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Daily U-Turn: What you missed on 7.14.09

07/15/2009   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Tuner Tuesdays, Convertibles, Dodge

2009 Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe: Great moments in cupholder history

If you've driven a Pontiac Solstice, you know it's attractive, yet flawed. In the interest of getting the the Coupe from concept to production, GM had to make a host of compromises, and one of those trade-offs is the cupholder. No, seriously.

GM beginning to backpedal on Lutz' G8-turning-Caprice comments?

Bob Lutz' recent comments about the G8 survival after Pontiac's demise as the Chevrolet Caprice might have been a bit premature. But then again, what else would you expect from Maximum Bob?

LEAKED: Is this the 2010 Acura RDX?

The first shots of the 2010 Acura RDX have hit the web, and unsurprisingly, the small performance crossover appears to have received the Japanese automaker's controversial shield-shaped grille.

Other news of import

  • Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG gets driven, details revealed

  • Orders reportedly coming in for 2010 Jaguar XJ

  • Spy Shots: Mercedes-Benz SLC AMG Roadster?

  • Does brake dust affect a car's quality? J.D. Power thinks so (w/POLL)
  • Peugeot releases first official teasers of 308 RC Z

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Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2014: Students find upsides pretty much everywhere

05/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Diesel, Emerging Technologies, Ethanol, EV/Plug-in, Green Culture, Hydrogen, MPG, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, Natural Gas

Shell Eco-marathon 2014

The skies threatened rain, but aside from a few fat drops struggling down through the Texas air, the track remained dry through the end of the 2014 Shell Eco-marathon Americas. Given the haphazard way some of the vehicle bodies were held together - a bit of velcro or pieces of tape doing the job door hinges do on normal cars - this was a very good thing. The dry roads also meant that all of the teams were competing on an even footing, in this one aspect at least. After all, the 100-plus college and high school teams came to downtown Houston, TX this past weekend from across North, Central and South America and from a wide variety of backgrounds. Given wildly difference school sizes, team sizes and budgets, the students all had on thing in common beyond the dry road: true passion for achieving high efficiency.

There were failures everywhere but also a whole lot of successes.

There were first-time teams, there were veterans. There were schools that took inspiration from the movies with cars based on Back To The Future and the Indiana Jones movies and some that went for the most efficient shape they could CAD. There was a middle school student who talked her way onto a high school team. There were seniors giving the Eco-marathon one last go before graduation. There were failures everywhere but also a whole lot of successes.

This year, we thought we'd learn a bit more about the students and their stories. Last year, we reported an in-depth story on how the Eco-marathon works, which you can read here. Basically, to recap, the students try to expend the least amount of energy while covering the most distance. Within the rules, which emphasize safety, there is a lot of freedom for the teams to experiment, which is why you see all sorts of vehicles running around the track. Not a lot has changed, ruleswise, from last year, aside from the addition of gas-to-liquid as a possible fuel and a rules change for EVs that we'll get to in a moment. You can find the complete 2014 results here, but the headline number is that Laval University, from Canada, won the gasoline prototype category with 2823.41 miles per gallon. The University of Toronto Supermileage team was close behind with 2711.97 mpg. Given the distances covered and the way the small amount of fuel burned gets measured, that's basically a tie. That's how the Toronto team tells it, anyway.

Continue reading Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2014: Students find upsides pretty much everywhere

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Baby got back: HSV launches ClubSport R8 Tourer

09/03/2008   [Original: HSV via Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Wagons/Estates, GM, Holden, Australia, HSV

Click above for a hi-res gallery of the ClubSport R8 Tourer

HSV's ClubSport R8 Tourer has officially arrived, giving our friends from Down Under the means to haul stuff, ass and any combination thereof as long as they part with $65K AUD. The super-duper Commodore SportWagon has got LS3 V8 power with 425 horses and 405 lb-ft of torque ready to transfer its rear tires to the ozone layer. To further underscore the undeniable awesomeness of this package, the standard gearbox is a six-speed manual. An automatic is available as an option, as are 20-inch wheels and a full-leather interior. Chances of us seeing this here? Essentially zero, since Pontiac is getting the Ute (G8 ST) instead of the wagon. That's just a shame. Sure, it's no Wagon Queen Family Truckster, but a hypothetical Pontiac G8 Safari GXP would deliver raucous fun for the whole family.

Gallery: HSV ClubSport R8 Tourer

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Autoblog Sunday Drive: Coronado Trail/US-191

11/03/2008   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sunday Drive

Click above for a map of the Coronado Trail/US-191

With over 400 curves and an elevation change that will take you from 3,500 to 9,000 feet over 96 miles, the Coronado Trail holds the distinction of being one of the twistiest and challenging drives in the lower 48. We've only heard rumors of the Arizona route and expected a tip to come in sooner or later, and our new friend Cosmin didn't disappoint.

