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Monday, August 31, 2015

Infotainment Overload: Do You Actually Use Your Car’s High Tech Features?

BOLD RIDE

Nissan Maxima 2016 interior photo

Let’s get one thing straight. Cars are not large mobile devices in which to cram as much time and attention-sucking technocrap as possible. Many companies are indeed stuffing cars to the gunwales with the latest tech and it’s starting to piss off customers.
 
 The latest dashboard doodads and virtual parallel parking butlers have proven either irritating or ignored. Worse, these features represent wasted development effort and funding that could be put to better use elsewhere like improved fuel economy, safety, performance or hiring better designers so that we lose some of the lesser detritus on our roads and beautify our driveways.
 
I first had this notion when one company way back in 2000 began offering a service that brought customizable data into the car through a cellular connection. The data included stock prices, sports scores, news and other flotsam and jetsam that appeared in a central display. Confession: I worked for that company.

 And in my small, somewhat contrarian way, I questioned this effort, which probably ruffled some feathers.


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I asked senior people in the company what benefit providing this information to drivers of our cars would be. This data certainly couldn’t help or inform passengers not encumbered by piloting the car; that data was, by definition, tailored solely to the owner.

 Was it information that simply could not wait? I got silence. But I stood by my questioning. It’s this kind of critical thinking that is lacking in the proliferation of useless tech in cars and also green-lights production of questionable vehicles that are either redundant or future albatrosses, but that’s another story. (I’m talking to you, BMW X6.)

For sure, there are highly valuable new technologies emerging even in non-luxury cars. Many are safety related, like radar-based cruise control, forward collision warning systems, lane departure warning, night vision, pedestrian and cyclist detection, various cameras positioned to help the driver in close quarters, and speed regulation set by parents for junior drivers.

 All genuinely good stuff that provides a real, tangible benefit to the owner, the driver, passengers and even those outside the vehicle.


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Now, this technocrap notion has become prophetic. In their first Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience Report, research firm J.D. Power and Associates found that among 4,200 car buyers, about 20 percent of them have not even sampled most of the tech features in their cars.

 They either found the feature useless or it was bundled with a larger, mass-option package that you have no choice but to take, therefore becoming the automotive equivalent of U2’s Songs of Innocence, which soiled every iPhone 6 at launch.

Just a quick glance through the J.D. Power research shows that 43 percent of owners never use concierge services such as OnStar. A shocking 35 percent never use parking assistance.

 Perhaps no surprise, but no less deflating to product planners, 33 percent have never even looked at the various apps they (perhaps passively) paid for sitting right in their dashboards. Lastly, according to J.D. Power, if these features are not sampled within the first month of car ownership, they’ll never be sampled.

Offering the overwhelming majority of these features in a car is redundant in people’s lives. Smart mobile phones serve these purposes, and people not only know how to navigate through them quickly, they’ve become virtual appendages.


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Which brings me to waste, both technological and monetary.
Next to a home, the single biggest purchase most of us will ever make is an automobile. The average new-car transaction price recently hit an all-time high of $ $33,340 in June, according to Kelly Blue Book, up a remarkable $821 from just a year ago. Plus, on average, Americans will buy seven to eight of those new cars in each of our lifetimes. That’s between $233,000 and $267,000 spent on cars, not including peripheral costs like insurance, registrations, repair and maintenance and also not adjusted for future inflation.

As a comparison, the current median sale price of a home in America is $236,400. Even better, once you sell or trade a new car, it loses value, diminished to a small fraction of the new price, while over the long haul, real estate values almost always appreciate.

New cars are a guaranteed money loser, not a winner. Therefore, for most people, the financial significance of car purchases is at least equal to home buying, and sometimes even more important.
And there’s the big, high-minded lesson within a relatively small issue like wasted technology in cars, both for consumers and product planners: Don’t waste money on tech features that will never see use.

CREDITS:

Jim Resnick started his career writing and photographing for Vette, Car Craft and Chevy High Performance magazines. He then launched the BMW-focused Bimmer as Editor-in-Chief, while also holding down the Tech Editor chair at Sports Car International. Jim was then drafted into PR and Marketing roles with Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Jaguar Land Rover and ran Communications for Fender Musical Instrument Corporation, bringing a unique perspective to reporting. He’s also a recovering racer and guitarist.

1969 Changed the Ford Mustang Forever

BOLD RIDE

Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.
 
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Ever notice how things once considered rebellious eventually become respectable? It’s amazing how often this transformation occurs in our society. Take for example rock ‘n roll. In the 50s, it was considered the devil’s music. Pundits blamed it for everything from teen smoking to human sacrifice. Fast-forward a few decades, however, and those same songs are now the music of choice at county fairs, ice cream shops, and family-friendly places in general.
 
