Tag archives for Toyota - Page 2

Gran Turismo 6 Details Revealed, Demo Coming This Summer

Gran Turismo 6 Details Revealed, Demo Coming This Summer

The next-generation of simulation racing games is coming. While celebrating the storied marquee’s 15th anniversary at Silverstone, Sony announced that Gran Turismo 6 is coming to PlayStation 3 this holiday season, with the first playable demo coming in July.

2012 Tesla Model S Signature Performance GT6 front three quarter turn 300x168 imageSony touts Gran Turismo 6 as bringing new levels of realism and authenticity to the sim racing genre. GT6 boasts an entirely new game and physics engine, the latter of which includes a new aerodynamic model, a new tire model, and a new suspension and kinematics model. Like its rivals at Forza 4 (which worked with Pirelli to help with its tire models), the GT6 team joined with Yokohama and KW Automotive to help develop a more realistic experience in the latest Gran Turismo game.

Gran Turismo 6 will reportedly be released this holiday season, though it’s probably worth noting that GT6′s predecessor, Gran Turismo 5, was the subject of multiple delays. Still, there are a few reasons to remain optimistic. For starters, all of the cars and tracks in GT5 will be carried over to GT6, which will include 1200 cars at launch (though as production manager Kirill Ougarov joked on Twitter, “1100 of them will be Skylines”).  The newest Gran Turismo will also include seven new tracks (including Silverstone), bringing the track total to 33. There will be 71 different track layouts in the game, with 19 of them new. If those grow old, the course maker function has been improved.

Gran Turismo 6 Silverstone 7 300x168 imageWith the announcement of GT6, Sony is planning on continuing its collaboration with Nissan’s GT Academy, the program that turns Gran Turismo gamers into real-life racers. GT Academy returns this July, with the release of the GT6 Silverstone demo.

Speaking of the demo, Sony released a short teaser of the killer graphics and cars we can expect to see in GT6, including the 1986 Audi Quattro rally car, and the 2012 Tesla Model S Signature Performance.

Here are the cars you’ll be able to drive in the July demo. Bold text indicates the car is new to the Gran Turismo series:

-          1991 Acura NSX

-          2011 Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale

-          1968 Alpine a110 1600S

-          1986 Audi Quattro S1 rally car

-          2009 Ferrari 458 Italia

-          1971 Ferrari Dino 246 GT

-          2006 Ford GT

-          2012 KTM X-Bow R

-          1974 Lamborghini Countach LP400

-          2007 Light Car Company Rocket

-          2010 McLaren MP4-12C

-          2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3

-          2008 Nissan 370Z (GT Academy Version)

-          2008 Nissan 370Z Tuned Car (GT Academy Version)

-          2012 Nissan GT-R Black Edition (GT Academy Version)

-          Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 N24 Shulze Motorsport

-          Nissan Leaf G (GT Academy Version)

-          2012 Tesla Model S Signature Performance

-          2012 Toyota 86 GT

2012 KTM X Bow GT6 rear high 300x168 imageSome other cool Gran Turismo 6 facts, straight from associate online editor Nate Martinez, our man on the ground:

- 200 cars more than GT5

- A lot more tuning parts than GT5

- A lot more Downloadable Content (DLC)

- “Adaptive Tessellation” (not pixilation) to vehicle models allows for greater details shown

- Several thousand tuning parts will be available

- GT5 had limited wheels; GT6 will have tons more freedom and choices

-New tracks added every month via DLCs

- Updated Course Maker for GT6

- 10 square kilometers of scenery available

- New algorithm for highly detailed backgrounds and layouts

1986 Audi Quattro S1 rally car GT6 side 300x168 imageGame Engine:

- New rendering engine

- For PS3, pushes unit to its limits

- Flexible expandability

- 50x increase of dynamic range vs. GT5

- Hi-res photographic backgrounds during gameplay result of dynamic range

Community Club/Race Organizer:

- GT5 missed this feature; GT6 will not

- Players can form own communities (local, domestic, global)

- Can organize own racing series and championships

1974 Lamborghini Countach LP400 GT6 front three quarter track 300x168 imageNew User Interface:

- Directional keys and touch operation balance

- Faster responsiveness; shorter loading times

- UI No 1. goal = much faster

Multi Device Compatibility:

- New for GT6

- PlayStation, smart phone, tablet, PC

- Best driving experience is on the PS3

- “Get involved with GT6 practically anyplace.”

