Monthly Archives: August 2015

FCA Unveils Barracuda At Dealer Meeting, Promises New Jeep CUV Offerings

Following years of rampant rumors regarding the possibility of a Barracuda revival. Fiat Chrysler Automobile representatives have added new-found fuel to the fire and reportedly showed a Barracuda badged concept car to assembled dealers at the firm’s annual meeting in Las Vegas Nevada earlier this week.

The muscle car inspired concept car was allegedly sporting a Dodge badge, and was shown in convertible form according to a  report from Automotive News which claimed that the sinister looking Cuda was part of a sweeping field of new products that the company plans to unveil in the next two years. This new report goes against the statement that FCA Ralph Gilles released last year when he downplayed prior Barracuda rumors claiming that the idea “grew legs of its own,” and that a production version would have needed to be smaller than the Challenger which would have required a new platform and an equally costly investment to accommodate it. Gilles even claimed that the nameplate (which was tied to the defunct Plymouth brand) was not entitled to Dodge.

The concept appears to have resolved the platform issue, with some insiders claiming that it was built on the same platform as the recently unveiled Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan. It is currently unknown if the reborn icon would use the same engine lineup as the Alfa (a move that may offend hardcore fans) or if it would carry over some of the current V8s especially in higher performance oriented trims.

In addition to the Barracuda, dealers also had the opportunity to preview an all new Charger concept which follows the Barracuda’s lead in embracing a Giulia based RWD platform. The exterior styling would strongly resemble the sleek 1999 Dodge Charger Concept, and do a better job embodying what made the 60’s era Charger so popular with customers. These unveils come at a key time for the brand which has been struggling in the marketplace as of late with overall sales decreasing by 16 percent for the first seven months of 2015. The only exceptions have been the Dodge Challenger and the Dodge Dart with the Challenger experiencing a 38 percent in deliveries while Dart sales have also seen a slight increase in sales. In contrast, the Charger has been mostly flat and it is this particular figure that the updated version aims to correct.

FCA also allegedly promised that it will bring about 30 new or refreshed models to showrooms over the next two years and some of these models will include new CUV entries for the Jeep brand that aim to capitalize on the success of the Jeep Cherokee as well as its smaller brand mate the Jeep Renegade.

 

Automakers Join Forces To Stop Hacking Threat

In an effort to stop the threat of hackers taking over crucial vehicle functions, a new report has emerged revealing that several automakers are joining forces to try and combat the hacking problem, while also sharing information that can help protect consumers from the consequences of a vehicular hack attack.

According to a report published by Automotive News an Information Sharing and Analysis Center is being created thanks to the currently existing Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers. This all new entity would serve as a forum for sharing information regarding potential security vulnerabilities in both vehicles and the communications networks that they are all linked up to. The latter being especially important with the appearance of mobile Wi-Fi hotspots in some new vehicle offerings that can make buyers extremely vulnerable if not properly secured. Automakers would also be able to collaborate on solutions that can help them defend these systems better while also sharing information that can enhance their efforts even further.

This revelation comes amid several high profile hacking incidents in recent months where independent researchers have successfully gained control of vehicles via hacking. A noteworthy example was when researchers were able to use the Uconnect system in a Jeep Cherokee to gain control of the brakes, steering, and other systems over a long distance. This led to the recall of 1.4 million vehicles which was the first time that an automaker had to issue a recall due to the potential threat of hacking. A separate issue affected GM’s communications network, and it is feared that the same vulnerabilities are also found in smartphone-app derived technology that is currently being used by BMW, Mercedes Benz, and FCA.

“You’ve got to see the entire industry proactively dealing with these things” stated National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind in a recent interview regarding the Jeep Cherokee hacking revelation.

While vehicular hacking has thankfully not been exploited by criminals like other forms of social media hacking, the hidden potential for causing harm to occupants via hacking or gaining access to sensitive information is a prevalent issue and is one that many automakers should invest more research dollars into especially in an age where more and more vehicles are becoming connected to wireless communications technology.

