• Fisker to be renamed ahead of Karma relaunch

    February 24, 2015
    Wanxiang Group is set to rename Fisker Automotive before relaunching the Karma plug-in sedan in 2016, a new report finds. China-based Wanxiang purchased Fisker Automotive back in 2014.
    Two sources with inside knowledge of the situation revealed to Reuters that Wanxiang will change Fisker’s name to Elux. The Chinese company will retain the Karma nameplate.

    Wanxiang was hoping to have the newly-minted Elux Karma on the market by 2015, but that launch date has been delayed until at least mid-2016. The company has also scrapped plans to produce the Karma in Finland. No replacement site has been named.

    The Elux Karma will be nearly identical to the Fisker Karma that was sold in 2011 and 2012, but one sources says Wanxiang is spending “millions” to update the car’s hardware, which could include a significant battery upgrade. In addition to its purchase of Fisker, Wanxiang also purchased bankrupt battery maker A123 Systems, which was the original battery supplier for the Karma.

    The Elux Karma will reportedly land with an asking price of $135,000, or about 20 percent more than the Karma’s asking price in 2012.

  • Mercedes-Benz recalls nearly 150k cars for fire risk

    February 24, 2015
    Mercedes-Benz is recalling 147,000 vehicles in the United States due to a faulty rubber seal that can dislodge and fall on the exhaust system, potentially causing a fire.
    This issue is the same one that resulted in an overseas recall of similar volume last week. Reuters is not reporting any incidents related to the issue.

    The faulty seal is present on E-Class sedans, E-Class wagons and the CLS-Class from model years 2013 to 2015.

    Mercedes-Benz will begin its recall campaign in March and owners will be notified of eligibility by mail.

  • Spied: 2017 Bentley Bentayga

    February 24, 2015
    Bentley’s upcoming super-luxury SUV has revealed some more of its styling details in a new round of spy shots. Set to debut later this year, Bentley’s first-ever utility vehicle will be called ‘Bentayga’.
    Bentley explains that the SUV’s name was inspired by the company’s namesake as well as the natural world; Taiga, the world’s largest transcontinental snowforest, resides to the North of Bentley’s HQ while the Roque Bentayga rock formation is to the south in the Canary Islands.

    “Bentayga is a name that reflects what we know our SUV will do better than any other car in the world – combine the best automotive luxury with outstanding performance to take the Bentley experience to new environments,” said Wolfgang Dürheimer, Chairman and CEO of Bentley Motors.

    Bentley has so far only released a few teaser shots of the Bentayga, but spy shots have given us a good idea of what to expect from the off-roader. Billed as the “most luxurious and most powerful SUV in the market,” it’s clear that the SUV will take styling cues from Bentley’s latest Flying Spur sedan. Whereas the EXP 9 F concept featured front end-styling more in line with the range-topping Mulsanne, this prototype uses four LED headlight lifted from the sportier Flying Spur. The Bentayga will also sport a front grille, shapely hood and rear haunches inspired by the Flying Spur.

    No concrete mechanical details have been revealed, but the Bentayga will likely utilize elements of the platform shared by the next-generation Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. Bentley’s twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W12 will be the only motor available at launch, but a plug-in hybrid drivetrain will be introduced in 2017. The SUV will eventually be offered with the company’s 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8.

    The Bentayga will launch in 2016 with a two-row configuration, but an optional third-row is under consideration.

    The SUV’s interior will be pure luxury with plenty of leather and wood. The SUV will use the same steering wheel as the Flying Spur, but it looks as though the utility vehicle could adopt an all-LCD instrument cluster.

    Even with pricey ‘utes from Lamborghini and Maserati set to arrive in coming years, the Bentley could well end up as the world’s most expensive SUV thanks to a starting price north of $200,000. In the past, Bentley has hinted at plans to sell 3,000 examples each year – which would make it the automaker’s highest-volume vehicle.

