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Acura Hopes Revised ILX Can Gain Momentum in Booming Compact Luxury Market

Update delivers more power, technology and improved appearance.

by on Nov.21, 2014

Acura's Mike Accavitti introduces the 2016 version of the Acura ILX this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

In the high-tech world, companies like Apple often go for what’s known as “first-mover advantage.” By that logic, Acura should be dominating the booming compact luxury sedan segment with its once-groundbreaking ILX model. But things haven’t worked out as the maker hoped.

The ILX has been struggling to simply hold its momentum as newer entries like the Audi A3 and segment-leading Mercedes-Benz CLA race to market. Sales of the Acura offering tumbled 19.3% last month and are off 16.2% for the full calendar-year.

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So, the luxury arm of Honda Motor Co. has a lot riding on the 2016 version of the Acura ILX that was unveiled this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The updated model comes as an unusually early mid-cycle refresh, and aims to address the shortfalls of the original by tweaking its appearance, boosting its power and adding plenty of new technology. (more…)

Ford F-150 Is Highest-Mileage Gas-Powered Full-Size Truck

Legs Ram EcoDiesel mpg – but high cost of diesel offsets advantage, Ford claims.

by on Nov.21, 2014

Ford's 2015 F-150 4x2 with Ford’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine has EPA-estimated ratings of 19 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway and 22 mpg Combined.

With newly released EPA test numbers in hand, Ford Motor Co. has declared its 2015 F-150 the nation’s most fuel-efficient gas-powered full-size pickup truck.

Based on EPA numbers and what Ford billed as apples-to-apples comparisons, the new aluminum-bodies F-150 will get anywhere from 5% to 29% better mileage – in some cases as much as 7 mpg – over the prior model.

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That’s “a significant achievement,” declared Ford’s global product development director Raj Nair, especially when taking into account the fact that the average new 2015 F-150 will also see an increase in both towing and cargo capacity. (more…)

Volvo V60 Cross Country Aiming for Its Own Unique Niche

New Cross Country model strikes a balance between wagon and CUV.

by on Nov.21, 2014

The Volvo V60 Cross Country is officially a wagon, but with its taller, almost coupe-like proportions, it could have been re-designated a crossover.

Few manufacturers have had their image more closely tied to the station wagon, even though Volvo went awhile without offering one in the U.S. market – and probably for good reason considering the limited demand for that seemingly out-of-date body style.

Significantly, when the Swedish maker’s turn in the spotlight came at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, it put the focus on the new XC90 sport-utility vehicle it will launch next year. But there was another model sharing the stage, and it harkens more closely to Volvo’s roots.

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The Volvo V60 Cross Country is officially being called a wagon, but with its taller, almost coupe-like proportions, it could just as easily have been re-designated a crossover. It certainly has a silhouette similar to other European CUVs, such as the BMW X1. (more…)

Mitsubishi Pushes into Battery-Power with XR-PHEV

Plug-in hybrid concept hints at “changes that will affect our future.”

by on Nov.21, 2014

Mitsubishi continued its push into the EV segment at the Los Angeles Auto Show with its new XR-PHEV plug-in hybrid crossover.

It’s likely best known for SUVs and sports cars like the Outlander and the EVO pocket rocket, but Mitsubishi has been shifting emphasis with battery models like the little i-MiEV and the battery-powered race car that set a new record at this year’s Pike’s Peak Hill Climb.

So there’s reason to take seriously the new XR-PHEV, the angular plug-in hybrid crossover vehicle the maker is showing at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

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“We’re looking at changes that will affect our future,” suggested Mitsubishi Executive Vice President Don Swearingen. (more…)

Fisker Rockets Back with 725-HP Mustang

Limited sales set to begin in early 2015.

by on Nov.21, 2014

A project "born out of passion," says Fisker.

Henrik Fisker, perhaps best known for his abortive effort to launch the plug-in hybrid Fisker Karma sports car, is back in the limelight, but turning his talents towards a very different direction. The Fisker Rocket revealed at the Los Angeles Motor Show is all about performance, the Danish-born designer dubbing the modified Mustang “the ultimate American muscle car.”

The Rocket is a 725-hp rework of the all-new pony car Ford Motor Co. Fisker and partner Galpin Auto Sports have not only upgraded the performance of the 2015 Mustang but made a number of exterior modifications that give it both a more sinister and exotic appearance.

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“My jaw dropped. I got chills” when first shown the sketches former Aston Martin chief designer Fisker had in mind, said Beau Boeckmann, president of both Galpin Auto Sports and Galpin Motors, the world’s largest Ford dealer. For his part, Fisker explained that the Rocket is “really a program born out of passion.”

