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The Top Five Cars We Can’t Wait to Drive in 2012

The Top Five Cars We Can’t Wait to Drive in 2012

The New Year promises to bring lots of automotive cheer and new sheet metal to Motor Trend’s garage. Below is a list of more than a dozen new vehicles slated to hit the market in 2012, which should be more than enough to keep us busy 2013 Subaru BRZ With Prototypes 300x187 imagewith drives, tests, and reviews. The Motor Trend staff was tasked with the difficult job of picking their top three cars from the list below that they can’t wait to drive in 2012, and from there we tallied up the Top 5 vote getters. Do you agree with the winners? Sound off below.

2012 BMW M5
2013 Cadillac ATS
2013 Chevy Sonic RS
2013 Dodge Dart
2013 Ford Focus ST
2013 Ford Shelby GT500
2013 Mini Countryman JCW
2013 Porsche 911 Turbo
2013 SRT Viper
2013 Subaru BRZ/ Scion FR-S
2013 Subaru WRX/STI
2013 Tesla Model S
2013 Volkswagen Golf R

1. 2013 Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Toyota and Subaru have been hard at work jointly developing an affordable and fun-to-drive, rear-wheel drive sports car for the masses. And if you’ve been visiting www.motortrend.com, you’ve probably noticed both companies teasing us with sketches, specs, show cars, camouflaged cars, and on and on and on for years now. Well, 2012 is the year to find out if all the hard work and teasing has been worth the wait. And from our initial drives thus far, the BRZ and FR-S look very promising.

First Drive: 2013 Scion FR-S
First Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ

2. 2013 SRT Viper

After a years-long hiatus, the Viper is coming back with its snake eyes set on the Corvette and Porsche 911. Expect many changes to the iconic American sports car, especially with Fiat now at the helm of Chrysler. We’ve heard the Italians, who know a little bit about sports cars, have been involved in the new Viper’s development. In addition, the 2013 Viper will be sold under the newly formed SRT brand, s0 it’s more critical than ever that the new Viper will be a world-class performer both on and off the track. As MT’s digital director Mike Floyd states, the 2013 SRT Viper is the “halo car SRT/Chrysler desperately needs if it’s going to be taken seriously as a true global performance brand.” And just to reiterate, “the pressure on this one is massive,” says editor-in-chief Ed Loh. “Looking forward to the return of the beast.”

3. Tied: 2012 BMW M5 and 2013 Cadillac ATS

2012 BMW M5BMW M5 front bottom view 300x187 image
How will a turbocharged, eight-cylinder M5 perform on the road and on the track? That’s exactly what MT staffers are eager to find out. Road test editor Scott Mortara was among the first bunch of lucky journalists to drive the new M5 and he seemed to like it. “Without a doubt, the new 2012 BMW M5 is better than its predecessor in every way,” Mortara wrote in his first drive review of the 2012 M5. “Some say they’ll miss the high-rpm V-10 screaming under the hood. Not me. I’ll take this subtle torque monster any day. Much like a purveyor of fine spirits, when an automaker starts with quality components, and adds time, insight, and desire, it’s possible to create something amazing — a vintage that can truly be savored. With the new M5, BMW has done just that.”

2013 Cadillac ATS
“Every few years some car maker declares they’ve cracked the 3 Series code,” said senior features editor Jonny Lieberman. “None succeed. However, Caddy actually went to Germany, Bimmer’s home turf. So, maybe.”2013 Cadillac ATS Autobahn1 300x187 image

Just maybe. So what is Lieberman talking about exactly? Well, as former editor-in-chief Angus MacKenzie adds, “the engineering team picked the delightful E46 3 Series as its dynamic benchmark for the new baby Caddy.”   And as we’ve seen from the countless videos Cadillac has produced, the development team has spent countless hours and laps around the famed Nurburgring for testing. Given what we’ve seen so far, it’s hard to imagine what else General Motors could’ve done to develop its new 3 Series fighter. MacKenzie continues, “I can’t wait to find out if Detroit can really out-BMW BMW.” Neither can we.

4. Three-Way Tie: Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen Golf R, and Tesla Model S

2013 Ford Focus ST
With past generations of the Focus, we Americans have always lamented that the sportiest Focus models over the years were sadly out of our reach, available only in Europe and elsewhere. That all changes with the 2013 Focus ST. The 2012 Ford Focus has proven itself as having good bones; with the additional performance of the ST model, Ford may again have a real hot hatch competitor in the U.S. — if it’s not priced out of the market. So what are we looking forward to exactly? Basically, it’s the 2.0-liter, 250-hp, turbocharged, Ecoboost four banger wrapped around sleek sheetmetal. “After years of watered-down, rental-fleet Foci, Ford finally brings us a real contender in the ST,” said news director Ed Sanchez. “The VW GTI and Mazdaspeed 3 will have to make room in the sandbox for the new kid from Dearborn.”

