Monthly Archives: January 2014

NAIAS Achieves Highest Numbers In Decade, Breaks 800,000 Visitor Barrier

Sparked by a strong rebound in overall auto sales, the 2014 North American International Auto Show ended its successful run on Sunday, with the two week period helping the event to record its highest attendance numbers in over a decade, while also proving to be the perfect way to cap off the show’s 25th anniversary.

NAIAS representatives revealed that total ticket sales for this years event totaled an impressive 803,451, which is the first time that this figure has been surpassed since the 2003 when sales for that particular show rang in at 838,066 visitors. NAIAS chariman Bob Shuman stated that “everything came together” for this year’s star studded event claiming “The industry is healthy, the products and technology are spectacular, and confidence is high. It would be difficult to find a more exciting or more important two weeks than what we just experienced in the auto industry here on Detroit’s world stage.”

In addition to the record number of ticket sales, this year’s show also saw the debut of 50 new models which included the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, the all new and all aluminum 2015 Ford F-150, and the redesigned Chrysler 200 sedan as well as eye catching concepts such as the Toyota FT-1 coupe and the KIA GT4 Stinger. The shows organizers were also quick to point out that the event once again made a positive contribution to the economy of Detroit, with the two week period generating a lofty $365 million dollars in overall economic impact. This amount should serve as a much needed boost to the city which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy late last year due to years of financial and political mismanagement. As a bonus, various children’s charities also benefited from the show with 13,826 attendees appearing at the annual Charity Preview event which raised an equally impressive 4.8 million dollars with every dollar going to programs and projects that benefit young people.

Lincoln Reveals Redesigned 2015 Navigator SUV

Following a leak that occurred late yesterday, Lincoln Motor Company has formally revealed the redesigned 2015 Lincoln Navigator ahead of its formal debut next month at the 2014 Chicago Motor Show. This refreshed Navigator aims to not only take on its arch nemesis the 2015 Cadillac Escalade, but also entries from European rivals such as Land Rover and Mercedes Benz.

The exterior styling of the Navigator has been revised to allow the big ute to fit in better with the rest of the brand’s design language with the front fascia now featuring a revised front bumper, new HID headlamps, as well as an over sized variant of Lincoln’s signature 2015 Lincoln Navigatorsplit wing chrome grille which finally does away with the old models dated “Continental inspired” grille treatment . The rear fascia features more modest changes when compared to the revamped front end with a new full length tail lamp bar, and a revised power lift gate serving as the two sole changes for 2015. As a nice bonus, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels arrive as standard equipment, and add some more visual eye candy to the Navigators elegant charm.

The interior has also been upgraded to match the current direction of Lincoln cabin design with a new center console adding some much needed freshness, while a reworked digital instrument cluster replaces the lame looking analog units that once adorned the old Navigator. The steering wheel has also been updated and retains its basic four spoke 2015 Lincoln Navigatordesign, though Lincoln designers were kind enough to replace the old models oddly positioned wood accents on the sides with a new accent that is located on the top of the the wheel. While a minor change, it does make the steering wheel look more upscale, and is on par visually with whats seen on many other competitors.

The big news with this update however is what has been done under the hood where the old model’s wheezy, outdated, gas swilling 5.4 liter V8 has been replaced to cater to the recent trend of downsized engine offerings. In its place is the familiar 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6 which is not only more efficient, but is also capable of producing a healthy 370 horsepower and an equally stout 430 lb-ft of torque. While the engine does lose some displacement when compared to its eight cylinder predecessor, it makes up for it by being more powerful, and should also allow the big Lincoln to achieve best in class towing 2015 Lincoln Navigatorcapability once again. The potent engine sends its power to either the rear or all four wheels through a six speed automatic transmission which should deliver a better balance of fuel efficiency and capability. Handling has also been honed thanks to the newly optional adaptive damping system that offers drivers three different modes to choose from Normal, Comfort, and Sport which cater to a wide range of driving and comfort oriented tastes.