This shows us that perception is everything. Professional salespeople know this fact well. That’s why they send out dual messages in their marketing campaigns. The idea is to make younger people think the item is sexy, maybe even a little dangerous, while persuading mom and dad that it’s nice and safe, like the chess-playing future doctor they envision their daughter marrying.

Ford projected the same dual message with its original Mustang. The vehicle’s styling made it clear that the new pony car was nothing like dads De Soto. Yet the relatively modest engine calmed the nerves of anxious parents, who weren’t about to let junior end up like the doomed kids in driver’s education films from the time.

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All of this changed as the 1960s evolved. Elvis took a backseat to the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, Vietnam heated up, and housewives burned their bras. Even the Beatles went from clean-cut English schoolboys to long-haired critics of the establishment. As American society convulsed from within, the nation got louder, faster, and meaner. Its vehicle choices followed suit.

The Boss 302 was conceived by Ford as an answer to the Chevy Camaro, with its thirsty, powerful V8 engines. The Dearborn-based company released the 428 Cobra Jet, along with an optional Boss 302 package for production Mustangs in 1969.

 The engine used a Windsor block enhanced by oversized Cleveland heads, a heightened intake manifold, a wider deck, and a beefed-up alternator pulley. These empowered the motor to churn out RPMs that were considered extreme at the time. The production version came with a built-in speed limiter which owners generally removed as soon as they got the car home.

Larry Shinoda designed the Boss 302’s body. Shinoda worked for GM before jumping ship for Ford. He gave the car a rear deck wing and front spoiler, making it one of the first production vehicles to have both those features. He dumped the faux air scoops that came on regular 69 Mustangs, gave the Boss a bad-ass looking C-stripe, and added options like a blackout hood and back window shade. It had a four-speed gearbox.


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The name “Boss” came about when someone asked Shinoda what project he was currently working on. Playing coy, he replied that he was working on his “boss’s car.” Whether or not the name inspired the use of the word “boss” as an alternative to “cool” is a matter of debate. It may have been a not-so-subtle message from Ford that, going forward, the Mustang would dominate the pony car market.

1970 saw the Boss 302 revamped with side hockey-stick stripes and a new grill. Shinoda replaced the quad-headlight design with dual headlights inside the grill and vents along the outside. The car got competition-grade suspension, a Hurst shifter, and lowered ride height.

The 1970 Boss tested out well for cars of the era, doing 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. It finished the quarter-mile in 14.6 seconds at 98 mph. The company often added an oil cooler to units with the 4.30:1 rear axle ratio. Scarcer than hen’s teeth and more coveted than gold, versions with this feature are easily recognized by popping the hood to see the vertical oil cooler in front of the radiator.

TVR is Completely Sold Out of Its V8 Sports Car—And It’s Not Even Built

BOLD RIDE

 
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Haven’t you heard? The good folks at TVR are bringing new vehicles to market. This time, the company its taking its sports cars very seriously. That’s why when 2017 rolls around, you’ll see a new TVR sports car on the road. Too bad you can’t buy it.
 
According to Autocar, every last one of TVR’s new V8 sports car has been accounted for. For a mere $7,000 (£5,000) deposit, potential owners began putting down deposits beginning on July 7th of this year. If you want to put down a deposit now, you’ll have to wait another year until 2018 for your car to be built.



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Right now, the details on this nonexistent sports car are pretty much that—nonexistent. We do know that TVR will be working closely with Gordon Murray Design in terms of aesthetics, and Cosworth in development of an engine. There are also rumors floating around surrounding a tubular steel space frame with body panels, but nothing is confirmed.
 
Next to this unnamed, undeveloped sports car, TVR hopes to add three more vehicles to its lineup. But first, the new(ish) marque needs to prove itself before it becomes a serious player.

The 1981 Mercedes-Benz Auto 2000 Concept Was an Early Gas Miser

BOLD RIDE

Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.
 
 
mercedes-auto-2000-concept

Fuel efficiency has been a hot topic for years with hybrids becoming commonplace, but Mercedes-Benz was already looking in that direction way back in 1981. They debuted the Auto 2000 at the Frankfurt Motor Show as a car that used aerodynamics and mechanical advancements to be as fuel efficient as possible.
 
The design might not be too appealing, but if you look at that rear you’ll see the Kamm-tail that has become a common feature in hybrids. The wipers and washer nozzles were also tucked behind the A-pillars to further improve the car’s aerodynamics. As for the engine, three different variants were built, each with its own unique approach to design and fuel economy.


