• India’s Mean Metal Motors previews hybrid M-Zero supercar

    October 30, 2015
    An Indian startup automaker named Mean Metal Motors has announced ambitious plans to introduce the country’s first-ever supercar.

    Founded by a 21-year old entrepreneur named Sarthak Paul, Mean Metal Motors’ first model will be a sleek-looking two-seater coupe called M-Zero. Interestingly, it will be mostly made out of a new material called carbo-flax that promises to be both lighter and cheaper to produce than carbon fiber. Paul hopes to sell carb-flax to satellite-building companies in India in order to fund the production of the first few M-Zero prototypes.

    The coupe’s design is still being fine-tuned but it’s inspired by the sailfish, the fastest sea animal on the planet.

    “I was watching a random show in which they discussed how the world’s fastest sea animal moves through air and water,” explained Paul in an interview with CNN Money. “Then we thought, why don’t we just analyze why the fastest sea animal is the fastest?”

    Although a functional prototype hasn’t been built yet, power is expected to come from a gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain made up of a mid-mounted, twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine and a small electric motor. On paper, the 500-plus-horsepower setup should allow the M-Zero to reach 60 mph from a stop in less than three seconds — faster than a Porsche 911 GT3 RS — and reach a top speed of 200 mph.

    If everything goes according to plan, Mean Metal Motors will introduce its first concept at next year’s edition of the Paris Motor Show. The production model will land shortly after with a base price that will lie between $125,000 and $150,000, but what markets it will be sold in isn’t known at this point.

  • Terradyne launches armored Gurkha Civilian Edition

    October 30, 2015
    Canada-based Terradyne has introduced a huge, rugged-looking truck dubbed Gurkha Civilian Edition. As its name loosely implies, the Civilian Edition is essentially a toned-down version of an armored truck named Gurkha RPV that’s built primarily for armed forces all over the world.

    The Gurkha looks like it was built to star in a movie about the apocalypse thanks to an over-the-top, function-over-form look characterized by a tall front end with a bumper crafted out of solid metal, small side windows designed to protect the occupants, black bead lock wheels tucked under wide fender flares and a design that accurately defines the word “boxy.” The truck is based on a Ford F-550 Super Duty, and careful observers will notice the door mirrors still carry a Blue Oval part number.

    Like its military-spec counterpart, the Gurkha Civilian Edition was developed to withstand impacts from 7.62-millimeter armor-piercing rounds. Buyers with particularly determined enemies can order additional armor — including protective mesh on the windows, blast mitigation seating, and upgraded floor blast material — at an extra cost. Gun racks are also available should the passengers need to fire back.

    The murdered-out behemoth is powered by a Ford-sourced 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 engine that makes 300 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and 660 lb-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm. A six-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels. The Gurkha Civilian Edition can drive through over 30 inches of water, but the trade-off is that the Continental off-road tires limit its top speed to just 70 mph.

    The Gurkha Civilian Edition is built in Ontario, and it surprisingly retains the F-550′s drivetrain warranty because the conversion is approved by Ford. On sale now, it carries a base price of roughly $278,000.

  • Ford details three recalls for Mustang, E-Series and Edge

    October 30, 2015
    Ford has detailed three recall campaigns for the 2009-2010 Edge and Lincoln MKX, the 2016 E-Series cutaway and chassis cab, and the 2016 Mustang.

    Affecting approximately 129,000 vehicles, the Edge and MKX recall focuses on corrosion under the reinforcement brackets for the fuel-tank mounts. Failure can eventually cause a fuel leak, presenting a fire risk.

    The E-Series campaign includes just 72 units that may have left the factory with a defective trailer-brake controller. The trailer brakes may not engage when the driver presses the brake pedal, extending stopping distance and increasing the risk of a crash.

    Approximately 1,900 Mustangs are being recalled due to problems with some restraint parts. The components may have been damaged during shipping from the supplier, potentially making the vehicles non-compliant with federal safety regulations related to seatbelt performance and child restraint anchor systems.

    Ford claims to be unaware of any accidents or injuries related to the three defects.

  • BMW working on dual-clutch transmission for FWD cars?

    October 30, 2015
    With its first-generation of front-wheel drive vehicles now on the road, BMW is reportedly developing a new dual-clutch transmission for front-drive applications.

    According to BMW Blog, BMW is working on a new DCT that would be used in its latest crop of front-wheel drive vehicle. BMW launched its first FWD model in 2014, with the layout just now hitting U.S. shores in the form of the X1 crossover.

    BMW currently uses an eight-speed automatic transmission in its FWD models, but that gearbox isn’t ideally suited for performance models. In its place BMW could soon use a new dual-clutch unit.

    BMW follows a similar strategy with its rear-wheel drive cars. For example, the regular 3-Series sedan is equipped with an eight-speed auto, but the M3 gets a seven-speed dual-clutch. If BMW follows the same blueprint with its FWD cars, that means the automaker could be planning an X1 M, or at least an X1 M40i.