Buyers aiming to achieve more exclusivity can opt for the new Reserve package. This package adds 22-inch polished aluminum wheels, leather trim on the seats and dashboard, as well as slick looking Zircote wood trim. Reserve models can also feature chrome trim on the running boards, though Reserve package buyers will have to pay extra for that particular piece of equipment to be installed.

After its formal debut at the Chicago Motor Show, The first wave of 2015 Navigators will begin arriving at a Lincoln showroom near you this fall. Lincoln did not release official pricing nor fuel efficiency figures for the engine, but look for those items and more to slowly trickle out closer to its official launch. Stay tuned to Autoinfoquest for the latest developments on the 2015 Lincoln Navigator as they become available.

 

 

Jeep Cherokee Gains New Altitude Trim, Wrangler, Grand Cherokee Altitude Models To Return

When Jeep gave fans of the iconic off roading brand the opportunity to name a new trim level late last year, the response was overwhelmingly positive with the name “Altitude” being applied to a corresponding line of blacked out Jeep models. The brand has now officially unveiled the newest recipient of the “Altitude” package the popular and recently launched Jeep Cherokee CUV with this trim perhaps being the best looking and most sinister model in the Cherokee lineup.

As is the case with other Altitude models such as the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, The 2014 Jeep Cherokee AltitudeCherokee version adds blacked out wheels and black accents for the exterior trim and rocker moldings (similar to Dodge’s Blacktop package), while buyers can choose from four different exterior hues Granite (pictured), black, silver, and white. While Jeep did not reveal if the Cherokee’s interior will also tweaked for Altitude duty, we at Autoinfoquest think that it will most likely follow the path of its predecessors on that front and feature copious amounts of black accenting to help it standout from its more mainstream siblings. Performance hardware remains unchanged which means buyers can choose from either the base 2.4 liter four cylinder engine, or the optional 3.2 liter Pentastar V6.

Pricing has also been unveiled with the sleek appearance package adding an extra $2,000 to the overall MSRP which starts at $24,995 for 4×2 models while rugged 4×4 versions start slightly higher at $26,995 before the $995 destination charge is factored in. Meanwhile Jeep also 2014 Jeep Cherokee Altituderevealed that the popular Wrangler and Grand Cherokee Altitude variants will be making another appearance for 2014 with both starting at $31,595 and $35,290 respectively. Unlike the Cherokee, The Laredo based Grand Cherokee Altitude is a V6 only affair with no V8 option available.

Look for all three Altitude models to arrive at a Chrysler showroom near you this spring where they will join the other two members of the Altitude family the Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot on dealer lots.

 

Minicars Deliver Troubling Performance In IIHS Small Overlap Crash Test

When I was in the position of purchasing a new replacement vehicle for my venerable but aging 2001 Chevrolet Malibu several years ago, both my parents were adamant in their preference of a larger car mainly due to the common and widespread perception that a bigger size produces increased levels of safety. While many buyers have dismissed that long standing notion in lieu of high fuel economy and maneuverability, a recent round of crash testing performed by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) appears to reveal that their may indeed be some science behind that logic.

The IIHS recently completed its suite of extensive crash testing on 11 different minicar models which included entries such as the Chevrolet Spark, Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, and the new Mitsubishi Mirage. As is the case with many recent tests, the firms “small overlap” test proved to be a formidable obstacle for many of the featured minicars. In fact only the Chevrolet Spark stood out by gaining an “Acceptable” rating for its performance in the test (which helped it earn a coveted Top Safety Pick designation). Meanwhile the Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, and the Mazda Mazda 2 received a “Marginal” rating with “Poor” ratings (the lowest grade possible) being awarded to the Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa (sedan),  Hyundai Accent, and the Toyota Prius c.

Joe Nolan senior vice president for IIHS’s vehicle research explained the findings stating “Small lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That’s why its even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection”. He later added “Unfortunately as a group minicars aren’t performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small overlap crash.” In addition to the small overlap test, many of the car’s also had trouble with the rest of the tests. For instance in the firms Structure evaluation, five minicars the Prius c , Nissan Versa, Fiat 500, Honda Fit earned a “Poor” rating, while the majority of the group flunked the Restraints & Kinematics portion (which measures airbag performance as well as forward motion of the occupants in the vehicle in a crash.)

