Hyundai is on a roll these days, having just launched the wildly successful Sonata midsize sedan and the Elantra compact. Both cars are selling at record volumes, and Hyundai has ramped up production at their Montgomery, Alabama plant (where both cars are built) to meet demand. The line is running three shifts per day, but that’s still not enough to meet demand, so Hyundai is importing additional cars from Korea.
For any automaker, such success would be a tough act to follow. For Hyundai, it’s just business as usual, and their newly-launched Accent subcompact is about to change the market in the same way its bigger brothers did. Forget everything you may know about the outgoing Hyundai Accent, which was inexpensive and designed to compete on price alone. The new car is better styled (carrying on Hyunda’s “fluidic sculpture” exterior design theme), roomier, more comfortable, and much safer, thanks to the addition of electronic stability control, traction control, and even electronic brakeforce distribution. You can read our full review of the 2012 Hyundai Accent here.
Just as the 2011 Hyundai Elantra set the bar for compact cars, the 2011 Hyundai Accent will cause consumers to rethink what’s possible from an entry-level subcompact. All Accents come powered by Hyundai’s 1.6-liter Gamma engine, which somehow manages to produce both class-leading horsepower and highway fuel economy of 40 mpg. With 138 horsepower, driving a car that weighs just 2,400 pounds, acceleration is surprisingly brisk. The Accent pulls away from a stop noticeably harder than the competition, and it never manages to feel like an economy car.
Full story after the jump.
BMW’s mid-engined supercar, the M1, is arguably among the most collectible BMW models ever built. Produced from 1978 until 1991, only 556 examples were built, and it’s unknown how many remain today. Some were built as road cars, while others were built for an M1 spec series that pitted the best drivers in the world against each other in identical cars. While road-going M1 made “only” 276 horsepower, cars campaigned in the Procar series produced upwards of 470 horsepower, which made them a fitting exhibition race preceding Grand Prix events in 1979 and 1980.
The BMW M1 captured the attention of Peter Gregg, an accomplished road racer and six-time IMSA champion. Gregg also owned Brumos Motors in Jacksonville, FL, and placed an order for a BMW M1 in 1978, to be built to FIA Group 4 specifications. The car was completed in 1979, but a tragic event in the fall of 1978 would make this particular M1 even more valuable.
Gregg and artist Frank Stella were at Monza to watch Gregg’s friend and former teammate, Ronnie Peterson, compete in the Italian Grand Prix. Peterson was involved in an opening lap crash that shattered both his legs. Although his injuries were not perceived to be life threatening, the Swedish driver died the next day as a result of the crash. Stella, who had been working on a series of paintings called “Polar Coordinates,” dedicated his artwork to the memory of Ronnie Peterson.
Full story after the jump.
Ford had big plans for the roll out of its 2013 Ford Focus Electric, which had been set to launch in 19 markets by the end of 2011. Instead, Ford will introduce the car in just the New York and California markets by the end of the year. The automaker didn’t elaborate, but limiting the release is a better way to monitor customer satisfaction and product issues than undergoing a simultaneous launch in 19 cities. Perhaps Ford is also testing the waters for EV demand, since sales of both the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf have thus far failed to live up to the pre-launch hype.
The remainder of the original Focus Electric launch markets, located from coast to coast, have been told to expect the car to launch next spring. We suppose that depends upon the success of the Focus Electric launches in California and New York, as well as the overall consumer interest in the car. Like the Nissan Leaf, the Ford Focus Electric is a battery powered EV with no range extending generator (like the Chevy Volt or the Fisker Karma). It features a 23 kwh, temperature-stabilized lithium-ion battery pack that should provide a range of up to 100 miles, making it range-competitive with the Leaf. Ford has yet to release pricing, but we expect the Focus Electric to be priced on par with the Leaf.
BMW built the E34 series M5 from 1989 through 1995 and, in the eyes of some, it remains the purest example of what BMW intended when they designed the M5. The E34 was the last BMW M5 to be built by hand, not on an assembly line, and it was rumored that BMW’s test drivers could determine the team that built each car by its subtle difference in performance. Plain on the outside, nothing aside from the subtle M5 badging said “high performance”, and the E34 M5 remains one of the finest Q-Ships ever built for that very reason.
