autoMedia CARnival 05-28-10: The week in Auto Blogs

Brandy Schaffels on

Welcome to this week's edition of the autoMedia CARnival! We've browsed our favorite automotive blogs all week long to gather all the highlights from each so you can stay informed of everything that's happening in the automotive world. We've got links to wacky news, green news, racing news, great videos and more, so relax and enjoy!

honda dog in carWith the approach of the long Memorial Day weekend, the summer travel season is upon us and many families will hit the road, including the four-legged furry members. While it's great to include your pet in your plans, keeping the family together and saving kennel fees in the process, there are some considerations to keep in mind. It's important to plan ahead, make sure you have all the necessary gear, and prepare your vehicle accordingly. Consumer Reports has a few tips to ensure your pet -- as well as your other passengers -- in the car enjoy a fun, safe trip.

2011 ford fiesta social media
While a billboard can tell you about the Ford Fiesta's keyless entry, it takes a webisode to show how that feature can help a Fiesta owner escape from zombies while his Toyota and Honda-owning friends become a snack for the undead. That's why Ford turned to agents from the successful first chapter of the Fiesta Movement to create online content to promote their new subcompact. They're calling it the Fiesta Project, and so far the YouTube videos have gained nearly 500,000 views. "We selected some of our most creative, funny and socially vibrant agents to help us showcase the vehicle's class-exclusive features," said Jonathan Beebe, Ford's Digital Communications manager. The webisodes join a traditional marketing campaign and a second chapter of the Fiesta Movement, gaining big publicity for the tiny car. Read all about it at wired.com/autopia.

jalopnik road sign Speaking of social media, here's an interesting way to get a message across to the masses: How about hacking those electric road signs? Pranksters in Wisconsin once again ignored Jalopnik's continuous and fervent requests to not hack road signs. This time there's no confusing political message, just the lyrical poetry of Detroit garage disco rock stars Electric Six.


Mercury logoAfter 70 years of existence, it looks like Mercury will be the next auto brand to go the way of Pontiac, Hummer, and Saturn. According to CarGurus, top executives are preparing a proposal to kill Mercury. That proposal will be presented to the board in July, but it seems the Ford family is in favor of axing the brand.

toyota logo

Caused chiefly due to faults that recalled millions of American Toyota vehicles, Automoblog reports the United States House Energy and Commerce Committee has devised an Act that could bring some sweeping changes not only to the issue of unattended vehicle acceleration but to the whole recall process.


fisker karmaFisker Automotive is still in the absolute infancy of its life cycle as an electric carmaker, but, according to LeftLaneNews.com, it plans to produce as many as 100 examples of its first planned model -- the Karma sedan -- in order to carry out various forms of testing. Apparently, Ray Lane, one of the investors in Fisker Automotive, said the 70-100 vehicles would "be tested internally, crash tested and used for other testing purposes. Some of them will be given to customers for testing purposes as well, out in the real road." 'Bout time.

automopedia lost carsThat's right friends, even your pals at Automopedia are doing a Lost tie-in. The show's epic finale was this week, and who could have guessed The Island was really... Just kidding. Won't give it away because frankly we at the Automopedia offices need to watch The End on Hulu again, to try and catch everything. But they are sharing the six cars you wish you never had to deal with. You may be surprised at this list - they're not going with the usual "Worst Car" ranking, which almost always includes a Pontiac Aztek and Yugo. And yes, they're doing six because Lost was on for six seasons -- they are such geeks.

Volkswagen ipad High-tech rules! Volkswagen is the first automaker to develop a digital customer magazine as an app for the Apple iPad. According to The Detroit Bureau, the "innovative" digital product -- dubbed DAS for Digital Automotive Space - is appearing as the launch of the new Apple tablet computer proceeds across Europe.



gm uses albert einstein to pitch terrainTheCarConnection says General Motors has a problem: Not its recent bailout. Or its endless personnel shakeups. Or even the public's lingering doubts about GM production quality. They've also been through a slew of advertising and branding agencies during their recent tumultuous times. Behold the product of one campaign, which featured the likeness of Albert Einstein atop a sexy hunky-hunk of muscular manflesh. Unfortunately, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem owns the licensing rights to Albert Einstein's image, and they are not happy about this representation of the famous brainiac. Hey, ideas are sexy too!

 

modifiedcars.comGot a yearning to gaze at lovingly modified cars, adorned by surgically altered models? Check out ModifiedCars.com for an assortment of super-tuned road monsters and plenty of eye candy. Most galleries include images of high-enough resolution to serve as wallpaper on even the largest of high-def monitors. Enjoy!



wreckedexotics.comWhen some people buy an exotic, they can't wait to push the limits. Unfortunately, sometimes they get a little too giddy and wreck the car before they even had a chance to really enjoy it. Call it schadenfreude. Call it pure voyeurism. You know you want to see what those bozos do to their very special vehicles, so wreckedexotics.com offers you this compilation of exotic cars wrecked only days or weeks after purchase.

 

wrecked aston martin rapideSpeaking of wrecked exotics, The devastating hailstorm that recently wreaked havoc in the Midwest damaged a lot of property and injured a lot of people, but what really caught the attention of TopSpeed.com is this Aston Martin Rapide pinned beneath a tree in the parking lot of the Midwestern Automobile Media Association. Bummer.



william shatner carlustOh yeah, there are some things in our past that we will never live down. Take for instance: William Shatner's early days as Captain Quirk, er, Kirk. Carlust.com remembers the era with a special Shatner blog, featuring StarTrek stars and their futuristic cars, saying "It's amazing...how well these cars and these pictures represent the two Star Trek characters. Kirk was a vibrant, bouncy, irresistibly cheerful character with a zest for livng life to the fullest. It's completely appropriate that he's pictured here in full color, sitting on a wild, futuristic hot rod with a jaunty smile on his face." Yeah, that's a jaunty ride, alright...


lexus steering recallToyota/Lexus just can't catch a break these days, can they? Toyota has apparently released a quick flick showing the details of its most recent recall involving the variable gear-ratio steering on the 2010 Lexus LS. This video at autoblog shows --  in English and Japanese -- exactly what happens when the design defect rears its ugly head on the range-topping sedan. Fortunately, only about 3,800 affected vehicles are actually roaming U.S. highways, and all of them are eligible for a free fix. Check with your dealer if you're concerned about your own car.

