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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
 |  Aug 19 2011, 11:45 AM


For the next generation of Ford’s in-dash displays, the company is actually putting some thought into them—and focus groups are using a high-tech virtual simulator to determine what works in relaying information to drivers and passengers alike.

The driving simulator is carefully designed to match the interior of a Ford Focus Electric, with two 4.2-inch color LCD screens on both sides of the speedometer. Once the occupant gets in (and 30 drivers have already), the simulator takes him on a diverse 11-mile drive—across winding hills, city streets, country roads, stretches of flat nothingness, and Grandma’s house.

“These screens are an integral part of Focus Electric and we thought the best way to make sure they would do their job is to have people come in and try them out for themselves,” said Paul Aldighieri, an engineer with Ford. “The only true way to get a feel for what the screens are telling the driver is by actually getting behind the wheel.”

The simulator gauges how drivers react to all of the information that pertains to the Focus Electric: battery charge, remaining range, and whether you could be driving even more efficiently. It’s a lot of information to display, especially while someone’s driving and doing the 100 other things one normally does while driving (applying makeup, eating cheeseburgers, flipping off tailgaters, sexting) so engineers have to determine what’s effective and what’s not. Butterflies to display eco-friendliness, for example, are more welcoming than circuitboard graphics.

The system is integrated into MyFord Touch, which offers information about range, destinations and charge points. It’s all controlled through five buttons on the steering wheel, which will also bring up the ability to customize information to individual drivers (which Ford calls “MyView”). When the Ford Focus Electric finally comes out, it’ll be key for consumers to know that, well, circuits are too nerdy for environmentalists!

 |  Aug 18 2011, 10:46 PM

Infiniti has been teasing us with the JX for some time now, but today the pieces finally fit: the luxury crossover was unveiled in its entirety at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The JX is Infiniti’s second vehicle that seats 7 people across three rows of leather-clad seats. The first was the QX56, the Nissan Patrol-based behemoth that is more comfortable crossing the Serengeti (or in the back of rap videos) than the JX would ever be. But that’s ok. Seeing as off-roading isn’t the JX’s forte, it makes up with more curvaceous styling—a front end cribbed from the M and the Essence concept, and some deep sculpting along its flanks.

The result is akin to a two-box station wagon, with Infiniti’s bulging carp-like face. Packagewise, the JX hides its size well: the strangely-sculpted rear D-pillar makes this apparent. Infiniti says that the JX “shines as a fresh, bold alternative to the many flavors of vanilla” that make up its 3-row rivals. It’s certainly an unmistakable presence—take that how you will.

And inside is where it counts: the 2nd row can tilt and slide forward to allow access to the third row, even with a child seat in place—though Infiniti advises you to take the child out first. All three rows should be able to fit full-size adults, though past 3-row seaters have always called this claim into skepticism. The passengers that do fit, however, will be treated to a 14-speaker Bose surround-sound system with Waveguide bass, Infiniti Connection Telematics to schedule appointments and calendars, and Infiniti Personal Assistant, a 24-hour concierge system that’s free on all 2012 Infiniti cars.

The JX uses one of Infiniti’s V6 engines, which will most likely be the 3.7-liter V6 shared in the G37. It can be had in front- or all-wheel drives, attached to a continuously-variable transmission—Infiniti’s first, designed to balance fuel efficiency and freeway-worthy acceleration. (Infiniti also claims “driving exhilaration,” but c’mon—let’s not kid ourselves here.)

Further details regarding the powertrain will be announced when Infiniti debuts the production version, in a few months at the Los Angeles Auto Show. By then, we’ll see if Infiniti’s claim of sportiness and 3rd-row roominess are accurate or not.

GALLERY: Infiniti JX Concept Reveal

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GALLERY: Infiniti JX Concept

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Watch video from the reveal in Pebble Beach after the jump:

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 |  Aug 18 2011, 9:05 PM

And now, drumroll, please…at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Lexus has unveiled the all-new GS350,with sharper styling and sportier handling.

The new GS is wider than the outgoing four-eyed model, as befitting an entirely new platform that is even more rigid but stays within the same size. Lexus engineers focused on making the car more aerodynamic, with carefully-designed trunklids and bumpers to make sure air gets tamed as it passes above and below. Lexus says the Gs features a class-leading coefficient of drag, but declined giving any numbers.

