Sweden Is the Land of Station Wagons and Old American Cars
Sweden is known for many things. From the IKEA and H&M shops in our malls to ABBA and Ingmar Bergman in the art field. It’s also the land where those Viking stories come from and the country that gave us the "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" novel that spawned a great film. When it comes to vehicles, Sweden is home to iconic marques like Volvo, Saab, Koenigsegg, and Scania. It’s also the country where station wagons are still extremely popular, something I found out while spending a couple of days in Stockholm recently.
Kia Bringing WiBLE Car-Sharing Service to Europe in 2018
Kia’s new “ACE” strategy may have dominated the headlines at the Consumer Electronics Show, but that’s not the only major news to come out of the Korean automaker. Alongside the ACE initiative, Kia also announced plans to roll out its “WiBLE car-sharing service in Europe later this year. The service itself isn’t entirely new — it’s already operational in South Korea — but its expansion into some of Europe’s biggest cities is a sign that the service is ready for a more global reach.
The WiBLE car-sharing service is as it’s described. It’s going to be set up in city centers where Kia vehicles will be provided to customers who need to drive a car but may not necessarily own one. In the same breath, the service also helps those who want more convenient cars to take them to-and-from different locations. The soon-to-be-launched WiBLE operation in Europe is expected to follow a similar template to the one it’s already running in its home market. A variety of Kia models will be made available to customers, including the Soul EV and the Niro hybrid crossover. The automaker’s lineup of crossovers and SUVs are also expected to be included in the car-sharing service.
Once operational, the car-sharing service can be accessed via a smartphone app, similar to how other car- and ride-sharing services like Uber, Grab, and Lyft operate. Users will have to pay for individual journeys where they’ll be charged depending on the amount of time they spend using the car. The service also allows users to use the cars on one-way drives. In some ways, Kia’s WiBle service is not entirely different from Volvo’s Sunfleet service, which is already operational in international markets. Other automakers that have launched similar car-share services include General Motors’ Maven, BMW’s ReachNow, and Mercedes-Benz’s Croove.
Kia hasn’t announced which European cities will get first dibs on the WiBLE car-sharing service. An announcement is expected to come sometime this year.
Looking Abroad: Norway Sees Electric Vehicles Overtaking Gas-Powered Vehicles
Norway is known for the Fjords, Scandinavian architecture, and the Northern Lights. Now it can also lay claim to the title of being the most prominent country in the world for electric and hybrid cars. According to data retrieved by the Norwegian Road Federation, hybrids and pure electric cars accounted for 52 percent of all new car sales in 2017, an increase of 12 percent from its 40-percent share in 2016.
2018 Suzuki Swift Sport
Introduced in 2000 as the Suzuki Ignis, the Swift was redesigned in 2004 and again in 2010 when the third-generation model was launched. In 2017, Suzuki brought the fourth-generation into the spotlight with the company’s brand-new design language, which debuted on the slightly bigger Baleno. Unveiled for the European market at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, the new Swift received its higher-performance Sport version a few months later, at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Developed as a higher performance version aimed at similar offerings from Volkswagen and Ford, the Swift Sport has been around since 2005. The recipe was pretty much simple and revolved mostly around a slightly more powerful engine and a few chassis tweaks. Unlike hot-hatches like the Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST, the Swift Sport didn’t really stand out in the lineup styling-wise. But this changes with the new hatchback, which gained a more individual appearance and even a range of unique features. Let’s find out more about that in the review below.
Continue reading to learn more about the Suzuki Swift Sport.
2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI
Volkswagen’s most iconic model after legendary Beetle, the Golf became a performance hatchback all the way back in 1976, only two years after the nameplate was introduced. A popular model since day one, the Golf GTI inspired Volkswagen to design a higher performance version of the smaller Polo too. Although the first Polo GTi didn’t arrive until 1995, the model can trace its roots back to the first-generation G40 version. Following a limited-edition introduction in the 1990s, the GTI has become a regular member of the Polo family, and 2017 brought the latest-generation hatch into the spotlight.