    And since BMW’s FWD platform is shared with the MINI brand, that could mean the dual-clutch might be used in high-performance John Cooper Works variants.

    If the rumors prove to be true, we probably won’t see BMW’s DCT for front drivers until at least 2017.

    Photos by Mark Elias.

  • UAW-GM deal includes $1.9B factory investments, $8K bonuses

    October 30, 2015
    The United Auto Workers’ tentative contract agreement with General Motors reportedly includes significant signing bonuses and commitments to invest billions in US factories.

    The automaker has agreed to spend an additional $1.9 billion in factory upgrades and expansions at 12 different sites. Most workers will receive $8,000 bonuses for ratifying the contract — twice the signing bonus in the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles contract — while temporary employees are eligible for a $2,000 payout.

    “And we created a foundation to eliminate unequal [two-tier] pay for equal work with wage rates based on the content of the work, with grow-in schedules for each,” UAW leaders wrote in a letter to hourly workers.

    All traditional members will receive a three-percent raise the first year and third year, along with a four-percent lump-sum bonus in the second and fourth years of the contract term. Other enhancements include extra holiday time, double-time pay on Sundays and health-care provisions.

    “We know from experience that without product investments there is no job or income security and no future growth,” the UAW added in its letter to members. “Not considering the give and take between job security, and good pay and benefits is irresponsible. We believe this proposed agreement achieves both income security and job security.”

    The tentative proposal must now be ratified by the tens of thousands of workers at GM plants across the country.

  • Tokyo LIVE: Subaru’s limited-edition WRX STI S207

    October 29, 2015
    The stars of the Subaru stand at the Tokyo Motor Show are unquestionably the Impreza 5-Door concept and the VIZIV Future concept. However, the automaker has also introduced a powerful, limited-edition version of the WRX STI dubbed S207.

    Tuned by STI, the S207 is powered by an evolution of the stock model’s turbocharged 2.0-liter flat-four engine that has been tweaked to deliver 323 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 317 lb-ft. of torque from 3,200 to 4,800 rpm. A six-speed manual transmission spins all four wheels via Subaru’s time-tested all-wheel drive system. Performance specifications haven’t been announced yet.

    Not content with merely adding more ponies under the hood, STI has fitted the S207 with a quick-ratio steering rack, an adjustable suspension system and upgraded brakes on both axles. The sedan rides on 19-inch BBS alloy wheels wrapped by specially-designed Dunlop tires.

    Available in blue, black or white, the S207 stands out from the regular WRX STI thanks to add-ons like a large splitter up front, a model-specific rear bumper, and a sprinkling of S207 emblems. The cabin gets Recaro bucket seats for the front passengers and a revised instrument cluster.

    The Subaru WRX STI S207 will go on sale across Japan on December 1st. Only 400 units will be available, and each one will carry a base price of ¥5,550,000, a sum that converts to nearly $46,000. At the time of writing it doesn’t sound like Subaru’s latest limited-edition model will be offered on our shores.

    NBR Challenge Package

    Subaru will fit up to 200 examples of the S207 with the NBR Challenge Package, which celebrates the company’s victory in the SP3T class of the 2015 Nurburgring 24-Hour race. Cars equipped with the NBR package get a large carbon fiber rear wing on the trunk lid (pictured), and up to 100 of them can be ordered in sunrise yellow (pictured).

  • Toyota developing Yaris-based hot hatch

    October 29, 2015

    Toyota has hinted that a Yaris-based hot hatch is just a couple of years away from landing in showrooms.

    Speaking to Australian website Motoring on the sidelines of the Tokyo Motor Show, a Toyota executive revealed the hot hatch will be aimed squarely at the Volkswagen Polo GTI that’s sold in Europe and at the Ford Fiesta ST. Its launch will coincide with Toyota’s long-awaited return to WRC racing.

    The Yaris will be equipped with a four-cylinder engine fitted with a big turbo that will spin the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. More precise technical details haven’t been revealed yet, but the Yaris will need to boast at least 200 horsepower in order to keep up with the ST and the GTI, which are rated at 197 and 189 ponies, respectively.

    A re-tuned suspension system and bigger brakes on all four corners will also be part of the package. Of course, the mechanical modifications will be complemented by a full body kit inspired by the WRC-spec Yaris (pictured), large alloy wheels and a sportier cockpit with a bucket seats and a model-specific instrument cluster.

    Look for Toyota’s Yaris on steroids to debut at a major auto show in either late 2016 or early 2017. It will go on sale in Japan and in Europe shortly after its debut, but it’s too early to tell if the pocket rocket has been earmarked for the United States market.

