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Hyundai Blows Into Chicago with Updated Santa Fe, Santa Fe Sport SUVs

Korean carmakers aims to stay relevant in fast-moving SUV market.

by on Feb.11, 2016

Heading for Chicago: Hyundai makes a number of changes to the 2017 Santa Fe line.

By the millions, American motorists are migrating from conventional passenger cars to sport-utility vehicles and more car-like crossover models. And manufacturers are responding with a flood of new offerings.

So, it’s a challenge to keep existing models fresh and competitive – something Hyundai hopes to handle with the debut of updated versions of two key entries at the Chicago Auto Show. It boasts that the 2017 Santa Fe and smaller Santa Fe Sport models get not only a mid-cycle facelift but enhanced safety, convenience and connectivity features.

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Hyundai is so upbeat about the prospects for the 2017 updates it is planning to boost capacity, notably adding production of the Santa Fe Sport at its manufacturing plant in Montgomery, Alabama. But it is also readying a slew of new utility vehicles to take advantage of shifting market trends.

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Nissan Fills in Blanks About “Standard” Titan Model

Half-ton model will go on sale in summer 2016.

by on Feb.11, 2016

The new Nissan Titan half-ton comes in about a foot shorter than the Titan XD.

In an unusual move, Nissan launched its all-new Titan pickup line with the XD, or medium-duty model, last December. Now it’s ready to go after the heart of the truck market with the half-ton model.

The Japanese maker revealed some of the details of the standard-edition Titan in Chicago, just in time for the Windy City’s annual auto show press preview. Among other things, Nissan plans to lift a page from Detroit’s pickup handbook, offering the new Titan in a wide range of cab, drivetrain and bed configurations.

Truck News!

Together Titan and Titan XD will cover nearly 85 percent of the total full-size truck market,” said Rich Miller, Nissan’s product planning director for trucks, SUVs and commercial vehicles. The half-ton will target the highest-volume segments, the XD providing a bridge for those who want more capabilities than a standard truck but who can’t afford – or who don’t need – a traditional heavy-duty model.

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Kia Promises Best of Both Worlds with New Niro Hybrid Crossover

Ground-up design; one of three battery models debuting in Chicago.

by on Feb.11, 2016

The 2017 Kia Niro boasts a slick 0.29 coefficient of drag, helping deliver an estimated 50 mpg,

What would Toyota do if it were starting from scratch, designing the Prius today? Would the world’s best-selling hybrid still have a relatively conventional five-door layout? Or might it follow current fashion?

That was the question Kia’s product development team apparently had to answer when they began working up their own dedicated hybrid-electric model. And in their case, they opted for a slick subcompact crossover-utility vehicle dubbed the Kia Niro.

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First shown in concept form more than two years ago, the production Niro loses such fanciful touches as the scissor-style doors. But Kia didn’t take the easy out, simply stuffing a gas-electric driveline in an existing CUV model like the Sportage. Instead, the Korean carmaker opted for a ground-up development program designed, it claims, to strikes a balance between styling, utility, fuel-economy and that elusive fun-to-drive factor.

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Kia Offers Two New Battery Options for 2017 Optima Sedan

Updated hybrid and Kia’s first plug-in make Chicago debut.

by on Feb.11, 2016

Kia is adding a plug-in hybrid version of the Optima fo4 2016, getting up to 27 miles a charge.

Little Korean carmaker Kia has never been shy about bucking trends. And it’s ready to prove that again at the Chicago Auto Show.

Kia is heading into the Windy City with not just one, not just two, but three new battery-based products set to reach U.S. showrooms for the 2017 model-year. That includes both the updated Kia Optima Hybrid, but also the new Kia Optima PHEV, the Korean carmaker’s first plug-in hybrid.

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Along with the new Kia Niro, a compact crossover hybrid, the two Optima models are part of the carmaker’s grand plan to triple the number of battery-based models in its fleet by 2020. But whether they’ll gain traction in a market more focused on trucks is far from certain. (more…)

Infiniti Powers Up with Three New Engines for Q50 Line

Luxury maker promises “complete transformation” of line-up.

by on Feb.11, 2016

Infiniti gets serious about performance with a new 400 hp VR V-6 for the Q50 Red Sport 400.

Long stuck in the second tier of luxury brands, Infiniti hopes to come out from the shadows with an assortment of new models and powertrains, and a bigger emphasis on performance.

Nissan’s high-line marque is giving a taste of what it has in mind as it reveals three new powertrains for the new Q50 sedan at a Chicago Auto Show event, including a package it has dubbed the Q50 Red Sport 400.