- Activity with other OEMs and automotive brands, such as the partnership with Toyota and the 86s, will be announced later in next 6 months

- Next GT Academy starts in July 2013

- Winners now will race a NISMO GT-R GT3 for FULL season

By Christian Seabaugh

Toyota Chooses Canada for RAV4 EV Production

Toyota Chooses Canada for RAV4 EV Production

Toyota will build the upcoming electric-powered RAV4 alongside the gasoline-powered variant at its Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, Inc. (TMMC) in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada. Production is slated to begin in 2012.

Many plants were being considered for RAV4 EV production, including the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California. Tesla Motors, which has been assisting in the development of the electric-powered SUV, will build its 2012 Model S family sedan at NUMMI. Toyota says building the electric version of the RAV4 alongside the gasoline version will “maximize production efficiencies and quality control.”

“The Tesla-Toyota joint development team has agreed that building the vehicle at the Woodstock plant on the same line as the gasoline-powered RAV4, will streamline and simplify the production process and guarantee the highest level of quality control,” said Ray Tanguay, TMMC Chairman, in a press release. “This is a great example of Toyota’s determination to collaborate with companies with leading edge technology.”

Toyota will pay Tesla $100 million for the RAV4 EV’s electric powertrain, which includes the battery module, electric motor, gearbox, and electronic components. Tesla will gain insight into Toyota’s manufacturing and engineering processes.

Tesla will build RAV4 EV powertrains at a smaller plant in Palo Alto, California, and then ship them to TMMC for installation in the compact SUVs. Tesla is busy retooling the NUMMI plant preparing for Model S production.

Toyota will announce volume and pricing of the RAV4 EV at a later time.

Source: Toyota

By Jason Udy

Panasonic Gives Tesla A $30-Million Jolt Of Cash For Powertrain Development

Panasonic Gives Tesla A $30-Million Jolt Of Cash For Powertrain Development

Electrons are small. You may think that dead pixel on your computer screen is small, but it’s a city block compared to an electron. This may be why many people don’t understand how hard it is to store enough of them to power a car. Two companies with an intimate knowledge of the problem are electric car pioneer Tesla, and electronics giant Panasonic.

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This week, the Japanese tech company announced it was investing $30 Million into Tesla to jointly develop new battery technology for its upcoming electric sedan and to be licensed by other manufacturers. Tesla currently uses Panasonic cells to power its Lotus-based Roadster and is working with Toyota on developing their next generation of hybrid and all-electric vehicles. The infusion of cash came in the form of Panasonic acquiring a 2-percent ownership stake in Tesla.

Panasonic recently announced its own joint-venture with Toyota, dubbed Primearth EV Energy Co. The goal is to develop more efficient nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries. Future plans involve the merger of Panasonic and current rival Sanyo to become a battery development powerhouse for the quickly expanding electric car market.

Factoid: Lithium-ion batteries are currently the most efficient type being used in electric vehicles and are roughly 64 times less energy dense than good ole gasoline. The best Li-ion cells are currently capable of roughly 0.72 MJ/Kg while gasoline is roughly 46.4 MJ/Kg.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

By Motortrend Staff

Cocktail Chatter: May 10, 2013 – Rumor Central

Cocktail Chatter: May 10, 2013

What cocktails go best with all this car chatter? Automobilemag.com is here to help with weekly recipes. Remember, this is for talking about cars, not driving — always designate a driver. We’re ready to hit the beach this weekend and take a pitcher of pineapple margaritas with us. Mix together two cups of silver tequila, Tuaca vanilla citrus liqueur, and fresh lime juice with two and a half cups of pineapple juice in a pitcher with ice. Server over ice and garnish with a pineapple slice, and let the sun shine!

Brand Mismatch: I was in San Antonio, Texas, this past Sunday when Chevrolet revealed the 2014 Silverado High Country, its attempt to carve a slice of the premium pickup truck pie currently dominated by the Ford F-150 King Ranch. Texas is certainly a fitting place to launch such a vehicle, but I found the choice in hotel used to launch the truck was a little ironic. A sign on the exterior indicated the architecture was “inspired by [a house on] the King Ranch.” Hey, that’s funny; so is this trim level…

