2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
Mercedes-Benz has debuted its third-generation Sprinter van in Duisburg, Germany, appropriately at a portside warehouse. This marks the first all-new Sprinter since 2006 and represents a huge leap forward for the utility vehicle. The van sports a new exterior design, a classy interior with touches from the E-Class, and Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system that recently debuted at the 2018 Consumer Electronics show. What’s more, the Sprinter is going electric with the eSprinter variant. Preliminary specs say it uses a 41.4 kWh battery pack with a range of roughly 100 miles.
The Sprinter has enjoyed a very successful run since its introduction in 1995. The van is currently sold in 130 markets and has a lifetime sales figure exceeding 3.4 million. Just last year, Mercedes sold 200,500 Sprinters globally. The new 2019 model replaces the aging second-generation Sprinter, which has been around since 2006. Unfortunately for the U.S., the new Sprinter won’t arrive until late 2019, likely making it a 2020 model.
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Ford Transit Connect Gets Diesel Engine in Chicago
Ford’s smallest van, the Transit Connect, has just received a facelift at the 2018 Chicago Motor Show. Exterior updates are mild and interior upgrades are mostly about new tech and options, but there’s big news under the skin, in the form of a brand-new diesel engine.
The outer shell of the van remained largely unchanged on the sides and around back, but the front fascia now sports the company’s latest corporate face. The large grille seen in the newer models found its way on the Transit Connect, as did slightly bigger headlamps, and a revised, sportier bumper. Inside the cabin, there’s a reshaped dashboard with a cleaner center stack, with a 6.5-inch touchscreen floating on top. The display is optional though. The instrument cluster now has a digital information center. Ford now offers wireless charging, with Waze compatibility to be introduced soon.
Moving over to tech, the Automatic Emergency Braking system comes standard with the segment-exclusive Pre-Collision Assist. The optional Adaptive Cruise Control system makes highway driving easier by automatically slowing the vehicle when radar detects traffic ahead. The available Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert rounds off the driver assist package. Continue reading to find out about the engine lineup.
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Chrysler to Send Thousands of Pacifica Minivans to Waymo
Fiat Chrysler is supplying Google’s self-driving division, Waymo, with “thousands” of Chrysler Pacifica minivans for testing on public roasts. Waymo already has a fleet of 600 FCA vehicles, which were supplied after the two companies formed a partnership in 2016. The fleet already includes vehicles capable of fully self-driving thanks to Waymo’s autonomous driving systems were installed.
John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, said, “With the world’s first fleet of fully self-driving vehicles on the road, we’ve moved from research and development to operations and deployment. These additional vehicles will help us scale.”
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Toyota’s New E-Palette Concept Can Serve as an Open Platform for Developers
As part of its future autonomous mobility service, Toyota has introduced the e-Palette Concept at the Consumer Electronics Show. If you’re a fan of aesthetically pleasing concept vehicles, now’s the time to turn away because the e-Palette is anything but attractive. The concept is actually just a box on four wheels, albeit one that serves a lot of different purposes depending on who’s using it.
Though the badge says “Hybrid,” the important thing to know about the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid right off the bat is this: It’s actually a PHEV. You plug it in, and it runs on electricity for the first several miles of your day.
As I found during a week at the wheel of the electrified minivan, if you have the right commuting or parking situation, you might find yourself using little or no gasoline.
It’s noteworthy Chrysler is the first automaker to put a PHEV minivan on sale in America. For a brand with only three models in its showroom nowadays, this was an even bigger home run than the non-hybrid Pacifica that birthed it. The hybrid takes a great, competitive minivan and makes it truly special — even buzzworthy.
Best of all, it’s the kind of plug-in vehicle that just makes sense for a huge number of families. It’s not much more expensive than any comparably equipped competitive minivan, yet it gets an EPA-estimated 84 MPGe. It’s remarkable because the Pacifica Hybrid squeezes that kind of efficiency out of a big, practically sized, attractive family hauler instead of a small, weirdly styled car wrought with compromises.
After spending a week with the Pacifica Hybrid, I find myself hoping I see a lot more of them on the roads — and hoping FCA has the good sense to adapt this powertrain to other vehicles we might not normally associate with hybrid efficiency. Chrysler 300? Ram 1500? Jeep Grand Cherokee? All have the potential to be transformed into segment-changing vehicles if they can incorporate the Pacifica’s hybrid system.
