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Hennessey’s Venom F5 hypercar teased for Nov. 1 reveal at SEMA

Hennessey has announced plans to reveal the production version of its long-awaited Venom F5 supercar Nov. 1 at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, and released new images and a video of the hypercar expected to boast a top speed of nearly 300 mph. The F5 is the performance shop’s bid to be the fastest road car in the world, taking direct aim at the Bugatti Chiron.

To be built and sold under new company Hennessey Special Vehicles, the F5 promises cutting-edge technology in design, engine development and chassis, with an all-new, original chassis and body. It will build the car at its headquarters in Sealy, Texas, near Houston.

Hennessey first revealed renderings for the F5 three years ago. It released updated teaser images in June and announced plans to put the car into production, with founder and CEO John Hennessey describing the project as “sophisticated aggression on wheels.”

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The F5 name derives from the rating assigned to tornadoes boasting wind speeds of between 261 and 318 miles per hour, the top rating on the Fujita scale. It replaces the Venom GT, a supercar powered by a 1,451-horsepower, twin-turbo 7.0-liter V8 engine with a top speed of 270.4 mph and a 0-60 time of 2.4 seconds. Just 12 models were ever produced, with the final version selling for a cool $1.2 million.

The F5, Hennessey says, will surpass the GT’s horsepower, have a top speed exceeding 290 mph, plus improved aerodynamics and ultra-light weight to boost performance.

The new images show a wing-shaped rear spoiler and a tri-exhaust tailpipe configuration that evokes a honeycomb or Olympic rings. The company plans to livestream the unveiling, which takes place at 11 a.m. PST Nov. 1, on its Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channels.

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This 1:4 scale Bugatti Chiron engine costs $10,000

Is $10,000 too much for a non-functioning powertrain? Amalgam, a company that specializes in high-end scale models of everything from cars to steering wheels has meticulously crafted a 1:4 scale replica of the 8.0-liter, 16-cylinder, 1,500-horsepower behemoth that powers the Bugatti Chiron. The model is so detailed that at first glance you’d swear it was the real thing, provided a banana isn’t used for scale.

According to Amalgam, this is the first model engine the company has built since the early 2000s. It worked closely with the engineers at Bugatti to make sure everything is exactly how it appears on the real car. Look close and you’ll find all of the parts numbers, barcodes and hose clamps are exactly the same, just smaller. Like the real engine, this W16 features four scale turbochargers. All in, there was roughly 2,500 hours or more than three months of development time. Each model takes 220 hours to assemble, hence the $9,365 price tag.

The engine is constructed mainly of pewter and stainless steel. The entire model is 18 inches long and 9 inches high. Pre-orders are open, though first deliveries aren’t expected until January.

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Toyota promises a ‘Fine-Comfort Ride’ in this hydrogen fuel-cell concept

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Even though Toyota is selling plenty of hybrids, the automaker is also investing in hydrogen fuel-cell technology as evidenced by its rollout of the Toyota Mirai fuel-cell car in California. And a few days ahead of the start of the Tokyo motor show, Toyota has taken the wraps off a futuristic fuel-cell vehicle (FCV) concept dubbed Fine-Comfort Ride.

The origami-style exterior aside, this fuel-cell concept promises a range of 1,000 kilometers or 621 miles on a full load of fuel, along with zero CO2 emissions — and really no other emissions. Toyota is staying mum regarding the details of the powertrain, only indicating that this concept features electric motors at each wheel. Along with the newly developed hydrogen powertrain, the Fine-Comfort Ride concept is also expected to showcase advanced autonomous driver assist systems.

When it comes to design, there’s a diamond-shaped interior layout that grows narrower toward the aft section of the car, offering the widest seating area at the front row. The interior itself is futuristic enough, with four swiveling round-shaped seats that can rotate to face each other, conference-style, and a large rear bench that wraps around the tail section of the vehicle.

2017 Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride concept interior

The concept features swiveling seats that can face each other, in addition to a back bench.

This is just a concept for now — and despite Toyota championing fuel-cell technology, the current Mirai only has one competitor in the marketplace in the form of the Honda Clarity. But “competitor” may be too strong a word, given the fact that there are just 91 hydrogen filling stations in the U.S. (less than two per every state is one way of looking at it), and most of them are in California, where these two models are sold. It’s not the investment in hydrogen tech that’s lacking at the moment — it’s the infrastructure. And Toyota has not fully embraced pure-electric vehicles. The development of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles may be effectively coming at the expense of a Toyota competitor to the Nissan Leaf, among others.

Without measurable growth in the numbers and geographic locations of hydrogen filling stations, Toyota may soon face some tough questions about its lack of focus on battery-electric cars in the U.S., plug-in hybrids notwithstanding.

We’ll have to wait a few more days till the Tokyo motor show gets going to get answers to these questions, but for now there is no doubt that Toyota can dazzle with a futuristic exterior and interior concept design.

2018 Honda Clarity PHEV

McLaren confirms BP23 supercar with exhaust teaser shot

Late last year, McLaren announced a supercar project with a center seating arrangement, which it called the “Bespoke Project 23” — a suitably obscure codename for a British prototype. After all, this is the country whose atomic bomb project in WWII was codenamed “Tube Alloys,” so there’s a penchant for understatement and obscurity. In any event, we don’t know much about the thing yet, despite lots of teasers, except that McLaren hopes it’ll be a worthy successor to the legendary F1.

