• Toyota recalls new Tacoma to fix knee airbag

    October 13, 2015

    Toyota has issued a small-batch recall for its 2016 Tacoma, affecting approximately 310 units.

    In vehicles equipped with a driver’s knee airbag, the airbag module may have been attached to the instrument panel reinforcement using the incorrect bolts. The bolts are said to be prone to loosening over time.

    “A loosened bolt could affect the performance of the knee air bag, increasing the risk of injury during a crash,” the company said in a statement.

    The issue appears to be related to a manufacturing error at Toyota’s Baja California factory in Mexico.

    Service technicians have been instructed to replace the bolts with correct components to resolve the defect.

  • Volvo XC40 crossover to launch in 2018?

    October 13, 2015
    Volvo is reportedly aiming to launch its XC40 compact crossover in the not-too-distant future.

    The model has been in the works for several years, however it is believed to have been put on the back burner in 2013 due to incompatibility with the new platform that underpinned the higher-priority XC90. The larger crossover is now on the market and experiencing better-than-expected demand, switching Volvo’s development focus to the other end of the size spectrum.

    Chief executive Hakan Samuelsson has confirmed that a small crossover has become a top priority. The company has not yet publicly acknowledged additional details, however unnamed sources told Automotive News Europe the XC40 will be the first model built upon the new compact modular architecture (CMA) platform.

    The small crossover is expected to be ready by early 2018, offered with a range of Drive-E four-cylinder engines. It is said to be quickly followed by the next-generation V40 and V40 Cross Country, both underpinned by the same CMA platform and slated for 2019.

    Development efforts are reportedly being shared with Geely Automobile, a fellow brand controlled by Volvo’s China-based parent company. Previous reports suggest the model could arrive first in China before heading to Europe and eventually the US.

  • Lotus shows 3-Eleven on the Nurburgring [Video]

    October 13, 2015
    Lotus has released a promotional video showing the 3-Eleven under development at the Nurburgring.

    The company claims its fastest-ever road car is capable of lapping the Nordschleife circuit in seven minutes flat. Drivers claim to have reached 7:06, however the benchmark represents sector times from several different laps.

    Engineers are still working to refine the 3-Eleven’s aerodynamics, engine calibration, chassis tuning and suspension geometry. Its supercharged V6 engine delivers 450 horsepower, while the chassis and body have been engineered to follow Lotus’ “lighter and faster” mantra.

    The British automaker may be waiting until the production build has been finalized before reserving the track for a dedicated attempt at the seven-minute run. Track management also imposed speed restrictions earlier this year following a spectator death, likely preventing automakers from attempting record runs until additional safety provisions are installed.

    Delivers are expected to begin in April, with production limited to just 311 units.

  • Ford’s Police Interceptors continue to gain market share

    October 13, 2015
    Ford’s Police Interceptor lineup continues to grow market share among US law enforcement agencies.

    The Sedan and Utility variants together gained six points for 2015, capturing nearly two thirds of the market through June 2015, according to Ford’s analysis of Polk/IHS registration data.

    The company held under 40 percent in 2012, with sales numbers around 15,000 units annually. Approximately 35,000 Blue Oval sedans and SUVs are expected to be put into law-enforcement service this year.

    “Before Michigan State Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s tests dispelled any doubts about the performance of the new vehicles, we had dipped below 40 percent share,” said Raj Sarkar, Ford’s North American fleet manager. “Now, here we are three years later and we’re still gaining.”

    The Explorer-based Interceptor has driven most of the gains, with collective sales surpassing 100,000 units early this year. The company offers more than 125 different configuration options, allowing agencies to customize lighting, communications gear, wraps and other equipment directly from the factory.

    The Police Interceptor Utility has been updated for 2016, adding all upgrades from the revamped civilian edition. Specific improvements for police include a Surveillance Mode that warns officers when someone is approaching from the rear, automatically locking the doors and raising the driver’s window, and a liftgate release switch that unlocks the trunk for 45 seconds.

    The 2016 edition is scheduled to arrive on the market next summer.

  • Quick Spin: 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 AWD [Review]

    October 13, 2015

    Hyundai’s initial move into the luxury segment was generally well-received, but it would be difficult to argue that it was flawless. The Genesis wasn’t quite the world-challenging luxury car that the Lexus LS was in 1989, but it performed admirably as a value-oriented alternative, bridging the gap somewhat between the upper tier of premium full-size cars (see: Chrysler 300) and the lower end of the luxury market.

    But as the novelty of Hyundai’s upmarket push has worn off a bit over the last several years, the pressure to deliver a quality product has actually increased. After all, once the bloom has fallen, all that is left to judge is the fruit. Was our second bite of the Genesis as sweet as the first? Read on to find out.

    What is it?

    As in its first iteration, the Genesis sticks to the conventional luxury car formula. In its most basic form, it’s a rear-wheel drive sedan offering gasoline V6 and V8 engines. If all-wheel-drive is your thing, that’s available with the V6, and our tester was so-equipped.

