• FCA, UAW agree on new contract terms

    September 16, 2015
    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and United Auto Workers leaders have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract, setting the stage for similar negotiations with Ford and General Motors.

    Specific details of the terms are being kept quiet until the proposal is ratified by the nearly 40,000 union workers employed by FCA, though both sides have previously expressed interest in moving away from two-tier wages and reforming healthcare provisions.

    FCA chief executive Sergio Marchionne has hinted that the two-tier pay structure will be phased out “over time,” according to quotes from a joint press conference attended by The Detroit News. It is unlikely the system will be completely eliminated in the fresh contract, though the parties may have negotiated a raise program, expanded profit sharing or other compromise to narrow the wage disparity between top- and bottom-tier workers, which is said to cause friction among factory workers.

    The company also agreed to partner with a UAW healthcare co-op program that would pool coverage for all employees. Marchionne has voiced enthusiasm for the idea, arguing that it could both lower costs and improve quality of care. The program may be modeled after the UAW’s Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA), which consolidates healthcare for retirees from the big three US automakers.

    Additional details will likely emerge in the coming weeks as UAW leaders pitch the proposal to workers.

  • Frankfurt LIVE: Lamborghini Aventador Superveloce Roadster

    September 16, 2015
    Lamborghini is showing the limited-edition 2016 Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce Roadster at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

    The Superveloce Roadster is fitted with the same aggressive-looking body kit as coupe model that was presented at the Geneva Motor Show last March, but it stands out thanks to a two-piece hard top crafted out of carbon fiber. Tipping the scale at just 26 pounds, the hard top can be conveniently stowed in the trunk when not in use, making the Aventador the most user-friendly convertible Lamborghini has ever built.

    Another major difference between the two Aventador Superveloces is that the Roadster features a power-operated rear window that, when in the down position, fills the cabin with the 12-cylinder’s music.

    Power comes from a hand-built, naturally-aspirated 6.5-liter V12 engine that makes 750 horsepower at 8,400 rpm and 509 lb-ft. of torque at 5,500 rpm. Lamborghini’s first-ever Superveloce-badged convertible lives up to its name by reaching 62 mph from a stop in 2.9 seconds and going on to a top speed of over 217 mph.

    Power is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed ISR transmission that can be left in automatic or controlled by shift paddles, and a Haldex-type four-wheel drive system. Lamborghini Dynamic Steering and Magneto Rheological Suspension help the driver make the most of the V12′s grunt both on and off the track.

    The Roadster tips the scale at 3,472 pounds, a figure that makes it 110 pounds heavier than the Superveloce coupe and 110 pounds lighter than the regular-production Aventador Roadster. Model-specific carbon fiber bucket seats are among the components that help keep weight in check.

    Lamborghini will build just 500 examples of the Aventador Superveloce Roadster. Each one will cost $530,075, but the Raging Bull’s newest limited-edition model is expected to sell out quickly.

    Live images by Ronan Glon.

  • Frankfurt LIVE: 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe

    September 16, 2015

    Mercedes-Benz has lifted the veil on its all new 2017 C-Class Coupe. The C-Class Coupe is scheduled to arrive in U.S. showrooms during Spring 2016.

    As you might expect, 2017 Mercedes C-Class Coupe arrives with front end styling lifted from its sedan counterpart. That means a sporty front bumper design with three distinct air inlets, projector headlights with LED accents and a sculpted hood. In order to visually separate the C-Class Coupe from the sedan, the number of bars across the Coupe’s radiator grille has been reduced to one from two.

    From the A-pillar back the 2017 C-Class Coupe mimics the larger S-Class coupe. A kinked-up window line at the rear of the car is also reminiscent of the Honda Accord Coupe.

    The rear of the C-Class Coupe features a subtle ducktail spoiler and the same taillight treatment seen on other Mercedes coupe models. A pair of exhaust outlets are neatly integrated into the C-Class Coupe’s lower valance.

