Category Archives: First Look

BMW Teases Next Generation Z Roadster

BMW has been hard at work on the upcoming replacement to the dearly departed Z4 for a while now. While various heavily camoflauged prototypes have been spotted, the German auto giant has released a compelling sneak peek of the new two seater ahead of its eventual debut.

Released on the company’s Facebook page, the lone teaser image is obscured and darkened, but there are still a few details that peek out from beneath the covers. Sharper headlights as well as a more aggresive profile help it stand out from the decidedly more elegant predecessor it is replacing. This will be good news for BMW, which is hoping that the car can put up a more targeted resistance to the segment benchmark, the Porsche 718 Boxster.

The new Z will be underpinned by an all new rear drive platform that is being co-developed with Toyota engineers, and could also herald the revival of the Supra nameplate for a new generation of young Toyota buyers. Look for BMW’s turbocharged four and six cylinder engines to carryover in both models, but a Toyota designed hybrid system could make its way into the mix to increase fuel efficency  if rumors on the subject turn out to be true.

2019 V8 Vantage

Aston Martin Teases 2019 V8 Vantage

With the Aston Martin Vantage in desperate need of a replacement, Aston Martin has released several images of a 2019 V8 Vantage prototype that serve as the most compelling glimpse of the upcoming sports car to date.

While the psychedelic camouflage thwarts any attempts at discerning some of the car’s finer details, the lack of fabric obscuring elements does help shed some light on the basic design and shape. At first glance, there are welcome elements from the DB10, as well as select traits from the DB11, though look for the Vantage (assuming it keeps that name) to carve its own identity when it eventually makes its way to Aston Martin showrooms. This new identity will also benefit from a healthy dose of futurism, which will do away with the bulk of the dated design themes that comprise the current Vantage.

 

 

Look for the performance hardware to fully benefit from Aston Martin’s close relationship with Mercedes Benz. The most obvious candidate would be the 4.0 liter biturbo V8 which was recently announced as a lighter alternative to the V12 in the DB11. The new engine would replace the wheezy 4.7 liter naturally aspirated V8, and also being 503 horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque to the festivities. This engine already helps motivate the equally potent AMG GT range, so look for the Aston version to help propel the car to 60 mph in a brisk 4.0 seconds flat.

There is still more that remains unknown about the upcoming Vantage, but we’re confident that the interior (another dated element) will receive a healthy dose of design mojo from the DB11. This includes better ergonomics, a much welcomed upgrade for the navigation system, as well as better materials including higher quality leather and metal trim. Thankfully, the wait will not be very long, with Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer revealing that the Vantage replacement is due to bow by the end of the year.

 

Rolls Royce Showcases 2018 Phantom, Rewrites The Rules On Luxury In The Process

In the world of luxury cars many cars have tried to be the pinnacle of luxury, but only one has consistently reached this lofty benchmark, the Rolls Royce Phantom. This iconic nameplate has been around in one shape or another for over 100 years, but with age finally catching up to the current generation Phantom. Rolls Royce has unveiled the 2018 Phantom, and it aims to rewrite the rules of what a proper luxury car should be.

The front fascia may look like it has not changed much from its predecessor, but the grille is taller and wider than before, while the rest of the front fascia manages to be more imposing which should help the 2018 Phantom standout when pulling up to your favorite VIP lounge, or the nearby awards show. The headlights in particular have an eye catching allure to them, and have frosted glass lenses, while the familiar Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament can be crafted in gold, silver, as well as polycarbonate.

Meanwhile, the rest of the 2018 Phantom is decidedly less slab sided, and even has a specially crafted “waft line” that runs along the bottom of the doors. The body itself is lighter and 30 percent stiffer, but overall weight actually goes up versus its predecessor. Rolls claims that the 5862 lb curb weight is mainly due to the Phantom’s higher level of standard equipment, as well as the 287 lbs of sound insulation Rolls engineers stuffed into the cabin along with the triple layer window glass.  Thankfully other Phantom cues remain untouched especially the rear hinged doors, as well as the enormous C-pillars.

