• Toyota unveils Dub Edition Yaris, Sienna and Sienna:Remix ahead of SEMA

    October 26, 2014

    Toyota has unveiled three unlikely customizations for the upcoming SEMA aftermarket trade show in Las Vegas — a Dub Edition Yaris compact and Sienna minivan, and a Sienna:Remix mobile DJ station.

    Toyota handed a 2015 Yaris over to Dub for the addition of widebody blister fenders that envelop black 20 x 10-inch Dropstars wheels. The dramatic look is reminiscent of a rally car, but unfortunately aside from a lowered suspension and upgraded brakes and despite the presence of a roll bar, there are no engine upgrades. Instead, it features a two-tone matte white and gloss black paint job and an eardrum-shattering stereo.

    According to Dub cofounder Myles Kovacs, the “Dub look” is “all about a stance that’s wider, lower and sleeker.” The result is an American take on Japan’s VIP vanning culture featuring 22-inch TIS wheels. Like the Dub Yaris, the extreme rims are wrapped in 30-series Nitto tires. The interior has been reupholstered in diamond-stitched leather with a gallery of monitors grafted to each headrest. It’s filled to the gills with four subwoofers, 10 speakers and six amps.

    West Coast Customs had their own take on a Sienna, in which an array of speakers — consisting of four subwoofers, sixteen 12-inch noisemakers and two 40-inch flat-panel monitors — rises from the roof at the push of a button. The mobile party center’s tailgate has also been modified, extending rearward to expose yet more speakers, to which a fully functional DJ stand can be linked.

    Toyota says more show cars will be unveiled at the SEMA Show, which begins on November 4.

  • Honda develops new suite of driver-assist technologies

    October 26, 2014

    Honda is introducing the next generation of its driver-assist technology. The system combines new tricks with existing ones in a unified package called Honda Sensing, which will debut in the Japanese-market Honda Legend (called the Acura RLX in the US) before the end of the year.

    Honda Sensing relies primarily on two inputs, a forward-facing monocular camera mounted between the windshield and the the rear-view mirror. A new millimeter-wave radar sits in the grille and works in conjunction with the camera. Not only does the system detect pedestrians in front of the car, but on the road’s sidelines as well. If the car detects that the driver is veering towards a bystander, the audio and visual warnings and will auto-correct the steering. Honda claims this is a world’s first on a production vehicle.

    As expected, the system also includes lane keeping and lane departure mitigation warnings as well, and can apply corrective steering and braking in addition to warning beeps, lights and vibrations.

    The system encompasses existing technologies as well, applying the brakes if a collision is impending, or if a “false start” is detected, in which the accelerator is pressed when an object is in front of the car. On the flip side, it will also alert the driver when the car in front has departed from a standstill. Adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow and traffic sign recognition are part of the package as well.

    Honda Sensing was developed under new safety directives at the company, which has made what it calls a “collision-free society” a priority. After the Legend, the system will trickle down into other models.

  • Toyota introduces 2015 Avalon Touring Sport Edition

    October 26, 2014
    Toyota is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the full-size Avalon by introducing a limited-edition model called XLE Touring Sport Edition.
    Outside, the Touring Sport Edition stands out from a stock Avalon thanks to an Attitude Black paint job, automatic HID headlights as well as model-specific emblems on both front doors. The finishing touch is a set of machine-finished 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped by Michelin tires.

    The interior has been spruced up with heated front seats upholstered in premium perforated leather with blue contrast stitching, dark blue trim on the dashboard and the center console, aluminum door sills and custom floor mats. The sedan comes standard with an eight-way power-adjustable front seat and a four-way passenger seat.

    Toyota has not made any mechanical changes to the Avalon, meaning the Touring Sport Edition is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that sends 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft. of torque to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. The Avalon is capable of reaching 62 mph from a stop in a little over six seconds.

    The 2015 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring Sport Edition is scheduled to go on sale next week with a base price of $37,170. Toyota is planning on building just 2,500 examples of the cars between the end of the month and March of 2015.

  • German coachbuilder Binz unveils six-door Mercedes E-Class

    October 26, 2014
    German coachbuilder Binz has introduced a long-wheelbase variant of the facelifted Mercedes-Benz E-Class that is fitted with six doors.
    Starting with a stock w212 E-Class, Binz has increased the wheelbase by over 43 inches, bringing the car’s total length to 252 inches. To put that figure into perspective, a long-wheelbase S-Class stretches 206 inches from bumper to bumper.

    Weight is kept in check thanks to the extensive use of lightweight materials. Binz claims the conversion adds about 500 pounds to the curb weight of an E-Class and the effect it has on gas mileage is marginal at best.

    Inside, the stretched E-Class can be configured to offer space for either six or eight passengers on three separate rows of seats. Consoles can be installed in between the seats for added comfort and buyers can deck out their limousine by picking form a long list of options that includes a drink cooler, multi-zone climate control and a wireless router.

    The stretched E can be ordered in E200, E350 4Matic, E500 and E250 CDI forms. Performance specifications were not released.

    The Binz-built Mercedes-Benz E-Class is on sale now across Germany but pricing information has not been published yet. The car will be offered to buyers in a number of global markets but Binz is not currently planning on selling it in the United States.

  • Swedes test Honda CR-V’s AWD system, with disappointing results [Video]

    October 26, 2014
    The Swedish magazine known for its demanding ‘moose test’ has spotted a different kind of trouble with Honda’s 2015 CR-V.
    Teknikens Varld placed the refreshed crossover up a modest incline with a strip of low-friction rollers under each front wheel. Rather than maintaining power to the rear wheels, the all-wheel-drive system splits all torque between the front wheels.

    A video shows several attempts to climb the hill, but the CR-V remains still for at least 15 second as the front wheels spin — increasing rpm until they slide off the side of the rollers.

    Notably, the magazine ran into the same problem with the 2014 CR-V. Honda then released a software update, reprogramming the AWD control system to fix the problem, however the functionality appears to have reverted for the latest model year.

    The company quickly responded to the latest test, arguing that the particular test scenario is an unfair way to test the AWD system. The behavior is blamed on torque limits for the rear differential, which is said to be “lightweight and fuel efficient” but prone to overheating if it is run continuously in such an extreme torque-split scenario.

    “In real conditions, regardless of the surface, there is a certain amount of friction always available for both front and rear wheels,” Honda Sweden head of communications Maria Johansson said in a statement. “The AWD system benefits therefore torque between front and rear wheels in order to achieve optimal driving force.”

    “Our test method with low friction rolls was approved by Honda last year,” the magazine added. “The method, which is very realistic, has also been adopted by some automakers, such as Subaru.”

    Honda suggests customers will be able to request the revised management software for the new CR-V, but it will not be pre-installed on all production vehicles.