Monthly Archives: March 2016

Buick Puts The Brakes On U.S. Spec Adam Model

When upcoming Buick boss Duncan Aldred first arrived at Buick a year ago, he suggested that the Opel Adam “would make a great Buick” and even hinted that he was fast tracking a U.S. launch for the tiny compact. However according to a new report, Buick has changed its tune, and scrapped plans for the Adams rumored U.S. debut.

The main culprit behind this shift in direction is the sales of mini cars as a whole, with the segment taking a pounding due to low gas prices and the wild popularity of crossover vehicles. Fiat sales for example went down by nearly 15 percent during the first few months of 2016 with MINI sales skidding 12 percent when compared to last year. If it were approved, the Adam would’ve given Buick an entry to compete against the forementioned models while also helping the brand reach city dwelling millenials that strive to have a car that could easily make its way through narrow city streets.

Aldred also revealed that he is satisfied with Buick’s current lineup, and sees no need to add the Adam into the fold according to a statement made to the folks at Automotive News.

“I very much did feel when I came over that [an Adam for the U.S.] could really help accelerate the Buick brand story” he stated. “Whether the market shifted or the fashion nature of these cars has changed I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be looking for a small B-segment car today.”

By the end of the year Buick hopes to have several new models in dealer showrooms including three sedans, three crossovers as well as a convertible. The brand’s sales in 2015 were down by 2.6 percent, but sales this year have bridged the gap and rose by 20 percent with momentum not expected to slow down anytime soon.

Cadillac Targets Younger Buyers, Moves Away From Long Wheelbase Models

Cadillac has proven to be a strong contender in the Chinese luxury car market thanks in part to its long wheelbase models as well as its youthful styling. However, Cadillac has revealed that it is repositioning its offerings in a bid to attract younger buyers.

Part of this repositioning will involve selling models with unified designs that can be offered in all global markets including the U.S. and China. These future models will also bring a “right sized” wheelbase that would be longer than cars here in the U.S. but not quite as long as Chinese spec vehicles like the ATS-L stated Cadillac chief Johan de Nysschen in an interview with Reuters.

Cadillac’s current batch of long wheelbase models have a strong following with older Chinese buisnessmen who prefer to sit in the back while a chauffeur navigates the car through heavy traffic. The small size of these vehicles also allows them to have better maneuverability through narrow streets than conventional limousines. Younger buyers on the other hand, prefer to leave the chauffeur at home, and are more enthusiastic about driving the car themselves, a trait that is shared with their American counterparts. Cadillac has revealed that it has had some initial success in targeting this important demographic with Chinese owners typically being 34 years old.

“In China, young buyers already dominate the luxury market” de Nysschen revealed. “It was far easier to begin to cultivate the desired positioning for the brand from the get-go.”

de Nysschen expects China to become the top selling market for Cadillac over the next several years with China eventually surpassing the U.S. in overall vehicle sales. A key part of this goal is the new styling direction that Cadillac will embrace with the brand focusing on Chinese tastes. This could result in a styling language that  is toned down and less angular than the look seen on current Cadillac models.

Mercedes Considering GLC Convertible

The idea of an SUV based convertible is nothing new with Nissan briefly offering the ambitious but slow selling Murano Cross Cabriolet. However with Land Rover recently unveiling the Evoque convertible, this novel idea is gaining traction once again, and could expand further if a new report from England is to be believed regarding Mercedes Benz and their rumored GLC convertible.

According to the report, Mercedes Benz is strongly considering a convertible version of its recently launched GLC coupe. The basic logic here does have some legs since the Evoque convertible currently has this small niche segment all to itself, and would have a big piece of the sales pie as well.

“It would be fun, and it’s actually not that much of an enginerring challenge” stated Michael Kelz chief engineer for the GLC, CLS, and E-Class model lines in a recent interview with Autocar magazine.

If the droptop GLC is approved for production, it would not only be a contender to the forementioned Evoque convertible, but it would also allow the German firm to explore the idea of possibly growing this small niche segment with future models. Like its British counterpart, the GLC convertible would ride on the same platform as its SUV sibling, and also borrow that model’s four and six cylinder engines. Look for engineers to also address flex and cowl shake with enhanced stiffening and reinforcements to help keep the platform stable.

