• Ford brings Lincoln to China, aims to woo Buick buyers

    April 17, 2014
    Ford has announced that it has officially launched its Lincoln brand in the Chinese market.

    The company aims to transform the luxury purchasing experience, presenting the brand in a “relationship-based experience” model — taking inspiration from ultra-luxury brands — rather than the traditional sales-and-service approach that would be familiar to Lincoln buyers in the US and other markets.

    Showrooms will be designed as inviting spaces that attempt to evoke the feeling of a living room or luxury hotel lobby. Several seating zones and pavilions will provide space for customers to relax with family.

    Ford already has a strong presence in China, with Focus sales surpassing 400,000 units to take the title of top-selling nameplate in the country. Despite the achievement, the company lacks the segment diversity of General Motors in the market.

    To the surprise of buyers in the US, GM’s Buick badge has consistently proven wildly popular with Chinese customers — easily surpassing Chevrolet shipments. The company sold four Buicks in the Chinese market for every one that left a US showroom in 2013.

    Lincoln will begin its foray with five new vehicles by 2016, starting off with the MKZ sedan and MKC compact SUV. An unnamed midsize SUV, all-new full-size sedan and the Navigator full-size SUV will follow.

    Our extensive study of the new luxury customer in China revealed that they are underserved in the luxury auto market,” said Ford global marketing head Jim Farley. “As a new brand entering the market in China, Lincoln has the perfect opportunity to differentiate itself by creating a new way of purchasing and owning a luxury vehicle that meets the personal needs of today’s new luxury customer.”

    The luxury offerings will be sold through an independent network of 60 dealers in 50 cities by 2016, including seven primary cities this fall.

  • NY: Honda’s Fit-based HR-V crossover

    April 17, 2014

    Honda has announced plans to expand into the U.S. market’s subcompact crossover segment with a new model dubbed the HR-V.

    Already on sale in Japan, where it is known as the Vezel, the HR-V utilizes the same platform as the 2015 Fit hatchback. That architecture, with its space-maximizing central fuel tank layout, should make for a roomy, versatile interior that belies the crossover’s diminutive dimensions. Honda’s fold-flat “Magic Seat” system will add another level of practicality.

    Expressive elements like upswept character lines, an arched greenhouse and a two-tier grille give the HR-V’s exterior a distinctive appearance, as do hidden rear door handles and curved tailgate detailing.

    Honda isn’t ready to say what will power the HR-V, but possibilities include four-cylinder engines such as the Fit’s 1.5-liter, the Civic’s 1.8-liter and the CR-V’s 2.4-liter. A CVT automatic will almost certainly handle “shifting” duties, while front- and all-wheel-drive configurations are also expected.

    The HR-V is slated to arrive in showrooms this winter. Trim level and pricing information has not yet been revealed – look for a starting MSRP somewhere between the Fit’s $16,315 base price and the CR-V’s $23,775 entry point.

  • NY LIVE: SRT Viper Anodized Carbon Special Edition Package with Time Attack Group

    April 17, 2014
    Chrysler’s SRT performance brand has rolled out a special edition of its Viper supercar at the New York auto show. The new limited edition model combines the Viper Anodized Carbon Special Edition Package with a new Time Attack Group road-racing spec-package.

    SRT plans to make just 50 units of the Viper Anodized Carbon Special Edition Package, with only 10 of those cars carrying the additional Time Attack Group trim.

    The Time Attack Group, derived from the Viper TA Special Edition, adds on performance goodies like a race-tuned suspension, solid sway bars, lightweight aluminum wheels and Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires. The package also includes a carbon fiber front splitter and rear spoiler that provide 339 pounds of downforces at 150mph.

    Brembo disc brakes borrowed from the 2010 Viper ACR-X race car ensure the Time Attack Group can stop as well as it goes.

