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First Drive: 2016 BMW 7-Series

A techie’s dream car.

by on Aug.28, 2015

The new 2016 BMW 7-Series will come to the U.S. only in long-wheelbase form.

The value of a luxury car has traditionally been measured by the pound and feet, by the size and number of cylinders of its engine and, of course, by the number of trees and cowhides used to complete its passenger compartment. But the old measurements have begun to change, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the sixth-generation BMW 7-Series.

True, with U.S. buyers now set to get only the long-wheelbase version, it’s bigger than ever. But the new sedan also gets lighter, thanks to the extensive use of carbon fiber, aluminum and ultra-high-strength steel. It uses a twin-turbo engine to punch out incredible amounts of power from a relatively modest 4.4-liter V-8. And while there’s more leather and wood than ever – some of it barely apparent to passengers – BMW expects buyers to be drawn to the incredible array of technologies that have increasingly come to define the best luxury vehicles.

The Last Word!

In developing the 2016 7-Series, BMW engineers intentionally set out to one-up the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the latest version having become the current, high-tech automotive benchmark. And, at least in terms of the number and range of new features the 7-Series offers, it would seem they’ve succeeded. From a comfort and safety standpoint, never mind the manufacturing side, the new BMW 750i is a high-tech showcase.

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Kia Reveals New Sportage

“The new face of Kia.”

by on Aug.28, 2015

New headlights and a modified "tiger nose" grille distinguish the gen-four Kia Sportage.

Kia is giving us a more detailed look at the next-generation Sportage, following up on the early renderings it released a couple weeks ago.

Set to make its formal debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month, the 2016 Kia Sportage will pick up on some of the cues we first saw in the form of the Niro Concept two years ago. The overall look offers a strong hint of where Kia’s global design chief Peter Schreyer will be taking the look of the brand in the years to come.

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The biggest changes to the design of the fourth-generation Sportage can be seen in its face, notes Kia, “with the car’s headlamps no longer integrated with the grille for the new model, instead sweeping back along the outer edges of the more sharply-detailed (hood) and bolder wheel arches.”

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Smart Reveals New ForTwo Cabrio

America’s smallest car goes topless.

by on Aug.28, 2015

The newly redesigned Smart ForTwo Cabrio will offer a three-position canvas top.

The new Smart car hasn’t yet landed in showrooms in the U.S. but the German microcar maker is already rolling out a second version, with a third on the way.

The redesigned Smart ForTwo Cabrio gets a new canvas “tritop” that can open up like a sunroof or fold back more like a conventional convertible. Set to formally debut at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the two-seater will reach showrooms in mid-spring 2016.

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“Our new smart cabrio really exudes joie de vivre in the city – which is what our brand stands for”, said Smart brand boss Annette Winkler. “I am sure that we will delight our present 220,000 cabrio customers and win lots of new fans with this successful lifestyle icon.”

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New Hellraiser? Jeep Grand Cherokee to Get the Hellcat Treatment

Jeep to add 707-hp version of the Grand Cherokee.

by on Aug.27, 2015

Jeep will be adding a 707-hp Hellcat version of the Grand Cherokee it will call Trackhawk.

Things are going to hell at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Which is, apparently, a good thing considering the huge demand for the maker’s two Hellcat muscle cars, 707-horsepower versions of the Dodge Charger sedan and Challenger coupe.

They’ll soon be joined by another Hellcat-powered model. Several FCA insiders have confirmed that the Jeep brand is getting ready to launch a 707-horesepower SUV that will be known as the Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk.

A Real Performer!

Fiat Chrysler officials this week have been briefing dealers about plans to expand the Hellcat line during their annual retail get-together in Las Vegas. They’re also advising dealers that they’ve boosted production capacity for the Hellcat engine. Demand has been so strong that orders for the 2015 models had to be cut off well before the end of the model-year.

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Tesla Lands a Perfect Score from Consumer Reports

Model S P85D receives highest rating ever, despite occasional complaints.

by on Aug.27, 2015

The Tesla Model S overcame a few concerns to land a perfect score from CR testers.

The Tesla Model S P85D not only received the best score of any vehicle ever tested by Consumer Reports magazine, it somehow managed to earn 103 points on a 100-point scale, the often skeptical non-profit magazine has announced.

