All posts by Carl Malek

Volvo Debuts 600 Horsepower Polestar 1 Coupe

When Volvo first revealed that it was spinning off Polestar into its performance exclusive brand, we we’re curious what the safety focused Swedish carmaker had in store for enthusiasts. Volvo decided to unveil the answer to this question in grand fashion, with its first Polestar badged model, the Polestar 1

The Polestar 1 (not to be confused with the decidedly rarer and distinctively British McLaren P1) is a halo offering for Polestar, and aims to be a dramatic preview of what the young brand will have to offer in the near future. The P1 (short for Polestar 1)  will arrive as a 2+2 Grand Touring coupe that will utilize much of Volvo’s current design language, but it amps things up by featuring carbon fiber bodypanels (a trick borrowed from the Aston Martin Vanquish.)

The panels help shed weight, and also add 45 percent more torsional rigidity to the car. In addition, they also lower the center of gravity slightly which is key in a car designed to tackle sharp corners and apexes at full gallop.

Like other current Volvos, the interior of the P1 is a gorgeous exercise in elegant design with the Volvo logo being pitched for a Polestar exclusive symbol, as well as more black accenting than other Volvo efforts which subtly highlights the more performance oriented flair that the P1 possesses. This flair for attention also highlights the P1’s platform with the car being built on Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA platform) but perhaps befitting of the Polestar designation, roughly half of the components were allegedly created from the ground up by Polestar engineers. Case in point, Polestar’s claim that the P1 will be the first car to feature Ohilns Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension (CESi) and the first to feature a dual electric rear axle to maximize torque application at each wheel.

The P1 will be powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain that is expected to produce over 600 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque. These are impressive figures, and while Polestar remained quiet on the Polestar 1’s true capabilities , look for it to go toe to toe with select versions of the Tesla Model S as well as other compelling rivals. When its not out on the track, the P1 is also capable of achieving an all electric driving range of 93 miles, which is further than any hybrid offering on the market today.

When the Polestar 1 eventually goes on sale, it will not be sold in a traditional sense of the word. Instead, Polestar vehicles will be sold exclusively online, with Polestar offering the model on a two to three year subscription basis with each package including pickup and delivery services, as well as rental options for other vehicles in the Volvo model lineup in the event the P1 needs to spend extended time in a Volvo repair garage.

Production is slated to begin in mid-2019 with the model being followed by the Polestar 2 full electric EV vehicle as well as the rumored Polestar 3 which is expected to bring Polestar into the highly competitive SUV market.

Mazda’s Rotary Engine Could Return As Range Extender Option

When the Mazda RX-8 ceased production several years ago, its departure represented not only the end of an era for Mazda, but also seemingly sealed the fate of the rotary engine, which was once seen as a novel solution for higher fuel economy by automakers back in the 1970s. However, recent comments by a high ranking Mazda executive appear to suggest that the rotary could be making a return to production automobiles, albeit in an unexpected role.

In a recent interview with the folks at Automotive News, Mitsuo Hitomi chief of Mazda’s powertrain division revealed that there could be a very good chance that the next iteration of the rotary engine could appear as a range extender for electric automobiles. While this would be a dramatic change in role for an engine that once defined the pinnacle of Mazda performance, its potential shift in function could help the novel powerplant fulfill its original green intentions, especially when one looks at prior efforts at this idea by Mazda.

Back in 2013 Mazda was already working on a rotary engine equipped extended range EV, with this early effort materializing in the Mazda2 RE Range Extender concept car. The tiny concept had a 250 mile driving range with half of it coming from its battery, while the other half was supplied by a 330 cc rotary engine which was hooked up to a 2.6 liter fuel tank. More recently, the RX-Vision concept also teased a rotary powered performance vehicle that could also add electrification to its list of tricks if it ever makes its way into formal production.

With all that said, its important to look at the finer details into how such an idea is possible. While the rotary engine has never been known for its efficiency (a key trait that made automakers such as GM and AMC abandon the idea for their lineups,) it is a very smooth running engine, and is also reasonably compact when compared to a conventional engine. Modern technology could allow Mazda engineers to make the engines even smaller than before, which will not only improve overall fuel economy, but also improve space and weight savings for the vehicle at the same time. These latter two traits would allow Mazda to add more batteries, or simply keep the car lightweight, and use this newfound lightness to retain the spirited handling that Mazda models have been long known for.