We did see the company testing the center seating arrangement in a hacked-up 720S prototype. And now there’s an official photo, showing triple tailpipes surrounded by a similarly-shaped surround made of what looks to be aluminum, possibly titanium. It’s obviously nestled in the rear of the BP23, since side-pipes wouldn’t look like this. Otherwise, there’s not much to glean from it. It’s nice to know, however, that the project is progressing and is officially official — although McLaren’s been talking about this car since at least last November, so this “confirmation” is a formality of little importance.

We’ll be watching for updates on the BP23 and bring you whatever we find. Hopefully that’ll include a better name, the sooner the better.

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Huge new Infiniti QX80 preps for Dubai motor show

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Ahead of the Dubai International Motor Show, Infiniti is teasing its next-gen QX80 full-size SUV. We don’t know much about the upcoming Infiniti QX80, other than its current polarizing styling is going to change, and the SUV will still be a luxurious behemoth — at least, judging from the interior’s teaser.

Looking at the QX80 Monograph, the next-gen QX80’s concept design, we can imagine that the styling will be sharper on the new SUV. Of course, the razor-thin pillars won’t make it to production, but the boxier shape should. The bigger grille looks to have also made it from the concept stage to the production, finally ridding the design of its bulbous hood.

 The Infiniti QX80 Monograph concept New York auto show preview

Formerly known as the QX56, the QX80 got a new name in 2013 but never changed much in appearance. We doubt that the QX80’s powertrain will see much of a change and expect the new QX80 to still offer the 5.6-liter V8.

Until the folks at Infiniti rip the cover off the new QX80 in Dubai, these teasers are all we have to go by.

McLaren MSO R Coupe and Spider are one customer’s perfect supercar twins

With enough money, you can usually get a supercar manufacturer to build just about anything. McLaren Special Operations is a division of the British automaker set up just to work with customers on bespoke products. Today, McLaren announced that one customer is about to take home a nearly identical pair of cars completely tailored to his tastes. They’re called the MSO R Coupe and MSO R Spider.

The pair appear to be based on the McLaren 675LT and 675LT Spider, respectively. Both cars are powered by McLaren M838TL 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8. In these cars, the engine makes 679 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. McLaren says both engines have been blueprinted and the heads and exhaust ports hand polished. The exhaust features a crossover muffler to optimize exhaust flow. The ends of the system are titanium.

The most notable change to the car’s styling is the addition of a number of aerodynamic devices, including a large twin-element rear wing. The cars also have front dive planes and louvered fenders to optimize airflow. The front bumper, hood, louvered fenders, roof scoop, rear deck, and side mirror arms and casings are all made of carbon fiber. A carbon fiber stripe runs down the center of the cars. Both cars are painted in the same shade of silver, though the coupe is done in a matte finish. There are red accents along the bottom and on the rear-wing endplates.

Likewise, the interior is a mix of carbon and red trim. Most of the dash is covered in black Alcantara with contrasting red stitching. Most of the trim is exposed carbon fiber. The fixed-back seats are covered in a bright red shade of Alcantara. There are some bespoke touches on the instrument cluster that show the MSO R logo, along with a plaque in the door of each car.

There’s no word on who purchased the car or where he might live, but the car is left-hand drive. That suggests the car isn’t likely to stay close to McLaren’s home base in Woking.

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Will Lamborghini make a four-door “sedan” after all?

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If you’ve come to terms with the concept of a Porsche station wagon as well as Rolls-Royce and Bentley SUVs, we have a fresh challenge for you: Lamborghini four-door. Autocar reports that a fourth model line is indeed currently in the concept stage and is slated to debut around 2021, part of the brand’s long term plans under Lamborghini boss Stefano Domenicali. Of course, we’ve known for some time that Sant’Agata Bolognese was after another SUV to follow up on the legendary LM002 — the Urus is due later this year — so a four-door wouldn’t be that big of a shocker, all things considered. Lest we forget, Lambo already previewed a sedan in the form of the 2008 Estoque concept, which was shelved in favor of the Urus; we’ll ignore the ’80s Portofino for now.

What kind of layout might such a model have? Autocar indicates that a front-engined, four-door, four-seat model is still the front-runner for a fourth model line after the Huracan, Aventador and Urus, and Lamborghini has already doubled the size of its production capacity to accommodate the Urus. As the Urus is expected to double the brand’s sales the automaker hopes that it will provide enough breathing room in terms of investment to field a fourth line, which we should note has not been confirmed to be a sedan. But it’s not lost on Lamborghini that the luxury sedan market in China is far more important than the luxury coupe or convertible market.

“We must be humble. The Urus is only at the pre-production phase and, while the goal is to double sales volumes over a few years, we have yet to earn that accolade,” Lamborghini commercial director Federico Foschini told Autocar when pressed on the possibility of a fourth model.

“But of course we should always be looking to grow. If we can take this first step with Urus – a huge step – then there are possibilities,” Foschini added.

