Tuesday, 31 December 2013

CNET Ranks the Cars of 2013 Based on their Tech

If your sole goal with the purchase of a new car is to get the largest number of cutting edge toys with it, then CNET’s 2013 rankings will definitely interest you. They rated all the cars they tested throughout the year according to their usual tech-centric criteria, then made a video about the top five ones they chose.

All the cars on their list definitely deserve their place on it, like the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Tesla Model S and even the Jeep Grand Cherokee makes sense in this companionship, when pitched in a suitably techy way.

We won’t tell you which one was crowned king, though, and for that you’ll have to scroll down to until after the virtual jump to find out.

Feel free to have your say, if you think they omitted a certain noteworthy model, or if you don’t agree with the selection.

By Andrei Nedelea


Google and Audi Expected to Announce Android-Based Infotainment System at CES

At next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Google and Audi are expected to announce the joint development of in-car entertainment and infotainment systems based on the Android software.

According to people familiar with the matter, Google also plans to announce collaborations with other automotive and tech companies, including chip maker Nvidia Corp., to establish Android as an important technology for future vehicles.

Google wants to offer similar music, navigation, apps and services in cars to those available now on Android-powered smartphones. Google’s move is seen as a response to Apple’s initiative launched last June to integrate iPhones and other devices running its iOS operating system with carmaker’s dashboard control panels. Apple so far has agreed to collaborate with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, GM and Honda.

“Cars are becoming more complex, and with the computing power that is going into vehicles, you need that type of system in the car,” Audi's head of product strategy Filip Brabec told The Wall Street Journal. He acknowledged that future vehicles will need computer operating systems to support the kind of apps and functions that consumers want to access while driving.

At the CES 2014, Audi is also projected to demonstrate new technologies that allow cars to drive themselves in certain situations and for short periods of time. The systems are set to arrive on new models over the next four or five years.

Ford is said to demonstrate an autonomous vehicle it has developed at CES next week. BMW has also announced a demonstration of related technology.

By Dan Mihalascu



Nissan Teases New Sports Sedan Concept; Looks a Lot Like Our 2015 Maxima Study

Nissan will be heading to the 2014 Detroit motor show in about two weeks' time with a new conceptual study for a sports sedan previewed through a cropped photo of the vehicle's front end.

While the Japanese automaker isn’t ready yet to release full details, we believe that the aptly named the "Sports Sedan Concept" is the same car previewed during Nissan's 360 event in California this past summer, and which Carscoops showcased in a rendering for the 2015 Maxima (see below).

In a short statement about the study, Nissan said it "offers an advanced look at a future production sports sedan" and " previews a new energetic design direction that amplifies Nissan's legendary approach of applying sports car principles to a sedan".

The Sports Sedan Concept will be joined in Detroit by the North American debuts of the IDx Freeflow and IDx NISMO small coupe studies, first displayed at the Tokyo Motor Show in November.

Photo Rendering Copyright: Carscoops / Josh Byrnes


Nissan Sport Sedan Concept2016 Nissan Maxima[3]

Stock Veteran Says GM Will Buy Tesla in 2014, Auto Exec Doubts It [w/Videos]

As one of the most advanced electric vehicle manufacturers, Tesla Motors is no doubt being closely monitored by volume carmakers wishing to gain a firmer foothold in the electric vehicle segment. General Motors, for instance, has openly admitted to creating a special unit to monitor Tesla Motors.

While that doesn’t necessarily mean GM wants to buy Tesla, there are some analysts who believe that this is the case and that a transaction could happen as soon as next year.

In an interview with CNBC, Yra Harris of Praxis Trading made a bold prediction that GM could try to buy Tesla Motors next year. The trader said Tesla is a perfect fit for the Detroit carmaker and that such a deal could make sense for both companies.

For GM, owning Tesla would give it access to advanced plug-in technology as well as a premium high-tech brand to its stable. In exchange, GM would help Tesla grow further thanks to its established global retail and service networks.