From the outside, it certainly looks new: gone are the wide-eyed, mismatched headlights and baleen grille, exorcised for more aggressive knife edges and angles. It’s an evolution of Lexus’s L-Finesse styling that blatantly takes its cues from the supercar LF-A. Lexus now calls the new chrome-speared grille a “spindle grille,” whatever that means. But from the side, the GS sharply mimics its LS older brother, and manages to look more purposeful at the same time: 17-inch wheels are standard as well, with the option of going up to 19 inches.

Under the hood, the Ss350 gets for a base engine a 3.5-liter V6, good for 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. In order to stay competitive with the Infiniti M, however, expect larger V8 engines to make it into the fold. A six-speed sequential automatic puts this power to the ground, through the rear wheels as well as an available all-wheel drive system. All of this is good for a 0-60 sprint of 5.7 seconds on its way to an electronically-limited top speed of 142 mph.

Inside, one can expect all of the leather and wood accoutrements as expected of Lexus, with some trick energy-saving technologies: an automatic climate control system Lexus calls S-Flow, which detects the number and position of its occupants, and directs airflow only to them. Despite keeping the same dimensions, cabin space has increased with more head- and legroom both in front and back. And good news for those home-improvement types: trunk space has increased by 25%, and doors now open even wider than before.

Technology? The Gs gets a central touchscreen that controls DVD audio and video capability, MP3, Bluetooth, Gracenote, HD and satellite radio, 5.1 Surround Sound, a text-to-speech feature for those distracted types, and Lexus Enform, which hooks owners up with Facebook, Pandora, Yelp, stock quotes, movie tickets and dinner reservations, and Bing Internet search. An optional 10-channel, 835-watt Mark Levinson system with 7.1 Surround Sound and 17 speakers is available.

The new Gs should keep Lexus competitive with its main target, the Infiniti M. And Lexus is banking on the likes of enthusiast drivers to take a look at the Gs: whether this is a successful move on their part, we’ll only know from a first drive. Stay tuned to Autoguide for that soon.

GALLERY: 2013 Lexus GS350

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Watch video from the Pebble Beach unveiling after the jump:

Continue Reading…

 |  Aug 18 2011, 6:45 PM

For parents, babysitter nightmares don’t come any worse than this: a 23-year old woman was arrested after leaving an 8-month old baby in the back of a Dodge Ram and driving around in the back.

Keyona Davis, from—where else?—Florida, was stopped by police after witnesses spotted her sitting in the back of the truck, with the stroller and the baby inside. The driver, a Mr. White, was cited for reckless driving, but Davis got off a bit harsher—felony child neglect, to add to a rap sheet of previous charges. She is being held in jail on a $5,000 bond, and will not be getting a recommendation from the baby’s family.

Click the jump to see the police dashboard camera, which caught the vehicle in the act. To be fair, she also sat in the back of the truck with the baby and the stroller, which makes it safe! And a note to aspiring babysitters: the Subaru Brat was taken out of production for a reason.

[Source: The Smoking Gun]

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 |  Aug 18 2011, 1:45 PM

Spurred by the recent riots in London, the Germans have taken to the streets—and their target are the Mercedes, BMW, and Audi cars owned by “fat cats” that are ruining their country.

About 138 cars have been torched across Berlin, with 26 just in the past two days. 130 of those have been Benzes; 91 Volkswagens, 60 BMWs, and 43 Audis and Opels comprise the rest. Berlin police are setting up special investigative units to process the cases as political crimes, which carry steeper penalties than mere vandalism. Arsonists usually light up the cars through the tires, placing barbeque charcoals around them. So far, no arrests have been made.

Germany is facing a terrible economic downturn: despite lofty sales figures from its car makers, Germany’s growth has almost completely stopped. This is coming from a country that only last year supported Western Europe’s economy. Many people believe that the protests and arsons aren’t about the financial crisis—they’re aimed against capitalism in general, globalization and gentrification in East Berlin’s former Soviet areas.

It’s common belief that any social injustice eventually devolves into an “us vs. them” mentality—the rich make convenient targets in this economic downturn, and certainly those who are wealthy enough to afford luxury cars are more of a target than London’s humble shopkeepers. And even as the Vancouver protests over the Stanley Cup have shown, cars are the number one target: especially expensive ones. As long as there’s inequality, even a perceived one, anywhere in volatile Europe, cars are going to go up in flames.