Ford Mustang To Be Refreshed In 2018, Possibly Ressurect Mach 1 Moniker

The recently launched sixth generation Ford Mustang has only been on the market for about a year, but Ford is rumored to have made significant progress in the car’s first mid-cycle update which would possibly include the revival of the fabled Mach 1 moniker.

The tweaked muscle car would feature a reworked front fascia and a 10-speed (you heard that correctly) automatic transmission when it makes its appearance for the 2018 model year according to several unnamed sources in statements to Automotive News. The refresh would also reintroduce U.S. buyers to the Mach 1 (albeit in limited production form) which would be the first time that the Mach 1 has adorned a Mustang model since the 2004 “New Edge” era Mustang. Unlike that iteration, additional rumors appear to suggest that the Mach 1 would serve as the flagship of the Mustang range surpassing the GT350 in this role. However, further details regarding this potential model are murky, and curious followers will have to wait a while before more information is known.

In the meantime, buyers will still have plenty of distinctive special edition Mustang variants to choose from when they visit their local Ford dealer. The Shelby GT350 and GT350R are expected to arrive in dealer lots later this summer with both cars just recently beginning production while a new Pony package and the newest iteration of the GT exclusive California Special package were added to the order sheet for the 2016 model year.

Jeep Preparing Renegade Trackhawk Model??? Would Be Fastest In Segment

With the Jeep Renegade already benefiting from a strong marketing campaign as well as its popularity with younger entry level CUV buyers. It appears that the company is putting the final touches on a range topping performance version that would make the Renegade one of the best performance bargains in the segment if a recent rumor is proven accurate.

Known formally as the Jeep Renegade Trackhawk, the souped up compact crossover (a first for Jeep) would be a powered by an all new twin turbocharged version of FCA’s familiar 2.4 liter Tigershark four cylinder engine. The potent four cylinder is expected to send at least 300 horsepower to all four wheels but it is currently unknown what transmission will be equipped, we suspect that an equally tweaked version of its nine speed dual clutch automatic will most likely be the sole transmission choice available though it is too early to tell if FCA will consider adding a manual gearbox to its list of equipment or not.

The extra horsepower would also be complimented by other performance spec goodies including upgraded brakes, a full body-kit, and a stiffer sport tuned suspension that would sacrifice some of the Renegade’s off-road prowess in lieu of sharper handling on paved roads. With all of these upgrades, this TrackHawk version of the Renegade will easily be the fastest and most aggressive CUV in its pint sized segment if it is indeed officially confirmed.

The information in question was published by an inside source on a relatively new forum called JeepTrackHawkForums. If the insider’s information is indeed proven to be accurate, the Renegade Trackhawk would make its appearance in showrooms before the 2018 model year which would mean that its official auto show debut is still less than a year away. When the new model does eventually make its debut, look for the Renegade to formally kickoff the Trackhawk model family which would also be highlighted by another rumored model the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. That particular model is expected to be a limited edition release and feature the same 707 horsepower supercharged 6.2 liter V8 that currently sees duty in the Challenger and Charger Hellcat.

Aston Martin Confirms DBX, Electric Rapide Models

In an announcement released earlier this week, Aston Martin revealed that it will officially build an all electric version of the Rapide four door sedan as well as the DBX crossover in a bid to drastically improve its fuel economy figures amid newer emissions laws taking effect in China and the U.S. while also serving as Aston’s first ever salvo into the EV market.

Andy Palmer CEO of Aston Martin confirmed that an all electric Rapide was in the works during the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Prior to this confirmation, the British company first hinted at the possibility of a zero emissions Rapide back in April and this confirmation serves as a key step in the model’s gestation process. When it eventually arrives sometime in 2017, the EV Rapide will help the company comply with stricter fuel economy regulations while still allowing the iconic British luxury car maker to use its tried and true V8 and V12 power-plants in its other models. The appearance of this Rapide variant also coincides with Palmer’s vision of an EV sedan that would be seated above the Tesla Model S sedan in terms of luxury and price.