The IIHS has released a brief video explaining these findings which can be seen below. Many of the automakers in question have so far not released a statement addressing these findings, though Honda claims that the 2015 Honda Fit (which has not been tested by the IIHS) is capable of earning a top rating in the small overlap test versus the last generation model that the IIHS used in its round of tests.

Chevrolet Unveils Race Spec Z/28.R Camaro

In a move to bring the iconic Z/28 nameplate back to its original roots in competitive racing, Chevrolet has unveiled the the all new Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R which will make its official debut later this week at the 52nd Rolex 24 at Daytona and also serve as an indirect homage to the original 1967 Z/28 race car.

Unlike a typical race car which is usually a body shell of its road legal production sibling with pure race technology underneath, the Z/28.R stands out by retaining much of its identity with the road going Z/28 both inside and out. This is especially obvious with its exterior styling which retains the production version’s front splitter, hood extractor vent, rear spoiler, belly pan and rocker panels which should please enthusiasts that were fans of the production cars function over form styling theme ,while also allowing the car to achieve maximum grip in sharp turns.

Performance for the Z/28.R has also been carried over from the production version, which means the same 505 horsepower LS7 7.0 liter V8 that allows the standard version to scorch quarter mile times will now also devour lap times at the race track with equal ease. The only two items separating it from the road going Z/28 are a model exclusive race spec suspension, and mandated safety equipment to allow the car to keep occupants safe while also allowing it to be eligible for the event. Mark Kent global director for Chevrolet racing elaborated this strong resemblance stating  “Apart from series-mandated equipment and the specialized suspension components needed for endurance racing, the Z/28.R is as close to a production-spec race car as you’ll find,” said Kent.

Look for the car to make its official debut prior to the 52nd Rolex 24 at Daytona later this week where it will take part in a special 2.5 hour endurance race, before making its series debut at the fore-mentioned race as an entry in the heated GS Class. Two teams (Stevenson Motorsports and CKS Autosport) will be fielding the Z/28.R with both organizations seeking to continue Chevrolet’s recent success in the GS class which was highlighted by its 2nd place finish in last years GS championship standings as well as six victories during the 2011 to 2013 season.

Autoinfoquest First Look: Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Targa

Porsche unveiled its latest and arguably most unique member of the 911 model range earlier this week, the 2014 Porsche 911 Targa which aims to bring open top motoring to buyers in a unique and heavily retro inspired package that draws inspiration from the original 1960’s model (which was designed in anticipation of tighter U.S. regulations on convertibles). Autoinfoquest had a brief opportunity to spend some time with the 911 Targa at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit Michigan to find out if it lives up to the hype.

The exterior styling of the 2014 911 Targa changes very little from its coupe sibling, but the model exclusive B-pillar anti roll bar is a nice visual reminder of the original 911 released in 1967 and looks just as good here as it did during that model’s era of production. Adding to the retro inspired look is the large rear glass window which not only adds some extra IMG_7650crash protection for occupants, but is also a key part of the Targa’s new motorized top assembly that lifts the rear glass rearward while a small fabric panel moves up or down. Looking like an overly complex Rube Goldberg contraption when in operation, this novel (AKA gimmick) solution is sure to impress folks with its elegant complexity though expect a lofty repair bill from your local Porsche mechanic if the system malfunctions.

The interior of the 911 Targa also carries over from the standard 911 with plenty of leg and knee room. The comfortable seats also featured plenty of support with upsIMG_7651cale materials and warm leather accents. Front and side visibility was commendable though the large rear glass does impede rear visibility somewhat, while the ergonomics of the cabin are marred by the button heavy layout below the PDK shifter. Those minor quibbles aside, the cabin of the Targa does an excellent job of being an inviting place to spend time in while driving with the top down and should please occupants with its blend of comfort and retro inspired cues.

