Category Archives: Technology

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.

2018 Mustang

2018 Ford Mustang To Bring 460 Horsepower, Other Tweaks To Buyers

The 2018 Ford Mustang already has shaken the muscle car world thanks to its slew of updates which aim to refine the car even further. While more style and comfort are welcome features, Ford’s performance updates are causing quite the stir.

The tweaked 5.0 liter V8 now produces 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque which is a notable upgrade over the old engine. The engine benefits from an all new “Drag Strip” mode which helps trim the 0 to 60 time to a swift four seconds flat. This is mainly due to the drag mode tweaking the shifting and power delivery from the 10-speed automatic transmission, which reduces excess wheel slip.

“Typically when you shift gears you give up time” stated Mustang chief engineer Carl Widmann. “In drag mode, the engine’s torque doesn’t drop when you shift.” To illustrate this point, Widmann claimed that drag mode made the Mustang faster off the line than the $94,000 Porsche 911 Carrera (an impressive claim indeed.)

The company didn’t leave EcoBoost buyers out to dry with these updates, and has transferred some of the GT’s magic to the four cylinder version of the Mustang. Power is up to 310 horsepower, with torque increasing by 30 lb-ft to a revised 350 lb-ft. When equipped with the 10-speed and the forementioned drag mode, the four cylinder can make the sprint to 60 mph in five seconds.

Ford is opening up ordering for the 2018 Ford Mustang this week, with the first units arriving at Ford showrooms shortly after.

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.

 

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.

 

 

Honda Showcases Clarity Electric and Plug-in Hybrid

The Clarity fuel cell was a big achievement for Honda when the Japanese auto giant first unveiled it several years ago. However, the fuel Cell represented only a small portion of the Clarity’s full potential, and Honda has unveiled the final two members of the Clarity family under the bright lights of the New York International Auto Show, the Clarity Electric and the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid.

The Clarity PHEV is equipped with an ultra efficient 1.5 liter Atkinson cycle engine to generate electricity and directly power the front wheels in certain driving conditions. The engine is capable of delivering 181 horsepower and is paired with a lithium ion battery pack. Honda claims that the PHEV can be driven on all electric power up to 42 miles and achieve up to 42 mpg when the gasoline engine is running.

Meanwhile the Clarity Electric is solely powered by an electric motor that delivers 161 horsepower, and its battery can be fully charged in three hours or up to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. Honda claims that the Clarity Electric is capable of achieving up to 111 MPGe but curiously its 25.5 kilowatt-hour battery pack is not that much bigger than the plug-in hybrid. This particular figure contributes to the Clarity Electric’s rather modest 80 mile driving range which is one of the lowest in the market and falls short of the Chevrolet Bolt and the Volkswagen e-Golf.

Honda claims that the Clarity Electric compensates for that initial disadvantage by being more spacious and luxurious than any other non-Tesla offering out on the market. It will be interesting to see if this will be enough to win over electric car buyers, but both models feature Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability as well as sustainable bio-fabric and plastic trim.

Honda revealed that both models are expected to start in the mid-$30,000 range before tax incentives but wheras the PHEV will roll out in all 50 states right out the gate, the Clarity Electric will initially only be available in California and Oregon before eventually rolling out in the remaining 48 states.

Genesis Previews Upcoming SUV Offering With GV80 FCV Concept

Genesis is making great strides in its emergence as a viable luxury brand especially with the G90 and G80 sedans. However, for the brand to truly blossom, Genesis will need CUV/SUV entries to prop up its reputation in the luxury car market.

While it is currently unknown what the production version will look like, Genesis previewed a glimpse at this future with the GV80 concept which showcases a new design language that aims to cement its styling language for years to come.

The two row four seat concept features a bold front fascia that is firmly anchored by the familiar Genesis grille, Unlike other applications of the Genesis grille, the application here has a bolder presence, which is mostly due to the larger real estate that is dedicated to it. This enhanced swagger is accentuated further by a second opening in the lower portion of the grille, which is reminiscent of recently Bentley offerings.