[Source: Zero Hedge]

 |  Aug 18 2011, 1:18 PM

Michael Accavitti once worked for Chrysler as its chief marketing officer, even becoming president of the Dodge brand. But now he’s taken his talents to Honda, where he will be doing much the same thing.

Accavitti worked at Cisco Systems shortly after his stint in Auburn Heights, spending the past two years there. It will be a change of pace back into automotive marketing, as he takes over Honda and Acura’s marketing and public relations. Honda’s sales have declined 2% this year, and Acura down 6%, so he’ll have some work to do.

His outgoing replacement Steve Center has been at the position since 2008, but will leave to head up a new department within Honda called the Environmental Business Development Office. It will oversee Honda’s various environmentally-friendly initiatives such as solar arrays for its facilities and electric vehicle production.

[Source: Automotive News]

 |  Aug 18 2011, 10:45 AM

Kia, spurred by the success of sibling Hyundai’s Genesis (and possibly Equus), wants a piece of the rear-drive pie. The company is planning a flagship luxury sedan and possibly a coupe, both in the vein of the Genesis duo.

Kia’s rear-drive adventures end there, however: there are no plans to introduce a pickup truck. There won’t be a Miata-sized roadster, either. Kia’s engineers aren’t interested in expanding into new markets, but tackling the segments they’re already comfortable in. And for Kia, this includes sedans (increasingly bigger ones, too) and coupes like the Forte.

The K7/Cadenza is currently their largest luxury sedan right now, which may or may not make it to America—but it’s a front-driver. The new RWD sedan will use the Genesis platform and series of V6 and V8 engines, and will slot above the Cadenza. If it’s built, it will enter the Korean market next May, and in about two years after that Stateside.

Lastly, Kia’s RWD sports car will be shown in Frankfurt in concept form. If people like it, Kia will target the BMW 3-Series—a lofty goal if there ever was one. It should be no surprise that the Kia sports car will be based on the Genesis, which will get a whole host of improvements by 2013 that will carry over to Kia, in their ambitious goal of besting the Bavarians.

And just think, only yesterday everybody was making bad jokes about the Rio. How fast they grow up these days!

[Source: Car And Driver]

 |  Aug 18 2011, 10:00 AM

A few days ago, Cadillac announced that the Volt-based Converj concept would enter production. Well, it’s gotten a name change to suit its newfound status: look for the Cadillac ELR to hit dealers in a few months.

After all, a sensible, less-ambiguous name like “Converj” couldn’t be used: it had too many letters! ELR brings the Volt-based luxury electric car into Cadillac’s naming convention. Naturally, the letters don’t stand for anything, but “Electric Luxury Ride” seems to make the most sense.

We like to think somebody at Cadillac’s naming division is a big fan of Electric Light Orchestra (and fudged the spellcheck), and we’re going to bet that “Mr. Blue Sky” finds its way into an environmentally-themed marketing campaign when the car is released.

GALLERY: Cadillac ELR

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 |  Aug 18 2011, 9:15 AM

In case BMW‘s notoriously fickle enthusiasts can’t find the motivation to summon their pitchforks, here’s some news to light a fire under their posteriors: the legendary M division will put a diesel engine under the hood of their next car, a 5-Series.

Say it ain’t so, again! What’s next, a front-wheel drive M? But the next M-diesel won’t be an all-out M car—instead, it will be a companion to the M5, with the clunky badging of 550dM to indicate a diesel 5-Series that’s been breathed on by the sport division. The diesel powertrain will also make it to BMW’s other models such as the X-series of SUVs, which will also feature all-wheel drive.

As for the engine—going by the “more is better” theme, the diesel powerplant will carry three turbochargers to weed out even the suggestion of turbo lag. It will be a 3.0-liter straight-six as used in BMW’s current diesel cars, but with significant differences to the cylinder head. Direct injection and more efficient valve timing will push final horsepower figures to within the M5′s 560 horsepower: somewhere north of 500 will be expected, but with significantly more torque.

How significant? The M5 has 500 lb-ft of torque right now from its gasoline engine, but the diesel M will have more than 650 lb-ft. All-wheel drive will be standard then, according to a BMW official, “otherwise you’ll be spinning your tires all day.”

Diesel has been catching on slowly in the US, which holds stringent regulations on its sulfur levels. A high-performance diesel could light a fire under current sales figures of oil burners, and if BMW readies an M-diesel, it could even beat Audi at its own game. That, more than sales figures, would be the triumph of the day.

