The Lexus NX Stunts on the Competition in Shanghai With a New Look
Back in the early 2010s, Lexus was missing out on a prime segment – the compact SUV/crossover segment. It had most other SUV segments covered, but was still coming up short. Then, in 2014, the curtain was raised and to our surprise sat the Lexus NX, an all-new SUV that was destined to slot below the RX and give Lexus the fighting chance it needed in the compact crossover segment. As a 2015 model, it went on sale in late 2014 and showcased the usual spindle grille and bold styling that’s normally associated with Toyota’s luxury arm. But, in a world where SUVs and Crossovers are very competitive, you’ve got to keep things fresh. That’s why we’re looking at the model you see here, a refreshed NX with all of the bells and whistles that’ll keep it relevant for the next few years. Highlights include new headlights and taillights, an updated grille with new mesh, an all-new front fascia with larger corner vents and longer LED fog lights and running lights, and some minor updates inside to help keep things fresh there, too.
The interior can now be equipped with a 10.3-inch infotainment display. It’s an option you’ll have to pay for, but is a big deal considering you can only upgrade to a seven-inch unit in the current model. There’s a revamped HVAC control console that is more ergonomic while the analog clock grows a little bit for 2018 and can now adjust to different time zones automatically. Most controls and switches inside now feature a metallic satin finish, providing a more premium look while the touch interface pad has been enlarged a bit for easier use. Finally, the USB ports have been repositioned, and the wireless charging tray has grown because it’s all about cell phones the size of bricks these days, right?
There are some other minor changes to discuss, so keep reading to learn more about that.
This Gorgeous Aston Martin V8 Vantage S Will Be Sold in China Only
Virtually nonexistent outside Asia until 1990, the Chinese automotive industry has expanded dramatically in recent years and its the largest in the world since 2008. As a key market on a global scale, China benefits from many privileges, including exclusive models from several important automakers. For instance, BMW launched the 1 Series Sedan in China only and Buick designed most of its U.S. lineup with the Chinese market in mind. Now, Aston Martin is also looking to expand in the country and it built a bespoke V8 Vantage S as a marketing tool.
Called the Great Britain Edition (not exactly inspired, huh?), comes from the company’s already familiar Q division and is limited to only five units. Granted, it’s not the kind of car that will spend too much time in showrooms, but it should give Aston Martin a relevant answer to the question: will Q-made grand tourers sell in China? Based on what type of luxury cars are popular in China, the answer is yes, without the Great Britain Edition, but hey, Aston Martin needs a solid showroom at the Shanghai Auto Show.
So what exactly makes this car special aside from having its country of origin in its name?
For starters, it’s finished in Stratus White and has bright, metallic blue mirror caps and rear diffuser insert. It might sound plain, but it’s a gorgeous combination. Just look at the pictures. The exterior is rounded off by red, white, and blue fender badges, but more goodies can be found inside. From the deep Aurora Blue leather with bespoke Zagato wave quilting to the Anodised Blue rotary knobs and Union Jack embroidery, the cabin is as bespoke as it gets and it’s the perfect example of pure British craftsmanship.
Pricing for one of the five limited-edition model is set at CNY2,088,000, which converts to around $303,185 as of April 2017. Definitely not cheap, but we’re talking about a very exclusive car here.
BMW 5 Series Gets Extra Large For China
Launched for the 2017 model year, the latest-generation BMW 5 Series is already available globally in many versions, include the station wagon and the beefed-up Alpina. Come the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show and the German brand introduced the long-wheelbase variant, a sedan specifically designed for the Chinese market.
To be built in China in a factory owned by the BMW Group and BMW Brilliance Automotive, the brand’s partner in the Asian country, the 5 Series LWB features a 133mm (5.2-inch) longer wheelbase that adds extra passenger room in the rear and gives the sedan a more business-oriented, stretched look.
Based on the recently unveiled 5 Series, the LWB version benefits from the same improvements as the standard model, starting with a reduced overall weight and optimized aerodynamics. The sedan is up to 130 kg (287 pounds) lighter, depending on trim and equipment. Styling is also identical to the regular-length 5 Series inside and out, but the LWB model gets a few extras inside the cabin.
On top of the extra legroom, passengers seated in the rear will enjoy a seating position that is even more comfortable as well as optimized soundproofing. There is also the option of comfort seats that are sculpted to feel more like individual seats. They also include electrically adjustable backrest tilt for the outer seats, specially designed head restraints and a center armrest with integral Touch Command unit. The removable tablet can be used for controlling a variety of functions, including the seat position and the infotainment system. Additionally, the position of the front passenger seat can be adjusted from the rear too. Don’t have enough room? Just push the button and squeeze the front passenger into the dashboard.
