Monthly Archives: May 2015

Automakers Rush To Meet Surge In Demand For Performance Vehicles

With higher than expected demand pushing sales of performance vehicles and trucks through the roof in recent years, automakers around the world are scrambling to meet this new-found demand in a segment that suffered greatly as a result of the economic downturn as well as a spike in fuel prices.

This increased demand comes at a time when the government has passed a recent string of tightening emissions and fuel economy regulations to try and make vehicles greener and safer. However unlike the 1970’s where a spike in oil prices as well as the first wave of emissions regulations led to the downfall of the original muscle car segment, sales for this new crop of performance vehicles have surpassed expectations, and actually have also outpaced overall global growth, which is a stark change from the dark days of the 2009 economic downturn according to Dave Pericak, director of Ford Performance.

“Performance vehicle sales around the world continue to grow– with sales up 70 percent in the United States and 14 percent in Europe since 2009.” This pent up demand has led some automakers to make last minute changes to their long term production targets. For example, Dodge recently revealed that it was suspending new orders for both the Charger and Challenger Hellcat models so the company can have time to validate orders as well as address the massive backlog in units that it currently has in its holding lots. Furthermore at the New York Autoshow an event that traditionally tends to be a stronghold for formal luxury cars, automakers unveiled a number of new performance vehicles this year that appealed to virtually all segments including the McLaren 570S supercar, as well as the affordable but still potent Ford Focus RS hatchback.

This recent uptick in sales is not just due to the desire for the best 0 to 60 time or the race to be on the cover of a magazine first, but rather is attributed to how good performance vehicles are to a company’s bottom line according to statements from automakers as well as independent analysts. These vehicles offer very desirable profit margins, and draw in younger buyers that are willing to spend more money for the extra prestige and muscle that is associated with a performance vehicle. As a neat bonus this type of offering also has the additional effect of being a halo car that helps shine a spotlight on some of the more mainstream models in an automakers vehicle lineup.

In addition performance models especially those in the supercar segment like the fore-mentioned McLaren, can also serve as potent test beds for new technology and also as “passion projects” for engineers looking to challenge their skills and abilities. We look forward to seeing how long this trend lasts, and whether new models such as the recently unveiled Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford GT supercar can build upon this initial momentum.

2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang Pricing Revealed, Starts at $47,870

In a surprise leak yesterday, pricing information for the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang was revealed, and it appears ready to do battle with not only the Chevrolet Camaro and the Dodge Challenger but also the Z/28 Camaro when tuned to GT350R specifications.

According to a leaked pricing guide that was obtained by the folks over at Mustang6G.com, the base GT350 will begin at $47,870 which is on par with the Dodge Challenger Scat Pack model in terms of pricing though the slimmer Mustang will have an edge over the bigger Challenger when pushed through twisty road courses. Meanwhile the GT350R will have a base price of $61,370 which is roughly $10,000 less than the Z/28 and should make the two a compelling comparison both on the track and in the financial charts.

In addition, the unofficial pricing guide also reveals that the GT350 will only have a handful of option packages (the fore-mentioned GT350R being one of them) with a $7,500 Technology Package leading the charge while a $6,500 Track Package helps bring several track oriented upgrades to the car’s hardware. Meanwhile buyers that choose to buy the GT350R can add a few comfort features back to the car via the $3,000 Electronics Package, but these features do add unnecessary weight, so some degree of thought is recommended before choosing this particular package. Regardless of which GT350 variant is chosen, buyers can add a contrasting $695 black roof, Triple Yellow tri-coat paint ($475), and a $375 custom car cover to their purchase. Our sole bit of advice on this front is to avoid the unnecessary car cove,r and instead choose the contrasting black roof which looks especially awesome when paired with the Triple Yellow paint.

Performance for the GT350 will come from a naturally aspirated 5.2 liter V8 that uses all new “flat-plane technology” (the first time Ford has used this feature) to produce over 520 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. These two figures allow the engine to earn the distinction of being the most powerful naturally aspirated engine that the company has ever formally produced for the mass market. A six speed manual gearbox is the only gearbox choice available with no automatic transmission currently in the cards.

