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Weekly Recap: Alfa Romeo's US plans take shape

1 hour 46 min ago

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In a strong signal of support, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles moved to reinforce Alfa with a new head of North American operations, Reid Bigland.

Alfa Romeo was in the news this week, and for once, it didn't involve another rumor the brand was going to be sold off to the highest bidder.

Quite the opposite. In a strong signal of support, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles moved to reinforce Alfa with a new head of North American operations, Reid Bigland, who had been in charge of the Ram division. Harald Wester remains global CEO of Alfa and Maserati.

It's a significant move, as Bigland has been considered a rising star within the Fiat-Chrysler conglomerate, and pulling him away from the important Ram business was not a decision made lightly. At first blush, it even seems questionable, as Alfa has only one car, the 4C, that's about to go on sale in America.

But that will change - or at least FCA says it will - in short order.

Continue reading Weekly Recap: Alfa Romeo's US plans take shape

Weekly Recap: Alfa Romeo's US plans take shape originally appeared on Autoblog on Sat, 23 Aug 2014 12:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Europe's BMW 1 Series hatch caught looking fresh faced

3 hours 14 min ago

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Hey, remember the BMW 1 Series? Yes, German brand's successors to the US-market coupe and convertible have one-upped the old car to wear the 2 Series designation now, but in other markets, our No. 1 crush still lives on, and as evidenced in these spy shots, the entry-level hatch appears to be undergoing a modest facelift.

We've spotted prototypes of the refreshed 1 Series before, with the majority of the car's changes focused around the front fascia. This time around, we're seeing the three-door variant, with wheels seemingly fitting of a Sport or even M Sport trim.

Of course, this One's not for US, as the small BMW isn't slated to come to our market anytime soon. Click through the gallery above to see what we're missing.

Europe's BMW 1 Series hatch caught looking fresh faced originally appeared on Autoblog on Sat, 23 Aug 2014 11:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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John Deere announces second big round of layoffs

5 hours 16 min ago

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Farm and heavy equipment manufacturer Deere - of John Deere tractor fame - has announced that it will indefinitely layoff some 460 workers at its Waterloo, IA facility, effective as of October 20.

This latest round of layoffs comes just about a week after Deere revealed it would be doing the same at facilities in Ankeny, IA, Moline and East Moline, IL and Coffeyville, KA. All this, following and August 13 earnings announcement that showed sales falling by some 15 percent in the third quarter of this year.

In a statement, the company said that it "must match the size of its manufacturing workforce with market demand," to keep its edge in an increasingly global marketplace.

The layoffs fall in contrast to a relative boom in employment in recent years, when Deere says it took on "several hundred manufacturing employees" in the Midwest, to keep up with demand.

Continue reading John Deere announces second big round of layoffs

John Deere announces second big round of layoffs originally appeared on Autoblog on Sat, 23 Aug 2014 08:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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'67 Chevy Corvair convertible vs. '86 Pontiac Fiero in cult classic showdown

18 hours 13 min ago

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Every few a decades, the folks running General Motors lose their minds briefly try to market a car that public doesn't see coming and often aren't ready for. In the '60s there was the rear-engine, air-cooled Chevrolet Corvair, then the mid-engine Pontiac Fiero in the '80s and the completely bizarre Chevy SSR in the 2000s. What all of these had in common was that they bucked the trend for American models of their era, for better or worse. The latest episode of Generation Gap tasked the hosts with finding two cult classic vehicles to choose between; they came come up with two of these quirky products from The General.

On the classic side, there's a 1967 Chevy Corvair Monza convertible. Being from later in the production run, it wears slightly more aerodynamic styling than the earlier, boxier examples. Hanging out back is an air-cooled, 2.7-liter flat-six pumping out a robust 95 horsepower. In the other corner is the somewhat more modern 1986 Pontiac Fiero SE with a mid-mounted, 2.5-liter "Iron Duke" four-cylinder, an engine nearly ubiquitous in GM cars of the '80s.