Suprisingly, the biggest obstacle to the model is not customer demand, but rather low production capacity in Mercedes’s factory network. Kelz revealed that the company does not have enough production capacity to build the GLC convertible, and would be forced to axe one of its current models for it to make the leap to production . This leaves a narrow field of suspects, and as a result it could be a few years before the GLC convertible makes its debut.

 

Navigator Concept Offers Compelling Hints On 2018 Expedition

With the world just getting its first formal look at the stylish Navigator Concept (us included) its easy to forget that underneath its opulence and luxurious styling, is a veiled preview of a second model, the 2018 Ford Expedition.

Like the Navigator, the current generation Expedition is also starting to show its age, and has largely fallen behind the pace set by rivals such as the Chevrolet Suburban and the Toyota Sequoia both in sales and market relevance. A refresh in 2015 helped it catch up in terms of technology and performance, but it still was not enough to right the sales ship (again like the current generation Navigator.) So what will 2018 bring to the Expedition? And can it help revive sales?

The exterior styling of the 2018 Expedition will be radically diffrent with the big ute still sharing much of its inspiration with the company’s popular F-150 pickup truck. This will be especially evident in the front fascia 2015-FORD-EXPEDITION_SKV_8327where the front headlights, beefy grille, and front bumper will be largely transplanted according to recent spy shots. This will be a welcome change from the current generation Expedition (pictured) which looks clumsy and a bit awkward from some angles. Fuel economy has always been a weak spot for the Expedition, but look for that to improve with the family hauler fully embracing lightweight aluminum in its construction as well as lighter steel components. This would allow the big Ford to catch up to its rivals in fuel economy figures, while also improving its handling and acceleration.

The interior of the Expedition will also be completely diffrent with welcome updates throughout. Granted, it will not boast some of the posh factor that the Navigator Concept previewed (except on a possible Platnium model), but look for the cabin to boast more 16_EXPD_KR_FullIPMesaBrown_mjlevels of functionality and versatility two key assets that make or a break a family oriented SUV. Like the exterior, the interior is also expected to borrow moves from the F-150 playbook in terms of basic design and higher grade materials, but look for the production cabin to branch out on its own in a few categories especially in passenger room and connectivity.

The Navigator Concept provided a compelling glimpse of the mysterious new chassis that will underpin it, and look for this chassis to make its way into the Expedition as well. It would not only be lighter than before, but also allow the big Ford to have a smoother ride, while improving its capability at the same time.

Expect the performance hardware to remain V8 free, with a host of EcoBoost engines that promise balanced levels of performance and fuel economy. A 2.7 liter EcoBoost engine could make its apperance as the base engine, which would be a perfect fit with the Expedition’s lighter weight, while also maintaining its reputation for towing. A naturally aspirated V6 could serve as the mid range engine with the 3.5 liter twin-turbocharged V6 retaining its spot as the top engine. Handling would also be tweaked with the Expedition most likely retaining its segment exclusive independent rear suspension.

Ford for its part has remained quiet on specific details regarding the upcoming Expedition, but look for it to possibly arrive sometime in 2017 with an initial unveiling taking place later this year. When the new Expedition arrives on dealer lots, look for it to be a part of a double edged assault with its Lincoln badged cousin  that aims to not only end a dire period of USSR style stagnation, but also reestablish both brands as formidable contenders in the full size SUV segment.

 

Lincoln Unveils Stylish Navigator Concept

When the Lincoln Navigator first made its apperance nearly 20 years ago, it revolutionized the luxury SUV segment with its brash interpretation of what luxury and ruggedness should be. However, over time it lost its luster especially after being overtaken both in sales and relevance by its bitter rival the Cadillac Escslade. Lincoln aims to right this sinking ship, and has unveiled an all new Navigator Concept that points toward the future.

