• Ford re-engineers "spider screen" for MY2016

    August 6, 2015
    Ford announced Wednesday that it has a new solution to a common automotive problem in the United States: Spiders.

    The somewhat unconventional announcement (see lead image) outlined a very conventional solution: a screen. The new screen is designed to prevent spider infestations from compromising vehicle fuel systems.

    The culprit? An exceedingly common breed of arachnid referred to as the yellow sac spider, which can be found just about everywhere in North America.

    “These particular Arachnids are not sedentary – they are hunters and constantly roaming,” explained David Gimby, Ford fuel systems engineer. “When it’s time to build a birthing cocoon or an over-winter cocoon, they seek a cavity or a depression, like a fuel vapor line opening, which allows them to maximize the use of their silk.”

    Ford has been working on variants of the countermeasure since 1999, when Gimby first sought a solution to infestations. The new screen is an evolution of a design that was first implemented in 2004.

    Mazda recalled 42,000 vehicles in the US market just last year due to spider infestations. The spiders’ webs blocked evaporative canister vent lines, causing problems with fuel-tank pressure.

    In some cases, the tanks were vulnerable to cracking and leaking fuel, though the company did not know of any fires or accidents caused by compromised fuel systems.

    The problems were not limited to Mazda’s fleet; similar blockages were reported in Honda and Hyundai models.

  • Lexus testing "no-haggle" dealer program

    August 6, 2015
    Lexus is experimenting with a no-negotiation experience in a dozen of its U.S. dealerships.

    The brand, which is supported by 236 dealerships in the United States, made the announcement at this week’s CAR Management Briefing Seminars.

    Lexus Division General Manager Jeff Bracken told industry insiders and reporters that the experiment is founded on an attempt to further elevate the already-praised Lexus customer experience, reports Automotive News.

    Even if the program is widely adopted, Lexus will not be the first in the Toyota brand family to employ a no-haggle strategy; Scion dealerships have operated under the “Pure Price” program since the brand was launched in the early part of this century.

    It’s unclear whether a shift to no-haggle pricing will buoy sales; Scion has struggled to maintain its low-margin strategy since the economic collapse and the only other brand to employ it on a long-term basis is GM’s now-defunct Saturn brand.

    Lexus sales are up more than 13% in 2015; the brand is in the hunt to reclaim the luxury sales volume crown which it lost to BMW in 2011.

  • Entry-level Audi R8 to get 2.9-liter V6?

    August 6, 2015

    Audi is widely believed to be developing an entry-level version of the second-generation R8 powered by a downsized engine, and a new report coming out of England sheds insight into what we can expect from it.

    According to Car magazine, the previous-gen model’s naturally-aspirated 4.2-liter V8 engine will be replaced by a brand new 2.9-liter V6 fitted with at least one turbo. The six-cylinder will make approximately 450 horsepower in its initial state of tune, roughly 35 more than the V8 it replaces but 90 less than the top-spec model’s naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter V10.

    The displacement wasn’t chosen at random. China, one of Audi’s biggest markets, slaps tariffs on all foreign-built cars with an engine that displaces over 3.0-liters. Audi’s new mill falls below the threshold with less than 100 cubic centimeters to spare, so it will help boost R8 sales in the world’s largest new car market. An evolution of the mill will be fitted to the next RS 4 for similar reasons.

    Previous reports hinted the V6-powered R8 was at least a couple of years away from hitting showrooms. However, since it was designed largely for China Audi likely won’t waste any time bringing it to the market, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it bow in the next couple months.

  • Review: 2015 Range Rover Sport V8 SVR

    August 6, 2015

    To the Brits, and according to UrbanDictionary.com, a Yob is “the antithesis of what a good boy should be – rude, obnoxious, violent and stupid.” Coined in the 18th century, it was a popular pastime of the UK’s upper crust to speak backwards derogatorily, hence Yob for boy. The 2015 Range Rover Sport V8 SVR is the perfect example of a Yob.

