only with a sportier edge. We’re still smitten with the less powerful, more efficient supercharged V-6 in the A7, but the twin-turbo V-8 is similarly sweet for those who demand more.”

Engine: Twin-turbo, 4.0-liter DOHC V-8

Power: 420 hp @ 6400 rpm

Torque: 406 lb-ft @ 1400 rpm

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Drive: 4-wheel

Base price: $79,695

As tested: $86,170

 

2013 BMW 335i Sport Line

“In the 335i, you revel in the engine’s noise. Its broad, flat torque curve means you don’t have to rev the engine — but you want to. You want to hear it, you want to feel it, and you wind up loving it. More so than ever, it’s an emotional decision rather than a rational one — but with three pedals in the driver’s footwell, there’s still no sport sedan better than a BMW 335i.”

Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-liter DOHC I-6

Power: 300 hp @ 5800 rpm

Torque: 300 lb-ft @ 1200 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Rear-wheel

Base price: $43,295

As tested: $55,745 

 

 

2012 BMW M5

“The M5′s got almost all of the refinement of the current 5-series, all of the tech features, gorgeous styling, and elegant interior. And then it’s got razor-sharp handling and the best steering we’ve seen in a 5-series in a long time, if not ever. And then it’ll rip that smile off your face with outrageous acceleration.”

Engine: Twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter DOHC V-8

Power: 560 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 500 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel

Base price: $92,095

As tested: $106,695

 

2013 BMW X1 xDrive 28i

“Getting some seat time in the X1 reminded us just how much better the old 3-series worked. Sure, it doesn’t have quite as many gadgets and gizmos — and neither the 1-series, the X1, nor the old 3-series is as pretty as the new 3-series — but those earlier cars have a fundamental, built-in “just right” factor. The steering, the brakes, the ride, the handling, and all the secondary controls and instruments just feel perfect.”

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC I-4

Power: 240 hp @ 5000 rpm

Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 1250 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Drive: 4-wheel

Base price: $33,245

As tested: $45,095

 

2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0T Premium

“The ATS is a solid effort that at last puts a Cadillac on par with the German competitors it has fixated on for so long.”

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter

Power: 272 hp @ 5500 rpm

Torque: 260 hp @ 1700 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Rear-wheel

Base price: $44,315

As tested: $45,910

2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 Premium

Engine: 3.6-liter DOHC V-6

Power: 321 hp @ 6800 rpm

Torque: 275 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel

Base price: $44,315

As tested: $45,910

 

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

“By the spec sheet alone, the result of the engineers’ efforts reads much like a CTS-V: 6.2-liter supercharged LSA V-8, magnetorheological dampers, limited-slip differential, and a tad too much weight. But with the Camaro, engineers sacrificed some of the Cadillac’s civility to place greater emphasis on tuning the ZL1 for days at the track and nights at the drag strip.”

Engine: Supercharged 6.2-liter OHV V-8

Power: 580 hp @ 6100 rpm

Torque: 556 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Rear-wheel

Base price: $56,295

As tested: $58,335

 

2013 Dodge Dart Limited

“The Dart’s Italian DNA is perhaps most visible to the driver. While the steering rack isn’t especially communicative, it makes up for it with a quick ratio, a natural feeling of heft, and excellent straight-line stability.”

Engine: Turbocharged 1.4-liter SOHC I-4

Power: 160 hp @ 6400 rpm

Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $21,785

As tested: $25,065

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

“The turbo four blats to life with a distinct and characterful exhaust note (fitting, given that aftermarket exhaust kits were one of the Abarth company’s earliest and most successful products). The exhaust is quite loud under acceleration but the noise fades almost completely when you’re just cruising.”

Engine: Turbocharged 1.4-liter SOHC I-4

Power: 160 hp @ 5500 rpm

Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $22,700

As tested: $25,200

2013 Ford Focus ST

“The Focus ST is not exactly a world-beater in terms of refinement, handling balance, or ergonomics. But it does offer a lot of car and performance for the money, it scores an undisputed ten on the entertainment scale, and it won’t fall apart when pushed to the limit.”

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC I-4

Power: 252 hp @ 5500 rpm

Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $24,495

As tested: $28,170

 

2013 Ford Fusion SE

“Much has been made of the new Fusion’s styling, which completely walked away from the previous version, instead embracing elements from Aston Martin (the front end), the Audi A7 (the tapered tail), and the Hyundai Sonata (the side view). That may be a disparate trio, but the result is a cohesive whole, and one with an undeniable family resemblance to other recent Fords.”

Engine: Turbocharged 1.6-liter DOHC I-4

Power: 178 hp @ 5700 rpm

Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $24,495

As tested: $26,040

2013 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC I-4

Power: 240 hp @ 5500 rpm

Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: 4-wheel

Base price: $32,995

As tested: $37,670

 

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

“Ford understands that in the hybrid arena, it’s all about the MPGs. Thus, the company is justifiably proud that the new Fusion Hybrid brought home EPA ratings of 47 mpg city and 47 mpg highway, numbers that not only well surpass the 41/36 mpg ratings of the previous model but, more importantly, solidly beat the target Toyota Camry Hybrid’s 43/39 mpg—not to mention the also-ran Hyundai Sonata Hybrid’s 35/40 mpg.”

