Monthly Archives: February 2016

Final Round Of DB11 Pictures Leak Onto The Internet

The 2017 Aston Martin DB11 is supposed to make its official debut at the Geneva Motor Show. However with the multiple image leaks that have occurred, Aston’s plans for a smooth launch have been effectively derailed which is good news for eager automotive enthusiasts looking to get an early glimpse at one of the most important models that Aston Martin has ever produced.

Unlike other image leaks, these images appear to have originated from a factory set of photos, and provide the clearest look yet at the Aston-Martin-DB11_CS3futuristic styling that will define Aston Martin’s long term revival strategy. The images were obtained by the folks from Carscoops via an undisclosed source on the internet. The clearer images help provide a better look at the side profile of the car, and it appears to retain some of the clean lines and basic styling elements that helped make the DB9 look so stylish. The rear fascia also shares some inspiration with the ultra limited production CC100 Concept which can easily be seen in the aggressively refined tail lamp elements. This is clearly a step up over the old DB9, and we are curious to see how the styling measures up against rivals especially from Ferrari, Lamborghini, and even Bentley.

Detailed images of the interior were not among those leaked, but look for the opulently equipped cabin to fully embrace the company’s recent connection with Mercedes Benz especially with the design of Aston-Martin-DB11_CS5the instrument cluster, center console, as well as some of its electronic goodies.  The DB11’s performance hardware is also expected to infuse its own bits of Benz technology with a pair of twin-turbochargers breathing new life into the iconic V12 engine. Look for the automatic transmission to also be updated, and perhaps finally embrace the dual-clutch technology that has become an accepted requirement of modern day supercars versus the occasional herky jerky sensations that define the current six speed TouchTronic 2 transmission.



Aston Martin Teases DB11 Ahead Of Geneva Debut

With the debut of the DB11 coming ever closer, Aston Martin has released an all new teaser video that provides a captivating glimpse at the next chapter in the iconic DB series of cars, while also paying homage to prior generations of the DB.

The teaser video does not reveal too much information, but it does show that the exterior styling of the car matches up with recent leaks as well as separate sightings by spy photographers. In short, the sheet metal will be all new, but it will still be recognizable as an Aston Martin product. In addition it will also share much of its inspiration with the DB10 movie car which made its first appearance in Spectre. 

Along with the slicker suit of clothes, the DB11 will also herald the launch of an all new platform architecture that will be stronger and lighter than the versatile but aging VH platform that underpins the bulk of Aston’s current lineup. When it eventually makes it way to dealer showrooms, the DB11 will also debut a new version of its iconic V12 engine. While its 5.2 liter size is slightly smaller than the older 5.9 liter 12-cylinder that it replaces, all new twin-turbochargers help maximize power output, with the new engine capable of producing at least 600 horsepower. After the V12 model has a chance to get acclimated in the marketplace, a second DB11 variant will arrive with a Mercedes-AMG sourced 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8 that should help open the car up to younger buyers while also increasing fuel efficiency at the same time.

As far as transmission offerings are concerned, Aston Martin has not released any extensive information on that. However, look for an automatic offering to be retained that could debut a replacement for the smooth but equally aging Touchtronic 2 transmission. A manual option could also make an appearance for buyers that prefer to shift themselves. This intrigues us since not only Ferrari and Lamborghini have abandoned the idea of offering the option of a stick, but also in terms of long term viability since manual equipped DB9’s accounted for less than 2 percent of all DB9 sales before being discontinued midway through the car’s production run.


Volvo Unveils 2017 V40 Hatchback

Following up on an announcement released late last week, Volvo has unveiled the updated 2017 V40 hatchback ahead of its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The transition to 2017 brings a mild nip and tuck to the V40 which is just fine since it is currently the best selling model Volvo has in Europe and the second most popular model globally. The extent of the changes takes place up front, where the V40 and its Cross Country spec sibling receive the company’s “Thor’s Hammer” style LED lighting elements.

Volvo V40 T4 Momentum Studio 3/4 Rear

While not quite as dramatic as the applications for the V90, S90, and XC90, it still brings a touch of refinement to the humble five door, and looks just as good during night driving as its bigger stablemates.

