• Geneva: 2017 Volvo V40

    February 24, 2016

    Volvo is giving the V40 hatchback a minor nip and tuck in time for the Geneva Auto Show.

    The biggest updates are found up front, where the V40 gets new headlights with T-shaped LED daytime running lights called Thor’s Hammer in Volvo-speak, and a redesigned grille with vertical slats. The modifications are meant to bring the V40 in line with recent additions to the Volvo lineup like the XC90, the S90, and the V90 that will also be shown in Geneva. As is often the case, the shot of Botox is accompanied by new exterior colors and additional alloy wheel designs.

    The interior receives new aluminum trim bits and an available City Weave upholstery. Technical details haven’t been published but it doesn’t sound like Volvo has made any major mechanical modifications to the V40, meaning the hatchback carries on with gasoline- and diesel-burning four-cylinder engines ranging from 120 to 245 horsepower. Most engines are offered with either a manual or an automatic transmission, but only the rugged-looking Cross Country model is offered with all-wheel drive.

    The facelifted Volvo V40 will go on sale across Europe and in select overseas markets including China in the coming months. The model won’t be sold in the United States, but we hear the next-generation V40 that’s scheduled to debut before the end of the decade is being developed with our market in mind.

  • Geneva: 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe

    February 24, 2016

    Mercedes-AMG will introduce a mid-range version of the C-Class Coupe at the Geneva Auto Show.

    The two-door is called C43, a name last used years ago on a V8-powered, AMG-tuned variant of the original C-Class. Designed to slot between the regular C-Class Coupe and the full-blown C63 model, the C43 uses a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine tuned to develop 362 horsepower from 5,500 to 6,000 rpm and 384 lb-ft. of torque from 2,000 to 4,200 rpm. In comparison, the C63 pumps out 469 ponies and 479 lb-ft. of twist in its most basic state of tune.

    Also found under the hood of the C450 AMG Sport, the six sends its power to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission capable of downshifting several gears at once. The coupe hits 60 mph from a stop in 4.6 seconds, and it keeps on accelerating until it reaches an electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph. Five driving modes called Eco, Comfort, Individual, Sport, and Sport Plus, respectively, are built into the C43.

    Mercedes-AMG has upgraded the C Coupe with bigger brakes, revised suspension components, and a sportier steering setup.

    The C43 does its best C63 impression by adopting a deep front bumper with large air dams, chrome-plated pins in the grille, side skirts, an air diffuser integrated into the rear bumper, and a small spoiler on the trunk lid. Five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels add a finishing touch to the look. Inside, the C43 gets a flat-bottomed steering wheel, aluminum trim, a 180-mph speedometer, and sport seats with red contrast stitching. The seats, the top part of the dash, the door panels, and the center console are wrapped in a man-made leather called MB Tex.

    We’ll bring you full details about the Mercedes-AMG C43 straight from the show floor in Geneva next week. The C43 will share the spotlight on the Mercedes stand with the first-ever C-Class Cabriolet.

    What’s next?
    Mercedes recently announced that every member of its AMG Sport lineup will be bumped up to the Mercedes-AMG brand and re-branded with the ’43′ designation. That means the aforementioned C450 AMG Sport will be renamed C43 in the near future, and it will be joined by a full roster of 43-badged models like an E43, a GLE43, and so forth.

  • BMW to resurrect 8 Series by decade’s end?

    February 24, 2016

    Rumors surrounding a resurrected BMW 8 Series have resurfaced, suggesting the project may be moving forward after all.

    The automaker is said to be positioning the model as a new technological flagship to take on Mercedes-Benz’ new S-Class Coupe, according to an Autocar report. One potential configuration takes the form of a sleek four-door, described as bigger and more opulent than then 6 Series Gran Coupe.

    Alternatively, BMW leadership is also reportedly mulling a two-door coupe and convertible variant. Introduced more than 25 years ago, the original 8 Series was only offered as a two-door coupe. An 850i Cabrio was pursued through late-stage development, but never saw production.

