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First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R

Taking things to the next level.

by on Feb.27, 2015

The 2015 Golf R adds another strong entry to the expanding Golf hatchback family.

What do you do when you’ve nabbed some of the industry’s top honors? How do you one-up yourself after being named both North American Car of the Year, as well as Motor Trend Car of the Year.  If you’re Volkswagen, you take things to the next level with the launch of the new Golf R.

With its turbocharged, 292-horsepower inline-four, a pavement grabbing all-wheel-drive system and an electronic differential lock designed to keep you always pointed in the right direction, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R is more than just the sportiest member of the fast-growing Golf “family.” It’s also the sort of product the German maker needs to kick-start a brand that has been unable to take advantage of the overall recovery of the U.S. car market.

The Last Word!

If you think this is just a slightly upgraded version of the GTI, well, you need to spend a little time behind the wheel of the new Golf R. Preferably on some fast roads with plenty of aggressive corners. We were lucky enough to be handed a set of keys and a route map that took us into the winding mountain passes east of San Diego – with, of course, a stop for some pie in Julian, a pleasant little mountain town that time has virtually passed by.

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Congressman Pushes Nationwide Traffic Camera Ban

U.S. lawmaker joins growing opposition; questions grow about both fairness and effectiveness.

by on Feb.27, 2015

Opposition to traffic cameras keeps growing.

A U.S. Congressman has joined the growing chorus of opponents who want to see the end of automated cameras used to enforce traffic laws across the country.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Colorado Democrat, has proposed a nationwide ban on the technology – which he contends is used primarily for generating revenue for cash-strapped communities. Congressman Perlmutter isn’t alone. Lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle have joined forces to call for a traffic camera ban in Tennessee, while a judge in Ft. Lauderdale this week ruled the technology violates Florida law.

Auto Insight!

But the bill proposed by the Colorado representative, the “Prohibit Automated Enforcement Act of 2015,” is the first attempt to block the use of cameras at a national level.

“Automated traffic technology should be used for improving public-safety purposes rather than local governments relying on these devices to generate revenue,” Perlmutter said in a written statement.

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Mercedes Reveals Track-Ready AMG GT3

"Credible proof of our ambition to lead."

by on Feb.26, 2015

The Mercedes-AMG GT3 will start racing in 2016.

Expect to see some serious track-ready sheet metal make an appearance at the Geneva Motor Show next week, including a track-only offering from Aston Martin, and a dual street and track Cayman GT4 from Porsche.

So, how could Mercedes-Benz be left out of that high-performance pack? It can’t…or won’t, it turns out. Look for the Teutonic maker to bring its own track model to Geneva’s PALExpo convention center in the form of the AMG GT3.

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Performance News!

“We are entering a hard-fought and hotly competitive environment with the new Mercedes-AMG GT3,” declares Tobias Moers, the performance brand’s chairman. “You can only give credible proof of your ambition to lead if you’re beating the very best in the game.

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Porsche Pulling Covers Off Two New Models in Geneva

Cayman GT4 shows its stuff with blistering lap of Nurburgring.

by on Feb.26, 2015

The new Cayman GT4 seen lapping the Nurburgring.

The upcoming Geneva Motor Show is going to be one of the busiest ever, with automakers lining up to debut their latest products. And Porsche plans to use its time in the spotlight at Geneva’s PALExpo convention center to reveal two new high-performance models.

The pair includes the anticipated Porsche Cayman GT4, the maker’s first GT model based on a mid-engine coupe. The German sports carmaker has released some details about the new GT4, as well as a pair of shots grabbed while lapping the grueling Nurburgring track. But it’s keeping its second new offering a surprise to be revealed in Geneva.

Auto Show News and More!

The new Cayman GT4 is enough to catch one’s attention. Porsche says it turned an extremely impressive seven minute 40 second lap on the ‘Ring’s North Loop. That’s in line with what the previous generation Porsche 911 GT3 was able to accomplish.

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Lexus Leads Industry In Vehicle Dependability, Finds New JD Power Study

But automakers, overall, face problems with balky, high-tech infotainment systems.

by on Feb.25, 2015

Lexus was the top-ranked brand, while the Lexus GX was tops in its Midsize Premium segment.

For the fourth consecutive year, Lexus leads the industry in terms of longer-term vehicle reliability, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates.

But Detroit brands, notably General Motors’ Buick, also managed to crack the industry’s Top 10 in Power’s 2015 Vehicle Dependability Study, or VDS. The downside is that automakers, on the whole, are facing increased problems with their Bluetooth, navigation and other high-tech systems – often because of designed-in issues.

A Reliable Source!

