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Volkswagen Getting into Hot Hatch Game with Golf R

But you’ll have to wait.

by on Jan.08, 2014

Performance hatchback fans have been waiting to see if the Golf R will come to the U.S. It will. Next year.

Volkswagen is getting into the hot hatch market, finally confirming it will bring the gen-four version of its Golf R to the U.S. market. But expect to wait. With American drivers still waiting for the latest version of the mainstream Golf, the new R won’t reach U.S. showrooms until the first quarter of next year.

Is it worth the wait? For many fans, the answer is likely to be a resounding yes considering this will be the fastest Golf ever, Volkswagen claims. At 290 horsepower it gets a 34 hp bump from the previous-generation Golf R. The turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four will meanwhile make 280 pound-feet of torque.

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By the way, how you feel about this will likely reveal whether you see the gas tank as half-empty or half-full. The Euro-spec Golf R actually gets another six horsepower for reasons VW has not revealed. (more…)

Mercedes Plugs in with B-Class Electric

German maker enters the battery-car market.

by on Mar.27, 2013

Mercedes rolled out its B-Class Electric at the New York Auto Show.

Slow to embrace the first wave of hybrid power, German luxury makers seem to be in a race to see who can now add more battery-based models to their line-up. We saw a flood of new offerings at the Geneva Motor Show, earlier this month, including the first plug-in hybrid from Audi, the A3 e-Tron, as well as the production version of the Mercedes-Benz SLS Electric Drive supercar.

Mercedes plugs into the New York Auto Show with a decidedly different take on battery propulsion, its new B-Class Electric Drive making its world debut on the German maker’s stand at Jacob Javits Center.

Set to go on sale in the U.S. early next year – likely with a focus on the green-minded California market – the Electric Drive is a battery-electric version of the maker’s compact people-mover, and the only version of the B-Class scheduled for sale in the States.

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This is no stripped down electric. It will be filled with the sort of up-market touches you’d expect from the tri-star brand, asserts Dr. Joachim Schmidt, the Mercedes board member responsible for sales and marketing: “The B-Class Electric Drive meets the wishes of many customers for emission-free driving without foregoing the hallmark attributes of a Mercedes-Benz, namely safety, comfort and, of course, not to forget exhilarating driving pleasure.”

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Audi A3 Images Leaked

Downsized, up-marketed.

by on Feb.23, 2012

Audi's next-generation A3 will be offered in a wide array of body styles.

Weeks ahead of the upcoming Geneva Motor Show we’re getting our first good look at the next-generation Audi A3 thanks to some fortuitously leaked photographs.

As with the outgoing model, Audi will offer the subcompact model in a mix of body configurations – starting with the 3-door Avant, or wagon, we see here.  It’s expected to add a 5-door Sportback as well as a conventional sedan and a convertible.

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The look is likely to be familiar to Audi fans, the new A3 adopting a face much like the marque’s recently updated mainstay model, the A4, with a large grille that rises from the chin spoiler up to the hood. The headlamps now incorporate the familiar Audi LED accent lights.

While it may resemble the previous Audi A3, there’s a big difference under the skin, the 2013 model adopting the Modular Tranverse Matrix platform, (known internally as MQB) that will be shared with a wide range of Volkswagen AG products, all the way down to the base Skoda brand.

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Mercedes Adding New Model at U.S. Plant

All new product will be fifth in Tuscaloosa.

by on Oct.21, 2011

Mercedes-Benz will add an all-new model at its Alabama assembly plant.

Daimler AG plans to spend $350 million to produce another model at it US production center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, starting in 2015, and also plans to add jobs next year at its Western Star truck plant in Portland, Oregon.

The entirely new Mercedes-Benz model will roll off the production line as its fifth product and is expected to add some 400 additional jobs at the plant.

Tuscaloosa has been the production site of the Mercedes-Benz M-, GL-, and R-Class SUVs and is also slated to start build the Mercedes-Benz C-Class for the North American market beginning 2014.

Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Daimler Board of Management and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, said the new model coming to Tuscaloosa is part of the company’s plans to broaden its product line.

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“This new model from the Tuscaloosa plant is an important element of our growth strategy. It is one of the ten additional models which we will introduce within the next four years alone across all segments,” said the CEO, adding that, “At the same time, we are systematically broadening our manufacturing footprint in the NAFTA region.”

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First Look: Redesigned 2012 BMW 3-Series

Maker claims new model larger yet lighter, more fuel-efficient.

by on Oct.14, 2011

The 2012 BMW 3-Series is both larger and lighter.

BMW has pulled the covers off its next-generation 3-Series line-up, revealing a new compact line-up that it says is bigger – yet lighter and more fuel-efficient.

The new model features a revised front end that is more in line with its larger lines, including the BMW 5- and 7-Series models.

While final fuel economy numbers haven’t been released, the Bavarian maker anticipates they will be notably better than with comparable models in the outgoing 3-Series line-up – even though the 2012 versions should also deliver better performance.

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The 2012 3-Series body grows about 3.7 inches in length, with the wheelbase stretched just under 2 inches.  The front track is 1.5 inches wider, the rear 1.85 inches.  BMW claims that will be particularly obvious to rear-seat passengers, though the trunk is also more capacious.  The average model will be about 88 pounds lighter than the old 2011 3-Series versions.

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First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

“Most extensive facelift ever,” says maker.

by on Jan.10, 2011

Parked alongside a replica of the original Benz car, Mercedes lifts the covers on the 2012 C-Class sedan.

