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2018 Volkswagen Grand California

2018 Volkswagen Grand California

Possibly the best camper you will ever imagine

Exactly one year ago, Volkswagen revealed a camper dubbed the California XXL Concept. It was an early look at a production model they actually put into production just now. Scheduled for live unveiling at the Dusseldorf Caravan Salon that will start later this month, the Volkswagen Grand California is a production version of the last year’s concept and it is every bit of awesome as you may imagine. Forget about the Airstream, or anything similar. This is better, but you can’t have it because Volkswagen Commercial vehicles aren’t available in the U.S.

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2018 Honda Odyssey

2018 Honda Odyssey

The Odyssey could finish what the Pacifica started in the minivan market

The Honda Odyssey was born in a time of need during Japan’s economic crisis in the 1990s. As such, the first-generation model was much smaller than the model that we know today. That model lasted just long enough for Honda to build a U.S.-based production facility and the Odyssey has been getting better ever since. Each generation of Honda’s resident minivan has been short lived, with the longest being the current and fourth-generation which will run through the 2017 model year. For 2018, Honda is introducing the fifth-generation model that includes aggressive exterior styling with LED lighting, powered rear doors, and an evolution of the “lightning bolt” beltline that has been a subject of controversy in the past. On the inside, the new Odyssey benefits from an all-new infotainment system, camera monitoring system, digital instrument cluster, and a new take on age-old problem of accessing that third row of seats. It gets even better yet, however, as Honda also saw fit to provide more power from its resident 3.5-liter V-6 – effectively raising output to 280 horsepower – and two new automatic transmissions that will help put the Odyssey at the top of its class in the fuel economy department.

So, with an updated and aggressive design, new innovative technology, and a 32 horsepower increase over the outgoing model, the new Odyssey is ready to hit showrooms and bring more stability to the once crumbling foundation of the minivan segment. But, regardless of this new design, Honda is still showing up late to the party as Chrysler redesigned the Pacifica (the Odyssey’s main competition) for the 2017 model year and it’s already established a pretty decent foothold. So, does the new Odyssey have what it takes to compete with models like the Pacifica, or even the aging Toyota Sienna? Well, I spent some time with the new Odyssey when it made its long-awaited debut at the Detroit Auto Show, so let’s dive on in to take a better look and see if we can come up with a good answer to that question.

Update 5/30/2017: Honda has finally announced prices for the all-new Honda Odyssey. It starts out just below the $30k mark at $29,990. Check out the prices section below for detailed pricing on each trim level and what each trim level includes as standard equipment.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2018 Honda Odyssey.

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2017 Volkswagen Sedric Concept

2017 Volkswagen Sedric Concept

The Brave Little Toaster grew into a self-driving concept

Volkswagen is launching a new initiative – create a world with self-driving vehicles that transport people in living room-like comfort, all without the need of a driver’s license, eyesight, or even the physical ability to drive. Leading the charge is the first concept car from Volkswagen Group. It’s named Sedric, which is short for self-driving car. VG says Sedric is the “father” of other autonomous concepts soon to come, each branded from different subsidiary brands under the VG umbrella. These “children” and “grandchildren” will build on Sedric’s foundation, eventually providing ride-sharing and private ownership experiences unlike anything known today.

Granted, this is a tall order for Volkswagen. There are a ton of moving parts that must be incorporated, not the least of which is the proliferation of the Internet of Things. Still, the new world previewed by Sedric is one of comfort and convenience, without the hassles inherent to driving. Think inner city commuting or the daily grind of chauffeuring kids to school, parents to work, and the insane scheduling that surrounds after-school activities. Sedric’s self-driving and autonomous nature alleviates the stress of transportation. Or so Volkswagen hopes.

Sedric’s overall design is one of originality. It doesn’t need to conform to the traditional configuration of a car or SUV. It has almost no overhangs beyond its wheels, it doesn’t waste interior space with driver controls, and it incorporated technology in nearly every aspect of its design. Its all-electric drivetrain offers clean, quite transportation, while requiring minimal space under the floor.

Now Volkswagen isn’t trying to kill the joy of driving. Rather, the automaker is trying to revolutionize personal transportation for busy families, older children, and senior citizens. The local Porsche dealership will still have go-fast fun machines ready to tackle the back roads and by-ways.

Continue reading to learn more about the Volkswagen Sedric Concept.

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2017 Peugeot Partner Tepee Electric

2017 Peugeot Partner Tepee Electric

Peugeot’s trusty passenger van goes electric

The second-generation Peugeot Partner was introduced in 2008 alongside its PSA sibling, the Citroen Berlingo. Like its predecessor, the current Partner is available in both panel van and passenger versions, but the latter has been renamed the Partner Tepee. Offered with four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines since its introduction, the Partner gained an electric drivetrain in 2013. The utility vehicle was updated in 2015 with a redesigned exterior and a revised cabin. At the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, Peugeot introduces the electric version of the Tepee passenger model.