[Source: The Detroit Bureau]

 |  Aug 18 2011, 8:30 AM

Just like how elementary school kids promised free lollipops and candy in the vending machines, America’s politicians make the same affirmations. Case in point: Michelle Bachmann will, if elected, give all God-fearing Americans the divine right of cheap gas.

Drill baby, drill! Bachmann told supporters at an event in South Carolina: “The day that the president became president gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look at what it is today. Under President Bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen.”

She didn’t mention specifically where this magical oil would come from, other than some vague rumblings about opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Which, according to an EPA study in 2008 (in the middle of $4/gallon gas), wouldn’t do much to lower gas prices quickly or effectively. But then again, with Bachmann herself salivating at the prospect of shutting down the socialist plot that is the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s doubtful that she heeded this report in the first place.

But hey, cheap gas grabs attention—and promising $2/gallon sure is catchy. With the gauntlet laid down by Bachmann, we wonder what the other candidates will promise to Americans. Maybe Governor Perry will promise a free revolver for every man, woman, and child: Mitt Romney will fly over major metropolitan areas dropping denim jackets from an airplane, and Obama, in a bid to stay relevant and popular, will simply throw change from the rooftops.

[Source: Politico]

 |  Aug 17 2011, 1:45 PM


An enterprising drunkard in Germany found himself in a car accident, of his own doing. So with cops coming, what did he do to escape? He jacked a nearby forklift and attempted to move the car himself.

In the sort of drunk idea that only makes sense when you’re 7 Nordhäusers in, the 27-year old found an idle forklift nearby, drove it over to the site of his wrecked Volkswagen Golf, and attempted to raise the car. Police found the Golf off the ground when they stopped him and took him into custody.

“It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. He didn’t want anyone to call us so he tried to move the vehicle himself. It was, though, very dangerous and illegal,” said an officer.

[Source: German Herald]

 |  Aug 17 2011, 12:55 PM

The Toyota Yaris gets a remake for 2012, and a sports version that will tide us over until the Scion FR-S comes.

The entire Yaris range gets a longer wheelbase by two inches, and an overall increase in length by three inches. Even though it’s only taller by 0.6 inches, somehow Toyota engineers found an additional 68% more cargo space inside, possibly stealing some technology from Doctor Who’s TARDIS. The front facelift gets a more peaky bulldog-like nose, in line with the rest of Toyota’s lineup, while the back bumper gets aggressive cutouts and no-nonsense white and red tailights.

Engine choices stay the same, at a 106-horsepower inline-four with 1.5 liters and Toyota’s VVT-i valve timing technology. But the engine is bolted to a new four-speed automatic transmission that’s smaller and lighter than the outgoing slushbox. A five-speed manual is still available. Toyota has yet to release complete fuel economy specs, but does say the Yaris will achieve 38-mpg on the highway – two ticks short of the 2012 Hyundai Accent.

The SE model is Toyota’s version of a hot hatch: it gets larger tires and disc brakes, quicker steering, a differently-tuned MacPherson-strut suspension, and a snazzier interior. But all models come with air conditioning, six cupholders, power everything, and a whopping nine airbags to make you feel like you’re being bear-hugged by the Michelin Man.

All this for only a moderate increase in base price: from $13,155 to $14,115 for the base L three-door with a manual transmission. This still undercuts the Honda Fit by about $1000 and the Mazda2 by exactly $65, which still makes for good advertising. Altogether, the Yaris tops out at $17,200 for the top-of-the-line SE five-door with an automatic.

GALLERY: 2012 Toyota Yaris

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 |  Aug 17 2011, 10:00 AM

The zany ZAZ takes to the skies! Ex-pilot Valery Bulgakov turned this 1987 ZAZ Tavria into an airworthy flying machine, through hard work, acres of sheetmetal, and lofty Russian ingenuity.

ZAZ cranked out thousands of Tavrias in the 1980s and 1990s, and aside from a few examples that must have been thrown off a cliff under various circumstances, none of them ever offered spacious aerial views. But Bulgakov welded wings onto the front fenders and rear windows, installing ailerons and painting them in patriotic Russian colors in order to tackle the skies: the flying car (of the future) can get up to 10 feet in the air, for a distance of 600 feet.

