• VW Scirocco: Mini-Facelift und mehr Leistung

    February 16, 2014

    Dezent überarbeitet schickt VW den Scirocco in seine zweite Lebenshälfte

    Eine sichtbare Änderung ist der geänderte hintere Stoßfänger beim Scirocco R

    Neu sind auch die LED-Rückleuchten

    Wolfsburg, 14. Februar 2014
    Auf dem Genfer Autosalon 1974 sorgte VW mit dem ersten Scirocco für Aufsehen. Der schicke Zweitürer nutzte die Technik des wenig später vorgestellten Golf. Exakt 40 Jahre später rückt VW den Scirocco erneut ins Rampenlicht, allerdings nur im Rahmen einer Modellpflege.

    Mehr Pfiff für das Mauerblümchen
    Sechs Jahre nach ihrem Debüt fristet die aktuelle Generation des Scirocco eher ein Nischendasein im VW-Programm. Das erklärt auch, warum dem Kompakt-Sportler erst jetzt ein Lifting zuteil wird. Es fällt aber sehr unauffällig aus: Selbst Profis müssen genau hinsehen, um die Änderungen bei den Scheinwerfern und Stoßfängern auszumachen. Am Heck gibt es nun LED-Rückleuchten, das dort angebrachte VW-Logo ist jetzt schwenkbar und dient als Griff zum Öffnen der Heckklappe. Deutlichste Änderung im Cockpit sind die serienmäßigen Zusatzinstrumente für Ladedruck und die Öltemperatur sowie eine Stoppuhr. Hinzu gesellen sich die neuen Touchscreen-Navis aus dem Golf und ein Lenkrad im Stil des Golf GTI. Wem der Scirocco zu unübersichtlich ist, kann aufatmen: Im Angebot sind künftig auch Parkpiepser vorne und ein Parklenkassistent.

    Start im Sommer 2014
    Unter dem Blech stehen sechs Motoren zur Wahl, vier Benziner und zwei Diesel. Ihre Leistungsspanne reicht von 125 bis 280 PS. Den bisherigen 1.4 TSI mit 160 PS löst ein Zweiliter-Turbo mit 180 PS ab, im Topmodell Scirocco R gibt es künftig 280 statt 265 PS. Reduziert wurden hingegen die Verbräuche, so soll der Basisbenziner mit 125 PS nur 5,4 Liter auf 100 Kilometer zu sich nehmen. Alle Motoren erreichen die Abgasnorm Euro 6. Ab Mitte August 2014 wird der überarbeitete Scirocco beim Händler stehen. Zu den Preisen äußert sich VW noch nicht, sie starten bislang bei 23.375 Euro.

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  • Next-gen Mazda MX-5 design details emerge

    February 16, 2014
    As Mazda celebrates 25 years of the venerable MX-5 (nee Miata), some details have surfaced regarding its next-generation sports car.

    The fourth-generation ND chassis code, as it’s referred to by enthusiasts, will feature a variation of the well received Kodo styling theme. The striking “soul of motion” design language has propagated throughout the Mazda lineup in recent years, beautifying the CX-5, Mazda3 and Mazda6.

    However, the MX-5 will break the chain by eschewing the five-sided Kodo grille for an oval opening reminiscent of the 1989 Miata. The rest of the design will still be Kodo-fied while retaining the instantly recognizable profile that the roadster has maintained over the last quarter century.

    The engine is expected to be a tuned, naturally aspirated version of the Mazda3′s SkyActiv 1.5. A test mule disguised as a current MX-5 has been spotted at the Nurburgring, and it has been noted that the hood is a bit longer than the outgoing design. Though that’s a decrease in displacement, the ND’s weight is expected to drop down to around 2,094 lbs, a 400-plus pound diet compared to the current MX-5.

    As previously reported, the ND platform will also underpin a new Alfa Romeo roadster, but the Italian company will develop its own 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. Both will be built in Mazda’s home city of Hiroshima, but will have only 40 percent of their parts in common. The MX-5 is slated to go on sale in 2015.

  • Lexus RC 350 F Sport caught undisguised ahead of Geneva debut

    February 16, 2014
    What is almost certainly the upcoming Lexus RC 350 F Sport has been spotted ahead of its reveal at the Geneva Motor Show.

    The car is likely a pre-production test mule or press vehicle and was first spotted by Lexus enthusiasts site Kaizen Factor in southern California wearing manufacturer’s license plates. A number of details indicate that this is an RC 350 F Sport, an appearance and handling package slotting in between the base RC 350 and the fire-breathing, 450-plus hp RC F.

    The first clue is the Ultrasonic Blue color, which Lexus reserves exclusively for its F Sport and F models. Its 10-spoke brushed aluminum and graphite wheels don’t match the all-graphite more aggressive wheels found on the RC F concept shown in Detroit and currently on display at the Chicago Auto Show.