Volvo claims that UK spec V40s will arrive with the LED accents as standard equipment, while other markets will have them as an option. Along with the facelift, Volvo has also given the V40 several new exterior colors and rim choices for the new model year. The interior has also been tweaked and in addition to new aluminum trim elements, Volvo buyers can also choose an all new “City Weave” upholstery choice for the seats.  Performance specifications were not released by the company, but it appears that Volvo engineers did not make any significant mechanical changes to the V40 which means the hatchback City Weave upholsterywill continue to soldier on with a suite of diesel or gasoline four cylinder engines ranging from 120 horsepower to 245 horsepower. Most of the engines are offered with either a manual or automatic transmission, but the rugged Cross Country will be the only V40 variant that will arrive with all-wheel drive as standard equipment.

Look for the face-lifted Volvo V40 to go on sale across Europe as well as markets such as China in the coming months. Currently, the V40 will not be sold in the United States, but new reports appear to suggest that the next generation V40 is being designed with the U.S. market in mind, and it could very well make its debut by the end of the decade. In the meantime Volvo has released a brief video of the V40 in action which can be seen below.


Pagani Unveils Huayra BC Model

Following the release of a shadowy teaser image late last year,  Pagani has formally unveiled the Huayara BC ahead of its official debut at the 2016 Geneva Auto Show Next Month.

This hardcore version of the Huyara was named after the company’s first Benny Caiola, and it is said that the BC shares the bulk of its inspiration with both the track focused Zonda BC 4R and its  barely road legal cousin The Zonda Cinque. Unlike those two, the BC packs much more punch than the standard Huayra, and brings extensive upgrades and revisions to nearly all of its components.

The headline upgrade is nestled under the hood of the BC where Pagani engineers have shoe horned a modified 6.0 liter bi-turbo V12 engine from AMG which promises to deliver over 750 horsepower to the rear wheels. Final output figures were not released, but look for the engine to surpass the standard models 738BC 7 lb-ft of torque. All of this power is delivered to the rear wheels through an all new seven speed sequential gearbox that incorporates an electro-hydraulic actuation system and carbon fiber synchronizers. Pagani claims that the new transmission and active differential components are 40 percent lighter than the dual-clutch drivetrain that sees duty in the standard Huyara.

An extensive diet also highlights the BC transformation with the suspension and the brakes receiving lighter components to help cleave nearly 380 lbs of flab from the car. The end result is a Huyara that now weighs in at 2,865 lbs a substantial difference from the nearly 3,000 lb weight that defines the standard Huyara. Driver’s should notice the benefits when they plant their right foot to the floor with the BC making the sprint to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds before topping out at 230 mph. The BC can also corner at an impressive 2 G when outfitted with formal track tires.

The exterior styling of the BC stands out thanks to its more aggressive lines, a new front bumper and splitter, larger air diffuser, and a prominent rear wing. Pagani revealed that virtually all of the body components are BC 1

exclusive to the BC, and that the only part shared with the standard car is the roof panel. The interior has also been prepped for track work and in addition to boasting all new seats, the shifter for the transmission also sheds some of its exterior covering which allows occupants to see the inner workings in action when shifting gears, a cool touch that you don’t see very often in other supercar entries.

Buyers looking to add the BC to their collection of automobiles will have to act quickly, Pagani is only building 20 examples and each one will feature a base price of $2.7 million.


Maserati Unveils Levante Luxury SUV

Maserati has always been known for being an automaker that not only has an extensive heritage in motorsports racing, but also a company that has always strived to make each of their road cars a rolling work of art. However in a timeline filled with gorgeous sedans and equally seductive coupes, the Italian firm is preparing to embark on a new path, the creation of its first ever luxury SUV.

Known formally as the Levante, the sleek SUV is expected to go head to head with offerings such as the Porsche Cayenne, Land Rover’s Range Rover model family, as well as the recently unveiled Bentley Bentayga. The elegant exterior styling is a welcome mixture of Quattroporte and Ghibli Levante 1traits, with a dash of off road ruggedness thrown in for good measure. The Levante also embraces some of the curvaceous styling elements that have become a hallmark of recent Maserati models which should allow the Levante to standout when viewed alongside its competitors.

Maserati claims that the Levante will arrive in Europe with both diesel and petrol powerplants for buyers to choose from. However, it is currently unknown what will exactly be under the hood of U.S. bound units though we suspect that it will most likely be a gasoline only affair during the initial U.S. launch before possibly adding a hybrid or diesel option to the model family later on. The company revealed that the model will be assembled in Turin, with the first units already making their way down the production lines.