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According to Classic Driver, the first had a V8 gas engine with a cylinder shutdown system where four cylinders idled under partial engine loads. This is technology that has only recently made its way into modern cars. The next version had a 3.3-liter 6-cylinder diesel engine with twin turbochargers. It was capable of 31.3 mpg at 75 mph. Those are some impressive numbers for 1981.
 
The final variant was a gas-turbine engine that was small and lightweight. It also had low-pollutant combustion and did not require water cooling. Of the three, this is the one which is still intriguing today. Pieces of the other technologies have made their way into modern cars, but gas-turbine engines have yet to be used in a production vehicle.


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Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Acura RDX Is Like a Gucci Mountain Goat: Review

BOLD RIDE

 
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As I crept over the ledge, perched precariously only on two wheels, my wife and me dangling in the air, I thought to myself, “this is a CUV?!” With that thought, I inched our way forward until I hit the tipping point, and came back down to Earth with a gentle thud.
 
 The road, if you can call a dirt track at a 48-degree incline a road, was definitely not the type of setting you think of when it comes to luxury crossovers. Yet, here we were, in Acura’s RDX making our way up and down it look like child’s play.

We spent the better part of the afternoon, crawling over humps, making our way through the rocky course, and spending more time on two or three wheels than all four. This isn’t just a normal CUV that makes runs to the mall, or drives around your prize winning St. Bernard to all the local dog shows.

 It is a CUV that you’d be proud to own. Better yet, you could take your dog to the show, then for the heck of it, take the route home through Moab, just because you can.

A Gucci Mountain Goat

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Inside the cabin of the RDX, you have access to almost everything you could ever want. Heated and cooled seats, touch screen navigation, and steering wheel accessibility so you never have to move your hands over to the infotainment center. Which is a definite plus since the console infotainment controls can be a bit perplexing at times, especially on the go. The RDX is safe, reliable, and impressively equipped in the tech department.

Furthermore, everything you touch in the RDX feels good and luxurious. The leather is soft, and the buttons and knobs all feel solid in construction. Nothing feels like a recycled Honda part, rather it feels unique to Acura, something that couldn’t be said of some of the cars the company was building just a few years ago.
With that, the RDX’s interior is much more cavernous than one would expect.

My 6’4”, 230-lb frame doesn’t always fit in cars. More often than not, my head is scraping the roof, however, somehow I fit just about everywhere in the RDX. From the front seats that were absolutely divine, especially since I’m still recovering from my motorcycle accident, to the back seats that fit a fully grown human without needing to lop off the persons legs and head. Even the trunk can fit a few full size dogs.


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One part I especially am keen to talk about is Acura’s safety system suite. We all know that there’s a vast majority of drivers out there that are hugely distracted. Whether that’s because of phones, texting, or any number of other things going through our minds at any given time. We all are human, and we all make errors in judgment.

With that, Acura’s safety systems, which include blind spot monitoring, automatic braking, and lane departure, people now have a safety net to catch them when they’re doing something potentially dangerous.

 However, one issue that I found with these systems are that they are extremely sensitive, and with that sensitivity, they tend to go off quite a bit when there isn’t a need for them. Thankfully, you do have the option to switch them off.
Honestly though, after driving the RDX around, you won’t want to go home any time soon

Eat My Dust Jeep!


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CUVs aren’t really meant to be true off-roaders. They’re designed for soccer moms that want something small, but still want AWD to save them when hazards of winter inevitably arrive. The RDX wasn’t intended to rock crawl, or traverse ledges like a purpose-built Jeep. Yet, there I was, on two wheels.

I’ve never been more surprised by the capability of an automobile. I figured that the RDX would be just some little CUV that could never tackle anything more than a light bit of snow and dirt. I was wrong. It went over ruts, over big rocks, and through enough sand and dirt to qualify it in this year’s Rally Dakar.


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The trail we took the RDX through is around 5 miles long, and through the steep terrain and loose sand, we never felt like we were going to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere. We had the AC blasting, the tunes rocking, and just enjoyed the natural beauty we were privy too because of this rugged luxury CUV.

The RDX’s 279 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque is more than enough to propel the car forward, and creep its way out of most sticky situations. While I’m not sure if you could go mudding in the RDX, it is more than capable of handling 80% of most off-road expeditions. Could it use a bit more torque? Yes. Could the tires be more knobby? Of course, but that’s not what this CUV was built for.

The RDX isn’t a Jeep. It isn’t a Range Rover. It’s a middle-level luxury CUV. However, through the course of Acura’s engineering, the RDX was given some true off-roading chops, something that was wholly unintended.

