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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Italdesign reveals bespoke supercar

Italian design house Italdesign Giugiaro has revealed the first product from its recently established Italdesign Automobili Speciali road car division. It’s referred to as the Special Car and is due for a world debut at next month’s 2017 Geneva auto show.

If you’re thinking it bears a passing resemblance to the Lamborghini Veneno, another over-the-top design, it’s probably due to the two cars having the same designer, in this case Filippo Perini. Previously the head of design at Lamborghini, where he penned some real masterpieces such as the Aventador and Huracán, Perini was transferred to Italdesign one year ago.

As for Italdesign’s Special Car, Perini describes the design as being characterized by the two sides of the same coin. The top half features softer, smoother lines to reflect the car’s grand touring purpose while the bottom is all about aerodynamics and performance at the track. Unfortunately, the result is more of a mishmash of go-fast elements as opposed to a beautiful, cohesive design.

The body is made from carbon fiber and wrapped around an aluminum and carbon fiber internal structure also found in the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Huracán. Also borrowed from those more mainstream supercars is a 5.2-liter V-10. Italdesign hasn’t revealed the power figure but says the engine produces enough to deliver 0-62 mph acceleration in 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 205 mph.

The Volkswagen Group-owned firm will build just five of the cars, which it will target at collectors. Buyers will be able to fully customize the cars via a number of upgrades, including some performance-boosting mods.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Bugatti Chiron To Do 0-250-0 MPH In Under A Minute

Bugatti may have already started production of the 1500 hp Chiron and prepared for deliveries, but the all-conquering French hypercar still hasn’t been performance tested to its max.

Reportedly, the Veyron’s successor will be able to accelerate to upwards of 288 mph (464km/h), but such a figure won’t be confirmed until sometime in 2018. While we eagerly await to hear of the car’s top speed, we have learned of just how ferocious its acceleration and deceleration capabilities will be.


While recently having dinner with Bentley and Bugatti boss Wolfgang Durheimer, Evo Magazine’s Dan Prosser was told that the Chiron will be able to accelerate to 250 mph (400 km/h) and return to zero in under 60 seconds.

Comparing such figures to other hypercars is rather difficult as no other automaker has done a 0-250mph-0 test before.

For the Chiron to achieve a 0-250-0 sprint in under a minute, it will have to go well beyond the speeds explored by the One:1 but certainly has the grunt to do it. After all, it has an 8.0-liter quad-turbo W16 engine delivering a rather ridiculous 1,500 hp.

$3.4 million Bugatti Chiron on display at Toronto Auto Show

Got an extra $3.4-million laying around? Then you might want to head down to the Toronto Auto Show this weekend to see how much car that can get you. If you’re budget conscious, that kind of scratch will buy you about 140 of Canada’s best-selling car, the Honda Accord. Or it will buy you one of Canada’s worst-selling cars: the 2017 Bugatti Chiron.

Originally a concept car from 1999 that was named in honor of the late race car driver Louis Chiron, this Bugatti is, frankly, ridiculous. This 1500 horsepower two-seater will take you from a standstill to 62 miles-per-hour in less than 2.5 seconds, in case you are really late for your flight from Pearson. It has an engine that vaguely resembles the Death Star, and six catalytic converters that boast a total surface area that is equal to 43 (American) football fields. The carbon fibre masterpiece has wheels that were specially developed by Michelin to handle its power.

“Much has changed on the surface and underneath, but the essential mission has not: Use prodigious horsepower rendered by exotic technology and delivered by four-wheel drive to engender shock and awe in high-net-worth people, two at a time,” says Car and Driver of the Chiron. “Unlike recent Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche hypercars, Bugatti’s doesn’t go in for any of that hybrid stuff. A battery? Sure, the Chiron has one. It starts the engine.”

Bugatti plans to sell just 500 Chirons, and says about 30 per cent of the buyers will come from the United States. Five of the buyers are Canadian, reports Auto Trader. The average buyer, it goes without saying, is a filthy rich car fanatic. Saudi Prince Badr bin Saud, by way of example, recently posted a picture of his to his Instagram account.