Look for the GT350 to thunder its way into Ford showrooms later this year but buyers interested in an “R” variant will have to act quickly since Ford only plans to build a mere 37 copies of the GT350R so expect competition for one of the 37 copies to be fierce with first come first serve being the law of the land.

Mazda Reveals Details On MX-5’s Novel Sound System, Features Headrest Mounted Speakers

With the fourth generation Miata promising to redirect its focus towards lightweight sports car fun, it is no surprise that even the sound system is getting in on the “better than eve”r act too. Mazda released the technical details regarding this unique sound system, and it promises to be quite a treat for audiophiles and enthusiasts alike.

Unlike the mediocre system that provided the tunes in the previous generation MX-5, this new Bose derived system was designed for a convertible, and was engineered to take on an acoustic environment that can drastically change when the roof is raised or lowered with ambient noise increasing or decreasing depending on roof position. Bose engineers tweaked the system to have two distinctively different equalizer settings one for when the roof was down, and the other for when the roof is fully raised. This made possible thanks to the company’s “AudioPilot” technology which monitors noise levels in the cabin, and can provide an additional level of active noise compensation to negate excessive amounts of wind and road noise.

While this particular technology has already made its appearance in several other automobiles over the past few years, Bose claims that in the case of the fourth generation Miata, a brand new type of speaker technology will play a big role in revolutionizing the 02_Bose+Sound+System+Parts_Mazda+MX-5audio experience. Known as the “UltraNearfield” system, this innovative hardware actually steals a page or two from the Pontiac Fiero’s acoustic playbook when it comes to its placement in the seat headrests. However unlike the Fiero and its 1980’s era standard speaker technology, Bose designed two-inch “nearfield” drivers that help allegedly improve audio performance when placed as a pair in each headrest.

Further enhancing sound quality is Bose’s “TrueSpace” technology that helps create a wider stage for sound despite the relatively short distance between the speakers and listeners. The audio giant claims that “the music envelops the driver and passenger, it’s spacious and natural, and remarkably, it doesn’t fade in the breeze.” In addition to the fore-mentioned headrest mounted speakers, the Miata also comes equipped with 6.5-inch drivers in each door, as well as a pair of high tech neodymium tweeters located in each A-pillar. Meanwhile low end bass frequencies are delivered by a 5.25-inch woofer assembly that is housed in a six liter enclosure that is built into the front passenger footwell. Rounding out the package is a seven channel amplifier that takes up real estate in the storage space for the convertible top.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro Sharpens Its Focus, Delivers More Power and Technology The Ever Before

While the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro may embody a look that is refreshingly familiar to loyalists and fans, don’t be fooled by the cover of this exciting book, because this latest chapter of the fabled pony car aims to blow the Mustang out of the water with new technology, more power, and a lighter curb weight which should please a wide range of enthusiast tastes.

A key piece of this new Camaro’s story is the radical weight loss that the model has experienced thanks to t2016 Chevrolet Camaro SShe meticulous efforts of Chevrolet’s engineers. The previous generation’s Zeta based architecture was certainly a welcome departure from the old, underutilized, and creaky F-Bodies of yore, but the platform also had the unfortunate distinction of making the Camaro heavier than before which blunted its handling abilities. The all new Alpha platform that underpins the 2016 version plays a major role in this crash diet thanks to its smaller dimensions as well as a more compact layout that aims to improve handling and overall packaging. A new body also helped shed 133 lbs of excess flab, while the rest of the weight culling was made possible thanks to extensive use of lightweight aluminium in the instrument panel frame as well as the suspension components.

The exterior styling of the 2016 Camaro also embodies this masterful blend of subtle familiarity, but a tauter appearance as well as revised proportion2016 Chevrolet Camaro RSs aim to highlight the Camaro’s newfound focus on handling and weight loss. The front fascia receives a new grille/headlamp aperture  that according to Chevrolet, is supposed to resemble the first generation Camaro. Looking at it ourselves, we do not see the resemblance, but we do appreciate the front fascias new headlights, as well as its revised lower front bumper. The roof line of the car has a fastback-esque appearance and the SS version even gets a small rear mounted spoiler. The rear fascia has also been heavily revamped and features all new tail lights that look better than before especially when compared to the awkward units that were on the previous generation Camaro.