While this is a bit off from even, say, the efforts of the Kalinin K-7, Bulgakov doesn’t expect his car—which goes 0-60 in an FAA-unapproved 20 seconds—to revolutionize transportation. He uses the vehicle to train aspiring pilots: and given their familiarity with car controls, seems like a natural progression before tackling the challenges of the Yak-130.

Click the jump to see the flying Tavria in action. Translator not included, however.

[Source: Discovery Channel]

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 |  Aug 17 2011, 8:30 AM


One of the most famous sports cars in the world (as voted on by the people’s wallets) is the Mazda Miata. The next one will no doubt continue with this sales success, and with this leaked patent drawing, we can get a glimpse of what we’ll be seeing on the twisties.

Any change from its simple 2-seater RWD template is subject to the ire of the masses, so this next Miata has been speculated on with the fervor only dedicated fans can muster. Will it sport a rotary? Will it have a turbocharger, standard? Will it weigh less than 1700 lbs? Will Mazda bring back headrest speakers? While some of those things aren’t clear, the patent drawing leaked by a Japanese publication—intercepted on their way to the Tokyo Patent Office—shows us the most accurate view of its front end yet.

Mazda is ditching the “Nagare” styling theme (read: silly grins) on the rest of its lineup and going retro—all the way back to 1989, when big-haired women blasted “Like A Prayer” in their “hairdresser’s cars.” It gets vaguely Kabuki-esque stretched headlights that frame a big oval intake, which isn’t too much of a stretch from past and current Miatas. Sadly, pop-up headlights are still sequestered (by various governments, anyway) in the realm of lawn darts and asbestos, and won’t be making a comeback.

The next Miata will bow out as a concept car next year, before Mazda plans to debut the production version at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. Expect plenty more fun, bizarre speculation (and plenty of loud opinions) for the next year and a half!

[Source: Motor Trend]

 |  Aug 17 2011, 1:15 AM

Stop the presses! President Obama, champion of American jobs and lower taxes, is touring this great nation in a $1.1-million luxury tour bus—built in CANADA!

Obama’s Prevost VIP H3-45, nicknamed “Greyhound One,” is the same model used by touring artists such as Rush, Nickelback, and Loverboy. It comes with all of the armor and accoutrements as befitting the American president: armored doors, teleconferencing equipment, flatscreen televisions tuned to CBC News, big comfy couches, a maple syrup dispenser, and enough storage space for hockey sticks and curling brooms. It is also equipped with Obama’s nuclear launch codes in his “football,” in case the ghost of Diefenbaker attacks us with the last remaining Avro Arrow.

The Secret Service justified the purchase of the coach for security reasons. “There are certain security and communications equipment that we’ll have in there,” said Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman. ”It’s just a better situation for us rather than leasing something and then putting in temporary equipment.”

Those looking to Prevost for the catalyst to a presidential conspiracy can take heart, however: the bus was upgraded by Hemphill Brothers Coach, based in Whites Creek, Tennessee, a town where a Tim Horton’s has yet to open. The government paid $2.2 million to Hemphill Brothers for two coaches, as well as the upgrades—which ran for half the cost.

After Obama’s tour, the Secret Service may make the bus available to other politicians who need the protection—including GOP presidential nominees. Michelle Bachmann might turn to dust if she steps inside, however.

[Source: New York Post, The Blaze]

 |  Aug 16 2011, 11:00 PM


In a fit of corporate community outreach, Lotus hired Swizz Beatz (Kasseem Daoud Dean) to head Lotus’s Creative Design department, which may sound like the plot to a screwball 80′s comedy (Gung Ho meets Trading Places?) but actually came with a press release.

The rapper and hip-hop producer wasn’t just chosen to become Lotus’s spokesman—no, he is officially the vice president of Creative Design and Global Marketing, a position which comes with free coffee in the Lotus corporate break room. Turns out, Mr. Beatz is an avid car collector, with a Spyker C8 and a Ferrari Enzo in his stable, but presumably not a 1978 Eclat 22. He joins Victoria Beckham in the position of unlikely celebrity executive, where she is the creative design executive for Land Rover.

In the video after the jump, Lotus explains what he’ll be expected to bring to the table. But what makes Swizz Beatz the perfect man for the Norfolk company? “Three little facts,” Lotus says:
1. Like Group Lotus , he means business: He’s a risk taker with considerable credentials including music producer, rapper, designer AND painter.
2. Like our cars, he’s multi award winning: This year he shared a Grammy Award with Jay-Z.
3. Like Group Lotus he keeps good company: This man regularly works with the likes of Bono, Kanye West, Beyoncé and Alicia Keys.

