Monday, May 4, 2015
Pagani’s planned 100-car production run for the Huayra supercar will soon come to an end (all 100 build slots are already sold), after which the company will turn its attention to an open-top Huayra Roadster that will also be built in a limited run of 100 cars.
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But the Huayra Roadster, which arrives early next year, won’t be built at Pagani’s current workshop that forms part of its San Cesario sul Panaro headquarters in northern Italy; instead, the car will be built at a new, state-of-the-art factory located just 200 meters away. Speaking with Autovisie, a Pagani spokesman confirmed that the new factory will be completely in September. Pagani estimates that up to 300 cars could be built there annually but to retain exclusivity the company will cap production at just 45 cars per year for the time being. The U.S. is the single biggest market for the Huayra, accounting for 40 percent of all orders. This should be true also for the Huayra Roadster, which we’re expecting to be revealed at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show next March.
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Like the Zonda before it, the Huayra Roadster should be identical to its coupe sibling, with all of the same mechanical bits. That means a twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V-12, producing at least 720 horsepower and 737 pound-feet of torque. The coupe's gull-wing doors will have to go, though. Pagani will likely give the Huayra Roadster a removable roof panel rather than an automated roof (just as it did with the previous Zonda Roadster), which means the curb weight should remain close to the coupe's 2,975-pound heft.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
DETROIT -- I’m at the North American International Auto Show sitting in the snug, black leather driver’s seat of the next-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata -- the top-selling, two-seat convertible sports car of all time.
First, I can tell you the MX-5 Miata looks better in the flesh than it does in pictures. The photos I’ve seen make the car look like one of those angry kitchen appliances former GM product czar Bob Lutz railed about 15 years ago. It is not. The face of the new car is a bit meaner than that of the old one, but still has a friendly look. The taillights are a lot like those of the new Jaguar F-Type.
The 2016 MX-5 Miata might even cost less than the 2015 version, which starts at $24,765, including shipping. Mazda says the car has been put on a diet. The heavy, fussy complex folding metal top is gone, returning the two-seater to its roots as a lightweight soft-top roadster.
Sizewise, the new MX-5 Miata is 3.2 inches shorter and 0.4 inch wider than the outgoing model, which should make it even more fun to drive.
None of that, however, assures success. In fact, another automaker, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, may hold the keys to the MX-5 Miata’s future.
Since the MX-5 Miata debuted in 1989, the market for budget sports cars has nearly evaporated. Global sales of the MX-5 Miata peaked in 1990 at 75,798 and have been slowly declining, with occasional spikes with model changes. In the United States, Mazda sold just 4,745 MX-5 Miatas in 2014, down from 5,780 in 2013.
BMW’s sales chief, Ian Robertson, recently delivered what sounded like last rites to the segment when he said:
“The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be. Post-2008, it just collapsed. I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover.”
It would have been unthinkable even a few years ago that Mazda would share the MX-5 Miata with another company. After all, this is the car that lit a fire under Mazda a quarter century ago and helped change the company’s image. Zoom Zoom and all that. Late this year or early next, the 1 millionth MX-5 Miata likely will be produced.
But Mazda inked a deal with Fiat Chrysler to produce a Fiat Spider using the MX-5 Miata’s powertrain, suspension and other bits. The MX-5 Miata-based Spider will have a different grille and interior touches as well as other cosmetics.
Shared production may be the future of budget sports cars. The Toyota-Subaru deal that produced the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ has worked well so far.
Fiat has 200 dealers in the United States and thousands more globally. If each Fiat dealer can sell an average of one Spider a month, perhaps the MX-5 Miata/Spider will live to see a next generation.
Budget sports cars nearly became extinct in North America in the early 1980s when MG, Triumph and several other brands folded. Fiat soldiered on with its Italian-made Spider until 1985 and the segment remained dormant until the Mazda MX-5 Miata arrived in 1989.
Today’s buyers, though, increasingly want utility along with sporty handling and snappy acceleration.
It could be the sports car of tomorrow won’t be an MX-5 Miata, but a go-anywhere vehicle such as the Jeep Wrangler and Range Rover Evoque.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
When the first Corvettes rolled out of the primordial postwar haze in 1953, they were far from fully evolved. By all accounts, the shoddy, fiberglass-bodied “sports car” was headed for extinction just as quickly as its meager six-cylinder engine and two-speed automatic transmission could carry it. But then Chevrolet installed its first small-block up front. Thusly and successfully mutated, the Corvette’s genetic code has remained stable for 60 years. With few exceptions, the venerable Vette has always been a powerful V-8 plastic-wrapped with only whatever additional engineering was necessary. The LT1 V-8 in today’s Corvette Stingray displaces 6.2 liters and makes 460 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque when paired with the performance exhaust or Z51 packages. Other engines may make more power or have more exotic designs, but there is no engine that feels closer to a living, breathing entity than the Corvette’s pushrod V-8. It is close to sentient, shutting down half its cylinders to conserve fuel and granting the Corvette a 29-mpg EPA highway rating. But the LT1 is no goody-two-shoes; it reminds you constantly of its presence, just on the other side of the fire wall behind the axle centerline. At idle, the Corvette vibrates to its pulses, urging you to uncoil the tension in the pedals and shifter.