The grille is flanked by two tiered headlights that are made up of rows of separate LED strips. Below these stylish strips are two specially designed “air curtain inlets which flank the 23-inch wheels. The design of the inlets transitions into outlets behind the wheels, which are designed to help cool the hydrogen fuel cells. A pair of matching outlets also appears on the rear fascia.

Meanwhile the interior adopts a two tiered display with a large curved screen that serves as the infotainment and control hub. In addition, a second smaller cluster style display showcases vital driving information. The interior is a technological showcase, but our favorite feature has to be the trusses that Genesis designers used for the side pillars. These trusses are very stylish, and can also be viewed from inside and outside the vehicle.

With the high levels of luxury and technology that the GV80 possesses, we look forward to seeing what the production version will bring to buyers. While the hydrogen fuel cell power train will most likely not make the jump to production, look for the G90’s V6 engines to carryover to the GV80, as well as the eight speed transmission that helps regulate all that power.

How Toyota’s FT-4X Concept Could Revamp Future Of SUVs

Toyota’s FT-4X concept SUV certainly made waves when it was unveiled in New York yesterday, but the pint sized utility also hints at what could be in store for Toyota’s CUV lineup.

Currently Toyota has a very diverse lineup of CUVs, but a notable void exists in the compact CUV segment. Granted the C-HR is a commendable attempt at filling the gap, but its odd styling does detract from its overall mission somewhat.

This is where the FT-4X finds its niche, building on a rugged looking canvas that hints at crossing the beaten path. However, Toyota claims that the FT-4X’s suit of clothes actually highlight its “Rugged Charm” (whatever that means) and that it was designed to appeal to “casual core” consumers. The flat panel roof houses power outlets, which allows buyers to power campsite electronics directly from the exterior.

The interior was also designed to reflect the needs of city dwellers with Toyota claiming that it is a “rolling gearbox” with the cabin offering commendable levels of storage in a deceptively open layout. A key feature is the dual temperature controlled storage boxes in the tailgate that can keep food hot or cold while still moonlighting as a handy place to store your gear.

Curiously, Toyota chose to not add a formal infotainment system, and instead constructed a unit that allows occupants to mount their phone to it in a nod towards Generation Y’s varied uses for smartphones (including navigation.)

Toyota has not formally commented on whether the FT-4X will eventually spawn a production model or not. But buyers clamoring for a reborn FJ Cruiser will most likely be disappointed. Instead, the production version would most likely be a compact CUV that would give Toyota an entry against the Jeep Renegade as well as the Kia Soul and Honda HR-V.

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.

Dodge Demon Teases Intake Cooling Technology [Video]

The Dodge Demon has been the subject of an elaborate string of teaser videos with FCA unleashing a new one every Thursday for the past few weeks. This latest video highlights the unique intake cooling technology that aims to help give the Demon some extra kick when it thunders its way down the drag strip.

FCA claims that the Dodge Demon will be the first production model to feature a liquid- to-air chiller for the charge air cooling system. But what is a liquid-to-air chiller? And how does such a system exactly work? you might be asking.

Well it’s actually deceptively simple when you take a closer look at it. Unlike other air cooling systems which either use ambient air or coolant to help reduce the air induction temperature, the Demon’s system actually uses the interior’s A/C system to help cool the air even further. This novel feature is only active in Drag Mode, and FCA claims that it cools inducted air by 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

While this technology may sound a bit wonky, this technology will please drag racers looking to take their Demon’s out onto the strip. That’s because heat is the enemy of performance in any engine, and cold dense air is a crucial element in achieving maximum performance. This is especially true of forced induction engines like the Demon’s which generate even more heat from the supercharger, on top of the heat already generated by the engine.

This all sounds golden but there are two flaws in this otherwise perfect technology. The first is that air conditioning systems (as well as other accessories) often draw power away from the engine, an unwelcome trait for many racers. Also, the system inadvertently creates a safety hazard out on the drag strip, with many tracks barring this method of power increase due to the small puddles of water that the resulting condensation creates on the track.

If these two attributes don’t bother you (and its safe to assume it won’t matter for many Demon buyers) then stay tuned for the final teaser video which will be revealed next week, as well as to Autoinfoquest.com for our live coverage of the Demon’s New York debut on April 11th. In the meantime you can check out the current teaser video in all of its glory below.