U.S. spec cars came only with a 3.5-liter straight-six engine, good for 311 horsepower and mated to a five-speed manual transmission. That may seem tame by today’s standards, but it was good enough to get the big sedan from 0 to 60 in just 6.4 seconds, on its way to an electronically-limited top speed of 155 miles per hour.
Read more on this 1991 BMW M5 after the jump.
Sometimes, the whole of a car is greater than the sum of the parts. Such is the case with the 2011 Volkswagen GTI. On paper, the GTI looks fairly unremarkable. The starting price is just over $24,000 for a three-door, or just over $25,000 for a five-door, which makes it slightly more expensive than its closest rival, the five-door Mazdaspeed3. Worse, it gives up a significant amount of horsepower to the Mazda: the GTI makes 200 horsepower from its 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, while the Mazda cranks out some 263 horsepower from its 2.3-liter turbo four. If you’re looking for performance and handling, it looks to be an open and shut case for the Mazdaspeed3.
Or is it? Life doesn’t consist of an endless series of mountain roads and racetracks, and even if you hit the track every weekend, chances are that you still drive there on boring public roads. On the road, the GTI’s ride is more refined than the Mazdaspeed’s, and the Mazda’s ever-present (and occasionally puckering) torque steer is absent from the GTI. Sure, it’s not as quick as the Mazda, but the difference is less than you might expect. Volkswagen is very conservative in rating the GTI’s power, and owners who dyno their cars often find that the GTI produces about 215 horsepower at the wheels on 93 octane gas. It weighs about 240 pounds less than the Mazda, too, so the real-world advantage of the Mazda in 0 to 60 times is only a few tenths of a second.
When something sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. Ford’s 2012 Mustang Boss 302, produced in limited quantities, is a hard item to find in a dealer showroom. If you can track one down, chances are good that the dealer will want a hefty profit, labeled as “Additional Dealer Markup,” on top of the car’s sticker price. In fact, if you can find a Boss 302 for only $5,000 above the sticker price, we’d say, “buy it.”
Thus, when you come across a Boss 302 for $20,000 on eBay, you know there’s bound to be a catch. Take the car in the picture above, which recently sold on the online auction site for $20,000. It was only two months old, with less than 1,700 miles on the clock, when a drunk driver forced the Boss 302’s owner off the road. No other details were provided, but it’s clear that the car rolled at least once, and hit something pretty damn solid with the left front fender.
Full story after the jump.
Last Monday, we brought you news that the first U.S. bound Pagani Huayra had been delivered to a customer in the United States. Now it seems like Pagani may have jumped the gun in selling cars on U.S. soil, thanks to a requirement that automakers implement advanced airbags beginning with the 2000 model year. In the past, low volume manufacturers such as Lamborghini and Tesla had been granted an exception to the regulation, which lead Pagani to believe they’d be granted the very same exemption. It was a logical assumption, since Pagani’s production is far less than Lamborghini’s, and Pagani lacks the technical support of Lamborghini’s parent, Volkswagen/Audi.
Pagani learned the hard way what happens when you assume. Ignoring Pagani’s low-volume manufacturer status and limited technical resources, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has denied the automaker’s request, which gives Pagani only two choices: either develop the required airbag system for the Huayra before deliveries can begin, or forgo the U.S. market entirely as they did with their Zonda supercar. Pagani estimates that designing an airbag system to meet NHTSA requirements will cost them some about $5.7 million, which surely means that the price of U.S. spec Huayras will be raised to cover development. That doesn’t bode well for buyers who’ve already put money down on Pagani’s latest, since the best they can hope for is a higher purchase price. The alternative, sadly, is that the U.S. again loses out on the opportunity to experience one of the world’s premier supercars.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave in the wilderness for the past 12 months, it’s impossible to miss the huge strides Hyundai has gained in market share. Its Sonata mid-side sedan and Elantra compact have won numerous industry awards, and dealers can’t keep cars on their lots. In fact, Elantra supply is so short these days that dealers are selling from inventory in the pipeline, not on the showroom floor.
