Episode #392 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, and Chris Paukert talk about recent confessions by Autoblog Editors, the unconfirmed rumors that the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat will show up at the Woodward Dream Cruise, and the release of the North American Car and Truck of the Year long list. We start with what's in the garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Check out the new rundown below with times for topics, and you can follow along down below with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!
Autoblog Podcast #392:
Autoblog editors come clean
Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to debut at Woodward Dream Cruise
NACTOY long list released
In The Autoblog Garage:
2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe
2015 Subaru Legacy Limited
2015 Audi S8
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C
Hosts: Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, Chris Paukert
Intro and Garage - 00:00
Editor Confessions - 34:48
Hellcat Charger Unveil - 59:56
NACTOY Long List - 01:09:51
Q&A - 01:25:43
Get the podcast:
[UStream] Listen live on Mondays at 10 PM Eastern at UStream
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes
[RSS] Add the Autoblog Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator
Audi sure made waves when it rolled out the original TT in the late 1990s, putting fashion forward with a stylish coupe that neatly summed up the design direction the company was headed in. But that was a decade and a half ago, and the TT has moved on considerably since then.
The German automaker has since revealed its third-generation TT, replacing the original twice over with ever-more performance-focused but no less stylish successors along the way. But it wasn't until last week that the first new MkIII TT rolled off the assembly line.
That took place, of course, in Gyor at Audi Hungaria Motor Kft. It's the same assembly plant that handles the company's A3 sedan and cabrio, with the facility also handling final assembly of the TT ever since the factory opened in 1997 and the model began rolling off the line in '98. Last November, the plant in Hungary built its 500,000th TT, and now officials are ushering in the era of the new model.
Continue reading Audi starts production of new TT in Hungary
There's no doubt that Tesla is downshifting while Fisker has been grinding its gears. But it wasn't always that way.
In the wake of Tesla's recent success, it's easy to forget that there were once two California electric carmakers with bright futures.
Remember Fisker Automotive?
Both companies were back in the news this week. Tesla confirmed it will team with Panasonic to build a battery factory, and Fisker won approval of its bankruptcy plan to pay creditors and allow it to have a fresh start with Chinese investors, Wanxiang Group.
There's no doubt that Tesla is downshifting while Fisker has been grinding its gears. But it wasn't always that way.
Five years ago, many observers thought Fisker had just as much potential to make a go of it as Tesla. Elon Musk was still known as the SpaceX and PayPal guy who supposedly knew nothing about cars. Fisker, meanwhile, was founded and led by Henrik Fisker, an industry celebrity who designed sexy sports cars like the Aston Martin DB9 and the BMW Z8.
Separated by about six hours of California highway, Tesla and Fisker were billed as the new wave of American manufacturing, two electric carmakers that could do what the Rust Belt-anchored Detroit Three could not. Their rivalry became so heated, Tesla even sued Fisker in 2008 alleging theft of technology, with Fisker emerging as the nominal victor, netting $1.1 million in court fees from Tesla.
As recently as 2012, Tesla only had one car, the Roadster, which was built on a Lotus chassis with an electric-powered motor in place of a traditional engine. It was the definition of a niche product. That year, however, Tesla followed up with another car, the Model S. With an all-electric range of 265 miles and the capability to sprint to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, the Model S was a runaway hit. It had the size and power of a BMW 5-Series, and it didn't burn a drop of fuel.
Continue reading Weekly Recap: The divergent paths of Tesla and Fisker
With the racing pedigree provided by the Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the German king of Le Mans is capitalizing on the connection between its road cars and race cars at every opportunity. Maybe there's an entire range of Le Mans Editions for the automakers diesel-hybrid offerings, with perhaps Tom Kristensen acting as the brand's spokesperson for the technology in Europe. You'd be wrong, though, because despite the R18's overwhelming successes in endurance racing, Audi the road-car manufacturer doesn't offer a single diesel-hybrid production car.
This factoid will hopefully be as short lived as it is disappointing, though, as a diesel-electric is around the corner, according to the brand's tech boss, Ulrich Hackenberg. In fact, it gets better than a mere diesel-hybrid; it will be a plug-in diesel-hybrid, only the second to hit the market, alongside the European-market Volvo V60.
