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2010 Beijing Auto Show Recap

Ah, Beijing in April! Where the sweet, noxious smell of pollution fills the air with the sounds of thousands of coughing Chinese children. For reasons that had nothing to do with the eruption of Mount Overanalyzed (it’s just a volcano, folks – it didn’t erupt because of global warming, and it doesn’t mean the end of air travel, so calm down), we were unable to make it to Beijing; however, we did go down to Chinatown and suck on the tailpipe of a ’62 Dodge Dart for a while, which is pretty much the same thing.

However, neither our lack of airfare nor our sudden racking cough is enough to keep us from bringing you the highlights from this year’s Beijing Auto Show. Since China has become to automakers what Jerusalem was to Moses, the show this year (barely worth covering two or three years ago) played host to several world premieres of cars you’d actually want to own. So, in no particular order, here we go!

2011 Ferrari 599 GTO

We’re gonna turn this over to special guest contributor Garth Algar for our thoughts on the 599 GTO:

Are we clear on this? The 599 GTB is already one of the top three most incredible Ferraris in history, and ranks firmly atop our Powerball Car Pavilion. Compared with the GTB, the GTO is stripped of 200 pounds and packs an extra 49 horsepower to make what Ferrari calls its “fastest-ever road car.” (Not sure how they quantify that, given the Enzo topped out at 209 mph versus the 599’s 208, but hey, who really cares?) 0-60 should come in less than 3.4 seconds, and the company’s single-clutch six-speed automated manual is the only transmission. While a stripped-down interior means the GTO is probably a bit less livable than its GTB sibling, it’s a faster, more ferocious version of an already fast and ferocious machine. And it sounds like this. There’s only one word for that:

Schwing indeed.

Mercedes-Benz Shooting Break Concept

Somehow, the bizarre evolutionary arms war between BMW and Mercedes-Benz keeps resulting in more and more perplexing (and seemingly redundant) models. For example – take Mercedes’s midsize lineup. With the Shooting Break (basically a wagon version of the next CLS), Mercedes will have three separate wagons of similar size for around the same price: the E-class wagon, the R-class, and this bad boy. Confused? So are we.

But clearly they’re selling, since the company keeps wheeling out new versions. Right now it doesn’t look like the production CLS wagon will be hitting U.S. shores, sticking to markets like, well, China. Which is kinda sad, since this is a pretty enticing shaggin’ wagon. Still, if you like the look and are willing to show restraint at Whole Foods, the 2011 CLS should look almost identical, except for a more conventional trunk.

The Shooting Break also holds the first example of M-B’s new family of engines, represented here by a 3.5 liter V6 with 306 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Presumably channeled through a seven-speed automatic, this engine should become the new entry-level motor for the E-, R-, CLS-, and ML-classes…at least until they make a four-cylinder engine capable of providing the power we Americans deserve. (Arf arf arf!)

BMW Concept Gran Coupé

Remember BMW’s Concept CS of a couple years back, a sleeker 7-series-based four-door-coupe in the CLS persuasion with a paint job that shone like the T-1000 emerging from a fiery wreck? It was reportedly slated for production as the company’s range-topper (presumably called the 8-series), but the Great Recession blew the hell out of that plan.

John Connor is really getting pissed about the popularity of this color.

However, good ideas never die, they just go into hibernation – and the folks at BMW have decided it’s time to wake up their stylish little cub. The Gran Coupé will likely be coming to life as the next 6-series – probably a good business move, as it allows the model to go from being a bulky, sedan-based runner-up in the  Porsche 911/Maserati GranTurismo category to the sharpest, most exciting competitor in the CLS/Jaguar XF segment.

Powertrain details weren’t released, but we figure the new 5-series’s engines and transmissions will carry over all but unchanged. No one outside of Bimmer has seen inside, but we’re imagining a plush, comfy cabin with four bucket seats. (And in said daydream, we’re in the driver’s seat, flooring the 400 horsepower V8 and rowing through the six-speed stick. Don’t let us down, BMW…)

2011 Audi A8L W12

Should you prefer the rear-right seat of a car to the front-left, the A8L makes a convincing argument to be your vehicle of choice. With five extra inches of wheelbase over the already commodious A8, the L offers a combination of space and luxury usually found only in a Bombardier Global Express jet. For chauffeured corporate titans who need that extra bit of penis enhancement acceleration, the 6.3 liter W12 spits out 500 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque – less than the competing Mercedes-Benz S600 and BMW 760Li, but still enough to motivate the enormous sedan from naught to 60 in 4.9 seconds or so. (The short-wheelbase A8’s 372 horse 4.2 liter V8 provides motivation for the standard A8L; both engines send power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic.)