“Many of these guys have 10 Ferraris, all the McLarens, they have all the other supercars,” says Bugatti design director Achim Anscheidt. “The Bugatti is often the cherry in the collection.”
The Bugatti is the cherry of the Toronto Auto Show’s collection this year, but it isn’t the only “Supercar” on display. There are actually 15 cars worth more than a million dollars, including a 1965 Shelby 289 Cobra, a Ferrari 365 GTB4 Daytona, a 1978 Walter Wolf WR6, an Aston Martin-Red Bull Hypercar Concept AM-RB 001, and a 1951 GM Le Sabre Concept.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The 2017 Kia Niro is the most affordable hybrid SUV

Kia’s newest vehicle, the 2017 Niro, is the lowest-priced, gasoline-electric hybrid SUV on the market and is rated as high as 50 miles per gallon in combined city/highway travel.

Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $23,785 for a front-wheel drive, five-seat Niro FE with four-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor and lithium ion battery pack to generate a total of 139 horsepower.

The base price includes an automatic transmission, rearview camera, keyless entry, cruise control, seven air bags, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, audio controls on the steering wheel and a 7-inch display screen in the middle of the dashboard.

Even with luxury features added, such as a Harman Kardon premium sound system, leather-trimmed seats, power sunroof, navigation system and heated steering wheel, the Niro still can be priced under $31,000. This pricing undercuts other hybrid SUVs that combine power from an onboard electric motor with a gasoline engine for optimum fuel mileage, such as the 2017 Toyota RAV4, which starts at $29,990.

However, Toyota’s 2017 Prius c small hatchback remains the lowest-priced hybrid car in the United States with a starting MSRP plus destination charge of $21,035.

While affordability is the Niro’s most attractive trait, this small SUV also appeals with its comfortable seating positions, pleasant driving traits, decent passenger space and flexible, SUV-like cargo room.

Similar in size to the 2017 Honda HR-V and Buick Encore small SUVs, the five-door Niro slots below the Sportage as Kia’s smallest SUV.

The Niro is sold only as a hybrid, so the onboard electric motor and lithium ion battery pack supplement the rather meager power — 104 horsepower and 109 foot-pounds of torque — of the 1.6-liter, double overhead cam, direct injection, four-cylinder engine.

Maximum horsepower totals 139, while torque can peak quickly at 195 foot-pounds to move the Niro in plucky, but not overtly sporty, fashion.

There’s no droning or stressing of a continuously variable transmission in the Niro during acceleration as there are in most other gas-electric hybrids.

Kia uses a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission in the Niro for more natural-feeling gearing and responsiveness. It worked well most of the time in the test Niro Touring model. But occasionally, the transition between power sources felt less than seamless.

Regenerative braking and the engine help replenish the battery pack, but a plug-in Niro is due later in 2017.

The top fuel mileage of 52 mpg in city driving and 49 mpg on highways is for the base, Niro FE model, which weighs the least. City mileage is rated higher than highway mileage because the electric power is able to assist more often in city travel.

The test Niro Touring, which is the heaviest of all Niros at well over 3,200 pounds, was rated at 46/40 mpg by the U.S. government and averaged 38.8 mpg during the test drive with some aggressive driving. This real world mileage translated to an impressive 462 miles on a single tank of fuel.

The Niro, which is wider than the HR-V and Encore, felt stable and roomy and had an unexpectedly quiet interior.

Back-seat passengers have 37.4 inches of legroom, while there’s nearly 42 inches for front-seat riders. Headroom all around is more than 39 inches.

The luxury features in the Touring model included heated and ventilated front seats, memory driver seat, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, turn signals in the outside mirrors, front and rear park assist, leather, sunroof, 18-inch wheels, and premium audio.

Outside styling is mainstream and not particularly memorable, but everything was easy to understand and well organized inside the Niro.

2017 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T Euro-Spec

As Volkswagen was preparing to launch its current top-of-the-line sedan for the U.S. market, it created a big mystery around its name.