2012 Volkswagen Golf R2012 Volkswagen Golf R Front Three Quarters 300x187 image
We liked the first-gen Volkswagen R32, which was armed with the burbling 250-hp,VR6 engine and a manual transmission, and all-wheel-drive. The VR6 carried over in the second-gen R32, but it was only offered with the DSG transmission, which wasn’t a bad thing — unless you, like most of us in the office,  are diehard fans of the third pedal. The 2013 Golf R is coming to America in manual transmission-form only and will be powered by a new 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder making 260-hp, and fitted with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. Will we miss the VR6? Stay tuned to find out.

2012 Tesla Model S
Following the incredibly fast Tesla Roadster comes the Model S, the electric car for every (well off) man. Tesla recently confirmed a base price of $49,900, which includes a 40kWh battery and a range of 160 miles, which should be good enough for most Americans. “Sexy styling, cutting-edge tech. What’s not to like,” asks Sanchez.  “Granted, Tesla has its share of skeptics and haters, but this could be the breakthrough car for the still-struggling electric upstart.”

5. Tied: 2013 Dodge Dart and 2013 Porsche 911 Turbo

2013 Dodge Dart Front 300x187 image

2013 Dodge Dart
It’s been awhile since Dodge has produced a remotely memorable compact car (Dodge Neon anyone?). The 2013 Dodge Dart should change that. “As the Caliber retires, we might soon see an Elantra-like transformation here for Dodge in the compact car segment,” opined copy editor Zach Gale. “I can’t wait to discover whether that nine-speed automatic transmission performs smoothly or constantly hunts for gears.”

2013 Porsche 911 Turbo
Executive editor Ron Kiino recently had some wheel time behind the new 991 Porsche 911 and expects it to continue on as a sports car benchmark. “When we want to say just how quick a car is, or how well it handles, or how amazing its steering is, well, there’s one reference we turn to, Kiino wrote in his first drive of the 2012 Porsche 911. ‘”The new Evo corners as well as a 911!’ ‘This ‘Vette is even quicker than a 911!’ ‘The GT-R is so fast it can hang with a 911 Turbo!’ You get the point.” And like always, Porsche will keep things interesting with a number of variants such as the turbo. “The old 911 Turbo was Veyron-lite; delivering staggering acceleration and a swaggering sense of invincibility on the road,” said MacKenzie. “My wheeltime in the new Carrera S suggests this latest 911 is the best ever. If the new 911 Turbo delivers the same step-change, it’s going to be a helluva car.”

By Erick Ayapana

Tesla Expanding Supercharger Network, Introducing Faster Charging Tech

Tesla Expanding Supercharger Network, Introducing Faster Charging Tech

With sales of the Tesla Model S exceeding expectations, the automaker has been busy increasing production of the electric sedan and paying back its Department of Energy loans nine years early. While the EV maker has built just under 10 Supercharger charging stations along major corridors in California and the East Coast, this week, Tesla announced a substantial increase in the number of planned Supercharger stations.

Tesla Supercharger station 1 300x167 imageBy the end of next month, the number of operational Supercharger stations will triple, and the company claims that within six months, there will be enough Superchargers to service most major metro areas in North America. A year from now, the company says, Superchargers will provide coverage to 80 percent of the population of North America and 98 percent a year later.

The automaker also announced that new technology will significantly cut charging times. While the chargers at 120 kW are in beta test mode (versus 90 kW currently), the faster chargers will be ready this summer. At 120 kW, Tesla claims it will only take 20 minutes to replenish three hours of driving in the Model S.

Some Tesla Supercharger stations have roof-mounted solar panels (from Musk-owned SolarCity) that are said to pump more electricity back into the grid than what is used to recharge cars. Since the Tesla Supercharger has a unique charger receptacle, the stations can’t charge other EVs. Currently, Model S cars with the 85 kW-hr batteries can recharge for free, while those with the 60 kW-hr model can do the same once they purchase Supercharger capability. Musk says all future Teslas will be capable of using the Superchargers.

So what’s next for Tesla? The company is still kicking around the idea of a sub-$40,000 electric sedan as well as a high-torque electric truck and a second production plant in Texas. Of course, those models would likely arrive after the Model X crossover goes on sale around late 2014 and early 2015.

Source: Tesla

By Jason Udy

MT Then and Now: Tesla Roadster, Model S, Model X Prototype

MT Then and Now: Tesla Roadster, Model S, Model X Prototype

When Tesla Motors was founded in the early 2000s, many would never have guessed the company would last long enough to produce a car like the Model S. The first car to arrive was the Tesla Roadster, followed by the just-released Model S and, before long, the Model X. As we share the results of our exclusive range test of the Model S, WOT is taking a look back at the Tesla models we’ve driven and tested over the years.

