• GM patches OnStar hacking vulnerability

    July 30, 2015
    General Motors has quickly patched a security vulnerability that could have allowed hackers to breach the company’s OnStar RemoteLink system.

    The vulnerability was demonstrated by security researcher Samy Kamkar in a YouTube video. He claims to have found a way to locate, unlock and remote-start any vehicle with RemoteLink, after intercepting the communication between the mobile app and GM’s OnStar servers.

    “More technicals details to come at Defcon and in a future video,” the video notes.

    Before releasing full details, Kamkar reportedly worked with GM as the automaker developed a patch to prevent attacks using the method. The company has already implemented the fix, which apparently required server-side changes rather than new software installed to the vehicle itself.

    “GM product cybersecurity representatives have reviewed the potential vulnerability recently identified by Mr. Kamkar, and a fix has already been implemented to address this concern,” GM said in a statement to The Detroit News. “No additional action is required by our customers.”

    The issue has surfaced a week after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles dealt with a similar situation involving its Uconnect infotainment systems. A team of researchers had developed an exploit that allowed them to remotely control a Jeep Cherokee‘s brakes and steering. The company initially handled the problem quietly, crafting a software update to protect the infotainment systems, however the fix was later elevated to a formal safety recall affecting 1.4 million vehicles.

    Security researchers have become increasingly vocal in warning of the potential vulnerabilities in modern vehicles. Integrated cellular connections, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth all serve as potential avenues for attack, and security patches can be difficult to distribute across an entire fleet if owners must bring their vehicle to a dealer for a software update.

    “Cyber security is a global issue facing virtually every industry today, and a lot of work continues to been done at GM in this space,” GM said. “Our customers’ safety and security is paramount and we are taking a multi-faceted approach to secure in-vehicle and connected vehicle systems, monitor and detect cyber security threats, and design vehicle systems that can be updated with enhanced security as these potential threats arise.”

  • Lamborghini to show new ultra-exclusive model at Pebble Beach

    July 30, 2015
    Lamborghini is reportedly preparing to privately show a new ultra-exclusive model to a select group of collectors at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

    Details remain scant, but an unnamed source has told Motor Trend the hypercar will likely see an extremely limited production run of 20 coupes and 10 roadsters. If production volume is any hint, the mystery model will follow in the footsteps of Lamborghini’s Reventon and Veneno (pictured).

    Sold in coupe and convertible form, the Veneno represents one of the Raging Bull’s most extravagant creations. Its 6.5-liter V12 engine, borrowed from the Aventador, was tuned to deliver 755 horsepower to all four wheels. Several years have passed since the company sold all 13 examples, each fetching more than $4 million, and the new mystery model will presumably be aimed at the same customers.

    The latest report speculates that the company will attempt to find a middle ground between the Reventon and Veneno, suggesting pricing will be set around $2 million. It is expected to be based on the Aventador, with output bumped up to around 800 horsepower. The model could shed some weight and will presumably bring a distinct body styling.

    The company is not expected to show the model publicly at Pebble Beach, though it could be formally unveiled in Frankfurt.

  • FCA profits up by 69 percent in Q2 as Jeep continues to soar

    July 30, 2015
    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is celebrating a solid second quarter, with net profits jumping by 69 percent to 333 million euros (~$363 million USD).

    Adjusted earnings (before interest and taxes) rose by 58 percent to 557 million euros (~$607 million USD) during the three-month period ending in June, while net revenues increased by 25 percent to 29.2 billion euros (~$31.8 billion USD).

    The automaker’s overall performance continues to benefit from the Jeep brand, which experienced a 27-percent surge in global deliveries compared to the same quarter last year.

    Deliveries across all brands in North America rose by eight percent, helping offset a 32-percent decline in Latin America. The company posted an adjusted loss of 144 million euros (~$157 million USD) in the latter region, mostly due to economic weakness and declining market share in Brazil, though the numbers also reflect costs associated with opening a factory in Pernambuco.

    Adjusted EBIT for FCA’s Ferrari division was up by 18 percent to 124 million euros (~$135 million USD) as the company edges closer to the luxury sports-car marque’s initial public offering. FCA chief Sergio Marchionne has said that he expects the spinoff to be worth more than 10 billion euros (~$10.9 billion USD).

    FCA expects global shipments to reach 4.8 million units for the full year, with net revenues surpassing 110 billion euros (~$120 billion USD).

  • Review: 2015 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite

    July 30, 2015

    With a face that a cleaning-obsessed Soccer Mom could love, the vacuum cleaner-equipped 2015 Honda Odyssey Minivan sucks. But that could be just what parents of an active brood of kids are looking for when it comes time to shop for a family van.

    But not just for parents anymore, the Odyssey uses simple conveniences to help push the envelope in minivan design and style. The end-result is a vehicle that would fit in, whether the owner’s primary goal was to deliver flowers or the family, with the bonus of being able to quickly clean up any mishaps that may have occurred along the way.

    What is it?
    Having the ability to carry as many as eight passengers puts the Honda Odyssey near the top of the class when it comes to abilities. Powered by a 3.5-liter iVTEC V6 engine that makes 248 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, it’s definitely not a slug. Well, not quite a slug. The multi-point fuel-injected engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission to drive the front wheels.

    This newer-gen V6 includes Honda’s variable cylinder management (VCM) system, which allows it to use all six, three, or four cylinders, depending on the engine’s workload. For example, while hard acceleration will have all six cylinders firing, highway cruising may shut off two or three cylinders to minimize engine wear and fuel consumption.