The rest of its performance specifications are being kept under wraps, but Maserati did confirm that the Levante will come equipped with an eight speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The latter does not 56c7862ee419asurprise us since the Levante’s platform does borrow select traits from the trail rated Jeep Grand Cherokee, and would allow the Levante to live up to its claims of serious off road ability.

When the Levante does eventually makes its way to dealer lots, it will face formidable competition from Bentley, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, and Lamborghini who have all added SUV’s to their traditionally car exclusive lineups in a bid to take advantage of untapped revenue streams, as well as the renewed surge in the demand for SUVs due to free falling oil and gas prices.


Volvo Unveils 2017 V90 Wagon

Following several ill timed leaks that made their way to the internet, Volvo has formally unveiled the 2017 V90 wagon which proves that Volvo is still committed to the estate segment.

Designed to replace the creaky and dated V70 that is currently sold in Europe, the V90 retains much of the slick front styling that made its debut

on the S90 sedan. This is fine with us, since we were big fans of the reworked front fascia especially its Thor’s Hammer style LED lighting elements. Beyond the B-Pillar however, the rear fascia is radically different thanks to a longer roofline, a rakish D-pillar, and big hockey stick style tailights. These new lighting elements are inspired by the units that made their initial debut on the Concept Estate and help make the V90 one of the sleekest wagons that Volvo has ever produced.

Like its sedan sibling, the V90 also benefits from an all new interior that is more upscale and modern than before. It all starts with acres of strategically placed leather trim as well as Volvo’s tablet like Sensus touchscreen infotainment system in the center console. The Swedish Volvo V90 Driver Displaycompany also upped the ante by incorporating better build materials in the design, and the end result is an interior that can hold five passengers and their gear in excellent comfort. The V90 also benefits from new technology including Apple CarPlay and Volvo’s suite of semi autonomous driving technology.

Underneath this stylish set of clothes, the V90 is mechanically identical to the S90 sedan and the XC90 crossover, and is built on the same Scalable Product Architecture as those two models. The V90 is expected to initially launch with a 2.0 liter twin charged engine that uses both a turbocharger and a supercharger to produce 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. An eight speed automatic transmission is the sole choice available with all-wheel drive standard. Buyers in Europe will have the option of ordering a 2.0 liter four cylinder turbodiesel.

Eventually a fuel sipping gasoline electric plug-in hybrid model will join the lineup and come equipped with the fore-mentioned 2.0 liter four cylinder engine, a 60 horsepower electric motor, and a smaller motor sandwiched Volvo V90 Location 3/4 Rearbetween the engine and the transmission. Known internally as the Twin Engine system, the drivetrain combo will produce 410 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque which is quite potent for a fuel efficient vehicle. In addition to its impressive amounts of performance, the system also allows the V90 to drive on pure electricity alone for 20 miles a trait that is handy for city driving.

Look for the Volvo V90 to make its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March with Volvo executives hinting that the V90 and its more rugged cousin the V90 Cross Country could make their way across the pond to U.S. showrooms in the near future. In the meantime, the company has released a brief video of the V90 in action which can be seen below.




Techrules To Unveil 1,030 Horsepower Hybrid Supercar

Hybrid vehicles have come in all shapes and variants over the past few years, but Beijing based automotive R&D company Techrules is preparing to showcase its revolutionary turbine powered hybrid supercar at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show.

Known officially as the Turbine-Recharging Electric Vehicle (TREV) the unique vehicle allegedly uses a turbine powered range extending generator to help charge the batteries. While it is currently unknown if such a setup is viable in the long term scheme of things, the mysterious company claims that the TREV is capable of producing 1,030 horsepower, and a driving range of roughly 1,240 miles. While these claims will indeed raise a few skeptical eyebrows, this is actually not the first time that turbines have been considered for potential use as an alternative power source.

In the past General Motors, Toyota and Chrysler have all toyed around with the idea of a turbine powered automobile. Chrysler’s effort known as the Turbine Car was the most notable of these early efforts, and it culminated with a limited production run that saw the car loaned out to early adopters before all of them were rounded up and crushed (except for a couple that escaped.) However, all three of these early models used the turbine to help power the rear wheels, which proved to be a failure since the turbines immense throttle lag and low efficiency at low rpm speeds proved to be formidable handicaps. However the setup employed by Techrules does seem promising since the turbine would bring running at optimal speed versus past setups.

Turbines have made their most noticeable mark in non automotive applications with British startup company Bladon Jets recently unveiling turbine based generators for telecommunications equipment. Bladon claims the new generators will not only be more powerful and efficient than diesel or gas based units, but also arrive in a smaller yet more power dense package.