Called the Partner Tepee Electric, the "leisure activity vehicle," as it’s being described by Peugeot, uses the same electric motor as the pavel van version. Mileage is similar, while the Tepee Electric will also benefit from tax exemption with new VED regulations from 2017. Peugeot also added a range of new features, especially in the connectivity department, as well as a comprehensive battery warranty program.

The new Tepee Electric is basically a passenger-friendly alternative to the panel van EV for customers that need the cargo room of an utility vehicle, while also being able to transport up to four passengers when needed. It also enables Peugeot to finally offer an alternative to the passenger version of the Renault Kangoo Z.E.

"Whether for personal or business use, the Partner Tepee Electric stands out thanks to its blend of practicality and efficiency. The vehicle offers an impressive range and is easy to run and maintain, making it a highly attractive option for those looking to switch to electric," said David Peel, managing director of Peugeot U.K.

Continue reading to learn more about the Peugeot Partner Tepee Electric.

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2017 Nissan NV Cargo X Project Van

2017 Nissan NV Cargo X Project Van

This isn’t your average cargo van

Nissan is dumping the conventionality of the monotonous cargo van with its Cargo X Project van – a hard-core, Cummins-powered rock crawler with a heavily modified suspension and solid axles. The Cargo X Project was headed up by legendary off-road builder and host of Spike TV’s Xtreme Off-Road, Ian Johnson and fully supported by Nissan. Needless to say, this isn’t the average fleet van.

The NV2500 van started life as a standard cargo van, powered by Nissan’s 5.6-liter Endurance V-8. It rode on an independent front suspension with a leaf spring suspension holding the solid rear axle in place. Rear drive and an open differential, combined with the rest of the road-going suspension wouldn’t cut it for rock crawling, so modifications began.

Though the NV Cargo X might seem more like a SEMA build, Nissan is bringing it to the 2017 Chicago Auto Show. It will be on display for show-goers to check out from February 11 through 20. Those not able to make the show can see all the details below.

Continue reading for the full review.

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2017 Buick GL8

2017 Buick GL8

The company’s sole minivan gets new looks and technology for 2017

After many years of struggle, the Buick brand is finally doing well financially, thanks to its successful strategy China. Buick products have been selling like hot cakes since 2013 in China, where the American brand offers significantly more nameplates than in the U.S. One such vehicle is the GL8, a minivan that is about to received its third-generation redesign. Set to debut at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November 2016, the new GL8 was recently previewed by Buick.

For the uninitiated, the GL8 nameplate has been around since 2000, and it’s Buick’s sole minivan since the Terraza was discontinued in the U.S. after only two years on the market. It’s also GM’s only MPV, with the Detroit-based giant having replaced every minivan with SUVs in recent years. At first based on the Chevrolet Venture, launched in 1996, the GL8 carried over mostly unchanged until 2010, when it was redesigned on an update platform.

To be discontinued in 2016, the second-generation GL8 has been a key member of Buick’s lineup in China, helping the brand become the country’s third-largest passenger car manufacturer. In 2015, Buick sold 76,607 GL8s, a figure it is hoping to improve with the new, third-generation minivan. Details about the redesigned MPV are still scant, but until Buick releases more data, let’s have a closer look at what we already know about it.

Continue reading to learn more about the Buick GL8 Luxury MPV.

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2016 Mercedes Vision Van

2016 Mercedes Vision Van

Part delivery van, part futuristic philosophy

In the future, everything will be faster, more efficient, and more intelligent – even when it comes to delivering that pair of cat socks you ordered off the Internet. Mercedes just announced something called adVANce, a “future initiative” looking to invest 500 million euros over the next five years in the realms of “digitalization, automation and robotics.” Where’s all that tech going? Why, to vans, obviously. You see, Mercedes is imagining new ways of bringing the goods transportation industry into the 21st century, and the amorphous four-wheeled contraption you see here is the automaker’s first step in that direction. It’s hugely automated, all-electric, and there’s a squadron of drones parked on the roof. Sounds like sci-fi, but something like this concept might be closer than you think.

Mercedes says it’s already got 200 employees hammering away on ideas similar to the Vision Van, with folks stationed in Berlin, Stuttgart, and (of course) Silicon Valley. The automaker is also working with tech startups to infuse the timeworn parcel delivery model with fresh ideas and new perspectives.

So what are some of the cool ideas we can expect to see in the near future of delivery? Read on to find out.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mercedes Vision Van.

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2016 Global Vehicle Trust OX

2016 Global Vehicle Trust OX

Gordon Murray now building a go-anywhere truck for the African wilderness

He’s known for many things, but Gordon Murray can now add an inexpensive, easy-to-assemble, all-terrain truck to his F1 racing and McLaren resume. That’s right, Murray, along with famed philanthropist Sir Torquil Norman, are in the process of kick starting Global Vehicle Trust, an automobile company focused on making rugged and inexpensive trucks designed to haul heavy loads over primitive roads through third world countries.