Performance for the 201 911 Targa comes from a pair of six cylinder power plants with the familiar rear mounted 3.4 liter six cylinder engine serving as the base engine. This potent mill is not only capable of producing 350 horsepower, but is also capable of a swift 4.6 second 0 to 60 time with the PDK and Sport Chrono packages equipped. Meanwhile 4S models feature the stronger 3.8 liter engine which brings 400 horsepower to the party and a slightly lower 4.2 second 0 to 60 time. Befitting its mission as a Porsche for “all climates”, the company has equipped both variants with all wheel drive as standard equipment, though expect many owners to store their purchase during the winter months. While a formal drive was not possible this time, we do look forward to perhaps experiencing the Targa ourselves in the near future to see if it indeed measures up to its predecessors.

Look for the 2014 911 Targa to begin arriving at Porsche showrooms this summer with prices starting at $101,600 for the base Targa 4 model, while Targa 4S variants begin at a higher $116,200 before the $995 destination fee is applied.

Toyota Sells 6 Millionth Hybrid Vehicle

In an announcement released earlier today, Toyota revealed that it has cracked the 6 million sales barrier for its hybrid vehicles which serves as further evidence of the firms dominance in this popular vehicle segment especially in the face of competition from rivals such as the Chevrolet Volt, as well as the appearance of pure electric models like the Nissan Leaf.

The company states that its current official sales count for its lineup of hybrid vehicles is currently holding strong at 6.072 million units as of December 31, 2013. This current figure is a key milestone and not only highlights Toyota’s success overall, but also the effectiveness and significance of its groundbreaking gas-electric technology with the company claiming that it achieved its latest batch of 1 million sales in a mere nine months, which is the shortest period it ever took to hit such a number in Toyota’s long and illustrious history.

This achievement is even more remarkable when one considers that Toyota first began selling hybrid vehicles back in 1997, with the debut of the original Toyota Prius hybrid car which initially served as the company’s only hybrid offering during its first few years of production. Since that humble beginning, the firms hybrid lineup has exploded to 24 different models covering various vehicle segments, and also includes the Prius plug-in hybrid. Look for this diverse family to grow even more over the next two years with Toyota launching 15 new hybrid models worldwide, with the U.S market gaining a new Highlander hybrid in the near future. In addition to the great financial impact of this achievement, each hybrid model has also made a big impact in resource preservation, with Toyota claiming that each of the 6 million hybrids sold has saved an estimated 4 billion gallons of gasoline with that figure expected to slowly rise with each subsequent new model sold.

Subaru Unveils Stiffened & Refined 2015 Subaru WRX STI

With the recently reworked WRX sedan having its chance to fully sink in with the Subaru faithful, the Asian brand has decided to take the veil off of the wildest incarnation of the Impreza lineup the 2015 Subaru WRX STI which adds a stiffened structure, new technology, and revised styling to its bag of tricks for the 2015 model year as it aims to take on rivals such as the antiquated Mitsubishi Evo .

The 2015 WRX STI shares its base styling with the tamer WRX (which is in turn a hopped up version of the bland as cornbread Impreza sedan), however Subaru engineers have given the STI several model exclusive bits to help shed weight and stand out from its lesser siblings. An IMG_7782aluminum hood as well as revised bumpers, doors quarter panels, and lights amp up the car’s performance inspired lines while the iconic, functional, and virtually mandatory hood scoop sits lower than the old model which should help improve visibility for occupants especially in city driving. Carbon fiber esque accents highlight the head lamps, while a massive rear wing provides ample down force to the rear of the car which also boasts LED tail lamps as standard equipment. If you go for the special launch edition version, (pictured) it adds gold hued BBS alloy wheels, a proximity key, black and blue Alacantara seating, and a short throw shifter for tighter and more precise shifts.

 

The interior of the 2015 WRX STI exploits the revisions that first appeared in the standard Impreza’s cabin, and will come loaded to gills with standard equipment such as heated seats, dual-zone climate control, and a state of the art Bluetooth capable audio system. Top tier Limited models add items such as a power moon roof, heated leather seats, a Harmon Kardon premium audio system, and an eight way power drivers seat. Optional IMG_7784equipment is limited to a mere two items a touchscreen radio with aha radio capability, and a proximity key. I had a chance to sit inside both the Launch edition and a Limited spec model the company had on display, and while both were very comfortable places to spend time in, the amount of support that the seats had was somewhat disappointing especially for a vehicle of the STI’s caliber. That said material quality was very good with fewer hard plastics than before.

