• Koenigsegg to introduce two supercars in Geneva

    February 7, 2015
    Swedish boutique automaker Koenigsegg has announced that it will introduce two new models at next month’s Geneva Motor Show.
    Dubbed Regera, the first new model is billed as a megacar, which likely means that its engine generates at least a megawatt (1,341 horsepower) of power. Koenigsegg’s first megacar, the One:1, is limited to just six examples worldwide so the Regera could be a less exclusive model designed to put a megawatt of power into the hands of a greater number of drivers.

    Launching a megacar at this year’s edition of the Geneva Motor Show makes sense because the Bugatti Veyron is sold out and a successor isn’t expected to land until 2017 at the very earliest.

    The company’s second new model will be an evolution of the existing Agera called RS. The RS will likely be powered by a twin-turbocharged 5.0-liter V8 engine that will make over 1,100 horsepower and 885 lb-ft. of torque. The Agera RS will be able to reach 62 mph from a stop in less than 2.9 seconds, 124 mph in less than 7.5 seconds and reach a top speed of over 245 mph.

    It is not too far-fetched to assume that both the Regera and the Agera RS will be sold in the United States. Late last year, Koeniegsegg founder Christian von Koenigsegg announced plans to expand the company’s dealer network in the United States and introduce a new, fully street-legal model.

    Full details about Koenigsegg’s new models will emerge over the coming weeks. Stay tuned to Leftlane for live images straight from the show floor in Geneva starting on March 3rd.

  • First Drive: 2015 BMW X6 M [Review]

    February 7, 2015
    From its inception, the BMW X6 has been a mix of things that don’t really go together. Fitting, then, that BMW asked us to try out the latest version of its high-performance SUV on a race track designed for Formula 1 cars.
    Using The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, as a home base, we put the all-new 2015 BMW X6 M through its paces both on-track and on-road. So how did the vehicle equivalent of Beauty and Beast perform? Read on to find out.

    Sedate it ain’t
    At first blush, it might seem silly to introduce a new SUV at an F1 track. But the X6 M is no ordinary SUV.

    First off, the X6 M doesn’t really look like any other SUV. At least that used to be the case.

    BMW pioneered the SUV coupe segment with the launch of the original X6 in 2008. Since then several other automakers have scrambled to come up with sleek-looking utility vehicles of their own, including Mercedes-Benz’s new GLE Coupe.

    And the X6 M, the highest-performance version of BMW’s so-called Sports Activity Vehicle, has a spec sheet more in line with a high-dollar sports car than a typical SUV. Eight-cylinders, direct-injection and TwinScroll turbochargers all working in harmony to develop 567 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. All that power moves through an eight-speed automatic gearbox to an M-specific all-wheel drive system with a rear-wheel bias.

    Thanks to those very large numbers, the X6 M’s accelerations numbers are quite small — the X6 M can scoot from 0-62 is 4.2 seconds and cover 1,000 meters in just 22 ticks of the clock. Not too shabby for a vehicle on the wrong side of 5,100 pounds.

    Highway muncher
    Before we put the X6′s M pedigree to the test on the track, we piloted the Super SAV around the public roads of Austin.

    With a push of the start button the X6 M barks to life before settling in to a low rumble. The X6 M’s gearshift lever is needlessly complicated, but it kind of adds to the feeling of driving a high-tech toy. Once we found “Drive,” we were off.

    Our attention was almost immediately fixed on the sound of the X6 M, but not for the right reasons. Although the X6 M boasts a meaty V8 under the hood, the exhaust note is more akin to an engine with fewer cylinder.

    But any complaints about the X6 M’s exhaust note were quickly forgotten as we squeezed on the power. The X6 M leaps away from traffic like it’s being shot out of a cannon. Point the X6 M down any on-ramp and you’ll be up to triple-digit speeds before you can blink.

    Like every M vehicle, BMW says the X6 M is “fit for the Nordschleife,” but perhaps equally impressive, the SAV is equally fit for the daily commute. We found the X6 M to be supremely comfortable over the expansion joints and pot holes of the real world, which is impressive considering the car’s sports suspension and low-profile tires.

    The X6 M’s road comfort is aided by supportive front buckets wrapped in super soft leather. In fact, virtually every surface in the X6 M is covered in some form of premium material, whether it be cow hide, carbon fiber or Alcantara. But then again, you’d expect that at this price level — the X6 M carries a starting price of $103,000.

    Visibility wasn’t as much of a problem as we expected, but the X6 M’s sloping roofline does limit your field of view. Use your mirrors and the car’s blind spot warning system and you should be fine, though. Rear-seat headroom is actually fairly decent, but passenger may feel closed in by the X6′s low-slung C-pillars.

    Visibility isn’t an issue from the outside, however, with the X6 M sporting plenty of eye-catching cues, including its signature coupe-like roofline. Love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny that the X6 stands out from the crowd.

    M-specific features of the X6 M include front fender vents, aerodynamic side mirrors, rear-spoiler, unique wheel designs and a ride height that is 10 mm lower than the standard X6.

    Track time
    In order to verify the X6 M’s Nordschleife credentials, BMW put us on COTA behind a pace car driven by one of its factory drivers. After a couple of warm up laps, we started testing the X6 M’s limits.