Rolls Royce has always been a company that puts performance on the proverbial backburner, and eschews boasts in lieu of the phrase “adequate sufficency.” Despite the British luxury brand’s attempts at being modest, the 2018 Phantom has a number of key changes lurking under its long hood. Power comes from an all new version of the Phantom’s familiar 6.75 liter V12 engine that is now paired to a pair of enormous turbochargers. This combo is good for 563 horsepower and an earth moving 664 lb-ft of torque which is a gain of 110 horsepower and 133 lb-ft of torque respectively. It also allows the big Phantom to glide its way to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds.

All of this honed muscle is channeled to the rear wheels through an eight speed automatic transmission that is equipped with geolocation technology to help it choose the appropriate gear. All-wheel drive is currently not available, but Rolls Royce engineers did initially consider it before ultimately abandoning it due to it being “insufficiently refined.”

The biggest epitome of luxury is what lies inside the cabin, and Rolls Royce vehicles have always been designed from the back seat forward. The 2018 Phantom continues this time honored tradition, while also embracing the future at the same time. As expected, the cabin retains basic Rolls Royce cues including traditional rotary dials for the climate system as well as the omission of the tachometer in lieu of a simple “Power Reserve” indicator located in the instrument cluster. Speaking of the instrument cluster, while the gauges may appear analogue at first glance, they are actually all new digital screens which promise quicker readouts.

However, top honors go to a toughened glass panel that spans the top of the dashboard and the instrument panel. Dubbed “The Gallery” this specially designed space was designed to fully display commissioned pieces of individualized pieces of artwork. Some of the examples Rolls Royce showed off included an oil painting,  an abstract silk design, porcelain rose stems, and even an owners DNA profile rendered in 24 karat gold.

Once you finish admiring the artwork, the rest of the cabin takes a more conventional route that still coddles occupants in world class luxury. The folding picnic tables are still there, but are now power operated, while beefy 12.0 inch screens are integrated into the rears of the front seats. As usual, every non-glazed surface is covered in either leather, wood, or plush carpeting, while the range of customization is virtually limitless with Rolls Royce willing to accommodate any request thrown at them to try and please their exclusive clientele.

Rolls Royce did not release formal pricing for the 2018 Phantom, but expect that to not be much of a concern to those with the adequate financial liquidity to own a Phantom. For reference, the previous generation Phantom started at $422,925 for the short wheel base model, with the long wheel base variant wielding a much higher $497,525 MSRP.

2019 Ram 1500

Spied: 2019 Ram 1500

It’s not too often we have a chance to encounter upcoming model, but that’s exactly what happened when we had the opprotunity to encounter this 2019 Ram 1500 quad cab tester in the wilds of Michigan.

Being an early stage mule, this particular tester does not shed a whole lot of light on the styling direction that the next generation Ram 1500 will embark on. However, a closer look does showcase glimpses of whats in store. For example the switch from the traditional 5-lug setup to an all new 6-lug arraignment for its wheels could suggest that the new Ram is gaining weight, and that in turn could lead to increased towing and payload capacities.

Extensive interior camoflauge thwarted our efforts to get a clear view of the IP and dashboard. But the appearance of a Chrysler Pacifica derived steering wheel, as well as a mysterious contraption on the front grille could indicate that some of the van’s technologies will carry over to the 2019 Ram 1500. These could include lane keep assist, collision detection software, as well as adaptive cruise control.

Performance hardware is unknown at this juncture, but look for the familiar 3.6 liter V6 and 3.0 liter diesel engine to make their respective returns. The 5.7 liter Hemi V8 however could be axed, and replaced with an all new engine that would embrace turbocharging. This would allow Ram to follow Ford’s lead in this area, while also improving fuel economy.

Look for the 2019 Ram 1500 to eventually make its debut either later this year, or early next year at a future auto show, most likely in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show, or the Chicago Auto Show.

 

Dodge Unveils 840 Horsepower Drag Strip Slaying Demon

After keeping the world captivated with twelve long weeks of captivating teasers, Dodge has finally unleashed its drag strip slaying monster on the world, the 2018 Dodge Challenger Demon.

Dodge used its pre-autoshow conference to cement its image as a performance brand with swagger, and in an age where a renewed quest for horsepower is once again in full swing, the Demon represents a tactical nuclear strike on the muscle car segment.