The Coronado Trail is part of the highway formerly known as Route 666 that crossed Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, and was later changed to Highway 491 (something about mysterious deaths and people stealing road signs). This particularly stretch has now been deemed by the Feds as US-191 and our route begins in Clifton, passes the Phelps Dodge mine - one of the largest open pit mines in the world - and takes us north through Morenci when the fun really begins. According to a few reports, things are intense from Morenci through to Hannagan, where the majority of the turns and elevation changes take place. After that, it's a more mellow drive to Alpine where 191 ends in a Google-estimated one-hour and 48 minutes.

For those physics enthusiasts in the area, we're sure your already familiar with the Coronado Trail, and for the rest of us, we might need to make a detour during our next transcontinental trip.

We've gotten a handful of excellent roads and routes, but we need more. Send your Google-formatted Maps to autoblogsundaydrive - at - gmail - dawt - com.

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Embrace your inner child with a Lambo ATV

01/23/2009   [Original: Carzi via Autoblog]
Category: Etc., Japan, Lamborghini, Motorcycles, Tokyo Auto Salon

Click above for gallery of the Liberty Walk Lambo ATV

The 2009 Tokyo Auto Salon was loaded with the usual assortment of wild and wacky tuner fare - same as always. But tucked among the cars are hidden treasures like the wee beastie shown above. Liberty Walk/LB Performance are Japanese Lamborghini tuners, and in addition to showcasing a selection of the supercars they've worked on, they also showed off a couple of ATVs they re-bodied to look like super deformed little Murcielagos. Miniaturized dimensions, big alloys, low-profile tires - this is what Power Wheels would look like if they made 'em for grown-ups and cost $20,000. Dad, can we have one? Pleeeeeeeeeeease?

Gallery: Liberty Walk Lambo ATV

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MTM turns up the wick on the 2010 Audi S4

07/06/2009   [Original: MTM via Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Tuner Tuesdays, Sedans/Saloons, Euro, Audi

2010 Audi S4 - Click above for a high-res image gallery

The tuners at MTM have begun tweaking the all-new 2010 Audi S4 (B8) in Europe, and as expected, Audi's new supercharged 333-hp 3.0-liter V6 is rife with potential. With only a revised ECU and an underdrive pulley - no intake or exhaust mods - MTM was able to coax 430 crank horsepower out of the blown six - 97 hp more than stock.

The kit, which retails for 2,491 euros (around $3,500 USD), brings torque output up to 380 lb-ft and, according to MTM, drops the 0-60 mph time from 5.2 to 4.6 seconds. Clearly, good things are on the way for the BMW M3 fighter, and we expect more to follow when the new darling of the Euro-tuning scene arrives in the States later this year.

Gallery: Paris 2008: 2010 Audi S4

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Avis buying Zipcar for $500 million

01/02/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Transportation Alternatives

ford zipcar

Zipcar has long been the granddaddy of carsharing programs, and has spent years forming partnerships with colleges, cutting a deal with Ford and working with the Feds to become a vendor in the government's Short Term Rental (STR) program. The company also first turned a profit in late 2011. A history like that was attractive enough to traditional car rental company Avis that Avis today announced it will buy Zipcar for $500 million. Avis is paying $12.25 per share. Zipcar's stock closed at $8.24 on the last day of trading in 2012.

Outwardly, Avis has been slacking in the carsharing business compared to competitors Hertz (with Hertz On Demand) and Enterprise. This deal nicely dovetails an already established network of carsharing vehicles with Avis' fleet, a combination that Tim Worstall, a contributor to Forbes, at least, thinks will be quite beneficial. His reasoning is that Zipcar will now be able to buy cars cheaper because of Avis' discounts, turning a loss (when the vehicles are sold) into a profit. In a statement, available below, Avis and Zipcar say "Avis Budget expects to generate $50 to $70 million in annual synergies as a result of the transaction."

Zipcar was founded in 2000 and today has more than 760,000 members. The company went public in April 2011 with shares at $18.

Continue reading Avis buying Zipcar for $500 million

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Official: Vauxhall reveals stripped-out Astra VXR Extreme front-drive track toy

02/26/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Geneva Motor Show, Euro, Hatchbacks, Opel, Vauxhall, UK

Vauxhall Astra VXR Extreme

More power, less weight. It's a winning formula when it comes to performance automobiles, and one we've seen applied time and time again. It's what Ferrari did to transform the 360 Modena into the Challenge Stradale, the F430 into the Scuderia and the 458 into the Speciale. Maserati does the same with the GranTurismo MC Stradale and Lamborghini with the Gallardo Superleggera. We could go on, but you get the point: it's a formula typically applied to exotic Italian supercars, but of course it's not exclusively their realm.