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor 

Look Twice, Save A Life: May is motorcycle awareness month. Although I sold my bike a few years ago, I always consider buying another bike this time of year. I don’t end up pulling the trigger because there are far too many people behind the wheel of a car with no interest in driving. It’s annoying to be rear-ended in a car while waiting at a red light, but it’s even worse when you’re on two wheels and the person behind you is more concerned with dashing off an “LOL!” text than watching for stopped traffic. Triple-check those blind spots before changing lanes, put down the damned phone, and be aware of your surroundings. Not all motorcyclists are textbook examples of responsible adults, but they still deserve respect from other motorists. By the way, all this applies to bicyclists, runners, and walkers who are legally using the roads, too. Don’t let a stupid decision on your part permanently alter (or end) another person’s life. And don’t stop paying attention in June.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor

Driving on Autopilot: Autonomous cars became this week’s hot topic, first with Elon Musk telling Bloomberg he wants Google’s technology in his Tesla electric cars as soon as possible, then with the Automotive Press Association’s annual Michelin Automotive Design Panel in Detroit on Thursday, entitled “Driven/Undriven: The Duality of Tomorrow’s Automobile.” Automotive News’ Jason Stein hosted a panel consisting of Jim Hall, of 2953 Analytics, ex-GM futurist Chris Borroni-Bird, now strategic development veep at Qualcomm, and Stewart Reed, chair of the Art Center College of Design’s transportation design department. “Enthusiasts can’t imagine autonomous cars, until you tell them how it could help on congested freeways,” Reed said. Hall noted that most young people would rather text or surf the web than drive, while Borroni-Bird said, “the driver still controls the vehicle, but the car enhances his skills.” When Stein asked whether Google will build its own car, Hall replied, “not if they have a brain in their head.” Hall struck a chord, though, with most APA members in attendance when he said, “I hate the idea of autonomous cars … I’m only happy that the majority of them will come after I’m dead.” Me too.

Todd Lassa, Executive Editor

99 Luftspeedlimits: Bad news, car enthusiasts: Germany may impose a blanket speed limit of 120 km/h (75 mph) on the nation’s famous autobahns, ending the long-standing and famous derestricted stretches that have no limit at all. Several politicians running against German chancellor Angela Merkel have apparently endorsed enacting the nationwide speed limit to help improve road safety. Of course, many parts of the autobahn already have a speed limit of 130 km/h (about 81 mph), and for now the speed limit proposition may be nothing more than political posturing. Nonetheless, it would be a sad day indeed if speed limit-free autobahns vanished altogether.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

Being Bear Aware: Notice to Toyota owners: Bear-proof your cars. A bear in rural Florida entered into a woman’s Toyota Matrix and then proceeded to inflict $17,000 in damage to the vehicle. Among the carnage: a chewed off driver’s seat, bite and claw marks on the door panels, exposed interior roof insulation, and other consoles being ripped apart from within. The woman didn’t think that there was anything such as leftover food to attract the bear, nor were her doors left open. A family in California had a similar bear-in-car episode in 2011 with its Toyota Prius, which left the vehicle with ripped up seats, steering wheel, and glove box. Despite these two separate incidents, no direct correlation can be made between bear attacks and Toyotas.

John Kalmar, Graphic Designer

Going Down, Down, Baby: I had the pleasure of driving a new Range Rover this week, which wasn’t long enough for a full Editor’s Notebook but long enough to net this photo. While I’m a little sad that the Rangie’s classic boxiness has been rounded here and sanded-down there, the good thing to report is that driving a Range Rover makes you feel just as exorbitant, just as accomplished, and just as awesome as ever. It might not draw a crowd—that’s what a Jaguar sports car is for—and it might not even beat the Mercedes-Benz GL in terms of handling, but the truck still stands at the intersection of practicality, style, and luxury. Kids at home: it’s just as good as it looks, I promise.

Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor

Ferrari kid driving suit 224x300 imageShop ’til you Drop: I recently attended the opening of the brand-new Ferrari store at the company’s headquarters in Maranello. Once a small outpost (just over 2000 square feet when it first opened in 2002), the new building is more than three times larger, at nearly 7000 square feet. The new retail emporium has all the markings of a post specialty shop, except that there’s an F1 car and a bright yellow 275GTB parked among the shoes, handbags, shirts, and leather goods. A surprising amount of the space is dedicated to the littlest Ferraristi, with the goal apparently to hook them from birth.

Ferrari says the store was “created to give customers an experience of the Ferrari world and, though making a purchase, to be a part of it.” For those who aren’t planning a trip to Maranello but still want to be a part of that world, there are now more than 50 Ferrari stores worldwide. Beyond that, there is the online shopping portal, www.store.ferrari.com. All told, 95 Ferrari-branded items are sold every minute.