According to Hackenberg, the new tech will be the result of a marriage between the brand's well-received 3.0-liter, TDI V6 with an electric motor. The next-generation Audi Q7 (shown above) will be the initial recipient, confirming previous reports that claimed a PHEV TDI could come to the next-gen CUV. Its MLB architecture, meanwhile, would allow the plug-in-hybrid-diesel powertrain to be fitted easily enough to the A8 luxury sedan. While the new Q7 should hit the market at some point in 2015, it's unclear when the PHEV TDI model could see the light of day.
Still, it's a combination that Hackenberg seems bullish on, and based on his comments, it's a virtual certainty that it'll arrive in some capacity in the US market.
"The hybrid will be another argument to go for diesel in the US," Hackenberg told Automotive News Europe. "We have the combination of low CO2 emissions, necessary to meet market demand and regulations, and we have the diesel which gives a lot torque, which is very necessary for driveability."
"In the USA if you look to sportiness it is very important to be quick away from the traffic lights. In combination with the electric engine, a diesel hybrid delivers very good torque from the start," he added. We'd wholeheartedly agree.
Audi only debuted the 2015 Q3 compact crossover for the US market at the 2014 Detroit Motor Show in January, yet that feels like a lifetime ago. However, the little luxury CUV is finally getting close to reaching these shores, and alleged pricing for it is leaking out.
According to leaked documents from Audi Q3 Forum (right), the premium compact crossover has a starting price of $32,500 (*plus an additional destination charge of $925), for an actual cost of $33,425. That covers the front-wheel drive model with a 200-horsepower 2.0 TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. Upgrading to a version with Quattro that spins all four wheels brings the bill to $34,600 - $35,525 after destination charges. In case you wanted further proof, Audi's new Q3 teaser site confirms the starting price of $32,500.
The documents list two trim levels - Premium Plus and Prestige. Premium Plus includes standard features like a panoramic sunroof, heated seats, Xenon headlights with LED running lights and dual-zone climate control and more. Paying $3,900 more for Prestige adds MMI Navigation Plus, Bose surround sound, a power tailgate and other goodies.
German luxury cars often offer a mile-long list of options, but the Q3 appears to be surprisingly sparse, according to this leak. Premium Plus is available with MMI Navigation Plus for $1,900, a driver assistance package for $1,400 and power tailgate for $400. Both trims are offered with a sport package for $550, 19-inch wheels for $800, wood inlays for $350 and a black headliner is listed as a no-cost option.
It's the perfect time for the Q3's price leak too because the competing 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class with 208 horsepower is now confirmed with a price of $32,225 after its destination fee, while the all-wheel drive model goes for $34,225. Comparatively, the 240-hp BMW X1 sDrive28i asks $31,850 in rear-wheel drive spec or $33,650 to drive all four wheels, after their $950 destination charge. That makes the Q3 the most expensive of the German luxury CUVs by a surprising amount, though it looks like its standard equipment list will also be rather generous by comparison. Check out the gallery for all of the details.
Formula 1 and endurance racing are already harvesting energy from turbos on the track, and now it's apparently time for a similar idea of boosting the efficiency of forced induction to hit the streets in a high-performance, diesel SUV.
In a recent interview with the UK's Autocar, Audi technical boss Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg let the big news slip. "The new Q7 will be available in the market next year but the electric turbo will come a bit later in the Audi SQ7 available in 2016," he said. The e-turbo system was already rumored for the premium SUV but for the standard model, not this just-announced performance version.
Audi has been experimenting with the e-turbo system for a little while, as an electrically driven supercharger. It showed up on the RS5 TDI concept that used a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged diesel V6 plus the electric system to diminish turbo lag. In that application, it provided an impressive 385 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque and an alleged sprint to 62 miles per hour in 4 seconds. Although, Dr. Hackenberg didn't make it clear if this was the exact layout for the SQ7.
According to Autocar, the sophisticated system is powered by its own, separate 48-volt electrical system that drives a 7-kilowatt (9.4 horsepower) motor to spin the supercharger. When the internal combustion engine is at low revs, it provides the needed boost but shuts off as engine revs rise to let the turbos take over.
The Chinese market has proven to be a boon to German luxury automakers. However, the way that the companies have allegedly been controlling their supply of spare parts has begun to draw the ire of the nation's government. According to insiders speaking to Bloomberg, officials from the country's economic planning organization have opened a probe into Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and some Japanese carmakers over claimed price inflation and limiting supply.