The Verdict


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Acura’s RDX has all the amenities that one could ask for in a premium CUV, but it also has the ability to show up the rest of its competition in terms of on and off road capability. CUV’s like the Mercedes GLC, the Audi Q5, the Lexus NX, and the BMW X3, aren’t as at home in the rocky deserts of California as the RDX.

However, it is not only in capability that the RDX has its competition beat. The RDX I tested was just over $44,000 including destination. It included everything you could want in terms of luxury and technology, and you’d be extremely hard pressed to find any of the others mentioned above in that same respective price range.

 The RDX is a luxury CUV for when you want to go to the opera, and a sand slinging off-roader for when you just want to be dirty. It’s a special CUV that doesn’t take the thrill out of driving, but rather enhances it.


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Specs:

Engine: 3.5 Liter V6
Horsepower: 279
Price (As Tested): $44,430


Positives:

Can handle rough terrain like a Jeep would
Price point is really good considering the competition
Seats are hugely comfortable


Negatives:

Power isn’t up to date with modern V6s or inline turbo four-cylinders
Safety systems are extremely sensitive to the point where it can get annoying

GWA Tuning Gives the Lamborghini Huracan a Mean Makeover

BOLD RIDE

Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.
 
lamborghini-huracan-gwa-widebody-front

Modifying a car is truly an art form. Do it poorly, and you’ll lament that outrageous hood scoop or fender flare for the rest of time. But do it right, and the end result can be simply jaw-dropping. Better file this 2015 Lamborghini Huracan in the “jaw-on-the-floor” category. 
 
The Italian thoroughbred comes shod in a new set of sleek Toro wheels, designed by Miami-based GWA Tuning, however it’s the extreme widebody package that was built to accommodate these sizable wheels that really draws the eyes. According to GWA, the company will soon offer both the Lamborghini widebody package and Toro wheels to those not content with staying stock.


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Like the “Liberty Walk” look? The GWA carbon fiber widebody kit adds extra-wide fender flares, front and rear, in order to swallow those cavernous gold wheels, and proudly sports a series of exposed rivets along the way. Up front, a red aerodynamic element finds a home within the Huracan’s gaping maw, while additional winglets kiss the pavement underneath.
 
Out back, an aggressive bumper extension hugs the quartet of exhaust pipes, tacks on a few more aerodynamic elements, and integrates with a rear undertray. The whole look is pulled together nicely by a trio of green, white, and red stripes that make a dive along the supercar’s flanks and into the side scoops. Any wilder and it might look like the Huracan Super Trofeo race car.


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Despite the powerful 602-horsepower V10 found underneath the rear haunches of the new Lamborghini Huracan, not everyone was pleased with the design of the Lamborghini Gallardo successor.

Perhaps a nutty widebody kit is enough of a prod to make those critics reconsider.

Looking to Buy a Rare McLaren? This Manta Montage is the Next Best Thing

BOLD RIDE

Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.
 
manta-montage-mclaren-m6gt-2

Let’s face it, we can’t all drive our icons—cars like the Ferrari 250 GTOs and Shelby Daytonas. Few exist and the ones that do command otherworldly values. This dispirit notion is made even more apparent if your automotive idol is the legendary McLaren M6GT. 

Only three were ever officially produced, making them quite rare indeed. However, that hasn’t stopped everyday folks from getting behind the wheel of M6GT look-alikes like this, a Manta Montage. This Montage replica recently surfaced on eBay, and like its McLaren genesis, it’s a looker.

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First, the McLaren M6GT. Back in the 1960s, New Zealander Bruce McLaren had seen the success of his M6A Can-Am race cars and had himself won the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40. His next racing maneuver would be to fry bigger fish in the FIA’s Group 4 category, and to do so he planned to create a coupe based on his M6A for the World Sportscar Championship.
 
Unfortunately, homologation rules mandated that 50 production cars would need to be built, which quickly shelved the project. Instead, McLaren went ahead and built the coupe-bodied M6GT, which he intended to be the world’s greatest road car.

 Packed with a Chevrolet racing V8 and capable of zero to 100 mph in eight seconds, it surely was quite the car, and McLaren even used one of the three original M6GTs as his daily driver. Production was handled by development partner Trojan, but was halted after McLaren’s tragic death in 1970.



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The Montage, built by replica car company Manta Cars, brought that storied McLaren shape to the masses and draws its structure from a Volkswagen Beetle chassis. Though that pedigree may be of a different league altogether, this Montage’s 1835cc VW engine with dual Weber carburetors is said to inspire brisk performance, backing up the low-slung body and sporty butterfly doors.