Joe Lorio, Senior Editor

Color Me Boring: About four years ago, this magazine had a Four Seasons 2008 Lexus IS-F painted an eye-catching bright blue. A couple of weeks ago, I tested a 2013 model of the same (now soon to be discontinued) model, this time painted regular old silver. What a difference paint can make. Late one night, while walking on a residential Ann Arbor sidewalk, I looked right at the IS-F and thought to myself, “Huh, that Corolla has some pretty cool dark wheels.” Only several steps later did I realize that I had the keys to that rear-wheel-drive, 416-hp, AMG-fighting “Corolla.” Ultimate sleeper or failed supersedan?

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

Approval from the Appliance People: This week, Tesla’s Model S electric sedan earned a score of 99 out of 100 in Consumer Reports’ testing. The Model S is only the second-ever car to get that top score (the 2007 Lexus LS 460L was the first), and, to many buyers, this is the ultimate seal of approval. What was most amazing to CR – and to us when we named the Model S our 2013 Automobile of the Year – was the fact that the all-electric managed to either match the best competition from Germany, America, and Japan despite the fact that Tesla is a small California start-up that’s only just started to make cars. Kudos to you, Tesla; keep up the good work.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor 

No Car is an Island: According to ChinaDaily.com, after attempting for more than a week to contact the owner of a vehicle parked in a lot due to be demolished, the local government in Taiyuan, China decided—rather than simply towing the vehicle to a different location—to continue their construction project around the car. The result makes for a great picture but the question is, how do they move it now or alternatively, how are they going to build a road around it? And lastly, um, do they not have tow trucks in China?

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor of Digital Platforms

Badass Beetle: As I made my way across Michigan in our new, long-term Volkswagen Beetle Turbo convertible, I daydreamed that someone like Sheri Moon Zombie, the extremely attractive wife of musician/director Rob Zombie, would fit well in the spooled bug. Our Beetle Turbo convertible has soft suspension and a clean-cut, cute interior, but it also has a powerful powertrain, a masculine exterior, and a good audio system. I imagine the blonde driver, dreadlocks blowing about in the wind, listening to MC5 as she speeds along in the triple digits. It’s a great image, and one that perfectly suits this Beetle. Calling it a “chick car” is a compliment. At least it is in my Sheri-Moon-filled mind.

Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor

By Automobile Staff

Is Greater Range Around The Corner For Electric Cars?

2013 Honda Fit EV CAPTIONS ON | OFF

Ordinarily, we don’t accept electric cars for test-drives on our home ground. For good reason, too: Living in an apartment, we have no way to charge a battery-powered vehicle. Neither is there any provision for charging at my office. As a result, only at Preview Drives for new models, and during special media events, have I been able to experience the growing crop of electrics.

Therefore, when offered an opportunity to drive a fully-charged Mitsubishi I (formerly named i-MiEV), delivered in that condition by truck, we immediately said “yes.” Even better, we learned that there’s now a public charging station at a Walgreens drugstore, barely more than a block from home. Even though I’d driven the “I” for several hours at a media program a year earlier, this would be a most helpful trial of real-world electric-car use.

Mitsubishi’s electric car, certified by the Environmental Protection Agency, promises an estimated range of 62 miles – not all that much, but sufficient to get most drivers to work and back without concern. That’s the theme used in electric-car advertising, pointing out that most commuters can easily make a round trip without recharging.

Yet, after starting off with a fully-charged battery pack and driving just 22 miles through light suburban traffic, the indicator showed that only half of the battery’s capacity remained. Had we continued onward, then, we may well have run out of electricity after only about 45 miles – far short of the published range.

Sorry, that just won’t do. Even a confirmed electric-car advocate, such as myself, began to worry as that indicator dropped to the halfway mark, threatening to keep sinking fast. Furthermore, after connecting the Mitsubishi to that 220-volt charger at Walgreens, I ambled across the street for a leisurely coffee. Returning after about 1.3 hours, the charge indicator had risen from the halfway mark to less than three-quarters. Even at 220 volts, it’s a slow process.

Most EVs claim driving ranges well below a hundred miles; and that’s only if driven under light-load conditions. Of the subcompact electrics now on the market, Mitsubishi has the shortest range estimate, but the competitors aren’t much better. The NissanLeaf gets an estimate of 73 miles (Ed. Note: but should improve drastically, soon). The FordFocus Electric promises 76 miles. The new Honda Fit EV manages an 82-mpg estimate.