    Still, the SVR is reason enough for us to put on our hooligan finest for a day of cruising in Land Rover’s bad boy.

    What is it?
    The Range Rover Sport SVR is the more brash and boisterous big brother of the already stellar Range Rover Sport that was revised in model year 2014. A midsized four-wheel-drive luxury SUV, it can be ordered with seating for five, or seven passengers. Our SVR (Land Rover-speak for Special Vehicle Racing) example featured seating for four, with space for an occasional fifth passenger.

    For power, the SVR “ripped” the modified 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine from the parts bin of its Jaguar F-Type cousin. The result is a huffed V8 with modified Bosch engine management software that produces 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque, with 0 to 60-mph timing in the neighborhood of 4.2-seconds. Intercoolers with larger under-bumper openings allow for colder air charges, and the subsequent increase in horsepower from this carbon fiber-cladded piece of art.

    That trim, fit and reserved engine is mated exclusively to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, which has been tweaked to offer rev-matching and shifts that are twice as fast as those from the regular Range Rover Sport. The eight-speed box is modified with features like Corner Recognition that holds one gear slightly longer, through a turn, or during an overtaking maneuver on a highway. The permanent four-wheel-drive is equipped with a two-speed transfer case for off-roading and other challenging terrain, while the center differential blends traction from a front to rear bias of 50:50 up to 100-percent, as needed.

    Speaking auditorially, a two-staged exhaust system with baffles helps intensify the engine’s rasp, thanks to some five-finger discount-style parts acquisitions from Jaguar. Blue painted Brembo performance braking calipers bring the SVR safely to a halt, following a spirited romp on the freeway.

    The all aluminum monocoque unibody rides on a cross-linked air suspension while magnetorheological shocks, similar to General Motors’ Magnetic Ride Control, soften or firm up the SVR’s ride as needed while on the fly. Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system returns, as does the Range Rover Sport’s 9.3-inches of ground clearance.

    Our top-shelf sampler starts as a base Range Rover Sport V8 and is then festooned with the SVR package whose contents generally include items found on the more pedestrian Autobiography model. For buyers who do not have the requisite need for speed, the RR Sport can be had in six other flavors ranging from SE, HSE, HSE Limited, Supercharged, Supercharged Limited, and Autobiography.

    What’s it up against?
    While the Range Rover Sport SVR matches up size-wise with other midsize luxury SUVs, its direct competitors are the performance variants of the segment. They include the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, the Mercedes-Benz M63 AMG, the BMW X5M and in a case of American Muscle, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.

    How does it look?
    All the features that help to make the Range Rover Sport as handsome as it is show up once again on the SVR. They include the floating black Santorini roof with its panoramic sunroof, the black contrasting functional hood and side air vents, and the gaping air intakes under the front bumper for the twin intercoolers. Blacked-out lettering, and SVR badging front and rear, let the rest of the world know this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Land Rover.

    At the rear is a pair of chrome-tipped exhaust dumps, subtly enveloped in a rear diffuser tray.

    Built like a bulldog, this Ranger is squatty, wide and mean, with all the features a performance vehicle should have, and none of the “Because Race Car” add-ons it shouldn’t. For example, one of those notably missing items is a pair of fog lamps, which we think would only cheapen the look, anyway.

    And on the inside?
    If you were expecting wood veneer inside, then you’re barking up the wrong Range Rover. Instead, we rode with carbon fiber veneers ($2,300) throughout, and enough aluminum trim to cause Reynolds Aluminum shareholders to call for a stock dividend. The interior’s highlights would have to be the sports seats in front, which are fully bolstered, and feel just like those found in a Jaguar F-Type. The effect carries over into the rear seating area, with a pair of outboard seats mimicking the F-Type look while offering a temporary third seat between them.

    Electronically, our tester included the 1,700-watt Meridian Signature Audio system with eight-inch display and Jaguar Land Rover’s InControl Apps for Apple and Android connectivity.