Performance for the 2015 WRX STI is derived from the old models 2.5 liter turbocharged boxer four cylinder which is good for a solid 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, with much of that twist peaking at 4,000 RPM. Dual active valve control is standard equipment, IMG_7788and allows the STI to make its power more efficiently than before. All of this grunt is transmitted to all four wheels through a reinforced six speed manual transmission with the base WRX’s automatic not carrying over to the STI. However the big story here is handling which has been improved thanks to extensive chassis revisions which help stiffen the body and shed weight improving responsiveness and turning behavior from the tweaked steering system.

Look for the 2015 Subaru WRX STI to begin arriving in a showroom near you this spring, with pricing set to be revealed closer to its official launch. Launch editions will be limited to a mere 1,000 copies, and will only be available for a limited time.  Lastly with the unveiling of this revised STI, the fate of the current generation and rapidly aging Mitsubishi Evo X (a chief STI rival) is put even further under the microscope.  Can the troubled company muster enough resources to develop an updated version to combat this new threat? or will Mitsubishi concede defeat and leave the segment all together. Stay tuned to Autoinfoquest for more coverage from the 2014 North American International Auto Show as well as any new details on the 2015 Subaru WRX STI as they become available.

 

 

 

 

Kia’s New GT4 Stinger Concept Showcases Kia’s Take On The Minimalist Sports Car

In a bid to harken back to the day’s when affordable sports cars ruled the roads of America, Kia took the wraps off of its GT4 Stinger concept at the 2014 North American International Auto Show yesterday in a movie themed premier. The GT4 Stinger offers a unique and compelling glimpse into what very well could be a production version of the wallet friendly sports car.

Intentionally designed to be a response to rivals such as the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S twins as well as the V6 variants of the recently redesigned 2015 Ford Mustang, The Stinger’s exterior styling is a radical exercise in purity and simplicity, with Kia claiming that the IMG_7744design is supposed to look as if it were “shrink wrapped” around the chassis versus conventional styling techniques. The familiar Kia grille is intentionally placed low to the ground to aide in cold air intake and engine cooling. The grille surround itself glows a subtle white for a unique appearance at night and satin black accents are splashed throughout the exterior and serve as a key unifying styling element. Meanwhile vertical LED headlamps further embody its performance character while the carefully designed front brake vents strike a balance between purposeful function and stylistic fluidity. Rounding out the look are a pair of elegant LED tail lamps that provide a good balance between front and rear.

The interior is also a stylish yet classic example of form over function with the carpets replaced by a lightweight and simple rubber mat. Aluminum billet pedals and doors help shed further weight while the lightweight sport seats keep occupants firmly in place. Other IMG_7616thoughtful features include a meaty center mounted flat bottomed steering wheel, a large LED instrument panel with visually prominent tachometer and gear selector, and lightweight fabric door pulls which replace heavier conventional door knobs. To ensure that occupants focus on the sights and sounds of spirited driving and nothing else, Kia designers decided to not include a built in audio system (a feature common place in many other cars). Tom Kearns chief designer for the Kia Design Center America (KDCA) addressed this unusual omission stating “The audio system starts under the hood and the speakers are the exhaust pipes,”. That’s fine with us and should help keep unwanted Miley and Macklemore tunes from ruining the fun behind the wheel.

All that fun is made possible by a modified version of the company’s familiar 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder which now pumps out  a commendable 315 horsepower. Power is routed to the rear wheels through a six speed manual transmission which IMG_7607features close ratios for maximum feel and shift quality. Sticky 275/35R-20 Pirelli P-Zero performance tires help keep the rear wheels planted while handling prowess is achieved by outfitting the front wheels with staggered 235/35R-20 Pirelli P-Zeros. Speaking of the wheels, they are made out of lightweight center locking aluminum with strategically placed carbon fiber accents to ensure maximum strength and weight reduction. When it comes time to bring the GT4 Stinger to a safe stop, 15-inch Brembo Gran Turismo brakes featuring cross drilled rotors and four piston calipers, ensure smooth and steady stops even at high vehicle speeds.

