• 2016 Honda Accord gains new look, more tech

    July 24, 2015

    For the 2016 model year, the Honda Accord benefits from several improvements inside and out.

    Starting on the outside, the Accord’s front end has been completely redesigned with new headlights, a more sculpted bumper and an updated radiator grille that falls in line with Honda’s latest design language. Out back, the sedan is fitted with new-look LED tail lamps connected by an elegant strip of chrome trim.

    Billed as the most high-tech Accord ever built, the 2016 model is the first Honda compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Additionally, all models regardless of trim level can be ordered with Honda Sensing, a suite of advanced driving and safety features that includes Forward Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist and Collision Mitigation Braking System.

    The Japanese car maker has added more standard and optional equipment, too. Notably, all trim levels come standard with a multi-angle rear-view camera, while range-topping Touring models boast automatic high beams, heated rear seats, rain-sensing wipers and parking sensors on both ends.

    Honda has not made any mechanical modifications to the Accord, meaning buyers will be asked to choose between a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 278 horsepower. The four-cylinder can be ordered with either a six-speed manual or a CVT, while the six is offered with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.

    The 2016 Honda Accord will go on sale next month. Pricing information hasn’t been published yet.

  • LIVE: 2016 Opel Astra

    July 24, 2015
    The all-new 2016 Opel Astra has made its official debut at a small media event held in Paris, France.

    Starting with the same platform that underpins the 2016 Chevrolet Volt, Opel engineers have managed to shave a significant amount of weight from the Astra’s relatively small frame. Depending on spec, the new Astra is between 264 pounds and 485 pounds lighter than the model currently sitting in Opel showrooms.

    Base engines in the new Astra consist of a 1.6-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder available with either 90, 110 or 136 horsepower, and a 1.0-liter gasoline-burning three-cylinder with direct-injection and turbocharging technologies. Also found under the hood of the Adam and the Corsa, the triple has been tweaked to develop 105 horsepower.

    A brand new mid-level turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine derived from the three-pot is also offered. It delivers 145 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque in its most potent application. Opel will eventually offer a range-topping version of the Astra with a 200-horsepower twin-turbocharged engine.

    On the styling front, the new Astra borrows many of its design cues from the Monza Concept that was presented at the 2013 edition of the Frankfurt Motor Show. Signature elements include headlights that flow into the hatchback’s radiator grill to emphasize its width, a rising belt line with a pronounced “blade” at the rear and a divided C-pillar intended to give the illusion of a floating roof. The new Astra is about five centimeters shorter than the outgoing model.

    Passenger- and tech-focused
    Despite its smaller footprint, the Astra is actually noticeably larger on the inside, it offers better visibility and designers have made it easier to get in and out of. Passengers also benefit from Opel’s latest IntelliLink infotainment system, which offers a built-in 4G LTE hot spot and is now compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Other creature comforts include front seats with a massaging function and heated outboard rear seats, two firsts in the nameplate’s long history.

    The Astra ushers in the European version of General Motors’ OnStar service. All models regardless of trim level come pre-equipped with OnStar, and it is free for the first year. How much it will cost after that has not been announced yet and it will likely vary from country to country, though Opel told us it should cost less than a hundred euros (about $110) a year.

    OnStar is debuting on the Astra, but all members of the Opel lineup from the tiny Karl to the Insignia Country Tourer flagship will be offered with the technology in the coming months.

    The new Astra introduces Opel’s IntelliLux LED system to the compact segment. Consisting of eight LED segments in each of the Astra’s headlights, the IntelliLux LED system, which works with the car’s on-board camera, is capable of deactivating certain sections of lights based on oncoming traffic. As a result, the Astra’s high beams can stay on all the time without blinding other motorists.

    “Three values are decisive for the new Astra – efficiency, innovation and dynamic performance,” summed up Opel Group CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann. “Our engineers developed it from the proverbial white sheet of paper.”

    No pricing information was released, but we expect to learn more on that front closer to the Astra’s public debut in Frankfurt. When it goes on sale, the 2016 Opel Astra will fight in the same arena as the Volkswagen Golf, the Ford Focus and the Peugeot 308.

    Live images by Ronan Glon.

  • Toyota stalls plans to build Lexus models in China

    July 24, 2015
    Toyota has reportedly stalled plans to build Lexus models in China.

    Two company executives told Reuters that sales must consistently surpass 100,000 units annually in the country before it will make sense to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into a new assembly line.

    Automakers have been scrambling to establish a manufacturing presence in the world’s largest automotive market, where sales have exploded in recent years. The situation has changed in the past few months, however, with June sales representing the first decline in 28 months.

    The latest trouble has been blamed on a volatile stock market, with a recent selloff erasing nearly $4 trillion in value. Even if the market completely rebounds, analysts fear that the country could be facing slower economic growth and more cautious purchasing behavior from automakers’ target customers.

    Toyota had been nearing a final decision on Lexus production in China when the crisis struck. One executive suggested the weak yen may be an even more significant factor that discourages an immediate production shift out of Japan.

    “Toyota’s committed to China, and we will eventually start producing Lexus cars here,” one executive said.

    The ES sedan and RX crossover are said to be the top choices for local assembly in China. Depending on market conditions and sales performance, Toyota is now said to be eyeing 2018 as the earliest window for building a Lexus factory in the country.

  • GM files patent for cloud-based car settings

    July 24, 2015
    General Motors has filed a new patent in the United States that could one day see vehicle settings stored in the cloud rather than locally on a vehicle.

    The recently filed patent, which was posted on freepatentsonline.com, indicates GM is working on a system that would make it easier to move from vehicle to vehicle. Rather than relying on settings saved to a specific car, GM’s cloud-based system would follow the user.

    After clearing security via a text code, voice recognition, RFID chip or fingerprint scanner, the system would zap a person’s personal setting via an internet connection to whatever car they happen to be driving. More than just a person’s favorite radio presets, the settings would including things like seat positioning, mirror settings and personal information such as phone numbers and navigation destination.

    Naturally security is going be a concern when transmitting sensitive data, but GM says the information would only be accessible by the registered user.

    GM notes that such a system would be particularly useful for rental cars or car-sharing programs. Likewise, the system could come in handy for households that have multiple drivers using the same vehicle.

    It remains to be seen if GM has any production plans for such a system and, if so, how long it would take to bring to market. But with the connected car revolution spreading like wildfire, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some kind of variant of GM’s patent on the road within a few years.

  • FTC investigates GM dealers over ‘certified’ used cars sold with defects

    July 24, 2015
    General Motors is reportedly facing a Federal Trade Commission investigation into sales of recalled vehicles by used-car dealers.

    Such practice is not itself illegal, however authorities appear to be taking issue with ‘certified’ pre-owned vehicles that are leaving dealer lots without first receiving recall repairs.

    “On June 3, 2015 we received notice of an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission concerning certified pre-owned vehicle advertising where dealers had certified vehicles allegedly needing recall repairs,” GM wrote in its latest 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    The company has not publicly disclosed additional details beyond the brief summary in the financial disclosure, however the wording suggests that FTC investigators may be targeting both GM and its franchised dealers.

    The filing also cautions that “various investigations” related to the ignition-switch recall are still ongoing. Potential fines or other penalties could be levied by the US Department of Justice, Congress, SEC, Transport Canada or 50 state attorneys general.

    “We continue to investigate these matters and believe we are cooperating fully with all requests for information in ongoing investigations,” the filing notes. “Such investigations could in the future result in the imposition of material damages, fines, civil consent orders, civil and criminal penalties or other remedies.”