Monthly Archives: June 2015

Alfa Romeo Previews Giulia Sport Sedan, Has BMW 3-Series In Its Crosshairs

Confirming earlier leaks, Alfa Romeo has pulled the veil off of its sleek Giulia sedan a key model that could make or break Alfa Romeo’s fortunes in the U.S. while also allowing the brand to finally have a legitimate contender to the BMW 3-Series.

The exterior styling of the Giulia features a distinctive design that utilizes key retro oriented cues, while also emphasizing short over hangs, taut compact proportions, and the classic long hood and short rear deck layout. This bold suit of clothes not only makes it150624_Alfa_Romeo_Giulia_HP2 look more menacing than the 3-Series, but also allows it to surpass other rivals such as the recently unveiled Jaguar XE as well as the updated Mercedes Benz C-Class.

The Giulia also introduces an all new rear-wheel-drive oriented platform with the engine as well as other components arraigned between the axles to achieve true 50/50 weight distribution (a rare feat in automobiles especially sedans). The Giulia’s wheelbase is also purported to be the longest in its segment which does wonders for overall comfort as well as vehicular stability. While the Giula will arrive with standard rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive is available as an option though expect that option to be only found on base to mid-level models.

In addition, electronically-actuated adaptive dampers refine the driving dynamics even further which is especially important when the  car is pushed out on the track. Handling was also dialed in with an all new double wishbone front suspension design that teams up with an FCA developed semi-virtual steering axis which is supposed to help maintain a perfect caster trail in corners though some driving time with the Giulia is needed to find out150624_Alfa_Romeo_Giulia_HP3 if it does indeed succeed in achieving this or not. Other innovations include an all new double-clutch torque-vectoring system that manages to deliver all of the power to each wheel without the interference of the electronic stability control, as well as being the first FCA offering to come equipped with a specially designed Integrated Brake  System that blends the electronic stability control with a traditional servo brake unit for quicker responses as well as “world record stopping distances” though that too will have to wait until formal drives are performed.

Alfa Romeo did not shed any light on what exactly would be powering the lesser versions of the Giulia, but that did not stop them from boldly revealing the M3 slaying hardware that lurks underneath the hood of the Quadrifoglio edition. The flagship of the Giulia lineup will boast a “Ferrari inspired turbocharged V6 that’s capable of producing 510 horsepower. Not only does this figure completely trump the rival M3 by 73 horsepower, but it is also allows it to beat other rivals such as the C63 AMG. Extensive applications of carbon fiber help keep the Giulia’s weight down and allows the euro-spec version to achieve 6.6 lbs per horsepower which roughly translates to a 3,400 lb curb weight.  FCA claims that the Giulia Quadrifoglio can make the sprint to 62 mph in a brisk 3.9 seconds (faster than the M3) and will incorporate a front splitter to help improve cornering grip and down-force at high speeds.

Additional details regarding the Giulia are still unknown, but expect FCA to reveal formal launch dates, interior photos, and final pricing in the near future possibly at an upcoming auto show.




Aston Martin Unveils 2015 DB9 GT

With the DB9’s eventual successor currently undergoing testing, the iconic British sportscar maker has slowly begun to draw the curtain on the current generation DB9. However before it leaves for greener pastures, the company has unveiled the full potential of its two seat grand tourer with the all new DB9 GT.

While the exterior styling of the DB9 GT remains virtually unchanged from its standard sibling, a black painted front splitter and rear diffuser help it standout, while revised head and tail light treatments give it a refined apperance when driven at night. Model exclusive ten-spoke DB9 GT 3alloy wheels, a GT emblazoned gas cap,  and unique brake calipers round out the package and serve as the proverbial cherry on top in terms of the overall exterior aesthetic tweaks. As expected from an Aston Martin product, buyers can also choose from a vast range of customization options including leather options, center console finishes, as well as door inserts.