    “We’ve received an overwhelming response to the unique Metallic Matte exterior color since first showing the Anodized Carbon Special Edition Viper late last year,” said Ralph Gilles, President and CEO – SRT Brand and Motorsports. “So we’re adding even more exclusivity with 10 distinctive SRT Vipers that combine our special exterior color with the new Time Attack Group of performance parts to offer our customers mind-boggling limits on their favorite road courses.”

    Pricing will be released at a later date.

    Live images by Mark Elias.

  • NY LIVE: 2015 Infiniti QX80, range-topping QX80 Limited

    April 17, 2014
    Nissan’s Infiniti division has traveled to the New York Motor Show to unveil the facelifted 2015 QX80. The premium company has also announced it is adding an ultra-luxurious range-topping trim level called Limited to the lineup.

    The QX80 features a redesigned front fascia that borrows design cues such as a mesh grille, revamped headlights and a more aggressive lower bumper from the Q50 sedan. The rear end carries on essentially unchanged, though a well-trained eye will spot the arrival of LED tail lamps and a larger bumper.

    The interior has been upgraded with new trim colors and several tech items such as Infiniti’s High Beam Assist and Predictive Forward Collision Warning. The driving aids have been split up into two option packages called Driver Assistance Package and Deluxe Technology Package, respectively.

    QX80 Limited
    New for 2015, the QX80 Limited is the most luxurious QX80 ever offered from the factory. It stands out from the regular QX80 thanks to smoked lights on both ends, lights that illuminate the ground below the running boards and dark chrome trim all around. 22-inch wheels come standard, and buyers can choose from six different exterior colors including three Limited-specific shades.

    Inside, the passengers are treated to Truffle Brown leather upholstery on the seats, the speaker grilles and the assist handles as well as real Ash trim on the dashboard and the door panels.

    The QX80 Limited comes standard with all of the high-tech convenience and safety features that are offered on the regular QX80. Highlights from the long list of standard features include a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated second row captain’s chairs, tri-zone Automatic Temperature Control and Infiniti’s Around View monitor.

    The QX80 Limited will live up to its name and join the Infiniti lineup as a limited-edition model.

    Live images by Mark Elias.

  • NY LIVE: 2015 Subaru Outback

    April 17, 2014

    Subaru has taken the wraps off the 2015 Outback this week at the New York Motor Show.

    Based on the all-new 2015 Legacy, the next-generation Outback ditches its somewhat chunky appearance in favor of a sleeker look that falls in line with Subaru’s latest design language. The wagon adopts a hexagonal radiator grille, more streamlined headlights and a steeply raked front windshield, while the rear end retains horizontal tail lamps that emphasize the Outback’s width rather than its height.

    Like the Legacy, the new Outback features a noticeably more upscale interior with soft-touch plastics and a state-of-the-art infotainment system. Shift paddles mounted behind a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel come standard, and an updated version of Subaru’s well-regarded EyeSight Driver Assist System is available as an option.

    The 2015 Outback’s entry-level engine will be a 2.5-liter flat-four engine rated at 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft. of torque, essentially matching the current output specs but with peak torque available at a lower rpm. Buyers after more power can select a 3.6-liter flat-six engine expected to churn out 256 ponies and 247 lb-ft. of twist. Both engines will send power to all four wheels via a CVT and a torque vectoring setup.

    Subaru revised the Outback’s suspension in order to improve handling and give the wagon a better ride. Agility has been further improved thanks to increased stiffness around the front strut mounts and the rear frame rails.

    Continuing the list of refinements, the company suggests the redesigned model is much quieter than the one currently found on dealer lots. Engineers have added an acoustically laminated windshield, liquid-filled engine mounts and thicker panels, while additional foam insulation and floor dampening material help reduce cabin noise.

    The new Outback is also more efficient than the outgoing model thanks to modifications such as a hood crafted out of aluminum, a new electric power steering system and active grille shutters. Estimated EPA ratings for the four-cylinder variant have risen to 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined, marking a 3-mpg gain at cruising speeds.

    Subaru’s next wagon will land in showrooms across the United States in July.

    Live images by Mark Elias.