The interior of the cabin also reaps big rewards for 2016, and boasts more technology and better ergonomics than before. The instrument panel for example retains some of its analog centric nature, but an all new 8 inch center screen works together with the fore-2016 Chevrolet Camaromentioned unit, and shows drivers performance, entertainment, and navigation information.  A second eight-inch screen in the center of the Instrument panel houses the company’s familiar Chevy MyLink infotainment system. Chevy designers also stole a page from the recently unveiled Audi TT and cleverly integrated the heating and cooling controls for the A/C unit into the vents themselves a nice touch that does help reduce button count on the instrument cluster. Occupants can also take advantage of an all new LED ambient lighting system (a trick that Ford has used) that can be set to 24 available colors. While a bit gimmicky IMO, it does allow buyers to distinctively tailor the car to their own mood or driving tastes.

Performance hardware for the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro is a direct nod to the Mustang, but unlike that car, the first two engine choices get swapped with the ATS derived 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder serving as the base engine (versus the 2.3 liter Ecoboost’s role as a mid range offering). It is good for a solid 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque with The all-new engine line up for Camaro features (left to right) tmuch of that torque available at 3,000 rpm. The engine also incorporates direct injection, variable valve timing, as well as aluminum in its construction with Chevrolet claiming that it can make the sprint to 60 mph in less than six seconds, and allows the base model to be the most fuel efficient Camaro ever produced. However, we think that the 2.0 liter will also allow the base car to go head to head with the Ecoboost in aftermarket flexibility and capability especially once tuners have had enough time to create upgrades for both engines that appeal to budget minded enthusiasts looking for more muscle.

A naturally aspirated 3.6 liter V6 serves as the mid range engine for the Camaro and brings 335 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque to the festivities. While this is commendable output that trumps both the Challenger and the Mustang, we expect this engine to only make up a small percentage of sales with the four cylinder and the V8 bringing in the majority of buyers. While we are on the subject of that V8, it also serves as the range topping (for now) engine offering that will only be found in the SS. Borrowed from the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the 6.2 liter LT1 it is capable of producing 455 horsepower, and an equally stout 455 lb-ft of torque which should mean improved 0 to 60 times over the old car and its V8 powerplant. The V8 may share much of its parts with the Vette, but Chevrolet claims that roughly 20 percent of the parts in this application are unique to the Camaro including the Camaro specific exhaust manifolds. The SS will also feature Magnetic Ride Control (a first for the model) which allows drivers to tweak the damper settings to enhance the car’s ride quality.

Regardless of which engine is chosen, all three can be had with either a standard six speed 2016 Chevrolet Camaromanual gearbox, or an optional eight speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Each engine also determines which type of automatic is used with the four cylinder and the V6 receiving the small engine tuned General Motors Hydra-Matic 8L45, while the SS receives the stouter 8L90 unit.

With all of this and more, look for the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro to command a bigger slice of the pony car segment when it arrives in dealer lots sometime in the near future. Stay tuned to Autoinfoquest for the latest developments on the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro as they become available.

 

 

 

Volkswagen Introduces Golf GTI Dark Shine Concept

Showcasing the high level of talent that exists within the company’s arsenal of young designers, Volkswagen has formally unveiled a new GTI based concept ahead of the company’s annual gathering in Worthersee Austria.

Built by 13 young apprentices in Wolfsburg Germany, the one-off GTI showcases the GTI’s ability to be customized by young buyers. Volkswagen claims that the apprentices were tasked with the challenge of Woerthersee 2015 Golf GTI Dark Shinedesigning a brand new concept car from the ground up withthe team only given a bare GTI body shell as a template. Completed in less than nine months, the Dark Shine stands out by featuring a slick two tone yellow and black paint job as well as Dark Shine exclusive black alloy wheels with yellow inserts, as well as a slightly tweaked body kit which appears to be more for aesthetic effect versus outright performance.