Taking up the opposite end of the spectrum is the new Astra Extreme, the hardcore new hot hatch which GM's European operations will unveil shortly at the Geneva Motor Show. To be sold by Vauxhall in the UK as the Astra VXR Extreme and by Opel in Europe as the Astra OPC Extreme, the hottest of hot hatches takes the Astra Cup racer to the street with extreme aero and lightweight components.

General Motors has shed a good 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of excess weight through the use of carbon-fiber components. The roof, hood, engine cover and suspension bracing are all made of the lightweight stuff. The same goes for the aero kit, complete with front splitter, rear wing and underbody diffuser. Even the 19-inch wheels are made of carbon fiber, packing Brembo brakes that measure 14.6 inches with six-piston calipers up front. Even the cabin has been stripped out, dumping the rear seats in favor of a roll cage, with Recaro buckets and six-point harnesses up front. All that, and it's still (Euro) street legal.

Vauxhall and Opel aren't saying much about the power side of the equation, but do claim that the 2.0-liter turbo four - complete with direct injection and variable cam timing, is the most powerful it's ever made. However much power it produces, it's all channeled to the front wheels through a six-speed manual and limited-slip differential. All of which adds up to a limited-production track monster that looks ready to take on the likes of Renault and Honda for the front-drive Nürburgring lap record.

Continue reading Vauxhall reveals stripped-out Astra VXR Extreme front-drive track toy

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2015 Hyundai Sonata found uncovered in Korea

03/13/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: New York Auto Show, Spy Photos, Sedans/Saloons, Hyundai, South Korea

2015 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai is locked and loaded to debut its redesigned, 2015 Sonata at the New York Auto Show next month. For one enterprising Korean photographer, however, the reveal just couldn't come soon enough.

A South Korean website called Bobaedream.co.kr unceremoniously published some images of what would appear to be a completely undisguised example of the new Sonata. Korean Car Blog quickly followed up on the leak, claiming that the car in question was fitted with Hyundai's 2.0-liter turbocharged GDI engine, making 274 horsepower, and connected to an all-new, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Whether that information came from a reliable insider source (as the photos would suggest) or was just a best guess, we can't say. But we can see what direction Hyundai is headed in with the Sonata. The front end seen in the spy shots is more or less what we'd already seen in the last teaser picture, with a new headlamp design helping to set off a prominent grille. The grille does seem to have some element of the strong, graphical surround from the teaser, too, though it's not as defined in these low-resolution pictures. Sheetmetal on the hood and bodysides seems cleaner, straighter and less fussy than in the current car, too. As for whether or not this is the Korean-spec car or the one destined for the US market, that's unclear, though we have been told that the two cars do look very similar.

What say you? Does this leaked image promise a better-looking Sonata, or is the 2015 car a step backwards in terms of design? Tell us which way you're leaning, in Comments.

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Toyota temporarily idles pair of Indian plants due to labor unrest

03/21/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Economy, Plants/Manufacturing, Toyota, UAW/Unions, India

TO GO WITH INDIA-AUTO-COMPONENTS  Indian

The Detroit News reported today that Toyota will restart production at two Indian plants, following a shutdown on Monday.

Factory labor, management and police in Asia engage in the kind of violent altercations that we're not used to, having almost entirely walked away from the overtly brutal relations epitomized by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the Flint Sit-Down Strike. In India, a plant owned by a Ford transmission supplier plant was shut down in 2009 after incidents between workers and armed men around the same time as Ssangyong workers occupied a factory in South Korea, in 2012 Suzuki Maruti workers rioted over wages around the same time upset employees beat a ceramics factory president to death in retaliation for a labor leader's killing.

Toyota is the latest to company trying to avoid that road. The Detroit Free Press reported earlier this week that it shut down two plants in India after 11 months of acrimonious wage negotiations and arbitration have gone nowhere. Toyota said the plant workers in Bidadi, near Bangalore, had deliberately stopped production at times over the past 45 days and threatened management. The workers said they wanted their wages raised by an amount already agreed to by management, but that management had reneged; news reports weren't clear on the amount, some saying nearly 10,000 rupees ($165 US) more per month, another saying 4,000 rupees ($65 US), but reports agree that Toyota has said it will only go as high as 3,050 rupees ($50 US).

Terms of today's resolution have not been released, but we do know that production will begin again on Monday, March 24.

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