Category Archives: europe

Volkswagen Suspends Chief Lobbyist Amid Fallout From Monkey Scandal

Volkswagen’s ongoing monkey scandal has claimed its first victim with the resignation of the company’s chief of external and government relations.

This resignation follows on the heels of the current controversy encircling animal experiments sponsored by the German auto company, that featured diesel equipped Beetles gassing monkeys in an effort to prove that diesel exhaust fumes were safe to breathe. The use of monkeys as subjects is controversial, considering how similar they are to humans especially when it comes to internal anatomy.

Volkswagen revealed that it has accepted a proposal by Steg himself that he step down from his post, and assume full responsibility for the experiments that were revealed in a piece posted by the New York Times last week. “Mr Steg has declared that he will take full responsibility. I respect that,” stated company CEO Matthias Muller.

In the fore-mentioned piece, it was revealed that Steg was among a small group of people who worked with EUGT, the research institute that came up with the experiment, and was ultimately disbanded last year on behalf of Volkswagen. This stunning admission also raises questions about whether the company’s board of directors (Steg’s superiors) was aware of the experiments. For their part, the company has repeatedly denied that it had any prior knowledge of the experiments, and that they were never discussed  in board meetings.

As for Steg he had an impressive resume of service prior to his resignation, with the 57 year old lobbyist lending his expertise to former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder, as well as German opposition leader Frank Walter-Steinmeier, before taking up his post at Volkswagen in early 2012.

While the investigation is still ongoing, Volkswagen has named a temporary successor with the appointment of Jens Hanefeld who is currently responsible for tackling international and European issues for the company. VW claims that Hanefeld will be carrying on in an acting capacity until the investigation is finished, but we will not be surprised if Hanefeld’s appointment morphs into a permanent spot for the seasoned executive.

Mercedes-Benz Unveils 2019 G-Class, More Refinement and Capability Adds New Moves To Iconic Nameplate

Mercedes-Benz likes to claim that the G-Class is in an elite class, and that it is even a true automotive icon. While its hard to not look past some of its cruder elements, its also really hard to argue otherwise considering the elite pedigree that this long lasting nameplate has gained over the years, But even an icon needs to evolve from time to time to keep its status on the totem pole, and Mercedes-Benz is keen on doing just that for the 2019 model year.

Exterior updates may seem very minimal at first glance, but a closer look reveals smoother surfaces, reshaped front headlights, slimmer signal lights, new wheels, and lightly tweaked taillights. Thankfully the basic boxy look is kept intact, and that should please the legions of eager loyalists that have turned what was once a pet project for the Austrian military, into a cult hit that has withstood the test of time for several decades now.  When you look at the cold hard numbers, the G-Class scores minimal gains throughout with length increasing by 2.1 inches, width measuring in 4.8 inches wider, and a small 0.3 inch gain in height.

These gains make themselves apparent in the interior, where the 2019 G-Class boasts more room for passengers especially in the rear. This is certainly an improvement over the old G-Class which had tight accommodations back there especially for a vehicle of its size. The long wheelbase as well as a slight tweak to the location of the rear seats helps create 6 extra inches of interior room which should please taller passengers looking to stretch out on long trips.

Interior quality has also seen a massive leap, with softer plastics, more leather appointments, and healthy splashes of chrome trim scattered throughout. There are still elements of past G-Class iterations present with a notable one being the dash mounted grab handle on the passenger side of the cabin, as well as the relative lack of front mounted cup holders.

While the cushier interior and the removal of the front solid axle may make it seem that the 2019 G-Class has gone soft at first glance, but a closer look reveals that the core elements of the G-Class are still present and accounted for. Those include the novel three locking differentials, a low range gear, as well as potent approach and breakover angles. lastly the independent front suspension may signal the end of an era for the once all solid axle G-Class, but look for on-road behavior to drastically improve as well as increased civility over rougher terrain.

When the 2019 G-Class initially arrives in dealerships, it will be offered only as a G550 model with the same 4.0 liter biturbo V8 as its outgoing predecessor which in and of itself is not that bad of a situation. This V8 is a favorite among buyers, and the old adage holds itself true “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”It’s 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque are nothing to balk at either, with the engine benefiting from an all new nine speed automatic transmission. Buyers will also be pleased to hear that Mercedes engineers finally pitched the ancient recirculating ball steering setup for an electrically assisted rack and pinion steering gear. While it will most likely not be the blinding bolt of revelation that many expected in terms of involvement, it should be a noticeable improvement over the old G-Class.

Pricing for the 2019 G-Class will be revealed closer to its official market launch in late 2018. After the G550 has a chance to formally plant itself in the marketplace, other variants will follow suit including AMG versions in 2019. It is currently unknown if Mercedes will produce another V12 AMG G-Class, but if not, look for one of the V8 models to pick up the slack while returning slightly better fuel economy.