Judging by when they were new, the Corvair was far more successful than the Fiero with over 1.8 million sold. Of course, Ralph Nader's book Unsafe at Any Speed kind of poisoned the well, even if the poor safety reputation wasn't entirely deserved. The Fiero on the other hand only lasted for a few model years before shuffling off, but it eventually got its own performance boost with the V6 version and rather attractive GT models. Check them both out in the video and tell us in Comments which you want in your garage.

Continue reading '67 Chevy Corvair convertible vs. '86 Pontiac Fiero in cult classic showdown

'67 Chevy Corvair convertible vs. '86 Pontiac Fiero in cult classic showdown originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 20:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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What you missed on 8.22.2014

18 hours 45 min ago

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2015 Corvette Z06 wins on power and price

We started off this happy Friday by learning that the 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 would come to dealers with a starting price of $78,000. That's not an insignificant fund, but when you start to cross-shop other cars with comparable performance, you quickly find (and we do mean quickly) that the Z06 is actually kind of an incredible bargain. Find out which of its pricy competitors comes closest to the new über 'Vette, here.




Quick Spin: 2014 Range Rover HSE

No company in the world does a quick, off-road-capable, posh luxury SUV (in sparkling brown paint, no less) quite like Land Rover's epic Range Rover. Having done full tests on the Rangie already, this time around we tackle the HSE model fitted with the supercharged 3.0-liiter V6 engine, to see if it suffers without a V8. Spoiler Alert: aluminum is a wonderful thing.




Ram to stay steely through 2020

...Then again, steel is nice, too. Pickup truck rival Ford may still be grabbing headlines for its intensive use of weight-saving aluminum in its new F-150, but Ram believes that it can stay competitive with the more conventional material. Despite a Ram 1500 refresh due out in 2015, company insiders are saying it'll be another five years before it'll start using the stuff in its pickup line.



Top Stories

What you missed on 8.22.2014 originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Australia's Joss supercars not dead yet, needs Kickstarter help [w/video]

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 23:58

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Australia's Joss Developments made it further than some boutique supercar makers having actually produced a test car. However, the auto industry has always been a hard place for start-ups, just look at the failures of even high-profile ventures like Fisker, and Joss eventually succumbed. Or so it seemed. The Aussies are back, and this time they hope to raise the necessary funds to sell their JP1 track car via a Kickstarter campaign. It's certainly an ambitious goal, especially since they are hoping to raise $480,000 Australian dollars ($447,150).

According to the campaign, the point of the Kickstarter "is helping take a company that has built a car, run it as a prototype, learnt from these lessons and now taken the design and engineering one enormous step forward." If successful, the team hopes to build a running version of the JP1 with a mid-mounted, aluminum 5.0-liter V8 pumping out 563 horsepower (420 kilowatts) and 413 lb-ft (560 Newton-meters) to the rear wheels and wrapped in a carbon composite body. Joss promises acceleration to 60 miles per hour in about three seconds and a top speed of 211 mph.

From there, it wants to sell five of them before further developing the JP1 as a small-volume production car for Europe and eventually the world, if it all goes to plan. Because so much of the work is already done thanks to the earlier prototype, Joss thinks it could have the first JP1 ready within about 17 months of the end of a successful Kickstarter campaign. Production versions would cost about 600,000 Australian dollars ($560,000).

So far, though, it's quite slow going. The funding is only at $12,751 with 93 backers and ending on September 30 for those in the US. That's a really long way left to go to get the car built. Scroll down to check out the team's Kickstarter promo video.

Continue reading Australia's Joss supercars not dead yet, needs Kickstarter help [w/video]

Australia's Joss supercars not dead yet, needs Kickstarter help [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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NEVS Saab EV prototype on display, with top speed of just 75 mph

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 23:29

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National Electric Vehicle Sweden, the Saab-owning Swedish holding company that is in turn owned by Chinese investors, has some problems (i.e., no cash). But that isn't stopping NEVS from showing off a prototype Saab 9-3 Electric Vehicle this week.