Launched at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, the latest Polo GTI is based on the latest, sixth-generation subcompact, also unveiled in 2017. Built on a new platform, it uses an updated design language based on the latest Golf and a redesigned interior that moves the new Polo into a higher class, closer to the premium market. More importantly, the new GTI gained a 2.0-liter engine instead of the old, 1.8-liter unit. On the flipside, if you were expecting a new Polo GTI with significantly more power, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed. But more about that in the review below.
Continue reading to learn more about the upcoming Volkswagen Polo GTi.
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE Apparently Can’t Be Sold In Europe
Part of what makes the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1 LE such a potent piece of machinery is that it’s bleeding in aerodynamic equipment. Compare to the “standard’ ZL1, the 1LE version looks and performs like it’s from a completely different planet altogether. And yet, it is this very feature of the Camaro ZL1 1LE that has made it impossible to own in Europe. That’s because according to Motor Trend, Chevrolet can’t sell the ZL1 1LE in that region because the dive planes in the car violate Europe’s pedestrian safety laws.
It may sound trivial to ban a car because of one piece of aerodynamic component, but the way those dive plans, or canards, stretch out does make you wonder if they can clip a pedestrian who’s standing a little to close to the car when it drives by. Then again, Chevrolet itself can’t just take out those dive planes just so it can sell the car in Europe. They play an important role in enhancing the Camaro ZL1 1 LE’s aerodynamic capabilities, not the least of which is its ability to work with the splitter and the carbon fiber wing to create as much as 300 pounds of downforce at speeds of 155 mph. Without the dive plans, the Camaro ZL1 1LE is effectively comprised of the very features that make it the most track-capable Camaro ever created. Tough luck then to our European friends, although it does feel like a little bit of fair play considering that we were shut out of getting cars like the Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type R for so long.
Continue after the jump to read the full story.
2017 Blancpain 24 Hours of Spa - Race Report
The 69th running of the epic Spa 24 Hours was as much a battle between the world’s top brands as it was one between top teams in a race that was marked, like last year, by multiple penalties which shaped the finishing order as well as some scary shunts. The Spa 24 Hours, a staple in the world of endurance racing, has been around for just about as much as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and, in recent years, it has seen a constant growth since becoming the blue riband event of the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup. The SRO-sanctioned series is also flourishing and now, the Spa 24 Hours, is also part of the Intercontinental GT Cup (alongside the Bathurst 12 Hours and others) and the Blancpain GT combined leaderboard which brings together the Endurance Cup and the Sprint Cup leaderboards.
This meant that none was fazed when a 63-strong entry list was presented, which comprised of Pro entries, Pro-Am, Am, and National entries. The designations are basically using the FIA-approved driver licensing system where the Pros are the Platinum and Gold-rated drivers while the Ams are the Silver and Bronze-rated ones. The National category is an addition to the usual GT3-only classes which aims to bring lower tier machinery to Spa, such as the Porsche 991 Cup, the Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo or the Ferrari 488 Challenge. This year, only two Porsches made up the National class.
Continue reading for the full story.
Europe Is Also Getting The Ford Focus RS Limited Edition, Or At Least Something Like It
Yesterday’s news that Ford was introducing a limited edition Ford Focus RS in North America sent the hot hatch community into a frenzy. Understandably so, too, when you consider how the Focus RS was kept out of our hands for so long. But now that the Blue Oval’s bringing the hot hatch stateside, it’s making up for lost time with the Focus RS Limited Edition. That said, not everyone’s happy about the limited edition Ford, most notably customers in Europe who aren’t getting any of the 1,500 examples of the Focus RS Limited Edition. Rest easy, though, because Ford isn’t ignoring enthusiasts across the pond. The Ford Focus RS Limited Edition may not be going to Europe, but a new Option Pack is, and it’s pretty much the same thing.