Buyers wondering whether the GT package is merely for show will be pleased to hear that the performance hardware has also been tweaked and revised for GT duty. While the 5.9 liter naturally aspirated V-12 is largely carried over from the standard DB9, revised tuning as well as minor changes to select components have allowed output to slightly increase with DB9 GT 4the engine now producing 540 horsepower (a gain of 30) with the torque rating remaining unchanged at a still stout 457 lb-ft of torque. All of this muscle is channeled through the carryover six speed Touchtronic II transmission, which allows the elegant two door to make the sprint to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, and reach a final top speed of 183 mph.

The interior has also been upgraded for this particular model, and for the first time ever incorporates the company’s AMi II infotainment system. A vast improvement over the dated Volvo derived system currently used, it features a heavily revised menu structure DB9 GT 5that allegedly makes it more tech friendly than before while also allowing the system to finally be on par with rivals from Rolls Royce, Bentley, and even Maserati. The interior also doesn’t cut corners on luxury, and features an Alcantara covered steering wheel, as well as fluted leather seats.

The DB9 GT is available for order now, but unlike the value oriented GT Vantage, the DB9 version will feature a $199,950 MSRP that would put it in the middle of the DB9 pricing ladder. In addition to this new GT, two other Aston products (the Rapide and V8 Vantage) will also receive the AMi system for 2015 which is especially good news for the Vantage as it seeks to still remain a viable contender against a new wave of sports car competition.


Morgan Unveils 3-Wheeler EV-3 Prototype Ahead Of Goodwood Debut

When we last visited and subsequently reviewed the Morgan 3-Wheeler,  we praised the spirited nature of its V-Twin engine as well as its retro inspired looks. Morgan is always looking to push the boundaries of its hot selling trike even further, and has unveiled the all new EV-3 concept ahead of its official debut at the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

While it is currently a one-off prototype at this point, Morgan does plan on putting the tiny EV into production by the end of 2016 and this move would allow the bespoke British car maker to take advantage of the growing trend of electrification. Morgan is currently keeping the full Morgan EV-3 3specifications of the EV-3 a secret, but look for the EV-3 to be an even better performer than its internal combustion sibling.  The potent electric motor is expected to make 101 horsepower (versus the current 82 ponies wielded by the 2.0 liter V-Twin) and would also boast a driving range of 150 miles. As a neat bonus, the new motor will also help cut weight with the EV-3 tipping the scales at a featherweight 992 lbs versus the gasoline variant’s 1,157 lb curb weight.

An idea that has been under development by Morgan since last year, the company claims that the EV-3 is still a prototype and that development is ongoing which means that some figures could very well change when the production version is released. The one item that will certainly not change too much is its exterior styling which loses some of the charm created by the V-Twin hanging up front, but otherwise retains the familiar beetle back Morgan EV-3 2profile that we have come to love and adore here at the Autoinfoquest office. In addition to it standard look, Morgan also released images of the EV-3 boasting vintage salt flat racer inspired styling which features revised front wheels as well as a more aerodynamically friendly body.

Look for the EV-3 to make its official debut at the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed later this month, where it will share the spotlight with the recently unveiled Aero 8 convertible.

Bentley Unveils Flying Spur Beluga Specification

While the Flying Spur’s large size and odd styling may evoke references to a whale when it is compared to the fore-mentioned large sea creature, Bentley designers went all out to improve its exterior styling, and have unveiled the all-new and ironically named Beluga Specification for the Flying Spur.

Currently available for the V8 version of the Spur only, the package was designed to incorporate a suite of upgrades that were designed to make the ultra luxury sedan look “more athletic” and visually appealing. A distinctive set of 20-inch wheels and a gloss black adorned front grille round out the exterior tweaks while the interior receives equally subtle tweaks and gains new knurled shift paddles, piano black veneer, contrast stitching, and higher quality carpets (just in case the already plush standard upholstery doesn’t cut it somehow.) Buyers looking to add even more exclusivity to their Beluga spec purchase can combine it with the desirable Mulliner Driving Specification package and get 21-inch wheels as well as several other interior upgrades.