While this news might not be encouraging to rotary die-hards eagerly awaiting an RX-8 successor, Hitomi also revealed that a bigger rotary engine is also in development with the engine being tuned towards formal sports car applications. However, like many good things in life, the engine is reportedly being stonewalled by management that want a better business case for offering such a model in the first place. If we were in the board room, we would highlight the lack of a formal halo entry in Mazda’s lineup, which would help create a halo effect for other Mazda models including its growing CUV lineup. Either way, it looks like the humble rotary has a strong chance at catering to a new era of buyers if all the cards are right.

 

Mitsubishi Teases e-Volution Teaser Images

Following the initial announcement of the e-Volution concept, Mitsubishi has released several more images of the mysterious e-Volution concept ahead of the concept’s formal debut at the Tokyo Motor Show.

As promised by company execs, the Evo badge has returned but wheras it once defined an era of high performance sport sedans, Mitsubishi aims to resurrect this legendary nameplate on a high riding electrified crossover entry. Contrary to previous rumors, it

appears that the concept will be a plug-in hybrid versus a pure electric model, most likely due to reduced battery range in a pure electric offering, as well as the precarious condition of Mitsubishi’s finances.

“This very high performance automobile will blend Mitsubishi Motor’s signature 4WD and electric powertrain know-how with advanced Artificial Intelligence technology under a low slung aerodynamic SUV coupe shape” the company revealed in a release that accompanied today’s release.

Buyers looking to add one to their garage (perhaps as a companion to its rally based predecessor) will have to endure a potentially long wait with a Mitsubishi executive revealing that the new performance model (if it proceeds to production as expected) will not arrive in dealer showrooms for three to six years. It’s unknown if Mitsubishi will also produce a more conventional hybrid crossover, which could serve as a figurative launching pad for the more performance oriented Evo badged variant.

We are curious to see where this endeavor goes next, especially since a production version of the e-Volution would give Mitsubishi a performance model in a segment of the SUV market that the Japanese auto giant has traditionally stayed away from. In addition technology from its new corporate partners Nissan-Renault could also allow the model to be tailored to more international markets, while also reducing the costs of scale and production at the same time.

2018 Volvo XC40 Goes Small, Introduces New Purchasing Tools

Volvo has big plans for the 2018 XC40 CUV, and it intends to not only take another slice of the broader CUV sales pie, but also redefine the ownership experience as a whole in a unique bid to rewrite the way the CUV segment is entered by customers.

The exterior styling of the XC40 mirrors many of the styling elements that also define its larger 60 and 90 series siblings. This is a good thing considering the high levels of demand that both the XC60 and XC90 have experienced since their respective launches. Volvo also hopes to lure younger buyers to the marque with the XC40’s customization factor. A key example of this is the 17 different color combinations buyers can choose for the body as well as contrasting hues for the roof. This distinctly MINI-esque move should help the XC40 standout in crowded parking lots and out on city streets.

The interior aims to further build on the elegant design language of its larger kin, and is a welcome blend of youthful sophistication. Like the exterior, the cabin has several distinct themes to choose from, and aims to outshine its rivals by offering a healthy list of standard equipment. Notable items on that list include a nine-inch touchscreen, wireless phone charging capability, dual zone climate control, and 18-inch alloy wheels. This focus on quality and value is welcome in the compact CUV segment where it seems many entries have compromises and don’t deliver a balanced package.

Performance hardware reflects the XC40’s place in the compact segment, and buyers will initially have two engines to choose from. The D4 AWD model will feature a 188 horsepower four cylinder diesel, while the gasoline driven T5 AWD has a turbocharged four banger that produces a healthy 244 horsepower. Both variants come equipped with Volvo’s buttery smooth eight speed Geartronic automatic, and will offer stylish Momentum and R-Design trim levels when they eventually make their appearance in Volvo showrooms.

Naturally, the Volvo badge means high levels of safety equipment, and the XC40 does not skimp on that crucial category. Volvo’s usual assortment of safety equipment and technology is present and accounted for, but the Swedish car giant also made its City Safety package standard on the urban focused XC40. This special suite of equipment features detection and emergency auto braking if the XC40 detects pedestrians, vehicles, cyclists, and large animals. Other goodies include a 360 degree camera, Cross Traffic alert with brake support, as well as Pilot Assist.

