Autoblog hits the Transformers premiere

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To say we've been looking forward to the Transformers movie would be a bit of an understatement. Of course, nobody knows that better than you, our fair readers, as you've seen over two dozen Transformer posts over the past year. Why not, we all used to wage Autobot vs. Decepticon battles in our back yards, and the cartoon was a Saturday morning staple for years. When we got a call from General Motors that they would be holding the world premiere of one of 2007's biggest blockbusters and we were invited, you could imagine the excitement.

Before the movie premiere, GM Design held a special dinner at Flemmings, which is across the street from the Palladium theater in Birmingham, MI. The free food and drinks were great, and the chance to discuss design with some of GM's best and brightest was very cool. We'll post later on a great conversation we had with Camaro interior designer Micah Jones, but the big event was the Transformers movie world premiere, and you can read our impression of the movie after the jump.




[Editor's Note: Although the following account is a brief preview of the movie, it is in no way a serious spoiler review. If you're curious, read on, but if you want to remain totally in the dark, stop here and wait until next Wednesday when Transformers hits cineplexes nationwide.]

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AutoblogGreen for 06.28.07

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Here the question of the day: with high gas prices, would you rather ride the bus to work or skip out on going to the movies? If you're like most Americans (according to one study), you're gonna miss that film. AutoblogGreen, though, is here to help you save a few bucks on fuel so you don't have to miss Transformers next week.

 

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Ford not interested in selling Volvo

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It's just plain difficult to follow Ford Motor Company lately, as there seems to be more rumors about the embattled American icon than any other automaker. On any given day, all, some, or none of the Premiere Automotive Group could be for sale, and everyone from Renault to Hyundai, even the Russians, could be the most interested suitors.

In the past couple weeks, a sale of Jaguar and Land Rover has appeared more and more likely, as Ford has hired KPMG to assist in a possible sale. In a recent interview with the Free Press, however, Way Forward architect and Ford President of the Americas, Mark Fields, claims that Volvo definitely isn't on the block. The product portfolios of the Ford brand and Volvo are far too intertwined at this point, especially in Europe, for a split to pan out in the Blue Oval's favor. Ford will likely combine the R&D between the two brands further in North America, where Ford is working to bring down costs.

For our money, it makes sense to keep Volvo in the fold, if only because the Swedish automaker represents one of the few outright success stories in the Ford portfolio.

[Source: Freep]

 

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Spy Shots: Twin-turbo V8 BMW 7-series at the 'Ring

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During a recent Bimmer-hunting expedition at the Nurburgring, ace photog Hans Lehmann was able to procure a shot of the engine bay of a development mule for the 2010 BMW 7-series. When inspecting the layout, he noticed two intercoolers, and the best guess now is that the V8 fitted to the new 7-series could be the same engine employed in the new M3. With over 400 horsepower on tap in naturally-aspirated guise, it's not a stretch to think that this blown motor could produce upwards of 500 HP with limited tweaking. M7 anyone?

When the new 7-series goes on sale in late 2009, those suspicions will be confirmed.

[Source: Straighline]

 

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HWA and Mercedes Benz readying a second sports car

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HWA is the racing operation set up by AMG founder Hans-Werner Aufrecht to build and campaign many of the Mercedes Benz competition vehicles including the current C-Class DTM cars. HWA has also built some very limited production road going machines for Stuttgart, including the CLK-GTR that were based on the FIA GT racers of the mid-nineties.

HWA continues to be a separate entity from Mercedes even though the mother ship has owned AMG since 1999, but they still work together and are now planning a new coupe that will fit into the gap between Mercedes' current flagship SL55 AMG and the mighty McLaren built SLR. The new car will be built and primarily developed by HWA and is targeted to have performance comparable to current DTM racers. A second car that will essentially be an EVO model of an existing AMG car will be the followup.

[Source: MotorAuthority]

 

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Nothelle's 520 HP Bi-turbo Audi TT

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Click the image above for a gallery.

Renowned Audi tuner Nothelle has dubbed its latest creation a "Porsche-killer." A lofty title, but considering the amount of effort that was expelled on boosting the 3.2-liter V6 from 250 HP to 520 HP, it will certainly keep pace with its cross-town rival in a straight line.

The firm's kit for both the hardtop and cabrio TT employs a bi-turbo arrangement to produce the aforementioned horsepower bump and a tire-decimating 468 ft.-lbs. of torque to propel the Bauhaus two-door to a top speed of 191 MPH. The suspension has been firmed up with the company's coilover suspension that drops the TT 25mm overtop 20-inch rolling stock.

The exterior gets a body to match its extreme performance, utilizing a three-piece front fascia, along with side skirts and a trio of aero elements in the rear to increase downforce at speed.

More information about all the options provided by Nothelle is in the press release after the jump.