For reasons we’re not entirely sure about, the long-wheelbase A8 offers a rear-facing jumpseat that folds out of the back of the front passenger’s seat, forcing both back-right passengers to share legrooms. We think it’s actually a perch for for your cat. There’s also a center console in back that can be equipped with a fridge; no word yet whether it’ll be big enough for a bottle of Moet. (Or Donaghy Estates, if you’re so inclined.)

Chevrolet Volt MPV5 Electric Concept

Chevy’s Volt, dubbed the “Jesus of Detroit” by, well, us while writing for someone else, is finally coming to fruition; the four-door plug-in electric car-with-a-gas generator will be rolling along U.S. streets by this fall, barring any hiccups. But for all its benefits, the Volt is still a small car with a $35,000 price tag. GM swears the Volt will be profitable, but a lot of that depends on finding a way to sell as many cars with the technology as possible.

So why not throw the powertrain into something a bit more utilitarian? That seems to be the idea behind the awkwardly named Volt MPV5 Electric Concept. (How about a bit of abbreviation/Roman numeralization, and we call it the V-MPV-V?) With a 150 horsepower, 370 lb-ft electric motor for propulsion and 1.4 liter gasoline engine for recharging, the MPV5 is quoted as having an electric-only range of 32 miles and a gas-assisted range of 300; top speed is 100 miles per hour.

Not quite a minivan (the rear doors don’t slide) nor a station wagon (too tall), the MPV5 has room for five (hence the name) and an impressive 30.5 cubic feet of storage in back with all the seats up. It looks pretty cool, too – an impressive feat for an electric people-mover. Expect to see a production version fairly similar to this concept around this time next year.

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(Belated) 2010 Geneva Auto Show Recap

(A quick side note from the editor:

I’d like to apologize for the lack of postings these last few weeks. This site is a labor of love, but unfortunately, it doesn’t pay the bills as well as I’d like, so I work another job to cover the rent/food/gasoline I so depend on. A couple of weeks ago, I finally got a job in journalism that’s exponentially better than my old job was, but since that time, I’ve been so busy settling in I haven’t been able to post here. But three weeks without updates is long enough. I owe you more. )

Wow! Our editor is one sappy son of a bitch, ain’t he? God, you can’t believe what we have to put up with, the sh…

Still here.

eer number of nice things he does for us. He’s so generous. And kind. Unfortunately, while his generosity is limitless, his credit card isn’t, so we weren’t able to personally go to this year’s Geneva Auto Show. Thanks to the magic of the Interwebs, though, we can cover it like we were there! Isn’t that awesome? In fact, forget the last three sentences. We DID go to the Geneva Auto Show, and it was out of this world! We’ve just been drunk on Toblerone the last couple weeks.

So, behold – our favorite cars from this year’s Geneva Auto Show, presented in completely objective fashion by being ranked in order of how cool we think they are.

1. Porsche 918 Spyder concept

Just being a leaner, meaner, less El Camino-like successor to the Carrera GT would have probably been enough to land the 918 on the top of this list. Being a hybrid made it pretty much a shoo-in. But the real reason this bad mother(shut yo’ mouth!) ranks as the coolest car of the Geneva Auto Show? Nobody had any idea it was coming. The Carrera GT only wrapped production four years ago. Who would have thought Porsche would bust out its replacement so quickly?

This baby is the future of the supercar, folks. This is what our children will be driving in their heads when they should be studying. Lightness fused with technology. A plug-in hybrid coupled to a powerful engine. Styling that doesn’t shamelessly ape the past, but sets a brave new course without forgetting where it comes from.

The 918 Spyder concept comes equipped with a 3.4-liter V8 making more than 500 horsepower, combined with a plug-in battery-electric powertrain making a maximum of 218 horses. The electric motor drives the front wheels, the gasoline engine powers the rear tires through a seven-speed DSG. Porsche claims the car can go up to 16 miles on electric power alone, can achieve 94 mpg, yet also cook off 0-60 runs in 3.2 seconds and top out just under 200 mph. Don’t be fooled by the “concept” moniker. Porsche has never made a concept they haven’t produced in one way or another, and they’re not gonna start now.

2. Ferrari 599 HY-KERS Hybrid

The bad news: rumors of an all-wheel-drive hybrid 599 were incorrect. The good news: going hybrid doesn’t look like it’ll make Ferraris any less fun. In fact, it’ll just make living with one easier.

Which is certainly promising, given what could have been a piece of very ominous news: to conform with new EU regulations, very soon, every Ferrari might be a hybrid.

Whoa, whoa, whoa – no need to buy that Rapture insurance just yet. Judging by the 599 Hybrid, autophiles have nothing to fear. The concept features a 100-horsepower electric motor smooshed in with the seven-speed DSG transmission; at low speeds in town, the car can cruise along in electric mode, or the batteries can summon up a nitrous-like boost for the 612-horsepower 6.0 liter V12. Ferrari claims the 0-124 mph dash is shortened by 0.6 seconds over a stock 599.

