• Tesla CEO confirms AWD Model S, cheaper batteries

    February 5, 2014
    Speaking to owners during a European tour, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has announced several product developments and outlined the company’s general progress toward its goals for the year.

    The executive has confirmed plans to release an all-wheel-drive edition of its Model S sedan. The option may be available by the time the Model X arrives on the market, possibly by the end of the year or early in 2015 when the SUV begins volume production.

    The company is also working on higher-capacity battery options and new seats that will likely be ready by next year. For current owners, a seat modification will be available to improve comfort.

    In the meantime, existing owners will be able to experience the Version 6.0 software update within a few weeks. The revision adds real-time traffic data, along with more control over suspension settings and ride-height adjustment, among other improvements.

    Musk expects its “giga factory” to reduce battery costs by at least 30 percent, hopefully as much as 40 percent, with 30 gigawatt-hours of production capacity. Cheaper batteries are likely necessary for the company to meet its goal for a $30,000 mass-market car with a 200-mile range.

    Following the completion of its transcontinental charging network in the US, Tesla is currently bringing new Superchargers on line at a rate of five per week. The chargers will eventually charge at a maximum 135 kW current.

    While Musk was chatting with owners at the casual town-hall meetings, Consumer Reports was completing its latest brand-perception survey that showed the startup surging into the top five ahead of Subaru, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and other established players.

  • Nissan unveils Datsun redi-GO concept

    February 5, 2014

    Nissan’s resurrected Datsun brand has unveiled a new compact SUV concept at the Delhi Auto Expo. Called the redi-GO, it’s a glimpse of a potential fourth Datsun model for the Indian market.

    Specific specs were kept mum, but if produced the crossover would create a new segment in India. The only hard numbers revealed were the seating capacity (five). wheelbase (92.5 inches) and the size of its dark chrome alloy wheels (15 inches).

    Key to the design is short front and rear overhangs for maneuverability in congested cities and light off-roading duty. The concept has a strong presence for a small car. Though dipped in lime green, its rocker panels and wheel arches feature a sliver of gray cladding a la Subaru Outback or Audi Allroad but subtler. Distinct character lines and flared wheel arches provide the tall profile some visual flair without being overly busy.

    The redi-GO’s face features Datsun’s hexagonal grille, swept back towards a short hood that flows easily into the A-pillars. LED fog lights give the concept a slightly upscale touch. The concept’s roof is finished in matte black with a tessellated pattern, but Nissan hinted that this area would be personalizable in a potential production version.

    Nissan is positioning the redi-GO as an upmarket car for first-time buyers, though still very much within the realm of affordability (the standard Datsun GO sells for the equivalent of $6000 in Indian rupees). Though India is a key market, if produced Nissan will likely sell it in other emerging countries like Russia and Indonesia where Datsuns are hitting the streets.

  • Audi’s second teaser video hints at S1

    February 5, 2014
    Audi has released its second “World Premiere” teaser video, revealing a few more hints at the vehicle’s identity.

    The latest ad takes a peek inside the cargo truck that was shown in the first video, parked on the side of a twisty mountain road in South Africa. The dark video briefly shows the shift knob for a manual transmission, along with a yellow plastic seat back with a Quattro logo.

    Audi is due to introduce its next-generation TT and a sport-tuned version of the A1 hatchback early this year. A fleeting glimpse in the teaser points to the latter as a likely candidate.

    Likely arriving as the S1, the upgraded A1 is expected to be outfitted with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that reaches 230 horsepower. Rumors point to a more conservative appearance than the special-edition 252-horsepower A1 Quattro, but with a redesigned bumper, new headlights, side skirts, and a roof-mounted spoiler.

    Full details of the mystery car will be released on February 12.

  • VW updates Taigun SUV concept

    February 5, 2014

    Volkswagen has unveiled an updated version of its sub-compact Taigun SUV concept at the New Delhi Motor Show.

    The original Taigun concept debut in Brazil in 2012. Since then, VW has been tinkering with the tiny soft-roader, with the biggest change being the placement of the spare tire on the vehicle’s back door to provide more interior space.

    It’s possible that the Taigun could go on sale in Europe, Latin America and Asia as soon as this year.

    Based on a modified Volkswagen up! platform, the front-wheel drive-only Taigun concept utilizes a 110-horsepower 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine equipped with a turbocharger and direct fuel injection. Although somewhat meager on the power front, the Taigun weighs in at just 2,200 pounds, meaning the little SUV can scoot from 0-62 in a respectable 9.2 seconds. The Taigun tops out at 115mph.

    VW says the 1.0L engine returns 50mpg on the European cycle.

    The Taigun stretches 151.9-inches in length, or about 7-inches shorter than a Chevy Sonic.

    In Europe, the Taigun will also get a two-cylinder turbodiesel. With a displacement of less than a liter, the two-cylinder will be closely related to the engine that powers the XL1.

    Volkswagen says it has no plans to market the Taigun in the United States market.

  • Honda unveils Vision XS-1 crossover concept in New Delhi

    February 5, 2014
    Honda has unveiled a new concept vehicle, the Vision XS-1, that will be on display at the New Delhi Auto Expo. The compact crossover represents the company’s “man maximum, machine minimum” design approach, with a compact build that fits seven people in a three-row seating layout.

    The body aesthetics resemble Honda’s Urban SUV concept, which was partially realized in the Vezel crossover. The XS-1 goes several steps further into ‘concept’ territory, however, omitting a B-pillar in favor of a single sliding door on each side.

    The XS-1 appears to integrate LED headlamps and unique fog lamps, with a chrome band that wraps around the tall engine compartment. On the inside, the modular interior takes a minimalist approach with few gauges and hardware controls.

    The Vision XS-1 shows off Honda’s “Exciting H” design language, however the crossover is not expected to serve as the basis for a production vehicle.