But wait, you might be saying, didn't NEVS already start production of a 9-3 EV? Yes, indeed, and the vehicle displayed this week was indeed built at the Saab plant in Trollhättan in May as one of those early pilot builds. A modified Saab 9-3 Aero Sedan, the EV has had the lithium-ion battery pack jammed under the floor, so all of the cargo and passenger space of the gas-powered 9-3 remains available. "The starting point for our development of the Electric Vehicle project was to maintain all the good attributes and characteristics," said NEVS' vice president of engineering and product development, Stig Nodin in a statement. You can find the press release below.

The li-ion pack comes from Beijing National Battery Technology (which is owned by the same company that owns NEVS) and can offer a range of about 120 miles, NEVS says. The prototype also has a 100-kW electric motor that offers 140 horsepower that provides a 0-60 miles per hour time of 10 seconds and a top speed of just 75 miles per hour. That's unlikely to be fast enough to outrun Saab's creditors, but NEVS says that the prototype is here "to serve as a reference for specification of coming production model(s)," so let's hope the speed number can be increased while the range at least stays the same.

Continue reading NEVS Saab EV prototype on display, with top speed of just 75 mph

NEVS Saab EV prototype on display, with top speed of just 75 mph originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Cadillac to move select offices from Detroit to Manhattan?

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 22:45

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Under Johan de Nysschen, Infiniti moved its headquarters from Yokohama, Japan, to Hong Kong. Now at Cadillac, it appears the company's new president could be planning a relocation of at least some of the brand's operations from Detroit to Manhattan, according to a new report from Reuters.

In the case of Infiniti, de Nysschen pushed for the move because moving away from the brand's Nissan overlords would allow it a bit more freedom. It's evidently a similar case for Cadillac, with Reuters speculating that such a move would help distance the brand from the corporate culture in Detroit. A Big Apple move could also attract new talent that may have considered a job with the brand but were put off by the idea of living in Detroit.

It's important to note that if such a move takes place, it likely won't affect the folks actually responsible for developing the brand's vehicles. Instead, administrative functions, including marketing, could be the focus of the relocation.

For its part, Cadillac has politely declined to comment much.

"As Cadillac grows, it's possible we could look to add to our team or expand," Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell told Reuters. "But as of now, no changes."

What are your thoughts? Would such a move help Cadillac's reputation or make any sense for the brand? Or, considering Cadillac's issues, would the company be better off focusing on other things? Speak out in Comments.

Cadillac to move select offices from Detroit to Manhattan? originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:45:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Camaro Z/28 and Mitsubishi Starion meet in this nostalgic vision of '87 Japan

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 21:57

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The '80s is just far enough away now that it no longer seems like an era defined by Reagonomics and neon clothing. Filmmaker Matt Clark has embraced the look of the music videos of the decade in his new short film titled Orange Orchid, set in 1987 in Chiba and Yokohama, Japan. The video features some great sports coupes of the time and is set to the song I Know There's Something Going On from Abba-alum Frida (along with drumming and backup vocals from Phil Collins).

Clark really embraces the pop-culture look of the era's videos with big hair, a healthy dash of neon, inexplicable smoky rooms and big, over-wrought movements. However, the real stars for us are the pair of '80s sports coupes that also kind of personify the main characters. Nijo in her denim jacket has a modded Camaro Z/28 with huge, dished wheels sticking way out past the fenders. Naturally, the Chevy also features some great butterscotch paint and a car phone inside. Alex, the guy pursuing her, forgoes any obvious upgrades in favor a clean, all-white Mitsubishi Starion to go along with his tailored suit and giant cell phone.

We wish this video featured the cars a bit more prominently, but that drumbeat from Collins on this forgotten 80s gem is pretty fantastic, too. Give it a listen in the video.

Continue reading Camaro Z/28 and Mitsubishi Starion meet in this nostalgic vision of '87 Japan

Camaro Z/28 and Mitsubishi Starion meet in this nostalgic vision of '87 Japan originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 price and power compared against rivals

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 21:30

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The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is the most powerful production car ever from General Motors, and it's a technological landmark in the long lineage of Corvettes. It's also more affordable than you might think.