McLaren Unveils Insanely Bonkers Senna Hypercar, Brings 738 Horsepower To The Track

McLaren has been on a roller coaster ride of success over the past several years with entries like the 570S and the 720S redefining its core identity.  The British supercar maker continues to be a solid alternative to traditional stalwarts Lamborghini and Ferrari, and drive to stand out amongst buyers has driven McLaren to create their wildest, and most track focused road car yet, the limited production Senna.

Named after famed Brazilian Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna da SIlva, the exterior styling embraces a unique blend of form and function. Looks are subjective, but there’s no question that the Senna’s design has a distinctive character, and it all comes as a result of attempts to make the body as sleek and aerodynamically efficient as possible. Case in point is the double rear diffuser that leads out to the underfloor scoop, and is also partnered with a large rear wing that comes equipped with active aero technology. McLaren is quick to point out that the Senna spent countless hours in the wind tunnel to further refine its svelte bodywork, which embodies the high dedication that McLaren engineers had when it came to creating the ultimate track weapon.

A curious addition is the see through glass panels that are sandwiched into the doors. McLaren claims that the glass is lightweight, but it does take away some of the privacy that is afforded by conventional panels. Lastly, like other odd vehicle features that are offered in Europe, look for these panels to not make the transition to U.S. spec cars due to our country’s stricter safety regulations.

The interior of the car adopts a very minimalist design, but it still manages to cram features such as a rear view backup camera, infotainment system, as well as McLaren’s foldable drivers display. The cabin is also bathed in carbon fiber, and the lightweight carbon fiber seats help enhance the overall ambiance, while also doing their part to shed weight at the same time. Speaking of the fore-mentioned seats, each car will have a distinctively different set of thrones, with McLaren designers custom tailoring the seats  to fit the unique dimensions of their lucky owners.

Power for the Senna comes from the same 4.0 liter biturbo V8 that also sees duty in the 720S. However, in the Senna this engine has been tweaked to unleash 79 more horsepower, bringing the grand total to 789 horsepower, as well as a slightly higher 590 lb-ft of torque. While this might not seem like much of an increase at first glance, it all comes together when you consider that the Senna is much lighter than the 720S with the car weighing in at just 2,641 lbs. McLaren chose to not release formal performance figures for its newest offering, but expect the Senna to be a an absolute missile out on the track. McLaren claims that “savage performance” will be on hand, and these claims have even more traction considering that Senna’s nephew Bruno Senna was directly involved in the car’s development phase.

Production is expected to commence in the third quarter of 2018 after the Senna makes its official public debut at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. A three seat model dubbed the “BP23” will follow in 2019, and it will serve as the successor to the original F1 supercar. Like the Senna, it will be a part of the Ultimate series, and production is expected to be even more exclusive, with McLaren potentially producing a mere 106 copies, with each one (like the Senna) allegedly already spoken for by potential buyers.

Volkswagen Unveils 2018 Tiguan R-Line Ahead Of L.A. Auto Show

Volkswagen has alot riding on the recently launched 2018 Tiguan CUV, and has introduced a sportier R-Line trim level to help add some spice to the venerable Tiguan for the new model year.

The first immediate item that strikes the eye is how heavily inspired it is by the GTI hatchback. The front bumper is newly redesigned for this trim, and features exaggerated air intakes, more gloss black accents, and slightly tweaked headlights. The equally unique rear bumper features a gloss black diffuser that should help add even more street presence, which should compensate for the minimal effect it will probably have on actual performance numbers. Bigger wheels and fender extensions round out the package, and they help make the Tiguan appear lower and wider than it really is.

The interior checks all the typical Tiguan boxes, but it will be impossible for buyers to not know that they are in an R-Line model. This is due to the numerous R-Line logos sprinkled through out the cabin, as well as the stainless steel door plates, metal pedal covers, and trim exclusive black headliner. Performance hardware remains unchanged, which means the standard 2.0 liter turbocharged engine and its 184 horsepower is still present and accounted for.

Buyers looking to add this trim to their Tiguan purchase will have to shell out an extra $1,795 to add the package to SEL grade models. SEL Premium owners actually see a slight discount, and only have to pay $1,495 for the package due to that model already incorporating the ParkPilot system. Look for the R-Line Tiguan to make its debut at the 2017 L.A Auto Show, with the first units being shipped to dealers shortly afterwards.

Lamborghini Unveils All Electric Terzo Millennio Concept

Lamborghini has always been known for offering high performance supercars that embrace the tantalizing combination of sleek sporty styling, and the soundtrack that can only be provided by a massive V12 engine. The one thing that Lamborghini has never offered is an all electric supercar, but the company is slowly changing its tune, and has joined forces with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students to create its wildest concept car yet, the Terzo Millennio.