Roadster

Based on the Lotus Elise chassis, the Tesla Roadster replaced the Toyota-sourced four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 248-hp AC motor that generated 211 lb-ft of torque at 0 rpm. Juice supplied by a 6831-cell lithium-ion battery pack powered the electric motor that sent power to the rear wheels via a two-speed dual-clutch transmission. We were impressed during our First Drive of the Tesla Roadster in 2008.

2008 Tesla Roadster cockpit 1 300x187 image“I’m almost grimacing as I release the brake and pound the accelerator to the floor. Whrrrrrrr…30 mph, 40 mph, 50…in the four seconds it’s taken to read this sentence, the Roadster has shrieked to 60 mph (Tesla’s claimed 3.9 seconds would seem entirely plausible in a controlled setting). There’s no wheelspin, axle tramp, shutter, jutter, smoke whiff, cowl shake, nothing. I’m being eerily teleported down the barrel of a rail gun, head pulled back by a hard, steady acceleration. Bizarre.”

During the following months, Tesla failed to deliver the first Roadsters on time and the car began to look like vaporware. After a long delay, deliveries began. The Roadster now used a one-speed transmission, which cured the ills that plagued the two-speed unit – that along with financial difficulties slowed development. Though horsepower remained the same, torque grew to 278 lb-ft of torque. The battery pack gave the Roadster a 227-mile range.

2010 Tesla Roadster Sport side static 300x187 image“Yeah, OK and driving it as intended, as a true sports car, ain’t great for range either. But boy does it lift the spirits. You know the drill: aluminum chassis, double wishbones, carbon fiber body, about 2750 pounds, excellent mass distribution and — oh joy! — unassisted rack and pinion steering. The Roadster delivers on the promises of its spec.”

In 2010, we finally tested a Tesla Roadster. Our tester came in Sport form, which bumped power to 288 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. “…its acceleration is breathtaking. Make that breath-extracting. At the track, we confirmed the car’s 3.7-second scream to 60 mph — but, that’s just a number. Three-point-seven — what’s that mean? Felt, it’s such an unnatural thrust that it actually brings to mind that hokey Star Trek star-smear of warp-speed. The quick, linear accumulation of velocity makes you smile and hold on, shake your head, and eventually learn to carve unimaginable moves through traffic that’s populated by completely flat-footed internal-combustion cars.”

2010 Tesla Roadster with 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder front view 300x187 imageWe compared that same Tesla Roadster against the 2011 Porsche Boxster S. In the end, we handed the win to the Boxster, but noted that “the Tesla is now a genuine car to reckon with on the world stage, despite its extraordinary price and limited range. Now if only it could better communicate its handling intentions.”

Model S

Unlike the Lotus-derived Roadster, the Model S four-door was fully developed by Tesla. The flat battery pack sits below the floor and the 306-hp electric motor powers the rear wheels. With no combustion engine or transmission to worry about, the design allows a small front trunk and a large rear hatch area. Optional rear-facing jump seats increase passenger seating to seven.

2012 Tesla Model S right frong motion during testing 300x187 image“The car’s acceleration — claimed to be 5.6 seconds to 60 mph — is a continuous press-the-seat-back surge that only a single-speed, big electric motor can provide. Interestingly, while the motor is quiet, its growly roar is a very different acoustic signature than the frenetic whine in the Roadster. Tesla claims that’s just how it sounds, and no acoustic modifications have been attempted. Bumps were nicely absorbed amid muted tire-impact noises, and the lateral grip seemed considerable for a car over 4000 pounds. That low battery location and compact powertrain are very helpful.”

Recently, we got another drive in the Model S. Horsepower has climbed since our first drive in the Model S, now at 362 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque while Performance versions make 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Depending on the size of the battery pack, the Model S’ driving range is said to be 160, 230, and 300 miles, the last of which was EPA-rated at 265 miles. “I’d advocate for a bit more rear seat space, comfort, and lateral support, and of course more range for less money would be nice,” Frank Markus concluded after his stint in the car. “But the dynamic performance, equipment level, and style nearly justify the price — even if you don’t care about the electric drivetrain. I don’t. And I want one.”

2012 Tesla Model S cockpit and center screen 300x187 imageWe traveled 233.7 miles during a recent trip in a Tesla Model S from Los Angeles to San Diego and back before stopping to recharge when the onboard range meter said we would be 1.7 miles short of reaching the office. Despite that, we were impressed by the energy cost to make the journey, “During our drive, we used 78.2 kW-hrs of electricity (93 percent of the battery’s rated capacity). What does that mean? It’s the energy equivalent of 2.32 gasoline gallons, or 100.7 mpg-e before charging losses. That BMW 528i following us consumed 7.9 gallons of gas for a rate of 30.1 mpg. The Tesla’s electrical energy cost for the trip was $10.17; the BMW’s drive cost $34.55. The 528i emitted 152 lbs of CO2; the Model S, 52 — from the state’s power plants.”