So while it’s not technically a limited edition version of the Focus RS, owners of the hot-hatch in Europe can avail of the Option Pack and get most of the same upgrades given to the North America-bound Focus RS Limited Edition. The most important of these upgrades is the Quaife mechanical limited-slip differential, which really is the crowning feature of the special edition Focus RS in the U.S. and Canada. Cosmetic upgrades are also featured in the new pack, although there is one notable item missing from the Option Pack that’s available in North America as an option itself. Either way, I don’t expect our European friends to be too bummed about missing out on the Focus RS Limited Edition. They’re getting their cake too, albeit in a slightly different packaging.
Continue after the jump to read the full story.
Automakers perform studies all of the time, normally to determine how consumers view a certain product or how consumers feel a product could improve. Ford, however, has commissioned a different study of the psychological type. In this case, the study was commissioned to help the company better understand the link between car color choice and personality. As one might expect, there is a huge difference when you break down the results based on gender.
Ford’s study determined that men who prefer red cars are generally more organized, while those who take to dark blue cars are more conservative. Men who like silver, well they easily remain calm under stress. When it comes to women, those colors mean practically nothing – showing few, if any, character traits. So now, you’re probably asking yourself just why we’re talking about personality and character traits, right? Well, there is a good reason.
During the study, it was found that black and red were in the top four color choices of men and women. It was found that combinations of these two colors appealed to those that are drawn to situations that get the adrenaline pumping, regardless of gender. With that information in hand, Ford put together a couple of two-tone schemes for the Ford Focus, dubbing the resulting cars the Focus Red Edition and Focus Black Edition. Keep reading to find out more about these two cars and what Ford did to make them worthy of special attention.
Continue reading to learn more abut the Ford Focus Black & Red Editions.
Launched in 1957, the Fiat 500 evolved from a tiny economy car into a full lineup of vehicles incorporating various body styles and engines. The change occurred starting 2007, when Fiat unveiled the new 500, a modern car that features a distinctive, retro look similar to the new Mini Cooper and the Volkswagen New Beetle. Since its revival, the Fiat 500 range expanded to include the 500C, the larger 500L, the all-electric 500E and the high-performance 500 Abarth. As we move into the 2015 model year, the Italians are introducing a new model that signals the company’s entrance into the compact crossover market, a segment previously unexplored by the Italians.
Developed alongside the 2015 Jeep Renegade, the 500X is the largest 500-based Fiat yet and features a more rugged design, a revised interior and all the engines you can have with the regular hatch, save for the electric motor. The crossover will join the Jeep Renegade when it arrives in North America, but it’s not very likely to become a more popular option than Jeep’s mini SUV.
Updated 10/07/2015: The new Fiat 500X was named a "2015 Top Safety Pick+" - the highest rating offered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The small crossover did "good" in all the five tests done by the institute.
Continue reading to learn more about the Fiat 500X.
The Dutch are absolutely crazy about Teslas. Not only is the country home to Tesla’s first European manufacturing facility, but last year, the Amsterdam airport bought a whole fleet of Model S taxis – 167 of them, to be exact. Now, Tesla has just further expanded its presence in the Netherlands by opening a second factory in Tilburg. This city was already home to the first factory, but now there is a second. This new plant will employ 180 workers and will add 50,000 square meters to the manufacturing space that Tesla has in Europe.
While the Dutch do seem to love Tesla, this love wasn’t the reason for choosing Tilburg by itself. The small city is centrally located and a crossroads of sorts for both highways and rails. Tesla says that it can have a shipment of cars or parts to anywhere in Europe within 12 hours. And since the Tilburg plants are only for final assembly, the proximity to the Rotterdam port is also an important factor, as ships will be bringing in parts from the U.S. The Dutch government has also been making some serious efforts to improve its green image, and there were no doubt some tax breaks involved in the decision to build in Tilburg.
Continue reading for the full story.
