• Lexus commissions origami-inspired IS [Video]

    October 7, 2015

    In an industry where removing mass has become a central goal in the effort to improve fuel economy, it’s not unusual to see automakers showing concepts built from exotic, impractical materials. A car made almost entirely out of cardboard, on the other hand, is a bit of a head-turner.

    Lexus commissioned two London companies–Scales and Models and LaserCut WORKS–to build this running, rolling, 1:1 scale IS sedan.

    Lexus claims the model is comprised of roughly 1,700 individual pieces of shaped cardboard, but to our eyes that number seems short a couple of zeroes. The detail is nothing short of astonishing. From the Lexus emblem on the grille to the contours of each wheel face, almost no nuance of the sedan’s design was overlooked.

    The attention to detail continues inside, where everything from the seats down to the analog clock on the dash is meticulously replicated.

    “This was a very demanding job, with five people involved in the digital design, modelling, laser cutting and assembly. Just like Lexus, we were committed to producing the best possible quality,” said Ruben Marcos, founder and director of Scales and Models.

    Perhaps even more impressive is that this corrugated luxury sedan can actually move under its own power. The cardboard body is set on a steel and aluminum frame, bolted to which is an electric motor that can power the vehicle. Lexus was not forthcoming with any performance information and we’d wager they’re not in a hurry to do any instrumented testing.

    Check out the video below to learn more about the construction of this fascinating project.

  • Tokyo preview: Subaru VIZIV Future concept

    October 7, 2015
    Subaru will introduce a new concept called VIZIV Future at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show.

    Billed as a preview of an upcoming model, the VIZIV Future falls in line with Subaru’s recent Dynamic & Solid design language thanks to styling cues such as C-shaped lights on both ends and sculpted body panels. A tall front end and a black trim on both bumpers give the concept a rugged look.

    Accessed via suicide doors, the futuristic cockpit offers space for four passengers and their gear. All of the buttons and the switches typically found on the center console have been replaced by a large touch screen, and the rear bench folds down to reveal an integrated rack that can carry two bikes.

    The VIZIV Future features an evolution of Subaru’s EyeSight technology that monitors the vehicle and its surroundings at all times. The data gathered is used to detect accidents before they happen, to autonomously drive the SUV at freeway speeds and to park it without any input from the driver.

    Subaru hasn’t published full technical details. All we know so far is that the concept is powered by a hybrid drivetrain made up of a downsized turbocharged flat-four engine borrowed from the Levorg and a compact electric motor mounted over the rear axle. Interestingly, the turbo four spins the front wheels via an automatic transmission and the motor exclusively zaps the rear wheels. There is no mechanical connection between the two power sources, which allowed designers to give the VIZIV a completely flat cabin floor.

    The VIZIV Future provides a glimpse into what the future holds for Subaru. Its design will most likely influence Subaru’s upcoming seven-seater crossover, and the self-driving tech is expected to trickle down to the company’s regular-production models before the end of the decade.

    In Tokyo, the VIZIV Future will share the spotlight with another design study called Impreza 5-Door Concept.

  • Subaru teases Tokyo-bound Impreza 5-Door Concept

    October 7, 2015

    Subaru will travel to the biennial Tokyo Motor Show that will open its doors later this month to introduce a design study dubbed Impreza 5-Door Concept.

    As its name implies, the Impreza 5-Door Concept is billed as an accurate preview of the next-generation Impreza that will likely land as a 2017 model. The sketches hint that the concept will look a lot sharper than the Impreza that’s currently on sale in Subaru showrooms. It boasts swept-back headlights, an angular grille, a more rakish window line, sculpted flanks and C-shaped LED tail lamps.

    Stay tuned, the Subaru Impreza 5-Door Concept will be fully unveiled in the weeks leading up to its debut in the Japanese capital, and we’ll bring you live images of it straight from the show floor.

    What’s next?

