• 2016 Kia Optima earns IIHS’ Top Safety Pick Plus rating

    March 30, 2016

    The 2016 Kia Optima has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest rating of Top Safety Pick Plus. The Kia Optima was totally redesigned for the 2016 model year.

    The Optima snagged “good” ratings in all five of the IIHS’ crashworthiness tests, plus the “superior” rating for frontal crash avoidance. As a result, the Optima earned the institute’s top overall rating of TSP+.

    “The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety sets some of the highest standards of crashworthiness, and the Top Safety Pick Plus designation is a significant achievement for the Kia brand and for our best-selling vehicle,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning, KMA. “We are pleased that the all-new Optima received strong ratings across the range of rigorous tests set forth by IIHS. This rating validates the efforts of our engineers and the priority we place on safety for our consumers.”

    Although the 2016 Optima scored well in the IIHS’ crashworthiness test, the mid-size sedan flunked the institute’s recent headlight test. The Optima, along with several other vehicles, mustered the worst rating of “poor” in the new headlight test, meaning you might really need its safety systems on a dark patch of backroad.

    Images by Drew Johnson.

  • Top Tesla Model 3 to have 300-mile range, 0-60 in under 4 seconds?

    March 30, 2016

    Tesla’s Model 3 sedan may be capable of driving for more than 300 miles and accelerating nearly as quickly as a Model S P90D.

    The company has kept official information tightly under wraps, however an unnamed source has told Electrek a few alleged specs. The base model promises to deliver at least 250 miles of range, suggesting the leaked information, if true, points to a range-topping package.

    The mass-market sedan is said to be capable of launching to 60 mph in less than four seconds, not far behind the P90D’s claimed 3.1-second sprint. The benchmark is presumably tied to a dual-motor variant that sends available power to all four wheels.

    The source describes the Model 3 exterior design as a blend between the Model S and Model X, but shorter and narrower than either existing model. Previous reports suggest it will be roughly the same size as a BMW 3-Series.

    The entry-level Model 3 promises to carry a $35,000 price tag, before government incentives. Top trim levels are expected to fetch up to $60,000, bridging the gap beneath the basic Model S.

    Full details will be disclosed at Tesla’s official unveiling event on Thursday.

  • Porsche highlights Mission E design process [Video]

    March 30, 2016

    Porsche has released a promotional video highlighting the Mission E‘s design process.

    The Porsche Design Studio borrowed design cues from a wide range of existing models, spanning from 1950s classics to the modern 919 Hybrid endurance race car.

    The front-end is unhindered by an engine, allowing the Mission E to keep a low nose consistent with Porsche’s rear-engine models. Its futuristic intakes route flow around the wheels, rather than providing intake charge for an internal combustion engine.

    “First of all the vehicle is clearly recognizable as a Porsche, but we designers wanted to go a step further and see how the Porsche design language, and especially a Porsche electric design language, might be developed further,” said Porsche exterior design director Mitja Borkert.

    The company recently promised the Mission E’s production counterpart will be “very similar” to the concept in terms of external design. The electric four-seater will be built upon an entirely new platform, delivering an estimated 311 miles of range and a driving experience on par with the 918 Spyder operated in EV mode.

    Live images by Ronan Glon.

  • Renault reveals Kaptur crossover for Russia

    March 30, 2016

    Renault has revealed the Kaptur, a small crossover geared specifically for the Russian market.

    The Kaptur is essentially an adaptation of the Euro-spec Captur, outfitted with a all-wheel-drive system, locking center differential, elevated ride height and heavier-duty suspension.

    Other market-specific provisions include remote start, heated front seats and a heated windshield to help deal with cold winters in Russia and other Eurasian Customs Union countries.

    The Kaptur features a more aggressive styling than the Captur, consistent with Renault’s latest design language. Its wider upper grille brings a new honeycomb mesh pattern, while the hood and door inserts have been sculpted for a stronger appearance.

    Manufactured at Renault’s Moscow factory, the Kaptur is slated to arrive in showrooms this summer. The Russian automotive market continues to experience trouble this year, however automakers are still vying for market-share gains in the country. The new crossover represents one of 10 new models that Renault hopes will drive global expansion.

  • Tesla prepares for federal battle over direct sales

    March 30, 2016

    Tesla is preparing to file a federal suit if it’s unable to secure the right to sell its electric vehicles directly to customers in six states, a new report finds.

    For years Tesla has been fighting decades-old franchise laws throughout the United States that bar manufacturers from selling directly to consumers. Six states in particular — Arizona, Michigan, Texas, Connecticut, Utah and West Virginia — have proven difficult for Tesla to crack. The electric automaker is currently waiting on new legislation and dealer applications in those states to begin direct sales, but if those measures fail, Tesla could take its fight to federal courts.

    Somewhat strangely, Tesla’s legal hopes could be pinned on a 2013 suit that was filed by St. Joseph Abbey in New Orleans to sell monk-made caskets directly to consumers. The abbey discovered after Hurricane Katrina that state laws restricted coffin sales to those licensed by the Louisiana Board of Funeral Directors. The abbey argued that there was no reason for the casket law other than to protect existing businesses from new competition, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately agreed.

    “It is widely accepted that laws that have a protectionist motivation or effect are not proper,” Todd Maron, the auto maker’s chief counsel, told The Wall Street Journal. “Tesla is committed to not being foreclosed from operating in the states it desires to operate in, and all options are on the table.”

    Tesla is hoping its direct sales battle won’t come to a federal suit, but it’s prepared to dig its heels in on the matter. That fight would likely come next year, around the time the company plans to start sales of its $35,000 Model 3 sedan.