Monthly Archives: October 2014

Scion Releases TC Release Series 9.0, Revised Aero Kit, Two Tone Color Among Changes

Scion has taken the wraps off the latest iteration of its ongoing and very popular line of limited edition Release Series models the 9.0, which brings its own unique combination of flair and uniqueness to the brand’s sporty TC and follows in the footsteps of its fore-bearers in catering to young custom minded buyers when it makes its official debut at the 2014 La Motor Show.

In the case of the 9.0, the folks at Cartel Customs helped design this special TC and it features model exclusive black alloy wheels, a model exclusive aerodynamics kit, blacked out side mirrors and door handles, as well as a high profile looking rear spoiler. However 2015_Scion_tC_RS9_002the 9.0’s most visible calling card (for better or for worse) is its two tone Black on Magma two tone color scheme which should help draw plenty of attention to the car when its sitting in traffic as well as remind folks of Halloween, and the San Francisco Giant’s recent World Series victory. In addition to its look at me exterior styling, the suspension has also been lowered, though look for the handling differences between the 9.0 and the standard car to be very minimal and not threaten the playful yet secure handling manners offered by the decidedly more fun to drive FR-S.

The interior of the 9.0 retains the basic layout that also see’s duty in other TC’s, b2015_Scion_tC_RS9_005ut orange accenting on the seats and steering wheel supposedly amps up the visual fun factor though in  our opinion it looks a bit garish. Performance hardware for the 9.0 is also shared with the standard issue TC with a noisy  2.5 liter four cylinder engine serving as the primary source of motivation.  Good for a commendable 179 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque, buyers can hook the engine up to either a standard issue six speed manual gearbox, or an optional six speed automatic that comes equipped with paddle shifters.

Buyers interested in putting one in their garage will have to act quickly, Scion is only building 2,000 copies with pricing starting at $23,960 (including the $770 freight fee) for a 2015_Scion_tC_RS9_012base 9.0 manual with automatic variants expected to be slightly more expensive. Look for the first units to arrive in dealer showrooms sometime in January with more information being revealed at its official launch.

First Look: 2015 Mercedes S-Class Coupe

When we first wrote about the 2015 S-Class Coupe back in February of 2014 it was making its debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, and at the time we raved about its distinct styling and its suite of technologies that aimed to establish it as the de-facto king of the luxury coupe market. Recently we had to the opportunity to visit our local Mercedes Benz dealer in Bloomfield Hills Michigan to take a closer look at this state of the art two door up close and in the flesh. Have our opinions remained intact? and have our expectations been met? Read on to find out

The exterior styling of the 2015 Mercedes S-Class Coupe looks just as good in person as it does in pictures, and while the recently unveiled Mercedes-AMG GT sportscar maybe the formal successor to the iconic SLS supercar, this two door S-Class does emerge as an alternate candidate to that title thanks to its evocative lines that flow rearward from the IMG_8931sculpted front fascia (which features Swarovski crystal tinged headlamps) to the equally sensuous plunging rear end that manages to look modern and refined while also showcasing select albeit more subtle cues from pre-war era Benz offerings. This stylish suit of clothes will certainly serve as a tempting conversation starter and an attention grabber while sitting in traffic. The overall effect is enhanced further by opting for an Edition 1 model like the example featured here which stands out by offering model exclusive wheels as well as interior and exterior styling tweaks.

The interior of the S-Class Coupe also carries on the S-Class sedan’s theme of Designo look style mixed with an overabundance of luxury and technology. Many controls and buttons in the well crafted cabin are well marked and easy to use, though some controls do feature tiny buttons which can be hard to find on the first try. The three spoke steering wheel is also festooned with buttons and switches, and is a welcome improvement styling IMG_8936wise over the helm found in its sedan sibling which looked fancy but also a bit awkward at the same time. The front seats were very comfortable with fair amounts of side support and bolstering though look for AMG versions to bring more back support to the festivities when they eventually arrive on dealer lots. Head and leg room are also quite generous, and it was easy to stretch out and find a comfortable driving position.

In typical coupe fashion however, the rear seats do remind occupants that they are in a car that prefers to function as a two seater versus a conventional 2+2. While the lack of headroom back there is about what you would typically expect from many other coupes, entering and exiting this tight space is reminiscent of getting in and out of Alcatraz with the front seats not folding forward enough which results in a narrow opening that forces occupants to do an awkward motion when entering and exiting. Follow our advice and save this space for cargo, small children, and those times where you want to embarrass your mother-in law. Dual LCD screens dominate the majority of the instrument panel and serve as state of the art windows for the gauge cluster as well as the infotainment system. While I personally prefer to have mechanical gauges versus digital units in a vehicle, Benz engineers did an excellent job making them easy to read as well as looking good at the same time.