 

Kelly Blue Book gets ticketedKelley Blue Book ace and auto pal James Bell and his team brought a slew of vehicles to Santa Monica, California for some analysis on KTLA channel five's morning show. However, while Bell and KTLA were live on the air, a Santa Monica parking enforcement officer began rifling off $50 tickets for each vehicle on display. Check out the video footage of this $500 parking faux pas at autoblog.com


And with that video to make you thankful you've got a private parking lot at your disposal, we thank you for joining us for this week's CARnival! Have you got something of interest you want us to include in a future carnival? Then fill out our online form so we can be notified of your interesting entry to our weekly blog CAR-nival. Check back next week for another installment!



Brandy Schaffels, autoMedia.com contributing editor more

Volkswagen Takes 90% Stake in Italdesign Giugiaro

Jeff Prescott on

Volkswagen is expanding its empire with the acquisition of legendary design house Italdesign Giugiaro. Technically, the shares will be acquired by subsidiary Lamborghini, keeping the company Italian. The Giugiaro family will retain the other 10 percent.

“With this shareholding in Italdesign, we are participating in one of the most renowned design and development companies with one of the richest traditions in the automobile industry. Italdesign is the flagship for creative Italian automobile design and has been instrumental in shaping the face of the automobile industry worldwide. As the creator of the Golf I, Giorgetto Giugiaro laid a new foundation for Volkswagen design in the 1970s,” Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, commented in Turin.

Italdesign Giugiaro was founded in 1968. It has developed numerous show cars through the years, aiding many automakers in advancing their designs. With VW, Italdesign created the concepts for the first VW Passat, Scirocco, and Audi 80. Recent efforts include the upcoming Mini roadster and coupe, as well as the beautiful Alfa Romeo Brera.
 
The company generates more than $100 Euros a year, and it has more than 800 employees.

This union furthers VW’s sales ambitions, and it promises stunning designs going forward.

Visit the autoMedia Volkswagen Research Center for quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, and much more.
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2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring – Quick Take Test Drive

Mac Demere on

 2010 hyundai elantra touringGet out your tiny violins ...

One of the difficulties of being an auto writer is remembering which vehicle you’re driving. It’s embarrassing to wander the parking lot, looking like a dimwit who forgot where he parked—or a car thief. At the big car magazines, it’s common to drive home five cars in a single week (I appreciate your sympathy). Today, as a freelancer, I no longer face that dilemma. No reason, then, for me to have trouble tracking down the Hyundai Elantra Touring SE test vehicle in the supermarket lot. Except that I kept thinking I was looking for a Volkswagen. I’d be within arm’s length of the Hyundai and say, “WHERE is that Volkswagen?!"

 It’s a huge compliment to Hyundai that I had to look down at the key fob to remind myself I was test driving—and parking lot hunting—the Hyundai Elantra Touring (and not a VW Jetta SportsWagen. The Elantra Touring SE feels, looks, accelerates and handles with that German flair not typically found in the just-another-Asian-crossover class. Swap logos with those from VW or Audi and few would believe they were piloting a $20,005 (including freight and handling) Elantra Touring SE. And its large rear cargo area challenges that of most compact SUVs.

Hyundai quality, residual value, styling and sales have increased dramatically in the past handful of years. Leaving Hyundai off your shopping list is like not having a Facebook account or being unable to send text messages and photos from your cell phone. If you’re more than a little behind of what’s happening, get behind the wheel of a Hyundai Elantra Touring and you’ll be as impressed as I was. Just remember where you park.

Mac Demere is an automotive journalist and former racecar driver. He can be reached through macdemere.net.

Read another autoMedia review of the 2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring and check out our Hyundai Research Center for pricing, photos, features, and more. You can also find the latest news about new Hyundai models just premiered at the 2010 New York auto show.


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Update: 2010 New York Auto Show - News & Previews

James M. Flammang on

This year's New York International Auto Show features plenty of enticing North American and world debuts, and a lot of redesigns and updates, including more new 2011 models than ever shown.

 

 

2010 new york auto showUpdated, April 2, 2010—  Despite continued turmoil in the auto industry, the 2010 New York International Auto Show is hosting a substantial number of global and North American premieres. Following a shortfall of new-model introductions at the Chicago Auto Show in February, the New York show includes a more exhaustive list of launches—though most are redesigns and updates, rather than brand-new models. More than two dozen debuts from 17 major manufacturers are on display at the oldest auto show in America, which dates back to the early years of the 20th century. We covered the New York show during Media Days on March 31-April 1 to give you a preview. It's open to the public from April 2-11 at the Javits Center.

 

ACURA introduced its all-new 2011 TSX Sport Wagon, which will join the current compact TSX sport sedan that was redesigned for the 2009 model year. Unlike the sedan, Acura says the wagon will receive just one powertrain, the same 2.4-liter, DOHC i-VTEC, inline four-cylinder engine as the base TSX sedan, and will be paired with a Sequential SportShift 5-speed automatic transmission fit with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters. Acura expects the Sport Wagon to get 30 mpg on the highway, and to arrive at dealerships in late fall. Read our reviews of the 2010 Acura TSX V6 and 2009 TSX with the 201-hp four-cylinder engine, and visit our complete Acura Research Center for specifics on all Acura models.2011 acura tsx sport wagon

 

2010 bentley continental supersports convertibleBENTLEY is showing off its new Continental Supersports Convertible, which was unveiled at the Geneva (Switzerland) Motor Show in March. Like the Supersports coupe that debuted in 2009, the new soft-top model contains a twin-turbo V-12 engine that generates 621 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, driving a six-speed automatic transmission. Weighing almost 200 pounds less than a Continental GTC, the Supersports is called the world's fastest four-seat convertible, promising 0-60 mph acceleration in 3.9 seconds. Sales begin in July, priced around $300,000. See our 2010 Bentley Research Center for information on all current Bentley models.