As mentioned earlier, the 2018 XC40 also aims to spearhead Volvo’s recent push into new business models that are tailored to give customers new options when it comes to purchasing a Volvo product. One of these includes an all new “Care by Volvo” all inclusive subscription package that is based on a national flat-rate fee. This is an interesting alternative to a traditional lease, and could help Volvo lure in budget conscious XC40 buyers that might not otherwise consider the brand. Another interesting idea is an all new cellphone app that would allow owners to share their vehicle with friends and family in a nod to the recent trend towards specialized ride sharing and vehicle rental services.

Look for more information regarding these subscription plans to be revealed later this year at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Pricing for the 2018 XC40 is expected to start around $35,000 with fully loaded examples surpassing $45,000.

 

 

Genesis Reveals G70 Sport Sedan

Genesis has had a great start in the U.S. market thanks in part to the G90 flagship sedan, as well as the G80 sedan (AKA the artist formerly known as the Hyundai Genesis.) But the one notable thing missing from its lineup (besides CUV/SUV offerings) was a true entry level luxury sport sedan. Genesis has rectified this problem with the unveiling of the G70 sedan.

Designed to be the latest attempt at toppling the benchmark BMW 3-Series sedan, the G70 starts off with bold exterior styling cues that are quite pleasing to the eye. There’s a healthy amount of G90 traits in its well tailored suit of clothes, especially in the front fascia design albeit with more lines and creases. The side profile leads out to a short rear deck, and an equally handsome rear bumper with bold tailights rounding out the look quite nicely.

The interior reflects this theme of elegant simplicity and has a refreshingly straight forward layout for many vehicle controls. This is a nice change from many of its German competitors, and their complicated electronics.

An eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system houses Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities, and will allegedly be the first unit to utilize server-based voice recognition technology. This is due to Kakao’s artifical intellegence platform dubbed “Kakao 1.” It’s unknown what this entails for buyers in the U.S. especially if the feature does make it state side, but it could give the G70 an edge over BMW’s I-Drive system, and even Mercedes and its formidable COMMAND system.

Three diffrent engine choices will be offered, but look for U.S. buyers to only have two engines to choose from. The base model will feature a 2.0 liter turbocharged inline four cylinder with 248 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Genesis claims that an optional Sport package will slightly raise the horsepower figure to 251 horses.

Meanwhile, the G70 Sport shoehorns the 3.3 liter turbo V6 from the bigger G80 into its engine bay. Look for 365 horsepower to be on tap, with Genesis reps claiming the Sport can make the sprint to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds. A 200 horsepower diesel engine serves as the greenest of the bunch, but don’t expect it to be offered here in the U.S. anytime soon.

Genesis revealed that the G70 will also get some serious performance tech too including launch control, dynamic torque vectoring, and a limited slip differential. Handling benefits from an adjustable suspension system, but its unclear if some of these features will trickle down to four cylinder models equipped with the Sport package.

Look for more details to be revealed in 2018. These would include final pricing figures, as well as formal fuel economy figures. The G70 will certainly face off against established players in this segment, but it will also have to prove itself against newcomers like the Cadillac ATS, Jaguar XE, and the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

However, we think it has a fighting chance, and we look forward to learning more over the next few months.

Project ONE Unleashed, Mercedes-AMG Reveals Valkyrie Slaying Hypercar

After months of rumors, speculation, as well as a lone teaser image. Mercedes-AMG has at long last unveiled the Project ONE hypercar, which aims to seek and destroy all in its niche segment when it is unleashed on the road.

As expected, the exterior styling of this near production concept was designed with pure purpose and intent. The whole body of this visually stunning masterpiece is crafted out of carbon fiber monocoque, while the front fenders rise above the wheels and transition to the rear and its ultra wide tail lights. However, the detail that stands out the most in our eyes is the roof mounted scoop that channels air to the F1 derived V6 that lurks underneath.