Given the recent revival of the McLaren Honda Formula 1 partnership, the current owner had planned to swap the cammed Volkswagen engine for a 3.5-liter Honda V6, however that transplant has yet to take place. Either way, you aren’t apt to see many Montages or M6GTs on a regular basis.

Jaguar “EV-Type” Trademark May Signal Tesla Electric SUV Rival

BOLD RIDE

 
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The grand reveal of the thinly-disguised 2016 Jaguar F-Pace comes in only a few short weeks at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, though word has surfaced that the new Jaguar crossover may not be alone.
 
According to the UK’s Autocar, Jaguar insiders have suggested that the F-Pace won’t be a standalone vehicle, but instead a family of crossover SUVs, giving Jaguar a range of vehicles to field against the likes of the BMW X-3/4/5 and Audi’s Q crossovers. One of the most eye-opening of the vehicles purported? An electric version of the F-Pace, rumored to be called “EV-Type.”

Jaguar first trademarked the EV-Type moniker in October 2014, and although Jaguar Design Director Ian Callum has hinted that an electric Jaguar is indeed in the works, the company has been mum as to what form the future EV would take on.

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With the Tesla Model X soon to carve out the all-electric crossover market, an electric SUV based on the F-Pace’s lightweight aluminum architecture represents as good a shot as any at challenging the Model X.

The Jaguar F-Pace is set to go into production at the company’s Solihull factory, outside of Birmingham, England. In July, Jaguar Land Rover entered into an agreement with Magna Steyr to build a portion of future vehicles in Graz, Austria, which may provide an engineering home for such an EV-Type vehicle.

Although the final specifications are still unknown, the SUV is expected to sport a range of four-cylinder engines from Jaguar’s Ingenium engine family, a supercharged V6, and potentially even a V8 in the form of an “R” or “SVR” package. Stay tuned for updates as September’s Frankfurt Motor Show ticks closer.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

IndyCar Drivers Honor Justin Wilson on the Golden Gate Bridge

BOLD RIDE

 
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This past weekend drivers and race fans alike were faced with one of IndyCar’s most tragic instances, the death of driver Justin Wilson. Wilson was struck on the head at Pocono this past Sunday by debris from a lead car. He was 37.
 
In wake of this tragedy, a few drivers teamed up to honor him in a unique way: by completely shutting down the Golden Gate bridge. Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, and James Hincliffe took part in the memorial. Behind the wheel of Justin Wilson’s car was fellow racer and teammate Marco Andretti.

It all took place yesterday morning, as Justin’s car took the lead with the others following behind. For Marco Andretti, it was a “Very emotional cross of the bridge in Justin’s car.” Andretti and Wilson were new teammates under Andretti Autosport for 2015.
The final IndyCar race of the season will take place this weekend at Sonoma, as drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Graham Rahal vie for the top spot, with former champion Will Power closing in behind as well. Even then, #BadassWilson will be in the thoughts of fellow drivers and fans.

Pierce Brosnan Reveals He Lost his Aston Martin in a House Fire

BOLD RIDE

 
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Over the course of five decades and two dozen films, the James Bond franchise has paired a number of leading men with iconic cars, none were more iconic than the link between Bond and his Aston Martins. 
 
Unfortunately, ex-Bond actor Pierce Brosnan had to say goodbye to his personal Aston Martin in February of this year, after a fire at his home in Malibu, California destroyed one of the British grand tourers. That casualty was the actor’s silver 2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, a car Brosnan made famous in the 2002 James Bond spy thriller, Die Another Day.

“I looked into the garage,” Brosnan recently told Details magazine, “and the car cover was engulfed in flames. In that nanosecond, you think, do I try to save it? But it’s just a car. You take the blow and move on, give thanks you’re alive.”

Brosnan later posted a photo on Instagram of the nameplates he salvaged from the charred Aston Martin, writing “All that remains of a very great Aston Martin, she was a beauty, however a car is just a car…a life, is a precious gift of beauty and holiness.”

Brosnan’s personal Vanquish came fitted from the factory with a triumphant 5.9-liter V12 engine, which summoned 460 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, and dispensed it to the road through a six-speed automated manual gearbox. The movie car he’d made famous in Die Another Day had a few additional features, however.

In the film, the car was nicknamed by Q (John Cleese) as the Aston Martin “Vanish” thanks to its remarkable cloaking device. The luxury GT also toted an array of machine guns, grille-mounted rockets, an ejector seat, and retractable tire spikes for good measure.

Watch This 2,000-HP Gallardo Become the World’s Fastest Lamborghini…Again

BOLD RIDE

Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.
 