 

 

BMW hosted three North American debuts on day one of the New York show: most notably, the "all-new" redesigned 2011 5 Series sedan. Seen early in March at the Geneva auto show, including a hybrid version, the 5 Series will come in two forms. A new twin-scroll turbocharged six-cylinder engine goes into the 535i, while the 550i gets a reverse-flow 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8. A new eight-speed automatic is standard, but the new 5 also will be available with a six-speed manual gearbox. All prior generations of the 5 Series could be fitted with manual shift. Pricing for the 535i starts at $49,650; the 550i pricing starts at $59,750. Check out our test drive of the current 550i sedan.2011 bmw 5 series

 

2011 bmw x5The German automaker also presented an updated 2011 BMW X5 sport-utility vehicle, offered with the new turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine (which goes into most "35i" models for 2011) or a 4.4-liter V-8. Diesel power is likely to be available again, as well. Standard X5 features will include a Lane Departure Warning and Active Cruise Control, along with BMW's ConnectDrive system. Nearly all 2011 BMWs go on sale early, in spring 2010. Read our test drive of the 2010 BMW X5 xDrive35d.

 

CHEVROLET introduced an Eco version of its new compact Cruze sedan, which first appeared at the Paris Motor Show in 2008. Introduced to North America at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2009, the Cruze goes on sale—replacing the Cobalt—later this year in four forms: LS, LT, LTZ, and Eco. All but the LS model get a new 1.4-liter Ecotec turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but the Eco edition adds several aerodynamic enhancements to help boost estimated highway fuel economy to 40 mpg with a six-speed manual transmission. A new RS sport appearance package for LT and LTZ models was also on display.2011 chevrolet cruze

 

For the Cruze Eco, Chevrolet promises "hybrid-like fuel efficiency" at lower cost, yielding the best mileage in the compact segment, along with the car's "midsize presence." In the Eco, a lower front grille has shutters that close at higher speeds, to improve aerodynamics. Additional Eco modifications include a lower front air dam extension, extensive underbody panels, a rear spoiler, and lower ride height. Lightweight 17-inch aluminum wheels hold ultra-low rolling resistance tires. Equipped with 10 airbags, the Cruze is the first of an anticipated family of new small and compact cars from Chevrolet. Our Chevrolet Research Center includes photo galleries and features of all current models.

 

FORD CEO Alan Mulally kicked off the first of two Media Days, serving as keynote speaker for the annual breakfast hosted by show organizers. See LINCOLN, below, for Ford Motor Company's most significant New York reveal. Check out our Ford Research Center for access to pricing, photos, reviews and features, and read our review of the 2011 Ford Mustang V6.

 

 

2011 hyundai sonataHYUNDAI presented new 2.0T (turbocharged four-cylinder) and Hybrid Blue Drive versions of its redesigned 2011 Sonata midsize sedan. First seen at the Los Angeles Auto Show in December 2009, the regular '11 Sonata gets a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, promising up to 35 mpg on the highway. All Sonata engines will have four cylinders. In addition to fuel economy, Hyundai promotes the "Fluidic Sculpture" design language of the redesigned Sonatas. In addition to the Sonata 2.0T and Hybrid, Hyundai premiered a production Equus sedan. The new rear-drive V-8 Equus sedan has just about every luxury feature, including 17-speaker, 13-channel surround sound and an electronic air suspension. Bigger than the Lexus LS 460, it has a wheelbase 3 inches longer, and rides on 19-inch staggered tires (rear tires wider). With its 385-hp engine, the Equus is expected to get 16/24 mpg using regular gasoline.

 

INFINITI, Nissan's luxury division, hosted the global premiere of its QX full-size luxury sport-utility vehicle. Update: Billed as “the future of luxury SUVs,” the 2011 QX56 gets “a 25-percent horsepower boost (to 400), plus more than 10 percent greater fuel economy. Prices are the same as 2010 models. Substantial exterior restyling is expected to help make the latest QX a competitor to the Range Rover.2011 infiniti QX

 

2011 kia forte five doorKIA had a busy morning on the second media day, featuring four models, including world debuts of the Optima and the Forte five-door. First up was the Sorento SX, which goes on sale this summer. It's been lowered slightly and has unique 18-inch alloy wheels, along with leather seating. Next: the Sportage, with a 2.4-liter, 176-horsepower engine and six-speed automatic transmission. A few months after its summer launch, a turbo Sportage will be added. The new Kia Forte five-door, and all Fortes, get a redesigned front bumper, and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Optima comes with a choice of two engines: 2.4-liter direct injection, rated around 200 horsepower, with 24/35 mpg expected fuel economy; or a turbo rated at 274 hp. A hybrid powertrain joins early next year. Optima's all-new platform has a 3-inch longer wheelbase.

 

 

LEXUS will show its brand-new CT 200h premium compact hybrid model, which goes on sale early in 2011. It's the first dedicated hybrid premium compact from Toyota's luxury division. A 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine works in concert with Lexus Hybrid Drive, using two motor generators and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The hybrid battery pack fits under the rear cargo area (within the car's wheelbase).2011 lexus CT 200h

  

2011 lincoln mkz hybridLINCOLN revealed their first hybrid, a gasoline/electric version of the MKZ sedan. Ford expects up to 41 mpg on the highway, and the MKZ Hybrid can go up to 47 miles on battery power alone. Sales begin this fall. Parent-company Ford also announced a new connection with Microsoft, to use its hohm system to work together on development of electric vehicles, integrating them into the owner’s home.

