• Mercedes partners with Nintendo to promote GLA

    May 31, 2014

    Mercedes-Benz has teamed up with one of the most iconic characters in video game history to hawk its new GLA. The new partnership with Nintendo features everyone’s favorite digital plumber, Mario, driving the new crossover.

    A new 30-second spot airing in Japan renders an 8-bit GLA in the familiar world of the the 1985 Nintendo classic, Super Mario Bros. The car, with Mario behind the wheel, breaks bricks, stomps goombas, and collects coins, just like in the game.

    Things get bizarre, however, after Mario and the GLA reach the flagpole marking the end of a level within the game. Suddenly, the world becomes “real” as a GLA roars into view in front of the castle, and a life-sized Mario — played by an actor wearing somewhat grotesquely exaggerated facial features — emerges from the soft-roader, all triumphant-like. We won’t spoil the ending for you; you’ll just have to watch the kicker for yourself in the video below.

    Furthermore, the Mercedes GLA is also downloadable content in the Mario Kart 8, a highly anticipated fantasy racing-themed sequel released Friday. However, the car is available only to players in Japan.

    The real-life GLA is a compact crossover built atop the CLA platform. A transversely-mounted 208hp 2.0-liter inline-four occupies the engine room while a 355hp turbocharged version will motivate the AMG-ified edition, presumably after collecting a mushroom power-up.

  • Mercedes-Benz reveals seven-seater Citan van

    May 31, 2014
    Mercedes’ commercial vehicles division has revealed a long-wheelbase variant of the Citan van capable of carrying up to seven passengers.

    Wearing a moniker created by combining the words “city” and “titan,” the Citan is a product of the alliance between Mercedes parent company Daimler and Renault-Nissan. Its front fascia is heavily inspired by the facelifted 2014 Sprinter van but it shares its chassis and nearly all of its body panels with the Renault Kangoo.

    The 185-inch long stretched Citan features space for up to seven passengers spread out over three rows of seats. The van offers a cavernous 123 cubic feet of cargo room with both the second and the third row of seats folded out of the way.

    Like the regular five-seater Citan, the seven-seater model is powered by a Renault-sourced 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine available with either 88 horsepower and 147 lb-ft. of torque or 108 ponies and 177 lb-ft. of twist. In Europe, the 1.5-liter mill is also found under the hood of the Dacia Logan, the Renault Clio and the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class.

    Both versions of the oil-burner send power to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. A fuel-saving start/stop system can be ordered at an extra cost.

    On-sale now across Europe, the long-wheelbase Citan carries a base price of €19,400 (about $26,400) before taxes are factored in.

    Mercedes will gradually start selling the Citan in a host of global markets including Russia, Chile and select Southeast Asian countries but the van will not take on the Ford Transit Connect on U.S. shores.

  • Caterham unveils F1-themed limited-edition Seven

    May 31, 2014
    England’s Caterham has lifted the veil off of a limited-edition version of the Seven sports car developed jointly with Japanese Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi. Kobayashi was signed to Caterham’s Formula 1 team earlier this year.

    Appropriately dubbed Kamui Kobayashi Limited Edition, the special Seven is powered by a Ford-sourced 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that sends 125 horsepower and 120 lb-ft. of torque to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip differential. 125 ponies is not much on paper, but it’s enough to propel the feather-light Seven from zero to 62 mph in 5.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 112 mph.

    Visually, the Kamui Kobayashi Limited Edition stands out from the Seven 250 R on which it is based thanks to a bespoke gloss black paint job with flat black racing stripes, fenders crafted out of green-tinted carbon fiber, 13-inch diamond-cut wheels and a polished chrome exhaust pipe.

    The two-tone motif continues on the inside with a dashboard crafted out of bright green-tinted carbon fiber, green four-point racing harnesses and a single carbon fiber bucket seat. The roadster features an aluminum tonneau cover installed over the passenger side of the cockpit and Kobayashi’s signature on the dashboard.

    Caterham will build just ten examples of the Seven Kamui Kobayashi Limited Edition, and all of them have been earmarked for the Japanese market. Pricing information has not been released.