    While the steering wheel with paddle shift levers is contemporary Land Rover, items like the gearshift selector and other controls on the center console and dashboard are similar to those found in the Jaguar F-Type. Cargo capacity in the Range Rover Sport is 27.7 cubic feet with the seats in the upright and locked position. Fold them forward and that area grows to 62.2-cubic feet.

    But does it go?
    Athleticism in an SUV is sometimes a tough concept to swallow. Being a British brand tends to complicate matters further, seeing that a typical LR customer would trend to a supermodel or a Walter Mitty-like bond trader who secretly wishes he was sporting a superhero costume under his gray wool suit. Speak softly and carry a big stick, indeed.

    Trust us, that big stick is just waiting in the wings for its curtain call. Roaring to life, the supercharged 5.0-liter V8 gives off a gurgle that rises up to the thunderous roar of a NASCAR Cup Car. It’s when you decide to whomp on the aluminum skinny pedal, that the crescendo starts to build. Subtle at first, it quickly engages the two-stage exhaust system, which takes on the aural behavior of an NHRA dragster.

    The electric power assisted steering offered excellent road feel while remaining well weighted for the task. The end result gives the driver loads of confidence at speed. Ride quality is superb with a sense of quiet for most driving situations. Handling was exceptional and enhanced with both rev-matching from the ZF transmission, as well as brake-based torque-vectoring that helps to shorten the radius of a turn at speed. The net result is a vehicle that while slightly top-heavy, still manages to corner with a minimum of understeer.

    By the numbers, the Range Rover Sport V8 SVR has been tuned and tested as one of the fastest SUVs on the Nurburgring, with a time of 8:14 on the Nordschleife. Zero to 60 mph comes in about 4.2-seconds, while top speed is limited to 162 mph. We saw none of that, instead seeing 15 mpg in combined driving. The EPA says to expect 14 city/19 highway, with 16 combined.

    Leftlane’s bottom line
    Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport V8 SVR takes typical British conservatism and tosses it on its head, with one of the most potent SUVs on the planet. With just the right amount of wrong, Jaguar Land Rover, by way of their Special Vehicle Operations division, shows this Yob is capable of throwing down with the best of them.

    2015 Range Rover Sport V8 SVR base price, $79,995. As tested, $126,360.
    SVR Package, $30,480; Meridian Signature 1,700-watt audio system, $4,150; Adaptive Cruise Control, $1,295; InControl Remote and Protect, $400; Ebony Headliner, $350; InControl Secure, $445; Premium metallic paint, $1,800; SVR Carbon Engine Cover, $2,000; Santorini Black Contrast Roof, $650; Carbon Fiber Veneer, $2,300; Destination fee, $995.

    Photos by Mark Elias.

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  • McLaren planning 570S Spider, GT?

    August 6, 2015
    There is seemingly no end in sight for McLaren’s model offensive. The company introduced an entry-level model dubbed 570S at the New York Motor Show earlier this year, and a new report coming out of England finds that two additional variants will join the lineup in the near future.

    The first off-shoot will be a convertible version of the 570S dubbed Spider. It will be nearly identical to the 570S coupe but it will feature a hard top that will open or close in seconds at the push of a button. The conversion will make the Spider about 90 pounds heavier than the coupe.

    Like the coupe, the 570S Spider will be powered by a mid-mounted twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 engine tuned to make 562 horsepower at 7,400 rpm and 442 lb-ft. of torque from 5,000 to 6,000 rpm. It will be able to reach 62 mph from a stop in about 3.2 seconds and go on to a top speed of over 200 mph.

    Interestingly, the second 570S off-shoot will be an all-new model designed primarily for long-distance trips. Tentatively called 570S GT, it will use the same V8 as its coupe and convertible counterparts but it will boast a specific body designed to provide more cargo space as well as a more spacious and user-friendly cockpit.

    The 570S GT is expected to go on sale next year, and it’s not too far-fetched to speculate that it will be introduced this fall at the Los Angeles Motor Show. The Spider will follow about a year later.