The 2015 Z06 starts at $78,995* - not chump change, but well below the price ranges of key competitors.

As was announced earlier today, the 2015 Z06 has a starting price of $78,995 for the coupe and $83,995 for the convertible, *including $995 in destination charges. That's not chump change, but it's well below the price ranges of several of its key competitors.

The Corvette has long been compared with the Porsche 911, but the Z06's 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque easily eclipses the most powerful 911, the Turbo S (560 hp, 516 lb-ft). The Z06 also costs less than half as much, as the Turbo S has a starting MSRP of $182,700, and then tacks on a $995-shipping charge.

Continue reading 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 price and power compared against rivals

2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 price and power compared against rivals originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Ram pickups to keep it steel through 2020

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 20:44

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One of the hottest topics in the industry these days is automakers' expanding use of aluminum, especially for vehicle bodies and platforms. While the lightweight metal has historically been the preserve of premium brands and sports cars, Ford shocked the industry when it announced that its 2015 F-150 would go aluminum-intensive for its new generation. As it turns out, the material change doesn't even mean a big jump in the prices for most of its trims. Possibly in reaction to the big change, General Motors is said to be using the lightweight metal in its next-gen trucks, too. That only leaves Ram as an open question among the domestics, and at least for now, the company is apparently in no hurry to push tin.

According to Reuters speaking with two, unnamed insiders, the Ram 1500 isn't getting an aluminum infusion until sometime after 2020. That's not to say the truck is going to be stagnant for the next half-decade or more, of course. According to Ram's five-year plan, there's a refresh for the 1500 coming in 2015 and much bigger changes on the way in 2017. Those same sources tell Reuters that further revisions aren't expected until at least 2021, which is when the aluminum could be added.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne hasn't minced words about his thoughts on using the lightweight metal in pickups. "I have better use of aluminum in this house than a pickup truck," he said in May. Having said that, Marchionne was clear that if the material turns out to be revolutionary in the segment, the company would be willing to follow.

Depending on how successfully Ford and GM make the transition to aluminum, Ram could possibly gain a short-term advantage. There are rumors of a shortage of the metal in the early years as automakers begin using it more and producers ramp up supply. If that actually happens, the brand could find itself in a good position by sticking with steel.

Ram pickups to keep it steel through 2020 originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 15:44:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Here's the Youabian Puma in motion

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 19:57

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Want to know the low point of my trip to Monterey for last week's Car Week festivities? It wasn't the four-hour layover in Phoenix or getting stuck in the horrible traffic surrounding the event. No, it happened at the Concorso Italiano, when after strolling through the fields of gorgeous Alfa Romeo Montreals, Maserati Meraks, shockingly rust-free Lancia classics and the largest and most varied collection of Ferrari and Lamborghini gorgeousness that I've ever laid eyes on, I stumbled across this - the Youabian Puma.

Why it was at the Concorso, I've no idea. But there it was, in all its big - and I mean big - blue fury, standing in stark contrast to the beautiful sheetmetal that populated the lawn at Monterey's Black Horse Golf Course.

This is, so far as we recall, the first time we've seen the Puma in motion and playing in traffic. In case you somehow missed its memorable debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November, we're now offering you the chance to see this curvy, $1.1M leviathan for yourselves. It's worth watching, if only to better appreciate the scale of the Puma out on public roads. It's quite... something.

Continue reading Here's the Youabian Puma in motion

Here's the Youabian Puma in motion originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Are you VW's New Midsize Coupe?

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 19:15

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Back in April, Volkswagen showed its New Midsize Coupe concept at the Beijing Motor Show, previewing a new, sub-Passat model for the Chinese market. Now, Auto 163 has stumbled upon what appear to be the first shots of the production model, and while it doesn't stray too far from the original concept, as expected, some of the flashier styling cues have been toned down.