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North Carolina shop Underground Racing is famous infamous for building some of the world’s fastest vehicles. From Lamborghinis to GT-Rs, and anything in between. For them, the formula is simple: twin turbocharge all the things. Their latest creation is actually an old friend.
 
The Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera LP570-4 you see here isn’t new to the world record books. It’s owned by Gidi Chamdi, and it regularly surpasses the 220-mph mark. This Gallardo has been dubbed “World’s Fastest Lamborghini” more times than you can count on one hand. This time, somehow, it’s gone even faster. Watch:



 
Breaking any previous records set by…well…itself, the twin-turbo Lambo took to the Shift Sector Airstrip Attack event in Oregon last week where it hit 234.86 mph. That’s faster than any other Lamborghini on the freaking planet, and most certainly anything else that took to the Oregon airstrip that day.
There’s no specific horsepower figure given, but considering a 1,700-horsepower Porsche 911 was also in attendance, you can assume this Gallardo could be pushing somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 horsepower. Insane.

The Chrysler Conquest TSi is a Forgotten 1980s Gem

BOLD RIDE

Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.
 
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Automotive history is a bit like a glossy coffee table art book. The greats are given full-page spreads and dazzling historical accounts, while everything else gets a footnote mention, or perhaps none at all. And frankly that’s too bad. 
 
This is a Chrysler Conquest TSi. It earns substantially fewer full-page spreads in metaphorical coffee table books next to its contemporaries—the Toyota Supra, Nissan 300ZX, Mazda RX-7, Porsche 944—but that doesn’t mean it’s any less special. This 1989 Conquest TSi recently graced the pages of eBay, and it’s a welcome reminder of Mitsubishi’s performance car talent. Yes, Mitsubishi.


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While it’s certainly no mystery, the Conquest draws its shape and mechanicals from the Mitsubishi Starion coupe, which entered the Japanese market in 1982. The original “narrow body” models produced only 145 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, and were imported to the U.S. as Dodge and Plymouth brand vehicles. You could say they looked fairly modest in styling, however that would change for 1986.
The Starion (now badged as a Chrysler Conquest) received a substantial upgrade in ESI-R/TSi trim, now brandishing rowdy box flares atop its wheel arches, sleek 16-inch alloy wheels, and over two inches of added wheel track. Under the hood, the Conquest TSi and Starion ESI-R now punched out 176 horsepower and 223 lb-ft of torque from the 2.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, thanks to engine tweaking and the addition of an intercooler.



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Sure, the Starion and Conquest twins may be omissions from the history books, but contemporary road tests prove their ability to turn smiles. A 1986 MotorWeek test between a Starion ESI-R and its aforementioned rivals (300ZX, RX-7, and 944 Turbo) found that the Mitsubishi ranked just behind the RX-7 in second place for slalom speed, and tied the 944 Turbo in skid pad top speed. Not bad for the cheapest car of the bunch.

Inside, driver and passenger were treated to seats with absolutely enormous side bolsters, a performance-minded center boost gauge, automatic climate control, motorized seat belts, and a cassette stereo system with graphic equalizer. Apart from the rampant ‘80s-ness inside, the overall Conquest and Starion designs still present very well today.


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Further, this ‘89 Chrysler Conquest TSi looks remarkably good for its age, and as a post-’88 car, it sports an even taller 188 horsepower and 234 lb-ft of torque.

 Also, who doesn’t love a good box flare? According to the seller, the coupe shows only 58,576 miles on its odometer, though it does pack the four-speed automatic rather than the sought-after five-speed manual.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Barracuda Will Return as a Dodge-Branded Convertible

BOLD RIDE

Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.
 
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It’s been a while since we’ve seen a new Barracuda on the market—41 years, to be exact. Even then, it was wearing a now-defunct Plymouth badge. But ‘Cuda fans—and muscle car fans in general—should be excited to hear that the legendary muscle car is making a comeback.

According to Automotive News, Chrysler announced to dealers at a conference in Las Vegas that the new Barracuda is on the way, using the new Alfa Romeo Guilia as a base, and sporting a convertible top only. While that all sounds like good news, there will be a bit of a questionable design approach.

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Love it or hate it (we choose the latter), the 1999 Charger R/T concept will be the main source of inspiration for the new ‘Cuda. Like the current charger it will expectedly be long, “swoopy,” and sporting some muscle car cues along the way. At least that’s what a few unnamed dealer sources had to say.

Alongside the new Barracuda, the new Charger will also use the Alfa Romeo Guilia (pictured below) as a base. The flexible platform is all a part of FCA’s more streamlined approach—using a single platform for multiple vehicles. And we’ll see a new Alfa Romeo SUV, new Maserati models, a new Wrangler, and a high-performance Jeep Grand Cherokee Track Hawk.