Although the name was unchanged, the new U.S. Passat had split from its European cousin. Built atop the existing PQ46 platform and stretched to offer plenty of rear-seat room, the American-built car was designed and engineered to go after the Toyota Camry. Meanwhile, the European Passat, which uses the newer MQB architecture, moved to become a credible alternative to Audis.

A Four with More

While the U.S. Passat’s powertrain lineup is topped by a 3.6-liter V-6, which VW of America claims exhibits “European-type restraint in its fuel consumption,” that engine has been purged from the European lineup because of its drinking habits. The range-topping Continental Passat comes with a 276-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. And even though we love the silky-smooth sound of the six, the equally powerful four arguably is a better engine, strong enough (according to VW) to propel this car to 62 mph in 5.5 seconds and on to an electronically limited 155 mph. The fuel economy is laudable; we managed an indicated 21 mpg, with extended amounts of driving at triple-digit speeds. In the European test cycle, this Passat is rated at 33 mpg, and with a light foot, that figure is achievable.

The engine’s output is channeled to all four wheels through a crisp-shifting six-speed dual-clutch automatic. This Passat is an absolute joy to flog on twisty roads. The steering is precise, direct, and nicely weighted; the pleasantly firm suspension is adjustable in three settings and is neither too harsh nor soft in any of them; and the car is neutral at the limit.

The R-line treatment, while adding a few tasteful touches to the exterior, makes more of a difference inside. The supportive leather seats and the aluminum trim feature a woven pattern mimicking carbon fiber, and there is a thick and grippy flat-bottom steering wheel. This Passat features a full TFT instrument cluster that allows the driver to modify the presentation in ways that include a large navigation map.

Interior Finery
The European Passat is shorter than its Tennessee-built counterpart by 4.2 inches, but the wheelbase is virtually identical, and the car therefore feels almost as spacious. And this Passat has a more upscale environment. The materials are more supple, and the wind and road noise that permeates the U.S. Passat’s rear cabin is notably absent.

That’s also true of the multitude of assistance systems offered. While far from turning the Passat into an autonomous car—or even a semi-autonomous one—the systems reliably alert inattentive drivers when danger looms, without lulling them into a false sense of security. And we like the LED taillights, whose horizontal pattern switches to vertical when the brakes are applied.


Porsche Isn't Happy About Ridiculous Asking Prices For The 911 R

Few cars drive such ridiculous asking prices as the limited edition Porsche 911 R. Essentially a GT3 RS with a manual gearbox, the original MSRP for the 911 R was $184,000. But demand soared to the point that dealers had the audacity to try and sell you one for $1 million. Turns out Porsche isn’t too happy about the situation, unsurprisingly. Speaking to Pistonheads, Porsche’s GT Division boss Andreas Preuninger expressed his dismay at people trying to make a quick buck on the 911 R.

We are not a hedge fund," he said. "We are a company that produces cars, we live because we sell cars and we have to make a profit to go on. So we cannot offer cars with a built-in promise to keep value for a small amount of chosen people, this wouldn't be fair." Preuninger also believes that the 911 R will retain its value no matter what Porsche releases later down the line. “The R will stand on its pedestal forever, as with the 997 GT3 RS 4.0. With that car it didn't hurt that there was a 991 GT3, it didn't hurt that there was a 991 RS, it didn't hurt that there was an R with a manual gearbox - RS 4.0 values are sky high. It is the same with the R."

Owners will no doubt be relieved that the 911 R is unlikely to depreciate over time, but it’s clear that Preuninger wishes owners would appreciate the prestigious Porsche for what it is rather than treating it as an extortionate cash cow. If you’re looking for something similar, the upcoming facelifted GT3 with a manual gearbox is probably a more sensible option.

2017 Honda Civic Type-R Production Model Confirmed For March Reveal In Geneva

It has taken a long time and a whole load of teases, but Honda has finally decided on an official reveal of the production version of the 2017 Honda Civic Type-R. As confirmed by the Japanese manufacturer, the 2017 Type-R production version, the fire-breathing sibling to the already stellar 10th-generation Honda Civic, is set for debut next month at the Geneva Motor Show.