  • NHTSA: Vehicle crashes cost $900 per US citizen

    May 31, 2014
    Fatalities from vehicle accidents have been on a general downward trend for decades, however the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims crashes still account for an estimated $871 billion in economic loss and societal harm.

    The numbers compile various costs with any conceivable connection to car accidents, including productivity losses, congestion costs, legal and court costs, and “insurance administration” costs, among others.

    This includes $277 billion in economic costs – nearly $900 for each person living in the United States based on calendar year 2010 data — and $594 billion in harm from the loss of life and the pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries,” the agency said in a statement.

    Speeding and driving too fast for conditions were cited as the biggest problems, accounting for 21 percent of the total economic loss, followed closely by the costs of accidents involving drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08 or higher. Distracted driving rounded out the top three, receiving blame for 17 percent of the total economic costs.

    This new report underscores the importance of our safety mission and why our efforts and those of our partners to tackle these important behavioral issues and make vehicles safer are essential to our quality of life and our economy,” said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman.

    The number of annual fatalities per million vehicle miles traveled has fallen from over 20 in the early 1920s to around five in the ’60s. Safety continued to improve in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, eventually bringing the number of deaths per million miles down to just over 1.1 in 2010 through 2012.

  • Lawyer claims GM ignition defect has killed 60

    May 31, 2014
    A lawyer representing clients suing General Motors over its ignition switch recall debacle claims that the defect is responsible for more than four-times as many death as the automaker has confirmed.

    GM has stated that the ignition switch defect that prompted the recall of more than 2.5 million vehicles has caused 13 deaths, but a lawyer suing the auto giant on behalf of owners says the company is grossly underestimating the death toll.

    According to Corpus Christi, Texas, lawyer Rudy Gonzales, at least 60 deaths have been caused by the ignition defect, which can disable a vehicle’s power and safety features, such as power steering and airbags. Gonzales made the statement in front of a seven-judge panel that will decide where claims related to economic losses stemming from the recall will be heard.

    However, Gonzales’ claim has yet to be substantiated – the lawyer didn’t provide any evidence to the panel and GM is steadfast that only 13 deaths have occurred as the result of the ignition flaw.

    As the judges haven’t even selected a location for the lawsuits to be heard, it could be awhile before Gonzales is pressed about his claim.

  • McLaren to sell P13 for $210K, focus on hybrids for future models

    May 30, 2014
    Additional details surrounding McLaren’s upcoming models has surfaced, including a price tag for the entry-level P13 and a commitment to utilize hybrid technology across the entire lineup.

    The latest report detailing the P13 suggests the car will be powered by a detuned version of the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 found in the 650S, rather than a rumored V6 mill.

    The V8 is expected to accelerate the P13 to 62 mph from a standstill in approximately four seconds before topping out around 185 mph, according to Edmunds. In contrast, the 650S hits 62 mph in three seconds flat and reaches a top speed of 207 mph.

    The company is said to have chosen $210,000 as the sticker price for the P13, marking a $55,000 savings over the 650S.

    P13 will be a very engaging car to drive,” said McLaren Managing Director Mike Flewitt. “It will be fun but safe.”

    The entry-level model will be followed in 2017 by the P15, which will slot above the 650S with a $500,000+ price tag.

    The executive cautions that the P15 will not be a replacement for the flagship P1, which will see a successor once the technology is ready for a “step change.” The next-generation model could be 10 years away, at which point the current P1′s hybrid technology will have trickled down throughout the entire McLaren lineup.

    “All models will be hybrids,” Flewitt said. “Even if some use a basic form of hybridization.”

    In the meantime, the company is working to build its brand recognition to better compete against Porsche and Ferrari. Annual production is still expected to be limited to 4,000 to 6,000 units after 10 years, however, with no plans to develop an SUV or other configurations that do not follow the company’s sports-car heritage.

  • Cosworth exhaust kit promises 230 hp for Subaru BRZ, Scion FR-S

    May 30, 2014
    Cosworth has finally announced specific details surrounding its first “Power Package” upgrade kit for the Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT86.

