While Mazda of America is busy working on its SkyActiv system, back at home in Japan, it is hard at work creating a new micro-mini vehicle. This latest micro-mini to hit the Japanese market is the Mazda Flairwagon, which is a relatively appropriate name given this new wagon has plenty of flair to show off, with its odd-shaped body.
Underneath all of the Mazda badging is a car that is not even related to Mazda in any way, as this new micro-mini wagon is really nothing more than a Suzuki Palette with Mazda badges. Unlike other rebadged cars like the Cavalier and Sunfire, Mazda didn’t really bother changing anything but the badges, which is pretty strange. Then again, this Suzuki also prowls the streets bearing the Nissan Roox name. In the Roox’s case, Nissan at least changes the headlights a little to separate it from its Suzuki donor.
Is this compact and odd-looking wagon something that will actually sell and will it ever find its way outside of the Japanese market? To find out the answers to these questions and learn all about this “new” micro-mini by Mazda, click past the jump.
There is no doubt that a fairly wide gap exists between Infiniti and its F1 sponsorship. Really, there is not a single production Infiniti that anyone can point to and say “Ah, that is a car that relates to open-wheel performance racing.” Sure, there have been concepts and so forth, but nothing firm.
The halo car was once thought to be the upcoming Emerg-E hybrid, but signs are pointing that the Emerg-E may disappoint. Infiniti is planning to have a running prototype of the Emerg-E ready to go for Goodwood Festival of Speed and, according to several outside sources that Car and Driver has spoken to, this gas-electric hybrid may not be the performance car that everyone is expecting (sub-five-second 0 – 60 time, 420 horsepower, etc.).
While that is really disappointing, as we were anticipating huge things from the Emerg-E, we cannot say that we are surprised. Infiniti has been really tight-lipped on this project, which oftentimes means that there are some issues going on. If the reports are accurate, then the tight lips have been due to the Emerg-E not being able to reach the power numbers that Infiniti estimated.
Don’t fret though, as Infiniti does have a fallback plan, in the form of the 2009 concept, the Essence . Yes, the Essence has been effectively shelved since its debut, but, according to reports, there are still talks about this 592-horsepower hybrid making its way into production in one form or another.
For now, all we have are unconfirmed reports from outside sources, so we will reserve our judgment for Goodwood. Who knows, the Emerg-E could come out and blow us away, and Infiniti may have kept it quiet just to avoid the competition, like Acura’s NSX and BMW’s i8 , from knowing what Infiniti is planning.
Goodwood kicks off on June 28th, so we don’t have to wait too awful long to find out. We’ll update you just as soon as we hear more about this situation.
One of the few thorns in the side of the EV market place is the battery charging systems. The vast majority of them require upwards of six to eight hours to reach 100 percent capacity and at the quickest, most can reach 80 percent in about three to four hours. Well, Tesla has been at the forefront of EV engineering, especially with its 300-mile-range Model S, which screams to 60 mph in about 4 seconds.
The Model S , as delivered, is no different than any other EV when it comes to charging, as its 85kWh battery requires eight hours to charge, using its standard 240-volt charging system. Tesla plans to separate itself from the competition once again by releasing a 440-volt fast-charger, which Tesla has cheekily dubbed the “Supercharger” (obligatory rim shot).
Anywho, this new “Supercharger” will be able to get the Tesla S from full discharge to 100 percent in just about an hour. The catch is that this fast charger is not designed for everyday use, it is only for those emergency fill-ups on the road. Tesla is planning to have these stations installed in high-traffic areas for on-the-spot fill ups in just about a year.
Once Tesla releases this new charger for use in the States, it will firmly place itself in the driver’s seat in the EV market, leaving everyone else looking up at it wondering how this small company managed to pull off these stunts. We think the time for the other car companies to start investing more money in EV models is now, before Tesla runs away with it all.
The web tying varying automakers to one another is a very complex, yet delicate thing. One strand heading the wrong direction can cause an automaker to break off another connection, and we see it every day. One prime example was when AMG hacked off its advertising ties with Ducati just because Audi bought the company. Really, what do motorcycles have to do with your competing with Audi in the automobile realm?
Well, we have another bit of info to pass on in regards to one partnership killing another. Recently PSA, the parent company of Peugeot and Citroen , increased its stake in a partnership with GM affiliate, Opel, to develop four vehicle platforms together. This leads BMW to believe that PSA will not have the ability to fulfill its partnership duties in reference to BMW’s developing Hybrid platform.