Bladon was also the firm that developed the turbine technology for Jaguar’s stillborn CX-75 Concept. The futuristic supercar used two micro turbines to help charge a battery pack that sent the resulting electricity to four electric motors. The powertrain was capable of producing 780 horsepower and a potent 1,180 lb-ft of torque.

As for the mysterious TREV  concept, look for Techrules to announce more details closer to its official debut at Geneva. We look forward to seeing its exterior styling, and whether it embraces more conventional cues or goes in a more futuristic direction.

Morgan Announces Production EV3 For Geneva

When Morgan unveiled the original EV3 concept at last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, it received rave reviews and feedback from both attendees and the media (myself included.) The English sports car company also promised that more was in store, and have teased the next chapter of the EV3 Concept ahead of its debut at the Geneva Motor Show.

Known internally as the EV3 Phase 2, this concept still retains the electric motor that first made its debut on the original concept. Good for 75 horsepower and 95 lb-ft of torque, the potent motor can send the 1,000 lb EV3 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, while also allowing the trike to have a 150 mile driving range between charges. The exterior styling however has reportedly been tweaked for this concept. Whereas the original EV3 looked roughly like a conventional 3-Wheeler without the trademark flat twin engine, the production version will be very diffrent.

This came to light in an interview with the British publication Autocar, where Morgan revealed that the Phase 2 will showcase styling elements that are inspired oddly enough, by the Delorean DMC-12 that starred in all three Back To The Future movies. Morgan also released a lone teaser image of the concept, but it does a good job hiding key details so we’ll have to wait until the car’s debut in March to see what Morgan is up to.

As stated earlier, the EV3 Phase 2 is closer to production than the original but is still very experimental. Despite this, Morgan has already sold 10 Phase 2 models to buyers in England and Holland to gauge how well the electrified trike performs in the real world. Feedback from these early adopters will help Morgan design and refine the final version which could reach production in about 3 years.



Mirai front fascia

First Look 2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan

When Toyota first unveiled the Mirai concept car, it had big plans and equally lofty ambitions for its fuel cell sedan. Styled to look like nothing else on the road and engineered to deliver maximum fuel economy the Mirai certainly has the potential to meet its goals. But does it fall short? to find out I visited the Chicago Auto Show’s “Concept Car Garage” event  and went behind the wheel to see whether it could live up to the hype and achieve its goal of delivering green driving fun.

The exterior styling of the Mirai is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand its not that attractive thanks to its function over form approach to exterior styling, and some of its strange styling elements. On the other hand it is a bold styling exercise that does do a good job of making the Mirai look very futuristic. As stated earlier, the Mirai embraces a function over form theme with each part playing an important role. The big front air intakes for example Mirai 1help channel air into the fuel cells though they do generate a rather long front overhang which can make the car look unbalanced from some angles. The rear fascia helps maximize aerodynamics and is reminiscent of the current generation Toyota Prius. Toyota claims that the side profile is reminiscent of the air to water reaction that takes place in the fuel cells. While I’m still pondering whether it indeed achieves that effect or not, I do like the 17-inch light weight alloy wheels which help improve fuel economy.

The interior of the Mirai is a bit on the plain side, but it still packs several innovations that makes it stands out. The seats for example are produced by a clever “form in place” method where the seat cover is place in a mold which is then injected with urethane foam that helps produce both an ideal location, and comfort. During my time in the Mirai, I Mirai interiornoticed that seat comfort was quite good with decent amounts of support, though I wish they could’ve had more lower back support. The dashboard of the Mirai features a 4.2 inch high definition TFT LCD that resides just below the drivers eye line. This slick display showcases a wide range of information including vehicle speed as well as a separate multi-function display that can show navigation information, audio and navigation settings, as well as a hybrid system display.

Below this is a piano black center console that houses the touch sensitive air conditioning controls. The controls are surprisingly easy to use with our favorite feature being the groove that denotes the temperature sliders. Other controls however also reveal some of the ergonomic flaws that exist in the Mirai. For example, the tiny transmission lever (borrowedMirai dashboard from the Prius) can be a bit finicky to use, and sometimes takes a bit of effort to get into drive. Some of the build quality also does not quite match the precision that you would expect from a car that is close to $60,000, but its focus on innovation and technology helps make up for these quirks to a degree.