Nobody outside of Ferrari has had any seat time in the 599 Hybrid yet, so we don’t yet know what it’ll be like to drive; however, given the company’s entire multibillion dollar reputation is on the line, we’re fairly optimistic Ferrari’s legendary passion and performance will be pretty much unharmed by the hybrid conversion. In addition, we’re hoping the presence of the dual-clutch gearbox here heralds its inclusion in the uber-bitchin’ upcoming 599 GTO.

3. 2010 Audi RS5

We previewed the RS5 in our last post, and nothing’s really changed, mechanically speaking – still a 450-horsepower 4.2 liter V8 with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, still a body that’ll make your girlfriend jealous, still causing hundreds of automotive to wake up with erections after dreaming about the eventual comparison with the BMW M3. Nothing we didn’t know.

But that doesn’t make it any less badass. Or make us want one any less. As much as we love the M3, quattro is handy if you ever venture into the snowy north.

4. 2011 Ruf 911 RGT-8

While perhaps best known as builder of the car Automobile Magazine accidentally incinerated during a post-supercar-comparo dance party with inopportune song selection (“No, dude, the Ruf is actually on fire! We do need water!”), Ruf has a long history of taking Porsches and, like Kanye West did to Daft Punk, making them harder, better, faster and stronger, then slapping their own name on it.

But so far as I’m concerned, this lime-green beaut can drive right in front of Taylor Swift at the next MTV Awards, because Ruf has done what no one thought could – build a 911 with a V8.

Developed and built in-house in just two years, the RGT-8’s 4.5 liter engine pumps out 542 horsepower and 369 lb-ft, giving this naturally aspirated 911 more ponies than the new 911 Turbo S also unveiled at the show. Granted, it may not match the S’s Kryptonian acceleration (Car and Driver ran the less powerful Turbo with 7-speed PDK from 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds, which is about as long as it took us to string together the expletive chain we used when we heard that), but it gives us hope that if Porsche runs out of ways to make the 911’s six-cylinder more powerful…life will find a way.

5. Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid Concept

This last spot on the list was neck-and-neck between the Evora and the Koenigsegg Agera. The Agera has 910 horsepower, a carbon fiber/aluminum chassis, a top speed of 245 mph and looks cooler than Timothy Olyphant in a gunfight.

But like the 918 Spyder, the Evora represents the future, a world of simultaneous pastry-consumption-and-preservation. Each rear wheel is powered by its own electric motor; together, they produce 408 horsepower – 132 horses more than the V6-powered production Evora, and 120 more than the Lotus Elise-based Tesla Roadster. Unlike the Tesla, though, the Evora Hybrid isn’t limited to the amount of energy it can suck out of your wall; should the batteries dip low enough, a 1.2 liter three-cylinder engine kicks in to recharge the battery.

Regular Lotus Evora shown. But you didn't know that, did you?

Lotus says the three-cylinder produces a meager 47 horsepower, which means drivers could be in for an trouser-soiling surprise if the battery goes dead while trying to pass a minivan on a two-lane road. Since the engine isn’t driving the wheels, it’s not like the car will suddenly lose 85 percent of its horsepower – but if you believe the performance won’t suffer significantly, then don’t listen to Alfred Molina when he advises you to throw you the idol first.

Honorable Mention:

2010 Koenigsegg Agera:

Did you read the first paragraph about the Lotus?

2010 Brabus E V12 Coupe:

Since Christian Bale’s Batman lost his Tumbler to Heath Ledger, I nominate this 788-horsepower, 1047 lb-ft beast to replace it. Let’s see the Penguin fuck with this thing.

2010 Pagani Zonda Tricolore:

It pulls 1.45 lateral g, and while the 7.3 liter Mercedes-Benz/AMG-sourced V12 isn’t new…it’s still an enormous custom AMG V12. Plus, like the Highlander, There Can Be Only One.

Dishonorable Mention:

2011 Aston Martin Cygnet:

Somewhere, Sean Connery’s balls have retreated into his body.

2011 Bentley Continental Flying Star by Touring Superleggera:

We were unaware anyone had asked for this.

Honda 3R-C Concept:

If there’s one thing people want, it’s a one-person electric scooter to replace walking around. How could that go wrong?

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2010 Detroit Auto Show Recap

Well, it’s mid-January again, and all you car nuts out there know exactly what that means – it’s Detroit Auto Show time! Because as the Detroit Tourism Board will tell you, there’s no better time to venture to America’s home-grown Thunderdome than when it’s cold enough to freeze mercury.

