Monthly Archives: November 2014

Lexus To Debut New Performance Model In Detroit

In a compelling twist, a Lexus executive has revealed that the luxury brand will debut an all new performance model early next year at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The company does plan on unveiling two new models at the prestigious event and while full details regarding both models are still unclear, Lexus general manager Jeff Bracken promises that it will not be a $30,000 entry level model  which would be a clear barb at German rivals BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz who have entry level models in their lineups (the 2 Series, A3, and CLA respectively.) However we question the timing of this indirect snub, since Lexus is under pressure to regain some of the market share that it has gradually lost to its two key rivals BMW and Mercedes Benz which caused the Japanese company to slip into third place in 2013, and also ended a decade long stint as the leader of the luxury automobile market.

Lexus’s downfall can be attributed to its comfort over performance strategy, as well as the unveiling of sub $30,000 entry level models by its German rivals. For instance, Mercedes Benz has seen its sales significantly increase ever since it introduced the $29,900 CLA sedan which has so far done an excellent job capturing the youth market. However, Bracken claims that instead of embracing this strategy, Lexus can compete to reach the same demographic, but without lowering the price of admission nor downgradin the prestige of the brand.

“You will not see Lexus go down below $30,000 the executive claimed at a recent event where he was quoted by The Detroit Free Press. “For Lexus to be truly luxury the division needs to keep ourselves above $30,000”.

Instead the company will reach out to younger buyers by reinventing the driving dynamics of its product lineup, as well as providing slick state of the art exterior styling to keep itself visually fresh. For example the Spindle Grille has been a design element that has received heaps of praise by younger buyers despite some hesitance from older buyers that would have preferred a more conservative suit of clothes.

While year to date sales projections for 2014 will most likely see Mercedes Benz emerge in first, BMW in second, and Lexus down in third. Despite this, the Japanese luxury brand is slowly catching up to second place BMW, but more will need to be done if it aims to knock off Mercedes from its lofty 1st place perch.

 

LA Auto Show: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V

While it is a fact that the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V made its unofficial debut on the internet ahead of its official debut at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show (thanks to an errant leak), the old saying “good things come to those who wait” certainly paid off in spades with the official unveiling of the newest V and what a beast it is.

The exterior styling (which looked great in base ATS guise) was honed and styled into a functionally beautiful masterpiece for the V Series version with the larger grille openings helping to channel cold air into the twin turbocharged V6 while the carbon fiber air extractor on the hood helps cool things down even more. The wider front and rear fender2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedans accommodate beefier 18 inch wheels shod in sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. The wheels are also staggered with the front ones measuring in at 9 .0 inches wide and the rear wheels ringing in at a slightly bigger 9.5 inches.

The interior of the ATS-V is a balanced mixture of luxury and performance with the seats featuring suede inserts that help grip drivers firmly in place during spirited driving, while the built in 16 way power adjust-ability of the supportive thrones allows the car to accommodate a wide ranger of drivers both big and small. Annoyingly, Cadillac’s 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedanfrustrating CUE system is standard issue which may disappoint some buyers that might not like using it especially those looking to see if it could finally emerge as a successful I-Drive fighter.

However the main story here is the ATS-V’s performance hardware, and befitting its role as GM’s M3/M4 fighter its no surprise that Cadillac engineers went all out with the overall package. A 3.6 liter twin turbocharged V6 (borrowed from the CTS Vsport) now makes 455 horsepower and an equally stout 445 lb-ft of torque, The horsepower figure is 30 more than the BMW M3/M4, and allows the 3,700 lb ATS-V to blitz its way to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds before reaching a top speed of 185 mph. Buyers will have a choice of either a six speed manual gearbox that features Active Rev Matching and No Lift Shift capability, or an optional eight speed automatic with both transmissions featuring a built in launch control mode. Overall these changes represent GM’s most serious attempt yet at toppling the M3 from its lofty benchmark position and we are curious to see if the ATS-V does indeed accomplish that feat.

In addition to its potent muscle, the ATS-V can also shimmy its way down a race track thanks to a thoroughly revised front and rear suspension that is hooked up to Cadillac’s third generation Magnetic Ride Control damper system and when paired with a 25 percent stiffer chassis (achieved by more bracing) it all promises to tighten up cornering behavior 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedanwhile also sharply reducing body roll at the same time. Braking has also been improved with beefy Brembo brakes (six piston calipers up front, four pistons in the rear) providing the stopping power needed to bring rapid deceleration and smooth stops from a wide variety of speeds. As a neat Bonus Cadillac engineers also equipped the car with GM’s Performance Traction Management system that allows drivers to tailor the car to their tastes via five different settings for the stability and traction control system.