Lamborghini Urus concept previews Italy's most athletic SUV

According to Autocar, Lambo bosses are currently debating the possibilities, which may see a third supercar positioned above the Aventador or perched in the space between the Huracan and Aventador. This third supercar model could still turn out to be a stylistic and spiritual successor to the beloved Miura, which is a direction that Lamborghini has explored in the recent past as well, in addition to the Estoque four-door.

But an Estoque-style sedan is viewed as a strong candidate at the moment — it would not offer internal competition to any existing or future models in Lamborghini’s lineup, with the Urus paving the way for a more domesticated, practical side of the marque. It helps that there is already a platform deep within the wide world of Volkswagen brands: the MSB platform that currently underpins the new Porsche Panamera is an obvious choice, and there is no shortage of engines within the current Lamborghini lineup or the greater VW empire.  

We’ll have to wait and see which course Lamborghini decides to take but for now our money is on the sheer power of the luxury sedan market in China, which is showing no signs of slowing.

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo

Nissan GT-R does 130+ mph at Silverstone via Playstation controller

Nissan has had a close relationship with the “Gran Turismo” series for years. Nissan cars, including the GT-R, have been a part of the games, but the automaker has also used the series as a tool to recruit factory race drivers through its GT Academy program. Now, Nissan has taken a virtual driver turned real-world racer, GT Academy winner and Nismo driver Jann Mardenborough, and blended his skills by allowing him to remotely pilot an actual GT-R around Silverstone with a Playstation controller.

The car, dubbed the Nissan GT-R/C, hit speeds of over 130 miles per hour as Mardenborough steered it around Silverstone’s National Circuit from above, riding in a helicopter with DualShock 4 controller in hand. There’s nobody in the car, which is capable of being remotely driven at speeds of up to 196 mph.

The stunt is part of the rollout of “Gran Turismo Sport,” the latest in the long-running (20 years!) driving simulator series. The game launches in the U.S. on Oct. 17. The remote driving system in the GT-R/C was built by JLB Design, which has built over 70 full-size remote-control vehicles.

You can see the in-car footage of the run in the video from Nissan below:

Mazda’s Tokyo show ‘vision’ looks ready to tackle Lexus and Audi

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What do we have here, Mazda? This gorgeous, fastback-esque sedan (coupe in German) is set for a Tokyo motor show debut in a couple weeks to help showcase Mazda’s future design language. While it’s hard to make out specifics from the shadowy teaser, the so-called “design vision concept” appears to blend the best elements of recent Lexus and Audi styling with a healthy dose of Mazda’s own heavily sculpted Kodo language. And since “design vision” doesn’t come close to doing it justice, we’re going to call it the Mazda 8. That’s got a nice ring to it.  

The second concept Mazda’s bringing to Tokyo is a small hatchback that we expect to foreshadow the future Mazda 3. It’ll sit atop a new structure called the Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture (Skyactiv-VA) that Mazda says features “a human-centered design philosophy for optimal functionality.” Like you, we’re wondering what the current Mazda 3 design is centered on, if not humans (crash test results, maybe?), but it’s a damn good driver, so we’re really looking forward to trying one with a human-centered design philosophy.

Mazda 2017 Tokyo Motor Show concepts and technology Photo 4

This next-generation concept hatch previews Mazda’s new design language, and likely the next Mazda 3.

On the tech front, we’ll get a better look at the Skyactiv-X compression-ignition gasoline engine, expected to appear in 2019, possibly under the hood of the next Mazda 3. The goal of the tech — called “spark controlled compression ignition,” or SPCCI — is to deliver roughly 25 percent more power in an engine that’s 25 percent more efficient. You can read more about the engine tech here, and check out a test-drive of a current Mazda 3 with the new powertrain

“Our stand this year marks the beginning of a new era for Mazda,” said Masamichi Kogai, Mazda’s representative director, president and CEO. “We will showcase a concept model with the design and technologies that will define a whole new generation of Mazda cars.”

So what’s it going to be? Is the future of internal combustion Mazda’s SPCCI or Infiniti’s equally innovative variable compression engine? Or a combination of both? We’ll have more from the Tokyo show floor, including a deeper dive on Mazda’s new design direction, in just a few short weeks.

Mazda 2017 Tokyo Motor Show concepts and technology Photo 7

Mazda’s Skyactiv-X spark-controlled compression ignition (SPCCI) engine

Andrew Stoy

Andrew Stoy – Digital editor Andrew Stoy has spent the past 20 years wrenching on and writing about cars. He’s worked everywhere from dealer service bays to the headquarters of the world’s largest automakers.
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Jay Leno shows off a restomod Porsche 356 with Cayman guts in his latest ‘Garage’ video

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In the latest episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage,” Jay gets behind the wheel of West Coast Customs’ Porsche 356. Like most of West Coast Customs’ creations, this Porsche is clearly far from a concours restoration. The company took a ratty basket-case 356, repaired the rust and then made it fit over a 2008 Porsche Cayman chassis. The wider 356 looks super-aggressive compared to its stock counterpart, without just adding massive flares onto the Porsche fenders.

The custom 356 also sports a removable hardtop, but it looks better with the top in place.

Depending on your age, you might remember West Coast Customs as the shop behind MTV’s infamous “Pimp My Ride” show staring Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner. If you’re wondering if Xzibit shows up at Jay Leno’s Garage … well, watch and find out.

