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Rolls-Royce Offers 1st Good Look at Upcoming SUV

Project Cullinan “takes next step.”

by on Dec.01, 2016

The Rolls-Royce SUV mule will be getting a serious workout in the months to come.

Rolls-Royce is plowing plans to put its first SUV on the road – and its giving us a first look at the vehicle it’s developing as part of what it has dubbed Project Cullinan.

The British ultra-luxury brand is just one of the latest manufacturers to adapt to shifting market trends, echoing rival Bentley which launched its own Bentayga sport-utility vehicle earlier this year. With the exception of Ferrari, in fact, all major super-premium brands – including such names as Aston Martin and Lamborghini – intend to roll out utes of their own.

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“This is an incredibly exciting moment in the development of Project Cullinan both for Rolls-Royce and for the patrons of luxury that follow us around the world,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, in a statement accompanying these two images.

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Forget Sports Cars, SUVs Set to Dominate Super-Premium Luxury Market

Utility vehicles likely to be best-sellers for brands like Aston Martin, Bentley, Lamborghini, even Rolls-Royce.

by on Aug.24, 2016

Lamborghini first revealed the Urus SUV concept at the 2012 Beijing Motor Show.

They’re both known for their high-performance sports cars, but when Aston Martin and Lamborghini launch two of their most critical models ever, both in 2019, the focus of the two brands will shift to sport-utility vehicles.

If all goes according to plan, those two models, the Aston Martin DBX and the production version of the Lamborghini Urus concept, will generate at least 50% or more of their sales. But that’s far from precedent setting. Best known for sports cars like the 911 and the Boxster, it’s the Cayenne and Macan SUVs that already generate the biggest sales numbers for Porsche.

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Super-premium utility vehicles are “going to be the hottest segment in the luxury market,” said Simon Sproule, the chief marketing officer for Aston. “As with the mainstream market, that’s what people want to drive.”

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First Drive: 2017 Maserati Levante

Italian maker delivers its first SUV. Compatible combination or an automotive oxymoron?

by on May.03, 2016

The 2017 Maserati Levante starts out with the same underlying platform as the Ghibli sedan.

Say the name, Maserati, and you’re likely to picture a sleek sports car like the Ghibli, perhaps, screaming down the Autostrada. But bouncing along a rutted and rock strewn path that was old by the time the Romans packed it in?

That’s where we’ve found ourselves on a drizzly weekday morning, a couple hours outside of Milan, wandering our way through a course set up to train Italian mercenaries and special forces. Not the sort of place you’d traditionally expect to find a Maserati. Then again, the Levante isn’t your typical Maserati. The 2017 model is the maker’s first sport-utility vehicle. And we had come to Italy to find out if that was a compatible combination or an automotive oxymoron.

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Maserati has been toying around with the idea of adding an SUV to its line-up since 2003, when it showed off the original Kubang concept. The notion went nowhere until 2011, when a new prototype made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show. After taking a few unexpected detours, the rechristened Maserati Levante is about to start rolling into showrooms around the world.

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Big Price, Big Goal for New Maserati Levante

New SUV expected to nearly double luxury brand’s sales.

by on Apr.19, 2016

The production version of the Maserati Kubang debuts during a media drive in Italy.

After a long wait, Maserati is finally set to deliver its first SUV to customers next month, the global roll-out of the new Levante set to begin in Europe, with China and the U.S. to follow later in the year.

The launch marks the end of an unusually long gestation, the luxury SUV originally introduced in the form of the Maserati Kubang concept in 2003. Under the Levante nameplate, the production model will carry a U.S. price tag starting at $72,000, officials revealed during a media drive of the new model.

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The Levante will be one of the most important models ever to wear Maserati’s distinctive trident logo and, officials said, they expect it to be the biggest seller in the brand’s 102-year history, accounting for nearly half of Maserati’s total volume once production gets fully up to speed in 2017.

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Lincoln Hopes to Get Back on Track with Navigator Makeover

Production model a year away.

by on Mar.23, 2016

The Lincoln Navigator Concept makes its splashy debut at the 2016 NY Auto Show.

When it first rolled into showrooms in 1997, luxury car buyers had never seen anything like it. That first Lincoln Navigator was big and brash and decidedly American. It was an instant hit — in the process spawning an assortment of imitations. And somehow, the full-size luxury SUV ran off track.

All but set to abandon the nameplate entirely, Ford Motor Co.’s luxury division launched a less than compelling update two years ago – and more than a decade after the last full Navigator makeover. But Lincoln may finally be ready to get it right, at least if the concept version of the luxury SUV debuting at this week’s New York International Auto Show is any indication.