If you get the sense that Hyundai is doing a lot of things right these days, you’d be correct. When Hyundai announced the Genesis R-Spec last February, we’ll admit to being a bit skeptical; Hyundai had proven that they could build and sell mainstream and even luxury cars, but what did the Koreans know about building a sport sedan, long the domain of manufacturers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz? After all, not much has been done with their sole sports car, the Genesis Coupe, since launch, which has many critics questioning how serious Hyundai is about attracting performance-oriented buyers.
Check out our full review of the 2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec after the jump.
By almost anyone’s standards, Audi’s R8 with the Lamborghini-derived 5.2-liter V-10 is a fast car. The engine puts out some 525 horsepower and 391 ft-lb. of torque, which is enough to get the R8 V-10 Coupe from zero to sixty in 3.7 seconds, or 3.9 seconds for the R8 V-10 Spyder. Top speed on the coupe is said to be 196 miles per hour, which is annoyingly-close-but-just-shy-of 200 miles per hour. If you’re lucky enough to own either version of Audi’s 5.2-liter equipped R8, it’s easy to understand why you’d want to make it just a little bit faster.
Enter Heffner Performance, a tuner with a significant history of making Audis, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Ford GTs, and Dodge Vipers faster, yet still docile enough to drive on the street. Their latest bolt-on package for Audi’s V-10 R8s - the Twin Turbo "bolt on" system with twin Garrett GT35R turbochargers at 6 psi - will get you 725 horsepower at the wheels, on 93 octane pump gas. That’s an increase of 200 horsepower from stock, yet the car retains its sophisticated, grand-touring demeanor.
Full story after the jump.
Expect good things from Chrysler in 2012, beginning with the first appearance of the Fiat-sourced Dodge Caliber replacement at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. To be built on a stretched version of Fiat’s high-volume compact platform, the new Dodge Caliber (or whatever the replacement will be called) will likely be the first in a series of new compacts from Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep. The Fiat platform is so versatile that it can be used for anything from compacts through mid-size vehicles, making it the ideal choice for a cost-conscious manufacturer like Chrysler.
Since Chrysler hasn’t focused on hybrids, electrics, or compact, fuel-saving engines to date, the automaker will have some catching up to do. Rumors say the new Chrysler compact cars will offer a range of normally-aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder engines, mated to eight and nine speed automatic transmissions for impressive fuel economy numbers. There’s even word of a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission, which probably means that a replacement for the Dodge Caliber SRT4 is in the works.
We had a chance to speak with SRT head, Ralph Gilles, last spring, and he was tight-lipped about what may or may not be in the development pipeline. He was enthusiastic about their upcoming compacts, however, as well as the bound-for-the-U.S. Fiat 500 Abarth. There’s no denying that the SRT8 versions of the Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger, and Chrysler 300 are fun to drive, but it looks like small-car Mopar fans will have a very good year ahead of them.
If you use an electric toothbrush, chances are good that you don’t have to plug it in to recharge it. Instead, you simply place it on a post in the base of the charging stand, and the toothbrush tops itself off via electromagnetic inductive charging. If that works to recharge a toothbrush, or a cell phone, why can’t the same idea be applied to electric cars?
This is the exact question being raised by HaloIPT, a British firm that will demonstrate electromagnetic inductive charging for electric cars at the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show. The concept is relatively simple: the driver of an electric car equipped with Halo IPT’s system parks his car atop a rubber charging mat, which is plugged into a charging station nearby. The mat and the car communicate via Bluetooth to test the connection and ensure the car is parked properly. Once the hand-off is given, charging begins with no additional action required on the part of the driver.
Full story after the jump.
Here’s some bad news for those of us who spend a lot of time behind the wheel: not only are drivers in the U.S. getting worse, but it appears that their cars are too. A recent study by the Automobile Association of America showed that the poor economy is forcing drivers to delay or avoid needed maintenance or car repair. One in four drivers, or 25 percent, could not afford “major” car repairs (over $2,000), and one in eight drivers, or 12.5 percent, couldn’t even afford a $1,000 repair.
