• Frankfurt preview: 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet

    September 2, 2015

    Mercedes-Benz has unveiled its all-new S-Class Cabriolet ahead of the drop top’s first public appearance at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The S-Class Cabriolet marks Mercedes’ first flagship four-seater convertible since 1971.

    The S-Class Cabriolet is largely based on the S-Class Coupe, sharing 60 percent of its body structure with its fixed-top counterpart. Obviously the roof structure is the biggest deviation — in place of the Coupe’s metal hardtop the Cabriolet uses a cloth soft top. The Cabriolet’s roof will be available for order in black, dark blue, beige and dark red. The transformation from closed to open roof, which can be done at speeds up to 37mph, takes about 20 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz.

    In order to save weight, Mercedes designed the S-Class Cabriolet with an aluminum rear floor structure. As a result, the convertible weighs roughly the same as the S-Class Coupe.

    The S-Class Cabriolet promises a comfortable ride even with the top down thanks to Mercedes’ AIRCAP wind protection system and the company’s innovative AIRSCARF neck-level heating system. For those colder days, the S-Class Cab can be ordered with heated armrest in addition to its standard heated seats.

    The S-Class Cabriolet will also ship with Mercedes’ new THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control system. Intended as a set-it-and-forget-it system, THERMOTRONIC uses not only the ambient temperature to select just the right interior temperature, but also takes into account things like humidity and solar radiation levels. Mercedes says the tech will eventually spread to its other convertible models.

    The S-Class Cabriolet will be offered in two different trims — S550 and S63 AMG 4MATIC.

    The S550 will use a 449 horsepower, 516 lb-ft of torque version of Mercedes’ 4.7L biturbo V8. The S550 will be capable of accelerating from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds.

    The step-up S63 will use a 5.5L biturbo V8 sourced from AMG. It’ll be good for 577 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque and a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds.

    “After 44 years we are once again able to offer Mercedes aficionados an open-top car in the S-Class,” said Ola Källenius, Board Member of Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz Cars Sales. “The new S-Class Cabriolet symbolizes our passion for individual and timelessly exclusive mobility, which we share with our customers.”

    Both the S550 Cabriolet and S63 4MATIC Cabriolet will go on sale during Spring 2016. Pricing will be announced closer to that market launch.

  • Tesla Model X Signature trim to fetch $132K

    September 2, 2015
    Tesla has quietly divulged a few more details surrounding the forthcoming Model X crossover.

    Several specs have been detailed in a configuration utility for reservation holders, though only for the more expensive Signature edition, as detailed in an InsideEVs report.

    The Signature trim appears to be only available with a 90 kWh battery, providing an EPA-estimated range of 240 miles. As expected, the range figure is slightly behind the 270 miles achieved by a Model S 85D with its 85 kWh battery.

    The crossover is no slouch with 259 horsepower up front and 503 ponies driving the rear axle. The dual-motor setup boasts a zero-to-60 mph sprint time of 3.8 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph. Buyers can opt for ‘Ludicrous’ acceleration, dropping the time to 3.2 seconds, though the option costs an extra $10,000.

    As promised, Tesla offers the Model X with an optional tow package that includes a two-inch hitch receiver, wire harness and special software package. The setup can tow up to 5,000 pounds, with stability-control intervention to prevent trailer swaying. The company has not yet detailed estimated range penalties, which will likely vary widely depending on the weight and aerodynamics of the extra load.

    Standard equipment includes the iconic falcon-wing doors, an automatically retracting rear spoiler, rear accessory hitch for a bike or ski carrier, and an eight-year infinite-mile warranty on the battery and drive unit. The Signature brings an upgraded list of standard features, adding Autopilot parking and automatic lane steering, smart air suspension, premium interior and lighting, a power liftgate, independently operable three-adult seating in the second row and “two adult” third-row seats.

    Notably, the Model X Signature fetches $132,000 (excluding freight) and requires a $40,000 deposit. The number suggests even the entry-level model could be a six-figure purchase, though Tesla has not yet detailed a price structure for the entire range.