In our latest real-world range test of the Model S, we drove the electric car from the edge of Los Angeles to Las Vegas, then back to our El Segundo office. After these tests – which used Musk’s personal car, we developed some conclusions about the Model S.

Tesla Model X left rear doors open 300x187 image“The take home message isn’t whether or not the Model S meets the EPA’s range rating of 265 miles. We’ve proven that it does and does not. The takeaway is that the Tesla Model S is not a real electric car, it’s a real car that just happens to be electric.”

Model X Prototype

If all goes well with the Model S, a production version of the Model X prototype — a three-row, seven-passenger SUV with gullwing style doors — is next from Tesla. Before volume delivery of that car begins in the 2014 calendar year, though, Tesla will depend on the sales of the Model S, a car that’s progressed quite a bit from the company’s beginnings with the Roadster.

By Jason Udy

Nine Road Trip-Ready Vehicles – Rumor Central

Nine Road Trip-Ready Vehicles

Memorial Day weekend means many things to many people, but it universally signals the start of one summer tradition: road trips. Regardless of if you’re heading to see family, escape into the great outdoors, or simply crisscross the country, we’ve rounded up some ideal road trip vehicles for those seeking to hit the road this summer.

Volkswagen Passat TDI front three quarters view 2 300x199 imageI want to…go there and back on a single tank.

Volkswagen Passat TDI

Base Price: $26,225
EPA mileage: 30 mpg city/ 40 highway

There are a number of thrifty, diesel-burning vehicles offered in North America – and plenty from the Volkswagen Group, at that – but few strike us as ideal for long-distance road tripping when compared to the Passat TDI. Volkswagen’s diesel-sipping midsize sedan is powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel, which cranks out 140 hp. What it lacks in sheer power, however, it delivers in impressive fuel economy. Fitted with the optional six-speed automatic transmission, a 2013 Passat is rated at 30 mpg city, 40 mpg highway.

These numbers are incredible when you consider the size of the Passat. Yes, it’s deemed a midsize sedan, but at 191.6 inches long, it’s on the larger end of that spectrum. That extra size results in plus-sized interior, with enough space for large adults to sit in both the front and rear seats. Think you sacrifice on cargo space? Wrong again – there’s 15.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up, allowing the trunk to resemble Mammoth Cave – albeit with a bit more plastic trim and carpeting.

Mercedes Benz Sprinter passenger van front three quarters view 300x199 imageI want to…bring the entire family. And I do mean the ENTIRE family.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Base price: $41,315

EPA mileage: not tested by EPA

If the tired stereotype of precocious in-laws and annoying extended family members applies to you, skip this section. If not – and you’d actually like to travel with your large family using as few vehicles as possible – there’s really only one option shy of picking up a used transit bus at public auction: the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. In its passenger form, the Sprinter seats up to twelve fairly comfortably, and even more comfortably if equipped with the cathedral-spec, 107.5-inch tall “high roof” option. The 140-inch wheelbase provides plenty of space (23.7 cubic feet) aft of that rear bench, but the elongated 170-inch model provides up to 31.2 cubic feet. We’ve seen (and lived) in urban apartment dwellings with less usable space than a Sprinter.

Yes, the sliding door rattles a bit over bumps; no, interior materials aren’t the fanciest; and yes, the price tag – especially if you go crazy with stand-alone options – isn’t inexpensive – but that’s beside the point. For such a gargantuan people mover, the Sprinter is surprisingly easy to drive – and it’s also incredibly efficient. Its weight class allows it to sidestep EPA testing, but we’ve frequently seen combined averages around the 19-20-mpg mark. For a vehicle that has the aerodynamic profile of a two-story house, that’s impressive.

Tesla Model S front view on road 300x199 imageI want to…use no gasoline, diesel, or combustible fuel at all.

Tesla Model S

Base price: $71,070

EPA rating: 88 mpge city/ 90 highway
Yeah, we get it – electric cars aren’t necessarily road-trip vehicles, or if they are, they’re only so when paired with a range-extending internal combustion engine. Still, if you insist on using a battery-powered vehicle for a road trip, it’s hard to best the Tesla Model S. Why? Space, for starters. There’s room for five passengers within the Model S, although that number grows to seven if you opt for the small, rear-facing jump seat. We’d skip that, as it frees up the rear cargo area for your luggage and other belongings. Between that area and the “frunk” beneath the hood, there’s nearly 31.6 cubic feet of storage available.