Performance for the S550 version (the only model available at launch) comes from the company’s familiar 4.7 liter biturbo V8 which is borrowed from the S-Class sedan and is IMG_8930good for a solid 449 horsepower, and an impressive 516 lb-ft of torque. All of this power is routed to a seven speed automatic transmission that aims to improve the car’s performance and fuel efficiency. But unlike the S-Class sedan which initially arrived in rear wheel drive form only, the coupe flips the script for its launch and comes with all-wheel drive standard (look for RWD versions to arrive sometime in the near future).

Pricing for the 2015 S-Class coupe begins at $119,000 with our Edition 1 photo car boasting a $138,000 sticker price though optional goodies and packages can increase the cost of entrypast the 150,000 barrier in a hurry. The company claims that the Coupe competes with equally high priced rivals such as the BMW 6-Series, Rolls Royce Wraith, Bentley Continental GT, Maserati MC Gran Turismo MC, as well as the Aston Martin DB9 and Vanquish coupes. In our opinion, the Rolls Royce does beat the Benz (albeit barely) in IMG_8947interior pizazz, however, the S-Class Coupe makes up for it by being decidedly more modern and up to date than the DB9’s dated cabin, as well as the Maserati’s equally dated accommodations with exterior styling being a notch higher than the 6 Series. Also while the company’s claim that the S-Class Coupe is “the pinnacle of automotive engineering” may not necessarily guarantee that it is exactly the best car for sale in the world regardless of price, it does mean that like its sedan counterpart the Coupe exists as a benchmark vehicle in its elite segment, and will be a formidable target for others to surpass in the years to come.

First Look: 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250

When BMW launched the BMW X1 SAV (BMW speak for Sport Activity Vehicle) a few years back, it not only offered buyers a cheaper alternative to the mainstream X3 and X5 but also a smaller package that was capable of doing battle with rivals such as the Audi Q3, Lexus NX, MINI Countryman, as well as the hot selling Buick Encore in the quest for a bigger slice of the compact luxury CUV segment. Notably absent from the party were the folks at Mercedes Benz which did not have an entry prior to the GLA classes arrival. With the compact GLA250 now hitting dealer lots, does the compact Benz have what it takes to deliver a knockout blow to the BMW X1 while still offering buyers an excellent value? Read on to find out.


The exterior styling of the GLA is a solid effort for the most part, looking purely Benz while also adding a modern touch at the same time thanks to features such as sweptback headlights, a blunt upright prow, as well as the prominent Mercedes badge in the center of the two bar grille. The side profile is also aggressive though it can look awkward from some angles in certain lighting conditions. The rear styling in contrast obviously did not get the same memo about embracing modern fluidity as the front, and while the shape is typical hatchback, the over-sized tail lamps look like giant blotches, and the chrome bar tying IMG_8926them together (borrowed from the B-Class) looks like a tacked on afterthought which is a shame considering the cohesive yet beautiful styling found in recent offerings such as the redesigned C-Class, E-Class, and the GL SUV. Thankfully the GLA45 AMG and its performance inspired styling tweaks eliminate some of our complaints though that particular model will not arrive until sometime next year. The GLA  (regardless of trim) also looks much smaller than in photographs thanks to its 60 inch height which makes it 1.5 inches shorter than the MINI Countryman, while its smaller length allows the tiny Benz to be 4.4 inches shorter than a Range Rover Evoque.


The interior of the GLA is also a mixed bag (thanks in part to its CLA based roots) but unlike the reviled and imbalanced exterior styling, the cabin does offer some welcome design elements and is a warm and comfortable place to spend time in. The seats are very comfortable with decent amounts of leg and headroom though more side bolstering is IMG_8920needed to match the level of support offered by the X1’s thrones. Rear seat room is also quite generous for a vehicle of its size, though it can be tight for tall adults and is best suited for children and anyone under 6’0 ft tall on long journeys.

Our lone complaint for the interior is that some of the cheapness that has come to define the CLA’s cabin has also trickled its way into the GLA with plastics and some trim elements feeling low budget and cheap (an interior upgrade package is available and is highly recommended). The infotainment screen is also borrowed from the CLA and just like in that model, we wish it would be integrated into the dashboard since it looks slightly awkward in its current position above the slick looking air vents. That said, the interior is certainly more appealing than the button happy Buick Encore, and it even trumps the X1 in overall refinement and feel with many controls ergonomically placed for ease of use.