It all starts with the engine which has been heavily upgraded in its bid for dragstrip superiority. While it does share its basic architecture with the standard 6.2 liter Hellcat engine, the Demon’s engine is an outright evolution that goes beyond simply being a Hellcat with more boost. While a bigger 2.7 liter supercharger does deliver 14.5 pounds of boost, other upgrades include dual two stage fuel pumps, numerous reinforced engine components, as well as a larger air box with three different sources of air flow (Air Grabber hood, driver side air catcher headlamp, and a special inlet near the wheel liner.

The end result of all this mad engineering is 840 horsepower on 100-octane gasoline (808 on standard grade gas), and while the former figure is a bit short of the rumored 1,000 plus horsepower that was pitched prior to its debut. It is still a sizable boost in power from the already ridiculous 707 horsepower wielded by the standard Hellcat Challenger. It also curb stomps other high horsepower offerings including the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, the Shelby GT350 Mustang, as well as the supercar-esque Corvette Z06. An eight speed automatic transmission is the sole transmission offering here, but it has also been beefed up for Demon duty, and helps the demonic Challenger burn its way to a 2.3 second 0 to 60 time as well as an equally impressive 9.65 second quarter mile time. This time was officially confirmed by the National Hot Rod Association, which subsequently banned the Demon from official competition, due to safety reasons.

An extensive crash diet also defines the Demon, and it is highlighted by two absent pieces of equipment, the passenger seats. You heard that right, in a bid to shed maximum weight, Demon engineers took out both the front passenger seat and the rear bench seat which truly makes it a driver-centric experience. It also reminds us of the Lamborghini Egoista concept in this regard, with that particular concept also embracing a one seat only layout when it was unveiled a few years ago.

Unlike that one-off Italian, Dodge will let buyers outfit the production Demon with both seats (if they must), for a reasonable sum, with FCA head of passenger cars Tim Kuniskis jokingly claiming that each seat would cost $1 on the options list. The interior otherwise retains much of the basic elements that define the standard Challenger Hellcat, albeit an environment that lacks sound deadening, various interior trim pieces, as well as the removal of all but two of the speakers for the stereo system. We are fine with this latter item since the engine should be the full focus of attention anyway, versus whatever is playing on the local pop music station.

Meanwhile all that power going to the sticky Nitto drag slick tires also highlights an additional trait of the Demon. When the throttle is punched, the front end lifts up which in turn helps put more weight on the rear to help the tires hook up quicker, and make better use of the ample 770 lb-ft of torque. This allowed the Demon to secure a Guinness World Record for the longest wheelie at an impressive 2.95 feet.

Dodge plans to build an initial run of 3,300 Demons with 3,000 going to U.S. buyers while the remaining 300 will go to customers in Canada. Pricing has not been released, but Dodge claims that it is trying to keep the Demon under the $100,000 ceiling. With this bold move, we look forward to seeing if either Ford or Chevrolet will unveil a responding salvo to the Demon in the near future in a bid to further amp up the horsepower arms race.

Mercedes Benz Unveils 2018 E-Class Coupe

Following on the heels of the debut of the E-Class sedan last year, Mercedes Benz has come full circle with the unveiling of the 2018 E-Class coupe ahead of its official debut at the North American International Auto Show in January.

 

 

The coupe shares its underpinnings with the E-Class sedan which has allowed the 2018 model to be longer, wider, and taller than its predecessor with the wheelbase increasing by 4.8 inches. Underneath this potent platform is an all new body that is softer than before, and shares its inspiration with the range topping S-Class coupe as well as the smaller C-Class coupe. This is an improvement over the last generation coupe, and the rear fascia in particular serves as a compelling visual element for the 2018 E-Class coupe. The one thing that has not changed is the exclusion of a formal B-pillar, which helps transform the E-Class coupe into a true hardtop design. Buyers looking to spice things up can opt for the optional Sport package that brings aggressively styled front and rear bumpers, side skirts, and bolder wheels to the sleek two door.

 

 

the 2018 E-Class coupe’s larger dimensions will certainly be noticed and felt in the interior especially for rear seat passengers, with the company claiming that passengers back there will enjoy greater amounts of head, leg, and shoulder room than before which is not a bad thing. Sharing the sedan’s interior design is also not a bad thing with the coupe retaining the basic elements that helped make the E-Class four door stand out in its segment. The key difference is the air vent design with Mercedes claiming that they were largely inspired by jet turbines.