While Kia claims that it has no current plans to make a production version of the GT4 Stinger, the company does have a proven track record of bringing production vehicles to the market that are heavily inspired by a particular concept car, which could be positive news for any production model that aims to fill the Stingers shoes. In particular, if reception to the GT4 Stinger concept itself is strong enough, then look for the company to perhaps change its tune in the near future. Regardless of which way Kia goes with the future of the Stinger we here at Autoinfoquest look forward to hearing more and perhaps seeing the final result in the near future.

 

Cadillac Previews the 2015 ATS Coupe (Live Pics)

Cadillac is only a mere few hours away from formally unveiling the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe to the world, but the brand has decided to give the world an early sneak peek at its newest coupe offering which is the first to debut Cadillac’s new wreath free emblem and aims to steal sales from luxury coupe rivals such as the BMW 4 series.

While the ATS coupe does share the same platform and wheelbase as the ATS sedan, the coupe features its own distinctive bodywork that helps differentiate it from its sedan sibling. The roof, rear fenders trunk lid, and doors for instance are all unique to the coupe, while the slightly revised front fascia hides a slightly wider track and does so quite well. As 2015 Cadillac ATS coupementioned earlier, the ATS coupe will also be the first model to debut Cadillac’s revised and controversial crest emblem. While I’m still not a huge fan of this change, it does look good on the coupe and if executed correctly, other models as well which should give the lineup a unified identity. The ATS coupe will feature projector beam headlamps as standard equipment, but the brand will follow the recent trend set in place by its European rivals, and offer full LED units as an optional piece of equipment for buyers craving more exclusivity in their purchase. Regardless of equipment selection, all ATS coupes will feature standard LED tail lamps, and a revised rear center stop lamp.

The interior also largely carries over from the ATS sedan (that’s fine by us) and should please buyers with its tasteful design, strategically placed wood and leather trim, and driver oriented feel. While the sometimes frustrating CUE infotainment system will also be carried over, GM’s newly optional OnStar 4G LTE feature should help make the system easier to use and alleviate some of the frustration associated with this system.

Performance for the 2015 ATS Coupe is shared with the ATS sedan albeit minus the base models wheezy 2.5 liter four cylinder engine which is a welcome omission. Instead base models will come equipped with the familiar 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine which still makes 270 horsepower, but Cadillac engineers have upped torque to 295 lb-ft (a 2015 Cadillac ATS coupesubtle 14 percent gain which matches the bigger CTS’s rating and gives it an edge against its chief rival the BMW 428i. The turbo also allows the coupe to make the dash from 0 to 60 mph in a swift 5.6 seconds which is mostly thanks to its light weight which makes it the lightest entry in the luxury coupe class. Buyers looking for more power can opt for the 3.6 liter V6 which carries over from the sedan unchanged and is good for 325 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque.

Transmission choices also remain intact with the 2.0 liter being hooked up to either a slick six speed manual or a smooth and efficient six speed automatic transmission. The more potent V6 meanwhile makes do with the six speed automatic as its sole transmission choice with no plans for a shift it yourself option in the near future. Cadillac executive chief engineer David Leone highlighted the car’s performance stating “More power with less weight is always a better combination for performance, and the ATS Coupe offers one of the best power-to-weight ratios in the segment, making it feel lighter, more direct and responsive,”

Meanwhile Uwe Ellinghaus Chief Marketing officer for Global Cadillac elaborated the ATS coupe’s mission stating “The 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe is a natural step in the brand’s progression, and another fun-to-drive and technologically advanced product for a new generation of drivers extending our target groups,” said Uwe Ellinghaus, chief marketing officer, Global Cadillac. “It is an exclusively distinctive American alternative, unique in its class, yet delivering a sporty and sophisticated driving experience rivaling the world’s best.

Look for the 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe to go on sale sometime this summer, with pricing and other information expected to be revealed closer to the car’s official launch (though we personally think pricing will be on par with the 4 Series lineup). Stay tuned to Autoinfoquest for live photos of the 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe, as well as ongoing coverage from the 2015 North American International Auto Show.