Performance for the GLA comes from a 2.0 liter four cylinder engine that is borrowed from the CLA sedan. Good for a healthy 208 horsepower and a stout 258 lb-ft of torque, the engine makes more muscle than the 138 horsepower offered by the Buick Encore’s 1.4 liter four cylinder turbo, and also allows the GLA to make the sprint to 60 mph in a commendable 6.4 seconds. While we look forward to a more detailed drive of the GLA in the near future to see whether it can match the stellar handling behavior offered by it’s key rival the BMW X1, the seven speed dual clutch automatic transmission should allow the GLA to achieve a balanced mixture of performance and fuel economy which should please efficiency minded buyers and is a cog higher than the units offered in the Buick Encore, Lexus NX and the Audi Q3.

Pricing for the GLA begins at $34,225 which is on par with others in the segment but optional equipment and other packages quickly increase the price of admission with the GLA pictured IMG_8949ringing in at a hefty $45,490. While the GLA does need some tweaking before it is truly ready to deliver a decisive blow to segment mainstay’s, it does show how serious Mercedes is in taking a slice of the compact luxury CUV segment. In addition, with the bigger GLK moving upmarket, the GLA has a golden opportunity to establish its own legacy among young buyers, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for Stuttgart’s newest and smallest CUV entry in the years to come.


A special thank you to the folks at Mercedes Benz of Bloomfield Hills for allowing me the opportunity to see the GLA up close at their annual Open Haus event, and stay tuned for our first look at another new Benz the 2015 Mercedes Benz S Class Coupe.



Ariel Debuts Updated, And Beefier 3S Model

The Ariel Atom has always been a fascinating machine, and a favorite here in the Autoinfoquest garage thanks to its small size as well as its envious combination of awe inspiring horsepower and featherweight construction which allow the little dynamo to shred racetracks while also moonlighting as a plastic surgeon with its ability to temporarily contort faces (ala Jeremy Clarkson). As is the case with the folks at Ariel, they always aim to make the Atom slightly more extreme than the model before it for the sake of raw performance, and on that note the company has unveiled the latest version of their engineering prowess which aims to hone the Atom’s mind-blowing capabilities even further.


Known formally as the Ariel Atom 3S, it is based on the current generation Atom track car, but builds on it by adding numerous upgrades to the Atom to make it even more of a track weapon. The 2.4 liter Honda sourced engine for example has been turbocharged and now makes a whopping 365 horsepower which is enough to scoot the 3S to 60 mph in a blistering 2.8 seconds with the quarter mile being conquered in an equally swift 10.7 1939457_871871446178683_6845999202420031790_nseconds. In addition to these track shredding figures, the 3S is also the second most powerful Atom model ever produced (the equally insane 500 horsepower V8 model still reigns as overall power king). All of this potent muscle is channled to the rear wheels through either a standard close ratio manual gearbox, or a brand new race inspired seven speed Sadev 6-speed sequential gearbox that features paddle shifters on the steering wheel for faster and smoother shifts.

Handling has also been sharpened and the 3S benefits from an all new five stage adjustable traction control system which is fully adjustable from the cockpit and allows the 3S to conquer a wide range of track types. F1 style pushrod suspension technology with adjustable dampers helps eliminate unwanted body roll, while Alcon four-disc brake calipers with two piece floating discs help provide the stopping power necessary to keep the 3S on course. As a bonus, it even arrives equipped with a full glass windshield (to protect from high speed insect and debris impacts), and an LCD cockpit display to help keep drivers focused on navigating the twists and turns of their favorite race circuit or back road while also showing vital information.

Buyers looking to add a 3S to their garage will be pleased to hear that it will be sold here in the U.S.  and that it will also boast a below $90k base sticker price. For those that find that price a bit too high but still want to experience the Atom for themselves, will still be able to spec and purchase a standard Atom 3 which has a base price of $64,500. In the meantime TMI Autotech (Ariel’s U.S. supplier) has released a video of the 3S in action at Virginia International Speedway during final shakedown testing. The 3S featured blew through the track in a lighting quick 1:58, which is quicker than the Atom spec racer, and is on par with its closest rival the Europe only Ford Formula single seat track car.



China To Become Lead Market For Porsche, CUV’s Lead The Way

With China firmly in its cross-hairs, Porsche has revealed that this key rising market will become its top market by the end of the year surpassing its distribution numbers in the U.S. while also serving as a recent noteworthy example of the upward trend in sales experienced by the luxury automobile segment in this particular part of the world.