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC I-4 w/ electric motor

Power(engine/ electric motor): 141 hp @ 6000 rpm/ 118 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque (engine/ electric motor) 129 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm/ 117 lb-ft

Transmission: Continuously variable

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $27,995

As tested: $30,975

 

2013 Honda Accord Sport sedan

The four-cylinder Honda Accord, despite its copycat styling, suffers from very little in the way of drawbacks. In fact, it’s good enough for us to say it has squeaked past the Toyota Camry and regained its spot at the top of the class.

Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC I-4

Power: 185 hp @ 6400 rpm

Torque: 181 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $24,180

As tested: $24,180

 

2013 Honda Accord EX-L Coupe

Engine: 3.5-liter SOHC V-6

Power: 278 hp @ 6200 rpm

Torque: 252 lb-ft @ 4900 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $33,140

As tested: $33,140

 

2013 Lexus GS350 F Sport

“The new GS350, particularly the F Sport, shows real progress in making a more rewarding driver’s car.” 

Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V-8

Power: 303 hp @ 6200 rpm

Torque: 274 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel

Base price: $47,745

As tested: $55,869 

 

2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring

“The CX-5 is a flexible, thoughtful, sharp-looking vehicle that has been crafted from the ground up to give its all in the service of those who love to drive.”

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC I-4

Power: 155 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 150 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $27,840

As tested: $29,165

 

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550

“The new SL’s interior is more opulent than that of any previous SL; every last piece is high-style, from the dash vents to the small, leather-lined, embossed shifter. The aging Comand system feels unnecessarily complicated compared with newer systems from other makers, and the gauges themselves look slightly plasticky and cheap, but overall, this is Benz’s most glamorous and well-constructed interior.”

Engine: Twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter DOHC V-8

Power: 429 hp @ 5250 rpm

Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel

Base price: $106,405

As tested: $123,445

 

2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster

“Turbo lag is not an issue, and this engine gleefully zings the Roadster down urban freeways and rural two-lanes, accompanied by a snarling exhaust note — and the occasional racy popping through the exhaust on throttle lift-off.”

Engine: Turbocharged 1.6-liter DOHC I-4

Power: 181 hp @ 5500 rpm

Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $28,050

As tested: $33,650

2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV

It’s the Altima’s bells and whistles that Nissan hopes will lure customers away from the Camry — and this new Nissan is packed full of tech goodies aped from more expensive vehicles. All Altimas are equipped with a keyless push-button ignition, and most trim levels include remote starting.

Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC I-4

Power: 182 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 180 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $24,880

As tested: $27,005 

2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL

Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V-6

Power: 270 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 251 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable

Drive: Front-wheel

Base price: $31,580

As tested: $32,135

 

2013 Porsche Boxster S

“The Boxster is still a very connected, very visceral drive, no matter what all the improvements to ride quality and refinement might lead you to expect. We’re left unsupervised on the track for a couple of hours and, frankly, it’s gut-wrenching to hand back the keys.”

Engine: 3.4-liter DOHC flat-six

Power: 315 hp @ 6700 rpm

Torque: 266 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Rear-wheel

Base price: $61,850

As tested: $85,410 

 

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S

“If you’ve ever driven a Porsche 911, you’ll immediately know that the 991 is different. In quantifiable terms, it’s leaps and bounds better than any previous 911. It sounds even better, it rides even better, it feels even better, it’s even more comfortable, better equipped, and it’s far better looking.”

Engine: 3.8-liter DOHC flat-six

Power: 400 hp @ 7400 rpm

Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 5600 rpm

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel

Base price: $97,350

As tested: $124,910 

 

2013 Subaru BRZ Premium

The Subaru BRZ, however, is very much a sports car, and it’s the kind we don’t see much anymore: light, lithe, fun, and affordable. That’s an unusual formula in this age of overpriced, overpowered image machines. The BRZ offers a world of usable, accessible performance with a straightforward purity that’s rare today, and the car itself should be accessible to a broad swath of enthusiast drivers.

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC flat-four

Power: 200 hp @ 7000 rpm

Torque: 151 lb-ft @ 6400 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Rear-wheel

Base price: $26,265

As tested: $26,265

 

2012 Tesla Model S Performance

“Pulling this handle, we slid into our red car, inhaling the rich aroma of Nappa leather upholstery and noting the low seating position. We gaped at the most overpowering feature, namely, the glossy, sports-bar-sized central touchscreen, which has more graphical modes than magicians have hats and rabbits. The driver’s instrument display also made us blink and gape. There are no bezels, indicators, counters, gauges, or needles. Watchmaker Edmond Jaeger would weep at the sight.”