    Additionally, the air intakes on either side of the front fascia are smaller than those on the RC F. Most tellingly, the Lexus spindle grille is a standard waterfall design and not the mesh wave pattern that dominates the face of the RC F. One interesting note is the minuscule foglight bezels molded into the edge of the spindle grille.

    Lexus has not confirmed whether this is the RC 350 F Sport. We’ll know more when we attend the Geneva Motor Show March 4.

  • Volvo goes racing with V8-powered S60

    February 16, 2014
    Volvo has detailed the heavily-modified S60 that will compete in this year’s season of Australia’s V8 Supercars race series.

    Competing for a new team called Volvo Polestar Racing Australia, the S60 packs a 5.0-liter variant of Volvo’s well-known 4.4-liter V8 engine that has been tuned to generate over 650 horsepower. The sedan reaches 62 mph from a stop in just 3.2 seconds and tops out at 185 mph.

    The track-bound S60 rides on a bespoke chassis engineered with input from Garry Rogers Motorsports, one of Polestar’s partners in Australia. The car is instantly recognizable as a S60 but it packs a wide array of aerodynamic add-ons including a front splitter, side skirts, a rear air diffuser and a rear wing. Dunlop race tires wrapped around 18-inch forged aluminum wheels help put the power to the ground.

    Over the course of the season the S60 will face stiff competition from Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons, well-established four-door sedans that boast an impressive track record. The Swedish sedan will also square off against several Mercedes-Benz E63 AMGs entered in the race by privateers and Nissan Altimas. Challenging big names such as Holden and Ford on their home turf is easier said than done but Volvo believes that nothing is impossible and it is ready to struggle.

    “We are well aware that if we struggle then the whole world is going to see it,” said Matt Braid, the manager of Volvo’s Australian arm. “However, that is part of the game.”

    The S60 will make its track debut at the Clipsal 500 race that will take place in the city of Adelaide from February 27th to March 2nd.

    Volvo is not new to touring car racing in Australia. A pilot from New Zealand named Robbie Francevic won the 1986 Australian Touring Car Championship behind the wheel of a turbocharged, two-door 240T.

  • Details emerge on Genty Akylone supercar

    February 16, 2014
    French boutique automaker Genty Automobile is putting the final touches on a sleek supercar called Akylone.

    The Akylone was previewed by a 1/3-scale model presented at last year’s edition of the prestigious Top Marques show. The supercar wears a powerful, low-slung design characterized by a swooping front end, sculpted body panels and a wrap-around windshield. G-shaped LED tail lamps and two center-mounted exhaust pipes finish off the look.

    Fitted with a chassis crafted out of a mix of carbon fiber and aluminum, the Akylone tips the scale at just 2,400 pounds. 58-percent of the car’s mass lies on the rear axle and 42-percent is on the front.

    Power comes from a 4.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine developed in-house Reinhard Könneker, an engineer whose resume includes positions at Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The eight-cylinder sends just over 1,200 horsepower and 861 lb-ft. of torque to the rear wheels via a seven-speed sequential gearbox and a limited-slip differential, enabling the Akylone to reach 62 mph from a stop in 2.7 seconds and go on to a top speed of 220 mph.

    Interestingly, Genty Automobile is hoping to bring the project to fruition by using crowdfunding platforms in France and in the United States. The automaker is aiming to raise enough money to build a fully-functional life-sized Akylone and take it on a tour of the United States, Russia, Qatar and China to reach potential investors and buyers.

    Genty will build a total of 15 Akylone coupes and 10 Akylone roadsters in a small town in central France called Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule. The first Akylone will be assembled by the end of the year if the crowdfunding project is successful.

  • Review: 2014 Dodge Durango SXT AWD

    February 16, 2014

    Let’s face it – these days, most crossovers are every bit as bland and insipid as the minivans they’ve supplanted on the basis of supposed stylistic superiority.

    However, there are a few exceptions to that rule. Take the Dodge Durango, which sports an unusually assertive appearance that it can actually back up with truck-like muscle and towing prowess.

    At first glance, the Durango seems to have the ideal blend of character and capability – we spent a week with the three-row rig to find out if that’s really the case.

    What is it?

    Now in its third generation, the Dodge Durango blends SUV-like rear- or all-wheel-drive with crossover-style unibody construction. All-new in 2011 and updated for 2014, it shares elements of its platform with the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Mercedes-Benz M-Class, all of which were designed back in the Daimler/Chrysler era. Our SXT model was equipped with Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine, which in this application makes 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.

    That stout six-pot is mated to the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic transmission that’s utilized in a wide range of vehicles from the Bentley Mulsanne to the Ram 1500. Power is sent to a full-time all-wheel-drive system with a single-speed transfer case, a setup that enables a towing capability of 6,200 pounds and mileage of 17 city/24 highway mpg.

    Those in need of more power, a class-leading 7,400-pound towing capacity and a variable (hi/lo) transfer case, can opt for a 5.7-liter Hemi V8. It produces 360 horsepower along with 390 lb-ft of torque, and can shut down four cylinders in cruising situations to save fuel. Of course, folks living outside the snowbelt can opt for the simplicity of rear-wheel-drive with either engine.