Volvo sub-brand Polestar offers ‘puzzling’ preview of its first concept

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Teaser shots are often pretty unimaginative, offering either an absurdly zoomed-in close-up of some trivial detail of a car or some form of a profile shot with surface detail obscured by darkness. Thus we have to give Volvo’s Polestar credit in this puzzle-shaped preview of what is likely an electric or electrified luxury coupe. Polestar has been releasing small segments of its first concept car via its Instagram account, which now paint a partial picture of the finished product.

Scheduled to be unveiled in Shanghai on Oct. 17, the mystery concept will certainly be electrified in some way — Polestar is now Volvo’s electric car sub-brand — and will almost certainly be a coupe, likely in the style of the Concept Coupe shown by Volvo at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show. The 2013 concept showcased the talents of Volvo designer Thomas Ingenlath, who was new to the automaker at the time, while also giving the world a glimpse at the latest Volvo design themes. Ingenlath is now the CEO of Polestar itself, so it makes sense that the brand’s first model may follow up on themes revealed in Frankfurt in 2013.

2013 Volvo Concept Coupe

The 2013 Volvo Concept Coupe previewed a model that has been absent from Volvo’s lineup for some time now.

Volvo turning its Polestar brand into a Tesla competitor

Volvo uses Polestar to go after Tesla, BMW i

Volvo will challenge Tesla Motors and BMW’s i subbrand by turning its Polestar unit into a global stand-alone brand for high-performance electrified models. “With Polestar, we are able …

While we’ll have to wait another week to find out just what will power the first Polestar concept — it could use Volvo’s T8 PHEV powertrain — it’s clear the new brand has Tesla in its sights, even though Polestar didn’t start out that way. An outside tuning house that was purchased by Volvo, Polestar is currently being transformed into a premium performance and electric marque that will not wear the Volvo badge but will trade on being designed and backed by Volvo.

“We want to redefine the brand, moving it away from having gasoline-powered cars to offering electrification and something that we call progressive performance,” Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Automotive News earlier this year.

Aston Martin hires Ferrari’s ‘key guys’ to challenge 488 GTB

Aston Martin is wasting no time in its aggressive product rollout, and it’s putting Ferrari and other supercar makers on notice.

At the recent launch of the DB11 V8 in Catalonia, Spain, we caught up with Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer. The Aston chief gave us new details on plans for a mid-engine car to go up against the Ferrari 488 GTB, the McLaren 720S and the Lamborghini Huracán.

Palmer says Aston has harnessed a great deal of learning from the $3 million Valkyrie hypercar and plans to apply that to its next mid-engine car, slated to land sometime in 2020 or so. As indicated in part of our conversation below, design plans for that car are developing quickly.

Andy Palmer, chief executive officer of Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd., reacts during a Bloomberg Television interview in Singapore, on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. Palmer discussed the impact of Brexit on the auto industry. Photographer: Vivek Prakash/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Autoblog: You said there will be a forthcoming mid-engine sports car. I still think the Ferrari 488 GTB is one of the best I’ve driven. How do you compete with that?

Andy Palmer: “Well, I agree with you. That’s the best car in its segment. And we’re going to take it on. And I realize the gravity of that statement, of what that means.”

AB: So how do you take on the 488 GTB?

AP: “Well, to start with, you recruit from Ferrari the head of body structures, and the head of powertrains. I’ve now got three of Ferrari’s key guys. And really, it’s a big compliment to Ferrari. That’s the defining car in its segment, and it’s really, really good. And those three guys now work for me. And you combine those guys with Nick [Lines, chief planning officer, Aston Martin] and Marek [Reichman, chief creative officer, Aston Martin] who you know really well, and you create some great recipes. And now I’ve got a better understanding of what that car looks like.”

AB: How far along is that car? Is there a clay model already?

AP: “Yeah, there’s clay. There’s actually eight quarter-scales. And there’s one in particular that I’m leaning toward. We’ve got it pushed out; it’s gone to a second studio in Milton Keynes. That studio is different from Gaydon. And I’ve got a pretty good idea of what the replacement for the 488 is going to be like as well. So, if we’re going in that market, we need to be ahead of the 488. And there’s no naïveté about what that means.”

One of the recruits Palmer is referring to is Max Szwaj, former head of innovation and body structures at Ferrari and Maserati. Szwaj has been named vice president and chief technical officer in his new role in Gaydon. Another recruit, Joerg Ross, formerly head of advanced engines at Ferrari and Maserati, assumes the chief engineer, powertrain, role at Aston. A third recruit by way of Modena is a very recent acquisition and has yet to be formally announced.

Aston Martin’s forthcoming car would slot above the Vanquish GT and below the Valkyrie hypercar in the lineup. And while the British luxe automaker is developing replacements for its existing lineup — most recently kicked off by the new DB11 — the Ferrari 488 fighter would join the upcoming DBX SUV as an all-new model line for Aston.

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Toyota Tokyo hybrid concepts go in two totally different directions

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Toyota will take its hybrid knowhow into new territory at the Tokyo Motor Show with electrified concepts for a sleek sporty coupe and big boxy crossover.

Japan’s biggest automaker unveiled the GR HV Sports concept and the Tj Cruiser crossover concept during a Friday preview of its plans for the auto expo this month.