The Renault Laguna was struggling in the sales department, so Renault had no choice but to discontinue the model and replace it with something better. That something better is the Renault Talisman sedan that debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Moor Show as a 2016 model. The car had a very stylish and sculpted body that boasted a muscular hood, unique headlight and taillight design, a grille with floating slats, and a side profile that screams luxury. On the inside, the Talisman has every intention of outgoing its German rivals in the luxury sedan with a heads-up display unit, large, vertically oriented infotainment screen, simplistic instrument cluster, and an almost-flat-bottom steering wheel. Being sold in Europe and South Korea, the Talisman has a number of small-displacement (2.0-liter and smaller) gasoline and diesel engines. The diesel engines are limited to Europe, while South Korea is offered a 2.0-liter that runs on natural gas. Horsepower figures range anywhere between 110 horsepower all the way up to 200 ponies.
Luckily, when Renault chose to go with the “Talisman” name, it didn’t try to follow the design cues of the Renault Talisman Concept from 2001. That thing was downright ugly and probably would have flopped before the first car rolled of the line. With that said, Renault did a great job on the Talisman production model and from the look of things is surely posing some stiff competition for manufacturers like BMW, Volkswagen, and Audi.
We’ve put together a full review of Renault’s newest sedan below, so it’s time you took a look at all the facts and details yourself – there’s plenty more to learn about this new family hauler.
Updated 09/24/2015: We’ve added a series of new photos we took at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Find them in the "Pictures" tab.
Continue reading to learn more about the Renault Talisman.
Any carmaker wishing to sell wagons (or “estates” as they are generally known across the pond) in Europe is going to have to think long and hard about how to take on the Volkswagen Auto Group. Between the VW brand handling mainstream markets and Audi offering a number of premium options, VAG is a huge market force in this segment. It might not seem so bad to look at it, plenty of carmakers sell wagons in Europe, but Renault must be feeling the pressure because there has never been a car more clearly designed to take on the Passat Estate then the new Renault Talisman Estate.
The new Talisman, in both Saloon and Estate forms, has such a German look to it that you might mistake it for a 2017 Volkswagen Passat at a glance. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the Laguna, which the Talisman replaces, had a noticeable amount of that characteristically French weirdness to it and divisive styling isn’t always the best way to sell a lot of cars. Some will see this as the French automaker losing a bit of its charm, but it’s difficult to deny that the Talisman is an attractive vehicle.
Updated 09/22/2015: We’ve added a series of new photos we took at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Find them in the "Pictures" tab.
Continue reading for my full review of the Talisman Estate.
Cadillac is launching a new assault in Europe that will include an expanded model lineup, right-hand drive, new diesel engines and a new flagship sedan that will sit above the 2016 Cadillac CT6. GM president Dan Ammann confirmed the new strategy to Autocar and said the new approach in Europe will take advantage of its current position as a niche brand in the continent and will include “exceptional service.”
General Motors’ luxury arm has been pretty much phoning it in to Europe over the last few years, and currently only offers the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe and 2014 Cadillac ATS Sedan, 2015 Cadillac CTS, 2014 Cadillac SRX and the 2015 Cadillac Escalade, which couldn’t be less appropriate for narrow European streets. What’s more, Cadillac only offers left-hand-drive cars in the U.K., where cars on lots have reportedly been collecting dust. Cadillac is banking that a new right-hand-drive option, expanded lineup and improved service network will help move a few more units in Europe.
Continue reading for the full story.
There is no denying that the first- and second-generation X-Trail was boxy and, for lack of a better word, ugly. For 2014, Nissan redesigned the X-Trail, ushering in a new generation and a more modern design that puts it leagues ahead of the outgoing model. On the outside, the X-Trail takes styling cues from the rest of Nissan’s crossover and SUV lineup, featuring the V-Motion grille, a heavily revised front fascia, new exterior lighting modules, and a sleek side profile. It should also be noted that the new X-Trail also drops that boxy, 80s-looking rear end for a more modern look that should appeal to the masses. Inside, The X-Trail benefits from more space, better ergonomics, the latest iteration of Nissan’s NissanConnect system with a seven-inch display and smartphone connectivity. The downfall of the new X-Trail is the underpowered boredom box under the hood. The 1.6-liter diesel engine delivers a laughable 128 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, which means its looks better be good enough if it stands a chance against models like the BMW X3 and the Honda CR-V.