If you’ve priced parts or repairs lately, you’ll realize that reaching these numbers isn’t difficult. A set of four tires for today’s larger wheels can easily exceed $1,000, and a complete brake job with new pads, rotors, and labor can even creep up on the $1,000 mark. If you need major engine or transmission work, it’s almost certain you’ll cross the $2,000 threshold, depending upon the vehicle you drive and the amount of labor involved in the repair. In some cases, extended warranties can help, but these often require you to prove that you’ve followed the vehicle’s maintenance schedule.
We’re spending less money on repairs and upkeep of our cars as well. In 2005, the average driver spent $181 annually on repairs and maintenance; in 2011, that number has fallen to $169, despite the fact that labor, parts, and material prices have gone up over the past six years.
Americans are keeping their cars longer, too, which isn’t necessarily a good thing if they’re avoiding maintenance or repairs. To avoid costly repairs in the future, the AAA advises drivers to stick to the maintenance schedule recommended by their manufacturer. A transmission fluid and filter change may seem expensive, but it’s quite a bit cheaper than having to replace your transmission due to neglect.
Ayrton Senna won his last world driving championship in 1991, driving the McLaren MP4-6 with a Honda V-12 engine. Senna won seven of 16 races that year, a feat he’d never again duplicate. At the end of the 1991 season, McLaren tore down one of Senna’s MP4-6 cars and gave some of the parts to artist Jay Burridge, who in turn created a sculpture he describes as “the world’s largest Airfix (plastic model) kit.” The art will be offered for sale at an upcoming Coys Auction, to be held at Germany’s Nürburgring on August 13, 2011.
Whether you love or hate the idea of a historically significant race car being transformed into wall art, there’s no denying that the piece is unique and would be a stunning addition to anyone’s collection. Much of the car is missing, such as Senna’s seat and steering wheel, and the Honda V-12 engine is another glaring omission from the sculpture. Coys describes the piece as using “Ayrton Senna’s McLaren MP4-6 from his last season as world champion,” but it’s not clear on whether the chassis used in the display was Senna’s primary car or a backup car.
If you’re interested in bidding, be prepared to part with a significant amount of money to acquire this particular piece of sculpture. Thanks to the success of the Ayrton Senna biopic, “Senna,” any memorabilia relating to the Brazilian driver is in high demand. Pre-auction estimates have the sculpture selling between $50,000 and $80,000, but as anyone who’s ever attended an auction will tell you, there’s no limit in a bidding war.
Press release after the jump.
Officially, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler doesn’t exist yet. No one at Chrysler will talk about it, but dealers have already received order guides for it. Now, an Atlanta dealership has posted the first 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6 on eBay and they’re even offering it for sale below sticker price, instead of some absurd amount of “Additional Dealer Markup” tacked on.
The big news for the 2012 Jeep Wrangler is the new engine. Gone is the anemic 3.8-liter V-6 used on Wranglers from 2007 through 2011, and we say good riddance. The 3.8-liter engine was good for only 202 horsepower and 237 ft-lb of torque, which made the 3,800 pound Wrangler feel sluggish on pavement and hard-packed trails. It works well enough off-road, thanks to the Wrangler’s low gearing, but nearly every Wrangler owner we know sinks serious money into coaxing additional horsepower out of the old V-6.
For 2012, the Jeep Wrangler gets the same 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 used in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s a big improvement in terms of output, and the new engine is rated at 260 horsepower when stuffed under the hood of the Wrangler. We haven’t seen torque specifications just yet, but we suspect they’ll be an improvement over last year’s 237 ft-lb as well. Fuel economy is up for 2012, with the Pentastar V-6 getting 13 percent better fuel economy in the city and nearly 11 percent better fuel economy on the highway. That puts the two-door Wrangler at 17 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, while the four-door Wrangler Unlimited clocks in with 16 mpg city and 20 mpg highway.
When BMW launched their 1 Series M coupe, everyone wondered how the car would fare against the larger and heavier, but more powerful,M3. In testing, a German car magazine ran the Nürburgring Nordschleife from bridge to gantry in 8:15, while the record for a ‘Ring lap in an M3 CSL stands at 7:50. Even the plain E92 BMW M3 lapped the ‘Ring in 8:05, so it seemed clear that all M3 variants were quicker than the 1 Series M cars.