Still, so long as the heat in the Cobo Center works, journalists from across the globe will cram their North Face parkas and .357 Magnum Colt Pythons into overnight bags and journey to Motor City for one of the largest auto shows in the world. This year was a bittersweet one for the three home-team automakers: bitter for GM, who saw four divisions exorcised from its corporate ranks after tossing all its self-respect into Lake Michigan by declaring bankruptcy and taking federal bailout money; but sweet for Ford, who managed to avoid Chapter 11 and saw its first profitable quarter in nearly two years.

And Chrysler? Well, they’re owned by Fiat now. Actually, do they even count as one of the Big Three anymore?

Regardless of whether Chrysler considers their home in The Boot of Italy or The Mitten of Michigan, in the minds of most people, they still count as a good ol’ American boys. Unfortunately, Chrysler/Fiat considered new model revelations and press conferences excessive expenditures this year, and simply left their models out on the floor for perusal. (At least they showed up, unlike Porsche and Nissan. Uncool, guys.) Luckily, though, plenty of other new models and concepts came into the light at the show. Here are the best.

Audi e-tron concept

Astute readers of this blog may be thinking, “Didn’t I already see the e-tron?” And the short answer is, yes, you did. But not this one. Audi has, somewhat inexplicably, decided to use the exact same name for this smaller electric sports car concept as they used for their larger, R8-based version. The difference, you see, is that the R8-based original is just called “e-tron,” while this new concept is…the “e-tron.” Come on, Audi! You’re German – Germans make up new words all the time by smashing them together. Couldn’t you call it the “Smallersilverelectricsportscar?”

Regardless of what you call it, the baby e-tron will reportedly run from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds with a top speed of 124 mph, thanks to a pair of electric motors with a combined output of 204 horsepower. Of course, since the baby e-tron is just a concept, this could be entirely hypothetical; the show car may well be powered by a hamster on a wheel for all we know.

More importantly for car fans, the e-tron 2-seater’s design may be a preview of Audi’s rumored upcoming R4 sports car. There’s no way to know for sure, but Audi could do a lot worse than pattern the R4 on this aggressive-looking concept. Slap the S4’s 333-hp supercharged V6 in there and stack it up against the Porsche Cayman (Whoops! VW owns Porsche now) – er, BMW Z4, and they could have a winner on their hands.

2011 BMW 740i/740Li

This isn’t the first time BMW has sold a 740i in the States – two generations of 7-series ago, it was the mainstay of the lineup – but it is the first time since 1992 that Americans can order a six-cylinder engine in the car. The last version, the 735i, made do with a mere 208 horsepower; the new 740i packs BMW’s sublime turbocharged 3.0 liter inline six making 315 horsepower.

The 740i looks pretty much like any other 7, so feast your eyes on the 500-hp BMW Alpina B7.

Presumably, Bimmer is bringing the six-cylinder 7 our way in order to improve its fuel-economy standings; odds are, if you can afford the $71,025 base price, you’re probably not too concerned with saving cash at the pumps, and if you really wanted to be green, you’d buy a loaded Prius and pocket the extra $40,000. Still, for the handful of high-powered executives who don’t care about power (Do I see one standing in the back? No? Okay.), the 740 offers pretty much all the luxury features of its pricier brethren for a nice discount.

Buick Regal GS Concept

From the land of seemingly oxymoronical concepts comes this high-performance Buick. Okay, “high-performance” is a bit of an exaggeration – the all-wheel-drive GS runs with a turbocharged 2.0 liter four-cylinder making 260 horsepower, a mere 40 more than the current top-of-the-line Regal. But the GS has a six-speed stick shift! I don’t think there’s been a manual Buick since Clint Eastwood was a sex symbol.

Buick promises the GS achieves 60 in less than 6 seconds, which probably means 5.9. What they haven’t promised is a production version; however, it seems pretty likely, as it would give Buick a strong card to play against Acura and Lexus. Buick has made impressive strides in the last few years in making their cars more attractive and elevating their quality towards the levels of other luxury makes; adding high(er) performance models would be a logical next step. It’s probably safe to expect the GS in the showrooms by spring 2011.

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

It wasn’t long ago that the idea of a high-performance Caddy would have seemed just as paradoxical as a fun-to-drive Buick; however, since the first-generation CTS and the introduction of the V-Series line of kickass Caddies, the idea has latched onto the car enthusiast population like an alien face-hugger.

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

And the new CTS-V Coupe is probably the sweetest Cadillac yet.

Everything you love about the regular CTS-V, just in a sleeker two-door package. Same 556 horsepower supercharged V8, same choice of six-speed stick or auto – just two fewer doors. Sure, there’s less room in the back, but come on – how often do you use those rear doors anyway? Besides, chicks dig coupes. Just ask Batman.

Pricing will probably be a few grand more than the CTS-V sedan, so figure a base one will set you back around $67,000 when they land in showrooms this summer – a few grand more than its main competitor, the BMW M3. But the Caddy has 142 more horses. And, like George Thorogood, it’s American Made. So give it a little love.

Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept

The last ten years or so have been lean times for folks interested in full-sized American luxury cars. Mafia dons, Fortune 500 executives, and your Grandpa Larry have watched with sadness as their beloved Town Cars, Park Avenues and DeVilles drifted off into the ether, leaving them with a difficult choice – buy European (I ain’t buying no Nazi car!), downsize (I don’t feel safe in this thing!) or move into a luxury mega-SUV (I can’t see my grandson behind me in the driveway!).

Luckily, it looks like CEOs and coots alike will be able to breathe a sigh of relief soon. While technically a concept, the XTS is likely a very strong indicator of Cadillac’s upcoming full-sized sedan, slated to replace the STS and the DTS – both of which, remarkably, are still available at your local Caddy dealership.

In concept form, the XTS is powered by Cadillac’s 3.6 liter V6 direct injection V6 coupled to a plug-in hybrid system; combined, the car puts out 350 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed auto. It’s unclear from the press release how the electric and gasoline powertrains interact exactly, but we’d bet both can be used to drive the wheels – unlike the Chevy Volt, where the gas engine is used simply as a generator for the batteries and electric motor.

Hopefully, any production version of the XTS won’t differ significantly from the show car’s sleek lines, which (in our eyes) meld the CTS with the Mercedes-Benz S-class. Plan on a choice of V6 and V8 powerplants upon launch, with a hybrid option soon afterwards. As for when it lands in dealerships – summer or fall 2011 seems like a safe bet.

And on a side note, GM’s vice-chairman and Main Car Bro Bob Lutz announced Cadillac will indeed be producing its own version of the Chevrolet Volt, based on the Converj. It won’t be hitting the streets until sometime after 2012 (assuming we’re still alive by then! DUM DE DUM!), and will probably be pretty faithful to the concept – two doors and edgy styling over the Volt’s four doors and slightly bland looks. And it’ll probably cost more than $50,000. But I’d still buy one.

Mmm...eco-friendly.

Chevrolet Aveo RS Concept

Like the looks of this Aveo RS? Then you’ll probably like the regular Aveo when it hits the ground next year. Just strip off the spoilers, the ground effects, and throw on some more conventional headlamps. With its sights locked squarely on the Honda Fit, the Aveo will take the bottom rung in Chevy’s lineup.

The concept has a turbocharged 1.4 liter inline four-cylinder engine under the hood pumping out 138 horsepower, and routing it to the front wheels through a six-speed manual. If they’re smart, Chevy will actually produce a high-performance version of the Aveo; we’ve been wishing Honda would do a Fit Si for years, and if the Chevy is anywhere near as fun to drive as the Fit, they could sell a boatload. Hell, we’d probably buy one.

2012 Ford Focus

Not to be outdone in the small-car department by their arch-foes at GM, Ford unveiled the next-generation Focus in Detroit – and as Peter Griffin would say, it seems freakin’ sweet. For the first time, the Focus sold here in the States will be nearly identical to the version sold in Europe, which should mean European-style (i.e. better) handling and materials when it lands here early next year.

Equipped with a 2.0 liter inline four-cylinder making 155 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, the Focus comes with your choice of six-speed transmissions – manual or “dry-clutch automatic,” which is just a fancy term for the sort of dual-clutch gearbox found in everything from the Ferrari 458 Italia to the Volkswagen Golf. Ford also announced a electric-powered version, which should be coming our way in later 2011.

Coming in both five-door hatchback and four-door sedan forms, the new Focus boasts a bevy of cool features most people probably wouldn’t expect on a compact car, from an assisted parallel-parking system (complete with rearview camera) and an eight-inch dash-mounted touch screen. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but expect it to be pretty much in line with its competitors – the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, and upcoming Chevy Cruze.

2011 Ford Mustang GT

Hot on the heels of upgrading the V6-powered Mustang to 315 horsepower, Ford is throwing a new 5.0 liter V8 under the hood of the ‘Stang GT, bumping power up to 412 horses. While still down a few ponies  to the Camaro SS and Challenger SRT8, the revised ‘Stang should be lighter than its fellow muscle cars, giving it an edge in the curves (and probably on the straights too).

Pricing is still unknown, but since the installation of the new V6 didn’t jack up the base Mustang’s price very much, expect to pay around the same amount for the 5.0 as the old 4.6 liter V8. (Anal-retentives, please not the emphasis placed on the word around. There, did it once more just to ensure you understood.)

GMC Granite Concept

As the first American entrant into the “funky box”category of small cars pioneered here by the Scion xB, the Granite raises the style bar a few notches higher. Up ’til now, the small boxes like the xB, Kia Soul and Nissan Cube had convenience in spades, but good looks weren’t part of the deal.