This future will include a radically diffrent styling theme which is a welcome departure from the dated and outright hideous lines that have defined the past two generations of Navigator. The front fascia for example features a beefy chrome grille, and new headlights that Lincoln Navigator Concept rearare much more aerodynamic looking than the units they replace. Huge chrome wheels define the imposing profile, and also draw the eye to the attractive flanks. Like the Continental sedan, the rear fascia is a bit frumpy looking, but the new tailight bar does allow the big ute to fall in line with Lincoln’s current design language. Overall I like the visual eye candy here especially the way the concept subtly reminds the eye of a Range Rover as well as its elegant curves.

In a nod to design, it even features gull wing doors, though look for that particular feature to remain exclusive to the concept due to production feasability and weight considerations. Lincoln reps revealed that the doors were designed to highlight the spaciousness of the cabin for curious observers.

Speaking of that spacious interior, Lincoln designers went all out in making the cabin a truly opulent place to be. The rear cargo area was designed to work as a functional closet, and come complete with a wardrobe Lincoln Navigator Concept interior frontmanagement system to help keep clothes neat and organized. The multi-level running boards are designed to cascade down waterfall style when the gullwing doors open, and all six seats feature 30 way power adjustments.

As a bonus, the seat back mounted touchscreen monitors come equipped with built-in WiFi capability. The overall design of the interior as well as the exterior was designed to project a nautical theme  (a recent trend among luxury car makers) and this is evident in not only the light blue paint that adornes the exterior. But also the blue leather accents and the strategically placed teak elements.

In addition to its high levels of style, the Navigator Concept also features an equally impressive rapsheet of technology with Ford’s autonomous suite taking center stage. These features include pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, a 360 degree view camera, and lane keeping assist with all three being expected to make their way into the production version.

Performance for the concept comes from Lincoln’s version of the 3.5 liter twin-turbocharged V6 which makes 400 horsepower and also sees duty in the Continental and the Navigator Concept touchscreensMKZ Black Series. Lincoln also revealed that the Navigator will ride on a new chassis, but stopped short of revealing what transmission will be equipped to it as well as other technical details.

Look for the production model to make its apperance sometime next year with more information being revealed at its eventual unveiling.

Fiat Unveils 124 Elaborazione Abarth Roadster

With the New York Auto Show fast approaching, Fiat has taken the wraps off the newest member of the 124 family the 2017 Fiat 124 Elaborazione Roadster which aims to add some sizzle to the 124’s stylish good looks.

This special roadster follows up on the debut of the original Miata based 124 Spider which made its debut at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show as well as the more powerful Abarth version that made its debut in Geneva. The styling of the tongue twister worthy Elaborazione largely matches the suit of clothes that made its debut on the Abarth which should please enthusiasts looking to add some aggression to the roadsters unique lines. Unfortunately, it appears that the car will not carry over the beefier engine tune that the Euro spec Abarth gets in what could be a potential deal breaker for buyers that were hoping to get some more muscle in their purchase.

“While all Fiat 124 Spider models deliver responsive handling and excellent power to weight ratio i a robust rear wheel drive package, the Elaborazione Abarth model builds on the Spider’s engaging driving dynamics to offer even more fun for enthusiasts” the company revealed in an accompanying statement.

While the lack of muscle is disappointing, the Elaborazione does make up for it to a degree by offering a model exclusive “Sport Mode” which dials in special calibrations for the engine, electric power steering, automatic transmission, and stability control systems. These calibrations don’t appear to affect the engine’s overall horsepower rating which could partially explain why the Abarth branding was moved to the end of the name versus its typical place up front. As such, this means all Elaborazione Abarth models get their motivation from the standard car’s 1.4 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine which brings 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. This is 10 ponies less than the European version of the Abarth, but the majority of buyers will most likely not notice this minor omission and should still be pleased with what they get. This includes beefier Brembo brakes, 17-inch Gun Metal Aluminum wheels, and Recaro seats.

The standard Fiat 124 Spider is expected to arrive in Fiat showrooms sometime this summer. It is unknown when the Elaborazione model will be launched but expect it to arrive after the standard model with the earliest date being sometime in fall.