Range? That’s still a hot-button topic, but the top-tier Model S Performance comes with a 85-kWh battery that theoretically provides as much as 265 miles on a single charge. Of course, your distance will vary based on temperature, terrain, and your own temperament – but compared to the EPA-rated range of, say, a Ford Focus Electric, it’s fairly sizable. Depending on your journey, we’d still recommend ensuring your planned drive regularly passes charging stations, and that you do budget time for a recharge or two along the way.

Mercedes Benz S350 Bluetec front three quarters view 300x199 imageI want to…travel as far as possible in the lap of luxury.

Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetec 4Matic

Base price: $93.905

EPA rating: 21/31 mpg

Diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz sedans have long been sold in North America, but until the launch of the S350 Bluetec in 2012, Mercedes always shied away from selling a diesel-powered flagship here. We’re just glad the S350 finally made the trek from Germany, as it blends first-world luxuries with first-rate fuel economy.  Despite tipping the scales at 4784 pounds and being paired with an all-wheel-drive system, its 3.0-liter, turbo-diesel V-6 and seven-speed automatic help the S350 attain an EPA rating of 21 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. With a full 23.8- gallon tank of diesel, the S350 can cruise over 730 miles without refueling.

That cruise will be quite comfortable, given the S Class is arguably one of the most refined, comfortable, and luxurious sedans this side of a Rolls-Royce. Benz’s premium leather interior boasts attractive hand-stitched accents on virtually every surface, including the dash and door panels. Rear seat occupants are already gifted with 42.3 inches of legroom, but an optional package allows those in the outboard seats to heat, cool, and recline their seats. Add power sunshades, a DVD entertainment system, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system, and you’ll be cruising in unimpeached comfort.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT front three quarters view1 300x199 imageI want to…haul the family, cargo, and ass.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

Base price: $63,990

EPA rating: 13 mpg city/ 19 highway

We wanted to throw a muscle car on this list, but last we tried, packing a family of four and their cargo into a Camaro or Mustang is essentially impossible. Or if it is possible, it doesn’t make for a very comfortable (or tolerable) four-hour drive. But what if there were a way to blend the power of a muscle car with the packaging of a family vehicle? Enter Jeep’s SRT-tuned Grand Cherokee. Seating for five? 35.1 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up? 470 hp on tap? 0-60 mph in about five seconds? Check, check, check, and check.

Unlike the first generation model, today’s Grand Cherokee SRT is a comfortable chimera that walks the line between performance and civility with few qualms. Adaptive Bilstein dampers at all four corners provide a surprisingly compliant ride quality for long hauls, but stiffen up to snuff out body roll on twisty back roads. The 6.1-liter V-8 slams passengers into seatbacks like a Mercury Redstone rocket, but idles four cylinders under light loads to reduce fuel consumption. Better yet, this latest iteration of SRT Grand Cherokee can tow up to 7200 pounds – perfect for dragging a speedboat behind your speed wagon.

Audi S5 Cabriolet front three quarters view static 300x199 imageI want to…soak up the sun.

Audi S5 Cabriolet

Base Price $60,195

EPA Rating 17 mpg city/ 26 highway


Nothing says summer like soaking up UV rays while behind the wheel of a convertible. Several drop-top models are on sale in the United States, but the Audi S5 is one of the most well-rounded choices available. There’s room for four, with rear seats that are larger than the glorified parcel shelves found in many convertibles. There’s adequate trunk space – 12.2 cubic feet, with the top up, or 10.2 with the top down. There’s the sophisticated interior (note the rear-seat reading lamps integrated into the convertible top) and handsome exterior styling. And, for those who might want to plan a road trip to a ski resort come winter, the S5 is one of the few convertibles offered with all-wheel-drive.

Better yet, the S5 is a blast to drive. Audi’s supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 serves up 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, and emits a delectable growl at wide open throttle. Although S5 coupes are offered with a six-speed manual transmission, S5 cabriolets feature Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic as standard equipment.  No matter – it’s still happy to snap off lightning-quick gearchanges in either sport or manual mode. Do make sure to opt for the so-called “sports differential,” which replaces the standard rear diff with a torque-vectoring unit that helps the car rotate into corners.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited front view in woods 300x199 imageI want to…stray from the beaten path.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Base Price: $26,790

EPA rating: 16 mpg city/ 20-21 mpg highway

Road trips are great, but what if your destination isn’t exactly on a road? For those who want to journey far outside the beaten path, we can’t think of a better choice than Jeep’s eternal Wrangler. By modern SUV and crossover standards, the Wrangler may seem like a bit of a crude anachronism, but in truth, it’s better than ever. A new instrument panel design is more attractive than ever, but the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 tucked underhood finally delivers adequate power – something the JK Wrangler previously lacked.