(more…)

Audi Pairs Hydrogen and Plug-in Power to Create A7 h-tron

Dual power offers performance and other pluses.

by on Nov.20, 2014

Audi's A7 h-tron Sportback Quattro may be the best of both possible green worlds: a plug-in hybrid that uses a hydrogen fuel cell.

There’s a war of words underway between proponents of battery power and those who think the fuel-cell is the future of green technology. Audi is suggesting both might find common ground in their effort to replace the conventional internal combustion engine.

The luxury arm of Volkswagen AG used the Los Angeles Auto Show to reveal its unusual A7 h-tron Sportback Quattro. The coupe-like sedan pairs a fuel-cell stack with a plug-in hybrid system to create a vehicle that produces zero emissions yet also can deliver sporty performance.

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The show car is “a bold statement for the future of sustainable mobility,” proclaimed Ulrich Hackenberg, the Audi board member overseeing technical development. (more…)

BMW i3 Named Green Car of the Year

“Validation” of a breakthrough concept.

by on Nov.20, 2014

BMW's Tom Plucinsky,left, accepts the Green Car of the Year award from Green Car Journal's Ron Cogan.

Squaring off with four tough – but environmentally friendly – competitors, the BMW i3 claimed victory as the Green Car of the Year, an award the maker says “validates” the costly development program behind the breakthrough battery-electric vehicle.

The i3 is the smaller and more affordable of two new battery-based vehicles being offered by the German maker’s new brand-within-a-brand, BMW i. It is offered as either a pure battery-electric vehicle, or with an optional range-extending internal combustion engine that automatically fires up when the batteries run down.

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The i3 “breaks the mold” not only with its battery drive system but by bringing the use of lightweight carbon fiber down to the mainstream, said Ron Cogan, the publisher of Green Car Journal, which sponsors the award program. (more…)

Fiat Betting on Mix of Style and Utility with New 500X

Crossover aimed at putting a halo: around the brand.

by on Nov.20, 2014

Fiat introduced its new 500X crossover at the L.A. Auto Show. It's the third vehicle in the U.S. line-up.

“X” marks the spot for Fiat as it debuts its new 500X crossover-utility vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

It’s set to become the third model in the maker’s U.S. line-up and, if it connects with American buyers, could become the brand’s best-seller. At least Fiat is hoping so, considering the lackluster performance of the 500L people-mover that the market has largely ignored.

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“I think this car will do extremely well here,” Jason Storcevik, the CEO of the Fiat brand, said during a preview prior to the LA. Auto Show unveiling. (more…)

Maybach Makes an Unexpected Return

How a once-abandoned brand name came back to life.

by on Nov.20, 2014

Mercedes-Benz introduced its ultra-exclusive S600 in Los Angeles yesterday with a bit of a surprise: it's the Mercedes-Maybach S600.

It is Los Angeles, so there’s always an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Just ask Mercedes-Benz which used the L.A. Auto Show this week to unexpectedly bring the once-abandoned Maybach brand name back to life.

Named for Wilhelm Maybach, a partner of Daimler AG founder Gottfried Daimler, the Maybach name graced a line of ultra-exclusive automobiles, such as the Maybach M57. But in 2011 slow sales led the company to announce it would kill off the brand.

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Mercedes wasn’t about to abandon the market’s most elite buyers, though. It planned a stretched and upgraded version of the elite S-Class, which was originally set to be called the Mercedes-Benz S600 Pullman. But in a surprise move, it has decided to call the new model the Mercedes-Maybach S600. (more…)

Cadillac ATS-V the “Next Chapter,” Says New Brand Boss

High-performance model will introduce no-lift stick-shift.

by on Nov.20, 2014

Johan de Nysschen, Cadillac's new boss, noted the performance of the new Cadillac ATS-V is "perfect for the Autobahn."

When the new Cadillac ATS-V comes to market next year, the compact performance model will introduce a new feature the luxury maker is calling “no-lift shift.” Buyers who opt for the six-speed manual transmission will be able to keep their foot flat on the floor, rather than lifting off the accelerator to change gears, explained new Caddy brand boss Johan de Nysschen.

It’s an appropriate metaphor for what the South African-born executive has in mind for Cadillac. The launch of the ATS-V – available in both sedan and coupe trim – comes at the start of “the next chapter” for General Motors’ flagship brand. And there’ll be plenty to follow, with an array of new performance models, sedans, coupes and an all-new flagship now in the development phase.

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“We have to shape consumer attitudes,” de Nysschen said during a preview at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It is all too apparent, he admitted, that luxury buyers no longer follow the brand or know “how competent our vehicles are.” (more…)