Rabu, 06 Oktober 2010

It's been over three years since the start of Stepneygate

It's been over three years since the start of Stepneygate. But while the matter was supposedly closed a year ago, it's only now that the namesake perpetrator has been sentenced in criminal court.
The scandal, for those unfamiliar, centered around one Nigel Stepney, a British engineer who defected from Ferrari to McLaren in 2007. Stepney stood accused – and now convicted – of taking trade secrets with him from Maranello to Woking, while sabotaging Ferrari's team in the process.
The scandal resulted in McLaren being fined $100 million and then disqualified from that year's championship. Meanwhile, the FIA banned Stepney (along with his chief cohort Mike Coughlan) from any series it supervises (which is pretty much all of them) as Ferrari initiated legal proceedings against Stepney.
Those proceedings have now drawn to a close, Italian courts reportedly sentencing Stepney to 20 months in prison and – wait for it – a 600-euro fine. However, sources anticipate that due to the nature of the Italian legal system the sentence will likely be suspended and that Stepney won't actually spend a single night behind bars.

Minggu, 26 September 2010

Hyundai Sonata being recalled for steering issues

Hyundai Sonata
2011 Hyundai Sonata being recalled for steering issues – Click above for high-res image gallery

It looks like the Hyundai Sonata is officially taking its place near the top of the midsize car category. We already told you how it has moved into third place in the sales race, and now it moves up the charts again... but on a much less desirable list. Hyundai has issued a recall of 139,500 Sonatas over steering issues.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report at safercar.gov identifies the issue says "the steering column intermediate shaft universal joint connections may have been either improperly assembled or insufficiently tightened." The consequence could be "a complete separation or compromised attachment of the connections, such that the driver could experience a loss of, or reduction in, steering capability increasing the risk of a crash."

The recall affects MY 2011 Hyundai Sonata sedans built between December 11, 2009 and September 10, 2010. Dealers should begin sending out recall notices in October. They will inspect and re-torque the assembly, and update the steering software too, at no charge.

In the meantime, owners can contact the Hyundai Customer Assistance Center at 1-800-633-5151, or the NHTSA vehicle safety hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (tty 1-800-424-9153). Hat tip to Ralph!

Selasa, 20 Juli 2010

Toyota FJ Cruiser

The 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser
I had this for several days, and I only wish I could have this vehicle on my planned vacation in Colorado--this would be perfect for mountain passes. I felt a little bad about having this for so long and not being able to challenge it off-roading. But I did drive it to and from work.

First of all, I think its styling is very retro and the black matte hood sticker adds even more of a throwback look. Then, after taking a closer look, you see the meaty tires and heavy-duty suspension and you realize this vehicle could be a whole lot of fun. The outside might be a little too busy for some, but I think most will dig it.

On the inside, I was not surprised too much by the looks. It's simple with floors that look as if they can be hosed down if needed. The gauges were rounded, and Toyota throws in a little plastic with the exact same exterior color in the middle. They have some faux metal-looking material inside, giving it a feeling of toughness. But the radio sounded tinny to me, even after adjusting all the settings. The seats were comfy, which is good if you get moved around a lot on an off-road excursion.

On the highway, you can tell this vehicle was set up more for the two tracks. Straight line felt fine, but going around corners obviously isn't as smooth as most vehicles and had a tugging feeling. Off the line, there isn't a ton of punch from the V6, but once up to speed it's fine. There is plenty of room for hauling, and it would be way cooler to bring the kids to a soccer game in this instead of a humdrum SUV.

Overall, I like this, and if I lived near the mountains this would be on my shopping list. But since I live near Detroit and don't get to go off-roading enough, I probably would pass on this FJ Cruiser because I would be tossing money out the window on these pricey upgrades and not be able to use them often enough.

NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: I liked this FJ Cruiser from my first turn of the key. The retro looks are quirky and cool, though this really seems like something that would have been a great H4 for Hummer.

