• Lexus LF-LC spied testing in California

    August 1, 2015

    Spyshots of what appears to be a production Lexus LF-LC have hit the web, snapped by several sources during testing in Southern California.

    The heavily camouflaged prototype is presumed to be the upcoming Lexus flagship grand tourer, according to the photographers from The Smoking Tire and Steering News who captured the images. The car was undergoing testing in Angeles Crest, a popular automaker haunt near Los Angeles, wearing Michigan manufacturer plates and accompanied by a Porsche 911, BMW 650i, (likely benchmark vehicles) and Lexus LS.

    The Lexus LF-LC was revealed initially at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. The automaker then followed up unexpectedly with a second concept at the Sydney Motor Show several months later. There’s even been a race version seen in the Gran Turismo video game.

    Likely built on a shortened variation of the platform underpinnig the next-generation Lexus LS, rumored powerplants include a 5.0L V8 and a hybrid V8 capable of 500hp, both borrowed from existing Lexus sedans. Reports of a possible F version, powered by a twin-turbo V8 capable of over 600hp, has been floated as well.

    Though precious few details are known, these spy shots give us the best indication yet of the 2+2 luxury GT’s size and intended competition.

    Images by Daniel DeRosa for Steering News and Matt Farah for The Smoking Tire.

  • Japanese company aims for autonomous taxis by 2020

    August 1, 2015

    As the fight for the autonomous car to market heats up, a new contender from Japan is entering the fray, and hopes to have vehicles on the road by 2020.

    We’ve all heard about the familiar companies such as Google, Audi, Hyundai and Tesla working on self-driving cars. The University of Michigan recently opened a $10 million testing facility dedicated to the endeavor in Detroit’s backyard. It only makes sense that other nations are working on what has been seen as the “holy grail” of transportation tech since before George Jetson opened his first flying suitcase car.

    DeNA, a Tokyo-based tech company, believes it can have driverless cars on Japan’s streets by 2020, according to Bloomberg. The date just happens to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics taking place that year, and would help visitors and athletes navigate the the city’s famously labyrinthine and often unnamed streets.

    Japan has famously used the Olympics as a showcase for its technology. The last time Tokyo hosted the games, in 1964, Japan completed the nation’s first expressway, the bullet train and the first trans-Pacific television broadcast to welcome the world. Currently the cars are modified versions of the last-generation Prius, but the DeNA is in the process of updating to the larger Toyota Estima van (sold in the 1990s as the Previa in the US).

    DeNA’s partner, ZMP, develops helper robots similar to Honda’s ASIMO. Microsoft, Invidia and others have also signed on. DeNA, for its part, began as an online auction site, but has since moved on to the lucrative social gaming market. Could the creator of “Pirate’s Treasure” be the first to market with a driverless car?

  • Mitsubishi introduces new 2016 Pajero Sport

    August 1, 2015
    Following a seemingly endless stream of spy shots, leaks and teaser images, Mitsubishi has officially unveiled the all-new 2016 Pajero Sport (known as the Challenger in select markets) at the Bangkok International Grand Motor Sale.

    The seven-seater off-roader gets a much more aerodynamic design inspired by the updated 2016 Outlander and the upcoming Outlander Sport, while its rear end boasts an upright hatch and vertical tail lamps that stretch from the belt line all the way down to the bumper. All told, Mitsubishi has designed the most style-focused Pajero Sport ever, a move that reflects its upmarket ambitions.

    The new Pajero Sport is based on the L200 pickup that’s sold in a number of global markets so it retains its predecessor’s rugged body-on-frame construction. In Thailand, one of its biggest markets, it will launch with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that spins all four wheels via a brand new eight-speed automatic transmission and an evolution of Mitsubishi’s Super-Select 4WD-II four-wheel drive system.

    Buyers who prefer three pedals will most likely be able to order a manual gearbox, and additional engines are expected to join the lineup later in the production run.

    The new Mitsubishi Pajero Sport will go on sale in over 90 countries before the end of the year, but it’s too early to tell whether it will return to the United States.

    What’s next?

    The Sport will be followed by a brand new version of the full-size Montero that left our shores about a decade ago. Heavily inspired by the GC-PHEV concept, the Montero will be positioned as a Land Rover LR4 for buyers on a budget. It will feature body-on-frame construction, a generous amount of ground clearance and an available plug-in hybrid drivetrain.

  • Mercedes-AMG could offer hybrids by 2020

    August 1, 2015
    Mercedes-AMG has revealed that it could resort to offering hybrid models in the coming years in a bid to comply with the strict emissions regulations that are scheduled to come into effect across Europe.

    Mercedes-AMG parent company Daimler needs to lower its fleet-wide emissions to just 101 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2020 in order to avoid getting fined by the European Union. 95 percent of its models will need to conform to the new rules in 2020, but the following year EU officials will factor in the emissions of every single car that Daimler sells regardless of size and power.

    Interestingly, Mercedes research and development boss Thomas Weber explained that the need for a hybrid-powered AMG stems purely from government regulations, not from customer demand.

    “We haven’t done it so far, because right now the customer wouldn’t buy it. AMG customers tell us they want the sportiest performance option available in any given sector of the performance market. We don’t know when they will be ready for hybrid,” said the executive in an interview with English magazine Autocar.

    What model line will usher in AMG’s first-ever hybrid drivetrain is anyone’s guess. Similarly, it is too early to tell precisely what the drivetrain will consist of, but Weber hinted it will most likely be a mild hybrid system with a small motor and a compact battery pack. A mild hybrid system isn’t the most efficient solution but it’s light and cheap to build.