 

 

MAZDA offered final details on the coming-soon Mazda2 subcompact during its presentation, and also discussed future environmental plans. On sale in Europe and elsewhere in the world since 2007, the five-door hatchback will reach American dealerships in early summer. Two years ago, the Mazda2 was named World Car of the Year. In U.S. trim, the Mazda2 will hold a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The Mazda2 will start at $13,980. Sport and Comfort versions will be available. Mazda also featured its forthcoming series of Sky powertrains, which first appeared at the Tokyo Motor Show. Read our review of the 2010 Mazda3 and the 2010 MAZDASPEED3.2011 mazda mazda2 2

 

2011 mercedes-benz E350 4Matic wagonMERCEDES-BENZ hosted the world debut of the redesigned 2011 R-Class. First introduced as a 2006 model, the original R-Class was a blend of minivan and wagon, with luxury trappings, but sales have not met expectations. Update: The German automaker also hosted the North American premiere of its E350 4Matic (all-wheel-drive) wagon, and announced the price of its SLS AMG supercar ($183,000), and showed a new racing version. See a photo and read more about the SLS AMG.

 

MINI Cooper coupes will remain as is. The company showed the reworked Cooper convertible model, but the main attraction was the new Countryman, which is built on a new platform, different from the one used for all other MINI models. Back seats are said to be adult-sized, and the Countryman may be equipped with all-wheel drive. Seats adjust fore/aft, too. Planned for sale here next February, it's considered a completely new line for the automaker, and it's the first MINI that's longer than four meters. Research current models in our MINI Research Center.2011 mini countryman

 

2011-mitsubishi-outlander-sportMITSUBISHI will unveil a new "entry-level" crossover wagon. Originally rumored to be dubbed the Outlander Sport, Mitsubishi made no mention of the new model's name. In fact, they're having some kind of contest where people can guess the name. Built on the same wheelbase as regular Outlanders, it's more than a foot shorter overall. The CVT includes paddle shifters, and they predict 31-mpg highway fuel economy. Seven airbags include a driver's knee airbag. Sales start in October. Mitsubishi also announced that it will have a new global small car in 2012 and soon will provide details on its "eco-savvy" product direction.

 

NISSAN introduced its brand-new Juke crossover vehicle at an off-site event. Seen in European guise at the Geneva (Switzerland) auto show in March, the curvy compact was inspired by Nissan's Qazana concept model. Nissan says it offers a sporty crossover alternative to traditional small hatchbacks. Nissan promotes the Juke's "robust stance, high waistline, complex curves [and] coupe-like profile." Inside, a wide center console is said to be inspired by a motorcycle fuel tank.2011-nissan-juke

 

PORSCHE premiered the next-generation Cayenne, including the company's first Hybrid version, which debuted at the Geneva show. Slightly longer this time, the latest Cayenne promises more interior space and has lost almost 400 pounds of weight. Cayenne S and Turbo models go on sale in July; base and Hybrid editions in the fall. What Porsche calls its "Intelligent Performance" philosophy promises greater sportiness along with more fuel and emissions efficiency. The new Hybrid model uses a 47-horsepower (34 kilowatt) electric motor, mated with a 333-horsepower supercharged V-6 gasoline engine.

 

2011 saab 9-5SAAB, which is now under new ownership (separated from General Motors), exhibited its redesigned 9-5 midsize sedan but cancelled their planned news conference. Spyker, a Dutch high-end sports car maker, bought the ailing Swedish automaker in February. By late March, the plant at Trollhattan, Sweden was operating again after a hiatus while the prospects for a sale of the company proceeded.

 

SCION revealed the production iQ, and it was indeed the main attraction. Measuring 120.1 inches long and 59.1 inches tall, it's called the "new premium micro-subcompact vehicle" and "the world's smallest four-seater." A 1.3-liter engine works with a CVT. Ten airbags include the world's first rear-window curtain. Scion also showed the world debut of its redesigned "all-new" tC, which has gained 19 horsepower and looks considerably different, with a distinctive fastback profile. The tC goes on sale this fall; iQ, early next year. Also on the show floor is the 2011 xB, with a fresh front-end look.2011 scion IQ
 

 

2011 subaru wrx sti sedanSUBARU highlighted the new wide-body Impreza WRX. In essence, Subaru has given its regular WRX sedan and hatchback the same wide-body design as the hot WRX STI model, increasing front and rear track by 1.5 inches. WRX sales begin this summer. As expected, Subaru featured the new four-door WRX STI—the first time the STI has come in two body styles. Both STI models get new suspension tuning and lighter 18-inch wheels, and are powered by a 305-horsepower turbo engine. "The wing is back!" they said, referring to a new new "large, striking" rear spoiler, specially designed for the STI.

 

VOLKSWAGEN introduced the Touareg Hybrid—the German automaker's first gasoline/electric model. First seen at the Geneva auto show early in March, the second-generation Touareg sport-utility vehicle has a freshened appearance and a fresh choice of powertrains. With a combined output of 330 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission, the hybrid powertrain promises highway fuel economy near 27 mpg. With its parallel hybrid system, the gas/electric Touareg could travel on battery power alone for just over 30 miles.2011 volkswagen touareg hybrid

 

VOLVO launched an "all-new" version of the S60 sedan, which has not received a full redesign since it debuted as a 2001 model. Volvo stopped offering the previous S60 after the 2009 season. Notably more sculpted and sporty in appearance, the 2011 edition will include such safety features as Pedestrian Detection with full automatic braking. American versions will be offered with a choice of comfort or dynamic chassis tuning, while Europeans will get only the latter. Shortly before show time Ford Motor Company announced that the Volvo company, which has been exporting cars from Sweden to the U.S. since the 1950s, would be sold to Geely, a major Chinese automaker. Update: The redesigned S60 comes in T6 trim with all-wheel drive, with 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. The most prominent feature is Pedestrian Detection, which can avoid collision with a person at up to 22 mph.