    The Durango rides on an independent suspension kit with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, upper- and lower-control arms and a stabilizer bar, while the rear is made up of a Multi-link rear suspension, coil springs and twin tube shocks, aluminum lower control arm, independent upper links plus a separate toe link for added stability. Steering is composed of an efficiency-boosting electro-hydraulic system.

    Our tester was dressed up with the optional Rallye Appearance Group, which adds 20-inch alloy wheels, body-colored front and rear fascias, sill and wheel-lip molding, and color grille accents, as well as chrome dual-exhaust finishers. Its already-impressive towing capabilities were augmented by the Trailer Tow Group IV package, a bundle that adds heavy duty engine cooling, a 220-amp alternator, class IV receiver hitch, seven and four pin wiring harnesses and rear load-leveling suspension, among other items.

    Other trim level groupings exist as well. In addition to the base SXT version, buyers can also can opt for Limited or top of the line Citadel models, as well as the sport-oriented Durango R/T.

    What’s it up against?

    Competition for the Durango comes from such stalwarts as the Chevrolet Traverse, Mazda CX-9, Ford Explorer and Flex, and the Durango’s Jeep Grand Cherokee cousin.

    How does it look?

    Although the standard Durango’s looks are anything but lightweight, our SXT Rallye version featured the butched-up appearance of body color trim pieces to impart more of a performance feel than found in a typical SUV. While not as hunched down as the R/T version, it still managed an aggressive outer appearance, which translated into just the right amount of wrong, even though it lacked the Hemi engine underneath its bright red hood.

    Projector beam headlamps are now standard and are joined by a pair of hockey stick LED running lights for a unique forward-looking appearance. This stylish theme is continued through the use of 192 red LED lights that form a racetrack taillamp. Their similarity to the rear lighting scheme of the Dodge Charger is purely intentional.

    And on the inside?

    Our Durango SXT Rallye offered a pair of well-bolstered fabric-covered front seats with full power-adjustability for the driver, while optional split captain-style seating in the second row provided complete comfort but cut the overall passenger capacity from seven to six. It was also equipped with an available center armrest console with storage, but those desiring a pass-through to the third row are able to opt out of this equation.

    The captain’s chairs gave easy flip-forward access to third-row seating with the single touch of a lever. The third row seats fold down with the pull of a strap so you can go from people moving to cargo hauling in a matter of seconds. Behind the third row is 17.2 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold that third row down and it grows to 47.7 cubic feet. With both rows folded forward, expect 84.5 cubic feet. But wait, there’s more: the front passenger seat can also fold forward for extra storage capacity. Holy Wide Open Spaces, Batman!

    The Uconnect-based premium audio system offered great tuneage and the ability to sync with a smartphone in three painless steps. Nav-ready, but requiring a dealer upgrade for the same, it allowed the eventual use of Yelp to find business and restaurant listings, as well as the capability with to be connected as a wi-fi hotspot for passenger’s smartphones. Using a similar interface to what is found in Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Fiat family vehicles, we find it one of the best systems available today.

    But does it go?

    Though the SXT Rallye is near the bottom of the Durango’s trim level totem pole, it still has a great deal to offer. Sure, its Pentastar V6 is definitely not a Hemi, but we still found it plentiful in the power department. Acceleration was seamless, although the mill seemed to suffer from a higher tip-in than that found in the V8.

    Once we were at speed on the interstate, the Durango Rallye settled in for a surprisingly quiet ride on most road surfaces. On others, not so much, but we attribute that to coarse road aggregate and the all-season 20-inch tires. According to Dodge, this semi-big-rig is capable of traveling more than 600 miles on a single tank of fuel. Speaking of fuel, the Durango SXT Rallye is a Flexfuel vehicle.

    The electro-hydraulic steering is excellent, offering good road feel and feedback. We thought the suspension rides a few millimeters higher than the rear-wheel-drive Durango R/T, and as a result, was a slight bit touchier than that of the higher-line model. Sure-footed throughout, it still inspired confidence around town in the Crescent City of New Orleans where we conducted our test. The all-wheel-drive system, with the benefit of Dodge’s Hill Start Assist, even managed to tackle runs up the berms along the Mississippi River as though they were tiny anthills.

    Leftlane’s bottom line:

    Whether it’s asked to be a refined family hauler or tough truck stand-in, the stylish Durango is up to the task.

    Furthermore, with a polished driving experience and trick Uconnect system, it’s proof that a crossover doesn’t have to be über expensive to be well-equipped and well-executed.

    2014 Dodge Durango SXT base price, $32,195. As tested, $40,065.

    Customer Preferred Package 23B, $1,700; Trailer Tow Group IV, $995; Popular Equipment Group, $895; Rallye Appearance Group, $1,495; Second Row Captains Chairs, $895; Second Row Console/Armrest, $300; Uconnect 8.4 System, $595; Destination fee, $995.

    Photos by Mark Elias.

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