It’s no secret that all the worlds major automakers have turned their sights on taking advantage of the Chinese market with the majority of them aiming to achieve full market share as the world’s biggest auto market continues to grow  in size despite recent concerns that the Chinese economy may be suffering from deceasing momentum due to a wide variety of factors. Currently small cars dominate the sales charts thanks to their superb maneuverability in China’s narrow streets as well as their cheap price of admission. However this is balanced by an increasing number of affluent buyers looking to add a foreign nameplate to their ever growing fleet of luxury vehicles.  The majority of these buyers appear to have a particular affinity towards the Porsche brand with September Chinese purchases exceeding the company’s distribution rate in the U.S. which is the first time such a feat has ever happened in recent Porsche history. If the current trend of sales continues, the U.S. could slip into second place for all of 2014 which would serve as a powerful example of just how much the Chinese market has grown over the past 10 years.

Porsche marketing chief Bernhard Maier highlighted today’s development further in a statement to Automotive News Europe revealing  “The U.S. market performed very well this year, after a great year in 2013, but China is growing fast thanks to the Cayenne which is our best seller there”.

While Porsche;s progress in this developing market is nothing short of amazing, it is not unprecedented with other automakers such as General Motors predicting that China will eventually play host to the biggest luxury segment in the world due to the fore-mentioned increase of affluent buyers, as well as an utter lack of equivalent luxury competition from the country’s domestic manufacturers which often lag behind the foreign brands in many areas especially technology and overall styling which serve as two key factors in deciding a purchase. In particular CUV’s as well as long wheelbase variants of cars such as the Jaguar XJ and Buick Park Avenue have proven popular with elite buyers looking for more legroom and space during their treks to the office. It’ll be curious to see how things pan out in the near future, but expect the sales wars in the Peoples Republic to only escalate and grow as more foreign makers enter this crucial marketing territory.

Audi Showcases TT Sportback Concept Car, Could Preview Expanded TT Model Family

With the recent unveiling of the revamped Audi TT coupe and roadster, Audi has taken the veil off of the TT Sportback concept ahead of its official debut at the 2014 Paris Motor Show formally unveiling it at a private event prior to the show. The concept previews what could be a third body style choice for consumers which would give the TT broader appeal as well as a formal model family *a first for the TT in its history of production.

The exterior styling of the TT Sportback thankfully does away with many of the stereotypical and often excessive pieces of show floor jewelry that bedazzle other concept cars such as over-sized wheels, odd angles, and tiny style over function mirrors. The end result is a unified look that looks production ready and could mean that the idea of a Audi TT Sportback conceptSportback TT is very close to reality. The exterior styling is a mixture of TT cues and is reminiscent of the third generation model, though subtle A3 derived cues are also present particularly at the tail lights which boast the most obvious link to the A3 family tree though they do make the rear look like its squinting from some angles. The interior also thankfully retains a strong link to the production TT and looks sharp at the same time which should please buyers looking for a healthy balance of luxury and performance themed fun.

Thankfully the production ready theme spared the engine bay, which allowed Audi engineers to go all out in their intent on delivering a unique performance experience. In this case, a tweaked variant of the familiar 2.0 liter EA88 turbocharged four cylinder found in the Volkswagen GTI (as well as the standard TT) provides the motivation for the TT Audi TT Sportback conceptSportback and is good for a solid 400 horsepower while its equally stout 332 lb-ft of torque allows the Sportback to make the sprint to 62 mph in a brisk 3.9 seconds. All of this power is harnessed by a seven speed S-tronic dual clutch automatic which funnels the ponies through a Quattro all-wheel drive system for optimum performance in all weather conditions.

Audi did not reveal whether it has given the green light to official Sportback production as of yet, but look for Audi representatives to gauge public input and reactions to the concept before making a formal decision on its fate. In the meantime check out more images of the Sportback concept below and stay tuned to Autoinfoquest for more information on the TT Sportback Concept as it becomes available.



Volkswagen Previews XL Sports Car Concept, Will Boast V-Twin Power

Following years of rumors and speculation that Volkswagen was pairing with motorcycle manufacturer (and fellow VW brand sibling) Ducati to produce a high performance variant of its fuel sipping XL1 green car, Volkswagen has at last produced the physical embodiment of this alliance the XL Sports car concept which will make its formal debut at the 2014 Paris Motor Show later this week and possibly hint at a production version of the slick speedster.

Based on the limited production XL1, the XL Sport concept shares much of that models styling language and incorporates many of the XL1’s slippery shape and aerodynamic enhancing techniques into its overall design. However the concept stands out by offering Die neue Volkswagen Studie XL Sportperformance features such as a rear spoiler, bigger performance tires with magnesium alloy rims, ceramic brakes, and additional cooling ducts to improve cooling. A key change that careful observers will notice is that Volkswagen engineers altered the XL’s body shape removing the tapered rear of the XL1, and bestowing a wider more uniform shape to the overall design which is also reminiscent of classic race cars.