 

Also at the show, Confederate Motors will show off its line of high-end motorcycles. Chrysler did not exhibit any new models, since the company awaits fresh products as the fruit of its recently concluded alliance with Fiat, of Italy. At an electric-car news conference, the THINK company announced that they will start selling cars here this fall, and building them in Indiana (rather than Finland) next year.

 

2010 chevrolet camaroDuring Press Days, the winner of the 2010 World Car Award was announced. Volkswagen Polo received overall honors, beating the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Toyota Prius. Separate awards were given for World Performance Car, World Green Car, and World Car Design of the Year. Competing against the Ferrari California and Porsche 911 GT3, Audi's R8 V10 is this year's World Performance Car winner. Contenders for the Design award included the Chevrolet Camaro, Kia Soul, and Citroen C3 Picasso. Chevrolet's Camaro was bestowed the winner. Finally, up against Honda's Insight and Toyota's Prius, Volkswagen's BlueMotion diesel group received the award for World Green Car.

 

Here are other New York auto show posts:

 

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon

2011 Chevrolet Cruze, Eco, Cruze RS

2011 Lexus CT 200h Hybrid

2011 MINI Countryman

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3

2011 Nissan Juke

2011 Porsche Cayenne S, Turbo, Hybrid

2011 Scion tC

2011 Subaru WRX STI Sedan

2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport

2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

 

 

 

 

 

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New York Auto Show: 2011 Volkswagen Touareg
Brandy Schaffels on

2011 Volkswagen Touareg Volkswagen revealed its second-generation Touareg at the 2010 New York International Auto Show today, showcasing the brand's first-ever hybrid. The new five-seat Touareg is lighter and wider than its predecessor, and features a fully-revised exterior that embraces the brand's new face and styling cues created by Volkswagen's chief of design, Walter de'Silva.

Underhood, three engine choices suit a variety of drivers, from a V-6 gasoline engine or V-6 TDI clean diesel engine, to the all-new V-6 gasoline hybrid powerplant. Volkswagen's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is standard on all models.

The hybrid pairs a 3.0-liter supercharged, direct-injection V-6 gasoline engine with an electric motor to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by about 40 percent. The V-6 engine and electric motor combine to produce a total of 375 horsepower and 428 ft-lbs of torque, allowing for full towing capacity of up to 7,700 pounds.2011 Volkswagen Touareg rear

Meanwhile, an eight-speed automatic transmission - the first of its kind in an SUV - helps the Touareg Hybrid achieve approximately 25 highway and 21 city miles per gallon. Plus, a special clutch will disengage the transmission from the engine when the engine is not powering the Touareg, allowing it to coast forward emission-free to further aid in fuel savings.

A touch screen entertainment and navigation system features an 8-inch screen; a 60-gig harddrive with 18 gigs of space available to upload audio, video, and more; and a DVD/CD player with MP3 playback and satellite/FM/AM stereo.


By Brandy Schaffels, autoMedia.com contibuting editor



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January 2010 Auto Sales – Winners, Losers
Jeff Prescott on

Ford Fusion grilleThe numbers are in, and there is a dramatic difference between the car sales winners and losers for January, 2010. The most significant observation is that 21 brands saw a sales increase when comparing January 2010 to January 2009. That alone is worth celebration.

Mercedes-Benz wins the award for most improved, with a 45 percent gain for 15,158 vehicles total sold. Buick nipped at the German automaker’s heels with a 44 percent gain (10,061). Volvo rounds to 42 percent (4,128), with the imminent sale to Chinese-automaker Geely having only a positive effect on the bottom line.

Volkswagen makes good on its boasts to dramatically increase volume with a 41 percent gain (18,019), year on year, followed by Audi at 38 percent (6,510).

Two companies that soldiered bravely through a year of auto crisis remain strong, with Subaru showing 28 percent (15,611) and Hyundai 24 percent (30,503).

Some American brands fared well, with Chevrolet at 36 percent (105,294) and Ford 26 percent (99,888). The newfound momentum from these core brands should continue as they launch impressive, new products such as the Chevy Aveo, Cruze, and Orlando, as well as the Ford Fiesta, Focus, and later the Explorer.

Nissan also deserves a nod with a notable 20 percent gain (55,861).

Other brands with positive results include Lincoln (16 percent), GMC (11%), Mini (8%), Porsche (8%), BMW (8%), Mercury (6%), Lexus (5%), Land Rover (4%), Mazda (2%), Dodge (1%), and Kia (a whisker).

This brings us to, well, the losers. The greatest year-on-year decline was seen with discontinued GM brands, Pontiac (95 percent) and Saturn (91 percent). Trendy, pocket-size Smart took a hard hit at 84 percent, selling just 278 cars. Hummer tanked with a 78-percent decline. Saab was there with a 46-percent drop, moving just 511 cars.

Suzuki dropped 44 percent (2,040), despite introducing the promising Kizashi sedan.

Toyota brand was down 19 percent (83,279), taking a hard hit late in the month with widespread news of its latest safety-related recall and voluntary sales halt. As a corporation, sales were down 16 percent.

At the corporate level, Ford Motor Company was the big winner, with a 25 percent increase. Nissan was next with 16 percent, followed by General Motors at 14 percent.

Chrysler Group dropped 8 percent, despite the good news shared by the other domestic companies, pointing to challenges ahead. The new Jeep Grand Cherokee should help in the spring, but it will be a long time before notable, new models arrive on the scene. A new Dodge Charger should help bring some good publicity, and interior updates to several models can’t hurt, but a real boost to the product line appears to be quite distant.

In total, the January sales figures show many positive signs for the industry and the economy in general. Next month, we’ll see what the full impact of the Toyota recall has been, both in lost sales and conquests by competitors.