    The Stage 1 package focuses on exhaust upgrades and electronic engine management, which together promise to bump the power output from 200 to 230 horsepower.

    The components include a stainless-steel free-flow sports exhaust system co-developed with Nameless Performance, a combined over-pipe/front-pipe with an integrated spherical resonator, a manifold header, and an ECU calibration kit and calibration file programmed specifically for the whole setup.

    The announcement may be slightly disappointing for owners waiting for a Cosworth-developed forced induction system, however the tuner is presumably working on such upgrades for the Stage 2 and Stage 3 packages. The exhaust system is viewed as a necessary element for the higher stages, which will bring “fully validated” 325 horsepower and eventually a 380-pony race-track configuration.

    Each successive upgrade Stage builds upon and utilizes components in the previous Stage making this approach unique in the Aftermarket,” Cosworth notes. “This staged approach allows customers an affordable path to upgrade their vehicles.”

    The company has not yet announced retail prices for the Stage 1 components. The second and third stages are expected to be available this summer.

  • Porsche 911 GT3 RS to go turbo?

    May 30, 2014
    Engine durability concerns could force Porsche to equip its upcoming high-performance 911 GT3 RS with a turbocharged engine, a new report finds.

    Historically, the 911 GT3 RS has relied on a highly-tuned naturally aspirated flat-six for big power, but recent engine issues with the regular GT3 has Porsche reconsidering that strategy. Porsche is currently wringing out 475 horsepower from its naturally-aspirated 3.8L flat-six in the GT3 but, as a recent rash of vehicle fires has shown, that’s pretty much the limit of what the powerplant can reliably make.

    That poses a problem for the GT3 RS, as it is expected to make more power than its down-market sibling.

    Although potentially off-putting to some of its typical buyers, Autocar is reporting that Porsche is considering a turbocharger as a solution to all of its GT3 RS problems. No specific outputs have been mentions, but the turbocharged GT3 RS would almost certainly match the 520 horsepower rating of the 911 Turbo and could even match or exceed the 560 horsepower rating of the Turbo S.

    Porsche’s next 911 GT3 RS, no matter what form it takes, is expected to debut by 2015 at the latest.

  • VW delivers first 2015 Golf GTI in US market

    May 30, 2014
    Volkswagen is celebrating the arrival of its redesigned 2015 Golf GTI in the US market.

    The updated model brings improvements all around, revised to be bigger, safer, lighter, more powerful and more fuel-efficient than the previous generation.

    The seventh-generation Golf GTI has been one of the most-highly anticipated new models of the year, and we’re excited about the response we’re getting from customers as it arrives in dealerships,” said VW of America sales VP Mark Barnes.

    The 2015 GTI is powered by VW’s EA888 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which produces 210 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The figures represent a gain of 10 ponies and 51 lb-ft of twist.

    The company has also revamped the list of standard equipment, which includes a touchscreen infotainment system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED foglights and driving-mode selection, among other features.

    The all-new Golf GTI starts at $25,215 (including destination charge) for the entry-level S trim with a six-speed manual transmission, marking a modest $195 increase over the base price of the previous model.

  • Nissan recalls 2014 Rogue crossovers over incorrect steering bolts

    May 30, 2014
    Nissan’s 2014 Rogue recently won top honors in crash tests, however some of the crossovers are being recalled over a potentially serious safety issue.

    Certain vehicles in a batch of 1,644 units manufactured from January 10 through January 17 may have been assembled with the incorrect bolts connecting the intermediate shaft to the upper steering assembly.

    The company warns that the incorrect bolts could loosen and fall out, resulting in a loss of vehicle control and increasing the risk of a crash. Drivers may receive an early warning if the steering assembly begins to rattle, indicating the bolts have loosened.

    The company has blamed a supplier for delivering a tote full of incorrect bolts that were subsequently installed in vehicles.

    Owners will be notified to bring their Rogue in to a service center to be inspected and repaired if necessary. The problem is believed to be limited to a small number of vehicles.