• Honda teases open-wheel concept with V4 motorcycle engine

    August 26, 2015
    Honda has released a teaser image for an open-wheel concept powered by a motorcycle engine.

    Borne of a competition between Honda’s global design studios, the ‘Project 2 & 4′ concept was created by a collaboration between the company’s motorcycle design center in Asaka, Japan, and its automobile design headquarters in Wako, Japan.

    “The Honda Project 2 & 4 is the result of the company’s continuous effort to create a more exciting user experience,” the company said in a statement. “Honda Project 2 & 4′s cabin-less structure produces an immersive driving environment combining the experience Honda has in providing the freedom of a motorcycle and the maneuverability of a car.”

    The open-wheel car is powered by a V4 engine borrowed from Honda’s RC213V race bike for the MotoGP series. The 1,000-cc mill produces more than 215 horsepower and 87 lb-ft of torque, revving all the way up to 13,000 rpm.

    Honda’s announcement does not hint at production ambitions for the unique concept, which will be formally unveiled next month in Frankfurt. Buyers looking for a similar car may be able to eventually purchase Volkswagen’s XL Sport, featuring Ducati’s V-Twin engine from the 1199 Superleggera.

  • Ford considering Bronco revival?

    August 26, 2015
    Rumors surrounding Ford’s alleged plans for another US-market Ranger have become a bit more interesting, as a fresh report suggests the company is also considering a Bronco resurrection.

    The midsize SUV would be built upon the same platform as the Ranger and produced alongside the pickup at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, unnamed sources have told Bloomberg.

    Not coincidentally, the unofficial reports have surfaced as Ford continues contract renegotiations with the United Auto Workers. An earlier rumor ahead of talks claimed that Ford was planning to shift Focus and C-Max production from Wayne to Mexico. The Focus leak was viewed as posturing to strengthen the company’s position during negotiations, though the company publicly denied that a final decision had been made.

    The original Bronco was introduced in 1966 and kept alive through five generations spanning three decades. Ford presented a futuristic Bronco concept at the 2004 NY Auto Show, however the idea did not immediately move toward production. Later rumors suggested Ford was planning a launch for the 2009 model year, but again the allegations failed to materialize.

    A new Bronco is expected to be larger than the Escape, closer in size to the Explorer but more rugged than both existing models. It will likely be presented as a rival to the Jeep Wrangler.

    If the new reports prove accurate, the US-market Ranger and Bronco could begin production in Wayne after the Focus and C-Max head elsewhere in 2018.

  • Hyundai to focus on high-performance ‘N’ sub-brand in Frankfurt

    August 26, 2015
    Hyundai has announced plans to highlight its new high-performance sub-brand, known simply as ‘N,’ at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

    The Korean automaker will preview its latest World Rally Championship racer, based on the New Generation i20. Prototype cars are already undergoing testing and late development toward final rally-spec for the 2016 season.

    The company will also bring its Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo concept (pictured) to the show. Designed for virtual use in the popular video game series, the radical concept presents a “perspective on future performance characteristics.”

    The Veloster-based RM15 concept, initially unveiled at the Seoul auto show in April, will also be on display in Frankfurt. Hyundai claims the mid-engine hatchback, which boasts 300 horsepower, is said to represent how Hyundai’s N technologies could come into production.

    Recent rumors suggest Hyundai could also reveal its first production-bound N car in Frankfurt. It is expected to be based on the Euro-spec i30, but outfitted with the RM15′s powerful engine and all-wheel drive.

    Additional official details could be released ahead of the September show.

  • 10 OEMs sued over keyless ignitions

    August 26, 2015
    10 manufacturers have been named in a lawsuit brought by representatives of consumers who claim keyless ignition systems pose carbon monoxide poisoning risk to users.

    The suit claims manufacturers failed to disclose the health risks posed by keyless ignition systems that allow the engine to continue to run after the fob has been removed from the vehicle. The plaintiffs allege that 13 deaths have resulted from carbon monoxide poisoning under these circumstances, according to Reuters.

    The manufacturers named in the suit are Bentley, BMW, FCA, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen.

    Plantiffs are seeking damages and an injunction against the automakers forcing them to implement a timed shut-off that prevents vehicles from running indefinitely after the key has been removed.