Visit the autoMedia New Car Research Center for quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, and much more. more

Volkswagen of America Reports Substantial January '10 Sales Jump
Deborah Neal on

2010 Volkswagen GTI GolfAutomakers are announcing January 2010 sales figures and the year is starting off very well for Volkswagen. The company reported today a 41.4 percent increase in units sold over January 2009. “We are pleased by the strong start to 2010,” said Mark Barnes, Chief Operating Office of Volkswagen of America, Inc. “It’s encouraging to see so many of Volkswagen’s newest models continuing to gain momentum in the marketplace—namely the CC, Tiguan, Golf and GTI.”

 

 

VW’s January 2010 sales success is no surprise considering the many accolades the company has received over the last year.

 

  • 2010 Volkswagen Golf: Safest Car of 2009 awarded by EuroNCAP
  • 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel Engine: One of Ward’s 10 Best Engine winners for 2010
  • 2010 VW Jetta, Golf, Passat and Tiguan: All Top Safety Pick winners from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
  • 2010 Volkswagen GTI: Automobile of the Year awarded by Automobile Magazine
  • 2010 VW Golf TDI: Finalist for 2010 Green Car of the Year
  • 2010 Volkswagen Golf/GTI: Finalist for 2010 North American Car of the Year

 

Read autoMedia’s review of the 2010 Volkswagen Golf/GTI, and review other VW models in our Volkswagen Research Center and our Volkswagen news blog.

 

—Deborah Neal, Editorial Director, autoMedia.com

 
Quick Look: 2010 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
Deborah Neal on

2010 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagenLet’s say you happen to crave the sweet driving experience that only a European car can provide, but need the added space and versatility of a wagon. Come right this way, and let us introduce you to the VW Jetta SportWagen. While both the Jetta and Jetta Wagon have been around for quite some time, the current model really is something special—and even a bit of a bargain.

 

 

On the outside, the Jetta SportWagen is handsome, with clean, crisp modern lines. Our bright red SE tester featured the optional 17-inch alloy wheels, and looked quite upscale. Helping make a solid first impression are standard items including dual reflector headlamps, exterior mirrors with built-in turn signals and sporty dual exhaust tips.

 

VW has been setting the bar for quality interiors in affordable vehicles for some time now, and the Jetta continues the trend. Deep zucchini-cut nacelles hold the main gauges, while a grippy, three-spoke steering wheel feels great to the hands.

 

A simple center stack with a large LCD screen puts all infotainment features close at hand, and the climate controls are easily deciphered at a glance. What really sells the interior is the quality of the materials—the vinyl surfaces are soft, nicely grained and look very high-end. Even the leatherette on the seats looks quality. It just gives you the feeling of money well spent.

 

If you’re buying a wagon, you obviously want space, and the Jetta proves to be comfy for five with plenty of room in back. Drop the rear seats and you get an impressive 66.9 cubic feet of cargo space, roomier than a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 wagon.

 

Also impressive is how well this wagon drives. It has that smooth, well-oiled feeling of a high-performance German machine. The super-silky 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder sounds and pulls like an Audi, yet gets you 30 mpg on the highway. The optional Tiptronic lets you manually shift for added driving fun. The ride is firm and well controlled.

 

The best part is all this lovely European stuff is quite affordable. Our nicely equipped SE model included standard goodies like Bluetooth, Sirius Satellite Radio, alloy wheels and leatherette upholstery. Adding in the optional Panoramic Sunroof (highly recommended) and 17-inch alloy wheels brought our tester to just over $25,000. For eco-minded buyers, the TDI diesel wagon is worth a look, with an amazing 31 mpg city/ 41 mpg highway EPA fuel economy.

 

A European driving experience combined with style, room, quality and affordability (they even cover maintenance for 3 years/36,000 miles) all add up to make the VW Jetta SportWagen one great all-around vehicle.

 

By Ben Lewis, Contributing Editor, autoMedia.com

 

Read autoMedia's review of the 2010 Volkswagen Golf/GTI and review other VW models in our Volkswagen Research Center and our Volkswagen news blog.

 
Detroit Auto Show: VW New Compact Coupe Hybrid
Jeff Prescott on

VW New Compact Coupe HybridLast year, Volkswagen was full of bravado at the Detroit auto show, boasting that it would be a global and North American sales leader. The words seemed rather bold at the time, but 12 months later, we see an automaker on the move. VW turned the tables on Porsche in a family feud, purchasing a 49.9-percent stake in the sports car company, rather than be bought out by it. The 2009 shopping spree also included a nearly 20-percent piece of Suzuki. At this year’s show, all the journalists on hand took the company’s optimistic projections seriously. (Learn about other models introduced at the Detroit auto show.) 

Ultimately, market share is gained through a product offensive, and VW unveiled the first vehicle in what is said to be the most aggressive model roll out in the automaker’s history. On display was the rather unimaginatively named New Compact Coupe (NCC) looking like a first-class competitor to the near-lux champion BMW 3 Series.

The front-drive NCC serves as a design representation of a car planned to be built in America, initially as a sedan. In addition, the NCC introduces a hybrid powertrain system with promise. Underhood is a 150-horsepower engine paired with a 27-horsepower electric motor. Output is routed through a seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). The combination is good for a claimed 0-60 mph sprint in 8.1 seconds and 45 mpg overall.

Details were thin, but the car is stunning in person and the powertrain promises efficiency to rival the most frugal hybrids on the market today. Combine those key ingredients, and VW would have the just the kind of mechanical DNA needed to achieve its ambitious goals.

VW will begin its hybrid offerings in a few months with a full-time AWD SUV.

For more on VW’s ascension, read “Volkswagen Takes Stake in Suzuki, Bigger Share of Porsche.”

