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BMW X4 reclaims dash of utility with Clemson student project [w/videos]

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Concept Cars, Trucks/Pickups, Videos, Crossovers/CUVs, BMW, Design/Style

BMW X4 Clemson University Project

BMW seems willing to exploit every automotive niche it can find with creations like the four-door, 'crossover coupe' X4 and X6. Of course, these designs come with a compromise. That svelte fastback means that they just can't haul as much cargo as a more traditional, boxier hatchback. Fortunately, students at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research might have a novel solution: the engineering graduate program has turned the crossover into a unique pickup.

Dubbed Deep Orange 4 concept, this functional prototype has an enclosed cargo area with a sliding glass panel that opens up to expose a pickup bed if more room is needed. Think of it as the GMC Envoy XUV of German crossovers. This isn't just an X4 with its roof hacked off, though. The students actually started with an X3 and grafted on this top later in addition to the two barn doors for access to the bed.

To make this project even more impressive, this pickup-crossover could conceivably be produced. The graduate students conducted an in-plant analysis of BMW's manufacturing abilities and went back to the university to create a plan for a low-volume vehicle that could actually be built. "The students working on this phase of the project did an excellent job of keeping costs down while finding optimal integration opportunities," said Rich Morris, vice president of assembly at BMW Manufacturing, in the university's release.

Deep Orange 4 is now on display at the CAR Group Management Briefing Seminar in Michigan. Scroll down to read the university's release and watch two videos about the concept; one shows the final product and the other a time-lapse of the build going from X3 to X4-looking pickup.

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VIDEO: Garage419 split-screens the ZR-1 and GT-R 'Ring laps

07/12/2008   [Original: Garage419 via Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Videos, Supercars, Chevrolet, Nissan

The Nurburgring is the most famous and grueling track on the planet. In the past, the 'Ring didn't get much attention aside from track day hoons and the occasional manufacturer test, but lately the big test has been to get around the circuit with the best time possible. Nissan's GT-R lapped the 'Ring in a stunning 7:29:03, which blew the doors off of vehicles costing four-times as much. The 638 hp Corvette ZR1 became the new Nordschleife leader with a 7:26.4 time, but talk about the actual start time of both vehicles has kept message boards and our comments section popping.

The guys over at Garage419 settled the question by syncing up the two videos at the pit exit sign and playing them side by side. They also provided a single master timer to ensure that the times are as accurate as possible. Hit the jump to view both laps at the same time. It's fun to see which vehicle handles curves and strait-aways better, and a clear winner is established.

Continue reading VIDEO: Garage419 split-screens the ZR-1 and GT-R 'Ring laps

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First Drive: 2009 Ford F-150, "capability matters"

10/18/2008   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Trucks/Pickups, Ford, First Drive

Click above for high-res gallery of the 2009 Ford F-150

It's been said far too often that timing is everything. Sometimes a product comes to market before the market is ready, such as when the Diamond Rio MP3 player debuted a decade ago. Other times, the market moves on before a product arrives. For Ford and Chrysler, the latter rings truer than ever in late 2008. Both companies opened the year with splashy introductions of all-new redesigned full-size pickup trucks at the Detroit Auto Show. Those events were quickly followed by an utter collapse of demand for the entire segment. As U.S. gas prices surged to $4 a gallon and beyond, sales of big trucks dropped by nearly half.

When the last couple of generations of the F-150 launched, Ford spent months building extra trucks on overtime to ensure it had enough stockpiled inventory while it re-tooled factories for the new models. This time around, Ford had so many unsold units of the current F-150 sitting on dealer lots that the Dearborn brand was forced to delay Job 1 for three months while the old stock was cleared out with heavy incentives. That time has now arrived, so Ford invited the media out to its Michigan Proving Ground in Romeo, MI to try out the newest edition of the F-150 that, until last spring, had been the top selling vehicle in America ever since the age of the dinosaurs. Read on to find out if the F-150 is still the leader.