Buick Showcases Updated 2017 Encore CUV

Looking to capitalize on the impressive sales momentum that has helped the current generation Encore become a top tier threat in the compact SUV segment, Buick has unveiled the updated 2017 Encore which brings new technology and revamped styling to the tiny SUV while also reinforcing its title as “America’s Most Popular Small SUV”.

The most obvious revision on the 2017 Encore is the updated front end which features a softer looking design that replaces some of the hard edged elements that are present on the current model, while also allowing the Encore to fall in line with Buick’s new 2017 Buick Encoredesign language at the same time. The headlights have also been reworked and higher trims feature full LED units. The taillights are also new, while the exhaust tips receive a splash of chrome trim. Rounding out the changes are a new set of wheels, and body colored door mirrors.

The updates also make their way into the cabin where Buick designers outfitted the car with new trim, a more comprehensive set of gauges, as well as an all new IntelliLink system which pitches the old model’s puny and non-touch capable unit in lieu of an 8.0 inch color touchscreen. This should eliminate 2017 Buick Encoresome of the ergonomic issues that plagued its predecessor. The system also supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with Onstar’s 4G LTE system that features built in WiFi. Buyers will be able to choose from five different trims, as well as whether they want their Encore in front-wheel or all-wheel drive configurations.

The 2017 Encore is heavily based on the Europe only Opel Mokka which was also updated and subsequently revealed at last month’s Geneva Motor Show. In its Buick branded suit of clothes, the model has only been on the market for three years, but has already become 2017 Buick Encorethe brand’s best selling vehicle during that short span of time. Last year it single handedly accounted for one in three vehicles Buick sold, and it’s sales rose 34 percent so far this year which is good for a vehicle in its hotly contested segment.

 

 

 

While this recent round of updates may be on the subtle side of things, look for them to help the Encore maintain its winning ways for another few years before a fully redesigned version is unveiled in the near future.

Volkswagen Unveils 2017 Golf Alltrack

Volkswagen first teased the 2017 Golf Alltrack at last year’s New York Auto Show with the company revealing preliminary details about the upcoming model. This year Volkswagen has let the cat out of the bag and has unveiled the production version of the Alltrack ahead of its official debut.

Essentially a more rugged version of the standard Golf SportWagen, the Alltrack stands out thanks to its standard 4Motion all-wheel drive system, a one inch suspension lift, as well2017_golf_alltrack_5969 as copious amounts of exterior body cladding. The equipment package does remind us of the A4 Allroad but unlike the Audi, Volkswagen is aiming to bring this newfound capability in a smaller package.

“We heard from dealers and customers that they wanted to see a Golf SportWagen with the all-terrain capability that comes from an all-wheel drive system,” stated Joreg Sommer Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for Volkswagen of America, Inc. “We are excited to introduce the Golf Alltrack to meet the active lifestyle needs of our customers.”

Performance for the Golf Alltrack comes from the standard car’s 1.8 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine which is good for 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. For the moment, a six speed dual-clutch automatic 2017_golf_alltrack_5967transmission is the sole choice avalible but Volkswagen did reveal that a six speed manual variant will appear sometime after launch.

The interior of the Alltrack does not radically depart from what has already been seen in standard SportWagen’s, but the model does gain some welcome upgrades including leatherette seating surfaces, a 6.5 inch 2017_golf_alltrack_5965touchscreen infotainment system, and a rear backup camera. The Alltrack also features an exclusive “Off Road Mode” that features hill descent control and alters the car’s stability control to allow it to handle rough terrain though don’t expect it to get the jump on more off road focused vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler anytime soon. Instead, this suite of features will help the Alltrack become a better companion in inclement weather especially snow and ice.

Look for the 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack to go on sale in fall with pricing as well as final fuel economy figures being released closer to its official launch.

Chevrolet Unveils Revamped 2017 Sonic

With the current generation Sonic sedan and hatchback receiving accolades and praise from both consumers and the media, Chevrolet has unveiled the first major update for the car which aims to maintain its impressive sales momentum.