Power Up!

“We are completely transforming the Infiniti model lineup this year with all-new models like the QX30 and Q60 sports coupe, major makeovers such as the QX60, and cutting-edge powerplants like the Q50’s three all-new turbocharged engines,” said Infiniti Americas Vice President Randy Parker.

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Ram Powers Up with Chicago Debut of 2017 Power Wagon

A pickup for serious off-roaders.

by on Feb.11, 2016

The 2017 Ram Power Wagon harkens back to the automaker's past off-road brutes.

Ram is rolling its new Power Wagon onto the stage at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, but buyers are more likely to head for the hills and dales, and just about anywhere else they can check out the capabilities of the brand’s most serious off-road pickup.

Based on the Ram 2500 4×4 HD Crew Cab, the 2017 Ram Power Wagon aims to deliver the best of both worlds. It’s designed to slog through mud and crawl over rocks, but its also got plenty of creature comforts you wouldn’t traditionally find in a serious off-roader.

Muscle Up!

“The Ram Power Wagon is an off-road, all-access pass, removing the limitations, instilling confidence and allowing owners to reach areas of recreation and lifestyle not attainable with any other pickup,” said Ram boss Mike Manley. (more…)

Nissan Ships New Armada to Chicago

First remake of big SUV in 13 years.

by on Feb.10, 2016

The 2017 Nissan Armada gets its first makeover in more than a decade in time for the Chicago Auto Show.

The fleet is in. The battleship-sized Nissan Armada is getting a complete makeover for 2017, and not a moment too soon, considering it’s been 13 years since the full-size SUV got its last big update.

The Japanese maker says it has touched on virtually every aspect of the Armada, down to the bolt holes in its frame. It gets a new platform, newly redesigned body, all-new suspension, a new 390 horsepower V-8 and a variety of new safety and convenience technologies that Nissan hopes will make it more competitive with rivals such as the Toyota Sequoia and Chevrolet Tahoe.

Product News!

“While the new Armada is intended primarily for family adventures here in North America, Armada owners will benefit from its underpinnings as a strong, durable and authentic full-size SUV with ruggedness to spare,” said Nissan VP Michael Bunce, head of North American product planning. (more…)

Google Gets Major Endorsement from NHTSA for Autonomous Test Program

Feds say AI system is equivalent of human driver under federal law.

by on Feb.10, 2016

No humans required?

Google’s autonomous vehicle program has achieved a significant milestone as it moves closer to being production-ready.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has told the high-tech firm that the artificial intelligence system used in its prototype vehicles can be considered the same as a human driver according to federal regulations.

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Google had sought that ruling in a letter sent to NHTSA last November in which it claimed the vehicles have “no need for a human driver.” The high-tech project is in the midst of rolling out about 100 specially designed prototypes designed to test the latest version of Google self-driving technology under real-world conditions. The company wants to remove even the traditional steering wheel and pedals from some of those prototypes.

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Bear Market Bites Tesla

Analysts and investors grow skeptical as EV maker prepares 2015 earnings report.

by on Feb.10, 2016

A scene from the new Tesla ad, Serious Wonder, featuring the voice of Nikola Tesla.

Tesla got a much-needed, albeit small bump on Wall Street Tuesday, but shares of the maverick battery-carmaker have been trading near a two-year low ahead of the company’s fourth-quarter earnings announcement.

The stock is down by more than a third since the beginning of the year, a downturn significantly more severe than the bearish turn the overall stock market has been experiencing, and a sign of increased concern by key analysts like Barclay’s Brian Johnson. On Tuesday, he cut his forecast from $180 to just $160 a share.

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There are still a handful of analysts who rate Tesla a “Buy,” and even a “Strong Buy,” but the mood has turned sharply in recent months, Stifel’s James Albertine summing up by cautioning, “We see few catalysts to turn short-term bears bullish.”

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Chevy 1LE Gives Performance Boost to Camaro

Package available for both V-6, V-8 models.

by on Feb.10, 2016

For the first time, the Camaro 1LE package will be available on V-6 and V-8 models.

For those hoping to squeeze even more performance out of the Chevrolet Camaro, the bowtie brand is bringing back its 1LE package.

Set to make a debut at the Chicago Auto Show this week, the Camaro 1LE option will be offered on both V-6 and V-8 versions of the muscle coupe. The package provides a combination of increased handling, extra performance and a more sporty appearance with a signature matte satin black hood.

Muscle Up!

The 1LE is meant for “an owner who wants a daily driver and a weekend track car,” suggests Paul Edwards, U.S. vice president in charge of Chevrolet marketing.

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