    With the X6′s M2 setting engaged — which allows for some tail-out fun — we tackled the tight corners and long straights of the 3.4-mile track. We initially used the X6 M’s paddle shifters, but decided to let the car’s computer handle shifting duties early on.

    Considering its two-and-half tons of mass, the X6 M handles itself remarkably well in the bends, acting more like a big sports sedan than a high-riding crossover. After a few hot laps the X6 M’s hefty did become a factor, though, with the front tires demonstrating obvious signs of fatigue. Where the X6 M used to tuck in nicely, it started to demonstrated some front end push.

    But thanks to its rear-biased all-wheel drive system, understeer can easily be defeated with a dap of power. The X6 M’s back end isn’t overly eager to step out of line, but can be coaxed with the right amount of throttle modulation (aka flooring it). It may not be the fastest way around the track, but it sure is fun to drift a 5,000 pound SUV as poised as the X6 M.

    Steering was quick and accurate in the X6 M, with the sport setting offering a good measure of weight. We also didn’t mind hanging on to the steering wheel’s thick rim and premium leather cover.

    We found the brakes of the X6 M to initially be strong, but they did get a little woolly toward the end of our six-lap session. They never completely went away, but we started to notice a bit of fade when dragging the X6 M down from a long straightaway. We were also the last group of the day, so our test car’s brakes had already taken a beating before we ever got behind the wheel.

    While it wouldn’t be our first choice for attacking the Nurburgring, we certainly came away impressed with the X6 M’s track aptitude.

    Leftlane’s bottom line
    The answer to a rarely-asked question, the BMW X6 M might be the ultimate (niche) driving machine.

    Not as spacious as the X5 M or as good to drive as the M5, the X6 M delivers where those cars can’t — panache. And if you’re going to spend $100,000 on a car, you might as well get some attention while doing it.

    2015 BMW X6 M base price, $102,100. Destination, $960.

    Photos by Drew Johnson.

  • Chevy teases updated Equinox ahead of Chicago debut

    February 7, 2015
    Chevrolet has announced that it will unveil an updated version of its Equinox compact crossover at next week’s Chicago auto show. The current version of the Equinox has soldier on with relatively few changes since launching in 2009.
    Chevy isn’t giving away any details on its 2016 Equinox, but the company did release a lone teaser shot. From that image it’s clear that the updated Equinox will feature revised headlights and new LED running lights.

    Powertains will likely carryover from the current model year. That means you can expect a base 2.4L four-cylinder and an optional 3.6L V6.

    Despite its aging design, the Equinox remains one of Chevrolet’s best sellers. In 2014 the Detroit automaker delivered 242,242 units of the CUV, marking the nameplate’s fifth consecutive year of record sales. In January Chevy sold more than 20,000 examples of the Equinox, or 34 percent more than the same month a year earlier.

    The 2016 Chevrolet Equinox will be officially unveiled on February 12.

  • U.S. vehicle exports set record in 2014

    February 7, 2015
    More vehicles were exported from the United States in 2014 than in any prior year, new data reveals. In total, more than $159 billion worth of cars and related parts were export from the U.S. last year.
    According to The Wall Street Journal, 2.1 million cars, trucks and SUV were exported from the U.S. last year, representing 18 percent of all light vehicle production on these shores. In comparison, the U.S. exported just 1.3 million vehicle in 2010.

    Roughly half of those exports ended up in Canada and Mexico, but demand from Asia and the Middle East was also a large contributor to the record-setting year.

    Toyota, Ford and Jeep saw their exports increase substantially in 2014. Toyota sent a total of 163,285 U.S.-made vehicle to 40 world markets in 2014, marking a 25 percent increase over the year prior. Ford, which recently began exporting its Michigan-built Mustang, has increased its U.S. exports by 50 percent since 2009. Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand remains a leader in U.S. exports, shipping more than 316,000 vehicle overseas last year.

    Despite a successful 2014, U.S. exports are expected to remain flat at about 2.1 million units in 2015. However, that’s a significant increase over the 1.4 million vehicles that were being exported from the United States a decade ago.

  • Takata liability suits to be heard in Florida

    February 7, 2015
    A judicial panel has ruled that cases filed against Takata and the automotive manufacturers who utilized their airbag components will be heard by U.S. District Judge Frederico Moreno in the Southern District of Florida.
    According to Reuters, more than 70 suits have been filed against Takata and its customers–including Ford, Honda and Toyota.

    The decision comes not long after a former Takata engineer stepped forward in response to U.S. regulators seeking whistleblowers.

    The former engineer claims to have explicitly warned the company against using ammonium nitrate as an alternative to the more expensive — but more stable — compound, known as tetrazole, that was used in the previous-generation designs.

    Ammonium nitrate’s sensitivity to humidity is said to have been well known to the design team, however company leaders allegedly dismissed the concerns and believed the material could be handled and manufactured in a way that minimized risk.

    The lawsuits allege that Takata and its customers were aware of the dangers of the defective components and withheld that knowledge for years before federal regulators intervened and mandated a safety recall.

    The ongoing recall covers millions of vehicles worldwide, and the defect has been linked to at least five deaths and multiple injuries, some as recently as last year. The scandal has taken a serious toll on Takata’s leadership, leading to the resignation of its president and general counsel.