The video above may prove otherwise. The driver of the 1 Series M, with the in-car camera, is Andre de Vries. He’s chasing a BMW M3 CSL, set up as a Nürburgring track day car and fitted with a roll cage, big brakes, lightweight exhaust, racing seats and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires. The 1 Series M, on the other hand, is bone stock, which makes the performance of the car that much more remarkable.
It’s amazing to see how closely matched the two cars are, and de Vries managed to clock the exact same 8:15 time recorded by Sportauto tester, Horst von Saurma. Given a cleaner run around the ‘Ring, with less traffic and no accident to necessitate lifting off the throttle, deVries is confident that he can lap from bridge to gantry in under 8 minutes, which puts the 1 Series M in the same league as a 2005 Dodge Viper SRT-10, a 1996 Nissan Skyline GT-R R33 V-Spec, and the 2004 Porsche 911 Carrera S. That’s some impressive company to keep.
The 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show is still over a month away, but automakers are beginning to feed information to the press to draw in visitors. One such semi-confirmed rumor is this: Jaguar is expected to show a new sports car concept in Frankfurt, and that car is said to form the highlight of Jaguar’s exhibit at the show. While Jaguar steadfastly refused to either confirm or deny rumors, it’s likely that the new car will be a smaller, less expensive alternative to the current Jaguar XK.
To grow sales, Jaguar has long wanted a car that could compete with the likes of the Porsche Boxster or the Infiniti G37 Convertible. If British auto magazine Autocar is correct, the car that Jaguar is showing at Frankfurt has been in development for quite some time, and “will blow the rest of the industry away” when it is revealed.
Rumored to be called the Jaguar XE, the car will likely use a V-6 engine with twin sequential turbochargers. Horsepower or performance numbers are anyone’s guess, but to make a big enough wave in the industry, the XE would need to cost less than the Porsche Boxster while providing noticeably better acceleration, braking and handling. That’s a tall order, especially when you’re comparing a front-engine, rear drive car to a mid-engine, rear drive car that’s known to be among the world’s best-handling.
Jaguar’s own official statement on the matter is typically British, with a company spokesman saying simply, “Jaguar has bold plans for the future, the next stage of which will be revealed at the Frankfurt show. We are likely to have a concept car to announce there.”
In other words, look for the revolutionary new Jaguar XE to debut in concept form at next month’s Frankfurt Auto Show.
GM has started building the subcompact Chevy Sonic at their Orion Hills, MI plant. The upcoming Chevrolet Sonic may be small in size, but the automaker has huge plans for the subcompact car, which replaces the forgettable Korean-built Chevy Aveo in its lineup. Chevy has gone to great lengths to promote the Sonic, despite the fact that it won’t hit dealer showrooms until sometime this fall.
Like the Aveo, the Sonic was developed in South Korea; unlike the Aveo, the Sonic will be built in the United States. GM is quick to point out that the Sonic is the only subcompact from a domestic manufacturer built in this country. If you count the Fiat 500 as being from Chrysler, it’s built at their plant in Toluca, Mexico. Ford’s Fiesta also comes from south of the border, and is assembled at the Ford plant in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.
The Sonic began production at Chevy’s Orion Township, MI plant today, justifying some $500 million in upgrades that GM has spent on the facility, which also builds the Buick Verano. At launch, Chevy will offer the Sonic at a base price of $14,495, which makes it slightly more expensive than a base Ford Fiesta. Opt for the 1.4-liter turbo engine, and the price goes up by $700. If you want the range-topping LTZ version in hatchback form, that price starts at $17,235.
Chevy has alluded to the Sonic’s handling, referencing its direct DNA link to the Chevrolet Corvette. We’re struggling to make the connection between a front-engine, front-drive subcompact and one of America’s premier sports cars, but we’ll give Chevy some latitude, at least until we have a chance to drive the Sonic.