The coupe also gets the sedan’s standard 12.3 inch infotainment display, and can be equipped with an optional version that merges with the 12.3 inch display used in the instrument cluster to create a seamless focal point in the otherwise attractive cabin. In addition. the system also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, as well as the newly minted Mbrace Concierge Service.

 

 

Unlike the sedan which comes in a myriad of trims, the 2018 E-Class coupe simplifies things and will only be available in two trim levels: the base E400 rear-wheel drive E400 and the all-wheel drive E400 4-MATIC. Both variants get their performance from a twin-turbocharged 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged V6 that is good for 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque and is meshed with a 9-speed automatic transmission. While these figures match the previous generation model, minor tweaks to the engine allow the peak torque to start and end slightly higher in the rev range. The coupe will also offer two different suspension options and come with either standard springs and shocks or an optional air suspension.

Mercedes chose to not reveal any pricing information in its unveiling, but the company did reveal availability figures with the 2018 E-Class coupe expected to arrive in Mercedes dealerships in the summer of 2017 following its debut in January. While the company stopped short of announcing any future coupe variants, it would not be too surprising to see a convertible as well as an AMG version enter the lineup in the near future to help give the two door much needed flexibility. As far as the AMG goes, it could either be a milder E43 version with a slightly upgraded V6, or it could go all in and arrive in E63 guise with the car shoehorning the AMG GT’s twin-turbocharged 4.0 liter V8 into its elegantly sculpted hood.

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.

Chevrolet Unveils Cruze Hatchback and Chevrolet Bolt EV

Following a slew of teaser images, Chevrolet took the wraps off of a pair of key offerings the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback and the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV with the brand having big plans for both of them. We spent some quality time with each one at the 2016 North American International Auto Show to see how both of them measured up as well as find out whether the duo has what it takes to take the fight to their respective rivals.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback: 

The first thing we did when we first saw the Cruze Hatchback on display was to find out whether a performance oriented model would be offered (an question we promised to ask in our original article about the car.) While Chevrolet representatives were tight lipped on the matter (despite our best efforts) the car does make a compelling case for the addition of such a variant.

The exterior styling of the Cruze Hatchback still looks as good in person as it does in pictures, with the sporty rear fascia treatment being our favorite highlight. It has subtle hints of the Opel Astra in its design, and it makes the Hatchback look fun and practical. TheIMG_0295 front end is largely carried over over unchanged from the sedan, and while it does look a tad awkward, it still retains a subtle hint of sportiness which is a noteworthy improvement over the previous generation Cruze and its rather bland looks.

The interior also retains much of what initially debuted in the sedan, but in our opinion its actually a good thing. The three spoke steering wheel and slick dashboard design help give the cabin a youthful look, while the seats themselves are comfortable, and have a IMG_0298commendable amount of support especially for both the mid and lower back area. Other highlights that caught our attention included the latest iteration of Chevrolet’s Intellilink system as well as the improved use of materials (including the elimination of the weird fabric like material for the dashboard.)

When the hatchback does eventually make its way to dealer lots, it will be offered with the sedan’s 1.4 liter 153 horsepower turbocharged four cylinder engine and a six speed automatic transmission. While this is a commendable combination, imagine what numbers a hot hatchback variant would generate with GM’s familiar 2.0 liter turbocharged LTG four cylinder and a proper six speed manual gearbox.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt: 

The 2017 Bolt on the other hand does not care about 0 to 60 times or the notion of performance, instead, its purpose in life is to bring EV motoring to a broader audience while also beating Tesla and its Model 3 sedan to the punch.

The exterior styling has a youthful look to it and unlike the CES concept which featured a dull grey hue. Chevrolet chose to showcase the car here in Detroit with a slick orange paint IMG_0302job which reminds us of the color that once adorned the Bolt concept car. The styling also has subtle hints of its bigger EV cousin the Volt, and it especially is prevalent in the taillight design which looks great, and further enhances the Bolt’s styling credentials.