Gallery: First Drive: 2009 Ford F-150

Photos Copyright (C)2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

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Mercury Cougar transformed into convincing Audi R8

11/24/2008   [Original: New Cougar Forums via Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Sports/GTs, Supercars, Audi, Mercury

Click above for more shots of the Mercury Cougar-based Audi R8 replica

The seventh-generation of the Mercury Cougar broke with tradition, switching from Detroit's classic front-engine, rear-wheel drive architecture to the more common front-engine, front-wheel drive design. Its styling was also considered pretty radical for the times, with swoopy curves replacing its predecessor's formal roof lines. We'd wager that the last Cougar's designers would never have believed that their humble compact would someday be the basis for an Audi R8 replica. We've examined the various shapes of the ReplicaAudiR8, as its designer refers to it - we prefer CougaR8 ourselves - and we've concluded it's not too shabby in the least. Take a look at our galleries below to judge for yourselves. Note our comparison shots of the CougaR8 and Audi's version in profile, front, rear and in three-quarter view (again, front and rear), which we've also pasted after the break all together. As we see it, the rear-view is the least successful in mimicking its four-ringed inspiration.

Of course, even if the styling of the replicar is decent, there's just no disguising that Cougar interior, despite the addition of a lone R8 badge on the steering wheel and the fact that these two cars share similar dash shapes. Even the interior, however, pales in comparison to the lack of power from Ford's 2.5L Duratec V6 engine, which at 170 horsepower is down by more than half to the Audi's burbling V8. Lastly, while the brakes and suspension components are fine for an entry-level coupe, they aren't quite up to snuff for a real-deal R8. In any case. Nevertheless, those who are more concerned with appearances than performance can get their own CougaR8 for about $50K - less than half what it would run to drive home in the real thing. Thanks for the tip, everyone!

Gallery: CougaR8 and Audi R8 side-by-side

Gallery: Cougar-based Audi R8 replica

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What's in a Name? Nanjing removes name from MG division

01/21/2009   [Original: Autocar via Autoblog]
Category: China, Roewe, UK

Is a British automaker still British if it's foreign owned? This is an increasingly relevant question, as England's biggest car brands have been gobbled up by foreign concerns. Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by India's Tata, Aston Martin by a group of Kuwaiti investors, Bentley is part of the Volkswagen Group, Rolls-Royce under the BMW umbrella, and Lotus is owned by Malaysian state automaker Proton. This leaves the LTI taxi cab company as the largest independent, self-owned British automaker. Even MG was sold, together with Rover, to China's Nanjing Automobile Corporation nearly four years ago. But a recent change in nomenclature apparently seeks to minimize that impression.

MG has been operated over the past several years as NAC MG UK Ltd, including on its masthead the name of its parent company. Nanjing has decided to change that, however, renaming its British subsidiary as MG Motor UK Ltd. Will that change the notion that Britain's favorite roadster company is owned by the Chinese? Not one bit, but who knows, maybe some will be fooled.

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Caption Contest: Opel Corsa Southfield MI Edition

03/20/2009   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Contests, Etc., Euro, Hatchbacks, GM, Opel, Humor

Forlorn Opel Corsa 1.7 CDTI in Southfield, MI - Click above for high-res gallery

We don't normally have caption contests around here, but when loyal tipster Dominic sent us some photos of this curious sighting, we couldn't resist poking a bit of fun. Not only is it a bit odd to find an Opel Corsa diesel left to rust up on a scissor jack in suburban Detroit, it's even stranger when the car is owned by the manufacturer (check out the license plate).

We'll start you off with a few of our own clumsily concocted attempts at humor, but given Opel's precarious financial position these days, well... we figure there are some zingers just waiting to be written:

GM engineers realized U.S. safety standards could be ignored if they ditched a wheel and got the Corsa classified as a motorcycle... genius.

That's when Opel realized it had misplaced one $3.3 billion wheel.

Although Wagoner had been warned over a three-martini lunch that the wheels had come off Opel, he wasn't prepared for what greeted him out in the biting cold of the parking lot.

Not wanting to be outdone, Chevy engineers are reportedly hard at work on a two-wheel Aveo.

Early Aptera prototypes were designed to be more discreet in traffic, but they came with one significant downfall"

Can't wait for the Saturn version!

Got a better one? Drop us a line in 'Comments.' Oh, and the prize? It's in the mail. Thanks for the shots, Dominic!

Gallery: Opel Corsa CDTI Reader Spy

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SEAT starts construction of new Spanish plant to build Audi Q3

06/20/2009   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Plants/Manufacturing, Crossovers/CUVs, Audi, SEAT

When the Audi Q3 compact CUV hits the streets in 2011, its assembly will be handled by the workers at VW's Spanish division, SEAT. In preparation for the crossover's arrival SEAT is building an all-new body shop at its Martorell factory. Like other modern body shops, the 322,000 square-foot facility will be heavily automated with over 300 robots handling most of the welding and stamp manipulation.