Heading that small-electric pack is the less-known CODA, with a claimed potential range of up to 125 miles. At the recent Plug-In 2012 Conference, experts determined that a range of at least 120 miles is needed to eliminate “range anxiety” for most people.

The far bigger, costly Tesla S, somewhat surprisingly named Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine, is the only electric passenger car on the market with a range that reaches well into triple digits. Specifically, Tesla claims a range near 300 miles (at a steady 55 miles per hour) for its top-end model, priced at $77,400. Two less-pricey Tesla S sedans, with reduced battery capacity, have claimed ranges of 160 and 230 miles.

Electric cars have been around for more than a century, but all along, range has been the big trouble spot. In order to boost electrics into serious contenders, a big breakthrough has been needed. So far, it hasn’t emerged. Instead, electric-car batteries have been tapping at the window of potential range, when they should have been shattering that barrier and roaring forward.

At least one prominent antique-car collector has suggested that big, early electrics – such as the Baker – could go nearly as far as today’s lightweights.

Digital Trends reports that Toyota is developing a sodium battery with a potential range up to 600 miles. Sounds exciting, but claims of vast battery improvements have been made over and over. In reality, most have resulted in far more modest increases, if they came into existence at all. So, it would be prudent not to get too worked up about Toyota’s research until a lot more data has been acquired.

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Visit theautoMedia.comMitsubishi Research Centerfor quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, mpg and more. Make sure to followautoMedia.comonTwitterandFacebook.

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By James M. Flammang

RAV4 EV: Toyota and Tesla Partner To Make User-Friendly Electric

2013 Toyota RAV4 EV CAPTIONS ON | OFF

The Toyota RAV4 EV – a joint partnership between Toyota and Tesla – will be available for eco-minded customers in California this summer, fully loaded with up to 100 miles of electric range and a starting price of $49,800.

The project aimed to provide a more user-friendly experience for EV owners, and also further the relationship between Toyota and Tesla. In less than two years, Tesla produced specialized battery and electric powertrain to fit the existing RAV4, and Toyota says the RAV4 EV will equal or best its gas-powered brother in nearly all performance tests. In Sport mode, Toyota expects it to reach 0-60mph in 7.0 seconds.

The RAV4 EV can charge in Standard or Extended mode, the former yielding 92 miles of range and the latter providing more than 113. Leviton offers a standard 120V charging cable or an optional 240V for a six-hour charge. Toyota and Tesla developed ECO LO and ECO HI driving modes, pre-cooling and pre-heating systems under charging and a unique regenerative braking technique to make the RAV4 EV easier to own than other electric vehicles.

What’s certainly not user-friendly is that price. Nearly $50 grand is quite steep for a small SUV that carries a Toyota badge instead of Lexus. Federal and state rebates could combine for up to $10,000 in savings, but the cost is enough to keep out everyone but the hardcore EV enthusiasts. Toyota expects to sell about 2,600 models through 2014.

Then again, sales of the RAV4 EV aren’t really what the project is about. It’s about developing and innovating electric technology, in order to bring it to market and eventually make it mass-produced and more affordable. In that respect, partnering with Tesla is proving to be the best move Toyota could have made; the two can share technology costs and existing vehicle platforms to keep costs down.

So don’t think of the RAV4 EV as a $50,000 electric SUV. Think of it as the father of a future generation of affordable technology.

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Visit theautoMedia.comToyota Research Centerfor quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, mpg and more. Make sure to followautoMedia.comonTwitterandFacebook.

Toyota RAV4 EV – Official Website

Build Your Own Toyota RAV4 EV

Find Your Local Toyota Dealer

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By Ryan ZumMallen

Weekend Roundup: 2012 Chicago Auto Show, Tesla Model X, Chevrolet Cruze Wagon – Rumor Central

Weekend Roundup: 2012 Chicago Auto Show, Tesla Model X, Chevrolet Cruze Wagon

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

MT Poll: Which 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender Will Win COTY?

MT Poll: Which 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender Will Win COTY?

It’s Car of the Year time again! Over the past two weeks we’ve been teasing new 2013 Car of the Year contenders every day. With the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year announcement coming Monday, November 12 at 6:30 p.m. EST, we thought it’d be fun to ask which contender you think will take home the golden calipers.