The P85D is the longer-range, higher-performance version of the Tesla battery-electric sedan that already was hailed by Consumer Reports in previous tests. The latest glowing review comes despite a warning issued by the magazine in May that a P85D it was using had become “undriveable” because of a series of problems.

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“When the Model S P85D was evaluated at Consumer Reports’ test track in East Haddam, Connecticut, it initially earned a raw 103-point score in a system that by definition doesn’t go past 100. Consumer Reports had to make changes to its scoring methodology to account for the car’s exceptionally strong performance,” the magazine said in its new report.

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Blast From the Past: Detroit Automakers Looking to Revive More Old Nameplates

Barracuda, Bronco, Ranger among models that could return from rust heap.

by on Aug.27, 2015

An original Plymouth Barracuda.

Coming up with an all-new name has become a major headache for automakers around the world. It can be difficult to find a name that hasn’t already been taken, and it then can be extremely costly to build consumer awareness.

So, it seems, a number of carmakers are looking back into their past to see if there are once-popular nameplates that can be revived. And with the successful revival of the Chevrolet Camaro, a few years back, it seems that even more manufacturers are going to take this route.

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Among the once-popular names we may soon see back in showrooms are the Grand Wagoneer, Barracuda, Ranger and Bronco, it seems. And still others may follow – though looking for a blast from the past does carry some risks, industry analysts warn.

As TheDetroitBureau.com reported this week, Ford Motor Co. is expected to bring back the Ranger pickup, a nameplate it abandoned in the U.S. in 2011, though it continued offering an all-new model overseas. The Ranger would fill a gap in Ford’s line-up now that there are signs American motorists are returning to the once-huge midsize truck segment.

(Click Here for more on the return of the Ford Ranger.)

Ford is now expected to offer a U.S. version of the midsize Ranger pickup, a model it dropped in 2010.

The revival of the Ranger would follow the return of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon models that briefly went out of production while General Motors worked up a more modern and competitive redesign of the compact trucks.

Ford also is said to be toying with the return of another once-popular model, the Bronco SUV. It was once a leader in the sport-utility segment but was replaced by more car-like models, such as the Ford Explorer. A new Bronco, sources suggest, would be roughly the size of the latest Explorer, but instead of riding on a car-like crossover platform it would share the chassis of the new Ranger pickup.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has brought back a number of model names in recent years, including muscle car mainstays like the Dodge Charger and Challenger. And it may add one more old-is-now offering to that high-powered segment, a revived Barracuda. In its heyday, the ‘Cuda was marketed through the now-abandoned Plymouth brand. Going forward it also would be sold through Dodge.

The sibling Jeep brand is also expected to bring back an old model, this one the big Grand Wagoneer. Though often credited with creating the modern SUV boom, Jeep hasn’t kept up with some key rivals in filling every possible model niche. The revived Grand Wagoneer would be a full-size model to take on the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GL, among others.

(Chevy, GMC hope to expand appeal of Colorado, Canyon twins with new diesel drivetrains. Click Herefor the latest.)

The return of the Chevy Camaro was one of the industry's most successful relaunches.

FCA reportedly is filling in dealers on its future product plans during a meeting in Las Vegas. Ford, meanwhile, has reportedly clued in the United Auto Workers Union on some of its plans as part of its ongoing contract negotiations. Formal public announcements could follow in the weeks or months ahead.

There are several reasons why manufacturers reach into their histories to revive old nameplates. For one thing, it is becoming increasingly difficult to come up with good names that aren’t already in use or at least registered by a competitor. That’s one reason many makers have gone the alphanumeric route. But they also know that it’s hard to get worked up about something called an ABC123.

Launching an all-new nameplate, meanwhile, is extremely expensive, a mainstream model often requiring a marketing investment of $100 million or more to establish in the market, notes analyst Joe Phillippi, of AutoTrends Consulting.

But when it comes to these blasts from the past, some of those old model names still carry a lot of positive heritage that automatically tell a story in the collective public mind. That was the case when General Motors brought back the Chevrolet Camaro in 2009. The muscle car went on to dominate the so-called pony car segment for the next five years.

The retro-styled Ford Thunderbird didn't deliver on the maker's high hopes.

On the other hand, GM’s effort to bring back the once-revered Pontiac GTO name flopped a decade ago. Unlike the retro-styled Camaro, the new “Goat” had a bland and largely forgettable design that failed to connect with consumers.