It is currently unknown if the top tier W12 variant will receive the Beluga treatment or not, but we suspect that this will most likely be a V8 exclusive and serve as a unique alternative to the standard styling theme. While it will take more than subtle upgrades to make the Flying Spur truly shed its elegantly mismatched styling cues, we look forward to seeing what else Bentley has in store for the Flying Spur especially when it receives its mid-cycle refresh in the near future. A new front fascia with tweaked headlight elements will most likely be seen as well as some light revisions to the interior with both mirroring what first debuted in the recently updated Continental coupe.



Shelby American Unveils 750 Horsepower Super Snake Mustang

Following the smashing success of the 707 horsepower Hellcat Charger and Challenger (which recently forced FCA to suspend ordering for the muscle bound duo) Shelby American has unveiled the first true competitor to the Hellcat. The 2015 Shelby Super Snake a car that aims to dethrone the Hellcat in outright power, while also answering the call of hardcore Mustang loyalists looking for more power and exclusivity in a familiar package.

Based on the stock Ford Mustang GT, the Super Snake was developed with key input from Ford’s Performance division, and their influence is clearly noticed in many aspects of its design. The resurrected king of all serpents gets its grunt from a highly modified version of Ford’s familiar 5.0 liter modular V8 which benefits from a massive supercharger that helps Shelby Super Snake 2vault overall output to a mind blowing 750 horsepower when it is equipped to its most powerful configuration. The tweaked V8 is hooked up to a standard issue six speed manual gearbox, but for the first time in the model’s history, buyers can opt for an optional six speed automatic that will be available at extra cost. While it is two cogs short of the Hellcat’s eight speed, we are curious to see if it can fully cope with all this power, and whether it can avoid the transmission issues that have cropped up in some Hellcat models.

While exact performance numbers have not been released, Shelby promises that all of this muscle is balanced out by a revamped suspension system that promises to allow the Super Snake to be more than a mere drag strip blasting missile, while a Borla exhaust SHelby Super Snake 3delivers the rumble happy soundtrack that we have come to expect from a Shelby badged offering. Meaty six piston brake calipers help bring the car to a smooth and steady stop, while 20-inch alloy wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sport Cup tires help keep the coupe pointed in the right direction at all times even under full acceleration.

The exterior styling of the Super Snake retains much of the basic futuristic theme that defines the standard issue Mustang, but builds upon it by incorporating a lightweight carbon fiber hood, a built in air scoop, and a bigger rear spoiler. The interior in comparison is more subtly tweaked, and features model exclusive emblems, new seat upholstery, and a performance oriented three gauge instrument cluster.

Shelby will be only building 300 examples of the Super Snake this year in its Las Vegas Nevada based facility with each one starting at $49,995 before the cost of the donor Mustang GT is Shelby Super Snake 6factored in along with taxes and fees. Curiously, Shelby American did not reveal official pricing for the flagship Super Snake variants but we expect those to have a base MSRP north of $60,000 when they eventually get produced.





Donkervoort Showcases D8 GTO 1000 Miglia

In a unique move, Donkervoort the tiny Dutch supercar company known for its track oriented back to basics D8 GTO coupe showcased the model’s more comfort oriented side with the unveiling of the limited edition D8 GTO 1000 Miglia.

Unlike the track oriented standard model, the 1000 Miglia variant was designed to be more of a long distance comfort oriented touring car with Donkervoort claiming that it is capable of driving across Europe and back in reasonable comfort. While no interior photos were released as of this writing, Donkervoort revealed that the 1000 Miglia will feature a D8 GTo 1000 Miglia threecompletely redesigned dashboard that features traditional analog gauges, and also come equipped with a wide range of standard amenities including a touch screen navigation system, and a charging port for phones and other mobile devices. In addition, the car is also expected to offered quilted leather racing seats, as well as a slightly reworked steering wheel with both elements peeking out when the car is viewed from select angles.

Performance for the 1000 Miglia variant does not differ that radically from the standard D8, but it does ride slightly higher than its track oriented sibling due to comfort oriented adjustable shock absorbers which sacrifice some handling capability in exchange for better long distance comfort. The car is also heavier than before due to some of the carbon fiber being swapped out for more sound deadening material as well as the extra weight of the fore-mentioned amenities. Thankfully the familiar Audi sourced 2.5 liter TSFID8 GTO 1000 Miglia four five-cylinder engine still provides the car with plenty of muscle albeit in a slightly tamer setup with the motor only capable of achieving a still commendable 310 horsepower (a drop of 30 horses versus the standard model.) Rounding out the edition specific tweaks are a host of model exclusive emblems and decals that help give the car a unique yet retro inspired appearance.

