• Tesla Model X recalled over third-row seat hinges

    April 12, 2016

    Tesla is recalling the new Model X crossover over a safety issue with the third-row seats.

    The company explains the third row seats’ hinges could fail in the event of accident, allowing the seat back to collapse. Interestingly, the seat passed crash tests in the United States with flying colors, but it failed the more stringent tests that all new cars sold in Europe are put through.

    The recall affects 2,700 crossovers manufactured in Fremont, California, before March 26th. All of the affected cars are located in the United States, and most of them have already been delivered to customers. The company stresses that the recall is voluntary, and that no injuries or fatalities have been blamed on the defect.

    Tesla quickly worked with Futuris, the Australian supplier who built the hinge, to develop a fix. Owners of affected vehicles will need to stop by their nearest Tesla service center to get the third-row seat hinges replaced free of charge. The process will take approximately two hours, and Tesla expects that every Model X will be fixed in five weeks’ time. In the meantime, the firm is urging owners not to use the third row.

  • Volkswagen previews WRC-bound 2017 Polo R

    April 12, 2016

    Volkswagen has published a teaser sketch to preview the Polo R that will compete in the 2017 season of the World Rally Championship (WRC).

    The next Polo R will look more muscular than the highly-successful current model because new WRC regulations allow automakers to install more aggressive body kits. The changes will include a deeper front bumper with a large air dam, flared fenders, and massive wing attached to the hatch. The new look will be complemented by a 2017-specific blue and white livery.

    Keeping in line with the FIA’s newest regulations, Volkswagen has tuned the Polo R’s turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine to develop 380 horsepower — about 60 more than today’s race car — by increasing the size of the air restrictor from 34 to 36 millimeters. Electronically controlled center differentials are making a comeback next year, and the FIA has reduced the minimum weight of WRC cars to just 2,590 pounds.

    Volkswagen explains the modifications will make the Polo more dynamic and safer. FIA officials quietly admit they hope that modifying the regulations to make cars lighter and more powerful will lure more spectators to WRC events.

    The updated Volkswagen Polo R will make its WRC debut at next year’s edition of the Monte-Carlo Rally. It will race against similarly-modified versions of the DS 3, the Ford Fiesta, and the Hyundai i20, but it will also have to fend off competition from Toyota’s new Yaris WRC.

  • Audi creates one-off A8 L extended

    April 12, 2016

    Audi has created a one-off A8 limousine for one lucky European customer. The so-called A8 L extended is the first king-sized A8 that the Audi factory has ever built.

    Stretching a total of 20.9 feet, the A8 L extended is 3.6 feet longer than the standard issue A8 L. The frame of the A8 L extended is so long that it accommodates two extra doors.

    In order to support the added length of the A8, Audi engineers used extruded aluminum for the sedan’s side sills and center tunnel. The A8 L extended also features a double rear bulkhead and extra roof braces to support the sedan’s added heft. All in the A8 L extended tips the scales at a heavy but not terribly obese 5,330 pounds.

    In order to maintain the A8′s proportions, Audi redesigned the A8 L extended roof from the A-pillars back. The sedan also features unique side lights comply with oversized vehicle rules.

    Inside the A8 L extended is typical A8, save for an extra row of seats. All rows feature power-adjustable seats, but third row occupants benefit from a continuous center console, rear seat entertainment and a cool box. All three rows of seats are upholstered in velvet beige Valcona leather.

    In order to keep the cabin bright, the A8 L extended features an appropriately over-sized glass roof that’s nearly eight-feet long. Sun blinds are available for each row of seats to prevent overheating from the sun.

    The A8 L extended is powered by Audi’s 3.0 TFSI engine, generating 310 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. The A8 L extended uses an eight-speed automatic transmission and retains Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system.

    Despite having only 310 horsepower on tap, the A8 L extended can accelerate from 0-60 in a respectable 7.1 seconds. Give it enough road and the limo will hit 155mph. In order to haul that much weight down from speed, Audi has equipped the A8 L extended with upgraded brakes from the S8 sedan.

    Audi didn’t reveal pricing for the A8 L extended, but it was likely a multiple or two of the A8 L’s base price of $81,500.

  • Audi RS 3 sedan coming next year

    April 12, 2016

    Audi’s high-performance RS 3 sedan will reportedly join the A3 and S3 sedans in U.S. showrooms next year. The RS 3 is currently available in the European market in Sportback form.

    According to Car and Driver, the U.S.-spec RS 3 will arrive sometime in 2017 as a 2018 model year. The RS 3 will be powered by a 2.5L five-cylinder turbo, but it won’t be the same mill found in the current Euro-spec RS 3. Audi is putting the finishing touches on an all-new 2.5L turbo-five that will debut later this year at the Beijing Motor Show.

    That five-banger — which will be shared with the next TT RS — will reportedly develop about 400 horsepower, which would be enough to trump the 375 horsepower Mercedes-AMG CLA45. The current RS 3′s five-cylinder is rated at 362 horsepower.

    Shifting through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive, the RS 3 sedan will be capable of ripping from 0-60 in four-seconds flat. Depending on trim, the RS 3 will be able to hit a top speed of 174mph.

    Given its scheduled 2017 introduction, the RS 3 sedan will be launching near the end of the A3‘s lifecycle. While good for keeping interest high in an aging vehicle, that late market launch means Audi will be missing out on higher-margin sales. Hopefully Audi has learned its lesson on that front and will introduce the next RS 3 much earlier in the car’s lifecycle.

  • Tesla planning for the end of EV tax credits

    April 12, 2016

    Tesla might have to shift its production plans for its Model 3 sedan in order to maximize the number of federal tax credits available to buyers.

    U.S. buyers of electric vehicles are currently eligible for up to a $7,500 federal tax credit, with all Tesla vehicles — including the Model 3 — qualifying for the maximum rebate. However, that credit starts to decline after an automaker hits 200,000 EVs, meaning most of the 325,000 people already signed up to buy the Model 3 might miss out on the full tax rebate.

    Although there isn’t a loophole to prevent the tax credit from drying up, there is a way to extend the program. The IRS’ rules state that the tax credit will be cut at the end of the quarter following the one in which an automaker hits that 200,000 EV limit, so Tesla could intentionally hit that magic number on the first day of the quarter, ensuring the maximum number of tax credits to buyers.

    “We always try to maximize customer happiness even if that means a revenue shortfall in a quarter,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter.

    Tesla doesn’t release specific U.S. sales figures, but it’s estimated that the electric automaker has sold about 71,500 combined units of its Model S sedan and Model X crossover.

    Although some Model 3 buyers will miss out on the full tax credit, partial rebates will be available. After hitting the 200,000 unit sales mark the credit drops in half to $3,750 for the next two quarters. That figure is halved again for another two quarters before expiring entirely.

    There has been some discussion in Washington about extending the program beyond 200,000 units, but so far nothing has been set in stone. Whatever the case, Tesla plans to be up front and honest with its buyers about the tax credit system.

    “We are committed to providing customers with up-to-date information about current incentives at the time of purchase,” Tesla spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson told Automotive News. “We’ll do the same when it’s time for customers to confirm their Model 3 orders.”

    The Tesla Model 3 is scheduled to go on sale in late 2017.