Although it is possible to squeeze four into a two-door Wrangler, don’t count on bringing all their belongings along for the ride. For that reason – and to give rear-seat passengers legroom for long hauls – we’d go with the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, which still offers the same off-road prowess and open-air sensations but with additional versatility. That said, you’d better act quickly if you’re in the market for one – demand for four-door Wranglers is nearly double that of the two-door model, and dealer inventory is presently at 68 days supply.

Nissan NV Roadtrek NAV 6 front three quarters view 300x199 imageI want to…stay overnight, but not in a hotel.

Nissan NV Roadtrek N6 Active

Base price: $65,260

EPA rating: not rated by EPA

Remember the days when minivans could easily double as mobile camp sites? Decades ago, such vehicles ran rampant across this country, but ever since the Volkswagen Eurovan died in 2003 the good old pop-top camper was virtually extinct. Thanks to Roadtrek, an Ontario-based motorhome manufacturer, that’s no longer the case. The new N6 Active – which is also sold as the NAV-6 – converts a Nissan NV passenger van into a multipurpose camper.

In its van configuration, the N6 Active/ NAV-6 seats six. That’s roughly half that of a standard NV passenger wagon, but understandable when you see Roadtrek packs in everything including the kitchen sink. Cabinetry installed next to the two-passenger third-row bench houses a refrigerator, sink, microwave, and cupboards. Second-row captains chairs swivel to face the rear seat and a pop-up table. The optional pop-top roof increases headroom and provides an extra two berths for sleeping, yet still allows the NV to fit in most garages.

 

Mazda MX 5 Miata side view on road 300x199 imageI want to…take a road trip only using back roads.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Base Price: $24,515

EPA Rating: 21-22 mpg city/ 28 mpg highway

Another convertible on this list? Yep. The Miata’s top – either made of fabric or metal — does fold and stow for top-down fun, but that’s not why we chose it for this group of cars. We revel in road trips that trade the hustle, bustle, and malaise of the interstate system in favor of winding, scenic, two-lane, back county roads. And for that, there’s virtually no way to best the MX-5. We should know – we adopted a MX-5 for a summer two years ago, and frequently sought the curvaceous road less taken instead of the quickest route between points A and B.

Yes, we know the Miata’s cabin is a bit tight, and that packing for a long trip may require you to invest in those vacuum space-saving bags seen on late-night infomercials. Still, if you’re looking to plan a long trip full of entertaining roads – i.e. PCH, Tail of the Dragon, OH-555, etc. – there’s not a better choice. As road test editor Chris Nelson wrote back in 2011, “you can find a lot of little things to complain about, but if you do, you’re missing the point. The Miata is, has been, and always will be a purpose-built automobile. That purpose is to be one of the purest, most enjoyable sports cars on the market. Give it a smooth road, good company, and great scenery, and the Miata takes care of the rest.”












By Evan McCausland

Tesla Model S Prices Bumped by $2500 to $59,900, Battery Replacement Costs $8000-$12,000

Tesla Model S Prices Bumped by $2500 to $59,900, Battery Replacement Costs $8000-$12,000

Tesla has opened up about the Model S four-door’s recently announced price bumps: for all reservations placed after the end of 2012, Tesla Model S prices will increase by $2500. Before federal tax credits, that means the 40 kW-hr model will now cost $59,900, add $10,000 for the 60 kW-hr model and $20,000 for the 85 kW-hr model, while the 85 kW-hr Performance model will carry an MSRP of $94,900.

Tesla Model S profile red1 300x187 imageAll Tesla Model S cars with the revised pricing will add as standard equipment 12-way power seats and heated front seats. At a constant 55 mph, Tesla estimates the ranges of the three different motor choices at 160, 230, 300 miles. Claimed acceleration from 0-60 mph times take from 4.4 to 6.5 seconds, though we tested a Performance model completing the sprint in 3.9 seconds.

Tesla notes that the $2500 price increase is half the rate of inflation, and with plenty of press — it was the Motor Trend 2013 Car of the Year, after all — luxury customers may still be willing to pay the premium. Speaking of premiums, Tesla is also offering a four-year/50,000-mile extended warranty above the car’s standard four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty.

The automaker has also revealed pricing for battery replacements. Taking the mystery out of the one maintenance detail that scares many about electric cars, Tesla says that $8000 will buy 40 kW-hr Model S customers a new battery to be installed at any time after the eighth year of ownership. The cost rises to $10,000 for the 60 kW-hr battery and $12,000 for the 85 kW-hr battery.