The same was the case with the Thunderbird, the two-seat roadster Ford tried to launch a decade ago. Over the decades, the T’bird went through a variety of incarnations, from the original 2-seater to a bloated coupe and then into a quirky but less-than-compelling 2-seater again. A variety of product weaknesses resulted in mixed reviews and weak sales, and the Thunderbird was again pulled from the market.

So, while a grand old name can give a new product a head start, it’s not enough to fix a bad vehicle design.

(New Jeeps, including next Grand Cherokee, Grand Wagoneer, delayed. Click Here for more.)

Ten Automakers Sued Over Deadly Keyless Ignition Risks

Suit claims 13 deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

by on Aug.27, 2015

The Ford Flex is one of a growing number of vehicles to use keyless ignition systems.

A lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Los Angeles naming 10 of the world’s largest automakers as defendants in a suit alleging 13 deaths were caused by faulty keyless ignition systems.

The complaint claims that the systems allow motorists to walk away thinking the vehicles have been shut off but actually can continue running, producing deadly carbon monoxide gas. The suit alleges that the 10 automakers have known about the problem but hid it from consumers and continued to market the keyless ignition systems.

Turn on to TDB!

“The automakers had actual knowledge of the dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning consequences of vehicles with keyless fobs that lack an automatic shut-off,” the lawsuit stated.

The federal lawsuit names as defendants General Motors, Ford Motor Co. Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes Benz, Honda, BMW, Hyundai Kia, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen, as well as some of their subsidiary brands.

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Automakers Rapidly Expand Availability of Forward Crash Prevention Systems

Technology boosts safety ratings, says Insurance Institute.

by on Aug.26, 2015

Ford workers prepare a mannequin for testing the maker's new pedestrian alert system.

Once available only on a handful of the most expensive luxury models, a growing number of vehicles, including mainstream and even economy models, now offer forward crash warning systems. That means better protection for passengers and improved safety ratings for manufacturers.

For the first time ever, more than half of all new cars, trucks and crossovers offer standard or optional forward crash warning systems, according to a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And a quarter of all new vehicles take things a step further with warning systems that can automatically apply the brakes, if necessary.

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There’s growing evidence the technology is helping reduce highway crashes, injuries, and possibly fatalities.

As part of its ongoing series of tests, the IIHS is awarding 19 new models its superior or advanced ratings due to the addition of forward crash warning technology.

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Jaguar Offers First Full Look at New F-Pace Utility Vehicle

by on Aug.26, 2015

The development of the Jaguar F-Pace was influenced by the XE sedan and F-Type sports car.

With its first-ever utility vehicle set to make its formal debut in Frankfurt next month, we’re getting a clear look at the new Jaguar F-Pace for the first time.

And the maker is trying to make clear that the new crossover-utility vehicle won’t be a brand misfit. Even while noting the functional attributes of the new Jaguar F-Pace, the British maker is emphasizing its more emotional side, dubbing it “the ultimate practical Jaguar sports car.”

Pushing the Boundaries!

“We haven’t made any compromises or exceptions,” said chief engineer Mike Cross, in a statement accompany this image. “The new F-PACE had to be a true Jaguar and had to deliver the dynamics DNA. We’ve tested ride and handling to the limit, and the result is that the new F-PACE is as engaging and rewarding to drive as it is comfortable and quiet. As soon as you get into the vehicle you know immediately that it’s a good place to be.”

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Automakers Adding High-Tech Features Consumers Often Do Not Want

Millennials prove surprisingly tech-resistant.

by on Aug.26, 2015

Even Millennials seem to find little appeal in such high-tech features such as the new Apple CarPlay.

Virtually every Chevy that will roll off the assembly line next year will feature a built-in 4G LTE connectivity that can provide anyone in the car access to a mobile WiFi hotspot. General Motors’ OnStar unit, meanwhile, offers many of its customers access to a mobile concierge service – as do a number of competitors.

But a surprising number of owners don’t bother to use either of those features – which are among the most underutilized among a raft of high technology features and services automakers are building into their latest vehicles, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates.

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The 2015 Drive Report finds that 20% of recent new car buyers have not yet used half of the high-tech additions to their vehicles during the first three months of ownership.

But what may be the biggest surprise in the Drive Report is that supposedly tech-centric Millennials are proving particularly slow to embrace all the new features supposedly designed to attract them to today’s newest, highest-tech vehicles.

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