    The company has not publicly confirmed rumors of a next-generation 8 Series, though the Pininfarina-designed Gran Lusso Coupé hints at such ambitions. The 2013 concept borrows the 7 Series’ V12 engine, delivering 544 horsepower. A resurrected 8 Series is expected to be built upon the same platform as the 7 Series, likely with shared powertrains.

    Rumors circulating in 2014 suggested BMW would inaugurate the 9 Series nameplate rather than bringing back the 8 Series. Whatever form or name it takes, the big flagship grand tourer could be revealed in concept form by 2018 and land in showrooms by 2020.

  • Audi leads, FCA lags in latest Consumer Reports rankings

    February 24, 2016

    Audi, Subaru and Lexus have taken the podium positions in Consumer Reports latest ‘best cars‘ rankings.

    The magazine recommends every single test model from Audi and Subaru. The Japanese mainstream automaker is arguably the most notable winner, ranking higher than luxury brands Lexus, Porsche and BMW.

    The brand comparisons are based on overall scores, road-test performance and predicted reliability for each tested model of each brand. Scores are then averaged to determine which companies build the best vehicles.

    “Brands with a lineup of mature, incrementally updated vehicles tended to rise to the top,” the magazine wrote. “For instance, Toyota’s middling road-test score was balanced by strong reliability; Mercedes-Benz’s strong road tests were offset by below par reliability. And Honda, Nissan, and Chrysler suffered due to problematic new transmissions.”

    At the bottom of the list, Fiat was deemed the worst brand with the lowest overall score, second-to-worst road-test score and worst predicted reliability. Fiat Chrysler Automobile brands took four of the bottom six positions, shared by Land Rover and Mitsubishi. Notably, Consumer Reports does not recommend a single tested model from Jeep or Fiat.

    “We respect Consumer Reports’ opinion, as they’re one of the many third-party evaluators we receive comments from,” FCA quality VP Matt Liddane said in a statement. “With that being said, we encourage customers to experience our vehicles for themselves. We continue to aggressively pursue both product and launch-quality improvements as they are top priorities for the Company and our internal measurements are showing progress.”

  • NHTSA approves GM’s rear camera mirror

    February 24, 2016

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has approved General Motors’ camera-based hybrid rearview mirror.

    Due to launch in the Cadillac CT6 before making its way to other GM vehicles, including the Cadillac XT5 and Chevrolet Bolt, the Rear Camera Mirror uses a high-dynamic-range camera feed to reduce glare and provide a better image in low-light situations.

    The camera feed is presented on a 1280×240 in-mirror LCD display with 171 pixels per inch, providing an estimated 300 percent improvement in the rear-view field of vision.

    “The closest comparison to this kind of rear vision would be driving a convertible with the top down,” said Cadillac CT6 executive chief engineer, Travis Hester. “In addition to the increased field of view, the technology eliminates any rear seat, rear pillar or passenger obstructions, allowing the driver an unimpeded view of the lanes behind and traditional blind-spots.”

    The camera lens is treated with a water-shedding hydrophobic coating to help maintain visibility in poor weather conditions. If the lens does get coated in grime, drivers can simply flip a toggle to revert to a traditional rearview mirror.

    GM had asked the NHTSA to clarify federal safety guidelines related to rearview mirror systems.

    “While the Full Display Mirror is an item of motor vehicle equipment that performs additional driver activated functions, we do not believe that the fact that it performs such functions alters its basic identity as an item that includes an ‘inside rearview mirror of unit magnification,” the agency wrote in its response, according Twitter post from Transportation Department Secretary Anthony Foxx.

    The agency’s warming to hybrid rearview mirrors has not yet extended to camera-based side mirrors. Automakers are currently pushing to replace side mirrors with more aerodynamic and stylish camera systems, however the government has not yet dropped its requirement for traditional physical mirrors.