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Looks like FCA is going to be busy in the next few years.

3 Reasons the Ford Bronco Could Return, And 3 Reasons It Won’t

BOLD RIDE

 

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Ford fans, rejoice. According to insider reports, production of a reborn Ford Ranger pickup may soon replace the Focus and C-Max at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. The news has struck a chord with Blue Oval truck fans, who have lamented the exit of the Ranger in 2011. 
 
Interestingly, the Ranger is not the only Ford rumor to catch today’s headlines. Insiders have also proposed that a new Ford Bronco SUV will follow the Ranger into production, a nameplate that departed from the Ford lineup after 1996. Though unconfirmed, there are a few reasons why this rumor may hold water.



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Platform Sharing

 As hinted by the company’s
2004 Ford Bronco concept, Ford has been aching to bring its iconic off-road SUV back into production for years now, though stumbling blocks like the 25 percent “Chicken Tax” on imported light trucks have prevented the company from doing this in an economically viable way.
 
The potential re-emergence of a North American Ranger, with its rugged body-on-frame construction, would mean Ford now has a midsize platform, built in the U.S., that fits the Bronco formula and drastically cuts the cost of developing a bespoke vehicle platform.

Even better, Ford builds a vehicle that already fits this niche for its Australian and Asian markets—the Ford Everest (pictured above)—which is based on the T6 global Ford Ranger. It features a solid rear axle, seven seats, and an EcoBoost turbocharged engine.

Lack of U.S. Market Competition

 The original Ford Bronco was a small, barebones, off-road SUV, which competed against the likes of the Jeep CJ-5, International Harvester Scout, and Chevrolet Blazer. Today, essentially only one of those products still exists—the Jeep Wrangler—and demand for the rough-and-tumble 4×4 is stratospherically high. In 2014, Jeep sold 175,328 Wranglers in the U.S., an increase of 12.7 percent over the course of one year.


Though the off-roady Toyota 4Runner still patrols the market, it has been priced far out of the Wrangler’s $23,000 bottom line. A reborn Ford Bronco could inject some friendly competition into this one-horse off-road SUV race.

Saving the Name

A further tipping point for the Bronco?

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Ford re-upped its Bronco trademark in February 2015. This isn’t definitive proof of anything considering companies do this all the time, but given all the other evidence, it’s just another strengthening point.

It all sounds pretty exciting—but don’t get your hopes up just yet. It’s not all good news for a next-gen Ford Bronco.



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Fuel Efficiency

 Smaller, more efficient vehicles are a hot topic for today’s automotive product planners—a talking point made only more relevant as we approach the 2025 federally mandated fleet-wide fuel efficiency average of 54.5 mpg.


While a compact, body-on-frame SUV using turbocharged four-cylinder engines could do more to hit this figure than say…the current Ford Expedition, it won’t help nearly as much as today’s crop of popular, unibody crossover vehicles, some of which engage hybrid technology. Somehow, “Bronco” and “hybrid” don’t seem to mix.

Off-Road SUV Market Casualties

 Though the Jeep Wrangler is surging in popularity, other off-road inspired SUVs continue to fall by the wayside. Just last year, Toyota announced it would end production of its FJ Cruiser SUV for 2015, and last week Nissan announced its Xterra would not live to see 2016.


In-Fighting Against Ford’s Current Players

 The last thing Ford wants to do is cannibalize its own sales and compete with itself, which could occur depending on the structural makeup of a new Bronco. If an SUV like the Ford Everest does make it to U.S. shores, it could be sized or priced too competitively with Ford’s existing Edge and Explorer crossover vehicles, which currently start at around $28,000 and $31,000, respectively.


Interestingly, the Ranger pickup that the Bronco would likely draw its bones from faces the same issue. If the Ranger does come to the U.S., it faces stealing away a portion of sales from the larger Ford F-series trucks, which consistently earn the top spot on annual sales charts.

For now, we’ll have to wait and see if the Ranger and Bronco get the production green-light for the U.S., though the cards do look promising.
 

Chinese Startup Le Supercar Plans to Take on Tesla With New EV

BOLD RIDE

Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.
 
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The name Le Supercar may sound like some bad car joke, but it’s a very serious business venture by Chinese electronics mogul Jia Yueting. If you happen to be familiar with Chinese businessmen, that name should sound familiar. Yueting created LeTV, essentially a Chinese equivalent to Netflix.
 