But the Granite manages to make boxy look badass. Running the same engine as the Aveo RS Concept in a more utilitarian package, performance isn’t really the name of the game here – 138 horses is adequate, nothing more, nothing less.

However, GMC insisted on extolling the Granite as a “flexible, functional social space…equally at home at the cabin or the club.” News flash, PR flaks – any place with more than one person is a social space.

2011 Honda CR-Z

Though we’ve already seen it in leaked brochure photos, it was nice to finally see Honda’s new sporty hybrid coupe in the metal for the first time at the show. Looking pretty much like what you’d expect the Insight to be had it remained a coupe,  the tiny Honda promises to be a pretty fun drive.

While we're not entirely sure this image isn't a computer graphic, rest assured, the real CR-Z is probably solid.

With a 1.5 liter inline four under the hood connected to Honda’s “Integrated Motor Assist” hybrid bits, the CR-Z (the “Crazy?”) puts down 122 horsepower and either 128 or 123 lb-ft of torque, depending on whether you choose the six-speed manual or the CVT. (The manual has the higher torque figure, because manuals are awesome that way.) Fuel economy is estimated at 31 mpg city/37 mpg highway for the stick, and 36/38 mpg for the CVT – so if you do a lot of city driving, it might be worth it to go auto. Maybe.

The CRaZy will go on sale here in the latter part of 2010, in two forms – base and EX. The base model will hardly be a stripper, as it will reportedly feature a six-speaker CD/USB stereo, automatic climate control, stability control, power everything, keyless entry and cruise control. Should you feel compelled to move to the EX, you’ll add a 360-watt seven-speaker stereo, xenon headlights, and Bluetooth, among other features. The base sounds pretty good to us, honestly. No details on price yet, but our fingers are crossed for the base model to land under $20,000.

2012 (?) Mercedes-Benz CLS

Sadly, the next-generation of Mercedes’s four-door “coupe” wasn’t really at the show. However, M-B did have a model showing off the basic shape of the new CLS. From the looks of it, it seems Mercedes was trying to replicate the shape of the car under a sheet; however, the guys at egmCarTech thought it looked more like Robert Patrick’s liquid-metal T-1000 oozing into the shape of a car, and quite frankly, we have to agree. But if the car is as pretty as the display implies, it won’t need to shape-shift to snare people’s attention.

Image courtesy Omar Rana - egmCarTech

Mini Beachcomber Concept

Do you miss the Mini Moke? (Hell, do you even know what the Mini Moke is?) Well, for those of you with a fondness for the old pseudo-off-roader still found carving up beaches on St. Barts, Mini has just the car for you.

Well, you can’t actually buy the Beachcomber. It’s more of a concept version of Mini’s upcoming small SUV, which will probably be called the “Countryman.” (We’re still pulling for the “Countrymouse,” but only if they rename the Cooper the “Citymouse.”) When the actual Mini-SUV hits the dirt roads, don’t expect to see the Beachcomber’s removable doors or spare-tire-like “backpack;” do expect the elevated ride-height, knobbier tires and available all-wheel-drive. Hopefully we’ll be seeing the production version sometime this year.

Volkswagen New Compact Coupe Hybrid Concept

No, we didn’t add the “new” to the name – Volkswagen did. Frankly, we’re not sure why, since so far as we remember, there wasn’t an Old Compact Coupe Hybrid Concept. But whatever they call it, we’re grateful, because the NCCHC promises to be a pretty sweet little ride.

Coming across like a Honda CR-Z Plus, the NCCHC packs a 1.5 liter turbocharged and supercharged inline four connected to enough hybrid pieces to provide a combined 177 horsepower and 45 miles per gallon. I believe the technical term for that is “win/win.”

While the car may be called a concept, it looks pretty damn production ready to us. Of course, VW’s thrown us curveballs before – remember the Nardo supercar concept? – but there’s a world of difference between producing a quarter-million-dollar supercar and an inexpensive hybrid sports car. Hell, just ask Honda – who canned the new NSX most of the way through its production cycle. Luckily, rumor has it the NCCHC will be heading stateside as a coupe version of the new Jetta – hopefully with hybrid powertrain intact.

All in all, it wasn’t a huge year for the Detroit show. No show-stopping concepts, no earth-shaking revelations – just a whole bunch of pretty exciting new cars. And to be frank, we’re okay with that. Given the last couple years in the automotive world, a little piece and quiet seems rather nice, doesn’t it?

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2009 Geneva Auto Show Recap

To many of us here in the States, Switzerland seems like the land of the sweet life. Lax banking laws, delicious chocolate, heart-stopping cheese, and watches so precise you could set a cliche by them. However, as any car enthusiast with a reasonable proficiency at geography knows, Switzerland also boasts proximity to three countries with some of the greatest roads and spectacular automotive legacies on Earth – Germany, Italy and France.