Swizz Beatz is a stepping stone to other famous artists—which Lotus hopes, not unlike a comely teenage girl who waits outside the jock quarterback’s locker after classes, will net them even more friends and that vaunted 18-34 demographic that marketing people keep talking about. What better way for Lotus to convince hip-hop moguls to replace their Maseratis and Bentleys and Maybachs…hold on, scratch that last one. Biggie might not have fit in an Exige, but Yeezy could. Whether he actually wants to is up to Dany Bahar’s salesmanship and size-11 Loakes.

But we wish Lotus well, of course. After all, they are merely adhering to Colin Chapman’s previously-truncated quip: “simplify, and make it rain, dogg.”

Continue Reading…

 |  Aug 16 2011, 11:29 AM

With the e-bike set for production in 2012, Smart takes to two wheels—just in time to tap into the growing two-wheeled market.

According to Smart’s figures, bicycle sales soared in Germany from 70,000 bikes sold in 2007 to 200,000 last year. And power-assisted bicycles will make up 15% of all two-wheeled sales by 2018. The rest of Europe bought 700,000 juiced-up bikes last year, up from 500,000 in 2009—a 40% increase.

Smart is banking on unconventional styling and its name recognition to filter down from its cars, which are almost already the same size. It integrates the powerplant in a y-shaped frame, with front and rear mudguards. The 250-watt electric motor, developed by BionX, turns on as soon as the pedals are turned, and power is sent to the 3-speed rear wheel hub via belt drive.

One charge from the 400-Wh lithium-ion battery can go for over 100 kilometers, but if the rider runs out of juice halfway through the ride, it can be charged through riding.

There’s no price announced for the ebike, but given Smart’s name recognition and premium, it won’t be cheap.

 |  Aug 16 2011, 11:00 AM

BMW may have just introduced their revised 1-Series, but it is wasting no time in making it hotter. For their Frankfurt stand, BMW is readying a Performance Concept version—and through these leaked camera phone shots, we now know what it looks like.

BMW unveiled the car ahead of time at a dealer meeting, and some enterprising James Bond took these shots and posted them on 1Addicts.com. From the photos, the 1-Series Performance Concept will have larger dual-spoke alloy wheels, a more aggressive front bumper, and—presumably—320d badging on the tailgate. Rumors abound that this car will have a hotted-up version of the 2.0-liter turbodiesel that produces 184 horsepower in stock form.

A diesel 1-Series hot hatch? It may be no 1-Series M, but it’s certainly compelling enough to warrant a leak ahead of the Frankfurt Auto Show.

 |  Aug 16 2011, 7:01 AM

14-year old Matthew James was born without a left hand. He dreamed of having a sophisticated bionic hand, but his family couldn’t afford the £30,000. But a chance meeting with Ross Brawn gave Matthew a life-changing experience: a new hand, for free.

And Matthew didn’t have to find out any uncomfortable truths about his father, either. He wrote to Ross Brawn, the man in charge of the Mercedes GP Petronas team, after Brawn visited his school in Berkshire, England. Matthew asked the F1 team to help his family raise the money, and even offered to have the hand sponsored by Mercedes-Benz to compensate.

A member of the team reached out to Touch Bionics, a Scottish company specializing in advanced medical devices. They waived the cost of installing the hand and training Matthew on how to use it, while Mercedes was kind enough to cover the rest. And the hand is advanced enough for an F1 team: it features five individual motors, allowing each finger to move independently. The F1 team and Touch Bionics have agreed to share technology that could benefit both organizations.

Matthew, who also received a free tour of the Mercedes factory, is already getting used to his new hand—he can already open jars and make tea—but laments the fact that now, he has to do more chores.

[Source: BBC News]

 |  Aug 15 2011, 9:00 PM

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Somehow, Saab is still alive, clinging to financial solvency with a tenacious refusal to go gentle into that good night. Some good news in its struggle has emerged, however: the troubled company has raised $5.8 million in a deal with GEM Global Yield Fund Limited, securing its funding for the time being.

Saab’s Trollhättan plant has been idle since April, while Saab raises money by selling Girl Scout cookies and mowing its neighbor’s lawn. This deal allows Saab to issue and sell 4 million new shares, but it still needs more money in the future: the company still needs to pay its suppliers as well as its employers in order to resume production by the end of August.