Toyota said both vehicles are pure concepts and not planned for production.

On the sporty side, the GR HV Sports concept draws heavily from the 86 sporty coupe, but with a couple twists. For starters, it gets a vertical array of LED headlamps, air vents in the hood and a gaping, center mounted, hexagonally-shaped single exhaust pipe.

It also gets a targa top in homage to such venerable convertible forerunners as the Toyota Sports 800 and the Supra. Toyota says its matte black finish expresses “aggressiveness.”

The GR stands for Gazoo Racing, Toyota Motor Corp.’s global motorsports arm, while the HV stands for hybrid, the segment pioneered by the brand’s flagship Prius.

But under the hood, the GR HV Sports hardly resembles its hatchback cousin. Instead, the concept gets the Toyota Hybrid System-Racing, the electrified drivetrain technology used in the TS050 racer Toyota enters in Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship.

The battery is mounted near the center of the car to improve performance handling.

Honda chums the waters around Tokyo with sport EV concept

Adding to the fun is the ability to switch between 6-speed manual and automatic transmission modes. Drivers of the rear-wheel drive, two-seater choose automatic gear positions from a display of buttons on the center console for racing car ambiance.

The GR HV Sports concept.

And the push-button ignition sits atop the tip of the shift lever, like the machine gun trigger in an old James Bond spy car.

“Drivers can delight in the performance of THS-R in a genuine sports car,” Toyota said, “while experiencing a sense of freedom thanks to the targa top.”

On the practical side, Toyota says it will explore a new crossover genre with the Tj Cruiser, a monolithic concept that merges the roominess of a cargo van with the feel of an SUV.

The “T” in the name stands for toolbox, apt given the concepts boxy dimensions, while the “j” stands for joy the riders get from venturing to different destinations. The Cruiser moniker, traditionally reserved for SUV models, is a nod to its power, Toyota said.

TJ Cruiser

Toyota shows off a storage tote on wheels

“The Tj Cruiser was designed for drivers with lifestyles where work and play dovetail seamlessly,” the company added. “The Tj CRUISER symbolizes a new genre.”

This concept is also envisioned with a hybrid drivetrain — but this time a more pedestrian system mounted to a 2.0-liter class engine.

It would ride on the company’s next-generation TNGA modularized platform.

The rear doors slide open like a van, while the interior emphasizes creative cargo space and seat manipulation to accommodate everything from bicycles to surfboards. The front and rear passenger seats fold completely flat, their seat backs equipped with tie-down points.

Media days for the Tokyo Show begin Oct. 25.

Toyota readies sporty, boxy hybrid concepts for Tokyo” originally appeared in Automotive News on 10/6/2017

By Hans Greimel at Automotive News

Toyota Century finally rolls into this century

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 When it comes to regal resonance in Japan, no nameplate rules like the Toyota Century, the official car of the emperor, prime ministers and esteemed captains of industry.

Perhaps that’s why, after 20 years, the grand limousine’s long-awaited redesign doesn’t mess with much. Toyota will unveil a hybrid third-generation Century at this month’s Tokyo Motor Show, but the overhaul largely keeps the old-school elegance that harkens back to its roots in 1967.

The iconic long car, hardly seen outside of Japan, was last redesigned in 1997.

Two decades later, the new iteration undergoes mostly cosmetic changes, including LED headlamps, three-dimensional taillights and a more rear-slung posture.

The rear door opening is also enlarged, perhaps to ease access for the Century’s traditional demographic — those in the over-50 set.

The interior still oozes zen-like refinement in its elegant simplicity, replete with the retro-style lace curtains reminiscent of the doilies on your grandmother’s coffee table.

It even grows longer and wider for more comfort inside.

But modern upgrades creep in throughout, including LCD panels in the armrests that enable passengers to control seat positioning, air conditioning and the audio system.

2018 Lexus RX seven-seat model rendering

A power leg rest rounds out the new creature comforts that were long overdue.

Under the hood, the car also enters the 21st century.

Toyota is dropping a silky-smooth, 5.0-liter V-12 engine on the outgoing model in favor of the brand’s trademark hybrid system. The next Century pairs a direct injection 5.0-liter V-8 engine with a two-stage electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery for power and fuel economy.

Toyota also plans a safer Century, outfitting the new luxury flagship with the company’s suite of safety technologies that includes precrash auto-braking and blind spot monitoring.

The second-generation Century stickered for 12.53 million yen ($111,300) when production finally ended in January. With that steep price and competition from the likes of the Lexus LS, it’s not surprising sales of the outgoing model totaled just 8,700 units over its 20-year lifespan.

The third-generation Century goes on sale in the middle of 2018.

Media days for the Tokyo Motor Show begin Oct. 25.

Toyota Century enters 21st century with hybrid upgrade” originally appeared in Automotive News on 10/5/2017

By Hans Greimel at Automotive News

The Mitsubishi e-Evolution is more Asimo than Evo

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How do you make a tougher, greener Mitsubishi crossover even smarter, too?

By adding artificial intelligence, of course.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s upcoming e-Evolution Concept not only sports a three-motor, four-wheel drive powertrain, it gets an AI personal assistant to make driving safer and easier.