Both the sedan and the hatchback benefit from new exterior styling that updates the front and rear fascias with cues borrowed from the Camaro, Trax, Bolt, and Cruze. While the end result is a bit of a mixed bag, it is aimed at youthful buyers and even features chrome trim 2017 Chevrolet Sonicaround the front grilles.The reshaped hood compliments the sleek headlights which now feature standard projector lenses with LED daytime running lights appearing on higher trims. All new 15, 16, and 17-inch wheel designs also help spice things up as well as the new paint choices: Brimstone, Orange Burst Metallic, Cajun Red Tintcoat, and Arctic Blue Metallic.

The Sonic’s interior has also benefited from its own suite of updates, and now incorporates an all new gauge cluster which features an analog speedometer to replace the clunky digital unit. Other upgrades include a seven-inch infotainment system, keyless entry, heated steering wheel, and optional heated cloth seats. Like other recently updated Chevy offerings, the 2017 Sonic will also come with support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Chevrolet is also resurrecting the RS trim to help bring a dash of sportiness to the car. Like before, the RS features performance themed features such as a flat bottomed steering wheel, piano black trim, as well as optional red cloth seating. Unfortunately it also still does not bring an increase in power to the car (a gripe among enthusiasts) and like before2017 Chevrolet Sonic serves as more of a styling package than an all out performance suite.  Performance hardware largely carries over from the existing model with buyers having the choice of either a 1.8 liter naturally aspirated four cylinder engine, or a zestier 1.4 liter turbocharged four cylinder. Both boast 138 horsepower, but the turbo four brings 148 lb-ft of twist which is a noticeable improvement over the standard car.

Chevrolet did not announce the official pricing for the 2017 Sonic or when it plans to formally launch it but look for those details and more to be revealed at its debut next week at the New York Auto Show.

Toyota Unveils Newly Renamed 2017 86

With the death of Scion and the subsequent rebranding of its two surviving stablemates Toyota revealed that the Scion FR-S will live to see another day and be reborn as the 2017 Toyota 86.

The rebranding allows the performance coupe to fall in line with Toyota’s global naming scheme and also shed its connection with the now deceased Scion brand. Prior to this latest name change, the FR-S was known as the GT86 or simply 86 in world markets since 2012 when the model was first introduced.

“When we announced the transition of the Scion models to Toyota we hadn’t planned on changing the names of the cars. But by popular demand for our sports car we decided to adopt the global name of 86” stated Toyota VP Bill Fay.

In addition to the new name, the 86 also receives several upgrades to help it embrace its new lease on life. The exterior styling for example has received several improvements and 2017_Toyota_86_002_D12251168D759247F6395FC10C00EC8045C0407Fnow features new LED headlights and turn signals as well as a revised front bumper that incorporates a new grille assembly that is much more pronounced than before. The rear end has also been reworked and now features a new rear bumper and revised LED tailights that are much sportier than before. Rounding out the list of changes are a new set of alloy wheels that now feature a twisted spoke design to help make the profile look sharper than before.  Toyota also upgraded the interior, and while it retains its driver focused layout, it now incorporates new “Grandlux” material that makes its way to the instrument panel and door panels as well as new seating material that now features silver contrast stitching to help brighten up the otherwise Teutonic styled interior.

The main change here is under the hood with the 86 making slightly more power than before. While it is not the turbocharger or supercharger that some enthusiasts have clamored for, the still naturally aspirated 2.0 liter four cylinder now makes 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque when paired with the standard six speed manual transmission. This 2017_Toyota_86_003_491F19B7422021FF05C19D601901C497CE93DDB0is a gain of five horsepower and is roughly the same gain in torque. The transmission also gains new gear ratios to help it bring this extra oomph to the rear wheels more efficiently. Toyota engineers left no stone unturned and even upgraded the car’s handling manners thanks to slightly retuned shocks and equally tweaked spring rates.

Look for the 2017 86 to make its formal debut at the New York Auto Show next week in what will be a key event for Toyota with the Japanese firm unveiling the 2017 Highlander as well as a new Prius variant, and the rebranded iA and iM.