A ceremony was held at the site this week to lay the cornerstone for the new building, and as is typical for these types of events, all the usual politicians and dignitaries turned out for their photo op. The €300 million euro factory is the largest investment made by SEAT in 15 years, and signals that the Volkswagen group tends to keep it around for a while. An estimated 1,500 people will be employed building the Q3 when it launches in two years.

Continue reading SEAT starts construction of new Spanish plant to build Audi Q3

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2010 North American Car and Truck of the Year nominees leak out

06/24/2009   [Original: InsideLine via Autoblog]
Category: Podcasts, Etc., Government/Legal, Buick, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Hyundai, Opinion/Editorial

2010 North American Car and Truck of the Year nominees - Click either image to start the list

The 2010 North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards are still months away, but the "long list" has leaked out and it's an odd mix of good, mediocre and, in several cases, not-yet-released.

Fifty journalists from around the continent have voted for 37 vehicles, with 12 offerings hailing from Japan, 11 from Europe, another 11 from the U.S. and three from Korea. Strangely, the Suzuki Kizashi, which hasn't even debuted in production guise, is included in the cars list, while the upcoming Honda Crosstour, the pseudo-wagon-cum-crossover, is listed (as a "truck" no less) despite only being recently confirmed by Honda and spied in the Great Smoky Mountains. Also of note, there's not single Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep offering to be found on the long list, which will be whittled down between now and the awards ceremony at the Detroit Auto Show in January.

Check out all the contenders for this year's award in both the car and truck categories, and let us know if they missed anything in the comments below.

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Google phone designers plot for "The End of Driving" with autonomobile

07/08/2009   [Original: Core77 via Autoblog]
Category: Hybrids/Alternative, Etc., Green, Lifestyle, Rendered Speculation

Mike and Maaike's Autonomobile - Click above for high-res image gallery

In Possible Future Scenario #317-B, San Francisco industrial design firm Mike and Maaike presents the atnmbl (get it? - "autonomobile"). Less a car than an autonomous, seven-person mobile living room, the atnmbl is billed as a complete redesign of the car for those who believe that the ideal driving experience is not driving.

Essentially an all-wheel-drive Internet sitting room, the solar and electric atnmbl asks you where you want to go and then takes you there. Speed and acceleration are "irrelevant considerations," time savings is the key - that is, unless you ask the atnmbl to take the scenic route. Since you're not driving, you'll need something to do during the trip, hence the Internet browsing screen and open-source software architecture to download apps, social networking capabilities, and... a bar.

Mike and Maaike don't predict seeing the atnmbl until 2040, which gives you some time to enjoy having to leave your couch to go camping. As for such a thing actually materializing, coming from the folks who designed the Google Phone, and with, perhaps, the ears of Google's muckamucks, well, hey, who knows. In the meantime, you can read what the firm has to say about its creation after the jump.

Gallery: Mike and Maaike Autonomobile

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Officially Official: Mercedes to produce electric SLS gullwing

07/16/2009   [Original: Daimler via Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Sports/GTs, Green, Tech, Supercars, Mercedes Benz, AMG

Mercedes-Benz has officially confirmed the rumors that have been floating around in recent days - it will build an electrically powered version of its upcoming SLS gullwing coupe. The EV version of the SLS will drive all four wheels by means of an individual motor for each corner. It will not however use wheel hub motors, since those add too much unsprung mass. The motors will be mounted just inboard of the suspension components.

Energy will be stored in a 48 kWh liquid cooled lithium ion battery pack running down the central tunnel. The combined output of the electric drive system is 392 kW (526 hp) and 880 Nm (649 lb-ft), which compares to 420 kW (563 hp) and 649 Nm (479 lb-ft) for the 6.3-liter V8 in the conventional SLS. Mercedes claims it will accelerate to 62 mph in four seconds. No range is being quoted at this time, but given that the battery capacity is lower than the Tesla Roadster and the car is larger, it will likely be well under 200 miles. No timeline for the electric version is being quoted, although earlier rumors placed it at 2015.

One of the reasons that Daimler said it was investing $50 million in Tesla Motors was the upstart's ability to move quickly and develop systems faster than could be done at Daimler. Given that, we may well see the electric SLS sooner rather than later. Check out our high-res gallery of (internal combustion) Mercedes SLS prototypes below and the official press release after the jump.

Gallery: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

Continue reading Officially Official: Mercedes to produce electric SLS gullwing

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