Finally, customers can opt for the Sky Lounge Panorama glass roof with integral LED light graphic which, according to the automaker, is unique in this segment.
The 5 Series LWB will be offered in three different trims, standard, Luxury Line, and M Sport. The Luxury Line equipment variant standard out by means of a chrome strip that runs the entire width of the front bumper, while M Sport models can be easily recognized by their larger lower intake that is split into three sections.
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The Chevy FNR-X Concept Proves that Chevy Could Have a Bright Future
With the exception of the 2015 Chevy FNR concept, Chevy has pretty much proven that its design team is a bunch of 75-year-old retirees with nothing to do but put together boring special edition models like the recent Redline series we saw just a few months ago. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a bow-tie on a concept that was actually on the better side of extreme (with the exception of that first FNR concept, of course.) Well, if you were to stroll into Chevy’s booth at Auto Shanghai today, you would see a pretty extreme concept that’s being called an FNR-X. At first, I thought to myself “Great; it’s just an SUV version of the original FNR.” But, I was wrong. So wrong, in fact, that I’m actually impressed with my favorite GM company for the first time in years. The concept you see here mixes things like dynamic digital LED lights with stout and muscular lines that scream 2030, while the interior gets no fewer than eight screens (including the instrument cluster) to go with adaptive ambient lighting and bold styling.
This concept, according to Chevy, is a plug-in hybrid that allows you to switch between two different drive modes – versatility and sport. Chevy didn’t elaborate on the drive modes but did say the FNR-X also gets an adaptive suspension, active grille shutters, and switchable wheel blades, all three of which can adjust automatically at high speed to cut down wind resistance. Inside, the seats are mounted to multipurpose rails while the rear seats fold flat, both of which should make for increased cargo room on demand. All interior screens feature OLED technology, while the main system screen is capable of voice recognition and customization based on who is using the system.
No word on that engine, the electric motors, or anything like range and fuel economy, but it does have a drive assistance system that provides autonomous driving and route selection based on road conditions. There’s also a HUD that is said to offer augmented reality via the 270-degree, rear-facing camera.
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Audi E-Tron Sportback Concept Gets Totally Lit
Audi just dropped a new concept vehicle at this year’s Auto Shanghai show, offering us a glimpse at the brand’s potential upcoming high-tech SUV future. It’s called the e-tron Sportback, and to our eyes, it’s a weird amalgamation of SUV and lifted hatchback, with a self-described coupe-like roofline to boot. And of course, what futuristic concept would be complete without an all-electric powertrain, geometric shapes, and surplus of advanced lighting elements?
The Audi e-tron Sportback certainly has a lot of lighting – check out the attached video to see what I’m talking about. The brand says it included matrix LEDs from front to rear, with two light fields in the fascia sporting roughly 250 LEDs a piece to create all kinds of signals and graphics. Basically, it’s a light show of “animated movements and signatures,” offering features like a welcome signal when the car is started or the doors are opened.
The lights are also practical, offering enhanced safety with daytime running lights for driving with the sun up, “Miniscule Digital Matrix” projector lights when the sun is down, and an illuminated Four Ring badge in the nose to show off whenever you please.
Audi is quick to remind us that it was one of the first to incorporate LED lighting on passenger cars, and this concept looks to be the next step in that technology.
A production variant of the concept is expected to arrive in 2019. Read on for specs on the powertrain and more info on the cool tech onboard.
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Mercedes Concept A Sedan Confirms Four-Door A-Class
Mercedes-Benz can be credited with inventing several niches in the auto market recently, most notably with the CLS and CLA four-door coupes (and their Shooting Brake/wagon variants). However, the German firm fell behind the competition in the smaller sedan market. While Audi has been selling the A3 Sedan since 2013 and BMW recently introduced the 1 Series Sedan in China, Stuttgart has yet to launch a similar offering. But, this will end soon and the Concept A Sedan that Mercedes unveiled at the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show proves that a four-door smaller than the CLA is in the works.
As you might have already guessed from the name, the Concept A Sedan previews a sedan version of the familiar A-Class. However, the production model won’t arrive until the fourth-generation hatchback is launched, which should happen in a couple of years. Although Mercedes-Benz didn’t actually confirm the A-Class sedan, the concept is described as "an outlook of the next generation of compact vehicles and a potential new body type." Take this statement and the fact that both Audi, and BMW have cars in this segment, and the A-Class sedan is pretty certain to happen.
As with all concepts, the Concept A Sedan is rather futuristic compared to the current-generation A-Class. While the front bumper and grille are very familiar, the styling is decidedly sportier and has an AMG-GT vibe to it. In the company’s own words, the concept "shows that the time of creases is over" and is "the next milestone of ’Sensual Purity’ and has the potential to introduce a new design era."