Speaking of Tesla, Palmer also used Pebble Beach as an opportunity to take a swipe at the California based EV maker in regards to its recently unveiled “Ludicrous Mode” for the Model S claiming “We don’t do Ludicrous because Ludicrous speed is stupid.” Palmer didn’t stop there, and later elaborated further revealing “I think that the fact you could drive a few laps of a decent race course, or race it around the Nordschleife is much more interesting than doing 500 meters in Ludicrous Mode.”

Aston Martin plans to sell a few hundred examples of the electric super sedan per year, and while no official pricing information was released, Plamer did appear to hint that initial pricing would be somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000. For those that are curious, the standard Rapide begins at $205,000 while the range topping Model S is slightly cheaper at $142,000. Palmer also revealed that the new EV would have roughly 800 horsepower, four wheel drive (another first for Aston Martin,) and a 200 mile driving range.

Lastly, Palmer also revealed that the company would be building a production version of the DBX crossover utility vehicle. First shown to the world as a concept at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, the DBX will make the jump to production towards the end of the decade and be initially available as a plug-in hybrid only with gas and pure electric versions arriving dbx-concept_01shortly afterwards. The DBX will also launch in a four door layout, but it is reported that a two door “coupe” version is also being considered for production. The DBX is expected to not only join the EV Rapide in its quest for cleaner emissions, but also give Aston Martin an entry in the untapped premium SUV segment where it will fight with rivals such as Bentley, Lamborghini, and Rolls Royce for a slice of the SUV sales pie especially in Russia and China.

Lotus Unveils Exige S 360 Cup

The Lotus Exige V6 Cup has always been one of our favorite Lotus models here at the Autoinfoquest offices, and for those that want even more track slaying performance. Lotus has unveiled the elixir for those select few  with the debut of the Lotus Exige S 360 Cup.

As it name suggests, the V6 Cup’s standard 3.5 liter Toyota cribbed V6 has been tweaked to produce 360 PS (355 horsepower) which is a 10 horse increase over the 345 horsepower 20150814131842-ed3f89e0wielded by the standard V6 Cup. Lotus claims that the extra muscle comes from revisions to both the air intake and the racing inspired exhaust system which not only frees up airflow, but also helps produce a “sportier soundtrack” as well.

In addition to the extra horsepower, Lotus engineers also revamped the cars suspension to help it achieve even higher levels of grip and high speed stability which are both important factors when pushing the 360 Cup through spirited track work. The 360 Cup features Ohlins racing spec dampers as well as a fully adjustable roll bar that should please weekend track warriors while supportive and optional FIA carbon fiber seats help keep occupants firmly in place.

The exterior styling of the 360 Cup retains many of the standard V6 Cup’s exterior styling 20150814131854-de504fbebut stands out by offering a lighter front access panel, rear tailgate, and a louvered panel that helps trim curb weight to a trim 2,491 lbs. The front splitter and rear wing are carried over from the standard V6 Cup, and help bring 93 lbs of additional down force when speeds reach 100 mph.

The interior also retains its basic V6 Cup roots, but buyers can opt for a bright red Alcantara interior scheme as well as air conditioning and other track focused equipment. Lotus plans to only build 50 examples of the 360 Cup with each copy featuring a base MSRP of £62,995 ($98,000) it is unclear if the 360 Cup will be sold outside of Europe but don’t expect it to arrive in the U.S. anytime soon due to our country’s stricter emission and safety regulations.

 

Honda Considers S660 For U.S. Market

With Honda’s performance lineup currently in neutral (minus the Civic Si) it appears that Honda is considering the introduction of the S660 convertible to the U.S. market in a bid to jump start the brand’s performance image in this country.

Currently it is only for sale in Japan and is a part of the popular kei car segment in that country. The tiny roadster is powered by a 660cc three-cylinder turbocharged engine that is good for 63 horsepower and 77 lb-ft of torque. While these figures don’t necessarily make the S660 the fastest car in the world, it is very impressive for a vehicle that is much more compact than the majority of its droptop competition.