Battery: 85-kWh, Lithium-ion

Motor: Three-phase, four pole AC induction motor with copper rotor

Power: 416 hp @ 5000 rpm

Torque: 443 lb-ft

Transmission: Single-speed transaxle

Drive: Rear-wheel

Base price: $93,570

As tested: $102,270 

 

By Automobile Staff

Spyshots: Audi R8 e-tron First Tests at Nurburgring



Audi will put the R8 e-tron electric sportscar into production this year, offering it to a very limited clientele. The fleet of 1,000 cars will be a testbed used by the Ingolstadt carmaker to find out what it need for a bespoke electric sportscar.

These are the first spy shots of the pre-production vehicle as it was testing at the Nurburgring track in almost complete silence yesterday. Audi is making no efforts to hide what the red electric rocket actually is, as ‘e-tron’ is plastered all over the side of the car.

The only major difference over the regular R8 is that the EV has no tailpipes, as it will even be equipped with an artificial sound to announce its presence. Also, a big sign on the driver's side rear quarter window warns us of the danger the car poses if it crashes.

If they get it right, what do we need Tesla for?!

Check out the Audi R8 e-tron photo gallery

By Mihnea Radu

Tesla CEO Musk: Boeing 787 Batteries ‘Inherently Unsafe’

'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster

‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster

Enlarge Photo

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is hardly shy and retiring.

He tweets out random financial results, states as fact things that haven’t quite happened yet, and regularly speaks his mind.

Yesterday, he described the troubled Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s battery pack design as ‘inherently unsafe,’ which could add fuel to the…ahem…fire.

It came just one day after his offer to help Boeing resolve its problem with fires in the 787′s lithium-ion packs, designed by Japanese battery-cell company GS Yuasa.

(It’s worth noting that SpaceX, the other company Musk runs, competes directly with Boeing for certain government contracts for space-launch vehicles.)

Musk, who has run Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] for several years, laid out his thoughts on battery design in a detailed e-mail to the website Flightglobal.

In it, he termed the architecture of the GS Yuasa battery packs supplied to Boeing “inherent unsafe,” and predicted more fires from the same causes due to its design.

Specifically, Musk criticized the use of large-format lithium-ion cells “without enough space between them to isolate against the cell-to-cell thermal domino effect.”

He also noted that when thermal runaway occurs in the larger cells, more energy is released by the single cell than comes from a small-format “commodity” cell, of the type used by the thousands in Tesla battery packs.

And he went on to highlight what he viewed as the dangers of batteries using those large-format cells, saying they have a “fundamental safety issue” because it’s harder to keep the internal temperature of a large-format cell consistent from the center to the edges.

Not surprisingly, Mike Sinnett–Boeing’s chief engineer for the 787 project–counters that the company designed the pack to cope with not only a single cell failure but to contain runaway thermal events as well.

The 787 battery problems have sparked a deluge of news coverage, with the Seattle Times noting yesterday that Boeing had numerous problems with the batteries before the fires that led to the grounding of all 787 planes worldwide.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Enlarge Photo

The chemistry used in the Boeing 787 cells is not the same as that used in today’s electric cars, a point largely overlooked by many reporters.

But Musk’s comments highlight a second issue: the use of large-format lithium-ion cells (some roughly the size of a very thin paperback book) versus the smaller commodity cells (somewhat larger than a AA battery) that Tesla uses.

Musk’s critique, although he didn’t explicitly say so, could be extended beyond the 787 Dreamliner to indict the pack design of all electric cars that use large-format lithium-ion cells.

Those include, oh, every single modern plug-in electric car except the Tesla Model S.

Tesla Motors is the sole maker that builds its packs out of thousands of small ‘commodity’ lithium-ion cells (from Panasonic, for the Model S) rather than using hundreds of large-format cells.

Battery-pack engineering is a complex, multifaceted art.

There’s the physical design of a large, heavy component that must be engineered into the vehicle’s structural design.

There’s positioning of the cells inside the pack to protect against thermal runaway.

Tesla Motors - Model S lithium-ion battery pack

Tesla Motors – Model S lithium-ion battery pack

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There’s thermal conditioning, in which a pack is passively or actively heated or cooled to keep its cells within a desired temperature range, both extending their life and reducing the chance of catastrophic cell failure.

Each electric-car maker takes a somewhat different approach: Nissan uses just passive cooling in its Leaf battery electric car, but has had no recorded fire incidents at all to date.

It has, however, had problems with reduction in energy capacity early in the life of cars that cover high mileages in high temperatures.

The Chevrolet Volt, on the other hand, uses only two-thirds of its pack energy and has active liquid cooling for its pack (as does the Model S).

So has Musk has implicitly slammed the pack designs of the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and a host of other electric cars with battery packs of 16 kilowatt-hours or more?

If so, is this a good strategy for the CEO of a startup electric-car maker?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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By John Voelcker