Look for the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V to go on sale next spring with pricing expected to be on par with rivals such as the BMW M4/M3 as well as the V8 equipped Mercedes C63 AMG. In addition to the competitive pricing ladder, Cadillac will also give buyers the ability to make their purchase distinct from other V models thanks to two available option packages. The Carbon Fiber pack brings a different front splitter, rear diffuser, revised hood trim, rocker extensions, and a larger rear spoiler to improve down force. Meanwhile our favorite option “The Track pack” adds the Corvette’s Performance Data Recorder to the CUE system while also trimming a few pounds from the car thanks to the use of a lighter battery as well as the deletion of the floor mats and tire inflator to shed even more ounces.

 

 

LA Preview: Ford Showcases 2015 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang [Video]

With the 2015 Ford Mustang renewing the eternal rivalry between itself and the Chevrolet Camaro, it is only fitting that Ford chose the sunny locale of Los Angeles to debut its Z/28 killing brute the 2015 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang. A resurrection of an icon of the 60’s muscle car wars, this modern take on the classic aims to match the Z/28 punch for punch with its own host of upgrades and styling flair.

The exterior styling of the GT350 has been tweaked for race duty and includes a reworked aero package that includes a reworked front fascia and integrated splitter, functional rear diffuser, ducted belly pan, and a decklid spoiler. Strategically placed vents on the hood The All-new Shelby GT350 Mustangside fenders in grille not only look cool, but also do just that improving cooling for the brakes and the potent 5.2 liter naturally aspirated V8 under the hood.

The interior of the GT350 is also crafted for race work and features standard Recaro sport seats, a unique model exclusive gauge cluster, and a flat bottomed steering wheel for maximum grip and style which makes up for the Mustang being fashionably late when it comes to adopting that particular feature. In addition to the fore-mentioned items, Ford engineers also removed all the chrome trim from this car which not only reduces unwanted sun glare, but the omission also eliminates what would’ve been gaudy elements in the already slick design of the cabin.

Performance hardware has also been radically redone but unlike the old GT500 which wielded a massive 6.2 liter supercharged V8, the GT350 comes equipped with a lighter naturally aspirated 5.2 liter V8 that shaves weight but also makes more power at the same time. While Ford did not reveal how many ponies are exactly in the GT350’s stable, the company did reveal that it is capable of producing more than 500 horse power as well as 400 lb-ft of torque which would outgun the 505 horsepower LS7 in the Z/28 though not quite match the Challenger SRT8 Hellcat and its mind blowing 707 horsepower. All of this power is funneled to the rear wheels through a lightened six speed manual gearbox which will be the sole transmission choice available for GT350 buyers. As a neat bonus this model will be the first time ford has ever installed a flat-plane crankshaft into one of its V8’s. the new type of crank helps imorve performance as well as overall engine efficency versus the setup found in its key rival the Z/28.

Unlike the porky Hellcat though, the GT350 is also capable of hustling its way around corners as The All-new Shelby GT350 Mustangwell thanks to a lowered suspension, 19 inch wheels shod with super sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, and Ford’s first ever adaptive damping system known as the “ManeRide” system. This system is the first in its segment as well as on a Ford product which should give it an edge against the Z/28 and its non dampered setup. “Everything we changed on GT350 is purely functional-driven design, with the goal of improving the overall performance of the car,” said Chris Svensson, Ford design director, The Americas. “We optimized the aero shape of the car, and then fine-tuned what was left to increase downforce and cooling airflow.” All bodywork from the windshield forward is unique to this high-performance model and up to two inches lower than Mustang GT.

Ford did not reveal when the GT350 will be avalible to buyers, nor how much they would have to pay for the privilege of parking one of these thoroughbreds in their garage, but look for more information regarding these two items to slowly emerge over the next few weeks. In the meantime Ford released a brief video of the GT350 in action which can be seen below.

Takata Changes Air Bag Propellant Mixture, Denies Defect In Previous Mixture

Amid the swirling controversy that is surrounding the massive airbag recall that has affected over 10 million vehicles,  a recent report from Takata appears to reveal that the Japanese firm has switched the compound mixture for its airbag propellant, while simultaneously denying that the switch has anything to do with the ongoing recall.

While the Japanese supplier did not reveal what exactly was changed or the exact purpose for why it even took place in the first place, a look at the ingredients does reveal that one particularly controversial ingredient (ammonium nitrate) is still used in the composition of the propellant in question. This has us scratching our heads as to what was exactly altered since the mixture as a whole was proven to be susceptible to degradation when exposed to moisture not only during the manufacturing process,  but also after installation into a vehicle. For its part, Takata representatives claim that the mixture is perfectly safe, and released a statement to Reuters explaining the alleged reason for the change in mixture stating “There has not been any finding that ammonium nitrate or the earlier composition was flawed in anyway. We changed the composition in an effort to improve quality”.