“We’re looking at it intently for North America” revealed Honda’s U.S. Executive VP John Mendel. “We want some spice in the lineup.”

Mendle did not elaborate further on his remarks, but look for the possible U.S. variant to feature a larger 1.0 liter four cylinder engine that would be capable of up to 127 horsepower. The model could also receive a name change, and be known tentatively as the the S1000 to allow it to channel its slot below the more capable S2000. The larger engine would also force the car to grow bigger slightly with the car being six inches longer and eight inches wider than its Japanese counterpart. The 1,800 curb weight would also increase slightly due to equipment and revisions needed to comply with stricter U.S. safety regulations, but the bigger engine and the additional length would allow the car to still boast a better power to weight ratio than the current S660.

Look for more information to gradually emerge on the future of this proposed model over the next few years, but any Honda that would be a serious contender for the iconic Mazda Miata has us intrigued and we look forward to possibly seeing it in the flesh at a future auto show.

Model S

Tesla Considering Entry Into Ride Sharing Business With Autonomous Vehicles?

In an unusual move, it appears that Tesla is mulling its entry into the ride sharing business with a fleet of autonomous vehicles which would go head to head with established contenders such as Lyft and Uber.

This surprising insight emerged during Tesla’s Q2 earnings conference earlier this week when it was brought up by a representative from Morgan Stanley during a Q&A session. The representative mentioned recent statement s by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick about the company having interest in purchasing every single example of the 500,000 autonomous cars Tesla plans to build by the year 2020. and asked whether Tesla would “cut out the middle man and sell on-demand electric mobility services directly from the company on its own platform.”

Musk’s response (after a four second long silence) was “That is an insightful question,” “I don’t think I should answer it.” While Musk’s answer did not directly reveal whether Tesla is embarking on such a venture or not. The fact that she chose to not answer it could indicate that Musk has already indirectly revealed that such a program is indeed in the works and that the company is considering the risks of entering the ride-sharing marketplace.

Tesla’s entry into the ride-sharing arena (if it is indeed confirmed) would be the first time that an auto company has formally entered this particular segment though the company would also have to factor in some of the risks that come with operating an Uber competitive service especially with regards to accidents involving drivers, the costs of maintaining the vehicle fleet, as well as the challenges of getting the service approved in states that have opposed previous Tesla initiatives in the past.

Bentley Bentayga Displays Off-Road Prowess In New Video Teaser

Following on the heels of a recent teaser video showcasing the technological side of the Bentley Bentayga, the British luxury car maker has now showcased the upcoming SUV’s ability to tackle the beaten path, revealing new footage of the Bentayga going through its paces on a off-road course in Northern Spain.

While it is highly unlikely that the majority of Bentayga owners will take their posh rides over anything beyond a hilly mall parking lot, this new video as well as the company’s prior round of cold weather testing does appear to show that the company is aiming to make the Bentayga into a formidable entry that can back up its lofty price tag while also targeting higher end Range Rovers at the same time. It could also be an advantage over Rolls Royce’s upcoming entry, the still unnamed “Project Cullinan” which may eschew some traditional SUV traits in lieu of delivering more comfort and on road civility.

Performance for the Bentayga is expected to come from a turbocharged version of the company’s familiar 6.0 liter W12 engine, but a smaller V8 variant as well as hybrid models could make their respective appearances in the near future as slightly more fuel efficient alternatives to the thirsty but potent 12 cylinder. The Bentayga is expected to eventually arrive in Bentley showrooms sometime next year, with a base price of roughly $200,000.

The Bentayga also represents a new frontier for Bentley and many of its bespoke rivals with the Bentayga fighting for a piece of a relatively untouched segment that will also feature SUV entries from Lamborghini, Aston Martin, and Rolls Royce. That said the Bentayga will have to fight hard to stand out amongst well heeled buyers, while also serving as a symbol of what the future holds for Bentley and the bespoke SUV market as a whole.