Also, see our recent VW Golf, Jetta TDI, Passat CC, Routan, and Tiguan reviews.
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2010 Detroit Auto Show Preview
Deborah Neal on
corvette conceptJanuary is synonymous with resolutions and the Detroit auto show. Resolutions and the Detroit auto show are synonymous with each other, as both aim to start the New Year off right. After a tumultuous 2009 and a major decline in auto sales, hopes are high as manufacturers are moving forward fast with new models and technologies, and counting on smarter management and consumer confidence to help realize increased sales in 2010. Will the 2010 North American International Auto Show be the driving force the industry needs?

 

First up this morning will be the announcement of North American Car and Truck of the Year winners. Nominees in the car category are the 2010 Buick LaCrosse, 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, and 2010 Volkswagen Golf/GTI. Truck of the year nominees are the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, 2010 Ford Transit Connect, and 2010 Subaru Outback. A jury of automotive journalists independent of the show and any particular media outlet selects the winners.

 

Ford’s “booth” is a reported 48 percent larger this year, which also includes their Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo brands. Most likely, the much-anticipated 2012 Focus will be the highlight, which features one of Ford’s nine new engines being introduced this year—a U.S.-Ford-first 2.0-liter with direct injection, and mated to a new six-speed Ford PowerShift automatic.

 

Honda will reveal a production version of their CR-Z concept, scheduled for U.S. sale by the end of this year. Combining sport-driving performance and high mileage, Honda says the two-seat 2011 CR-Z is the world’s first hybrid with a six-speed manual transmission.

 

Last week Cadillac announced, in advance of the show, their debut of the new 2011 CTS-V Coupe, with a 6.2-liter, 556-horsepower, supercharged V8—and extra whip.

 

More than 60 new vehicle premieres are promised at the show, which opens to the press today. A major plug for electric vehicles can be seen on “Electric Avenue,” a new display that will showcase the latest in alternative power. Show doors open to the public January 16-24, 2010.

 

Stay connected to autoMedia.com for more coverage. Follow us on Twitter and join us on Facebook for more Detroit auto show news.

 

—Deborah Neal, Editorial Director, autoMedia.com

 

2010 North American Car & Truck of the Year Finalists
Deborah Neal on

A jury of 49 veteran automotive journalists has selected three cars and three trucks/utility vehicles as finalists for 2010 North American Car and Truck of the Year 

Car Finalists

2010 Buick LaCrosse

2010 Buick LaCrosse

 

 

 

 

 

 

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

 

 

 

 

 

 

2010 Volkswagen Golf/GTI

2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truck Finalists

 2010 Chevrolet Equinox

2010 Chevrolet Equinox

 

 

 

 

 

 

2010 Ford Transit Connect

2010 Ford Transit Connect

 

 

 

 

 

 

2010 Subaru Outback

2010 Subaru Outback

 

 

 

 

 

 

Designed to recognize the most outstanding vehicles of the year based on factors such as innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar, these awards are unique in the United States because they are given by experienced U.S. and Canadian automotive journalists representing magazines, television, radio, newspapers and web sites—instead of by a single media outlet.

This year, the jury narrowed more than 50 new or substantially changed vehicles down to 16 cars and 10 trucks with a preliminary vote in September then voted again in early December to determine these six semi-finalists. A third early January vote will elect the final finishing order. The winners will be announced January 11th at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Although the winners are disclosed at a news conference at the auto show, it does not give the awards.

Last year the North American Car of the Year was the Hyundai Genesis and the North American Truck of the Year was the Ford F-150.

This is the 17th year of the awards, which are funded exclusively by the jurors. During that time:

  • Hybrids have been honored three times. The Toyota Prius was the 2004 North American Car of the Year and the Ford Escape Hybrid was the 2005 North American Truck of the Year. The Honda Civic Hybrid was included when the Civic was named the 2006 North American Car of the Year. 
  • Chevrolet’s vehicles have been named the North American Truck of the Year three times. Most recently the Silverado was the 2007 North American Truck of the Year. 
  • While Ford has been a finalist in the car category many times, it won only once. The Ford Focus was the 2000 North American Car of the Year. 
  • Ford has dominated the truck category with five wins, followed by Chevrolet with three. Most recently, the F-150 was the 2009 North American Truck of the Year. 
  • General Motors won North American Car of the Year three times. Most recently, the Chevrolet Malibu was the 2008 North American Car of the Year and the Saturn Aura was the 2007 North American Car of the Year. 
  • Domestic automakers have won North American Car of the Year eight times. Japanese automakers have won three times. European automakers have won four times. A Korean automaker has won once.
  • Domestic automakers have won North American Truck of the Year 10 times. Japanese automakers have won four times. European automakers have won twice.


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Volkswagen Takes Stake in Suzuki, Bigger Share of Porsche
Jeff Prescott on

2010 Suzuki KizashiVolkswagen has taken its holiday shopping spree to excess, with the purchase of a 19.9 percent stake in Suzuki and 49.9 percent stake in Porsche. The German automaker is on a wild tear to achieve its ambitious goals of dramatic sales increases. What sounded like a misplaced boast at auto shows a couple years ago is now much closer to reality.

VW spent $2.5 billion on its piece of Suzuki Motor Corp., gaining access to the Japanese manufacturer’s small-car expertise and market access to India. With its reputation for engineering well-executed small cars with fit and finish befitting higher-priced vehicles, VW has much it can offer Suzuki, as well.

CEO Osamu Suzuki said he is not interested in being VW’s 12th brand, as quoted in Automotive News, referring to the relationship as a partnership, rather than acquisition. His comment does highlight that VW has a large portfolio, which the automaker has successfully supported with powertrain and platform sharing. It would be a natural to see this continue with Suzuki. Conversely, Suzuki is buying a 2.5 percent stake in VW.

The arrangement gives Suzuki a major partner to take the place of General Motors, after several ties amid the global automotive crisis.

Automotive News notes that for the first six months of 2009, combined sales from Suzuki and VW worldwide best Toyota by a significant 850,000 vehicles.