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The Lincoln Navigator Concept is even more over-the-top than the original luxury ute, with twin gull-wing doors and three-step fold-out running boards. But while a number of the show car’s features won’t get beyond the show car stage, Lincoln officials acknowledge, the Navigator Concept suggests there’ll be a lot to like about the production version coming sometime next year.

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First Drive: Cadillac XT5

Catching up to a shifting market.

by on Mar.09, 2016

The 2017 Cadillac XT5 replaces the old SRX. It will be joined by 3 other new Caddy CUVs.

A lot has changed over the last 17 years. When Cadillac launched the original Escalade, the idea of a luxury SUV seemed something of an oxymoron. Five years later, Caddy was again at the cutting edge with the debut of its car-based crossover-utility vehicle, the SRX.

Today, however, utility vehicles — whether car-based or classic “truck-trucks” — rule the road, both in the mainstream and the luxury market. And, if anything, Cadillac has fallen behind competitors like Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The Detroit maker plans to launch four new CUVs by the end of the decade, starting with the Cadillac XT5, the new replacement for the aging SRX.

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To get a sense of what Caddy’s delivered, we headed for the hills – the mountainous terrain east of San Diego, where we had a chance to check out both the luxurious side of the new Cadillac XT5 as well as to see how it handled some seriously aggressive driving maneuvers.

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Acura Set to Debut 2017 MDX at NY Auto Show

New design language debuts; new powertrain option may be in the works.

by on Feb.24, 2016

A rendering of the 2017 Acura MDX.

After giving us a tease of its new styling direction with the Precision Concept at the Detroit Auto Show last month, Acura is about to show us what that actually will translate into. The first new model to pick up on the new design language will be the 2017 Acura MDX making its debut at the New York International Auto Show next month.

The MDX isn’t due for a complete makeover until around 2020, but the ute scheduled for a Big Apple unveiling appears to be more than the typical, mid-cycle makeover, picking up a number of design details first seen on the Acura show car.

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“We are sharpening our focus on the Precision Crafted Performance DNA of the Acura brand and the 2017 MDX will integrate new styling elements and powertrain technology that takes us another step in that direction,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

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First Look: 2017 Maserati Levante

Premium SUV set to offer an array of engine options.

by on Feb.22, 2016

The production 2017 Maserati Levante.

With the Geneva Motor Show launch of the new 2017 Levante next month, Maserati will become the newest entrant into the super-premium SUV market, a segment that is set to see an explosion of new product over the next several years.

Originally introduced as the Kubang concept vehicle at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, the idea was to borrow from the best of the Fiat Chrysler family, lifting bits of the familiar Grand Cherokee platform and pairing it was a Ferrari-derived V-8.

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“At a technical level, the Levante’s chassis is designed to combine the outstanding on-road performance typical of every Maserati with unrivalled handling even on very low-grip surfaces and an excellent off-road performance and ride,” Maserati declared in a statement accompanying these images.

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Prepping for First SUV, Rolls-Royce Begins Testing New Aluminum Spaceframe

All new models, including Cullinan, will adopt new platform after 2018.

by on Jan.07, 2016

A teaser image from Rolls-Royce shows a mule being used to test the maker's new utility vehicle.

There has always been something a bit anachronistic about Rolls-Royce, retro if you prefer. The big grille, classic hood ornament and, oh, so much mass.

But Rolls is ready to go on a diet. Confirming earlier plans, the British maker now says it is already testing an all-new, aluminum spaceframe architecture that will serve as the basis for all new models, starting in 2018. Among the list of upcoming products to get the lightweight touch: the new off-roader that Rolls officials are referring to as Project Cullinan.

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Rolls-Royce has been moving to modernize itself, starting with the all-new factory it built in Goodwood, said Torsten Muller-Otvos, the marque’s CEO. “It is time to take the next step in the luxury journey.”

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Infiniti Updates Two Key Models, 2016 Q50 and QX60

Wider powertrain line-up, more engaging performance.

by on Dec.15, 2015

The updated 2016 Infiniti Q50 gets a trio of new engines, including a 400-hp V-6.

Infiniti is driving two newly updated models into showrooms for 2016, giving us a sneak peek at the 2016 Q50 and QX60 lines before their official debut at the Detroit Auto Show next month.

Both models undergo modest exterior revisions for the new year, with the Japanese maker promising improvements to their driving dynamics, as well. But the Infiniti Q50 gets the bigger makeover, the 2016 sedan also getting a new trio of turbocharged engines, including a 3.0-liter V-6 making 400 horsepower.

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While Infiniti has decided to abandon the planned Eau Rouge line, at least for now, it appears to be hoping the new Q50 Red Sport 400 model will win over drivers looking for a bit more performance in their luxury sedans.

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