But since we get this question at each Of The Year event, we’d like to provide a friendly reminder that Car of the Year is only open to new or significantly updated vehicles that cost $120,000 or less. That means that the 2013 Ford Fusion is eligible for Car of the Year because it’s a full update, while the 2013 Ford Focus ST isn’t, since only one trim level is new, not the whole car. With that cleared up, let’s take a look at the contenders.

2013 Acura ILX front motion view 300x187 imageAcura ILX – We Like: Available swift-shifting manual and Honda Civic Si drivetrain. We Don’t Like: Questionable value in certain trims.

BMW 3 Series – We Like: The developed and mature feel of the car; “amazing” handling. We Don’t Like: A bit softer than previous 3 Series cars

Cadillac ATS – We Like: Excellent steering, firm chassis and impressive dynamics. We Don’t Like: Balky manual transmission.

Cadillac XTS – We Like: Exceptionally smooth ride; rock solid at triple-digit speeds. We Don’t Like: 3.6-liter V-6 could use a bit more refinement.

Chevrolet Malibu – We Like: We generally liked the Malibu’s interior design. We Don’t Like: We found the backseat too cramped for adults.

2013 Chevrolet Spark front side motion view4 300x187 imageChevrolet Spark – We Like: Surprisingly fun to toss around; well-appointed interior. We Don’t Like: Low handling limits.

Coda EV Sedan – We Like: It’s a cheap and cheerful electric car, with a long range. We Don’t Like: Subpar interior, bland design.

Dodge Dart – We Like: Pleasant styling, excellent value. We Don’t Like: “Dead” steering feel.

Ford C-Max—We Like: Ease of electric-only driving, the fact that it’s a fun-to-drive hybrid. We Don’t Like: Tires lack the grip to live up to the chassis.

Ford Fusion – We Like: Excellent steering feedback on 1.6 EcoBoost model; vast array of engine, transmission, and drivetrain options. We Don’t Like: Not as fun to drive as the outgoing Fusion.

2013 Honda Accord coupe front motion view 300x187 imageHonda Accord – We Like: Crisp handling, and buttoned-down interior. We Don’t Like: Surge-y, on-off throttle response at low speed with the CVT.

Hyundai Azera – We Like: Comfortable, roomy cabin with huge trunk. We Don’t Like: Polarizing styling.

Lexus ES – We Like: High-quality interior and roomy backseat. We Don’t Like: Hybrid suffered from a sloppy transition between regenerative and mechanical braking.

Lexus GS – We Like: Whole lineup was fun to drive – even the Hybrid; high-caliber interior design and materials. We Don’t Like: The haptic, mouse-like controller that operates the infotainment system.

2013 Lexus LS front motion view 300x187 imageLexus LS – We Like: Comfortable and quiet ride; V-8 grunt. We Don’t Like: Not as much of a game-changer as the original LS.

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class – We Like: An excellent Grand Tourer; felt unflappable at high speeds. We Don’t Like: More horsepower than handling prowess.

Nissan Altima – We Like: Beautiful interior and comfortable seats. We Don’t Like: Could benefit from retuned steering.

Nissan Sentra – We Like: Baby Altima styling, and genuinely roomy interior. We Don’t Like: CVT and engine moan.

Porsche 911 – We Like: An incredibly usable supercar. We Don’t Like: Too obvious that Porsche spent more time developing the PDK than the manual.

2013 Porsche Boxster front motion view21 300x187 imagePorsche Boxster – We Like: Exceptional build quality, beautiful balance. We Don’t Like: Poor value.

Scion FR-S – We Like: Incredibly fun to drive and an excellent value. We Don’t Like: Cheap-feeling interior.

Subaru BRZ – We Like: Terrific chassis; superb balance, and steering. We Don’t Like: We want more power.

Tesla Model S – We Like: Long range combined with excellent performance. We Don’t Like: Styling a bit safe.

Toyota Avalon – We Like: Great ride and handling; nicely appointed interior. We Don’t Like: A face only a mother could love.

2013 Toyota Prius C front side view1 300x187 imageToyota Prius C – We Like: Cheap and cheerful appeal. We Don’t Like: This car is no fun.

Which contender do you think will take home the Golden Calipers as our 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year? Sound off in the poll and in the comments below.

To compete for the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year title, contenders must be all new or significantly revised 2013-model-year cars or 2012-model-year cars that went on sale too late for 2012 COTY consideration. All eligible vehicles are invited to compete. Check back to MotorTrend.com on November 12 at 3:30 p.m. PST / 6:30 p.m. EST to discover what will become the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year!