Driving the Mirai is a unique experience, and is on par with some of the other fuel cell powered vehicles that I have driven in the past. While the event did feature a 10 mph speed limit, the Mirai was undeterred by this, and still delivered a decent driving experience. Power comes from a 153 horsepower electric motor which wields 247 lb-ft of torque and allows the Mirai to deliver an impressive amount of acceleration. The steering feel is predictably numb, but it still does allow the Mirai to have an impressive amount of response and control. The biggest limitation of the Mirai however is not its average performance numbers, but rather the lack of a stable national hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Currently California is the only state in the country with such a capability boasting about 20 or so fueling stations. This relative lack of fueling facilities is the chief reason why the Mirai is only sold in California with other states missing out on Mirai sales.

At the end of the day the biggest question here is whether the Mirai is a solid long term value. With a base MSRP approaching $60,000, it puts the Mirai in a price point that is usually reserved for luxury vehicles and performance oriented vehicles. However, they Mirai backseatcannot match the whisper quiet ride and the fuel savings that serve as the Mirai’s strong suits. Unlike conventional electric vehicles, the Mirai’s running costs are about the same as that of a conventional electric car, which eliminates the ability to recoup the higher costs over time.

Despite this, the Mirai still has a unique level of appeal, and caters to a segment of the market that craves a vehicle that is cutting edge, while still delivering the exceptional fuel economy that makes it stand out in the green car segment. It will be several decades before the rest of the world makes the switch from fossil fuels to renewable fuel sources, but the Mirai does provide a compelling glimpse into this future, and could serve as a figurative first step towards the realization of this goal.

First Look: 2017 Bentley Bentayga

The recent resurgence of SUV sales the past few years has caused many automakers to rethink their long term sales plans. FCA recently announced that its doubling down on pickup trucks and SUVs (killing the slow selling 200 and Dart small cars in the process) and many other automakers are putting more of the spotlight on their utility models. Even automakers that once held their noses at the very thought of offering an SUV are now beginning to branch out into this all important segment. With rivals from Rolls Royce, Lamborghini and Aston Martin on the horizon, does the Bentley Bentayga have what it takes to stand out in a over-saturated segment of the market?

When one views the 2017 Bentley Bentayga, its sheer size is usually the first thing that they will notice. With a curb weight of 5,375 lbs and height that makes it taller than a Range Rover, this big Bentley certainly does its best to look elegant yet imposing on the road. However, don’t think that its larger than life suit of clothes has sacrificed overall IMG_0470style. The theme is unmistakably Bentley with cues such as its over-sized round headlamps, distinctive grille design, and the flying “B” logo front and center. Personally I preferred the rear styling which looks cleaner, and also more elegant as well especially with regards to its slick tail lights. First Edition Bentaygas (pictured) stand out thanks to 22-inch two tone wheels, special Union Jack badging, and illuminated treadplates.

While its exterior styling may leave some folks scratching their heads, the interior is a completely different story and is a very spacious and opulent place to spend time in. First Editions receive diamond quilted leather seats and they are very comfortable with commendable amounts of support and look very stylish. The rest of the interior is IMG_0471flawlessly executed and features warm wood accents as well as copious amounts of knurled metal and chrome trim. The dashboard is a fusion of Continental and Mulsanne cues and is pretty straight forward with good ergonomics and loads of technology.

Performance for the Bentayga comes from the Continental Speed’s 6.0 liter twin-turbocharged W12 engine which is good for a thunderous 600 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. It is also capable of rocketing the big Bentley to 60 mph in just under 4.0 seconds and to a top speed of 187 mph. The Bentayga also comes with a trick all-wheel drive system that can be adjusted to tackle sand dunes, gravel, and other backwoods obstacles. However, Bentley admits that roughly 98 percent of Bentayga owners will keep their purchases on pavement, with slushy roads and hills at the local mall being the closest thing that it will do to off roading. As for the one percent that will take their bespoke SUV’s off roading? I salute you, and will put you in the same level of boldness as the one percent of buyers that added a manual transmission to their Aston Martin DB9 purchase before the option was scrapped.

Looking to add a Bentley Bentayga to your garage? Pricing will begin at just over $200,000 with First Edition models pushing the MSRP closer to $300,000. At this price point, its only major competitor is the $199,495 Range Rover SVAutobiography but look for that to change once the Lamborghini Urus, Aston Martin DBX, and Rolls Royce’s unnamed SUV entry make their way into the marketplace. First Edition’s will be even harder to find with Bentley only producing 608 copies.