Buyers interested in buying a 1000 Miglia Edition for their garage will have to act quickly. Donkervoort is only building 25 examples with each one featuring a base MSRP of €115,000 ($130,000 in U.S. dollars) before taxes and various optional extras are formally factored in. The slick two seater will be sold in its Netherlands home market as well as a handful of other European nations, but like many of Donkervoorts other models, don’t expect it to make the trip across the Atlantic to our shores due to it not being able to comply with our government’s stricter safety and emissions laws.


Porsche Nabs 1-2 Spots at Le Mans, Audi Finishes Third

Porsche has taken the checkered flag at the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans setting a new record for most wins at the iconic race track and ending Audi’s five year dominance of the enduro event.

Porsche had plenty of confidence entering into the race with the Stuttgart firm actually turning their lead entry in a red and white hued tribute to the first Porsche Le Mans winning car the 1970 917 KH. However when all was said and done, it was the No. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid driven by Nico Hulkenberg, Earl Bamber, and Eric Tandy that crossed the line first with the fore-mentioned retro inspired throwback finishing second followed by an Audi R18 e-tron quattro in third place.

The Toyota TS040 Hybrid was another promising entry but an early collision would shatter the teams hopes for victory due to the lengthy repairs that had to be done to their entry. Despite this though,  they managed a small comeback, and clinched sixth and eight place in the final hours of the race. Lastly Nissan’s trifecta of GT-R LM NISMO Prototypes stole the Nissan NISMO LM GT-Rheadlines in the days leading up to the event, but when it came time for them to actually prove their chops out on the race track two of them were forced to retire early due to mechanical glitches with the third sustaining serious damage from debris that was on the Mulsanne straight. However the third car still managed to finish in 40th place with team representatives claiming that the car still managed to succeed in its first real time challenge and also did quite well for its first high profile outing on the famed race circuit.

Mazda Aims To Make Next-Gen SkyActiv Engines Match Hybrid Fuel Economy

With the company’s SkyActiv line of engines gradually making their way into more models, Mazda has formally unveiled plans as well as goals for next generation of SkyActiv technology which will be mated with Toyota’s hybrid technology in the near future.

According to a report obtained by members of the Japanese press, the second generation of SkyActiv technology will arrive in production cars at the start of 2018. This is two years earlier than initially speculated and could be a sign that the company is pushing the project forward to try and capitalize on the increased demand for higher fuel economy and performance. Hitomi Misuo a lead developer on the project claims that the new engines would deliver a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy versus the current generation SkyActiv system. What this means is that the engine will be able to deliver fuel economy that is on par with conventional hybrid engines, but without the complex engineering and higher development costs that are associated with a hybrid power-plant an alleged goal of Misuo’s.

There are many ways of reaching this ambitious goal, but one way that the company intends to accomplish this is through the use of homogenous charge compression ignition or HCCI. This process uses extreme high pressure to squeeze the fuel air mixture causing it to ignite without the need for a formal spark-plug assembly. However a key flaw with this approach is that it generates higher levels of heat and as a result, the process cannot be sustained across the wide range of engine speeds that are encountered by many passenger cars. It is rumored that Mazda engineers are currently working on eliminating these issues, and it is hoped that the final production version will feature technology that will allow it to sustain the process at all engine speeds. Despite these key flaws, there are some positive traits to this setup. For instance, this method of compression uses less fuel versus a traditional engine and it also produces cleaner emissions as well. The latter item is very important since it will allow the new engines to comply with stricter European 2025 emissions standards.


In addition to these efforts, a separate set of plans calls for the new engines to be mated with Toyota’s hybrid technology. This unique paring is the result of a deal that was recently signed between the two companies, and is a strong sign of the firm partnership that now exists between Toyota and Mazda, and also allows both companies to have an edge over their respective rivals when it comes to fuel economy and hybrid technology.