    This is not the first time keyless ignitions have been the focus of a safety controversy. During the Toyota “unintended acceleration” debacle, regulators raised concerns over the amount of time it takes to shut off a car with push-button start.

  • Review: 2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 4MATIC Coupe

    August 26, 2015

    After years of masquerading as the CL, Mercedes-Benz has renamed its flagship coupe to more accurately reflect its roots for the latest model year. Enter the 2015 S550 4MATIC Coupe.

    But despite the name change, the blueprint for Mercedes’ S-Class-based coupe remains very much the same — an opulent interior wrapped in a stylish two-door body shell. And for the 2015 redesign, that ethos is more steadfast than ever.

    What is it?
    As its name implies, the S-Class coupe is essentially a two-door version of Mercedes’ S-Class sedan. However, for the coupe treatment, Mercedes lopped off 8.7-inches of wheelbase, leaving the S-Class coupe 8.6-inches shorter overall than its four-door counterpart. Despite its tighter proportions, the S-Class Coupe is actually about 77 pounds heavier than the S-Class sedan thanks to extra body bracing required for the car’s pillarless window treatment.

    The S550 4MATIC model seen here is the entry point into the 2015 S-Class Coupe lineup. It’s powered by a 449-horsepower version of Mercedes’ 4.7L biturbo V8 that sends power to all-four wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission.

    Two AMG versions of the S-Class Coupe are also on offer for 2015. The S63 AMG uses Mercedes’ 5.5L turbocharged V8 and is good for 577 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. The full-boat S65 AMG gets a twin-turbocharged V12 that generates 621 horsepower and a Herculean 738 lb-ft of torque.

    What’s it up against?
    The 2015 S-Class Coupe rubs elbows with well-heeled competitors like the BMW 6-Series Coupe, Bentley Continental GT and Aston Martin DB9.

    What does it look like?
    From the A-pillars forward the S-Class Coupe shares similar styling with its sedan stablemate, but the two vehicles aren’t exact carbon copies.

    The Coupe is much more stub-nosed than the four-door S-Class, with a radiator grille design more inline with the AMG GT sports car. The S-Class Coupe’s headlights have also been redesigned and moved farther back, further accentuating the car’s GT-inspired nose treatment. Reflecting its more sporting nature, the S-Class Coupe features larger air inlets in its lower bumper than the S-Class Sedan.

    In profile the S-Class Coupe is long and lean, and that’s not just because Mercedes erased the two-rear doors. Compared to the sedan, the coupe’s roofline sits about three-inches lower. Flared sills also help to keep the Coupe visually planted to the ground.

    The rear of the S-Class Coupe is a total deviation from the sedan, with wide taillights replacing the up-right units found on the four-door. The trunk lid has also been re-sculpted, with the license plate inset moving to the lower bumper. Rectangular dual exhaust outlets are carryover from the sedan.

    Our test car was also equipped the Edition 1 package, which added upgrades like Swarovski crystal headlamps and 20-inch AMG wheels.

    Thanks to the small but critical design changes from the sedan, the S-Class Coupe exudes the kind of presence the old CL could only dream of. To our eyes, the S-Class Coupe is the best looking vehicle in the Mercedes lineup.

    And the inside?
    The story is much the same on the inside, with the two S-Class models sharing the same basic layout. However, there are a few key differences.

    The dash of the Coupe is more contoured, with the upper section featuring a curved inset while the lower section protrudes slightly. That added depth and dimension makes for a more immersive cockpit that’s befitting of a personal luxury coupe.

    The steering wheel in the Coupe has three-spokes versus the two-spoke unit in the Sedan. We far prefer the Coupe’s tiller, which doesn’t look like the smiling mouth of a clown.

    Other than those styling revisions, the interior of the Coupe is largely similar to the Sedan, which isn’t a bad thing.

    Two large LCD screens dominate the upper section of the dash, providing everything from vehicle speed to a night vision display to the car’s owner’s manual. Mercedes’ latest COMAND infotainment system is along for the ride, which now includes a touchpad in addition to the dial wheel located in the center console. Overall the system is logically arranged and easier to use with the new touchpad, but the graphics for the system are starting to seem a little dated. The screens themselves, however, offer excellent resolution.