  • Toyota teases 2016 Prius ahead of Vegas debut

    September 2, 2015

    Toyota has released a teaser sketch for the 2016 Prius ahead of its official unveiling next week in Las Vegas.

    The partial profile rendering is arguably trivial at this point, thanks to numerous spy shots and several undisguised photos taken during a promo shoot and via cargo transportation.

    The various leaks have revealed a modernized look for Toyota’s popular hybrid, with sculpted air intakes and dramatically swept headlights. Many elements appear to be inspired by the hydrogen-powered Mirai and presumably focused on improved aerodynamics.

    The redesigned Prius is expected to be built upon Toyota’s latest modular architecture. Its nickel-metal-hydride battery and small gasoline engine are expected to remain, with a few tweaks to improve fuel economy. The hatchback is widely expected to bring a 10-percent increase in efficiency, potentially bringing its combined rating up to 55 mpg.

    Full details will be announced during the debut event on September 8.

  • Peugeot teases futuristic Fractal EV concept [Video]

    September 2, 2015
    Peugeot has previewed an electric urban convertible concept known as the Fractal.

    Designed with the help of renowned electronic music producer Amon Tobin, the radical concept hints at a potential future design for Peugeot’s i-Cockpit with a focus on sound experience.

    The company first revealed a unique i-Cockpit design with the SR1 concept in 2010, serving as inspiration for the production 208 that debuted in 2012. Initial designs had focused on visual aspects, including a head-up display, and touch via a compact steering wheel and touchscreen interface.

    PSA Peugeot Citroen’s StelLab researchers and French speaker maker Focal co-designed the 9.1-channel sound system. The configuration features 13 speakers and bass systems built into the back of each seat.

    The four-seater is powered by a 40-kWh lithium-ion battery module paired with electric motors on the front and rear axles. Combined output is rated at 204 horsepower, with a combined-cycle electric range of 280 miles.

    A dynamic suspension system typically rides at low height to improve range, however it is capable of nearly doubling ground clearance when passing over speed bumps or entering steep driveways.

    The Fractal concept will make its official debut later this month in Frankfurt.

  • Jeep Wrangler pickup to be built in Toledo; Cherokee heading out

    September 2, 2015

    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has reportedly finalized plans to build a Jeep Wrangler-based pickup.

    The long-awaited model appears to be moving forward as part of the solution to a production conundrum in Toledo, where FCA currently builds the Wrangler on one line and the Cherokee on another.

    Adding the pickup bodystyle will allow the company to keep producing the next-generation Wrangler in Toledo and move the Cherokee to another factory in Michigan or Illinois, according to an Automotive News report.

    “We found a solution that accommodates a variety of other interests to us because of the way in which we can move some product around,” FCA chief Sergio Marchionne said in an interview with AN. He did not announce the pickup plans, which were allegedly confirmed by a separate unnamed source.

    The company a decade ago unveiled a Wrangler-based pickup concept, known as the Gladiator (pictured). The project was later dismissed as too expensive, however Jeep chief Mike Manley earlier this year opined that such a model “fits into the portfolio exactly.” It is unclear if the new pickup will be the same size as the Gladiator, or downsized to avoid cannibalization of the Ram 1500.

    Full-size pickups have dominated the segment for several years, but automakers appear to be seeing more opportunity in the midsize models. General Motors today claimed its Colorado is “America’s fastest-selling pickup,” with each unit spending an average of just 19 days on dealer lots, and Ford is rumored to be bringing the Ranger back to the US market.

    Suppliers are said to be preparing for the Wrangler and its pickup counterpart to reach combined annual sales of 350,000 units, effectively doubling the Wrangler’s 2014 sales numbers.

    Additional details surrounding the Wrangler pickup could be announced after FCA and UAW officials wrap up their latest round of contract negotiations in the next few weeks. The pickup is not expected to launch until the next-generation Wrangler’s arrival in 2017 or 2018.