A BMW spokesperson said “We are discussing conditions for the exit of PSA but we will not make any payments,” in an interview with Reuters. In addition, PSA has accepted the fact that this new relationship with GM will force it to “change the conditions” in its partnership with BMW. This likely means that BMW will buy-out PSAs share of the investment in the project and take development into its own hands.
This will not, however, affect the other relationships that BMW and PSA have going on. The largest of these relationships is the partnership between the two to build the MINI Cooper ’s engine.
We’ll keep an eye on what’s going on with this development and let you know if anything else pops up. For now, this seems like a pretty open-and-shut case.
In what was more of a publicity stunt than anything, Tesla delivered its “first” Model S to its “first” owner about two weeks ago. Well, said owner just so happened to be an executive with the company that likely didn’t pay much, if anything, for the car. Now we are ready to announce yet another milestone for this all-new electric-powered sports sedan, and that is its official EPA ratings.
Keep in mind, that these ratings are all based on the 85-kWh battery, not the smaller and less expensive batteries. The Model S came in at a respectable 88 MPGe in the city, 90 MPGe on the highway and 89 MPGe combined. MPGe is basically how far an electric car will travel on the electric equivalent of the energy contained in a gallon of gasoline.
The EPA didn’t stop there, as it also had to put the Model S’s claimed 300-mile range to the test. In this test, the Model S came up pretty short, as it could only hit 265 miles on a single charge, which is a pretty significant 11 percent drop. In overall scheme of things, the Model S trumps the other, less expensive, EVs, like the Honda Fit , Nissan Leaf , and Focus electric in total range. In combined MPGe, however, the aforementioned EVs beat it out, as they net 118 MPGe, 99 MPGe, and 105 MPGe, respectively. The “as tested” Model S also has a base price of $69,900, which is over $30,000 more than the most expensive EV of the group, the Focus Electric.
Then again, the “as tested” Tesla Model S also zips to 60 mph in under 5 seconds and looks flat out awesome doing it. None of the other EVs can boast that combined with impressive range and MPGe. So, even though the Model S came up a little short, it is still impressively economical.
It looks like the American Le Mans Series is starting to consider this a possibility, as it attempts to dig itself a niche in racing as a “green” automotive racing series. According to reports, Patrick Racing Team and Indy 500 legend, Jim McGee, are working hard toward retrofitting the 430-horsepower ORECA FLM09 American Le Mans racer with a natural gas injection system.
It is uncertain exactly what type of natural gas, CNG or LPG, the Patrick Racing Team is targeting right now, but we would anticipate it being LPG, due to its more widespread availability. Given the fact that natural gas has an average octane rating of 130, it makes a perfect racing fuel. The biggest issue is getting it connected to the existing Chevy engine without losing too much horsepower or fuel economy.
Also according to reports, the plans are to have this system in place and homologated in time for the 2013 ALMS racing season, which will kick off in March next year. That gives Patrick Racing just under a year to get this system in place, tested, and certified for racing. If this takes off, it could ultimately alter the path that automotive propulsion is taking now – a lean more toward the electric side – and skew it back toward the natural gas/hydrogen direction.
Granted, CNG, LPG, and hydrogen will not overtake electricity in hybrids on the grand stage, but it could bring about a slight shift toward these alternative fuels. We’ll keep a close eye on this project and let you know how it’s going.
Click past the jump to read to full press release.
We have seen the supercar , supertruck , and we are just starting to get into the superSUV , so what else could engineers possibly put “super” in front of? Well, the engineers at the Delft Institute of Technology have a new one for you, the Superbus.
Well, here we are, six years after its initial conception and we finally have and a purpose for this Lamborghini-meets-school-bus electric mass transit system, as well as a road-legal model. According to Fox News, a license plate was finally issued for this creation, which makes road testing legal, allowing its engineers to see how well it performs in real life.
You may wonder what in the world anyone would need with a 50-foot-long, 23-seat, six-wheeled Superbus. Well, the United Arab Emirates have your answer. Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two UAE members, are separated by about 75 miles of highways and want a way to connect the two cities with as little travel time as possible.
The two cities plan to build a stretch of highways connecting them and purchasing a fleet of these Superbuses to trek this journey in just 30 minutes. That’s some serious ass haulin’. We are at least three years away from seeing a production version of this all-electric Superbus, but the issuing of a license plate is a promising site. We will keep you updated on this slow development project as news becomes available.