Unlike other race derived engines, this spunky 1.6 liter actually uses F1 technology, and boasts a staggering 11,000 revs before it hits the limiter. To help avoid valve float, traditional valves and springs have been replaced with pneumatic valve controls, while an electrically operated turbocharger pumps even more cool air into the engine. Mercedes-AMG claims that all these radical tweaks help Project ONE have 40 percent thermal efficiency, as well as produce “over” 671 horsepower when linked to the electric motors.

Speaking of the front wheel mounted electric motors, they make 161 horsepower each, and can rev up to 50,000 rpms. The lithium ion batteries that power the motors only weigh 220 lbs, and have four times more cells than the batteries in the Mercedes F1 W06 hybrid race car. Mercedes also revealed that the system runs at 800 volts, which is double the voltage typically used in the firm’s other plug-in systems.

The interior of Project ONE is perhaps the most extreme form of function over style we have ever seen. A Formula 1 inspired steering wheel greets the driver’s hands, while a color display replaces conventional gauges. A second screen is also mounted on the center stack but other than that, many typical luxury and entertainment features have been pitched for the sake of weight savings. This follows in line with another recently unveiled hypercar, the Aston Martin Valkyrie which also sheds luxury features for the sake of maximum performance. The seats themselves are very spartan, but Mercedes engineers did retain power adjust-ability for the pedals and steering wheel so that the Project ONE can be experienced by a wide range of drivers.

All of this power is transmitted to the rear wheels through an eight speed automated manual transmission designed exclusively for Project ONE, with pushrod coil over suspension helping to keep the car straight and solid through even the twistiest of turns. This should please lucky buyers, while also causing sleepless nights for the Valkyrie, as well as the McLaren P1.

With all of this power, and potent race ready technology, it’s no surprise that  Project ONE will be a very limited release, with Mercedes-AMG only producing 275 copies before production ends. Buyers looking to pre-order one for their garage will have to keep their checkbooks at home since the whole production run is already sold out with each example going for $2.27 million each.

 

 

Mercedes Teases Project ONE Hypercar

The trail of teasers and statements surrounding the much hyped Project ONE hypercar are nearing the home stretch. With the Frankfurt Auto Show fast approaching, Mercedes-Benz has upped the ante by releasing a shadowy teaser image.

The lone image does not reveal very much, but the few elements that do stick out of the darkness offer compelling clues to the car’s wild capabilities. Mercedes claims that the Project ONE is “a two-seater supersports showcar” and it serves as the current pinnacle of the German auto giants engineering capabilities.

However, its also safe to call the Project ONE a road going Le Mans prototype with a Formula 1 engine. In fact, Project ONE evokes memories of the fabled CLK-GTR supercar. Unlike that model though, the Project ONE will be a visually innovative look into the future, especially with its performance hardware. This includes the Formula 1 grade engine and hybrid system, as well as the electronic systems.

The roof mounted scoop also hints at the aerodynamic tweaks that are in store for this car with much of the inspiration coming from Le Mans spec race cars. Look for the interior to invoke function over form with many racing elements and materials being used instead of the usual assortment of leather, wood, and other luxuries that define typical Benz models.

Performance for the Project ONE comes from a 1.6 liter turbocharged V6 that incorporates hybrid assistance technology and is largely based on the setup that sees duty in the 2015 Mercedes-AMG W06 Formula 1 hybrid car. Naturally, the engine will be reworked for road use with Mercedes claiming that it can last for 31,000 miles between rebuilds. This is impressive considering that the engine has a rev limit of over 10,000 rpm and packs “over 1000 horsepower.” This is achieved with the help of four electric motors with two mounted on the engine, and the remaining pair on the front axle.

When the Project ONE makes its debut in Frankfurt, it will appear as a near production prototype with the first deliveries expected to take place in 2019. Don’t bother pre-ordering through your local dealer unless you have done so already. Mercedes-Benz is only making 275 copies, with all of them being pre-sold for a cool $2.6 million each.

Bentley Unveils Sleek and Stylish 2019 Continental GT

Following months of speculation, as well as an equally lengthy parade of spy photos. Bentley has finally unveiled the 2019 Bentley Continental GT which aims to bring the fight to established elite sedan rivals, while also redefining the basic elements of what a Bentley should be.