    The interior design of the C-Class Coupe is essentially a carbon copy of what you’ll find inside of the C-Class Sedan. Highlights of the C-Class Coupe’s interior include a high-mounted infotainment screen, available open-pore wood accents and a 2+2 seating arrangement.

    Buyers coming from the previous C-Class Coupe will appreciate the larger interior dimensions of the new model. The 2017 C-Class Coupe is longer (+3.7-inches) and wider (+1.6-inches) than the model it replaces, netting additional shoulder, elbow and head room in both rows of seats.

    At launch the C-Class Coupe will be available in C300 and C300 4MATIC forms. Both models will use a 2.0L turbocharged engine, rated at 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft or torque, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The standard C300 will use rear-wheel drive while the 4MATIC model adds the stability of all-wheel drive.

    All C300 models will ship standard with a sports suspension that lowers the car’s ride height by 0.6-inches compared to the C300 Sedan. Buyers can also select Mercedes’ AIRMATIC Air Suspension for an additional charge.

    On the safety and technology front, the C-Class Coupe will come standard with Collision Prevention Assist Plus, PRE-SAFE, Mbrace Services and keyless start. All C-Class Coupe models will also get 18-inch wheels and a panoramic sunroof.

    Advanced autonomous features will also be available. The optional DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist package includes adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist functions that can be used from 0-124mph. At speeds below 81mph the system is able to follow the vehicle ahead if no lane markings are present.

    Pricing for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 and C300 4MATIC will be announced at a later date.

    Live images by Ronan Glon.

  • Frankfurt LIVE: 2017 Audi A4

    September 16, 2015

    Audi has lifted the veil on its all-new 2017 A4 sedan and Avant at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

    Now riding on Audi’s MLB Evo platform, which first debuted beneath the 2017 Q7 SUV, the A4′s overall length has nudged up slightly, growing from 15.4 feet to 15.5 feet. Wheelbase is also up a hair to 9.3 feet. Despite that added length, the 2017 A4 is up to 264 pound lighter than the model currently in showrooms, thanks to the extensive use of high-strength steel and aluminum in its construction.

    In Europe the A4 will be available with seven different engines — three gas burners and four diesels. Here in the United States expect fewer options, with Audi’s 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder gas motor set to be the most popular. A 2.0 TDI diesel is also expected to make an appearance. Audi says that model is capable of hitting 63.6 U.S. mpg.

    Further down the road the A4 is expected to be offered with a supercharged 3.0L V6 in S4 guise. A plug-in hybrid model is also in the works.

    Transmission options will include a six-speed manual, seven-speed S ironic dual clutch and an eight-speed tiptronic unit. The 2017 A4 will ship with standard front-wheel drive, but Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system will be available as an optional extra.

    Inside the A4 receives a more luxurious interior that is also more spacious than the model it replaces. Front-seat shoulder and head room are up by 0.4 inches and 0.9 inches, respectively, while rear-seat legroom has grown by almost an inch.

    In addition to more room, passengers will also enjoy a higher level of technology in the 2017 A4. An optional Audi virtual cockpit replaces the A4′s standard gauge cluster with a high-resolution 12.3 inch LCD screen that provides information for everything from vehicle speed to navigation. Audi virtual cockpit is complimented by a dash-mounted 8.3-inch screen.

    Audi connect is also aboard the 2017 A4, providing a high-speed LTE Internet connection. The LTE system not only provides a wireless hotspot for up to eight devices, but also keeps the driver connected to their A4 via Audi’s MMI connect smartphone app.

    On the safety and convenience front, the new A4 will be available with Stop&Go adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam assist, active lane assist and rear cross-traffic assist. The 2017 A4 will also boast a new predictive efficiency assistant feature that promises to lowers fuel consumption.

    The 2017 Audi A4 will go on sale during the first half of 2016. The A4 sedan will reach our shores, but the Avant wagon isn’t slated to hit U.S. dealerships. A higher-riding A4 allroad, however, could eventually be sold here.

    Pricing will be announced closer to the car’s 2016 market launch.

    Live images by Ronan Glon.