The Japanese carmaker unveiled new details about its Tokyo show vehicle on Oct. 5, saying it had no plans to build it. But the e-Evolution’s technologies will be adopted for production vehicles Mitsubishi wants to bring to market starting around 2020.

Mitsubishi’s vision calls for a single electric motor to drive the front wheels and a new dual motor system to power the rear.

The battery-powered concept’s high-torque, high-performance motors aim to deliver the “go-anywhere flexibility of SUVs” under all weather conditions and all surfaces, Mitsubishi says.

The rear dual motor employs active yaw control for crisp handling.

Mitsubishi’s artificial intelligence system reads the road through an array of sensors and seamlessly coordinates the human driver’s intentions with the car’s self-driving capabilities.

Electric crossover is a beacon for Mitsubishis Tokyo line up

Key to the system is recognizing and learning the owner’s driving habits and skill levels and adjusting to match. The future onboard computer will act as a coach, giving advice to the person behind the wheel.

It will use voice recognition to allow voice control of climate control, wipers, headlights and more. And Mitsubishi’s AI personal assistant also would support vehicle-to-home communication.

The company will demonstrate the home link to Amazon Echo with Alexa and Google Assistant on Google Home VPA-enabled wireless speakers at the Tokyo auto show.

The whole package, Mitsubishi says, delivers safer, less stressful driving.

The e-Evolution name is a nod to the performance heritage of the Lancer Evolution street racer. But the concept’s design breaks new ground for the company.

New renderings of the e-Evolution depict a wedge-shaped crossover with a dramatically slanted rear window and a front that slopes from the roof at a long, low angle to the nose with hardly any front hood. A bank of crystal-like lights up front lends a high-tech feel.

Little winglets jut from the rear fender to support the C-pillar like flying buttresses.

Media days for the Tokyo Motor Show begin Oct. 25.

Mitsubishi e-Evolution greener and smarter, thanks to AI” originally appeared in Automotive News on 10/5/2017

By Hans Greimel at Automotive News

Is Nissan’s Nismo Leaf Concept the sporty-looking EV people need?

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Nissan will tout its electric ambitions at this month’s Tokyo Motor Show with a new concept vehicle alongside a sporty version of its just-unveiled next-generation Leaf electric vehicle.

The Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept is a pulse-pumping take on the Japanese carmaker’s flagship EV, with tuner treatment by its Nismo performance sub-brand.

Sporty exterior tweaks improve aerodynamic performance and reduce lift — to keep the Nismo Leaf glued to the road for more exciting handling, Nissan said Tuesday in a preview of its show plans. It also gets a sport-tuned suspension, high-performance tires and a custom-tuned computer that delivers “instant acceleration at all speeds,” Nissan Motor Co. said. Red accents complete the Nismo look.

“On the road, the Leaf Nismo Concept offers a truly exciting drive,” the company said.

The company will also unveil a concept vehicle that hints at the future direction of its “intelligent mobility” strategy. The concept will bundle three technologies Nissan positions as core to its brand: electrification, autonomous driving and connectivity.

Nissan did not offer details about the concept. But it may be a long-awaited electrified crossover variant of the Leaf that executives have been hinting at for months.

Nissan Leaf: 5 things we like about Nissan’s new EV

5 things we like about the new Nissan Leaf EV

The redesigned 2018 Nissan Leaf electric car looks ready to compete with the likes of the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3. While it might not have a pile of pre-orders placed long before anyone …

Daniele Schillaci, Nissan’s executive vice president for zero emission vehicles as well as global marketing and sales, said just weeks ago it was reasonable to think the company would have an EV crossover in the “near future.” Alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp. plans its own electric crossover at the Tokyo show, a coupe-like four-wheeler dubbed the e-Evolution Concept.

In Tokyo, Nissan will expand on the performance theme with a Nismo version of the Serena, a Japan-market family van. That vehicle, which goes on sale in November, will deliver sharper handling and spunkier pickup thanks to a sportier suspension and new engine control unit.

Nissan announced in the spring it wants to improve traction for the Nismo subbrand by embarking on a massive global expansion. It aims to double the number of nameplates getting the Nismo treatment and deliver a sixfold increase in sales over the next five years.

The push could expand the line of Nismo offerings to new body types including crossovers, minivans and — in the U.S. especially — pickups. Tokyo’s rollout of Nismo-badged vehicles foreshadows what is in store.

Nissan will also show an updated Skyline sedan with new aluminum wheel designs, a reworked steering wheel and a refreshed shift knob. The car, sold in the U.S. as the Infiniti Q60, also aims for a more premium interior feel with a revamped instrument panel surface.

The Skyline upgrade goes on sale in Japan in December.

Press days for the Tokyo Motor Show begin Oct. 25.

The article “Nissan to show electric concept, sporty Leaf in Tokyo” originally appeared on autonews.com

By Hans Greimel, Automotive News

High-performance Audi R8 prototype could be new R8 GT

The Audi R8, which has a 610-horsepower Plus version, isn’t exactly in dire need of additional performance. But based on these new spy photos, that appears to be exactly what Audi is working on, and we won’t try to dissuade them from making it. It may even be a return of the very limited production, hardcore, R8 GT, last seen in 2012.