Audi Reveals Limited Production S3 For U.S. Market

With the Audi S3 proving to be a popular performance bargain for Audi buyers, Audi has revealed a special treat for the U.S. market with an all new limited production model that will be capped at a mere 25 units but unlike other limited specials, it will arrive with an intriguing twist.

The twist comes in how each of the units will be allocated, with five units built for each of the five colors that will be available for buyers to choose from (which adds up to 25). According to the folks at Fourtitude, the limited edition model will be based off of the S3 Prestige package which is typically an $8,000 option on the base S3. This package brings2015-Audi-S3-Audi-exclusive-11 goodies such as the Audi Connect touchscreen infotainment system, a 15 speaker Bang & Olufsen 15-speaker 705-watt sound system, as well as a whole suite of driver assistance and safety technology to the S3 experience. In addition, the car will also receive the equally pricey Fine Nappa Leather Package that slathers the gearshift, sport seats, and steering wheel with buttery soft quilted Nappa leather and even throws in the Performance Package’s 19-inch wheels as a figurative cherry on top. Performance hardware is unchanged from lesser S3s with the familiar 292 horsepower 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder still providing the awesome soundtrack and world class performance behavior that buyers have come to expect.

The visual calling card of this special edition is its five available exterior colors, and while two of them (Sepang Blue and Misaro Red) are available on lesser S3s. The remaining three hues (Viper Green, Glut Orange, and Vegas Yellow) are exclusive to this special edition model, and do remind us of life-sized Skittles candy when viewed in person. 2015-Audi-S3-Audi-exclusive-10The color that is chosen also affects the pricing, with models in Sepang Blue and Misaro Red starting at $57,250 while the remaining three have a slightly higher base price of $59,900. It is currently unknown how Audi plans to make these cars available, or how they will be distributed within the dealer network. But we suspect that more information on those details will emerge closer to the model’s formal debut which will most likely take place at a future auto show.

Mercedes Introduces Europe Only Edition Sprinter, Celebrates 20 Years Of Sprinter Production

With the Sprinter’s 20th anniversary now upon us, Mercedes Benz has formally unveiled a Europe only special edition that formally commemorates this important milestone.

Officially known as the Edition Sprinter ( perhaps one of the most uninspired monikers in recent memory) this unique Sprinter will arrive in European showrooms exclusively as either a fully paneled van, or a passenger oriented crew bus. Both body styles are only available in Brilliant Silver Metallic, and feature body colored bumpers which is the firstEdition Sprinter front time that such a feature has been offered in the Sprinter’s history, and is a notable departure from the chrome bumpers that are typically found in other Sprinter variants. Other model exclusive exterior cues include blacked out tail lights, a chrome radiator grille, and black 16-inch alloy wheels with “Edition Sprinter” badging rounding out the look. Buyers looking to add a dash of elegance to their purchase can also equip optional 17-inch alloy wheels though they will have to pay an extra fee for those bigger hoops.

The Edition Sprinter’s interior updates (if such a thing applies for this model) are relatively minor, and do not radically change the cabin’s function over substance design theme. While much of the ergonomic layout and basic design language remain firmly intact,  model Edition Sprinter interiorspecific floor mats are part of the package and feature Edition Sprinter logos, while the crewbus takes things a slight step further, and incorporates a leather wrapped four spoke steering wheel, as well as dark tinted rear windows.

Performance for the Edition Sprinter comes from a whole suite of engines with the Edition Sprinter being available in virtually all engine and power train configurations. It is currently unknown if the highly desirable four-wheel drive system will be part of the package, but chances are good that it will indeed make the jump into this variant too. Production will be limited to a mere 2,000 examples when the model goes on sale in a few weeks, but Mercedes claims that the €2,300 premium (roughly equivalent to $2,500) translates to a 50 percent saving in overall price when it is compared side by side with a comparably equipped regular Sprinter van.

Currently Mercedes does not have any plans to offer the Edition Sprinter here in the United States, but it will be available for purchase in 19 different countries in Europe including Sweden, Spain, Hungary, Germany, and France.