While there were previous rumors about other companies being interested in Tesla (such as Apple), a carmaking giant like GM or even Ford would likely be a better fit for the company founded by Elon Musk.

However, not everyone agrees with Harris, with former Mazda North America CEO Charles Hughes telling CNBC that the acquisition of Tesla by GM or Ford wouldn't work for any of the two Detroit-based carmakers. You can find out why from the second video posted below.

By Dan Mihalascu




VW Looks Set to Surpass GM as China's Best-Selling Foreign Automaker in 2013

VW is on track to sell more vehicles in China than General Motors for the first time in nine years and to regain its place as the biggest foreign carmaker in the world’s largest car market.

Both VW and GM have exceeded their targets to deliver more than 3 million vehicles in China this year. Volkswagen was first to cross the mark on December 5, with GM following a week later. The German carmaker had a lead of about 70,000 vehicles in the first 11 months of the year, according to data from automakers quoted by Bloomberg News.

VW sales in China include those of Skoda, Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and Seat, but almost 80 percent of the deliveries are made up by the VW brand. Europe’s largest carmaker says it has capacity problems and could sell even more cars in China.

VW’s Audi, the top-selling premium brand in China, will begin sales of the locally made A3 Sedan and of a new version of the A4 next year, with other new VW Group models including the new VW Bora and Skoda Octavia sedans.

Meanwhile, GM announced top-level management changes, with Mary Barra to succeed Dan Akerson at the helm of the group in January and Matthew Tsien being appointed to oversee GM’s Chinese operations from January.

GM will launch four new Chevrolet models in China next year and the low-cost Baojun brand will add a compact hatchback and MPV. GM sells passenger vehicles in China under its Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Opel and Baojun brands, and counts the Wuling brand of mini-commercial vehicles as well.

However, researchers such as IHS Automotive and LMC Automotive, exclude Wuling from the tally.

By Dan Mihalascu



Audi Trademarks SQ2, SQ4, Q9 and f-tron Names

You’ve probably heard that Audi is planning to launch 11 new models in the following years, and now we have an idea of what these models will be. A series of recent Audi trademark registrations and applications discovered by British magazine Autocar suggests that most of these new models will be crossovers.

For instance, Audi registered the “SQ2” name, which hints at a high-performance version of an upcoming compact SUV that could be called the Q2. If you’re wondering what will the Q2 look like, Audi’s 2012 Crosslane Coupé concept (pictured) may offer an idea.

Audi has also trademarked the “SQ4” moniker, which would designate a high-performance variant of the upcoming Q4, said to be a rival for the Range Rover Evoque. There’s even an application for the “Q9” nameplate, which could hint at a large luxury crossover that would sit above the Q7 in Audi’s range. Whether there will also be a Q8, remains to be seen.

The “f-tron” name has also been trademarked by Audi, hinting at a possible fuel cell-powered production model. The f-tron would add to existing e-tron and g-tron models, which designate electric/hybrid vehicles and natural gas vehicles, respectively.

The fact that Audi applied for these names doesn’t necessarily mean they will all be used on production models, as carmakers sometimes apply for trademarks to protect their intellectual property. Audi didn’t comment on the trademark applications and registrations.

By Dan Mihalascu



Monday, 30 December 2013

Kiwis Moto-Travel Through North Korea, Offer Glimpse Into Life There

Many may make fun of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s failed military experiments (and his hair), but what the media doesn't usually focus on is the over 24 million people that live in the country, and what they think of it.

Vice tagged along for a motorbike expedition through the single party-run country, seeing the (admittedly pretty) sights along the way, and taking in all of the stories too.

It’s one of the most insightful incursions into the state by outsiders, and proof of its importance are the excessive security measures the New Zealand-based crew is put through as it tries to gain entry into the country, from Russia, as well as the permanent escort that never strays from the set path – they see what they are meant to see, and no more.