There aren’t many changes to the exterior of the car, which does hurt the argument that this could be an R8 GT. The front fascia and flanks appear to be identical to the normal R8 in fact. The old R8 GT at least featured a couple extra canards at the front for better aerodynamics.

At the back, the car seems to have the same wing as the R8 Plus, which is similar in shape and size as the old R8 GT. The rear grilles also look different. The actual openings appear larger and closer to the rear wing, and the mesh pattern looks as though it might extend behind the rear license plate. The diffuser is also new, and it looks a bit wider. It also now encompasses oval exhaust tips. Oval tips have frequently been a cue on RS Audis, so perhaps this R8 could carry an RS badge. Our spy photographer tells us the exhaust was very loud, too.

Since this prototype doesn’t look vastly different from the current R8, we’re expecting that it won’t be a terribly long wait to see the final product. Perhaps one to two years. We hope.

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Lamborghini Aventador S track review: 730 hp and an aptly named ego mode

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“We’re putting you two in your own run group,” said Dean DiGiacomo, Lamborghini’s Super Trofeo series factory driver and chief instructor for this event, as I anxiously awaited my stint on the Auto Club Speedway Sports Car Circuit. This would normally be joyous news to me, as smaller run groups in lead/follow lapping typically reduce the chances of the pace being held back by a colleague with less on-track experience. But the other journalist he pointed to was Justin Bell, a former FIA GT champion and 24-Hours of Le Mans class-winner, and it suddenly became clear that I would be the anchor in this equation.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. That’s easy to do with 730 hp at the command of your right foot, and a naturally aspirated, 6.5-liter V12 singing behind your head.

The Aventador S replaces the new-in-2012 standard Aventador and, even at first glance, it’s clearly more track focused. For example, Lamborghini redesigned the front end to improve airflow to the engine’s radiators and enhance aerodynamics, which also ratchets up the visual aggression. 

2017 Lamborghini Aventador S review with price, horsepower and photo gallery

Paired with a revised rear splitter, Lamborghini says the S is now 50 percent more aero efficient while providing 130 percent more downforce than the outgoing model. Some of the additional downforce comes from a new active rear wing, which varies between three different positions based on speed and selected drive mode. Speaking of drive modes, the S gains a much-needed (though perhaps questionably named) “ego” mode, which adds a fourth option alongside strada, sport and corsa that allows the driver to create a preset which brings together their preferred traction, steering and suspension settings.

“You’re going to feel a big difference between this car and the standard Aventador out on the track,” DiGiacomo assured us during the technical briefing. Among the various updates, its handling revisions are, perhaps, the most crucial, including revised suspension geometry, a real-time variable damping system, and a new four-wheel steering system.

Originally debuted last year in the $2 million, ultra-exclusive Centenario, this setup functions similarly to most other four-wheel steering systems currently available. At low speeds the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction of the front wheels, while at higher speeds — above roughly 82 mph — all four wheels move in the same direction. Lamborghini’s implementation is particularly aggressive, offering up to 1.5 degrees of counter steering, which effectively reduces the wheelbase by 700mm and extends it by 500mm when all four wheels turn in unison.

The system is most evident at lower speeds, where the car’s eagerness to turn in can actually take a moment to acclimate to. That four-wheel steering system is teamed with a particularly quick rack that makes the Aventador S more willing to change direction than its size might suggest. It also improves the car’s turning radius, which is nice around town.

If anyone ever considered the Aventador a one-trick pony, those days are over. In corsa mode with minimal intrusion from the electronics and a 20/80 torque split biased toward the rear wheels, a midcorner throttle application can kick the back end out and set the car into a modest four-wheel drift. The chassis feels surprisingly lively, yet it’s easy to manage at speed. It takes ham-fisted inputs to make the Aventador S understeer.

Justin Bell certainly wouldn’t be ham-fisted. Would I be able to keep up? At first, I assumed my ego would be saved by the lead car keeping us corralled during the session for the equipment’s sake. Though it lacks elevation change, this 2.8-mile circuit makes use of about half the superspeedway. Cars like the Aventador S flirt with 170 mph by the end of the main straight before scrubbing off speed for turn one. Surely Lamborghini would guard their coveted, $421,000 flagship model from any abuse. Wouldn’t they?

They would not. The first hint came to me from DiGiacomo’s suggestion to switch the drive mode to corsa (race), before we headed out of the pits. Confirmation came shortly thereafter, when Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo series champion Shinya Michimi set our speed at “let’s see what you’ve got.”

With Bell sent out behind me, I was essentially sandwiched between a pair of motorsport champions. Auto Club’s sports car course is fast and certainly favors high horsepower cars like the S, but the infield also offers a few surprises, like the late apex at turn 9 and the kink that essentially comprises turns 11 and 12, the latter a section which can be taken flat out in this car but will keep you on your toes as the new suspension setup allows the back end to step out for half a breath. I’ve long said that what I lack in talent I do my best to make up for in courage, and the generous back straight allowed me to mash the throttle to put a little bit of distance between myself and Bell, who was likely falling asleep behind me. But we’re hard on those big carbon ceramics again for 13, and the start of another technical section gathered our trio back together.