But I digress. The engine has plenty of power, and I had no trouble passing on the expressway. Takeoffs from launch on wet pavement were also fun, and these big BF Goodrich tires offer plenty of traction and fun. Plus, stopping this ute is not an issue with the solid brakes. The steering has a satisfying weight to it, too.

I liked the safari interior. The colors looked sharp, and the plastics and materials felt pleasing. The white gauges have a bit of a green hue at night and light up brightly. Plus there's a big compass on the dash. Kind of cool, I think. The back seat is a bit uncomfortable, but this is hardly a minivan.

Outside, this ute is marked by the prominent circular headlights and the giant tire on the back. It's a fun package for a reasonable price. I could have some serious fun in this.

2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Base Price: $26,070

As-Tested Price: $33,363

Drivetrain: 4.0-liter V6; 4WD, five-speed automatic

Output: 259 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 270 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Curb Weight: 4,295 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 19/17.3 mpg

Options: Trail Teams special-edition package with Sandstorm exterior, hood blackout, blackout mirrors, bumper ends, door handles and grille, TRD beadlock-style alloy wheels with BF Goodrich all-terrain tires, trail-tuned Bilstein shock absorbers, active traction control, locking rear differential, rock rails, premium sound, auxiliary audio jack, leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio controls, remote keyless entry system, cruise control, power outside mirrors with illuminated markers, rear privacy glass, rear wiper, backup camera linked to mirror with integrated backup camera monitor, 115V AC power outlet, exterior color-keyed door-trim inserts and instrument panel, fabric seat inserts, multi-information display, floating ball type (inclinometer, compass, temperature), daytime running lights, wheels locks, trail teams badge ($6,695); towing hitch and wire harness ($3,49); passenger-side armrest ($125); courtesy delivery ($75); stainless-steel exhaust tip ($49)

Rabu, 02 Juni 2010

Das neue Motorrad

Germany's "new motorcycle" – Click above for high-res image gallery

Emerging from behind a veil of secrecy, we were recently introduced to a new motorcycle manufacturer based out of the über cool home of Oktoberfest. With the promise of German engineering galore, this little-known company seems to have an heir of legitimacy behind them thus far. After all, it would seem that the country largely believed responsible for the "birth of the motorcycle" would have more than a single marquee brand in cycles, adding diversity to the current state of Roundel dominance in Bavaria.

Das Neue Motorrad – meaning "the new motorcycle" – is the only name identifying the company at this time, embodying a statement while providing a title in one swoop. The road leading to the bike's official worldwide release has been marked out by breadcrumbs in the form of small bits of information being released in five stages... until finally, on June 15, it will be unleashed on the masses. What little bit we do know is that the project has been years in the making, and was birthed from an unlikely collaboration between riding enthusiasts with a vision for greatness.

The most recent tidbit of news centers on the bike's proposed powerplant. Addressing the speculation of electric motivation, the company says its design is based on "a very efficient combustion platform," even indicating multiple cylinders but leaving the exact number as a mystery for now. Added to this was the promise, "Our engine concept is based on one currently found nowhere in the motorcycle world." We cannot help but be left with an almost giddy anticipation, coupled with the potential to be thoroughly disappointed if this claim is not substantiated. Stay tuned for updates as the countdown progresses and "the new motorcycle" comes to life.

Selasa, 11 Mei 2010

Škoda Fabia RS to debut at Wörthersee

Skoda Fabia RS show car

It's no secret that we're fans of the Škoda Fabia S2000 rally car. The good news for us Europeans is that VW's Czech brand has decided to integrate some of that racing DNA (at least appearance-wise) into a Fabia RS model scheduled to debut at Wörthersee 2010.

This is Škoda's first visit to the big GTI gathering, and they've obviously come prepared. A green roof and alloys aping those used on the S2000 racer are the Fabia RS's showcase elements, along with a brutal lower front lip, smoked glass all around, darkened chrome work, a rear spoiler, and side skirts. The Fabia RS joins Volkswagen goodies like the Golf GTI Adidas, which will also be formally unveiled, and it will be on display from May 14-16.