Honda Insight Returning After Four Years; Prototype Ready for Detroit Debut
Discontinued in 2014, the Honda Insight is about to make a comeback for the 2019 model year. The big news comes from the Japanese automakers, which just announced that a prototype model will be shown at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show in January. Described as a precursor to the all-new model, which will go on sale next year, the prototype is will preview a vehicle described as an "upscale, stylish five-passenger sedan positioned above the Civic in the lineup."
Renault and Mercedes Debut new 1.3-liter Engine!
Automotive partnerships come in many forms. In the case of Renault and Mercedes, we see that partnership come to life in the form of a newly developed 1.3-liter gasoline engine. The new engine is expected to debut in the Renault Scenic and Grand Scenic MPVs before other Renault models get their turn with it sometime in 2018.
Fisker’s Newest Project is an Electric Shuttle; Deliveries Start in Late-2018
Proclaimed as an “SUV you actually want to ride in,” Henrik Fisker has finally shown off his newest creation and the second model to be proposed for the Fisker lineup. Meet the Fisker Orbit, a model that Fisker claims will change the future of mobility forever, and has yet to go beyond the rendering stage, but is apparently slated for delivery starting in October of 2018 – that’s less than one year from the time of this writing. The company, via its Facebook page, said its an “electric, connected, autonomous shuttle for smart cities.” According to Boss Magazine, the new Orbit will be built in collaboration with Hakim Unique Group of China, a brand valued at $32 billion with 160 subsidiaries globally.
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What in the World is Henrik Fisker Working on Now?
Leave it to Henrik Fisker to find new ways to keep himself in the headlines. Months after returning to the auto scene with the Fisker EMotion, the legendary auto designer is back at it with a new model. He’s still not saying what it is, opting instead to tweet a teaser image of the car with an accompanying hint saying that the “future of mobility will change forever.” The teaser doesn’t offer a lot to go by because Fisker didn’t elaborate on the details beyond hints that the new model will also be part of a “whole new segment.”
1970s Hotrod Van Culture Needs to Make a Comeback
Full-size vans aren’t cool these days. Something like 99.9994 percent of all new Chevrolet Express, Ford Transit, and Ram ProMasters are sold to businesses or fleets for the thankless job of hauling stuff or mobs of people from point to point. Nobody buys vans for personal use anymore. But back in the 1970s, vans were the psychedelic alternative to muscle cars, boxy sedans, and fuel-sipping imports. Guys even modded their rigs performance parts, side pipes, Cragar wheels, and custom paint jobs. Oh… those custom, air-brushed paint jobs.
Even Mr. T of the A-Team drove a muscle van. You can’t argue with Mr. T!
The thing is, I’ve always admired the muscle van, but the stereotypes surrounding van ownership just isn’t appealing – well, except for Mr. T, of course. Still, it’s just a cool and different class of vehicle. Add in the practicality of being able to haul stuff or people around, and the appeal grows even stronger. And it’s not like they handle much worse than muscle cars of that era, anyway. Thankfully, Hot Rod Garage saw the beauty within a Chevy van. The only problem, the Chevy G10 van wasn’t the right year. By the mid-1980s, the Chevy van had taken on a new, more straight-laced persona with a new grille, bumper, and larger side mirrors. But rather than dumping this otherwise clean van, the guys swapped those parts for ones from the right era. They also swapped in some suspension and brake upgrades, the necessary side pipes, retro graphics, and of course, a bubble window in the walls.
The result is nothing short of amazing. Check the video then tell us if you think muscle vans should make a comeback.
2018 Rinspeed Snap Mobility Concept
From the maker of some of the most bizarre vehicular creations in recent automotive history, Rinspeed is back at it with another, well, futuristic offering. It’s called the Snap Mobility Concept, and its name doesn’t do enough justice to what exactly it’s capable of doing. No, there’s no garden growing inside of it like the Oasis Concept from 2016, but it does have a chassis that can connect to different cabins, or “pods," as Rinspeed likes to call them.