The interior of the XL Sport also stays mostly true to its XL1 roots but it has been modified to reflect the sport oriented character of the concept. An example of this is the XL Sport’s new digital instrument cluster which now boasts a lap timer and an oil pressure display function (items neither found nor needed on the eco friendly XL1). A carbon fiber cowl Die neue Volkswagen Studie XL Sportalso extends across the instrument cluster and not only does it look sleek, but it also completely eliminates reflections from sun glare to further improve the driving experience. The minimalist shape of the XL1’s steering wheel also remains intact but decorative red stitching adds a dash of visual flair while incorporated aluminum-alloy shift paddles encourage drivers to fully interact with the transmission. The seats have also been reworked to be more supportive though they will be hard pressed to hold a candle to more dedicated thrones that are found in other performance cars.

While the fore-mentioned changes are awesome in their own unqiue ways, the calling card of the XL sport is its unique hardware which is where Ducati’s influence truly shines through. Power comes from the familiar two cylinder V-twin that see’s duty in the 1199 Superleggera motorcycle which is good for a healthy 197 horsepower, and is capable of launching the XL Sport to 62 mph in a brisk 5.8 seconds before reaching a final top speed Die neue Volkswagen Studie XL Sportof 168 mph. This top speed is very impressive for a vehicle making just under 200 horsepower and a key factor in this achievement was Volkswagen’s commitment to optimizing the XL Sport’s aerodynamic footprint. Despite having a slightly inferior 0.258 coefficent of drag (thanks to the wider tires and additional exterior bits) versus the standard XL1’s 0.189 rating, it is still enough to allow Volkswagen to claim the honor of creating the most aerodynamic sports car ever built.

All of this power is routed to the rear wheels through a seven speed dual clutch gearbox which should deliver smooth shifts while also accenting the high revving nature of the engine which is capable of reaching 11,000 rpm’s (an impressive feat). Handling has also been tweaked with a new pushrod rear suspension and pull rod actuated front dampers promising to reduce body roll and sharpen the car’s dance moves when out carving corners on the track or canyon roads.

While Volkswagen did reveal that it plans to build 250 XL1’s, it is unclear if any of the 250 units will be XL Sport models, or if they will be sold to the general public. Look for the answer to that question to slowly emerge as time rolls on, especially if public reaction and demand for the XL Sport is strong enough during its time on display in Paris to possibly warrant allotment in the production plans.


Study Reveals Most Ticketed Vehicle In U.S. WRX Nabs Top Spot

In a study released by earlier today, the most ticketed car’s in the U.S. were released with the Subaru WRX an iconic bargain performance favorite among younger buyers nabbing the top spot in this particular list for the highest percentage of traffic citations issued to young drivers by police officers in various municipalities.

So how high of a percentage did the Subie achieve? One out of every three drivers (roughly 33.6%) has reported receiving a traffic citation while behind the wheel of a WRX this is a high number though many of these citations could have been issued rightfully for acts of excessive speed and other reckless driving versus any form of profiling by police officers. The Pontiac GTO came in second place with 32.7% while the bottom three spots in the top five were rewarded to the Scion FR-S, 32.6% the Toyota Supra 30.8% and the lone surprise entry the Subaru Tribeca CUV (29.7%) a vehicle that was better known for its bland styling and copious passenger space than any form of raw speed or power. Rounding out the list were three more American cars the 7th place Mercury Topaz 28.8% The 15th ranked Pontiac G8 (a fave in the Autoinfoquest garage) at 27.7% and the Saturn Aura sedan taking 18th with 27.1%.

it’s important to note that four of the cars on this list are no longer manufactured with the Topaz making its last appearance in 1994, while the Mercury brand as a whole was shelved in 2011. Meanwhile GM axed both Pontiac and Saturn as part of its sweeping 2009 bankruptcy restructuring. However models from these dead brands are still prevalent out in the used car market with their significant depreciation producing bargain prices that are attractive to young drivers looking for a stylish or sporty car. The study also revealed the most ticketed brand overall with Scion taking this dubious honor thanks to many of its models reporting in numbers that were above 20% which may cause concern among parents looking for a good first car for their children.

Curious to see how your car fares on this list? Check out the link below which will allow you to see how your car measures up in the eyes of the law, and perhaps play a role in deciding your next vehicle purchase.