By Christian Seabaugh

Toyota Finally Moving Forward with Mississippi Plant; Corolla on Build List

Toyota Finally Moving Forward with Mississippi Plant; Corolla on Build List

For the past two years, the 170 employee skeleton crew at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi (TMMM) , located in quiet Blue Springs in the northern part of the Magnolia State, have kept themselves busy despite their plant never reaching operational status.  That’s all about to change in 2011.

TMMM was originally announced back in February 2007 as the then-latest site for the Highlander. Then came the economic meltdown. The auto industry was hit especially hard during the recent gas and financial crises, which led to the stoppage of TMMM’s plant construction in December 2008. At the time, the Prius had been penciled into the work lines that would have gone live this year. Now, instead of the Highlander or the Prius, the Corolla will be the first vehicle off the line.

Toyota announced it would complete the plant back in June and hire staff to fill the halls of TMMM beginning in August, and the first 10 employees will join the existing 170 next week for training. When all is said and done, the Japanese automaker expects to put 2000 individuals to work.

Those human beings won’t all be coming from Blue Springs, as there are less than 150 people registered to the town. Locals from the surrounding Tupelo area, who have had to cope with an 11-percent unemployment rate, are expected to fill most of the positions. As has been the case with much of the south, the area’s main industry —  furniture production — moved away. Northeastern Mississippi has lost over 15,000 jobs since 1990, according to municipal government estimates. With a little push from state and local officials, Toyota opted to set up shop in the area; it also operates sites in Alabama, and Kentucky and Texas.

By its nature, the planning, construction, and execution of a world-class auto plant requires millions of dollars, and Toyota had already reportedly spent some $300 million on the facility before construction halted. Production equipment is said to be on the way in part from the recently shuttered NUMMI plant (now owned by Tesla) in California, where the automaker built the Corolla, the Big T’s second-best-selling model by far. The compact sedan is presently built in Japan and Ontario, Canada.

When production starts up in the fall of next year, Toyota anticipates it will build roughly 140,000 Corollas per year, well short of estimated plant capacity.  Industry analysts predict it’ll be difficult for the automaker to make money from the facility unless 200,000  or so vehicles are rolling off the line. Toyota appears to be taking the long view with TMMM’s production plans however, as the brand continues to rehabilitate its damaged image.

Despite the delays in getting the plant online, Blue Springs and Mississippi remain upbeat. An early Mississippi State University study predicts the 2000 direct plant jobs will generate some 4556 indirect positions in the area, from suppliers setting up shop to the mom-and-pop restaurateurs picking up a cook or two. State and local governments have appropriated close to $294 million to build highway ramps, 11 miles of natural gas lines, and a 10,000-foot railroad spur for the site. Not surprisingly, Toyota will enjoy a corporate tax holiday for 20 years as part of the commitment to the company’s future business.

We’re now in the grip of winter, and fall 2011 is another three seasons away. You can bet the Mississippi job hopeful are counting down the months now.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Toyota

By Benson Kong

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV Public Sales Still a Go, According to Official Statement

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV Public Sales Still a Go, According to Official Statement

A number of news outlets reported yesterday that the upcoming 2012 Toyota RAV4 electric vehicle would only be offered for fleet sales and not to the general public. Toyota has just released a statement refuting those claims and says the new EV will in fact be open to all.

The automaker didn’t provide an exact date on when we could expect the new all-electric RAV4, but it should arrive in showrooms by 2012. In addition to the RAV4 EV, Toyota will also release an EV version of the upcoming Scion iQ mini car.

The RAV4 EV, which debuted at last year’s Los Angeles International Auto Show, is a product of the collaboration between Toyota and Tesla Motors. Toyota would provide its manufacturing expertise while Tesla would share its experience in EV powertrains and battery technology.

Toyota previously sold an electric version of the first-gen RAV4 more than 14 years ago, but was never a sales hit due to a number of reasons.  The upcoming RAV4 should be a more robust EV and should do well in the current push for all things electric. Aside from a revised front fascia and badging, the electric RAV will look nearly identical to its gas-powered counterpart. It will be powered by a lithium metal oxide battery and will weigh 220 pounds more than a RAV4 equipped with the V6 engine, and should have the same 0-60 time, according to Toyota.

Source: Toyota

By Erick Ayapana