The whole concept isn’t at all different from how trucks can carry different trailers, but the Snap Mobility Concept takes that approach on an entirely different level because an entire cabin can be removed and replaced with another, resulting in a concept that’s not at all too different from the Surus platform concept that General Motors unveiled earlier this week. Rinspeed’s whole objective with the concept is to reduce congestion and pollution in crowded cities, so it’s no surprise that the Snap Mobility Concept is completely autonomous and runs on a fully electric powertrain. The actual details and figures are still being withheld though rest assured, there’s a lot more to this concept than meets the eye. Keep an eye out for it when it makes its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2018.
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2018 Chrysler Pacifica S Appearance Package
There you are – sitting in the parent pick-up line at the kids’ elementary school. You’re looking at the never-ending row of gray and silver SUVs, crossovers, and sedans. You feel trapped – stuck in a rut of perpetual boredom fed by routines and complacency and made worse by cookie-cutter transportation. You need to escape this automotive purgatory. But you’re a good parent and know you can’t shuck the responsibilities of chauffeuring your brood to and from their various activities. What’s the solution? The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat or Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk? No, those are just overkill on horsepower and underwhelming on people room. No, you need space. You need seven or eight seats. You also need vogue styling. You aren’t the average PTA parent, after all. Well, Chrysler has a solution. Meet the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica S and its murdered-out S Appearance Package.
For the 2018 model year, the Pacifica can be had with the S Appearance Package for an extra $595. It’s available on the Touring Plus, Touring L, Touring L Plus, and the Limited model. It’s blacked-out theme spans from its black paint and Gloss Black accents to its 18-inch wheels in a hue called Black Noise. Tim Kuniskis, head of Dodge, SRT, Chrysler, and Fiat, said, “The Chrysler Pacifica definitely stands out in the school drop-off line, and its class-leading style has won over many new customers. The Pacifica’s S Appearance Package takes that style to the next level and offers our customers yet another unique personality that further differentiates Pacifica from the rest of the segment.” Kuniskis is right about that – no other minivan offers such a blacked-out appearance package.
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2017 Toyota Tj Cruiser
Toyota has debuted a concept vehicle designed to not only showcase innovation but to also create an entirely new vehicle class. It’s called the Toyota Tj Cruiser, and it’s basically the cross between a minivan and crossover SUV. Toyota says the overall theme is one of work meets play, which led to the Tj Cruiser name. It literally stands for Toolbox Joy. Wait, what? Yeah, Toolbox for its functionality and van-like hauling capability and Joy for the “joy of visiting various places by car.” Wow. Of course, the Cruiser name is borrowed from retro-redo of the iconic FJ series, the FJ Cruiser. As fans of the Jeep Wrangler, it just makes us think about the 1997-2006 Wrangler TJ. What’s worse, the Tj Cruiser’s design makes us think Toyota took a Honda Element, Chevrolet Astro, the Volkswagen Thing, and some weird early-2000s Chrysler concept all squished together like different colors of Play-doh.
Needless to say, the Tj Cruiser’s visuals leave much to be desired.
Once past the questionable styling, the Tj Cruiser’s thesis actually works – a no-holds-barred functional vehicle with available AWD for unpaved roads, room for objects 10 feet long with the seats folded, and four people with the seats in place. There are even aluminum rails with movable tie-down cleats on the ceiling and walls, much like those in a pickup’s cargo bed. Toyota Says the Tj Cruiser rides on the next-generation global architecture and uses a stronger-style suspension system with all-terrain tires. Power is hybrid, of course, paring a 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder with an electric motor and a battery pack. Front-wheel drive is planned as standard, while AWD will be optional. Toyota has mentioned no firm plans for production, but the Tj Cruiser will be on display at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show October 25 through November 5.
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2017 Renault Symbioz Concept
While there’s certainly no shortage of automakers out there offering visions of our inevitable all-electric autonomous future, Renault is one of the few that’s actually taking the idea into new, unexpected directions. For example, what if your car could integrate with your home as a spare room, a smart electric energy grid, and a mobile multimedia center? It’s called the Symbioz, which is a play on the word symbiosis, and it was recently on display alongside a full-size model home at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. Renault frames it as a vision of things to come in the year 2030, offering passengers a chance to “enjoy a cabin that feels like home and has been designed for autonomous motoring. On the road, the car becomes an extension of the home. When parked inside the home, it doubles as an extra mobile, modular and multi-purpose room,” adding, “The car is complementary to the home and also an extension of it,” finding common themes of “major architectural design choices, common materials and styling.”