You can catch a glimpse of this Superbus in the above video.
On the surface, the Chevy Volt is actually a pretty good looking car, if you are able to ignore the fact that it pumps out only 149 horsepower from its paltry1.4-liter engine and uses an electric motor for 30 miles before the gas engine ever kicks in. We’re not trying to say it’s a sports car, but it could certainly fall into the sports sedan area.
Unfortunately, we come right back to that 149 ponies and that immediately disqualifies this otherwise stylish car from sniffing the sports sedan segment. Well, GM obviously has noted the potential for the Volt and rumors are now swirling around that Chevy will start installing the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that the all-new Buick Verano T is receiving into the Volt .
As of now, this is still a rumor, but given that the Cadillac ELR and its sexy exterior is due to debut any time now and will likely ride on the same platform as the Volt, it only makes sense to use the powerful boosted 2.0. The ELR with only 149 horsepower would be like dumping a Civic Si engine in a Ferrari , it just doesn’t quite fit the looks.
We are uncertain if the Volt receives the full-powered version of the 2.0-liter engine, or a detuned model, it will mean that the Volt could push up to 270 horsepower, if it receives the full-power 2.0. Also floating around is a rumor that this new engine will receive a larger electric motor for a little extra gasoline-free oomph.
All we can say is that we truly hope that these rumors are true, as the Volt in its current form is underwhelming, to say the least. We’ll keep you updated as more details roll out on this possible upgrade.
We already know that BMW has officially approved the manufacture of its much anticipated hybrid sports car, the i8 and we are well aware that the gasoline engine behind it is a 1.3-liter three-banger that pops out a sweet 223 horsepower. When combined with the electric motor on the front wheels, the i8 hits a healthy 354 ponies.
BMW has just revealed yet another detail on its upcoming i8, and that is that the thee-pot gas burner that powers it will hail from Jolly Ol’ England… Hams Hall factory in Birmingham , to be precise. Head of engine development at BMW, Peter Nefischer, mentioned before that the boosted three-cylinder could find its way into the 3-Series in the future and the fact that this engine is being built in the same factory that manufactures the 3-Series engine could add some validity to this possible downsizing of the 3-Series .
With the 328i already coming stock with a 240-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter, there is no reason that an extended fuel range model boasting this 223-horsepower, 1.3-liter engine cannot become a possibility. Granted, it likely wouldn’t have quite the drivability of the 2.0-liter, but the extended fuel range would help traveling business people a great deal, while still having a little pep in its step. In addition, those 223 ponies still far exceed the paltry 201 ponies pumped out by the Mercedes-Benz C250 .
We can say with some certainty that a three-cylinder 3-Series variant will definitely happen, it’s just a matter of when it happens and how BMW tunes the engine to retain the comfortable feel that the 3-Series is notorious for. We’ll update you if any other news pointing toward a three-banger 3-Series pops up.
We always see new little wrinkles in automotive dealerships to try and make the car-buying experience seem less stressful and forced. Two key examples are the “No-Haggle” promise offered by now-defunct Saturn and the “Sign-and-Drive” deals offered by several manufacturers now, but started by VW . These are less about making the process easier for the consumer and more about increasing the dealer’s profits while displaying the illusion of an easy-going sales force, which is an oxymoron for any commissioned sales job.
Tesla appears to be going into a realm where car buying is a simple and stress-free environment. How they are achieving this is by beginning with the elimination of the traditional dealership and replacing it with smaller stores in local malls. The second step is to eliminate all commissions and pay the employees a salary. The third step is to not require car sales experience as a prerequisite for hiring, which eliminates the high-pressure “Sell now or sell never” mentality. To get a good picture of what to expect, walk into an Apple store in a local mall and see how laid back it is. You can walk in and play with all of the gadgets without a single sales person bothering you until you ask.
You may be wondering about the floor models and demo models. Keep in mind that all Teslas are built to order, so stores only need a handful of models on the floor and a few test vehicles in the mall’s parking lot. The biggest focus of these stores is to simply educate the customer about Tesla models, and what better place to get plenty of people to educate than a traffic-heavy mall?
Our hats go off to Tesla in its new approach to vehicle sales, but we have a sneaking suspicion that we will see Tesla dealerships and commission-based sales in the near future. Especially if sales start taking off and more models have to be kept on hand for the I-want-it-now customer. So we’ll see exactly how long Tesla can hang onto this low-pressure buying experience before converting into your typical high-pressure dealership.