Manufacturers can win over buyers with the latest technology, but lose them when those systems don’t work, said Renee Stephens, Powers’ vice president of U.S. automotive research. “Owners,” she added, “view in-vehicle technology issues as significant problems, and they typically don’t go away after the ownership honeymoon period is over.”

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Nissan Hopes to Sway Small Car Buyers with New Concept

Nissan Sway concept expected to reappear as the next Nissan Micra.

by on Feb.25, 2015

The Nissan Sway concept is believed to be a close-to-production design tease for the next Micra.

Nissan is out to prove that big things really can come in small packages, the maker offering up a first teaser image of the new Sway concept vehicle it plans to unveil at the Geneva Motor Show next week.

The small hatchback is expected to be a thinly disguised version of the next-generation Micra, according to several sources TheDetroitBureau.com spoke with. The Nissan Sway concept underscores the increasingly competitive nature of the minicar market, particularly in Europe, where buyers expect many of the same features, and much the same level of creature comfort, as they’d get in larger products.

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“Sway is a glimpse at how a future generation of small Nissan models could look if the company’s striking new design language was applied to a European hatchback,” Nissan said in a short release accompanying the teaser image.

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Consumer Reports Name Top Brands and Models

Japanese makers dominate again.

by on Feb.24, 2015

The Toyota Highlander was one of the top-ranked models according to Consumer Reports readers.

Consumer Reports’ latest list of top-ranked automotive brands and models contained some big surprises and reinforced some long-standing reputations. Notably, little battery-car start-up Tesla Motors had the top-ranked product overall in the form of its Model S sedan.

Toyota, a manufacturer long associated with high-quality products, managed to place two of its brands in the Top Ten, meanwhile. But Kia, a marque may traditionally associated with lowball pricing, also managed to place among the industry’s best, nudging aside BMW to take the ninth place spot in Consumer Reports’ annual automotive brands report card.

Top-Ranked!

Who led the list and who lagged behind? Here’s a quick look at some of the key findings from the study, which looked at how individual models scored in both road and crash tests, while also looking at what the magazine’s readers reported in terms of real world reliability.

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“Father of the Z” Car, Nissan’s Mr. K Dies at 105

“I want to drive a thoroughbred.”

by on Feb.23, 2015

Yutaka Katayama helped build Nissan's U.S. presence "from scratch," the company noted.

Known as “the father of the Z,” the original Nissan 240Z sports car, Yutaka Katayama was both a passionate brand ambassador and a serious business executive who continued to play a role at the Japanese automaker long after his official retirement in 1977.

Katayama, who first joined Nissan in 1935, handling publicity and advertising, died last Thursday, his family announced, at the age of 105.

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Known more widely as Mr. K, Katayama was one of the first American executives for what was then known as Datsun — at a time when Japanese brands had little appeal to U.S. motorists. He helped inspire some desperately needed passion by pushing for a small, stylish and affordable sports car that came to be known as the 240Z.

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Chevy Severs Ties with Kurt Busch Over Domestic Violence Issue

Bad day for both Busch brothers.

by on Feb.23, 2015

It was supposed to be a good year for Kurt Busch, but now his NASCAR career is in jeopardy.

There were some big winners – and equally big losers – at Daytona Beach over the weekend. Coming up smiling was Joey Logano, the 24-year-old Team Penske driver who took the checkered flag.

Among those less than happy with the results of the Daytona 500 were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and the two Busch brothers. Kyle Busch suffered a compound leg fracture in a Saturday race. And his brother Kurt was sidelined on Sunday after league officials upheld an indefinite suspension for an alleged domestic violence incident last autumn.

High Performance News!

It marked the first time neither of the Busch brothers were in the field for the “Great American Race” since 2000. But even if Kyle recuperates quickly enough to re-enter the series later this year, it is far from clear what will happen with Kurt Busch.  He not only has been sidelined by NASCAR, but has had his relationship with long-time sponsor Chevrolet put on hold.

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Honda CEO Ousted Amidst Airbag Woes

New chief executive Hachigo facing serious challenges.

by on Feb.23, 2015

Honda CEO Takanobu Ito shakes hands withe successor, Takahiro Hachigo in Tokyo on Monday.

Honda’s ongoing airbag problem has claimed another victim. In this case, it’s President and CEO Takanobu Ito, who will step aside in April, at the end of the automaker’s fiscal year.

Honda has been forced to recall millions of vehicles around the world due to problems with faulty airbags supplied by close ally, the Japanese partsmaker Takata. But Honda has run into a number of other issues and earlier this month scaled back its earnings forecast for the rest of the year.

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Ito will be replaced by Takahiro Hachigo, currently Honda’s managing officer. During a 33-year career, Hachigo helped guide the maker’s business ventures in China, Europe and the U.S. Among other things, he led the development of the popular Honda Odyssey minivan built in one of the maker’s many American assembly plants.

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