    The launch of the Bentayga, which will be built in Crewe, England (not Slovakia as previously rumored), will create 1,000 jobs in the UK. Bentley is investing $1.23 billion to develop the SUV and other new models, as well as to upgrade its headquarters in Crewe.

  • New Porsche 911 GT3 RS specs leak

    February 24, 2015
    New details have leaked on the 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS ahead of the car’s official unveiling at next month’s Geneva Motor Show. The new RS is expected to take a significant leap over the regular GT3 in terms of weight reduction and overall performance.
    Thanks to previous spy shots, we already know that the 911 GT3 RS will sport a number of aerodynamic enhancements, including a wide body borrowed from the 911 Turbo, large air scoops, air vents on the front fenders and, of course, a massive rear wing. The 911 GT3 RS also features a wide rear track for added grip, and insiders say the coupe will boast “near race car levels of downforce.”

    Earlier spy shots show that the interior offers sport seats with the “GT3 RS” logo embroidered in the headrests and a roll cage in lieu of the rear seats, while headroom is increased thanks to a double-bubble roof panel.

    Sources close to Porsche have revealed the 911 GT3 RS will use a brand new naturally-aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six engine. According to Autocar, the 911 GT3 RS will develop 494 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, or roughly 5 percent more power than the outgoing model. Although previous reports indicated that the 911 GT3 RS would be available exclusively with the company’s PDK dual-clutch transmission, it now appears likely that a proper manual gearbox will also be on offer.

    Porsche’s electronic four-wheel steering system will come standard, and the coupe will pack numerous weight-saving components such as a lithium-ion battery and an exhaust system made out of titanium.

    Last year, Porsche was forced to recall the standard GT3 due to an engine issue that could lead to a fire, but it looks as though those kinks have been worked out in the GT3 RS. Look for the 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 RS to debut in about two week’s time.

  • First Drive: 2015 Opel Adam Rocks [Review]

    February 24, 2015
    Those who are old enough to remember the Nixon administration – or those who have carefully studied automotive history – have undoubtedly seen Buick-Opel ads. Built in Germany, a handful of Opel models including the Kadett and the Manta were sold through Buick dealerships in the 1960s and 1970s in a bid to fend off competition from Japanese and other European imports. The experiment failed for a multitude of reasons and the Opel brand was sent back to the Old Continent.
    Re-badged Opels sporadically joined the Pontiac and Saturn lineups in the 1980s and the 2000s, respectively, but they didn’t make a full-on comeback to North America until the fifth-gen Buick Regal was introduced in 2011. The Regal opened the proverbial floodgates. Today, the Verano compact and the recently-introduced 2016 Cascada convertible both trace their roots to Rüsselsheim, Germany.

    Buick could soon expand its lineup with a new city car derived from the Opel Adam. Far from a wild, unsubstantiated rumor, the information comes straight from Duncan Aldred, the U.S. Vice President of Buick and GMC. Federalizing the Adam is easier said than done because it wasn’t designed to comply with U.S. regulations, but Aldred hinted that Buick is trying to fast-track the process and the 500-fighting hatchback is likely to reach our shores by the end of the decade.

    What is it?
    The Adam Rocks is Opel’s answer to the Fiat 500C. In addition to gaining a cloth soft top that retracts at the push of a button, the Rocks stands out from the standard Adam hatchback thanks to a rugged appearance that is characterized by a slightly raised ground clearance and crossover-esque styling cues such as black trim on both bumpers, on the wheel arches and on the rocker panels. In that regard, the Adam Rocks is a unique offering in its segment.

    A nearly endless list of options lets buyers spruce up the Adam Rocks. The available add-ons include stickers, caps for the door mirrors and, interestingly, the rear-view mirror, colorful trim pieces in the cockpit, several alloy wheel designs that can be accented with plastic clips and so forth. All told, it’s highly unlikely to find two Adams that are exactly alike.

    Designed primarily for crowded cities, the Adam Rocks stretches 147 inches long, 58.6 inches tall and 67.7 inches wide, dimensions that place it between the Fiat 500 and the MINI Cooper – two of its closest rivals – in terms of size. It tips the scale at about 2,450 pounds in its lightest configuration.