The interior of the Bolt also retains the airy spacious feel that defined the concept. Chevrolet representatives did lock the car before we could get inside to take pictures, but take it from us, it looks and feels better in person than it does in pictures. This is especially true of the seats which are reasonably comfortable and look upscale. We are curious to see whether the company will bring special design editions of the Bolt out into the marketplace In an effort to sway buyers away from rivals such as the Kia Soul EV and the Nissan Leaf.

We look forward to seeing how both of these models measure up when they make their respective debuts on dealer lots but if this initial first impression is this good, then it looks like the bowtie brand has a pair of winners on its hands.

Volvo Showcases 2017 S90 Flagship Sedan In Detroit

Ever since Volvo first teased the 2017 S90 sedan, we have been awaiting the day that we could see it in person. We wondered if it had what it took to stand out in a crowded market segment and we were curious to see just how it exactly looks when viewed in person. After spending a few fleeting minutes inside the S90, as well as admiring its exterior styling. We think that Volvo may indeed be on to something here with this sleek four door.

The S90 also got an unexpected assist from its brand sibling the Volvo XC90, which won the coveted North American Truck Of The Year award at NAIAS earlier today. Achievements like this help get more people into dealerships, and in the case of the S90 buyers that want to experience a new Volvo, but would rather prefer to do so in a traditional sedan versus a crossover vehicle. The exterior styling of the S90 also helps in this regard albeit with one IMG_0251exception, (more on that later.) The front fascia carries over much of the traits that made their debut on the current generation XC90 including the “Thors Hammer” LED lighting accents as well as the clean looking front grille with its center mounted Volvo emblem. The side profile is more elegant, but still retains a subtle hint of aggression that the old S80 was sorely lacking during its time in production. Our lone gripe centers around the unusual taillights which are exaggerated in size and look completely out of place, especially when viewed against the slick front fascia. This also has the effect of making the design look slightly unbalanced but as with most things, it depends on the buyers tastes.

The interior however doesn’t have an issue with design balance, and could be the key attribute that helps the S90 succeed in the marketplace. The detail here is much higher than the S80, and when one looks around the cabin, its easy to see the extreme levels of effort that Volvo undertook in creating this lavish space. The center piece is the all new Sensus infotainment system which features a 7-inch high definition color touch screen, IMG_0254and does an excellent job cleaning up much of the clutter and button overload that dogged the old S80. The seats are also very comfortable and provide healthy amounts of support along with the ability for occupants to make them either heated or cooled depending on the weather conditions. The rear seats also feature good amounts of leg room, an attribute that will especially be crucial with the planned long-wheelbase variant when it hits the market in China where long-wheelbase cars are popular with young Chinese buyers especially those in business.

With the car embracing the XC90’s Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) its no surprise that the engine choices are largely carried over from the XC90. Unlike many of its rivals, Volvo will not field distinctly different engines, and instead offer buyers different variants of its familiar 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder. Each variant receives differentiating levels of enhancement  with the base engine using a turbocharger to produce 240 horsepower and the higher grade engine in the T6 producing 302 horsepower. Lastly the top of the line T8 Hybrid makes 400 horsepower and also serves as the fuel efficiency leader of the S90 family. These figures are slightly lower than many of its rivals, but the company thinks that it will be enough to allow the S90 to enjoy a larger slice of sales in a segment that is saturated with rivals including the Cadillac CTS, Maserati Ghibli, Acura RLX, Lexus GS, as well as the Infiniti Q70.

When the S90 eventually makes its appearance on dealer lots later this year, look for it to feature an aggressive pricing ladder that will be on par with many of its rivals. Volvo did not release any official numbers at its conference in Detroit, but look for the base model to possibly start in the low $50,000 range with higher trim levels going up accordingly. The IMG_0248long wheelbase model will command a slight premium, but look for it to join the Kia K900 and the Cadillac CT6 in offering a more cost effective alternative to established contenders from Germany and Japan. It will be interesting to see whether the S90 will be able to sustain the impressive momentum that was first generated with the XC90 especially with how saturated its target market is. We look forward to perhaps test driving one for ourselves to see what its like on the road, but stay tuned to Autoinfoquest for more product unveilings and first hand looks from the 2016 North American International Auto Show.