The interior of the Dark Shine embodies a performance inspired theme and features leather Recaro bucket seats, an Alcantara appointed multi-functiDB2015AL03454_largeon steering wheel with contrasting yellow trim, and yellow trim on the center console and the instrument panel. Audiophiles looking for a music experience that matches the Dark Shine’s performance styling will be pleased to hear that the apprentices have installed a powerful 3,500 watt sound system into the car which features a specially designed tablet that allows occupants to fully control the sound system via wireless signals.

Performance for the Dark Shine comes from a tweaked version of the GTI’s familiar 2.0 liter TSI four cylinder turbocharged engine which produces 388 horsepower in this particular Woerthersee 2015 Golf GTI Dark Shineapplication. This is roughly twice as much as a stock GTI, though it is still a bit shy of the 415 or so horsepower that will be wielded by the upcoming Golf R 400. The engine also produces an equally stout 359 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a heavily revamped version of the company’s tried and true six speed dual -clutch DSG gearbox. A hand-built exhaust system as well as a lightweight carbon fiber air box round out the package and allow the Dark Shine to be a fully rounded package.

The Dark Shine is just the latest GTI based concept car that the company has brought to the event and represents a tradition that has dated back to at least 2008. Like the other concepts that proceeded it, look for the Dark Shine to be a purely one-off affair with no plans for official production in its current form. However, the Dark Shine could possibly play an indirect role in inspiring a future design oriented trim package for the GTI that is catered towards younger buyers looking for a distinct styling statement.

 

 

Dodge Resurrects The Viper ACR, Reborn Serpent Aims To Take Bite Out Of Z06 Sales

The Dodge Viper ACR has returned to take on the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and also reestablish its role as one of the most venomous serpents in Dodge’s reptile house thanks to revised aerodynamics as well as more power from its potent 8.4 liter V10 engine which is always a winning combination in our book.

Even though the ACR does arrive with only 645 horsepower (a mere gain of five over the standard Viper) and also five less than the supercharged LT4 V8 in the Z06. We suspect the 2016 Dodge Viper ACRmain reason that Dodge did not extract any more ponies from the engine was not because of a lack of effort on their part, but rather due to folks within FCA that did not want the ACR to tread on the shoes of Ferrari and its arsenal of track weapons.

That said, while it may not make any headlines in the power department, Dodge engineers instead chose to max out the ACR in another key category 2016 Dodge Viper ACRand that’s its aerodynamic profile which should help it shine out on the track. The aggressive aerodynamic package included an adjustable twin element carbon fiber rear wing, carbon fiber diffuser, an extendable front splitter, as well as specially constructed dive planes. As a neat bonus the hood mounted louvers are also removable which should please weekend track warriors looking for even more aerodynamic efficiency. Dodge claims that the package as a whole generates nearly a ton of down-force when the car is pushed to its 177 mph top speed which is very impressive, and may allow the ACR to out handle the Z06 in certain driving situations.

The race tuned suspension of the ACR features coil-over Bilstein shocks that allow up to 10 different handling settings as well as up to three inches of overall height adjustment. Meaty Kumho Ecsta V720 tires were built specifically for this car and ring in at 355/30 for the rear and 295/25 up front with 19-inch wheels at all four corners. In addition, Dodge claims that the sticky tires and the revamped suspension hardware allow the car to pull an impressive 1.5 Gs in high speed turns (that’s in race car territory) while Carbon-ceramic brakes with six piston calipers deliver equally lofty levels of stopping performance when it comes time to bring the ACR to a halt.

As was the case with the last iteration of the ACR, Dodge engineers also made a commendable effort at reducing excess weight in a bid to improve acceleration and 2016 Dodge Viper ACRhandling. Unlike the old model though, some radical concessions were made with the stereo featuring only three speakers, (the only other system with less is the one speaker affair in the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28) fully manual seat adjustments, and a special “lightweight” alternative to carpet that takes more than a few pages from the McLaren P1 school of weight loss.