Those battery replacement option prices cover the battery and all installation labor and parts needed to make a Model S whole again. Customers who don’t select the option at time of order will have up to 90 days from date of delivery to choose it, and the prepaid battery will apply to second and subsequent owners even if the original owner sells their car. And while it states the fresh battery reprieve comes after the magic 8-year mark, there “will likely be economic outcomes (incentives or drawbacks) tied to early or late exercise options,” per a Tesla spokesperson.

Considering Tesla’s vehicle servicing strategy, we had to ask if a mobile battery swap was foreseeable in the year 2020. Representatives seemed amused by our image of an electric-powered box truck with enclosed lift being the 2020 version of the electric-car maker’s Service Ranger, but it appears the B&M route is the safe bet for the time being.

Read more about the Tesla Model S in our First Test and Range Verification article.

Source: Tesla

Benson Kong contributed to this post.

By Zach Gale

Feature Flick: News Round Up, Including C7, Mercedes AMGs, Tesla Model X – Rumor Central

Feature Flick: News Round Up, Including C7, Mercedes AMGs, Tesla Model X

The Motor Trend Channel’s Wide Open Throttle news show kicks off its fourth episode, starting out with more than a dozen models coming from AMG in the next few years, electric-powered BMWs, and spy shots of the upcoming seventh-generation Corvette just around the corner, and Tesla’s sporty new Model X electric crossover.

We’re all fans of high-performance models, so whenever we hear more are coming, we get excited. Among the most intriguing is the rumored Porsche 911-fighter, the new SLC model in 2014, expected to be powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 producing 550 horsepower with a rear-mounted transaxle.

Corvette traditionalists will be relieved that the C7 Corvette will still be front-engine, rear-drive, and V-8-powered. But the biggest news, other than the direct-injected fifth-generation small block V-8 under the hood, is a dramatically improved interior.

Stay tuned to the Motor Trend YouTube channel for fresh automotive content, updated daily.




By Edward A. Sanchez

Watch a Tesla Model S Smoke a 2005 Dodge Viper SRT10 at the Drag Strip

Watch a Tesla Model S Smoke a 2005 Dodge Viper SRT10 at the Drag Strip

We didn’t crown the Tesla Model S Car of the Year just because it was a technological marvel – it also earned the golden calipers because it’s damn fast (among other reasons). Reconfirmation of the Model S’ dynamic abilities comes from Florida, where DragTimes.com drag raced a Model S against a last-generation Dodge Viper SRT10 Roadster.

Viper Vs 300x165 imageThe DragTimes.com video shows a Model S Performance, complete with the 85 kW-hr battery pack thoroughly smoking a lightly modified 2005 Viper SRT10 at the strip. On paper, the Model S really doesn’t stand a chance – its electric motor in the lineup-topping model makes 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, compared to the stock 2005 Viper’s 8.3-liter V-10, which makes 500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. In fact – our testing confirms that this isn’t exactly a fair matchup, considering the fastest Model S we’ve tested hit 60 mph from a standstill in 4.0 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 12.4 seconds at 112.5 mph. The last Viper Roadster of the same era we tested needed 3.9 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph and 11.8 seconds at 123.6 mph to knock out the quarter mile. Nonetheless, just like when the Model S drag raced a BMW M5, it’s the Tesla that comes out on top here, likely because the EV is an incredibly easy car to launch.

DragTimes.com’s 12.371 seconds at 110.84 mph quarter mile time for the Tesla Model S just edges out our time of 12.4 seconds at 112.5 mph, reportedly earning the Model S the world record for quickest production electric vehicle in the quarter mile from the National Electric Drag Racing Association. Less powerful and expensive Model S trims use 40- and 60 kW-hr batteries instead of an 85 kW-hr battery pack.

In other Tesla news, CEO Elon Musk is reaching out to the chief engineer of the troubled Boeing 787 Dreamliner, in an effort to help the plane maker sort out its lithium-ion battery troubles, Reuters reports. The 787 fleet has been grounded after a series of high-profile fires in the 787′s battery compartment. Musk, who also heads commercial space transport company SpaceX, uses the same type of batteries in the Tesla Model S and in SpaceX’s rockets. The 787 is the first airliner to make extensive use of lithium-ion batteries for main flight control systems.

Check out the Model S racing a Viper in the video below.

Source: DragTimes.com, YouTube, Reuters

By Christian Seabaugh

Tesla Sends Roadster On 1800-mile Down Under Trek On “Oz Goes Electric” Tour

Tesla Sends Roadster On 1800-mile Down Under Trek On “Oz Goes Electric” Tour

In an effort to improve consumer awareness of electric vehicles’ capability and range, Tesla Motors is kicking off its Oz Goes Electric Tour to bring the Tesla Roadster to electric vehicle enthusiasts along Australia’s eastern coast. The Roadster will travel a total distance of 3000 kilometers (1864 miles). The tour launched March 16 at the Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne.

