Category Archives: Industry News

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

Audi Showcases 2018 A8 Model Family

Audi’s venerable A8 flagship has always served as a compelling glimpse into the current state of the luxury car market. However, when it came time to unveil the 2018 A8, Audi instead chose to use the model to showcase the future, and if all goes according to plan, the future could indeed be a very different battleground for luxury car brands.

 

The exterior styling of the 2018 A8 then can be viewed as the perfect camouflage, with a look that does not stray too far away from the current generation A8. It’s a little bigger in appearance, and Audi designers will have 12 different color choices for buyers to ogle over, but its conservative suit of clothes, as well as the subdued approach it takes to styling will no doubt please the Audi faithful. A key change can be found at the front fascia which features an all new Singleframe grille, as well as equally futuristic HD Matrix LED headlights that feature lasers.

While the lasers are still a step or two behind from replicating your favorite sci-fi battle scene, they do help double the visible range of the high beams at speeds above 43 mph. It is currently unknown if the system will formally make its way to the U.S. due to our country’s strict safety regulations, but look for Audi to possibly make tweaks to the system to help it comply with U.S. regulators and give buyers across the pond something to look forward to.

 

 

The nifty lasers are cool, but it is the cabin where the A8’s leap into the future becomes more apparent. The flagship model gets an all new iteration of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system with a digital instrument cluster that now displays various readouts in crystal clear HD quality. The 10.5 inch dash mounted infotainment system is virtually flush with the dashboard itself, and arrives with fewer buttons than the old car. This is due to the Multi Media Infotainment system utilizing more touch and voice commands to access various features. Audi lists a lofty 400 commands for the system, but thankfully, they were kind enough to leave the steering wheel controls intact as well as various oral and tactile feedback cues to let occupants know a task has been executed.

As expected from a car befitting of its status, the 2018 A8 offers a whole host of amenities to its occupants. These include 3D sound for the rear passengers, a host of climate and electronic amenities, and so much more. Our favorite feature is the all new “relaxation seat.” Only available on the passenger side rear seat of the A8L, this enviable throne offers the usual assortment of heating/cooling and massage functions as well as a trick foot rest that comes equipped with massage capability. This novel feature would also be the first time that a massaging foot rest has ever appeared in a factory vehicle, and look for it to be replicated by rivals such as the Mercedes S-Class, as well as the BMW 7-Series in the near future.

 

 

Meanwhile on the mechanical front, Audi engineers left their mark on the forward thinking 2018 Audi A8 in a number of ways. Big news here is that every A8 model is now a hybrid. The 2018 A8 will initially launch with a pair of turbocharged V6 engines – a petrol powered 3.o liter turbocharged TFSI V6 good for 340 horsepower, as well as a 3.0 liter TDI engine that produces a slightly lower 286 horsepower. Each engine is paired with a mild hybrid system that allows the beefy A8 to coast for up to 40 seconds without the engine being activated at speeds between 34 to 99 mph. The novel system also allows for slow speed operation as well as start -stop capability.

After those engines launch, Audi will be bringing out a pair of 4.0 liter V8 engines for both gas and diesel buyers, as well as the return of the silky smooth W12 engine, and the green e-tron plug-in hybrid model. All 2018 A8 variants will send their power to all four wheels through an eight speed automatic transmission, as well as the latest iteration of the company’s Quattro all-wheel drive system. The suspension also gains new moves, and aims to help improve the A8’s composure in corners. Audi dubs the system “AI Suspension,” and the new system incorporates and electric motor, as well as separate components for each wheel. According to the company,  the end result is a two toned experience with the 2018 A8 having the comfort oriented compliance of a luxury car, while also having the agile stance of a sports car at the same time.

The new 2018 Audi A8 will make its initial appearance in German showrooms this fall, and will command a hefty price tag for its futuristic take on motoring. The V6 model leads the charge with a base MSRP of €90,600 while the A8L wields a slightly higher €94,100. These figures roughly translate to $103,000 and $107,000 U.S. dollars with various options and other equipment potentially pushing the price as high as $120,000 a far cry from the current model and its $82,500 base price.

V90 Cross Country

Volvo To Produce Only EV and Hybrid Models By 2019

When Volvo first announced that it intended to seriously pursue electrification a few years ago, the world wondered what it would entail for the Swedish brand, and its lineup of vehicles. In a new announcement released earlier today, the car giant further detailed its ambitious plans while perhaps signaling a broader shift for the industry.

A key item of note here is that every new Volvo offering will be either a full EV or hybrid vehicle starting in 2019. Volvo also promises to include at least one electric motor in each of its new offerings.

“This is about the customer. People increasingly demand electrified cars, and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose which electrified Volvo you wish” explained Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson.

However this sudden embrace of electrified powerplants doesn’t mean that Volvo’s iconic internal combustion engines will get the figurative pink slip anytime soon. Buyers will be asked to choose from either mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or full electric technology for their Volvo purchase, which will help retain customer flexibility and loyalty.

Volvo also plans to release a 48 volt hybrid system before the end of the decade, and to also roll out five all new battery electric models. Three of them will join the main Volvo lineup, but the other two will be performance tinged Polestar entries. Look for all five models to roll out between 2019 and 2021 with information being released possibly in late 2018.

 

2018 GT Stinger

Kia Rules Out Range Topping Stinger GTR, Says Its Too Early To Go All In

While the Kia Stinger has yet to fully complete its distribution to all of the world’s markets, Kia is already shedding some light on potential variants of the already desirable liftback, including perhaps a range topping performance model that would slot above the current GT model, and possibly adopt the GTR moniker.

These revelations come from Albert Biermann the chief exec behind the company’s performance models during a recent interview with the folks at Motoring magazine. Biermann revealed that while “The car technically has more potential no doubt” the reason why Kia has not introduced any variants of the Stinger yet is actually very simple and straightforward.

According to Biermann before the company can introduce a “GTR or something” Kia has to know how  the current iterations of the Stinger will do in terms of overall sales, as well as their long term sustainability in the broader marketplace. Biermann also revealed that Kia needs to identify the customer base for the car, and after that it will then make its mind up on whether there should be a spicier version of the Stinger for buyers that want to have even more performance than the current range topping model, the Stinger GT.

With that said, it appears that for the moment, the Stinger GT (which is the fastest accelerating car Kia has ever produced) will remain the flagship version. As for U.S. buyers, the StingerGT will arrive in our country by the end of the year in either rear or all-wheel drive with a 3.3 liter biturbo V6 producing 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to propel the car to 62 mph in 4.9 seconds, so look for the proposed performance model (whenever it arrives) to shave some seconds off of that figure as well as a higher top speed than the GT’s 167 mph.

Source: Motoring

Apple

Tim Cook Confirms Apple’s Stance On Autonomus Vehicles

Apple has had a shroud of secrecy over its autonomous vehicle efforts for the past several years. While the tech giant’s Project Titan in-house vehicle program is largely dead when it comes to building a vehicle from the ground up, Apple revealed that t is still exploring other projects in this burgeoning segment of the automotive world.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that Apple is officially exploring self-driving technology that could potentially make its appearance in production automobiles .

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems” said Cook. It’s a core technology that we view as very important.” Cook claimed that the technology is “the mother of all AI projects,” and that it’s “probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.”

This news follows on a previous statement by Apple’s Director of Product Integrity Steve Kenner. At the time, Kenner laid out a vision for developing and testing autonomus vehicles on public roads as part of a letter that he wrote to the NHTSA. The letter stated that Apple “is heavily investing in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.

 

 

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.