Along with this potent performance, Dodge is also offering its “1 of 1” customization program that allows buyers to not only obtain the fastest Viper that has ever been produced, but also allow them to celebrate this milestone in a special one of a mind vehicle that is distinctively yours.  Look for more formal details such as pricing and final specifications to be announced closer to its official launch, with the first production units arriving in dealer lots later this year. In the meantime you can check out our full image gallery as well as a brief video of the car in action which can be seen below.

 

 

Bentley Teases Bentayga Interior, Showcases Touch Sensitive Controls

Following a set of previous videos that the British luxury company had released late last year, Bentley has revealed a brand new video teaser which features our first compelling glimpses at the Bentayga’s interior as well as the technology that will define it as a ultra luxury offering including what could very well be the worlds first touch sensitive engine start/stop button.

While the upcoming Bentayga will keep its dictionary defying name, the interior does appear to reveal that the SUV will be a rolling technological showcase, and feature technologies that have yet to be seen on a Bentley product. As expected, the Bentayga will Bentayga 2follow the lead of many modern SUV’s and feature a terrain management system. The system in the Bentley may closely resemble the unit that sees duty in various Land Rover products especially with its dial operated method of selecting various modes. But, we expect the Bentayga to be more of an on-road warrior than those models with the big Bentley preferring groomed asphalt road surfaces versus Rubicon trail grade excursions into the wilderness.

In addition to this terrain management system, the video also reveals that the Bentayga will come equipped with a state of the art night vision system as well as a heads up display, and a high end stereo system that promises to bring plenty of speakers and amps to the Bentayga 3musical experience of the Bentayga. The night vision technology in particular stands out as our favorite of the three thanks to its high resolution, as well as its placement between the gauges in easy view of the driver.

Overall the basic design of the interior appears to be cleaner and more conventional versus the radical and adventurous cabin design that made its initial debut on the Bentley EXP 9 F concept car. The concept had a waterfall-esque themed center console, but the production Bentayga ditches it for a more conventional unit that also sees duty in other Bentley  products but still manages to look good as well.

Expect the Bentley Bentayga to make its formal debut later this year at the Frankfurt Auto Show with its official launch sometime after that. When it does arrive in Bentley showrooms, it will be joined by rivals such as the Aston Martin DBX, Lamborghini Urus, as well as Rolls Royce’s upcoming SUV entry in what is quickly becoming a new frontier for these ultra exclusive car only companies.  In the meantime you can check out the slick video below, and share your thoughts on the upcoming Bentayga.

 

 

 

 

2016 Chevrolet Volt Officially Priced, Gets $1,115 Reduction

With a slick new redesign and a reworked interior, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt aims to carry on the legacy and reputation that was first forged by its predecessor when it was unveiled in 2011. Buyers looking for a good deal will be pleased to hear that Chevrolet has lowered the entry fee for its eco-friendly offering in a bid to boost sales, as well as an attempt to steal stales from rivals such as the Kia Soul EV and the Ford Focus EV.

When the Volt arrives in dealer lots this fall, the car will have a new base price of $33,995 (including destination charges). This is not only a $1,115 discount when compared to the old model’s $35,110, but also allows the Volt to standout better against rivals from Toyota and Kia. The revised price gets even more compelling when you factor in the federal tax credits for hybrid/electric vehicles which can cut the price even further by up to $7,500. As a bonus, buyers in California can also take advantage of separate state incentives that lower the price to about  $24,995.

This latest price cut is the second time that General Motors has slashed Volt prices with the company already taking $5,000 off the car back in 2014. Unlike its predecessor which featured awkward styling and a gimmicky interior, the 2016 Volt was redesigned from the ground up and has new exterior styling that matches up with its overall proportions better while also allowing the car to look visually appealing and modern at the same time. The interior also received a makeover and now boasts better design and enhanced ergonomics.

GM also slashed the price on the Volt’s ultra luxurious cousin the ELR last month. However unlike the Volt, the $10,000 price reduction was enacted to try and improve the car’s bleak and dismal sales numbers with the brand only managing to move a miniscule 1,310 units last year. This was well off the predicted 2,200 sales a year forecast that Cadillac predicted and is especially troubling when one considers the ELR’s status as a halo model. The majority of the ELR’s issues can be attributed its initial MSRP of $75,000 which was criticized by dealers and automotive journalists due to the car sharing much of its drive-train and underpinnings with the previous generation Volt.