Of course, because we live in a world where the term "coupe" is apparently applicable to a range of bodystyles, Volkswagen's NMC is actually very much a sedan. At the concept's debut, VW said it "envisions a sport sedan positioned below the Passat" - the car is "appreciably wider" than the Passat, but shorter than a Jetta. It rides on the company's MQB modular architecture that currently underpins the Golf here in the United States.

No word yet on what its production name will be, but VW's New Midsize Coupe is expected to debut in production form at the Guangzhou Motor Show this December, in advance of its Chinese-market on-sale date in early 2015, priced from about 180,000 yuan (about $29,000 based on current exchange rates). Power is expected to come from either a 1.4- or 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. We'll know more when the car officially bows later this year.

Are you VW's New Midsize Coupe? originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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America won't get a driver's seat in F1 this weekend after all

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 18:31

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Americans are the Rodney Dangerfields of the modern Formula One driving ranks; they don't get any respect. We recently reported on 22-year-old Alexander Rossi being tapped by Marussia as a replacement for Brit Max Chilton for this weekend's upcoming Belgian Grand Prix. He would have been the first American driving in an F1 race since Scott Speed in 2007, but less than 24 hours after getting the nod, Rossi has apparently been re-replaced by Chilton.

The whole situation began as Chilton was reportedly suffering "contractual issues" with the team. Rossi signed on with Marussia in July as a reserve driver for the rest of the season. With Chilton out, the American was the natural replacement. Apparently, the problem wasn't that serious, because Marussia put out a statement on Friday saying "following a change in circumstances," Chilton got his job back, according to Reuters.

The switch happened so quickly that Rossi drove the car in the morning practice session for the grand prix, but Chilton replaced him later in the day. The team isn't talking specifics about what precipitated the move. "I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the details of the contractual issues because that is confidential between parties involved," said Marussia team president Graeme Lowdon to Reuters about today's announcement.

America won't get a driver's seat in F1 this weekend after all originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2015 BMW M4 gets initiated into the club

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 17:44

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It's easy for enthusiasts and traditionalists to give BMW a hard time these days, what with its plans to add more front-wheel drive models and seeming move away from more emotionally connected cars. However, the push for perfection that underscored its old Ultimate Driving Machine motto is still in there, especially in its M models. In fact, the first M4 recently made it to US shores, and the company thought the only appropriate way to celebrate was to introduce its new coupe to some of its high-performance forefathers.

The M4's initiation into the M car brotherhood involved bringing together no fewer than 52 classic and newer models - including four racecars and many privately owned vehicles - to an empty parking lot and letting the coupe drift and slalom around them to say hello. According to BMW, there was a combined 11,566 horsepower on hand. It takes a pretty trusting owner to stand back and watch as a brand-new vehicle slides its tail out with the rear wheels smoking within feet of their pride and joy. Stay tuned until the end where the owners and their cars get a shout out in the credits. Scroll down to read BMW's press release about it.

Continue reading 2015 BMW M4 gets initiated into the club

2015 BMW M4 gets initiated into the club originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:44:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2014 Land Rover Range Rover HSE

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 16:57

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When this current generation of Range Rover first debuted for the 2013 model year, much was made of its aluminum-intensive superstructure, and the hundreds of pounds of curb weight - some 700 of the suckers - shed as a result. Not having had the opportunity to drive the newly lightened Range until early this past spring (as you can see from the photos), I'd taken the dynamically positive changes on faith before my test.

Having now sampled the super-lux SUV for myself and being a longstanding fan of the Range Rover brand and most Land Rover products, I'm happy to report that the rumors are true. My Nara Bronze Range Rover HSE not only looked the part of a utility vehicle for the well-heeled set, it performed up to the high standards of the models past, as well.

That summation is extra impressive, considering that the Range Rover I had was powered by the base, supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine, too.