Officials from the Victorian provincial government and Department of Transportation were present at the event, with the tour being part of the local government’s electric vehicle trial and EV awareness campaign.

The tour will cover Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, and feature test drive events and public displays of the Tesla Roadster along the route.

The Tesla Roadster also holds the record for distance driven on a single charge in a production electric vehicle, which was broken driving 501 kilometers (310.6 miles) in Australia. You can follow the tour here.

Source: Tesla

By Edward A. Sanchez

Thread of the Day: Which 2013 Of-the-Year Winner Would You Park in Your Driveway?

Thread of the Day: Which 2013 Of-the-Year Winner Would You Park in Your Driveway?

We named the 2013 Ram 1500 our 2013 Truck of the Year winner this morning, wrapping up our 2013 Motor Trend “Of-The-Year” season. Joining the Ram 1500 with Golden Calipers of their own is our 2013 Sport/Utility of the year 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, and our 2013 Car of the Year, the 2013 Tesla Model S.

For today’s Thread of the Day, we’d like to know which of the 2013 Golden Caliper-recipients you’d most want to own. Each award-winner brings plenty to the table; we loved the Mercedes GL’s segment-busting interior and dynamics; the Tesla Model S’ eco-cred, long legs, and speed; and the Ram 1500′s segment-first eight-speed automatic and towing capability. To make things more interesting, we’re going to include as an option the winner of our coveted Best Driver’s Car award: the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S.

So again, which of the following would you rather park in your driveway:

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, our Sport/Utility of the Year

2013 Tesla Model S, our Car of the Year

2013 Ram 1500, our Truck of the Year

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S, our Best Driver’s Car

Tell us your choice and why in the comments below.

By Christian Seabaugh

VW Reconsidering BlueSport Roadster? Here Are Our Top 5 Dream Mazda Miata Rivals

VW Reconsidering BlueSport Roadster? Here Are Our Top 5 Dream Mazda Miata Rivals

Is the Volkswagen BlueSport on-again or off-again? Last we checked the diesel-powered mid-engined roadster had been canned, but Volkswagen’s design chief recently hinted that VW is still interested in building a small sports car. With the Volkswagen in mind, we thought it would be fun to create a list of five automakers that should make a Mazda Miata rival.

The recent BlueSport news comes from a recent interview between Auto Motor und Sport and VW design head Walter de Silva. In the interview, de Silva suggested that a small Volkswagen roadster wouldn’t be the worst addition to the automaker’s global lineup. Though the BlueSport concept came with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel I-4, in a perfect world, here’s what we think Miata rivals from Volkswagen and four other automakers should look like.

Volkswagen BlueSport Concept top down 300x187 imageVolkswagen: The BlueSport is an attractive concept, even four years after its Detroit auto show debut. We wouldn’t change much in the production BlueSport; it should keep its mid-mounted engine, and turbodiesel I-4, although since it’s a sports car Volkswagen should also offer the 2.0-liter 210-hp turbo I-4 from the updated Beetle Turbo and Jetta GLI. The only other change we’d make is to its name; surely Volkswagen can combine more animal names (may we suggest Velociphant or Sharphin?) for its new roadster.

2007 Dodge Demon concept 300x187 imageSRT: We bet SRT Ralph Gilles would love to make a Miata-competitor, and by all accounts it could already be in the works. Our dream SRT Miata-fighter would be a two-seat roadster powered by a souped-up version of the Dodge Dart’s 2.4-liter turbo-4 – we’re thinking around 250 hp in a lightweight roadster should do the trick. That would leave just enough room in the lineup for SRT to offer a 470-hp Hemi V-8 powered TA version. Hey, when you’re dreaming, why not dream big?

Honda: Honda once built fun sports cars, but the S2000 died a few years back. We’d like to see Honda bring back the S2000 just as it was. Seriously, don’t change a thing: the circa 1999 design still looks fresh to this day, and by all accounts its 239-hp high-revving I-4 left little to be desired.

Chevrolet Code 130R front three quarters 300x187 imageChevrolet: Just build the damn Code 130R already, Chevy. The Alpha platform three-box coupe would not only give Chevy a convincing Mazda competitor, but it’d also give Chevy an entry-level sports car that could lead to Camaro sales, and then ultimately the Corvette. With that kind of sporting tradition it only makes sense for the bowtie to build a Miata fighter.

Tesla: An entry-level followup to the Tesla Roadster would be pretty awesome. The Miata-fighting Roadster Mk II could use the chassis of the upcoming entry-level Tesla, with the Model S Performance’s motor and 85 kWh battery. That’d give it blistering performance, and the ability to enjoy the EV all day long.

What company do you think should build a Miata fighter? What would it look like? Sound off below.

Source: Auto Motor und Sport

By Christian Seabaugh