A lot was probably edited out in the end, but what you have below is a 16-minute cultural and social lesson that is hard to come by nowadays, both because of the logistical problems facing such a trip and the reticence towards sharing details about the inner workings, in a country where even close relatives of the leader can be accused, trialed and killed at a moment’s notice if they in some way are thought of as a threat to the regime.

Scroll down and check it out.

By Andrei Nedelea


U.S. Auto Exports Reach a Record 2 Million in 2013

More cars and trucks built in the U.S. have been exported this year than ever before as markets worldwide are bouncing back from the recession.

According to a Detroit News report, U.S. auto exports could reach 2 million units this year, with more than half of them to be made up by Ford, GM and Chrysler. The other half is sourced from American plants owned by Japanese, Korean and German automakers.

Last year, automotive exports totaled $132.7 billion on approximately 1.8 million exported cars and trucks, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. That is $27 billion more than the next highest manufacturing sector in the U.S., aerospace.

However, auto imports to the States are still way larger than exports, with the automotive trade deficit sitting at more than $100 billion. Roughly, half of all U.S. exports are to Mexico or Canada, but the biggest growth in exports is to countries outside North America.

Back in 2004, vehicles shipped to Mexico or Canada made up 80 percent of all U.S. vehicle exports – now that number is 49 percent and falling. Exports to China have increased six-fold since 2009, with one in nine vehicles shipped from the U.S. going to China.

Most of the exported vehicles are models already sold in the U.S., with one of the most successful being the Ford F-150 pickup truck, shipped to 49 countries around the globe.

By Dan Mihalascu



2015 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Sedan with 4.0L Bi-Turbo V8 Rendered

To the delight of photo manipulators, all three major German premium carmakers, including Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are very predictable (to the point of tediousness sometimes) when it comes to the appearance of high-performance versions of their regular models.

As such, imagining the styling of upcoming cars like the next Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG sports saloon is a pretty straightforward process – change the grille, lower the ride height, add model-specific front and rear bumpers, side skirts, bigger alloy wheels and trim details, and you're all set.

Before we leave you to take a closer look at Virtuel Car's digital-made photos of the car, let us tell you that, unlike the latest BMW M3 and M4 that swapped their predecessors' naturally aspirated V8 for a force-fed inline six, Mercedes will continue to offer a V8, but instead of being naturally aspirated, the new 4.0-liter unit is reported to employ the use of twin-turbochargers for close to 500-horses.

Designer: Virtuel-Car


2015 Mercedes Benz C-ClassMercedes-C63-AMG-W205-2Mercedes-C63-AMG-W205-3

This is How Le Mans Racing Cars Look and Sound when Driven on the Street

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your own Le Mans racing car and to be able to drive it on the street? Well, the guys from the video you’re about to watch are living this dream – literally.

These three men from Japan each own a Le Mans racing car that has actually participated at least once at the 24 Hours of Le Mans! Furthermore, two of them somehow received approval to drive them occasionally on the street, which means each and every one of their outings is impossible to ignore.

The cars are the Mazda 767B (yes, the one with the four-rotor engine), Jaguar XJ220LM and Porsche 962C, and the video was put together by Motorhead magazine.

There's not much to add that the video itself doesn't explain, so without further ado, turn up the volume in your speakers and enjoy the show.

By Dan Mihalascu


Scoop: Which New Renault Model is Hidden Under This Test Mule?

One of the best ways for automakers to conceal upcoming products during testing on public roads is to use so-called development or test mules that hide a new or modified chassis and drivetrain components under a fake body shell, typically sourced from a model currently in production.

This is the case with a new Renault prototype captured by our spy photographers this week in Northern Europe undergoing cold weather testing.

The modified body shell is borrowed from the facelifted Renault Fluence, but it's evident from the photos that the car is sitting on a longer wheelbase and wider platform. It also rides on a taller suspension.

At this point, however, we are not aware if the French brand is working on a new SUV / Crossover or a sedan / station wagon model, but the upcoming Geneva Motor Show in March of 2014 may provide some answers to what's concealed under the sheetmetal.

Photo Credits: CarPix for CarScoopS