    The 3.8L six is one of Hyundai’s best engines. It pushes 311 horsepower and 293 lb-ft of torque–numbers that would have rivaled plenty of luxury V8s not too long ago. It’s no match for the five-liter V8 that is also available, but it’s more than enough to move Hyundai’s luxury sedan down the road in a hurry if that’s your aim.

    What’s it up against?
    The overhauled Genesis is aimed squarely at the midsize luxury segment, putting it alongside the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6, Jaguar XF, Lexus GS, Infiniti Q70 and Cadillac CTS. On the more value-oriented end of the spectrum, it competes with the Chrysler 300, Acura RLX and Lincoln MKS.

    What’s it look like?
    The common critique leveled against the Genesis’ design is that it is derivative. The grille is often described as Audi- or Bentley-esque. The profile has the whiff of Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti. The rear? Benz again–especially in the lamps and the integrated decklid spoiler.

    But while Hyundai may still be searching for its own signature look, we have to say that the new Genesis is an attractive, even handsome vehicle. Even if the individual styling elements may seem to be cribbed from other designs, the overall looks is cohesive and certainly inoffensive.

    What we may most appreciate about the exterior styling is how subdued it is–even compared to the car it replaces–without being dour. The brightwork consists of brushed elements rather than chrome, making them eye-catching but not retina-burning. The multi-spoke wheels are intricately but not overly styled. The “Empire State” gray finish on our tester sparkles with metallic fleck up close, but doesn’t glare conspicuously in the sunlight.

    Beyond that, what really stands out about the new Genesis is that its exterior elements all carry the appropriate amount of “heft,” appearing sculpted or wrought rather than tacked-on or flimsy. It’s a key component of premium craftsmanship that was lacking in the previous generation.

    And on the inside?
    On the subject of things that were lacking in the first-generation Genesis, it’s very clear that Hyundai listened to its critics when designing the new car’s interior. The materials are leaps and bounds better, the tech far more current (and more intuitive) and the look more fitting for a luxury cruiser.

    While some may be quick to point out that the dash layout is reminiscent of the Sonata’s (and others in the Hyundai showroom), you should know that while the family resemblance may be there, the Genesis is by far the more mature sibling. Panel fit is excellent, lines meet where they should and everything falls within a neat, simple outline (lop the pointy bit off the bottom of the Tesla logo and that’s essentially Hyundai’s dash).

    Even better, the new Genesis does the little things better than before. The seats are tighter, more sculpted and much prettier to look at. Gone are the flat-bottomed, nearly untextured buckets that would promptly eject any driver testing the grip limits of the old five-liter R-Spec’s summer tires. Our tester, equipped with the Tech Package, even included adjustable bolsters along with a thigh extender in its heated and ventilated front buckets.

    That same Tech Package also gets you some of Hyundai’s new technological party-pieces, including a vastly improved adaptive cruise control system with stop/start capability, which will maintain incredibly tight following distances and keep pace beautifully, from zero MPH to whatever the Interstate speed limit happens to be where you’re cruising.

    But does it go?
    Yes, and finally. Hyundai made some noise about handing suspension tuning over to some guest engineers for Lotus, and that’s neat, but what really matters is the end result: a luxury sedan that delivers better-than-passable ride and handling in a segment where both are valuable commodities.

    The Genesis is not light. Like its contemporaries, it’s a 4,200-4,500lb machine depending on how you build it. Our all-wheel-drive 3.8L sits just shy of 4,300lbs (not including driver), which isn’t surprising given its hefty road presence. This isn’t an exotic materials showcase (Hyundai produces its own steel, after all) so it’s not light, but it’s not ponderous either.

    Get the Genesis out onto a twisty back road, tick the gear selector over into manual mode and let your fingers dance over the (standard) paddle shifters, and you’ll forget all about the ungainly behavior of the debut model.

    The steering alone is vastly improved, offering more heft and better feedback. The V6 is flexible and potent, and the eight-speed transmission shifts crisply. The suspension is an excellent compromise of day-to-day compliance and sporty. To anthropomorphise the machine a bit, the old Genesis was tolerant of spirited driving while the new’s response borders on enthusiasm. What could make it better? Rear-wheel drive and that five-liter would do us just fine. Put another way: if you’ve been browsing classifieds for a gently-used 5.0 R-Spec, don’t drive this car. You’re better off not knowing what you’d missing.

    Leftlane’s bottom line
    Hyundai may not yet have the prestige chops to compete with the best in the luxury segment on the heritage front, but that doesn’t mean it’s incapable of punching above its weight. Value is no longer the name of the game for Hyundai’s upmarket offerings. If the badge isn’t something you consider a feature, give the Genesis sedan a long look. You may be surprised by what you see.

    2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 AWD base price, $40,500. As tested, $52,450.
    Signature Package, $4,000; Tech Package, $3,500; Ultimate Package, $3,500; Destination, $950.

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