All told, the show car could very well preview the design of the upcoming A-Class hatchback before finding its way onto the production sedan. On the other hand, I wouldn’t bet on them being as aggressive as the concept. I also don’t expect the UV-treated headlamps, which "glow" in different colors depending on light, to become a production feature.
However, Mercedes gives us a few hints as to how large this compact sedan will be. At 179.9 inches long and 73.6 inches wide, it’s almost 11 inches longer and 3.5 inches wider than the current A-Class sedan. Compared to the CLA, it’s only three inches shorter, but 3.5 inches wider. As expected, it slots right below the CLA, but the production model will probably be a bit shorter than the concept. On the other hand, a similar length could work as the CLA is marketed as a four-door coupe, while the A-Class sedan will be sold as a conventional four-door.
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The Mercedes S-Class Gets the Facelift it Deserves in Shanghai
When Mercedes-Benz introduced the latest-generation S-Class in 2013, a new benchmark in the luxury class was established. And although BMW launched a redesigned 7 Series just last year, the S-Class remained the top-selling sedan in this class thanks to its imposing looks, tremendous interior, and state-of-the-art tech. But the sedan is already three years old as of 2017 and Mercedes has now rolled out a facelifted version with even more goodies.
Unveiled at the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show, the revised S-Class is almost identical to the outgoing model as far as looks go. Novelties include a redesigned grille with three twin louvers and vertical strips in high-gloss black, new LED lights, and lower rear bumper section. However, modifications are more notable inside and under the hood.
The cabin now comes with the company’s latest 12.3-inch screens in the instrument cluster and center stack. The full-size also gained the Touch Control Buttons on the steering wheel that respond to swiping motions like the screen of a smartphone. This feature debuted on the latest E-Class last year. Additionally, the S-Class received all the semi-autonomous driving tech from its smaller sibling, including Distronic Active Proximity Control, which uses GPS data to slow the car down for roundabouts, junctions, and corners, among others.
As far as materials go, there are two new natural grain ash wood trim offerings and three new upholstery color combinations, Silk Beige/Deep-Sea Blue, Magma Grey/Espresso Brown and Mahogany/Silk Beige.
There’s even bigger news under the hood, especially for customers in Europe. A 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder diesel replaced the existing V-6. The new mill cranks out 282 horsepower and 443 pound-feet in the S350d (a 27-horsepower increase and 14-pound-foot decrease) and 335 horses and 516 pound-feet in the S400d. The latter is the most powerful diesel Mercedes-Benz ever. In the gasoline department, the S500 model was replaced by the S560, with the old 4.7-liter V-8 ditched in favor of the newer, twin-turbo, 4.0-liter with 463 horsepower, and 516 pound-feet, and cylinder deactivation for enhanced fuel economy.
The revised sedan will hit showrooms in July, likely with a slightly higher price tag.
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2017 Skoda Vision E
Skoda is gearing up to kick Tesla’s ass with a competitor for the Model X. The production model will be Skoda’s first electric vehicle and is set to go on sale at the turn of the decade. But, before all of that happens, Skoda has decided to preview that model with an “SUV coupe” known as the Vision E at the Shanghai Auto Show. Said to have a range of more than 300 miles, all-wheel drive, Level 3 autonomy, and a silhouette that’s sure to grind wonder boy’s gears a bit, the Vision E proves that Skoda isn’t playing around these days.
Its production equivalent will likely be toned down as far as exterior design goes, especially in the front end. But, that’s usually the case when it comes to concepts, right? Back to the subject at hand, the Vision E is just a bit shorter and wider than the new Kodiaq and is built on VW’s MEB platform. So far, we’ve yet to see official images, but Skoda saw fit to release a few sketches to keep us on ice until the Shanghai Auto Show kicks off. So, let’s dive on in and talk a little more about what’s going on with the Vision E, and what it tells us about Skoda’s future.
Continue reading to learn more about the Skoda Vision E.
2018 Mini Countryman John Cooper Works Unveiled
Mini just revealed the new Countryman John Cooper Works, which means the compact crossover now gets more space, more style, and more importantly, more speed. Now in its second generation, the Countryman JCW is the largest and most powerful Mini yet.
In case you were unaware, John Cooper Works is Mini’s performance badge, homage to the famous sports car designer of the same name. Any modern Mini with an inkling of sporting intent carries the JCW designation, and as such, the Countryman JCW gets upgrades to the engine, transmission, AWD system, suspension, aero, and interior design.
Let’s get down to the specifics then, shall we? Mounted behind the grille is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which was turbocharged to 228 horsepower at 5,000 rpm, and 258 pound-feat of torque between 1,450 and 4,500 rpm. And if you’re keeping score, that’s 20 ponies more than the outgoing Countryman.