Driving Notes
  • I thought Brandon Turkus was crazy. We published his LR4 review around the time I was driving the Range Rover - both vehicles that make use of this supercharged 3.0-liter V6. Brandon complained that the LR4 - admittedly larger - felt pretty laggy with the V6 as compared with its old 5.0-liter V8. After feeling the sprightly performance of the blown six in the Rangie, I called Turkus, and I called foul. That is until I was gently reminded that the Range Rover's new aluminum architecture made it nearly 750 pounds lighter than the LR4.
  • As you might guess, that relatively light curb weight (4,918 pounds) goes a long way to making the 340-horsepower, 332-pound-feet V6 feel punchy. Land Rover estimates a 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds, but the pull feels even stronger than that in the mid-range speeds. Throttle response is sharper than you might expect for a big SUV, too, which helps the Range Rover seem quicker than it is against the clock.
  • The lowered curb weight and smaller engine have improved the fuel economy estimates for the Range Rover as well. The EPA cites 17 miles per gallon in the city, with ratings of 23 highway and 19 combined to round out the window sticker. I saw close to 18 mpg in a week of mixed driving that tilted toward an urban cycle.
  • Even with its adjustable air suspension, cornering hard is not the Range Rover's bread and butter - nor should it be. There's too much vertical motion in the suspension to make you want to push the Range around your favorite driving roads, and I suppose that's exactly why the Range Rover Sport exists.
  • At highway speeds, the cabin is filled with the low rush of buffered wind noise, and not a lot else until you crank up the excellent optional Meridian audio system ($1,850). As a long-range driver and commuter tool, the highway manners, smooth ride, glove-like seats and all-around great visibility place this vehicle at the top of its class.
  • The ride from the rear quarters isn't too shabby, either. One thing that the $5,000 HSE package includes is the massive sliding panoramic roof, which makes the whole of the interior feel airy and light. With the sky as the ceiling and plenty of legroom, I didn't hear a word but praise from the few friends I threw in the back seats.
  • It's truly subjective, but I've never been much of a white-leather-interiors kind of a guy, and even I found this ivory colored hide to be impressively posh. I'm not sure how sensible it would be for the stereotypical family full of muddy wellies and wet Brittany in the boot, but rich people seem to know magic for keeping clean. Anyway, for my money Range Rover is doing some of the best interiors this side of top-trim Mercedes-Benz and Bentley.
  • In a vacuum, this latest Range Rover is really spectacular. But even I must admit that, if your intended use case is softer than the hard-core off-roading this SUV was built to do, there are a couple of very strong competitors in the market today. Both the all-new Cadillac Escalade and the Mercedes-Benz GL450 are larger, more powerful and less expensive to start, with a slight downtick in terms of star power versus the Range Rover. If you love the Land Rover brand, the look and the potential ability, that might be enough; if your future SUV is set to be more of a mall cruiser, it might not.

2014 Land Rover Range Rover HSE originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Hitchhiking robot reaches end of its journey [w/video]

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 16:29

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There was a time when people actually thought it was safe to pick up hitchhikers and would totally give them a lift without a second thought. These days, possibly due to horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hitcher, thumbing a ride is painted as a prime way to get yourself killed. However, a robot doesn't have to worry about such a violent fate. The Hitchbot in Canada recently completed its month-long journey hitching from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia traveling mostly along the Trans-Canada Highway. The bot arrived on schedule at its final destination on August 21.

Hitchbot is the product of Canadian researchers interested in human-robot interaction and testing artificial intelligence and speech recognition tech. That's right, the robot can actually talk to its driver while underway. The whole thing was traceable online thanks to the bot's GPS and 3G connection, and fans could even watch Hitchbot's travels on the project's website, Twitter and Facebook.

According to Visor Down, the Hitchbot made it over 3,700 miles across Canada since setting off in July, and its drivers have been quite courteous. Scroll down to watch a video explaining a little more about Hitchbot and its odyssey across The Great White North.

Continue reading Hitchhiking robot reaches end of its journey [w/video]

Hitchhiking robot reaches end of its journey [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Volvo credits China, Europe for first-half profitability

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 16:01

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If everything goes to plan, Volvo might be showing the first signs of a turnaround after several years coping with old products and a staid image. The Swedish brand is imminently launching its next-gen XC90 SUV on a completely revised, modular platform and using a cutting-edge family of engines, and it has even more products to take advantage of the fresh components on the drawing board. "We are excited about the launch of the all-new XC90, which marks the beginning of the re-launch of the Volvo brand," said CEO Håkan Samuelsson in the company's announcement. In the meantime, the business is moving back to profitability and is even forecasting growth through the rest of 2014.