Another partnership is brewing, with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. exploring cooperative opportunities. Plus, the industry awaits the fate of Hummer and Saab, both of whom are being considered for purchase by international organizations.
As the global economy struggles to recover, it is clear there are dramatic moves afoot that will reshape the manufacturing landscape for many years to come.

VW is on the move, check out this recent Volkswagen news:
Sketch: American-Made 2012 Volkswagen Sedan
Quick Take Test Drive: Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Frankfurt: VW Debuts Nine New Models Including E-Up! 
J.D. Power Grades the Best New Car Launches 
more

Green Car of the Year: 2010 Audi A3 TDI
Deborah Neal on

2010 Audi A3 TDIThere’s more than one kind of tree in the forest, and more than hybrids in the field of green vehicles. Volkswagen’s 2009 Jetta TDI clean diesel sedan was the first vehicle to receive the annual Green Car of the Year award this time last year. This year’s honor—announced today at the Los Angeles Auto Show—goes to the 2010 Audi A3 TDI, proving that it doesn’t take a hybrid, or bland performance, to drive green.

 

Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and editor of GreenCar.com presented the award this morning to Audi of America president John de Nysschen. Finalists in the competition included Honda’s Insight, Mercury’s Milan Hybrid, Toyota’s Prius, Volkswagen’s Golf TDI and Audi’s A3 TDI.

 

“The Audi A3 TDI really defines what a ‘green’ car should be,” said Cogan. “At 42 mpg, it sets the bar for highway fuel efficiency in the luxury car segment. Its 50-state certified clean diesel engine is quiet, responsive, and achieves its mission without the need for exotic technologies. Plus, it’s sporty and just plain fun to drive.”

 

Powered by an innovative TDI 2.0 engine, the same engine in Volkswagen’s Jetta and Golf TDI models, the Audi A3 TDI produces 140 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque that starts at just 1750 rpm. Audi first developed TDI (direct-injection turbocharged diesel) clean diesel technology 20 years ago and has produced more than five million TDI engines since.

 

Besides it engine, the Audi A3 TDI boasts a broad, aggressive stance, wagon-esque styling and cargo capacity, 17-inch wheels, Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lamps, fog lamps, and A3-model S line sporty exterior equipment. The interior includes standard leather seating, aluminum trim, 10-speaker audio with SIRIUS satellite radio, and split 40/60 fold-down rear seats. Pricing starts at $29,950.

 

According to Cogan, a team of six automotive and environmental experts, as well as Green Car Journal editors, served as jurors for this year’s competition. Those experts include Dr. Alan Lloyd, president of the International Council on Clean Transportation; Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club; Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, president of Global Green USA; automotive expert and television host Jay Leno; and automotive builder and legend Carroll Shelby.

 

—Deborah Neal, Editorial Director, autoMedia.com

 

IIHS Names 2010 Top Safety Picks – Fewer Than Before
Jeff Prescott on

IIHS roof crush testThe Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has announced 19 car and eight SUVs as Top Safety Picks for 2010—far less than the 94 vehicles that earned the accolade for 2009. The IIHS has made the requirements to be named a Top Safety Pick more stringent by adding a roof strength test to measure protection in a rollover accident. In addition, the Picks also factor performance in front, side, and rear crashes the Institute performs, as well as the availability of electronic stability control.

Subaru again shines in IIHS tests, being the only manufacturer that has winning products in all four categories for a total of five awards. Ford and subsidiary Volvo have six winners, and Volkswagen/Audi has four. Chrysler earns four awards, continuing recent trend of improving the crashworthiness of its vehicles.

This marks the second time the Institute has raised the bar for Top Safety Pick status since the awards were introduced in 2005. As with its other tests, it is expected that the rollover rating will push automakers to improve their vehicles ahead of federal mandates. And there is good motivation; The Institute estimates rollovers kill more than 9,000 people in passenger vehicles each year.

To earn a Good rating in the new IIHS test, a vehicle roof must be more than twice as strong as the current federal standard requires. The Institute estimates that such roofs reduce the risk of serious and fatal injury in single-vehicle rollovers by about 50 percent compared with roofs meeting the minimum requirement.


2010 Top Safety Picks
Large cars

Buick LaCrosse
Ford Taurus
Lincoln MKS
Volvo S80

Midsize cars
Audi A3
Chevrolet Malibu built after Oct. 2009
Chrysler Sebring sedan with optional ESC
Dodge Avenger with optional ESC
Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Passat sedan
Volvo C30

Small cars
Honda Civic sedan with optional ESC, except Si
Kia Soul
Nissan Cube
Subaru Impreza except WRX
Volkswagen Golf 4-door

Midsize SUVs
Dodge Journey
Subaru Tribeca
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

Small SUVs
Honda Element
Jeep Patriot with optional side airbags
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

The links above go to autoMedia reviews.

Learn about car safety and how IIHS tests cars.

You’ll find crash test ratings for all vehicles in the new car buyer’s guide. more

Book Signing: "Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman"
Deborah Neal on

matt stone paul newmanMotor Trend Executive Editor Matt Stone will be at the Petersen Automotive Museum Saturday, November 21 from 1:00 - 3:00 pm signing his newly penned book, Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman, an in-depth look into Paul Newman's storied life as an automotive enthusiast and racecar driver.

 

In his book, Stone writes about Newman's late but intense start into auto racing, his partnership with Chicago racing entrepreneur and team owner Carl Haas, and his colorful collection of cars. One such car, a one-of-a-kind race-prepped Volkswagen Beetle, with a Ford 351 engine and a Corvette radiator, will be on display at the museum, and as part of the book signing.

 

Admission to the Petersen Automotive Museum is free with purchase of the book at the Museum Store. The museum, founded by the late Robert E. Petersen, who also founded Motor Trend, Hot Rod and several other automotive magazines, is located at 6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036. www.petersen.org

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