Features include direct fuel injection, plus variable valve control and variable camshaft control (a.k.a. BMW’s Double Vanos system). Specific to the JCW model are new pistons, a new intercooler, and an additional radiator. There’s also a sport exhaust with a controllable flap and dual chrome tips.
Incredibly, Mini says the turbo pumps out an eye-popping 2.2 bar of boost (31.9 psi), but that’s gotta be a typo – we think 1.2 bar (17.4 psi) is closer to the truth!
Performance figures look like 6.2 seconds to 60 mph, while top speed is capped at 145 mph.
Cog swaps come courtesy of a standard six-speed manual, while an eight-speed Steptronic Sport Automatic is optional. Further JCW touches include a sportier suspension, 18-inch alloy rollers, and a Brembo brake package.
Outside, you’ll find more aerodynamic touches, plus larger intakes up front. The headlights get LEDs as standard. The body also gains 6.7 inches in length, 1.3 inches in width, and an extra 2.9 inches in the wheelbase.
Inside is seating for five, plus JCW-specific sports seats. Pilots can select from multiple driving modes, and should enjoy the 6.5-inch infotainment screen and various Connected features.
The 2018 Mini Countryman JCW will make its worldwide debut this coming April at the 2017 Shanghai Motor Show. Look for it in U.S. dealerships around that time.
Since going under the control of China’s Geely, Volvo has been steadily making improvements. We already know all about the new XC90, but at the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show, Volvo showed off a super-luxurious version of the new SUV that it dubbed the XC90 Excellence. With its 2+2 seating and bottle chiller, this Swedish luxo-cruiser looks prepped to take on the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce.
From its debut in the 2003 model year through 2014, the XC90 remained nearly unchanged, as Volvo’s focus was mostly on making the model as safe as possible. For the 2016 model year, however, the SUV underwent a complete overhaul, making it more luxurious and dynamic than ever before.
Can this decked-out version of Volvo’s largest SUV really make it as a contender to the two stalwarts in the super-luxury segment?
Updated 03/25/2016: Volvo released pricing details for the XC90 Excellence when it debuted at the New York Auto Show. It will be produced in limited numbers, and will have a starting price of $104,900.
Continue reading my full review of the 2016 Volvo XC90 Excellence to find out.
For more information on the standard 2016 Volvo XC90, you can read our full review here.
Most of the products that were unveiled at the 2015 Shanghai Motor Show have little relevance for car buyers in the U.S., but the debut of China’s 2016 Buick Verano is a look into the crystal ball for Buick showrooms here. After seeing strong sales in its first two model years on the market, last year saw a small drop in sales that put the Verano as Buick’s fourth-best-selling model (out of five products), so an update to the bottom of its lineup is definitely needed. Although branded a 2016 model year in China, there were doubts on whether the new compact sedan will arrive in the North America in time to be labeled as a 2016 model. Turns out, Buick was able to do that, too, as the 2016 Verano has now been announced in the US. Even with most of the major auto shows over in the U.S., Buick was able to squeeze in the announcement of the 2016 Verano in time for the last auto event on the calendar. The timeline looks stretched now but don’t be surprised to see the new U.S.-spec Buick Verano make its official debut at the LA Auto Show in November 2015.
Updated 08/13/2015: Buick announced today the addition of the new Sport Touring (ST) models to the 2016 Verano lineup. They will be distinguished by distinctive exterior cues, like special 18-inch wheels and a rear spoiler, plus additional equipment to the interior.
Continue reading to learn more about the 2016 Buick Verano.
The Lexus ES debuted in 1989 for the 1990 model year as the ES 250, which was little more than a badge-swapped Toyota Camry. Lexus quickly regrouped for the 1992 model year with the release of the ES 300, but it wasn’t until the 2002 model year that Lexus began separating the ES from the Camry it was based upon. The ES went through another change with the release of the ES 330 for the 2004 model year, and then Lexus released the ES 350 for the 2007 model year. For the 2013 model year, the ES 350 received a full overhaul, and now with its third birthday on the horizon, Lexus released a refreshed version of the luxury sedan.
The new Lexus ES, which arrived in time for the 2016 model year, debuted at the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show. As with most facelifts, visual updates are mild while the drivetrain was carried over from last year’s model. Will this revision help or hinder the best-selling sedan in the midsize luxury segment?
Updated 07/10/2015: Lexus offered details on the North American version of the new ES. As expected, the model will be offered in two version: ES 350 and ES300 h. Both models will be put on sale later in the fall.
Continue reading my review of the 2016 Lexus ES to find out.