    Throughout most of Europe, the Adam Rocks comes standard with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 86 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 95 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission spins the front wheels, and a five-speed automated manual is available at an extra cost.

    Tested here, the Rocks’ optional engine is a brand new turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder unit that generates 114 horsepower between 5,000 and 6,000 rpm and a healthy 125 lb-ft. of torque between 1,800 and 4,500 rpm. Linked exclusively to a six-speed manual gearbox, the direct-injected triple sends the Adam Rocks from zero to 62 mph in a claimed 9.9 seconds and on to an Autobahn-friendly top speed of 121 mph – it’s built in Germany, after all.

    Life Aboard
    Up front, the Adam Rocks is surprisingly roomy considering its small footprint and space is never an issue. The HVAC controls are found at the bottom of the center stack and all of the buttons are grouped into two clusters located on either side of the touch screen, a setup that creates a refreshingly clean-looking dashboard. That being said, the touch screen would be a lot more user-friendly if it was moved up by two or so inches.

    The instrument cluster is made up of four easy-to-read analog gauges and a configurable thin-film transistor (TFT) screen that looks rather dated. Similarly, the steering-wheel mounted switches for the cruise control and the stereo are generic units that are found in a number of General Motors products and they take a certain amount of time to get used to. The rest of the interior is made from quality materials that help the Adam live up to its near-premium aspirations.

    The Adam comes standard with IntelliLink, a touch screen-based infotainment system used in a wide number of Opel and other General Motors products. IntelliLink lets the passengers control the Adam’s connectivity and entertainment functions, and it can be paired with iOS and Android devices to run applications like BringGo navigation. This makes it possible to get detailed step-by-step navigation directions without having to tick a three-digit option box, a feature that the Adam’s relatively young target audience is certain to appreciate.

    The rear seats are adequately spacious for such a small car, though it goes without saying that they’re better suited to carrying children than NBA players. Trunk space checks in at six cubic feet with four occupants on board and 23 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat.

    A small button located next to the map light opens and closes the canvas top in a little over five seconds. It can be opened at nearly any speed and closed at up to 87 mph.

    On the Road
    Three-cylinder engines are hit or miss – they can be frenetic but ineffective, kind of like a hamster trying to push a dresser, or they can be quiet, punchy and well-rounded. The turbo three bolted in the Adam’s engine bay is the latter type thanks in part to a wide torque band and a balance shaft located in the oil pan.

    The Adam is equally at home on back roads, where it’s lively and engaging to drive, as it is in the city. The six-speed ‘box is well geared, and we appreciate that the shift lever is located on the center console, not on the dashboard like in the Fiat 500. The electric power steering is a little on the assisted side. In fact, Opel admits that one of the first modifications it made to the Adam when it was designing the 150-horsepower S model was to stiffen the steering in order to increase road feel.

    On the other hand, the suspension setup is more oriented towards sport than towards comfort. This helps reduce body roll but it also makes the Adam a little rough over poor pavement. The brakes quickly bring the Adam to a stop, though it should be noted that the 114-horsepower model is the only member of the Rocks lineup to benefit from four discs. Adams ordered with the less powerful four-banger get by with old-fashioned drums out back.

    We came close to 46 mpg in mixed driving, which is about on par with what Opel says the Adam should return. The 1.0-liter comes standard with a seamless start/stop system that stands out as one of the best units we’ve tested on any car regardless of size and price.

    Leftlane‘s Bottom Line
    Opel’s first entry into the lucrative near-premium city car segment is a winner. Some might find the 500C’s retro-inspired design more charming, but the Adam Rocks is unquestionably better built than its Italian rival and more comfortable, especially on longer drives.

    With a few market-specific tweaks such as a slightly softer suspension, we’re confident that the Adam will have what it takes to give the current crop of subcompact hatchbacks a run for their money if it is added to the Buick lineup.

    Photos by Ronan Glon.

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