The exterior styling of the 2019 Continental is a gorgeous exercise in elegant lines as well as refined elements that aim to give the Continental more finesse, while retaining the aggression that many fans have come to expect from a true Continental offering. The front fascia is arguably our least favorite element of the car, with the oversized front grille clashing quite garishly with the elegant new headlights. The side profile on the other hand features sculpted rear haunches, as well as a bold chrome accented character line to help instill purpose and sportiness. The rear fascia also gets in on the act, and features a redesigned rear bumper, as well as stylish new tail lights.

The interior of the new Continental is a luxurious balancing act with state of the art technology seamlessly mixing with traditional Bentley cues. This includes acres of supple leather trim and seating surfaces, expansive wood veneers, as well as a rotating panel that allows buyers to either use three analog dials to access vehicle information, or a 12.3 inch infotainment system that is miles ahead of the unit in the last generation Continental. As a bonus, the system even comes with Apple CarPlay as standard equipment, which should be please tech savvy millennials and entertainment buffs.

Performance for the 2019 Continental GT comes from an updated version of the familiar 6.0 liter W12 engine which is supposedly 24 percent shorter than a V12 powerplant. The tweaked engine now produces 626 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to launch the car to 60 mph in a lighting quick 3.6 seconds when Sport Launch mode is activated. Fuel economy is up by 16 percent thanks to start/stop technology, as well as an all new cylinder deactivation algorithm. Bentley engineers have also upgraded the transmission, with the Continental now sporting an eight speed dual clutch automatic for the first time ever. As usual, the front brakes are larger than those at the rear of the car, which helps them cope with the sheer weight of the W12. The 15 millimeter increase puts them in at a whopping 420 millimeters.

When the 2019 Continental GT eventually makes its way to Bentley showrooms, it will put customization at the forefront of the buying experience. For example, Continental GT buyers can choose from 15 different interior trims, 15 different carpet options, and 15 different exterior colors with as many as 70 being available in the extended range. Beefy 21-inch wheels are standard equipment, but buyers can opt for bigger 22-inch wheels with both options crafted out of either forged alloys or handcrafted alloys. Pricing has not been released, but look for that to not matter much to the elite clientele that loves these cars.

 

 

 

 

 

Porsche Unveils New and Improved 2019 Cayenne SUV

The current generation Cayenne can be defined in many ways from being the savior that saved Porsche, to also being a track devouring monster that still serves as a very lofty benchmark for other competitors. Porsche aims to continue the Cayenne’s impressive track record of success with the unveiling of the 2019 Cayenne which brings new styling, and revamped performance hardware to Porsche’s money making SUV.

The exterior styling channels alot of elements from the 2017 Panamera, and at first glance looks like the end result of a rogue meeting with a taffy puller. Look closer however, and you’ll see the revamped tail lights, the chiseled side profile, as well as the bigger front grille that favors a more horizontal appearance than the last generation Cayenne.

Each of these elements helps the Cayenne look more refined, while also making it look meaner, and more imposing at the same time. Other welcome touches include a straked hood, as well as a neat roof mounted spoiler that spices up the rear end. In addition, extensive use of aluminium in the exterior panels, floorpan, and other exterior components helps the SUV shed 143 lbs, which is impressive considering that its length as increased by 3 inches.

Alot of the Panamera’s tech has migrated its way to the elegantly crafted interior. While the gauge cluster retains a traditional analog tachometer, the rest of the gauges are replaced with a pair of 7-inch color screens that deliver more information to the driver in stunning HD clarity.  Taking its place front and center is the all new 12.3 inch infotainment system that first made its debut in the 2017 Panamera. This massive screen is one of the biggest in the segment, and helps highlight the simplified center console, that ditches the button mad layout of the old model, and adds touch sensitive controls with haptic feedback.

Performance for the Cayenne promises to be an even more engaging experience, but for now, buyers will have to make do with the base Cayenne and Cayenne S models at launch. The base model features a 3.0 liter turbocharged V6 that is good for 340 horsepower, and 332 lb-ft of torque. These figures are an improvement over the old entry level model with the new engine packing 40 more horses in its corral than before. Meanwhile, the upper level “S” uses a 2.9 liter bi-turbocharged V6 that surges ahead its predecessor by 20 horses for a revised total of 440 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque.