    The S550 Coupe’s voice control, which was a strong point in the S550 Sedan we tested a couple of years ago, was a little less impressive. It took several tries for the system to locate our desired POI. We’ll give the system the benefit of the doubt, though, since it worked very well in past evaluations.

    Toggles switches for the Coupe’s ventilation system are well laid out and easy to use. We also appreciated redundant switches in the center console that offered quick access to vehicle settings and the front seat massagers, which we used on virtually every trip. Our noses were even in the lap of luxury during our week with the S550 thanks to an integrated air freshening system.

    Our tester’s interior was lifted visually and auditorily thanks to an optional Burmester High-End 3D Surround Sound System. The system includes beautifully crafted aluminum speaker grilles throughout the cabin and a sound worthy of the ‘High-End’ tag. However, that added luxury doesn’t come cheap, with an MSRP of $6,400.

    Materials throughout the S-Class Coupe are nothing short of top-notch. Every surface you touch is covered in either leather, wood or aluminum. Even some places that you’ll never lay a finger, such as the shelf behind the rear seats, are beautifully covered in leather with contrasting stitching.

    Our only real design complaint lies with the S-Class’ silver buttons on the doors, console and steering wheel. In addition to looking a bit cheap, they can also be difficult to read in direct sunlight.

    Although down on wheelbase, the S-Class Coupe still offers a decent amount of legroom from rear seat passengers. Ditto for headroom.

    But does it go?
    Though technically the baby in the S-Class family when it comes to performance, the S550 is no slouch. Equipped with Mercedes’ twin-turbocharged 4.7L V8, the S550 belts out a very respectable 449 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. The S550 pushes that power to all four-wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission.

    Despite weighing more than 4,700 pounds, the S550 can still shift, with Mercedes claiming a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds. Just a few years ago that was supercar territory.

    But if you’re considering the S550 for its performance, you’re buying this coupe for the wrong reason. The S550 4MATIC Coupe shines as a classic GT car, munching up the miles while keeping you supremely comfortable in a leather-cover arm chair that offers six different massage settings. The standard AIRMATIC air suspension soaks up the bumps to the point that you’re not entirely sure if your driving or floating on a cloud.

    The AIRMATIC system does have a Sport setting that firms everything up, but it just feels like you’re asking the car to do something that it doesn’t want to, like asking a gentleman in a tuxedo to run a hundred-yard dash. We do, however, suggest using the Sport drivetrain mode as throttle just isn’t very responsive in Eco mode.

    And although the S-Class isn’t the most sporting coupe on the block, it’s happy to remind you of the power that resides under hood. A press of the throttle results in a subtle but satisfying whistle from the turbos and a V8 bark from the exhaust.

    The S550 isn’t fully autonomous, but it does a very convincing impression of a self-driving car. With the optional DISTRONIC Plus with Steering Assist system engaged, our tester could keep pace with traffic ahead while steering itself around moderate curves. Of course the system encourages you to keep your hands on the wheel with a dashboard warning.

    Of note, you should familiarize yourself with the DISTRONIC controls before you set off as they are inexplicably hidden on a stalk behind the steering wheel.

    A night-view camera is available and can help pick out pedestrians hiding under the cover of darkness. On well-lit city streets the system is of dubious use, but we could see the system being handy for those that routinely traverse rural roads.

    The EPA says to expect 16mpg in the city and 24mpg on the highway from the S550 4MATIC Coupe, netting a combined average of 19mpg. We must have been a little heavy-footed during our time with the S550 as we could only muster about 12mpg.

    Leftlane’s bottom line
    We won’t be as brash to call a $150,000 car a bargain, but the S550 4MATIC Coupe is quite the value compared to its competition. Even when equipped to the gills the S550 is still 40 grand less than a DB9 or a Continental GT. And looking out from the massaging front seat of the beautifully styled S550 Coupe, we can’t really see why anyone would want to spend more to get less.

    2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 4MATIC Coupe base price, $119,900. As tested, $149,575.
    designo package, $3,250; BURMESTER High-End 3D Surround Sound System, $6,400; Premium Package, $3,500; Edition 1 Package, $10,810; Warmth and Comfort Package, $1,990; Driver Assistance Package, $2,800; Destination, $925.

    Photos by Drew Johnson.

    • Aesthetics


    • Technology


    • Green


    • Drive


    • Value


    • Score