    While official launch information isn’t available yet, the production version of the next Impreza is expected to bow at a major auto show next year. Essentially a toned-down version of the concept that will be shown in Tokyo, it will be lighter and wide than the current model because it will ride on a brand new platform developed to underpin most of Subaru’s next-gen lineup.

    Mechanically, the 2017 Impreza will usher in more efficient flat-four engines fitted with direct fuel-injection and Subaru’s fuel-saving cylinder deactivation technology. A plug-in hybrid model might join the lineup a little later in the production run.

  • Toyota aims for autonomous highway driving by 2020

    October 7, 2015
    Toyota has outlined its ongoing development efforts for autonomous vehicles, including current testing programs and future targets for public launch.

    Engineers have been working with a new prototype vehicle, a Lexus GS known as the Highway Teammate, to prepare next-generation self-driving technology for commercialization. The company will initially launch a semi-autonomous production car capable of completely controlling the vehicle on highways.

    To safely handle driving duties on high-speed roads, the modified Lexus has been outfitted with a sensor suite to establish geographic position, monitor nearby vehicles, road markings and traffic conditions. Data is then used to manage the steering, brakes, throttle and signals, with the ability to autonomously merge onto highways, change lanes and maintain distances between surrounding vehicles.

    The semi-autonomous Lexus has been tested on Tokyo’s Shuto Expressway to evaluate maneuvering performance in scenarios such as merging onto highways or changing lanes.

    Highway self-driving is arguably a modest evolutionary step from current lane-holding and adaptive cruise control technologies, lacking the ability to truly chauffeur riders from origin to destination. Toyota’s announcement is notable in its apparent conservative time-frame, giving the company four years to make the midway jump toward full autonomy.

    Analysts have disagreed over projections for broad market availability. Tesla Motors expects to have full-autonomous cars ready within three years, however the company does not have the best record of meeting CEO Elon Musk’s ambitious time targets.

    Nissan has cautioned that it will not have a fully self-driving car ready by the end of the decade, but rather a vehicle with partial autonomous capabilities. Hyundai is also shooting for “highly automated” driving in 2020, however the Korean automaker does not expect fully self-driving cars to be ready until 2030.

  • BMW introduces water injected M4 GTS

    October 7, 2015

    Following its concept debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, BMW has unveiled the production version of its high-performance M4 GTS.

    Staying true to form, the M4 GTS is essentially a tracked-tuned version of the already potent M4 coupe. Like its concept counterpart, the M4 GTS features a new water injection system that’s the first of its kind for a series production car.

    Simply explained, the water injection system injects a fine spray into the intake system, thereby reducing intake air temperatures by as much as 240 degrees. As a result, power from the M4′s turbocharged inline-six has jumped 16 percent to 493 horsepower while torque is up 10 percent to 442 lb-ft. Despite the jump in power, BMW says the M4 GTS returns about the same mileage as the standard M4.

    According to BMW, the M4 GTS can accelerate from 0-60 in just 3.7 seconds. Top speed is governed at 189.5mph.

    Although added power is certainly a factor in the M4 GTS’ all-out speed, BMW also boosted performance by removing weight. The M4 GTS uses lightweight carbon fiber in its roof, rear spoiler and even its instrument panel support. Although niceties like navigation and air conditioning remain, the M4′s back seat has been deleted in the name of weight savings. Compared to the regular M4, the GTS checks in about 256 pounds less.

    In order to back up its straight-line performance, the M4 GTS is fitted with a manually-adjustable sports suspension and carbon disc brakes. A seven-speed double-clutch transmission will be the only gearbox on offer.

    With all of those go-fast bits working in unison, BMW says the M4 GTS cab get around the Nurburgring in 7 minutes 28 seconds.

    BMW will produce just 700 units of the M4 GTS, with 300 of those destined for the U.S. market. Buyers will be able to select from four exterior colors — Sapphire Black metallic, Mineral Grey metallic, Alpine White and Frozen Dark Grey Metallic — all of which are accented with Acid Orange. Pricing has not been released, but expect a hefty markup over the $65,000 M4.