Now, Yueting is turning his focus to the automotive world. With a staggering $1.2 billion investment into the project, there’s no shortage of funds. According to Fast Company, the $1.2 billion acquired by Yueting came from the stock of LeTV—the very same company that will be leading the initiative.


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So what will it take for Le Supercar to become une réalité? First and foremost, a good design, which the company seems to have in spades. The crude sketches we see here feature a sleek front end, morphing into a sort of sporback styling. From what we can tell, it looks very interesting.
 
The second most important feature needs to be a good powertrain, though, we still don’t know exactly what kind of electric motor will be under the hood. With a huge investment and over 600 employees—including former Lotus, Tesla, and GM workers—we should expect a very similar formula to today’s modern EVs. Though, with the name ‘Le Supercar,’ maybe something a bit quicker.


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Expect to see it next year at the Beijing Motor Show, and hitting the road sometime in 2018 if all goes as planned.

Hot-Rod SUV: Jeep Will Produce the Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk

BOLD RIDE

Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.
 

Grand Cherokee Trackhawk image

Fortunately what happen in Las Vegas isn’t staying in Las Vegas. FCA, the parent company of Jeep, told a national dealers’ meeting in Sin City that there will be a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk. This is great news for anyone who has ever wanted an SUV with the driving dynamics off a sports car.
 
The notorious 6.2-liter Hellcat V8 will power the high-performance SUV. FCA claims it will be the fastest factory produced 0-60 SUV to ever hit the market—and even faster than its sibling, the Challenger Hellcat. An FCA spokesperson would not confirm the existence of the Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk when contacted.



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It’s estimated the Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk will have a 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds. That’s faster than published numbers for the Challenger Hellcat, hitting 0-60 in 3.6 seconds. Yikes.
 
Of course, it’s all just speculation at this point. Nobody will know until the Grand Cherokee SRT Track Hawk is introduced. No word has come on when that will be but it seems logical the Los Angeles Auto Show could be the perfect time.


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That could put it in customers’ hands by next summer under that scenario. Expect the Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk to share the same 707 horsepower found in Challenger Hellcat, as well as things like its eight-speed automatic transmission. Another thing that would make it even better is slotting in the six-speed manual transmission as well. That would make it a true Trackhawk, but don’t count on it.

One published report says the Trackhawk will have a starting MSRP of $79,999. But it’s all speculation at this point until Fiat Chrysler rolls out the hard numbers.
 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Used Hybrid, EV Prices Falling, Means Great Deals for Buyers

BOLD RIDE

 
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We are in a unique trend for the classic car market. While you may think that only vintage sports cars are the type of used cars that grow in value, but the reality is, late model used car values are actually on the rise. But it is not all rosy for used car salesman, as the exact opposite is happening for hybrids and electric vehicles.
 
According to Edmunds, the average price of a used car jumped by 7.6 percent in the second quarter of this year, reaching a record average high of $18,800. But a Forbes report shows how a perfect storm of market forces are taking a toll on the fuel-friendly end of the automotive marketplace, resulting in great deals if you’re looking for an eco-friendly used car.


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The National Auto Dealers Association recently released its Electric Vehicle Retention Report Card, indicating a big drop in the trade-in value of two year old cars. The report says that some of the cheapest plug-ins are returning only 20 percent of their original value. It appears that EVs are losing value more quickly than used hybrids.
 
The biggest reason for this drop is the alt-fuel market’s oldest enemy; cheap gas. The country has been enjoying a period of low fuel prices. And the strength of the hybrid/EV market has always been inversely proportional to fuel prices. With gas still costing around a dollar less than a year ago, buyers develop a short memory and go for cars other than fuel-sipping plug-ins and hybrids.


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The other factor is the result of incentives to buy the first round of hybrids and EVs. According to the Forbes report, there are a large number of alt-fuel vehicles that are coming off heavily subsidized leases. 85 percent of Nissan Leafs were leased last year, and it is expected that their residual value will be thousands less than the original estimates.

Then you have the incentives on new hybrids and EVs. You can still get as much as $7,500 off certain electric vehicles, and then automakers throw in their own incentives to sweeten the pot.



2006 Honda Civic Hybrid

Finally you have the purely psychological reasons detracting from hybrid and EV prices. We don’t need to get into the details of “range anxiety” other than that people consider how far they have to drive on a daily basis when buying a car.

The other factor is the quality of the battery as the vehicle gets older. Some buyers are fearful that the old battery might lose its range or effectiveness. But many hybrids have longer warranties for hybrid components, and there has been a proven record of used Prius models on the road that are doing just fine.

What these market forces and mental hangups mean for the eco-conscious consumer is a used marketplace full of late model hybrids and EVs that are extraordinarily good deals.