This increase in power along with the reductions in weight pay big dividends in acceleration, with the base Cayenne making the sprint to 62 mph in 5.9 seconds as well as a top speed of 152 mph. The spicier “S” version can do the same feat in 4.9 seconds, and hit an autobahn worthy top speed of 162 mph. Both versions feature an eight speed automatic transmission, and a standard all-wheel drive system with Porsche claiming that the latter feature is more energy efficient than before.

In addition to its visible performance equipment, the 2019 Cayenne also houses other performance features that are not as easily seen by the naked eye. This includes optional rear-wheel steering, Porsche’s Active Suspension Management technology which has been tweaked for quicker responses, as well as staggered tire sizes which Porsche claims will make the Cayenne “the sports car of its segment.” Look for the Turbo and GTS models to further build on these technologies when they make their respective debuts at a future auto show.

An interesting technology that caught our attention is called the “Porsche Surface Controlled Brake.” Available only as an option on Cayennes with 21 or 22-inch wheels,  it uses a special tungsten-carbide coating on the steel brake rotors which promises to enhance braking performance, while reducing the amount of dust that can build up on the vehicle rims. For those that prefer to do more track days in their Cayenne, Porsche will still offer carbon ceramic brakes as its highest braking option.

 

When the 2019 Porsche Cayenne makes its way to showrooms during the middle part of next year, base prices will start at $65,700 for the regular Cayenne and $82,900 for the “S” which is an increase of $5,000 respectively versus last year. With its revamped interior, as well as a host of new moves, look for the 2019 Porsche Cayenne to continue its winning ways both on and off the road once again.

Volkswagen Unveils Europe Bound T-Roc CUV

Volkswagen has always been known for its diverse segment portfolio, but a noticeable void  existed in the compact CUV segment. The German auto giant has solved this problem with the unveiling of the 2018 T-Roc CUV.

 

Slotted just below the Tiguan, the T-Roc is a curious mixture of style, muscle, and dare we say it unconventionality. The latter item really shows when you select one of its three trim levels ( Yorkville, Style, and Sport) with the Style trim living up to its name by offering buyers three different roof colors as well as four different coordinating interior colors.

Look for this particular trim to appeal to young urbanites that want a high dose of style in their small CUV purchase. Regardless of which trim is selected the T-Roc amps up its bold credentials in other ways. The wheel arches are pumped up with the rear fascia and haunches also drawing stares thanks to their bold lines. The nose and roof shapes are clearly derived from the T-Roc two door crossover concept which is a good thing since it was one of our favorite concepts from 2014.

The interior is also a bold youthful environment with sharp geometric shapes and squared off elements that further enhance its ruggedness. As a bonus neither the Tiguan nor the Atlas boast nearly the sheer levels of color that the T-Roc possesses which is a nice change of pace from the dark cabins that define many of its current models.

The T-Roc also puts technology at the forefront thanks to its standard 6.5 inch infotainment system which can be swapped out for a bigger 8-inch unit. Volkswagen’s familiar Digital Cockpit system is also available as an option, and it is nice to see this nifty piece of technology finally begin to trickle down to some of the company’s more mainstream models.

Performance for the T-Roc comes from six different engines that cover both the gasoline and diesel sides of the spectrum while also producing between 115 and 190 horsepower. The 190 horsepower engines are only available with all-wheel drive and a 7 speed dual clutch automatic. Meanwhile, the other engines are available with front wheel drive and can be equipped with both a manual transmission and front wheel drive.

Currently, Volkswagen has no plans to bring the T-Roc to the U.S. which is a baffling decision given the high demand for crossovers in our country. Volkswagen even admitted that fact in a prior press release saying that “Crossovers are the next big thing.” In addition, Volkswagen also has room in its U.S. lineup for the T-Roc thanks to the Tiguan growing in size as well as its stylish looks which would allow it to compete with rivals like the Kia Soul, Toyota C-HR, as well as the Nissan Juke. Lastly, its MQB roots would make any conversion to U.S. specifications relatively easy.

If the T-Roc does eventually make its way across the pond, look for it to only offer the 150 and 190 horsepower engines, and have the dual clutch automatic as the sole transmission choice, due to the equally steep decline in demand for manual transmissions especially in the crossover segment.