To meet upcoming fuel economy requirements, automakers are expected to embrace turbocharging as a cost-effective way to maintain performance and increase fuel efficiency. In 2009, only five percent of vehicles offered for sale in the United States came with turbocharged engines. By 2020, an automotive industry executive expects that number to reach 82 percent, thanks to increasing fuel economy standards agreed to between the EPA, automakers, and the state of California. By 2025, automakers must achieve a Corporate Average Fuel Economy of 54.5 miles per gallon, fleet-wide. Producing smaller displacement, turbocharged engines is a cost-effective way of reducing fuel consumption, while maintaining expected levels of horsepower and performance.
There are a limited number of ways to achieve significantly better fuel economy from today’s cars. Going the hybrid drivetrain route adds expense, weight, and complexity, and using lightweight materials such as carbon fiber, composites, or aluminum usually have a significant increase in cost. Downsizing the engine is a one time-honored method, but American consumers are only willing to sacrifice so much performance in the name of better fuel economy.
Hit the jump for the full story.
Nissan is rumored to be working on an affordable sports car, as a rival to the Mazda MX-5. The catch? Nissan’s sports car will feature an electric or plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the car that usually comes up in discussion when automakers set their sights on developing an affordable sports car. Since its debut in 1989, the Mazda MX-5 has become the standard for world-class handling in a package to fit anyone’s budget. Some would accuse the MX-5 of being underpowered, but when it comes to the ability to carve corners with razor-like precision, the MX-5 has few rivals, and none in its price range.
If new rumors surrounding Nissan are correct, that’s about to change. As part of its plan to launch 52 new cars over the next five years, Nissan is rumored to be working on an affordable rear-drive sports car. It will be built on a midsize platform purchased from Daimler, that ultimately will be used on the next generation 370Z, GT-R, and Infiniti G as well.
More details after the jump.
Chevrolet turns 100 years old in 2011, and to celebrate the automaker is kicking off a series of events, both online and in communities across America. In 100 years, Chevy has sold more than 200 million cars and trucks across the globe, which means than a significant portion of the population in the U.S. and Europe have experience with Chevrolet products. If you haven’t owned a Chevy yourself, chances are good that you have a friend, neighbor, or relative who has, and in the United States it’s all but certain that you’ve driven in one.
To launch a 100-day countdown to its birthday, Chevrolet has launched a website called Chevy100.com that allows visitors to vote for their favorite of 16 Chevy models from the past 100 years. Owners and fans are also encouraged to share stories about Chevrolet on their Facebook page, which also has information and updates on local events relating to Chevy’s centennial celebration. The automaker also wants to hear your vision for the future of Chevrolet, and we’re sure we’d all like to know what happened to the flying cars we were supposed to be driving by now.
The festivities aren’t limited to the United States, either, and Chevy promises to support centennial events in Europe, such as June’s 1,200-strong Chevy rally in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
Expect more on the celebration in the coming months, and don’t be surprised if Chevy uses their birthday party as an excuse to announce the development of future models.
Full press release after the jump.
Earlier this month, we told you about the special 2012 Ford Mustang “Blue Angels” edition, built for this year’s Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture show auction. Each year, Ford rolls out a one-of-a-kind Mustang to be auctioned at the event, with the proceeds going to benefit the EAA Young Eagles program. In terms of collector cars, it doesn’t get any better than one-of-one built, so the EAA Mustangs typically sell for significant money.
This year’s example was no exception to that rule. When the hammer fell last week, the Blue Angels tribute Mustang had been bid up to $400,000, purchased by an anonymous California bidder. In addition to the unique Mustang, the winning bidder will also receive a Blue Angels flight helmet, signed by pilots and crew of the Blue Angels precision flying team.
The buyer gets a Mustang done up in spectra-chrome blue, complete with the Blue Angels crest and script in “screaming yellow” paint. Under the hood, the 5.0 liter Coyote V-8 gets updates that include a Ford Racing supercharger, allowing it to put out some 624 horsepower. Ford Racing components are also used to beef up the suspension, exhaust and brakes, meaning that the car was built to be driven, not just displayed at car shows.
Although $400,000 may seem like a lot of money to pay for a Mustang, this year’s car sold for significantly less than the record-breaking Mustang AV8R, styled with design elements from the F-22 Raptor. In 2008, AV8R sold at the EAA auction for $500,000.