The choice of using this compound (common in explosives and agriculture grade fertilizer) is quite puzzling since other airbag manufacturers have switched to using different propellant mixtures, mainly those that are consisted of guandine nitrate which has the same characteristics but without the vulnerability to moisture that is exhibited by the ammonium nitrate infused compound.

In addition to this mixture change, the company is also under fire from several of its former employees who accuse executives of orchestrating and pushing through a coverup to hide results of the 2004 internal tests which allegedly served as the first red flag of a problem with the air bag inflator versus reporting the findings of their tests to either affected auto makers or the federal government. In addition, the company’s leadership is coming under increasing pressure from critics for their failure to publicly address the recall, as well as building the necessary replacement parts to fix the millions of recalled vehicles currently out on the road.  The pressure was recently turned up a notch yesterday when it was revealed that Takata executives would be the key focus of a U.S. Congress hearing into the matter. Expect the hearing to mirror the one that was endured by General Motors CEO Mary Barra with pointed questions that aim to gather more information surrounding various aspects of the recall and what the company did or did not do to address it.

Ford Teases Upcoming Performance Model Ahead Of LA Autoshow Debut

With the 2014 Los Angeles Motor Show only a few weeks away, Ford has released a new teaser video (the first of five) that not only showcases the company’s long history in various forms of racing, but also several compelling images that appear to tease the arrival of a new performance oriented model from the Blue Oval.

The video itself is mainly focused on comments from Ford executives on Ford Performance in general, as well as various glimpses of Ford’s racing history on and off the road over the past several decades including its recent successes in WRC rally competition. However, a few brief teaser angles scattered throughout the video do stand out from the rest of the video’s content, and feature an Alcantara steering wheel, sticky tires, aluminum pedals, slick wheels, and a honeycomb style grille which should interest enthusiasts greatly. In addition a “Powered by Ford” engine also makes an appearance with the low rumble of an engine (that sounds like a V8 to us) and a date of November 17th 2014 (just in time for the L.A. Auto Show) rounding out the festivities.

While it is currently unknown exactly what Ford plans to reveal on that , this teaser video does coincide with several rumors and sightings of a decidedly more hardcore looking Mustang that could possibly adopt the GT350 moniker when it eventually makes its official debut. It is unknown what will be powering this all new variant, though reports have suggested that an upgraded 5.2 liter naturally aspirated V8 could provide the muscle for this track oriented Mustang while a revised suspension setup should help reduce body roll and allow the car to be better at carving up corners and track times. As mentioned earlier, the video is the first piece in a five part video series meaning that additional hints regarding the identity of this new performance model could be revealed in future videos before the mystery model makes its official debut November 17th in Los Angeles.  In the meantime you can check out the video for yourselves below, and tell us what you think will be unveiled on November 17th.

 

 

Three Wheeler Emerges As Morgan’s Best Selling Model, Electric Version Under Consideration

When the Three Wheeler was first reintroduced three years ago by Morgan (ending a six decade long slumber), the company initially planned to only make 400 to 500 of the trike roadsters as part of a limited edition run. However it soon became apparent that the Three Wheeler was quickly becoming its most popular model thanks to its featherweight platform, back to basics approach, and its retro inspired styling which proved to be a compelling formula for success as well as why we raved about it when Autoinfoquest had the rare opportunity to take one for a spin awhile back.

The company these days makes 500 trikes a year which equates to around 1,400 units total since its reintroduction in 2011. While this may be considered paltry for a more mass market oriented car company, in Morgan’s case it represents about 50% of all the vehicles that the small British car company makes eclipsing the figures for its four wheeled offerings such as the 4/4, Aero 8, and Plus 8 (an impressive feat indeed.) In fact according to the folks at The Telegraph, demand for the three wheeled dynamo has been so high, that Morgan’s small factory in Worcestershire can barely keep up with customers being placed on a several month waiting list. To follow up on this unexpected success, Morgan is even debating the possibility of an electric version of the Three Wheeler into production. While the idea of an electric Three Wheeler is exciting to us, it will not be the first thime the company has previewed a greener future for its models with the company displaying an electric Plus E concept car at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, while also showcasing both fuel cells and hybrid technology in another concept the Lifecar five years prior.

We at Autinfoquest look forward to seeing the Three Wheeler continue its path of success as well as the addition of an electric version to improve the model’s green footprint further. In addition we also look forward to having one of our own in the Autoinfoquest garage someday.