But whether it’s the country’s tax haven history, distance to automotive nirvana, or simply because most automakers love a good Toblerone, the Geneva Auto Show always is good for some fascinating, exciting, and potentially arousing reveals. This year saw well over 20 new and improved models just by luxury, superyluxury, hyperluxury and so-fancy-even-Diddy-hasn’t-heard-of-it nameplates; we culled it down to 10 notables.

Aston Martin One-77

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James Bond’s DBS too common for you? Did you fancy a Ferrari Enzo when they came out, but you were waiting for those stocks you were shorting to pay out? Fear not, Bizarro – your steed is here. Aston Martin is making a mere 77 of the baddest car to come out of Gaydon (hence the second part of the name), each one tailored to its individual buyer (hence the first). Packing a 7.3 liter V12 with at least 700 horsepower (Aston hasn’t released specifics yet), this sleek machine will supposedly run the dash to 60 in 3.5 seconds. And how much for the privilege of owning the most exclusive Aston? The automaker isn’t saying anything officially, but rumor has it priced to sit on the showroom floor and gather dust at around $1.5 million. Here’s hoping they find at least 77 people with that kind of disposable income (somehow, I think they will.)

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Aston Martin Lagonda Concept

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From the most beautiful Aston Martin to the…uh…one with the best personality, I suppose. The Lagonda nameplate was slapped on a smattering of Aston Martins during the latter half of the 20th century, often on sedans and other less-traditional Astons; it appears the company is looking to extend the tradition with the new usage of the name. Believe it or not, this little duckling rides on the same platform as Mercedes-Benz’s Escalade-wrestling GL sport-ute, making it the first recipient of a sharing agreement between the two companies. Odds probably aren’t good that the GL will, in return, get the concept’s honkin’ V12 – but given Aston’s boasting that the Lagonda can use any numbr of more environmentally friendly propulsion units, we might not see it in this guise, either.

Bentley Continental Supersports

Bentley Continental Supersports

As part of their move to be more environmentally friendly, Bentley has unleashed their fastest, most powerful model in history. Oxymoronic? Almost, but not quite. The Supersports ‘s W-12 engine is designed to run on E85 or gasoline, a move so incrementally evolutionary, even glacial GM started doing it years ago. Using higher-octane ethanol, the new Conti puts out 621 horsepower, which, combined with a faster-shifting transmission and a 240-lb weight reduction, yields 0-60 runs of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 204 miles per hour. Bentley claims the shift to biofuel yields a 70 percent reduction in what they call “well-to-wheel” CO2 emissions, which spans from the moment the fuel comes out of the ground to the moment the engine burns it up. So far, biofuels haven’t proven very effective at stopping global warming – it usually takes around as much energy to process it as it produces – but this will likely improve in the future. Who knows? Maybe this is the first Bentley to come ahead of its time.

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BMW Concept 5-Series GT

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Once upon a time, there was a beloved sedan named the BMW 5-series. It wasn’t too big, wasn’t too small, wasn’t too wimpy – it wa just right. And people loved it. But some people wanted more room. BMW saw this, and created the 5-series wagon. It was just like the sedan, but had a little more room in back. And people liked it. But some people didn’t like the lame image of a station wagon. BMW saw this, and created the X5 SUV. It was about the same size as the 5-series wagon, but was bigger and heavier, and had all wheel drive. And people still liked it. But some people didn’t like the frumpy, family stigma of an SUV. BMW saw this, and created the X6. It was an SUV like the X5, but smaller inside and with “four-door coupe” styling. And people said, “Okay, this is getting a little ridiculous.” BMW saw this, and created the 5-series GT. It had a slightly raised chassis and it looked like the missing link between a hatchback and a station wagon. It would only seat four people. It previewed the styling of the new 5-series. And BMW hoped there would be enough upper-class people out there to buy them without cutting into the margins of the 5-series sedan, the 5-series wagon, the X5, or the X6.

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What do you think?

Smart ForTwo Brabus electric-drive

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The Smart car has always been an odd little compromise; while small cars are usually known for fun handling and good fuel economy, the Smart doesn’t provide the levels of either you might expect from a high-top Chuck Taylor on wheels. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of Mercedes-Benz tuners out there willing to take a stab at fixing the former – but now, Brabus is trying to knock down both targets at once. So far, Brabus and Smart aren’t discussing production specifications, but an electric Smart seems like a no-brainer, so long as there’s a place to plug it in on the city streets. And a Brabus-tuned version, combined with the instant torque of an electric motor, would be quite the eco-toy for urbanites everywhere.