According to Nissan, the new X-Trail “combines Nissan’s 4x4 heritage with fresh ideas and technologies inspired by its ground-breaking crossover models.” Even with an available all-wheel drive system, the X-Trails ability to conquer anything in the dirt is more than questionable. With 128 horsepower, you might have a better chance off-roading in a Honda Civic. Be that as it may, the new X-Trail is still a huge departure from the outgoing model, and it does have the modern look going for it. So, with that said, take a look at our full review below and make your own opinion about the new Nissan X-Trail.
Continue reading to learn more about the 2015 Nissan X-Trail.
Dutch sports-car manufacturer Donkervoort has unveiled a new special edition of its D8 GTO, and it boasts a curb weight under 1,500 pounds, hits 60 mph under three seconds, and looks like Darth Vader’s personal track transport. It’s called the Bare Naked Carbon edition, and it’s an even more insane take on the high-end street-legal circuit machines we’ve seen from the automaker in the past.
While Donkervoort has used carbon fiber extensively in previous models, the Bare Naked edition is almost purely composed of the composite material. It’s the kind of direction you’d expect from Donkervoort, given the company’s obsession with cutting weight and simplifying design. Only the best bits for creating low lap times remain on the car, each done with meticulous attention to detail. It’s the sort of philosophy that redefines the meaning of superfluous.
For over 36 years, Donkervoort has been hand-building cars with the ethos of “no nonsense and no compromise.” So what’s that mean when aerospace-grade carbon fiber is treated like common printer paper? Read on the find out.
Continue reading to learn more about the Donkervoort D8 GTO Bare Naked Carbon Edition.
Introduced a few months ago in Dubai, the Lagonda Taraf, Aston Martin’s first production vehicle to wear the iconic name in nearly 30 years, made its European debut at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. The Taraf’s European launch comes as a surprise, as the British initially announced the sedan would be available in the Middle East only. It turns out Aston Martin decided to broaden the Taraf’s availability to mainland Europe, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Singapore at the request of Andy Palmer, who became the company’s new CEO in 2014.
"Opening up the Lagonda Taraf to an increased number of customers around the world was a high priority for me as soon as I joined Aston Martin late last year. I wanted to be able to offer this exceptional saloon to the potential owners from around the globe who have been enquiring about it, and I’m very happy that we have been able to expand the Lagonda proposition," Palmer said in a statement.
Although Aston Martin has yet to announce when the sedan will go on sale, it did mention the Taraf has been re-engineered to become available with either left- or right-hand drive. Unfortunately, the Brits have no plans to bring it to the U.S. Only 200 examples will be made, with pricing expected to start from around the equivalent of $450,000. In fact, due to the highly bespoke nature of the car, the Taraf could fetch in excess of $600,000, which would make it pricier than a fully specced Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Continue reading to learn more about the Aston Martin Lagonda Taraf.
Peugeot introduced the RCZ back in 2009 as a sports coupe iteration of the 308 compact. Built on PSA’s ubiquitous PF2, front-wheel-drive platform, the RCZ has been well-received, gaining several awards in Europe and praise for its agile handling, powerful gasoline engines and frugal diesel mills. The performance-oriented RCZ R also received rave reviews, being described as a better option to the dull Audi TT. Come 2015, and the RCZ R has grown a bit long in the tooth, especially with a brand-new TTS around the corner. However, Peugeot isn’t willing to give up just yet and introduced a new special-edition model.
Dubbed Bimota Special Edition, the coupe was created in collaboration with the Italian motorcycle manufacturer Bimota, and is distinguished by an exclusive racing-like livery and various interior and drivetrain upgrades. Keep reading for the full run-down on the most powerful RCZ R ever created.
Click past the jump to read more about the Peugeot RCZ R Bimota.