• JDM Nissan X-Trail to merge with Rogue platform, go on sale in December

    October 28, 2013

    Nissan has announced that an all-new X-Trail crossover will go on sale in December in Japan. If it looks familiar, that’s because it will be the same basic car as the 2014 US-market Nissan Rogue


    In accordance with previous X-Trails, the seven-passenger crossover is billed as a vehicle for Japanese customers who enjoy outdoor sports. One of the primary differences between the X-Trail and the Rouge will be water repellent seats, floor, and cargo area. 

    The other main difference is the presence of Nissan’s direct-injection MR20DD engine, whose official specs have not been disclosed but is capable of 147hp and 155 lb-ft of torque in other applications like the Nissan Serena. The USDM Rouge, on the other hand, is powered by Nissan’s 2.5-liter QR25DE producing 170hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. Both front- and all-wheel-drive versions will be offered.


    The X-Trail’s laundry list of electronic safety features largely mimics that of the Rouge’s, including optional active ride control, active engine braking, around-view monitoring , hill start assist and hill descent control. In addition the Japanese counterpart offers electronic gewgaws offering that monitors driver alertness, detects “Do Not Enter” signs, and brakes in case collision with a pedestrian is imminent.


    The X-Trail model has been a key part of Nissan’s Japanese lineup since 2001 and has seen two generations already. Notably, the first-generation was available with an SR20VET engine, a 2.0L turbo with variable valve timing. Though first-gen X-Trails were sold in Canada, no X-Trails have been offered in the US. <![CDATA[
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  • Bob Lutz reveals government ordered Pontiac’s killing as part of bailout deal

    October 28, 2013

    Bob Lutz, the outspoken former GM Vice Chairman, revealed in an interview today that the Pontiac brand was killed off at the behest of the federal government. The surprising declaration took place during an “Inside the Motoman Studio” session at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. 


    According to Lutz, during the government bailout of General Motors following the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and GM’s subsequent declaration of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the feds wanted the automaker to cut everything but two brands. Cadillac would act as the premium brand while Chevrolet would serve as the sole mass-market brand. 

    However, Buick was granted a reprieve when GM made a case for the brand’s importance in China, where it remains GM’s strongest nameplate. If Buick was killed off in the US, Chinese customers would lose interest, explained Lutz. GMC was saved by proving that there was a distinct set of buyers who would not cross-shop Chevrolet and that its trim and options provided a substantial profit margin.


    Lutz further explains that he personally fought for Pontiac and that it was on its way to becoming a true performance brand with an all rear-wheel-drive lineup. In particular, the next Pontiac G6 was to share a platform with the highly acclaimed Cadillac ATS, but with the premium content stripped out and dimensions similar to a BMW 3-Series


    Unfortunately, GM was forced to admit that Pontiac had not made any money in the 10 years prior to its 2009 demise. The government then gave the automotive giant an ultimatum to either kill Pontiac or forgo the $53 billion bailout. Lutz does acknowledge the fact that for many years Pontiac’s brand image was tarnished by badge engineering and excessive use of plastic body cladding. 


    The full interview and Q&A session can be seen in the video below. The revelations about Pontiac appear at 2:14:00.


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  • Honda UK Delivers Illusion-Filled Ad for CR-V Diesel

    October 28, 2013

    Honda UK has created another eye-catching television commercial to market the Honda CR-V Diesel. The spot makes use of anamorphic illusions, whose skewed perspectives make sense only when viewed from a specific location and angle.


    The ad, titled “Honda Illusions, An Impossible Made Possible.” is meant to highlight the seemingly “impossible” fuel economy of the entry-level diesel Honda CR-V sold in the United Kingdom. The 1.6-liter i-DTEC four-cylinder is good for a combined city and highway rating of 62.8 mpg and is eligible for a road tax exemption.

    Sold only with a manual transmission and front-wheel-drive, the motor produces

    118hp at 4000 rpm and 221 lb-ft of torque at 2000 rpm. However, if that’s not enough spark-free oomph, there’s also a 2.2-liter diesel option that delivers 148hp at 4000 and 258 lb-ft at 2000 rpm.


    Though Honda UK has a long history of clever ads that have gone viral on both sides of the pond, “Illusion” comes from Mcgarrybowen, a different firm than the ones that produced the award-winning “Cog,” “Hate Something, Change Something,” and the “Impossible Dream.”


    Watch the ad and the making of video below.


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  • Peugeot plotting Dakar comeback?

    October 28, 2013

    A new report finds France’s Peugeot will return to the Dakar Rally in 2015 after a 25-year long hiatus.  


    Details are scarce, but French newspaper l’Equipe reports the team will come back with a two-wheel drive car sponsored by Red Bull.  Whether it will compete in the T1 or T2 category is not known, and it largely depends on whether the French automaker enters the event with a purpose-built racer or a heavily-modified variant of an existing model.

    The report indicates famed pilot Sébastien Loeb will not be part of Peugeot’s Dakar come back because he is busy racing for Citroën’s newly-formed WTCC team.  However, Peugeot could hire 11-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel to drive one of its cars.


    Peugeot is burning through cash fast but it sees motorsport events like the Dakar Rally as a rational way to boost its image without spending a fortune on sponsoring a team for a full season.  Recently, it participated in the grueling Pikes Peak hill climb with a purpose-built 208 T16.


    If the rumor proves true, an official announcement about Peugeot’s upcoming Dakar entry will be made in the coming months.


    Dakar veteran

    Peugeot first turned its attention to the Dakar Rally (called Paris – Dakar up until recently) in the late 1980s when the FIA banned the brutal Group B cars from competing in WRC events.  A 205 T16 won the race in 1987 and 1988 while a larger 405 T16 took first place in the 1989 and 1990 editions.  Famed pilot Ari Vatanen drove three of the four winning cars.<![CDATA[
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  • China-bound Ford Escort leaked

    October 28, 2013

    Several technical images leaked out of Chinese patent office have prematurely revealed the Ford Escort, a compact sedan expected to debut in China early next year.


    Previewed by a close-to-production concept at this year’s Shanghai Motor Show, the Escort is roughly the same size as a four-door Focus sedan but it is aimed at a clientele willing to pay extra for more room inside and a wide panoply of high-tech feature.  The Dearborn-based automaker believes the typical Escort buyer will be older and wealthier than the average Focus buyer.

    The patent images suggest the Escort has changed very little in its transition from a show car to a production vehicle.   Penned with Ford’s Kinetic design language in mind, the Escort borrows styling cues such as its trapezoidal grille with horizontal slats and its elongated headlamps from members of Ford’s global lineup like the Fusion and the Fiesta.  


    Technical details are not available but the Escort will undoubtedly use the same four-cylinder gasoline-burning engines that are offered with the Focus.  Power will be sent to the front wheels via either a manual or an automatic gearbox.  


    Official information about the Escort will be available in the weeks leading up to its debut at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show.  It will be built in China and it might be exported to Russia and select countries in Latin America, but Ford is not currently planning on selling the sedan in North America or in Europe.<![CDATA[
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