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Bugatti Veyron Bleu Centenaire and Mansory Bugatti LINEA Vincero

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They what? Bugatti 16.4 Veyron? Sigh. It’s so hard to care anymore. I mean, I’d almost forgotten about the fastest, most powerful, most expensive street car ever created. If it wasn’t for the fact that Bugatti cranks out new limited-edition versions like variant-costumed Batman action figures, I doubt I’d even be able to remember the name. Now I guess I have to decide which one will look better in my garage. Is it the Centenaire, with its two-tone single-color paint job? (Flat and glossy!) Or the Vincero, with an extra 100 horsepower (almost eleven percent more!) and LED daytime running lights? You know what? I’ll just get both. They’re only $1.5 million or so each.

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Ferrari 599XX/HGTC

Courtsey Asphalte.ch

Courtesy Asphalte.ch

It’s no secret among carnoscenti that Enzo Ferrari considered his street cars as a means to support his one true love – auto racing. While these days, the Powers That Be at Ferrari HQ have shifted their priority towards street-legal vehicles (they kinda tend to be more profitable), they still haven’t lost sight of their racing roots. In addition to fielding a multimilion-dollar F1 team every year, Ferrari on occasion will roll out a racetrack-only version of one of their road stable. In this case, the Ferrari 599XX. Only one “x” away from being awesome enough for Vin Diesel, the XX’s V-12 has been allowed to rev up to 9,000 rpm, one of a number of changes that boost output to 700 horsepower. Between the engine, the extensive weight savings and a faster gearbox that shifts in less time than it takes for Joaquin Phoenix to make an ass out of himself, within a year or two the uber-599 will be wowing those few customers lucky enough to be “invited” to buy one on a private racetrack nowhere near you.

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However, if you’re not privileged enough to be allowed to blow a million bucks on an XX, Ferrari would still like to talk to you about their new HGTC handling pack for the “common” 599GTB. Designed to improve acceleration and handling, the HGTC will presumably offer incremental improvements for a monumental price. Ask me, the regular 599 already strikes an ideal balance between performance and roadworthiness; still, there’ll no doubt be quite a few people willing to fork over the cash just so they can say their 599 is that much better than their neighbor’s. (Okay, like five people.)

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Infiniti Essence concept

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Sadly, this supercoupe concept is not an Infiniti version of Nissan’s kaiju-car, the GT-R. The good news? It’s a 592-horsepower monster all its own. As part of a move towards an all-hybrid lineup, the Essence features a twin-turbocharged 434-horsepower 3.7 liter V6 coupled with a 158-hp electric motor, all driven through the rear wheels. Infiniti claims the performance offers the best of both worlds – emissions-free electric driving around town combined with massive acceleration on demand. It also offers a new, 360-degree anti-collision system that senses rapidly approaching vehicles and activates the brakes individually to veer away from danger. Infiniti claims it’s one step closer to the collision-free car, though it sounds more to me like a driver-free car – and as anyone who’s seen either “Knight Rider” or I, Robot knows, they tend to crash even more than the rest 0f us. But that hybrid drivetrain would be a revelation for the next-generation GT-R – imagine 0-60 in 3.0 seconds and 25 mpg in town…

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Lamborghini Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce

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If they have karaoke competitions in heaven, it’s safe to say Enzo Ferrari and Ferruccio Lamborghini engage in regular duets of “Anything You Can Do.” Their companies certainly do. Ferrari wheels out a V8 model, Lamborghini whips up a lower-end model with a V10. Ferrari brings out racetrack-ready and tighter-handling version of its 599 flagship – Lamborghini creates a single model offering a comfortable compromise between race car and your run-0f-the-mill Lambo. With a new rear spoiler, a power bump from 640 to 670 horsepower, and a 220-lb. weight reduction, this Murcielago rips from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds on the way to 212 mph. Sadly, the 670-4 marks the last gasp of this family of Italian bulls named after Spanish bats; believe it or not, the Murcy has been around since 2001, and the time has come for a replacement. But until then, the son-of-Countach-looking SuperVeloce should be more than adequate to satisfy the needs of both wealthy auto enthusiasts and raging egomaniacs.

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Pagani Zonda R

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If you live Stateside, you might not be familiar with Pagani. Founded in 1992 by a contractor to Lamborghini, the small Italian company has been putting out some of the most exotic-looking cars in the planet’s history since around the year 2000 (they only began bringing the to the U.S. in 2007). Crafting less than 100 cars per year, the company’s sole model, the Zonda, has progressed through several generations since its inception. Its newest model, the Zonda R, represents the best and brightest the brand has to offer. With a 90 percent new body designed for the track, a paddle-shift gearbox and a 6.0 liter, 739-horsepower twin-turbocharged Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, the R boogies to 60 in 3 seconds flat and tops out at 233 miles per hour. Whether it’ll be available over here is anybody’s guess, but even if they do sell it in the States, good luck spotting one; only 15 will be made, they cost $1.8 million each, and there’s no way in hell they’ll be road-legal.

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