The exterior styling of the Terzo Millennio reflects the wild styling themes that have defined Lamborghini models for the past few years, while also serving as a compelling glimpse into the brand’s future. Terzo Millennio means “third dimension” in Italian, and its slick suit of clothes certainly looks the part. It not only adds high levels of style and flair, but also advanced technologies that could very well change the way electric cars are produced. For instance, the Terzo Millennio pitches conventional battery packs, and instead adopts advanced super-capacitors that can quickly store and discharge energy. Lamborghini is quick to point out that they can even do both at the same time, while also having a longer shelf life than typical battery packs.

The super-capacitors and the four in-wheel mounted electric motors that they power allowed Lamborghini designers to use their full imagination on its design language. The end result is a slick body that is entirely made out of composite materials, which goes beyond shaving weight, and plays a role in maximizing energy storage. This ingenious layout allows the bodywork to function as a battery which not only helps lighten overall vehicle weight, but allows the car to store more energy than one with bulky battery packs.

In addition to its talents as a battery, the bodywork also has a degree of immortality that would make the T-1000 from Terminator 2 Judgement Day  green with envy. This is achieved with specially designed sensors that allows the material to sense small cracks, and subsequently heal itself before they turn into larger cracks that threaten the concept’s overall structural integrity. The chassis of the Terzo Millennio was constructed using Lamborghini’s familiar Forged Composites technology, and was designed to give the concept world class handling manners, especially out on the track.

The Italian supercar maker has not been shy about stating its disdain towards autonomous technology, but Lamborghini engineers have equipped the Terzo Millennio with a type of virtual co-pilot that shows the driver the fastest line around a track. The idea here is to help improve the driver’s reaction times, while also making them comfortable even on an unfamiliar track.

“We are inspired by embracing what is impossible today to craft the realities of tomorrow: Lamborghini must always create the dreams of the next generation,” said Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali.”

Sadly the Terzo Millennio and its futuristic charms are not heading into official production anytime soon, but some of its styling elements could trickle down into the Aventador’s replacement which is due to arrive towards the end of the decade.

Apollo Unveils Intensa Emozione

Apollo, the young company that emerged from the ashes of the bankrupt and bitterly missed Gumpert, is out to bring emotion and flair back to the hypercar segment. While Apollo has been recently quiet as of late, the company ended this figurative radio silence by unveiling the all new Intensa Emozione.

The exterior styling of the Intensa Emozione is a wild styling excercise that is allegedly meant to recapture “the lost emotion and fading spirit” that Apollo claims, is ruining the hypercar genre. While we’re not sure if we can agree with Apollo on that particular finding, it is nice to see a relatively fresh design that harkens back to the old Gumpert Apollo. Like the Gumpert, the Intensa Emozione does look a bit cluttered from certain angles, but there is a healthy mixture of form and function present here.

The front fascia for example features a huge front splitter that forms an extensive aero kit when paired with the diveplanes, body mounted channels and so much more. Our highlight feature is the gigantic rear spoiler that is easily the biggest in the segment, and could also substitute for the flight deck of a scale model aircraft carrier.

The end result is downforce, lots of it with the IE benefiting from 2,976 lbs of the stuff when thrashing its way through a track day. For those that are curious, thats the equivalent of an entire Toyota Corolla pushing down on the car (an impressive feat.)  A carbon fiber monocoque chassis is also on hand to keep weight down, while also increasing structual strength at the same time.

The interior of the IE is all buisness, and features supportive racing seats with healthy doses of red accents, and a race inspired steering wheel. Look for carbon fiber and other lightweight materials to be splashed throughout the cabin to help enhance its performance oriented mission in life while also delivering bespoke levels of comfort.

Performance comes from a naturally aspirated V12 thats good for 780 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque. This ungodly power is channeled to the rear wheels through a six speed Hewland sequential gearbox with pneumatic changing gear. Apollo claims that the end result makes it “a bit savage” but we think the cool noises it produces will balance things out nicely.

Predictably the Intensa Emozione is a member of the 200 mph club, and the Hewland gearbox plays a big role in this feat. However, drivers will have to manually engage first gear and use a clutch to get the car moving, before the computer takes over in higher gears. Apollo claims that it’s a piece of the “old school experience” but we’ll chalk it up to the needs of the gearbox itself.

Handling is also razor focused thanks to F1 inspired double wishbone suspension with pushrod and rocker arm architecture front and rear. Adjustable anti-roll bars and Bilstein dampers round out the package, but buyers can have a more bespoke setup installed if they so choose.

Apollo is only producing 10 Intensa Emoziones before ceasing production, so buyers will have to act quickly to snatch one for their garage. They will also have to pay accordingly for the privelege, with each copy starting at $2.6 million with our choice being the bare carbon look (pictured.) Buyers will also have access to exclusive perks, including first dibs on future Apollo products like the upcoming 2019 Arrow.

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.

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.

 

 

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.