In Volvo's recently released financial and sales results for the first six months of the year, volume was up 9.5 percent to 299,013 cars. On top of that, operating income reached 1.21 billion Swedish krona ($175 million) after posting a loss in the same period in 2013. Net income was also improved to 535 million Swedish krona ($77.4 million), which was also a reversal from a negative last year.

With these great results, Volvo is now forecasting 10 percent sales growth worldwide by the end of the year, and the key to it is a booming market in some regions. China, home to parent company Geely, was up 34.4 percent first half of the year. It's now Volvo's biggest market in the world and helped by exclusive models like the S60L (pictured above) and S80L. "We are growing our presence in China and we expect to sell at least 80,000 cars there this year," said Samuelsson in the company's forecast.

Western Europe appears to finally be emerging from its doldrums, as well. Volvo sales there were up 8.7 percent and were improved in Sweden as well. The lone dark spot on the figures was the United States that fell to 29,311 cars in the first half of the year, compared to 32,578 in the first half of 2013. Scroll down to read the company's full announcements.

Continue reading Volvo credits China, Europe for first-half profitability

Volvo credits China, Europe for first-half profitability originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Volkswagen considering a four-door, four-seat XL1

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 15:15

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According to a report in Autocar, Volkswagen might have more in mind for the XL1 than mining it for advances to grace the next-generation Golf. Aiming to fight the Honda FCEV due for public consumption next year, we're told VW executives have put a four-door, four-seater version of the XL1 - it could be called XL2 - on the drawing board. The impetus is said to come from the top, with VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch intent on staying in the deep end of "super-efficent vehicles."

Autocar suspects the necessary changes could raise the weight of the car from 1,749 pounds to 2,068 pounds, which would make it four pounds less than the 2,072-pound Up! we drove a few years ago. Crucially, however, the mag thinks the extra capacity wouldn't change the two-seater's 310-mile-per-gallon rating, with tech tweaks and the aerodynamic benefit of a longer car offsetting the weight. Speculation is that the back seats would be staggered like the fronts in order to maintain the XL1's overall profile.

We recently heard about another XL1 variant that's gone off the radar entirely, the Ducati-engined XLR that we thought we'd see at the Geneva Motor Show and that was said to be going into production, so this one could go the same way. The biggest hurdle to making such an idea a reality, though, could be the price: the current XL1 costs 110,000 euros ($146,116). If VW really is going to compete with the Honda FCEV and the Toyota FCV - $70,000 in Japan - that might be where it wants to start.

Volkswagen considering a four-door, four-seat XL1 originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Infiniti extends long-wheelbase Q50 L for the Chinese market

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:30

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Want to sell your luxury sedan in China? You're going to need a long-wheelbase model. Not because the still-dominant Chinese government mandates it, or because the customers are taller, but because Chinese buyers tend to like being chauffeured around in the back of their luxury sedans instead of driving themselves, so the priority is on rear-seat space over driving dynamics.

We've seen the likes of Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo all roll out long-wheelbase versions of their compact and midsize sedans specifically to cater to Chinese tastes. Even Infiniti - which now bases itself in Hong Kong - offers a long-wheelbase Q70 L not only in China but around the world, and has now bolstered its extended offerings with the reveal of the Q50 L, set to debut at the Chengdu Motor Show later this month.

Set to be produced locally for the local market, the Q50 L adds nearly two inches to the wheelbase of the Q50 to the benefit of rear-seat legroom. Power comes from Infiniti's 2.0-liter turbo four offering 208 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, driving to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission with drive-by-wire steering.

Continue reading Infiniti extends long-wheelbase Q50 L for the Chinese market

Infiniti extends long-wheelbase Q50 L for the Chinese market originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 22 Aug 2014 09:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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