Saab is currently looking at deals with various Chinese automakers. But until those can come to fruition, it’s been forced to scale back some of its ambitious plans: it had previously stated that it would build 120,000 cars by 2012 and actually turn a profit by then. But now, it has scaled back its production target. And before that new target can be set, it actually has to, you know, go back into production.

[Source: Left Lane News]

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 |  Aug 15 2011, 6:30 PM

Don’t let the Swizz Beatz involvement fool you: Lotus still wants you to know that they build sports cars. Case in point: at the swanky Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance this year, Lotus will unveil a GTE-class race car based on their Evora.

The Evora GTE Road Car Concept is designed to race in the GTE class, including a stint at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And as such, it packs 420 horsepower in its 3.5-liter V6 engine, channeled through a sequential AMT racing gearbox. It gets this power to the ground via center-lock forged-alloy wheels, wrapped with Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires. Lotus reassures us that it “isn’t merely a paint scheme or homage to a race car—this is a serious race car that makes for a very serious road car.”

And if you’re heading down to Monterrey next week, you can catch the Evora GTE at Lotus’s dedicated exhibit by the Lodge, starting on August 18th—if you can get past Swizz Beatz’s entourage, that is.

 |  Aug 15 2011, 6:00 PM

If you fancy yourself quite the sporting gentleman, Mercedes-Benz is keen to offer you a proposition: race against David Coulthard in an SLS AMG. What say you, good sir?

It won’t be what you expect, however: rather than two cars competing head-to-head, 24 competition winners will race on Gran Turismo 5, while Coulthard sets laps on an undisclosed track in the car—the real one. A cop-out for Mercedes? Not quite: after enough qualifying rounds, the drivers will be whittled down to one who will face Coulthard directly on the track.

While it’s not likely that this winner will beat the former F1 world champion and Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador, he’ll still have shown enough chops to net him an all-expenses-paid vacation to the Brazilian Grand Prix.

All of the virtual racing action (as well as Coulthard’s lap) will be broadcast live on the Mercedes web site. No word on whether Mercedes-Benz is also planning a chance to punch Muhammad Ali or play chess against Stephen Hawking in a cash-fueled version of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

[Source: Autoviva]

 |  Aug 15 2011, 6:00 PM

Newport Convertible Engineering, famous decapitators of everything from the Subaru Impreza to the GMC Yukon to the Toyota Prius, have no shame and no hesitation in taking their Sawzall to a bevy of four-doored vehicles. In case its customers pine for JFK’s convertible, NCE has offered them the chance to enjoy wind-in-hair motoring, once again—behind the wheel of a Jaguar XJ.

Just in time for the Iowa State Fair, or a bevy of presidential candidates, the Jaguar XJ décapotable is based on a long-wheelbase model, with a gawky-fitting, power-folding soft top and a leather-wrapped roll hoop, in case butter sculptor Sarah Pratt loses her hat. NCE says it was their most difficult car to work on yet, but even the most potent of engineering finesse couldn’t eliminate the XJ’s previously-undisturbed lines and bulky top shelf. But hey, at least they got rid of those controversial C-pillars!

Orders are currently being accepted for the XJ convertible, which will start at $130,000, including the cost of the car. Hurry, operators are standing by!

[Source: Autoblog]

 |  Aug 15 2011, 5:30 PM

Volkswagen executives are reportedly “very serious” to add the Bulli to their production lineup, as part of a “Heritage Range.”

So far, this range consists of the Beetle, and…well, nothing else. But given the cult status of the old Microbus, and the overwhelmingly positive response of the Bulli at various auto shows, and VW is eager to chase the dollar of nostalgia-tripping baby boomers.

On the road to production, the Bulli would keep its five-seater capacity but lose its electric powerplant, instead going for a conventional range of shared gasoline and diesel engines. If it enters production—as soon as 2014, in fact—it would be built in Puebla, Mexico, alongside a Beetle convertible that will debut next year.

Lastly, the Bulli would serve in the MPV market, and it would be slightly longer than the Golf—but its heritage styling would give it a unique place in VW’s lineup. “As a designer, I am convinced by this idea,” said Walter de’Silva, VW’s design chief. “We don’t have a space for another conventional MPV, but this one would be desirable on a different level, combining practicality with the heritage appeal.”

[Source: Autocar]