Rabu, 17 Maret 2010

Nissan Leaf priced at U.S. $ 38,500 + in Japan

Nissan Leaf - Click above for high-res image gallery

Interest in, and "pre-orders" for, the Nissan Leaf remains high, but a report from the Japanese newspaper the Mainichi Shimbun might put a damper on things. Apparently, the price for the all-electric car in Japan will be somewhere between 3.5 million and 4 million yen, Which is about $ 38,667 to $ 44,191 U.S. at today's exchange rates. Granted, even if these prices are accurate, they certainly do not automatically equal the MSRP for the U.S. market, but they are higher than what we've been expecting - ie, under $ 30,000 after the $ 7,500 federal tax credit. We went and looked at the prices for a couple of other cars in Japan, to see how the Leaf's 3.5 million compares. The Toyota Prius runs between 2.0 and 3:27 million yen ($ 22k-36k USD). The Honda Insight? From 1.89 to 2.2 million ($ 21k-24.4K USD).

We suspect that Nissan's going to have to do better than this to beat the Chevrolet Volt. Yes, yes, we know the powertrains are quite different, but a lot of people are going to learn about these cars at the same time (late this year), and we believe that the pure electric will need to be quite a bit cheaper than The plug-in hybrid to hold its own.

Of course, all of these numbers should be taken with several grains of salt. We reached out to Nissan, and they reminded us that "the article out of Japan is speculative, and we have no comment. As you know, we have yet to Disclose Nissan Leaf pricing in the U.S. or in any global market." Thanks to Scott W. for the tip!

Minggu, 17 Januari 2010

the sporty 335is variants with a tweaked 3.0-liter twin-turbo churning out 322HP

A little after a leaked brochure gave us our first taste of the lightly refreshed 2011 3-Series Coupe and Convertible models, BMW rushed out an official release and a whole bunch of pictures. For the 2011 model year, the Bavarian automaker's bread-and-butter coupe and cabriolet models receive some minor cosmetic touches and updated powerplants.

The most notable - that is, if you're a hardcore bimmer fan- changes on the outside concern the widened kidney grille, reshaped LED headlamps, front and rear bumpers with restyled lower fascias, new exterior mirrors and finally, reworked tail light cluster with a new color scheme.

According to BMW, these modifications slightly extend the front and rear overhangs by 1.14 and 0.12 inches respectively.

The only change in the cabin concerns the convertible models and the use of sun-reflective technology to mitigate temperatures on leather seating, armrest surfaces, headrests, and gear shifter. BMW says that this new treatment is able to reduce surface temperatures on dark interior colors by up to 20 Celsius degrees (36 Fahrenheit degrees) and by as much as Celsius degrees (27 Fahrenheit degrees)on light-colored upholstery.

In North America (we'll bring you details on the Euro spec models shortly), the 2011 3-Series Coupe and Convertible models will be offered once again in two flavors, the 328i and 335i.

As noted in our previous post, the 2011 335i is fitted with BMW's new twin scroll single turbocharged 3.0-liter straight six, designated N55, that replaces the previous model's N54 twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter straight six.

BMW says that even though output has remained the same as before at 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, the new single turbo engine is more responsive, more fuel efficient, and cleaner-running than its predecessor.

The rear-wheel drive 335i Coupe and Convertible accelerate from 0 - 60 mph (96km/h) in just 5.3 (5.5 coupe automatic) seconds and 5.5 (5.7 cabrio automatic) seconds, respectively, when equipped with a six speed manual gearbox.

The all-wheel drive 335i xDrive coupe is slightly faster at 5.2 seconds (5.3 sec for the automatic model).

The 328i's 230 horsepower, 200 lb-ft, 3.0-liter inline-6 engine has been carried over unchanged from the 2010 model.

No word yet on the sporty 335is variants with a tweaked 3.0-liter twin-turbo churning out 322HP that were mentioned in the leaked sales leaflet (click here for details).

In the U.S. and Canada, the 2011 3 Series Coupe and Convertible models will go on sale in Spring 2010, with pricing set to be announced closer to the on-sale date.

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