When you do, it becomes evident that chassis resources were not begrudgingly allocated in designing this seventh generation of Corvette. Grip is far beyond the limits of daily driving. The steering wheel, brakes, and seat bottom tell you more about current events than CNN. Power delivery is immediate, at any sane speed, in any of the first four gears. There is still raw aggression in the Corvette’s acceleration, but the chassis is no understudy to the powertrain. While the rev-matching seven-speed manual transaxle is our obvious preference, an eight-speed automatic is new for 2015. It offers crisp, quick shifts via steering-wheel-mounted paddles and makes two-pedal Corvettes more than just tolerable. Also new: the Performance Data Recorder, an onboard video technology serious enough that its full capabilities are not entirely legal in some states. Criticisms of Corvettes past have been addressed: A modern cockpit and supportive and comfortable seats testify to the thoroughness of Chevrolet’s mission (accomplished) in remaking the car. The C7 is the best-ever Corvette. Even in this, its second year on our list, C7s hypnotize, the convertible and coupe equally. Sitting in the lot among the other contenders, they stand out as if rendered on a Retina display while others are appearing on a CRT. You might think that our familiarity with its many facets and creases has bred boredom, and certainly other beguiling shapes, even a real Italian demi-supercar, vied for our attention this year. But the Stingray looks transplanted from childhood fantasy, an interstellar dragon. We hear it roar, smell the heat of the LT1 cooking its own polymer skin, and the Corvette turns such imaginings into reality.
CADILLAC CTSCadillac’s CTS fended off multiple Audis, Benzes, and BMWs to win its 10Best berth. While we are (still) big fans of the twin-turbocharged, 420-hp V-6 that powers the Vsport model, it’s the handling that sets the CTS apart from the competition. To determine how GM sharpened the CTS’s reflexes to cuff the Germans, we returned to the scene with Cadillac’s executive chief engineer, Dave Leone. Turns out that Leone and his development team know these byways located only 30 miles from GM’s proving grounds as well as we do. “We’re here every month to check our progress tuning new models and to assess competitors,” Leone explains. “The bends, bumps, and abrupt elevation changes challenge any car’s integrity, so this loop is an excellent supplement to our Milford Road Course and Nürburgring work.” The third-generation CTS builds on the ATS’s Alpha foundation with larger wheelbase and track dimensions. “To optimize mass efficiency and to achieve a [near] 50-50 weight distribution, we created over 40,000 analysis models. We specified aluminum for most of the front components, positioned the battery at the rear of the car, and counted every gram to gain a 200- to 300-pound weight advantage,” Leone adds. “We targeted both the E90 [2006–2013] BMW 3-series and the current 5-series. When the 5 got heavier, our task became easier.” Leone’s strategic weapon, the electronically controlled magnetorheological (MR) dampers that GM developed years ago, has seen use in several sporty European cars. As we sail over a crest, he notes: “Our goal is maintaining the car’s composure in the face of severe road inputs. The MR dampers help keep the body straight and level by sensing suspension travel and by responding rapidly with extra rebound control over rises like this one. The dampers collaborate with the springs and anti-roll bars to keep the body flat in sweepers and to quell waddle [GM’s funny word for head toss] over undulating pavement.” Encountering a stretch of tortured asphalt, Leone switches the Driver Mode Control from sport to tour. “The softer tour setting enhances comfort over rough roads while still providing enough damping to meet our goal of limiting wheel motion to one up-down cycle per bump,” he explains. The body control is astounding over roads like this, but if the steering were less faithful, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t enjoy driving the CTS as much as we do. Leone explains, “Thanks to compliance in the belt connecting the assist motor to the steering rack, there’s minimal interference with the feedback traveling from the road to the driver’s hands.” To Leone, the whole goal of chassis development is to create that elusive special sauce: “After enjoying a delicious dinner, you might ask for the recipe. That will reveal the ingredients while telling you nothing about the chef’s subtle contributions. The car-world equivalent is what we call integration: applying the necessary small refinements to assure that the whole vastly exceeds the sum of the parts.” And it’s amazing how General Motors—long the corporate behemoth most associated with sloppy handling, inattention to detail, and a generalized malaise—has gotten so adept at turning the good into the great. View Photo Gallery