Specifically, the investigation centers around two aspects of how the companies do business, according to Bloomberg. Investigators want to know whether the original equipment component makers are able to sell spare parts only to automaker-authorized dealers or if they are also available to independent shops. There is also the issue of whether the price markup on replacement pieces is too high. The tight controls could be partially explained by China's reputation for producing counterfeit parts.
Evidently, the investigators haven't checked parts prices at car dealers elsewhere in the world. At least in the US, paying more at the dealer for factory components just goes along with owning a vehicle. If evidence of price fixing is found, the companies could face fines the equivalent of millions of dollars, according to Bloomberg.
Let's say you just got a big promotion at work or the kids are moving out of the house, and you finally have some extra money. You decide to blow it all at once and treat yourself by upgrading your ride. Naturally, you look to a luxury automaker. What do you choose?
Models like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class may be tailor-made to introduce buyers to the premium segment, but a new study finds that they don't garner the highest rates of non-luxury customer conquests. It turns out that a Volvo leads among folks moving up to a premium brand, and it isn't even one that's made anymore, at that.
A recent study by Polk and IHS Automotive looked at what models had the highest rates of buyers upgrading from a non-luxury segment. The information comes from its new vehicle registration data through April 2014. All ten top models boasted conquest rates of over 50 percent, but the Volvo C70 led the field with 68.01 percent of its customers coming from non-premium brands.
It's an odd winner because the C70 isn't even available as a new model anymore, having been discontinued after the 2013 model year. It isn't the only car no longer offered that's on the list, either. The BMW 128i is in seventh place with 53.93 percent of conquest buyers despite leaving us in MY 2014. It seems likely that some of these vehicles are still on dealer lots, and buyers are getting good incentives to pick them up at lower prices.
According to Polk, the 10 models with the highest conquest rates from non-luxury segments are:
Volvo C70 - 68.01 percent
Infiniti JX35 (QX60) - 63.89 percent
Acura ILX - 59.66 percent
Audi A3 - 57.34 percent
Cadillac ATS - 56.88 percent
Acura RDX - 56.53 percent
BMW 128i - 53.93 percent
Lexus CT 200h - 53.17 percent
Land Rover LR2 - 52.47 percent
Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class - 51.83 percent
If you're curious about the other side of the table, the Mercedes S-Class is the least likely vehicle for new luxury buyers to choose at 10.35 percent. Although, that's not exactly a shock - with a starting price of nearly $100,000, it would be quite a leap up from a Camry or Accord.
The continuously variable transmission is one of those technologies that seems to make a lot of sense on paper, but in reality, almost always numbs the driving experience. That's one reason why Audi, according to reports, is planning to phase them out.
One of the first automakers to implement use of the CVT, Audi mates CVTs to larger engines than many other manufacturers, which typically install them on scooters, hybrids and small-displacement hatchbacks. But the time of the Audi CVT (which it calls Multimatic) may be near its end as a report from Australia indicates that Ingolstadt is moving toward a two-gearbox lineup that does not include the rubber-band transmission.
Instead, Audi is said to be focusing its attention on the S-tronic dual-clutch transmission and on conventional torque-converter automatics - although the development of beefier DCTs could spell the end of the Audi slushbox, as well. We've reached out to Audi for comment, so watch this space for confirmation.
The Gas Guzzler Tax affects many high-performance vehicles, but there are plenty of cars that straddle the line simply because their fuel economy ratings are slightly above the cut-off. Here, Seyth Miersma explains the tax in detail, and lists over 40 gas-guzzlers that manage to avoid this charge.
Review: 2014 Audi SQ5
Audi offers a delicious S4 Avant in other markets, for folks who want a fast, luxurious, people-and-cargo-hauler. But as associate editor Brandon Turkus explains, we Americans aren't totally left out in the cold with the absence of this S4 in our market. Audi's own SQ5 might be exactly what these customers are looking for.
Acura NSX burns at the 'Ring
Remember that Acura NSX prototype we saw running 'round the 'Ring the other day? Well, there's been a tragic turn of events. It appears the car we spotted earlier has gone up in flames, coming to a charred end while doing some further Nürburgring testing. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, and we've got a full gallery of the flame-broiled NSX, here.
Porsche announces four flavors of updated Cayenne [w/video]