Indeed, Renault is the first automaker to bring a full-size home to a car show, but it goes a long way to proving a point. The Symbioz project brought together “designers and engineers, academics and architects, startups and sociologues,” all in the name of finding out how to make the most of upcoming technologies. Interested in learning how your car could become an integral part of the Internet of Things? Read on for the details.
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2020 Honda Odyssey Type R
There’s no harder transition in the world than for a car guy to move away from his prized bachelor car to daily drive a mom-mobile, aka the dreaded minivan. So, what happens when you want the best of both worlds? Well, you convince Honda to build you a Honda Odyssey Type R. Is it crazy? Sure. But are you going to tell me you would pass up an Odyssey Type R to drive a Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna, Kia Sedona, or a Mercedes Metris? I doubt it, and you know why? Because this thing is intense in all the right ways. You get all of the Type R goodies, including things like the Championship White paint, Type R wheels and body kit, and even the classic Type R red accents inside. But, what will power a beast like this? Well, we’ll discuss that in a bit.
So here we are, talking about something as crazy as an Odyssey Type R. All the goodness of the ultimate people hauler paired with the aggressiveness, style, and clout of the Type R badge, plus more than enough power to keep you from sacrificing your manhood on days when you have to tote the family around. So with that said, let’s dive in and speculate a bit about the Honda Odyssey Type R and why Honda should greenlight a project like this. You know it will appeal to the tuner and gearhead in all of us.
2017 Volkswagen Camper XXL Concept
Summer is as good a time as any to go out and enjoy the outdoors. It’s just too bad that the Volkswagen California XXL Concept isn’t a real thing yet; it would make an incredible companion for a weekend of camping. It’s unlikely to be made available anytime soon, however, but that doesn’t mean can’t wish for it to arrive in some form at some point in the future. For now, we’ll have to be content seeing the concept motorhome at the Caravan Salon Düsseldorf later this month. Who knows, if the concept’s reception ends up being as good as we hope it is, Volkswagen may end up green-lighting the possibility of offering conversions like it for the Crafter.
Before I start getting ahead of myself, it’s important to establish what the California XXL Concept is first. It’s basically a Volkswagen Crafter, the same vehicle that VW launched in 2006 as a commercial van to compete against the likes of the Ford Transit and the Nissan NV400, albeit one that has gone through a massive transformation courtesy of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. It even takes the look of the Volkswagen T6 California now, but even that isn’t the biggest talking point about the concept. It’s everything else about it, really, and the final product speaks to the potential of the Volkswagen Crafter as more than just a commercial van. Apparently, it can be turned into a hotel on four wheels, too.
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2017 Ford "Autolivery" Concept
Given the direction the auto industry seems to be headed, we’re at a point where self-driving cars roaming our streets is far less improbable as it once was. Automakers like Tesla are pioneering this movement, and while the industry itself is still in the embryonic stage of this technological tipping point, enough progress has been made that ideas like self-driving delivery fans like the one Ford presented earlier this year are no longer being scoffed at. Heck, if Amazon can start using drones to deliver packages to its customers, there’s little reason to imagine a future without something like the Blue Oval’s “Autolivery” Concept.
First of all, this concept vehicle isn’t what you’d consider a traditional concept as defined by the auto industry. It’s futuristic in nature, sure, but it doesn’t provide anything concrete that can be adapted to real-world production cars of the future. Instead, the “idea” of the Autolivery Concept is the concept itself. It’s the idea of a self-driving van that works in concert with drones to deliver and transport everyday items on the ground, be it parcels, groceries, or even medical supplies. Think of it as a UPS van without a driver driving it. That’s the ethos of the Autolivery Concept, which takes its name from an amalgam of the words “automatic” and “delivery.” The concept itself is intriguing, in large part because of the potential of its real-world application. There’s no denying that there’s something inherently appealing about a delivery process that’s far more efficient than the ones we have right now and Ford aims for the Autolivery Concept to be a big part of reaching that solution.
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