What’s the difference between a facelift and a complete redesign?  Apparently not much, at least not in the case of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which has undergone a dramatic transformation touching on 2,000 separate parts, from sheet metal to the smallest nuts and bolts.

“It is the most in-depth facelift we have ever done,” Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes’ parent, Daimler AG, told TheDetroitBureau.com.

The changes are distinct and instantly apparent, starting with a more curvaceous shape that calls to mind the latest-generation Mercedes CLS, its coupe-like sedan.  The new 3-bar chrome grille is not only sleeker in appearance but more aerodynamic, the entire sedan rated at a 0.26 coefficient of drag – engineering speak for a design as windswept as many sports cars.

That, the maker says, is one reason why the various versions of what was once called the “Baby Benz” gets as much as 31% better fuel economy than the model it replaces, depending on the choice of powertrain.

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First Look: 2012 Audi A6

Evolution with a hint of revolution.

by on Dec.01, 2010

Audi gives a sneak peek at its 2012 A6.

While Audi is still struggling to catch up with its key competitors in the U.S. market, it has become very much a top tier player in most of the rest of the world, even outselling the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz in key regions, including parts of Europe.

Give a solid chunk of credit for that to the maker’s “executive sedan,” the A6.  Not quite the fantasy flagship of the A8, which went through a dramatic redesign for the 2011 model-year, the A6 is nonetheless both a status symbol and, even as it reaches the end of its lifecycle, a styling benchmark both inside and out.

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Which is precisely what Audi hopes to match with the all-new version of the A6, which is scheduled to land in showrooms early in the new year wearing a 2012 model-year designation.

While there may be a few folks who’ll be a wee bit disappointed to see the 2012 Audi A6 take an evolutionary approach to styling, initial reactions are, on the whole, quite positive.  It helps that the next-generation sedan picks up some of the more attractive design cues of the new A8, including the oversized – versus split – grille and distinctive headlamps with their under-wrapped LED running lights.

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Porsche Celebrates 60 Years In The US With 3 L.A. Unveilings

Cayman R, 911 Carrera GTS and 356 Speedster share the stage.

by on Nov.19, 2010

Are those birthday candles? Porsche celebrates 60 years in the U.S. with the L.A. Auto Show launch of the Cayman R.

Some folks celebrate their birthdays with candles.  The folks at Porsche came up with a better way to mark the maker’s 60th anniversary her in the U.S. – by rolling out three new models at the 2010 L.A. Auto Show.

Sharing the spotlight are the brand new Cayman R, the 911 Carrera GTS, which is making its North American debut, and the 4th-generation 356 Speedster.

The 356 was Porsche’s first – and some would say most revolutionary – production car. It was a lightweight 2-seater with rear-wheel drive and a rear-mounted engine, which was the first to bear the Porsche badge when it arrived in America in 1950.

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The first Speedster will always be remembered as the car raced by actor-cum driver James Dean – though he had his fatal accident not in the Speedster but a 550 Spyder.

Of the already limited production run, only 100 copies of the new Speedster 356 will come to the North American market. This means that potential customers have to speed up if they want to buy the exclusive Porsche – which will be offered at $204,000.

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First Look: 2011 Alpina B7

Marketing performance, exclusivity -- and BMW.

by on Nov.02, 2010

Alpina intends to be the "other" BMW performance brand with the new B7.

Sure, mileage matters, but there’s still a significant market for performance.  Just ask BMW, which can barely meet demand for its expanding line-up of M cars and crossovers.  If there’s a gap to fill, don’t worry.  That’s where Alpina, BMW’s “other” performance arm would like to step in.

Based in Buchloe, a small suburb of Munich, an hour from BMW headquarters, Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH doesn’t so much compete with the better known M, as to compliment the brand, explains its president, Andreas Bovensiepen.

“M is about raw power,” he suggests, ignoring a cold drizzle as he shows off Alpina’s latest product, a version of the BMW 7-Series.  “Alpina is about delivering a mix of performance, luxury and comfort.”

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That’s not to say performance takes the proverbial back seat.  The Alpina B7 Bi-Turbo makes some impressive numbers with its twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque.

Unlike the M cars, Alpina opts for a customized automatic gearbox, and unlike its competitors, the customizer uses buttons on the steering wheel, rather than paddle shifters, to let a driver run through the gears manually.  In manual mode, those shifts occur in a Formula One-class 190 milliseconds.

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BMW, Porsche Preparing Downsized Coupe/Crossovers

But Porsche product review could delay new Cajun.

by on Oct.14, 2010

A hint of what the BMW X4 could look like in production trim? A concept version is due in 2011.

How many models is too many?  While proliferation in the luxury car market has been intense in recent years, it looks like the high-line German marques are only beginning.

Both BMW and Porsche are well underway with the development of downsized crossover coupes that could hit market in the next couple years, according to media reports and company insiders – though Porsche’s new Cajun project is at least temporarily on hold.

The BMW offering has been dubbed the X4, and is sportier, coupe-bodied counterpart to the new 2011 X3 – or, if you prefer, a downsized alternative to the big BMW X6 coupe/crossover.

It will be offered with various 4- and 6-cylinder offerings, and probably a mix of gas and diesel powertrains for Europe.  Gearboxes will include BMW’s new 8-speed automatic.  All-wheel-drive appears likely to be the only torque delivery system on the planning books.

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An X3 M version of the 4-seat coupe/crossover is also under development, according to reports in AutoWeek and several other media outlets.

Word of the X4 has been circulating for at least two years but BMW apparently has given the project the go-ahead and a concept version is expected to surface on the auto show circuit sometime in 2011.

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