• Nissan CEO: Autonomous cars could hit market in 2018

    June 4, 2014

    Though it’s increasingly apparent that the arrival of self-driving cars is only a matter of time, few in the industry are willing to forecast the exact date autonomous technology will be ready for consumers – that is, except for Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

    Speaking at a French Automobile Club event earlier this week, Ghosn predicted that autonomous vehicles could be traveling the highways and byways of “pioneer countries” like France, Japan and the United States as early as 2018. However, he added that significant legal issues must be resolved before self-driving cars show up on dealer lots.

    “The problem isn’t technology, it’s legislation, and the whole question of responsibility that goes with these cars moving around … and especially who is responsible once there is no longer anyone inside,” Ghosn told Automotive News.

    Google made headlines last week after it unveiled a prototype autonomous car of its own design and announced plans for a test fleet of 100 vehicles to hone the concept. A wide range of traditional automakers are also pursuing the technology, including GM, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. Nissan itself has committed to launching multiple autonomous vehicles with “realistic prices for consumers” by 2020.

    Industry research firm IHS Automotive has predicted that self-driving cars will account for 230,000 sales worldwide in 2025, with volume subsequently surging to the point that traditional vehicles will essentially disappear by 2050.

  • Nissan shows off mystery pickup in teaser [Video]

    June 4, 2014
    Nissan has released another teaser featuring its forthcoming all-new pickup that is due to be officially revealed next week.

    The latest promotional video reveals a bit more than could be seen in the veiled rendering that was recently published, providing further evidence that the mystery model may be the next-generation Frontier.

    The segment focuses on durability trials that were performed on test vehicles, including off-road driving, extreme cold, extreme heat and exposure to rain and snow.

    LED daytime-running lights and new grille, both consistent with Nissan’s current design language, can be seen during shots of wind-tunnel testing. What resembled chrome air intakes in the rendering actually appear to be projector foglight surrounds borrowed from the 2015 Murano SUV.

    The pickup’s identity will be officially confirmed on June 11.

  • 2015 Audi A8 to start from $78,295

    June 4, 2014

    Audi has released pricing information for its facelifted 2015 A8 and S8, which benefit from revised styling and a range of equipment upgrades.

    The range starts off with the A8 3.0T, which now carries a base price of $78,295 (including destination). It continues to share a 333-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with the long-wheelbase A8 L 3.0T, for which $82,295 is the starting MSRP.

    Efficiency-minded buyers can opt for the $85,995 A8 L TDI and its 240 horsepower 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6.

    Priced at $87,295 for the short-wheelbase variant and $91,295 for the extra-legroom edition, the A8 4.0T packs 15 horsepower more than it did last year, for a total of 435 ponies. The S8, powered by a 520 horsepower version of the 4.0T’s motor, commands $115,795, while $138,795 is the minimum required to drive home the A8 L W12 and its 500 horsepower, 6.3-liter twelve-cylinder.

    Those prices reflect increases of $2,300 to $2,800 over the last year’s A8 and S8 lineup.

    Charting the Changes
    Outside, the design tweaks carried out to both flagships are relatively minor and largely limited to redesigned bumpers, new lights all around and a refreshed radiator grille. Additional paint colors and alloy wheel designs help differentiate the facelifted sedans from their predecessors.

    In Germany, buyers with deep pockets are able to replace traditional high beams with Audi’s new Matrix-beam technology. Using several sensors and cameras to scope out the road ahead, the headlights automatically dim the individual LEDs that are aimed at the driver of an oncoming vehicle. The LEDs are turned back on immediately after the car has passed, eliminating the need to manually alternate between high beams and low beams. In the United States, a 45-year old law that requires headlights to be have both low and high beams makes Matrix-beam technology illegal.

    The updated A8 also sports LED turn signals that illuminate timed “blocks” from the inside out. Audi says the A8 features a similar system for its taillight

    Little has changed inside apart from a few new trim elements, meaning that buyers will be forced to make do with largely the same old sumptuous, world-class interior. Newly available safety features include active lane assist, a parking assistant which automatically steers the car into a spot and a heads-up display. The night vision camera has been updated to recognize large mammals in addition to pedestrians.

    The options list now includes 22-way-adjustable front comfort seats with 5 massage functions and, for the S8, a sport exhaust system with quad oval tailpipes. Variable-ratio dynamic steering has been added to the sport package, and all models come standard with a new electromechanical steering column that is said to trim weight and improve fuel efficiency.

    The 2015 A8 and S8 will hit the market this summer.

  • 2015 Ford Transit receives mileage, towing ratings

    June 4, 2014

    Ford has released a deluge of details for the upcoming 2015 Transit, which will gradually replace the durable but dated E-Series as the Blue Oval’s offering in the full-size van segment.

    As one would expect given the advanced age of the E-Series’ powertrains, the Transit delivers significantly improved mileage. For regular-length Transits equipped with the low- or medium- roof, fuel economy with the 3.7-liter V6 and 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engines is rated at 14 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway.

    Those figures compare with 13/16 mpg, 12/16 mpg and 10/13 mpg for the E-Series’ 4.6-liter V8, 5.4-liter V8 and 6.8-liter V10 mills, respectively. Efficiency ratings for Transits fitted with the high roof, medium and jumbo lengths, and 3.2-liter turbodiesel have not yet been released.

    While smaller than the engines they replace, the Transit’s motors have ample power for towing and hauling. The 3.7-liter produces 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, the EcoBoost is good for 310 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, and the 3.2-liter five-cylinder diesel churns out 185 ponies and 350 lb-ft of twist at 1500 rpm. All three powerplants send output to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic.

    Should towing be a priority, buyers can lug up to 7,600 lbs. by opting for the low-roof, medium-length Transit with the 3.2-liter and 3.73 rear axle ratio. While impressive, that can’t quite match the V10 E-Series’ 10,000-lb. towing capability. However, the Transit does best its predecessor’s 4,050-lb. payload max with a 4,650-lb. rating for HD models with dual rear wheels, the high roof and jumbo length.

    The 2015 Transit will begin arriving in dealerships this summer with a starting price of $33,095.

  • Subaru’s 2015 WRX STI sets Isle of Man TT lap record

    June 4, 2014
    Subaru’s redesigned 2015 WRX STI has succeeded in its attempt to set a new lap record for the Isle of Man TT road course.

    Piloted by Mark Higgins, the sedan completed the 37-mile route in 19 minutes and 26 seconds, at an average speed of 116.47 mph. Higgins beat his own record, set in the previous-generation 2010 WRX STI at an average speed of 115.36 mph.

    The chassis on this new car is so much better it really allowed me to pick up time in each sector in the more technical parts of the course,” Higgins said. “I lost time on the second part of the track, overshooting my braking point at Sign Post corner. I actually hand-braked the turn in the end, so I feel we can definitely do better.”

    The record-breaking car was mostly stock, aside from an FIA-spec cage, racing seat, harness, fire suppression system and modified springs and dampers that were better suited to the course conditions and high speeds of the course. It was also outfitted with Dunlop Direzza tires and a louder straight exhaust for crowd safety.

    The attempt was managed and sponsored by Subaru, serving to validate the company’s claims that the latest WRX STI is an even better sports car than its predecessor.

    There is nothing like the TT course in all of racing, it’s just an amazing circuit,” Higgins added. “Not just because of its length, but the elevation changes, constant surface variations as you shift from town to country roads and the fact that we run roughly 30 mph and then up to 160 plus for much of the race.”

    The team is considering making another run at the end of the week to top the record.