    The unibody structure of the Odyssey, which borrows bits from the Honda Accord and Pilot, plus an Acura crossover or two, rides on a MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink double wishbone rear kit that makes this probably the most car-like driving minivan in the segment.

    The 2015 Honda Odyssey is available in five trim levels ranging from base LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and our high-zoot Touring Elite version. All are well equipped, some just a little more well-equipped than others. For example, the base LX is only available in a seven-passenger configuration. As such, stepping up to the higher trim levels, like our Touring Elite model, includes such features as a 16-inch widescreen video display for the rear seats, a cool box at the base of the dashboard to add some chill to canned or bottled drinks, and a two – three – three seating configuration for a maximum amount of utility. And that’s before we even discussed the HondaVAC vacuum cleaner.

    Though not ground-breaking, the Odyssey includes thoughtful items that will help drivers who might otherwise become distracted while carrying a full load of mulch from the home improvement store or a full team of little leaguers to their pizza parlor awards dinner at the end of the season. They include an expanded view driver’s mirror, Honda LaneWatch, and Collision Alert, as well as an 80-degree view of the passenger side roadway, and a multi-angle rearview camera for normal and top-down views all around the vehicle. The aforementioned HondaVAC boasts of more power than a typical handheld vacuum and includes a hose that can reach to the far hinterlands of the Odyssey’s interior.

    What’s it up against?
    Competitors to the Odyssey include the Chrysler Town & Country, a newly refreshed Toyota Sienna with optional all-wheel-drive, the Nissan Quest, and Kia Sedona. Word on the street says there may be a redesigned Odyssey for model year 2017.

    How does it look?
    Redesigned in 2011 and receiving various refreshes since that time, the Odyssey appears slightly futuristic, even with side panels that don’t quite look like they flow from one to the next. In fact it looks like the rear third of this Honda came from a totally different vehicle. Still, it manages to impress in its looks and utility.

    Totally functional, our Odyssey featured useful fitments including driver and passenger-side rear sliding doors, as well as an automatic functioning liftgate. All can be opened using the remote control key fob.

    And on the inside?
    Just as clothes can make the man, features can make the minivan. In the case of the Odyssey, all the little bits add up to quite a lot. Items like active noise cancellation, and a standard rearview camera, offer welcomed driver assists, while the below-console cooler with room for six water bottles or conversely a dozen juice boxes. The Wideview display screen will enthrall and in some instances, quiet the younger charges that may occupy the rear seating area.

    About those rear seats: Our Odyssey included a configurable middle seat that can be used to separate kids who are in the “Mom, he won’t stop touching me,” phase. Additionally, they offer side or middle aisle access to the third row. By the numbers, the Odyssey offers 38.4 cubic feet behind the third row, 93.1 cubic feet behind the second, and 148.5 cubic feet behind the front row seating. That’s just about right for hauling the 60-inch flatscreen back home to the man cave.

    But does it go?
    Hauling a nearly full load of seven passengers and their things really showed the Odyssey’s capabilities. Granted, this is not the most powerful engine in Honda’s product portfolio, that title going to Honda Performance Division’s Indy Racing mill. Still, the iVTEC V6 still manages to show its polished performance in all tasks that are asked of it.

    But sometimes more than just a smooth operator is needed, especially when carrying around a curb weight of 4,613-pounds, in addition to seven passengers. We found it sometimes necessary to jab at the accelerator to cause a downshift, which created more revs for quicker entry and passing into rapidly moving expressway traffic.

    Still, the Odyssey never once balked or offered any undue feedback, instead choosing to do its job quietly. Credit the active noise cancellation for allowing us to use our inside voices when conversing.

    From a handling point of view, the Odyssey impressed with its low, hunkered down feel that translated into secure cornering with lack of body roll on winding roads. Steering was well modulated, without the sloppiness or numbness on center that is sometimes found in other minivans, not to mention cars in the mid-sized sedan segment.

    Leftlane’s bottom line
    Thanks to ongoing improvements to interior fitment and utility, not to mention a quiet ride, the Honda Odyssey remains the class of the field. Between the underdash coolbox and the 16-inch big screen display, why would you ever want to leave?

    2015 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite base price, $44,600. As tested, $45,430. Destination fee, $830.

    Photos by Mark Elias.

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  • IIHS: Ford F-150′s aluminum body costs more to repair

    July 30, 2015

    Stepping out of its traditional focus on safety tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crashed the new aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 to gauge repair costs.

    The institute ran crash tests at 10 mph with the new F-150 crew cab and its steel-bodied predecessor from the 2014 model year. Engineers started by crashing the front left corner of the aluminum pickup into the rear right corner of the steel pickup, then flipped the test and ran the steel pickup into the rear of the aluminum model.

    The aluminum pickup experienced “more extensive damage” in both scenarios, resulting in total repair costs 26 percent higher. The premium was associated with additional labor to fix the front end, and higher parts costs for the rear-end damage.

    “From a simple bolt-on parts replacement to a more-involved removal and installation of entire body panels, fixing the aluminum F-150 is more expensive than repairing a steel-body F-150,” said IIHS research chief David Zuby.

    IIHS took a particularly close look at the new F-150, which represents the first mass-market vehicle with an all-aluminum body. The crew-cab package earned Top Safety Pick Honors, but the extended-cab model received a ‘marginal’ rating in the small-overlap test.