  • Tokyo LIVE: Yamaha Sports Ride coupe concept

    October 29, 2015
    Yamaha has revealed its Sports Ride coupe concept, on display amongst a bevy of motorcycles at the company’s Tokyo Motor Show booth.

    The diminutive sports car aims to deliver a driving experience comparable to a motorcycle, but in a four-wheel package aimed at a “mature audience.” Engineers focused on keeping weight down, while designers took inspiration from Yamaha’s two-wheeled lineup.

    Narrow bands of LED headlights mimic the flagship YZF-R1 sport bike, converging on an angular point that drops downward between carbon-fiber front splitters and pronounced air intakes. The tail end follows the same format, placing the dual-pipe muffler high between the taillights rather than conforming to a traditional car layout.

    The motorcycle theme is not constrained to the exterior, with instruments and controls arranged in a forward-focused symmetrical configuration. Taking the idea to the extreme, a divider runs between the driver’s feet and a bulge rises from the seat to evoke a bike’s fuel tank.

    Designed with help from Gordon Murray — better known for Formula One racers and the McLaren F1 — the rear-wheel-drive coupe is underpinned by a lightweight space-frame chassis with composite panels bonded to the tubes. The same ‘iStream’ production approach was first detailed in 2012 and later appeared in the form of a two-seat city car.

    Yamaha has not yet divulged technical details for the Sports Ride, though it is likely motivated by a screaming adaptation of a motorcycle engine. Weighing in at just 1,653 pounds, the coupe is a few hundred pounds lighter than Volkswagen’s Ducati-powered XL Sport.

    The Japanese company has not yet confirmed plans to develop the Sports Ride into a production machine.

    Live images by Ben Hsu.

  • Tokyo LIVE: Lexus LF-FC concept

    October 29, 2015

    Lexus has unveiled a new flagship sedan concept at the Tokyo Motor Show. Called the LF-FC, the concept is likely a preview of Lexus’ next-generation LS sedan.

    The most extreme example yet of Lexus’ “L-finesse” design language, the LF-FC features an aggressive front end that includes an exaggerated spindle grille and “floating” L-shaped daytime running lights. In profile the LF-FC takes the form of a four-door coupe thanks to a long hood and short decklid. 21-inch wheels with carbon fiber rims keep the concept visually planted to the ground.

    The rear of the LF-LC is decidedly radical for the typically reserved Lexus brand, with oversized L-shaped taillights dominating the landscape. The LF-FC’s rear bumper also stands out thanks to pronounced sculpting.

    The interior of the LF-FC features a wrap around cockpit with dual bucket seats in the rear. For a visual wow factor, the LF-FC uses front seats that appear to be floating in place.

    Taking a page from the BMW 7-Series‘ playbook, the LF-FC concept uses gesture controls for the car’s audio and ventilation systems. Taking things a step further, the LF-FC uses a hologram to designate where the system can recognize hand gestures.

    “Lexus wants to surprise and evoke emotion with its distinctive design and forward-thinking technology. For us, it is more than just a car, and we should exceed conventional imagination. The LF-FC expresses our progressive luxury and high-tech vision of a not so distant future,” said Tokuo Fukuichi, Lexus International President.

    That not so distant future might also include a hydrogen fuel cell, which is used to motivate the LF-FC. In the concept’s application, a fuel cell is used to power the vehicle’s rear wheels while two in-wheel motors provide power at the front, giving the LF-FC all-wheel drive. Lexus engineers also designed the LF-FC with near perfect 50/50 weight distribution by placing the fuel cell stack in the rear and the power control unit at the front. Hydrogen fuel tanks are located in the middle of the concept in a T configuration.

    Look for many of the LF-FC’s design cues to make the leap to production in the next LS, due out sometime in 2016 or 2017.

    Live images by Ben Hsu.

  • Tokyo LIVE: Nissan 2020 Vision Gran Turismo Concept

    October 29, 2015

    Nissan is showing a new version of its 2020 Vision Gran Turismo at the Tokyo Motor Show.

    The concept, based on a fantasy race car conceived for the Gran Turismo video game, was co-developed by Nissan and Polyphony Digital, the creators of the Playstation racing simulator.

    Though the car originally debuted at the 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed, it will receive minor re-tweaks for its Tokyo reveal. Gone is the dark silver paint, traded in for a vivid red hue Nissan calls Fire Knight. The grille has been revamped as well, now bolder and with the V’s arms extending into the bodywork. This so-called V-motion grille has been propagated throughout Nissan’s production car lineup from the Murano to the Maxima.

    Supposedly, the 2020 Vision Gran Turismo is a hint at what the next generation Nissan GT-R will look like. Realistically, the body work will probably be not quite so extreme. Rumor has it that it will be powered by a twin-turbo V6 mated to a hybrid system — the same setup as their Le Mans car — that can generate 1,250 horsepower.

    Live images by Ben Hsu.