There are roughly 150 new car models on the market today, many of them only narrowly distinguishable from each other. The sedans are flame-surfaced affairs with elongated rooflines, and even the sporty coupes rely on huge grilles to trumpet their brand lineage. Most emit the same muffled calls, so you can’t reliably classify them by sound, either. This guide is intended to help you identify the 10 cars that, through a rare combination of strengths, stand apart. They reward close observation. We hope the following pages will tune you in to the attributes that mark the differentiation. Individual areas of noteworthiness are called out, but the assembled cars share the following traits: They cost less than $80,000, they excel at delivering value for the money, they have a strong mastery of their segment, and they are graceful in motion. These 10 will entertain and delight any driver, but only if you know how and where to spot them. "Should Try To Drive It"
I once had a tail attached to the bottom of my spinal column. Don’t judge me; you had one, too. I lost mine a little more than a month into my embryonic development. And, I presume, you did as well. Not all of us lose ours, though. While vanishingly rare, some babies are born with an honest-to-goodness cartilage-, nerve-, and muscle-filled tail. These people have what’s known as an atavism. It’s a physical trait from deep evolutionary time that occasionally pops back up and, in this case, means that the affected person will forever be referred to by the unsympathetic as “Tail Boy.” Because of the probability of significant Levi’s chaffing and never-ending ridicule, most tails are surgically removed almost immediately upon discovery. The BMW M235i also has a tail, albeit a metaphorical one. The car itself is a throwback, its genetic code expressing something that has gone nearly dormant in the last generation of small BMWs. The company is aware of this. It has even advertised this two-door model as the spiritual successor to the 2002, the model that predated the original 3-series. With all due respect, BMW is wrong about that. The 2002 is too far back in the rapidly evolving car world to share much of its character or size with any new car. Modern BMW compacts are larger and more thickly padded animals, both in physical dimensions and in the broad scale of their market appeal. The M235i instead reverts to the same general plan as the E46 M3 of the early 2000s. That’s back to a time, in other words, when our adoration for BMWs was at its most unabashed.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Premium compact SUV sales forecast to top 500,000 this year
The Audi Q3 gained further ground last year as Europe's top-selling premium compact SUV.
Sales of compact premium SUVs in Europe are poised to top half a million for the first time this year because of new model launches from brands such as BMW, Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz, according to forecasts.
The segment has expanded significantly since 2010, when about 270,000 units were sold. Analysts at IHS Automotive now predict sales will exceed 600,000 units in 2016.
They expect innovation in the segment will be a key driver of this growth. This includes the launch of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, the niche’s first seven-seat vehicle, as well as more economical versions of diesel models and more segment-busting variants such as coupe-styled SUVs and possibly even a cabriolet.
The compact premium SUV market is led by Audi’s Q3, with European sales up 3 percent last year to 76,078 units. It was followed by Volvo’s XC60, which grew by 35 percent to 62,650 sales over the same period. Mercedes added a second model in the segment last year, the A-class-based GLA, which achieved sales of 44,930 to rank seventh in the segment in less than a full year of availability in European markets.
Despite being around since 2008, the Audi Q5, which is the Q3’s big brother, managed to grow sales by 9 percent in 2014 to hold fourth place.
“Audi has done a lot to them [the Q3 and Q5], appealing to customers in terms of interiors, technology content, brand and styling,” IHS Automotive Principal Analyst Ian Fletcher told Automotive News Europe.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Tim Kuniskis, president and CEO of Dodge, with the Challenger R/T Shaker at the 2014 New York Auto Show.
DETROIT - General Motors CEO Mary Barra, di baru-baru ini Automotive News World Congress, mengatakan perusahaan tidak kehilangan salah satu merek yang dihentikan selama perusahaan 2008-09 kebangkrutan dan restrukturisasi - Saturn, Saab, Hummer dan Pontiac.DETROIT - General Motors CEO Mary Barra, di baru-baru ini Automotive News World Congress, mengatakan perusahaan tidak kehilangan salah satu merek yang dihentikan selama perusahaan 2008-09 kebangkrutan dan restrukturisasi - Saturn, Saab, Hummer dan Pontiac.
You can take that to mean that none will ever be revived by GM, at least while Barra is in power.But that doesn’t mean displaced customers of two of the brands -- Hummer and Pontiac -- have nowhere to go.Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is building a lineup that would be a natural home for displaced Hummer and Pontiac customers.
Looking at Jeep’s staggering global growth and the worldwide explosion in popularity of SUVs and crossovers, you have to think a Hummer customer’s first choice would be a Jeep. (Don’t forget the two brands shared the same basic seven-slot grille.) GM no longer has a dedicated brand of rugged off-road vehicles.
But I see the biggest migration of GM customers to coming from Pontiac -- and going to Dodge.