Peugeot Denies Rumors Of RCZ Succesor, Current Model To Be Axed

In a bid to put persistent rumors to rest regarding the status of the RCZ performance coupe, Peugeot executives revealed that a second generation RCZ coupe is not in the works, and that the current generation model will be axed as part of the company’s shift towards its core products in an effort to boost sales as a whole.

Peugeot CEO Maxime Picat revealed that while he loves the RCZ, it is time to shift the company’s direction stating “I love the RCZ but I want us to focus on making the best of our core models.” Picat elaborated further revealing that Peugeot could potentially be leaving the niche market for the foreseeable future claiming “Chasing niches is for premium brands; for us, it has been a distraction.”

The RCZ’s impending demise is a cog in Peugeot-Citroen’s bold plan of axing a grand total of 19 different nameplates by 2022 with the goal of streamlining its operations, while also improving the firms profitability at the same time. In the case of the RCZ, it was hailed as the most powerful car that Peuegot ever built  thanks to its 270 horsepower 1.6 liter turbocharged four cylinder, and while it has been somewhat of a success for the company, its place in the niche market as well as its status as a relatively low production model have put a strain on Peugeot’s day to day operations. The company has not revealed when it plans to formally send the RCZ to the automotive graveyard, but the coupe has shown some signs of aging since it thundered its way onto European roads back in 2009. An update in 2012 helped the RCZ still retain some of its unique charm but expect the company to drop the guillotine on the RCZ sometime in the next two to three years.

While the RCZ’s days on this planet may indeed be numbered, Peuegot is not necessarily abandoning the performance car segment outright. For instance the company’s “Peuegot Sport Division” is currently developing a spicier version of the 308 hatchback that is expected to go toe-to-toe with rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf R as well as the recently unveiled Ford Focus RS. While it is unknown what the new model will be formally called, look for it to go on sale later this year in Europe and China with more information expected to be unveiled closer to its official debut at a future auto show. It is rumored that much of its exterior styling will be inspired by the 308 R HYbrid that was unveiled in Shanghai with a tricked out turbocharged four cylinder producing 300 horsepower.

Toyota Prepares To End Plug-In Prius Production

With the next generation Toyota Prius currently under development, Toyota has announced plans to formally end production of the current generation Prius plug-in hybrid as part of its plans to formally introduce the next generation Toyota Prius which will also feature a plug-in hybrid variant.

Toyota claims that the last of the current batch of 2015 spec plug-ins will be produced sometime next month, before the plant is retooled to accommodate the equipment needed to facilitate production of the next generation Prius. While the plug-in variant of the Prius was often seen as the slowest selling example of the Prius lineup, it was a key contender in California, where it competed with rivals such as the Chevrolet Spark EV and the Fiat 500e in that state’s unique green vehicle market.

“We are hard at work developing the next generation Prius Plug-in Hybrid and we are looking forward to sharing more details with you as we approach our launch date” revealed Toyota marketing executive Nathan Kokes in a statement released to the PriusChat forum website.

The report appears to suggest that Toyota still has about 1,100 units sitting on dealer lots through out the country and that the company managed to sell 428 examples during the month of April which is down by about 75% when compared to the same period last year. These two figures could indicate that the current stockpile could be depleted by late summer or early fall.

Toyota has currently not released a formal launch date for either the 2015 base Prius or the plug-in hybrid version, and in a separate statement Kokes admitted that the official production plans are not aligned with either the launch of the Mirai or the availability of upcoming government incentives. “As mentioned we are stopping production in June but we will have plenty of Prius plug-in hybrids to sell long after that.”

When the new Prius does eventually get launched, look for the standard model to arrive first with the plug-in arriving later. It will be curious to see whether the existing supply of cars can last long enough to satiate the needs of dealerships and their customers since the next gen PHV will not arrive on the market until fall of 2016 which could push stockpiles to their limits in the long term.