GVT’s prototype is called the OX, and it’s designed for both regular transportation and for use in emergencies. A team of three people can assemble it in roughly 12 hours with average mechanical skill using basic hand tools. It comes packed flat in a box and uses common parts on each side of the vehicle. Even the three-piece windshield uses interchangeable glass panels.

True to Gordon’s McLaren F1 design, the OX uses a centered driver’s position, leaving the two outboard seats for passengers. Three occupants can fit up front, while 10 more can ride out back. And despite only weighting 3,500 pounds and powered by a 100-horsepower four-cylinder, the OX can carry 4,200 pounds – far more than most conventional car-based pickups in the affordable price bracket. And interestingly enough, the OX is only FWD. This makes it far easier to manufacture and assemble, while knobby tires held down by the engine and cab’s weight make for good traction.

All this comes from Sir Torquil Norman’s dream of helping people in developing countries with cost-effective transportation. He founded GVT five years ago and has been working on the OX project ever since. The fledgling automaker is currently seeking donors willing to support the ambitious project.

Continue reading about the OX below.

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2017 Nissan Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell NV200 Van

2017 Nissan Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell NV200 Van

Pioneering a new form of bio-fuels

Bio-fuels have been around a while, just like the concept of hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle. Nissan is taking these two concepts and combining them into its Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell powertrain. But this is no theoretical lab experiment. No, Nissan has built a working model with its mid-size NV cargo van.

It’s called the e-Bio Fuel-Cell and it offers the benefits of a hydrogen fuel-cell without the need for compressed hydrogen gas and the complicated infrastructure required to handle it. Rather, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell runs on bio-ethanol harvested from corn or sugarcane and can be dispensed in liquid form the same way traditional gasoline and diesel fuels have been for the last century – at a filling station.

"The e-Bio Fuel-Cell offers eco-friendly transportation and creates opportunities for regional energy production… all the while supporting the existing infrastructure," says Nissan president and CEO, Carlos Ghosn. "In the future, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell will become even more user-friendly. Ethanol-blended water is easier and safer to handle than most other fuels. Without the need to create new infrastructure, it has great potential to drive market growth."

Nissan says this NV e-Bio Fuel-Cell concept van runs on 100 percent ethanol to charge a 24 kWh battery, which affords more than 373 miles of driving range via an electric drivetrain. And of course, it does this with a very small global impact. The little CO2 emissions generated by the e-Bio Fuel-Cell is offset by the growing process of the corn and sugarcane, effectively canceling out the vehicle emissions for an overall zero-emissions impact.

Continue reading for the full run-down and informative video.

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2017 Volkswagen Crafter

2017 Volkswagen Crafter

VW’s new Crafter is now an in-house creation

Volkswagen has just updated its largest euro-style van, the Crafter, for the 2017 model year. “Update” might be an understatement, though, as the Crafter is new from the wheels up. This comes as Volkswagen split with its long-time van-building partner, Mercedes-Benz. Yep, VW basically badge engineered itself the Crafter off the Mercedes Sprinter platform. Mercedes even built the van for VW, though the Crafter was powered by VW-sourced powertrains.

The new Crafter still plays on the extreme functionality found in the Sprinter. Its low load floor and available high roof heights allow for large amounts of cargo and even walking room. The van’s short overhangs and tight turning radius is perfect for navigating narrow European streets.

Volkswagen engineers didn’t just reverse-engineer the Sprinter for VW’s use. They reportedly conducted an extensive survey of Crafter customers to find what features they liked, didn’t like, and wanted to see in future products. VW says this lead to driver aids like a backup camera, adaptive cruise control, a side wind compensation system, and even the availability of VW’s 4Motion AWD system.

On top of these features, VW updated the standard powertrain option. The new “EA288Nutz” 2.0-liter TDI four-cylinder is offered in four output levels, including a twin-turbo variant with 175 horsepower. What’s more, the Crafter offers more drivetrain choices than just about any vehicle in recent memory. Customs can order FWD, RWD, or AWD, on top of an automatic or manual transmission. Impressive.

Keep reading for more on the Crafter.

Continue reading for the full run-down.

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The 2015 Truck of Texas: Crowing the Winners

The 2015 Truck of Texas: Crowing the Winners

Every fall, dozens of journalists from all over Texas and around the country gather to compare, test, and crown the winner of the “Truck of Texas” competition. It’s a coveted award from the Texas Auto Writers Association that signifies Texas’ collective approval of a truck. And not only are trucks involved, awards go out for the SUV and CUV of Texas.

I already touched on the topic in the preview piece, but awards are also given to the winner in each vehicle category and for various things like “best connectivity” and “best powertrain.”

This year’s competition was fierce. There were 84 vehicles present from 21 automakers entered into 17 different categories. Evaluating the field were 69 TAWA members comprised of journalists and social media influencers.

So let’s get down to the results. Keep reading for the full breakdown.

Continue reading for the results of the 2015 TAWA Truck Rodeo

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