Once we’d reached the oval portion of the track, Lamborghini’s latest party piece could really be uncorked. As the infield course funneled traffic out on to the wide banking, I dipped back into the seemingly endless wealth of grunt on tap from the V12. The single-clutch seven-speed automated-manual that so often felt out of sorts at low speeds seemed to find its calling here at wide open throttle, delivering upshifts with recoil akin to a 12-gauge shotgun as the digital speedometer rapidly climbed past 160 mph. With the baritone wail of the V12 behind me and my body reflexively bracing for each shunt of the gearbox, the experience was genuinely visceral.

2016 Lamborghini Aventador SV

Midway through our session, Bell and I switched positions and I was left to trail this particularly quick pair. I looked at this as a free coaching session and did my best to replicate Bell’s line and braking points, but inevitably the gap widened, particularly through the technical sections. I managed to reign them back in on the fast stretches to some degree — perhaps my confidence in the capability of the Aventador S allowed me to momentarily forget that the car I was pounding on retails for nearly half a million dollars.

It’s clearly a capable track car, but a heavy one. The new exhaust system is lighter, but that’s offset by the four-wheel steering system. Overall, the Aventador S lugs around roughly two-tons of weight in U.S. specification. That mass is particularly evident when stomping on those near-infallible brakes from high speeds, as the substantial amount of hardware situated behind you starts to wiggle around a bit. And while the new steering and suspension bits do indeed bolster the car’s cornering prowess, ultimately there’s only so much that engineering can do to fight the realities of physics. 

While imperfect, there’s no shortage of things to lust over when considering the Lamborghini Aventador S. We live in an era that increasingly favors small-displacement turbocharging and the prioritization of civility over emotion. The fact that this car can leave just about anyone, even jaded auto journalists, breathless and giggling like children after driving it is irrefutable proof that Lamborghini’s approach to supercar building remains a worthwhile endeavor.

By Bradley Iger

The Porsche 597 Jagdwagen was a hunter’s dream; now it’s a collector’s dream

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Many Porsche enthusiasts can say they’ve seen all the major models of the 356 family, from the Gmund to the C, but most would be leaving one out: the Porsche 597 Jagdwagen.

The Jagdwagen, which roughly translates to “hunting car,” came out of a NATO competition to create a light army-transport vehicle similar to the American Jeep. Porsche’s entry was a small, canvas-topped 4×4 that used stamped-steel body panels and a simplified 356 engine for power. Just like in the 356 itself, the engine was in the back, with Porsche using 1.5- and 1.6-liter versions of the air-cooled flat-four engine. The “top” 1.6-liter unit, fitted in later versions of the Jagdwagen, produced 50 hp, giving the vehicle a top speed of around 62 mph. With a weight of 2,182 pounds, the Jagdwagen was relatively nimble and put its horses to good use with the help of a five-speed gearbox — a lot of gears for something like this — and was also able to switch between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive on the fly. With generous approach and departure angles, the Jagdwagen offered plenty of off-road ability and could even climb gradients of 65 percent. The Jagdwagen was also a little amphibious, being able to float without taking on water when needed, but it would not have been anyone’s first choice for a whitewater rafting trip.

What happened to the whole project? The similar-looking DKW Munga beat entries from Borgward and Porsche in the competition, owing to even simpler engineering and build process.

1957 Porsche Jagdwagen engine

A simplified air-cooled flat-four engine was paired with a five-speed manual gearbox. Photo by Bonhams

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Normally this would have meant the end of the project, with a few prototypes stashed away in museum, but having invested 1.8 million Deutschmarks (a lot in those days) in developing the Jagdwagen, Porsche attempted to find other uses for its 4×4. And that’s where the Jagdwagen name comes from: Porsche decided to “rebrand” it for use by hunters, game wardens and forestry workers.

The automaker built about 71 examples of the Jagdwagen between 1955 and 1957 — not exactly a 24/7 production line — with 49 built to civilian spec and sold to owners. Sadly, precious few survive to this day, and recent auction sales have noted that only about 15 are now known to exist.

As much as we’d like to see the Jagdwagen make appearances in official Porsche videos introducing the 2019 Cayenne — cue grainy footage with a German-accented voiceover announcing: “Inzpired by zee original Jagdwagen” — the experiment had little lasting effect on Porsche’s lineup, perhaps aside from convincing the company it was financially advantageous to sell sports cars one at a time to private owners versus dealing with high-discount government contracts.

1957 Porsche Jagdwagen rear

Porsche tried to market the 597 to hunters and farmers, but very few found homes. Photo by Bonhams

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The “winner” of the NATO contract itself  — the DKW Munga — enjoyed a 12-year production run with a little over 46,000 units made, but DKW also had to work hard to sell the Munga to private owners in many global markets to make the effort profitable.

Fancy one of these scouts for your farm or as a hunting car? Despite its simplicity, the values of the 597 aren’t too far off from the best examples of the 356 — the 1957 model in the gallery above sold for $235,331 at Bonhams’ Goodwood auction a year ago this month. A 1958 example that belonged to Jerry Seinfeld sold for $330,000 (with a $350,000 to $425,000 estimate) earlier last year at Amelia Island. Sales are sporadic, but it appears that a quarter of a million is the minimum budget for one of these. The owner of the one in the gallery above parted with his, deeming it just “too precious” to use on his country estate. While that’s a depressing reason to part with one, this is one of those situations where continuing to use a classic off-road isn’t worth the stress.