The 2017 Honda Civic Type-R has been making rounds in the rumor mill for a while now, with car enthusiasts eagerly awaiting the final release date for the latest iteration of the iconic car. Auto-themed website CarAdvice stated that the 2017 Civic Type-R is set for a rollout soon, with the car being confirmed for release in Australia, where it will be available for purchase sometime around the end of the year.

What has really managed to get Honda fans excited, however, is that the iconic performance car would be available for American markets for the first time. The Japanese manufacturer has previously confirmed that the 2017 Civic Type-R would officially begin production this summer in the carmaker’s Swindon, U.K., facility. Thus, while unconfirmed, the highly-anticipated vehicle might actually make it to the United States sometime this year.

The specifics of the 2017 Honda Civic Type-R have not been revealed as of yet, but speculations are high that the final production model would be very similar to the Type-R prototypes that were revealed by the carmaker recently.

Under the hood, the 2017 Honda Civic Type-R is expected to feature an updated, upgraded version of the outgoing model’s 2.0-liter turbocharged gas engine. The powerful engine is speculated to be tuned to about 250 kW of power and 450Nm of torque.

The price of the 2017 Honda Civic Type-R are currently unknown, but considering its predecessors, there is a good chance that the upcoming vehicle would be reasonably priced for its class. Stephen Collins, director for Honda in Australia, has stated that the company is expecting a volume of about 200 units per month.

While the 2017 Civic Type-T would most likely steal the show at Geneva, Honda is also set to reveal a unique EV concept at the upcoming motor show. Dubbed as the NeuV, the ridesharing-focused automated electric vehicle is expected to be capable of picking up and driving commuters from one destination to another on its own.

Overall, 2017 seems to be a strong year for Honda. With the 2017 Civic Type-R finally getting ready for production, and with the car being made available in the United States for the first time, there is a pretty good chance that the carmaker might very well have a pretty good run this year.

Lyft, GM Self-Driving Fleet Of Chevrolet Bolt EVs Could Launch In 2018

The Lyft-GM self-driving cars’ road test is set to be the largest of its kind by any automaker before 2020, which is the year when others such as Uber, which is preparing its own fleet in partnership with Daimler and Ford, hit the roads. Ford plans to build its self-driven vehicles at its Detroit plant in late 2020, which could potentially be deployed with ride-sharing services such as Uber by 2021. Others are also testing their self-driving cars, but they are doing so in small numbers. The Reuters report adds that Google is testing a batch of 60 self-driving cars from its Waymo subsidiary in four states.

On Friday afternoon, Reuters reported that two sources familiar with GM’s plans said the automaker would deploy thousands of Chevrolet Bolts equipped with self-driving equipment in 2018. The move would be in partnership with ride-hailing service Lyft.

GM has said it won’t sell autonomous vehicles to individuals. Instead, the automotive giant is targeting fleets for private companies and ride-hailing companies. The American automaker partnered with Lyft a year ago to work on driverless autos, and it even purchased a Lyft and Uber rival called Sidecar after that startup closed down.

GM announced yesterday that its in-house car-sharing service, called Maven, would launch 100 Bolts for rental in the city of Los Angeles. Those electric vehicles won’t be autonomous, but Lyft drivers will be able to take advantage of the Maven cars and use them as their work vehicle for a fee.

According to Reuters’ sources, the autonomous Bolts to be used by Lyft will be primarily located in San Francisco. Uber tried a similar thing this winter—the ride hailing service deployed a handful of autonomous Ubers in the Northern California city in December. The test program picked up Uber passengers after informing them that the car coming to get them would be a self-driving car supervised by an Uber engineer. The state of California requested that Uber end its test after regulators realized Uber hadn’t applied for a permit under DMV rules.

Uber defied the state’s DMV and argued that its autonomous system is indistinguishable from an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), which does not need a special permit to be on California roads. When California ordered Uber to cease its operations, Uber took its test program to Arizona rather than apply for the DMV permitting.

GM has already applied for a permit to operate on California roads, and it has posted videos of autonomous Bolts on the streets of San Francisco, created in partnership with Cruise Automation.