[Source: Nothelle via Carscoop]

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Toyota decides to produce FSC concept

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The crossover segment is quickly overpopulating many automaker's lineups (think Mazda and Ford), and Toyota is the latest to join the fray. The folks from Aichi Japan are only a couple months away from launching a production version of the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show's FSC concept in their home market. The concept blended SUV utility and station wagon styling queues with a platform that's based on the Camry to give Toyota another entry in what may be the hottest segment in the industry. The for-sale vehicle will be named Mark X Zio in Japan, and it will cart around six or seven passengers via the power of a 2.4- or 3.5-liter engine.

No word yet on whether the Mark X Zio will ever be made available in the US market, but if does ever grace our shores, we doubt the awkward name will make the trek.

[Source: Winding Road]

 

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Ford brings summer incentives to buyers

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In a move that's as predictable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, automakers are beginning to offer more sales incentives to boost summer sales figures. Ford is no exception, and as of today, those willing to drive away in a new Blue Oval offering can benefit from zero-percent financing on all new 2007 models. Want to buy a pickup or SUV? Ford will cut you a check for $2,007 in addition to the no interest financing for 36 months. However, Ford and Mercury CUVs aren't benefiting from the cash back offer.

The sales push ends on July 7th; so expect to see the prerequisite ads flooding airwaves soon after you read this.

[Source: Detroit News]

 

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Officially Official: Japan gets Honda Civic Mugen RR

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Click image for gallery

It was rumored yesterday, and it's real today. Come September 13, Japanese enthusiasts will be able to order up the hottest Civic Type R yet. The already-impressive R gets the full once-over from Mugen, and the result is the Honda Civic Mugen RR. Designed to be perhaps the ultimate front-engined/front-wheel-drive performance car, the Mugen RR sheds an additional 10kg (22 lbs) off the standard Civic Type R's weight, coming in at 2733 lbs. In addition to the weight loss, the freer-breathing Mugen RR picks up 15 horsepower over the regular Type R. It's rated at 240 horses at 8,000 rpm and 160 lb-ft at 7,000 rpm.

Complementing the added power and and decreased weight are a new bodykit, upgraded brakes all around, a retuned suspension, new wheels and tires, and logo-emblazoned Recaro sport buckets. Availability is limited to 300 cars, all in the Milan Red finish shown, and the pricing in Japan has been set at ¥4,777,500 ($38,750 USD).

Mugen's official website has a video of the car lapping Japan's Tsukuba circuit, which is worth a look if you're interested in seeing it in action.

[Source: MUGEN via Carview]

 

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Improvements in Virginia brought to you by new fines on speeders

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So they're not out to break a speeder's bank like Indiana, but Virginia has created a host of civil fines for speeders that will pay for the state's new annual $1 billion transportation package. That means that after July 1, not only will you get a bill from the judge for speeding, you will then get a much larger bill from the state. Fr'instance, drive without a license, pay $75 to the court and $900 to VA. Do 20 mph over the limit, pay $200 to the court, pay $1,050 to VA. We really love this one: if you have eight points on your license and get a speeding ticket, you'll pay an additional $75 for every point above eight, and another $100 for simply having more than eight points. That smacks of double jeopardy to us, but what do we know?

For the record, almost no one -- and not just speeders -- likes it. Court clerks are expecting to face the anger when people find out about the new fees at the courthouse window. Defense attorneys are getting ready for legal challenges. Judges are expecting people to start pleading not guilty to avoid paying the fees. Which means prosecutors will face more trials.

The "abuser fees" are only for "major" infractions, and only paid by Virginia residents. The new revenue will pay for building roads, snow removal, pothole repair, and grass mowing. David Albo, one of the legislative sponsors of the bill, took New Jersey's similar fee system as a template, and called it "a voluntary tax." After all, "if you don't commit a crime ... you don't pay anything."

Thanks for the tip, Josh

[Source: Washington Post]

 

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Porsche exec says "No" to baby Cayenne, again

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According to our friends over at Motor Authority, Porsche exec Wendelin Wiedeking has officially denied the development of a cute 'ute designed to slot in below the Cayenne. This news is contrary to last month's report from Autobild that Porsche intended to share a platform with the upcoming Audi A5 and Volkswagen Tiguan, dubbing the stillborn model the "Roxster." This most recent news confirms another story reported back in May.

Wiedeking used his opportunity at the podium today to dispel the rumor and to hype the upcoming sports sedan, the Panamera. However, no word from Wiedeking about a successor to the 928 that could conceivably share a platform with the front-engine, four-door sports car.

[Source: Motor Authority]

 

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VW poised to sell 200k units in Russia

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Skoda Octavia Scout

Volkswagen is yet another car company that sees vast potential in Russia, due in part to the large quantity of low-cost automotive suppliers in the region. The automaker is targeting sales of 200,000 units per year from the home of Ivan the Terrible by 2009 or 2010, up from about 50,000 this year. VW has has put its money where its plans are, too, with a new plant in Kaluga, which sits between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The facility will eventually produce 150,000 vehicles per year, starting with the Skoda Octavia in October, followed by the Jetta and a Polo-like vehicle.

It's interesting that VW is having so much success in Europe and in emerging markets like Russia and China, yet the Wolfsburg-based company is still looking to make a similar impact in the US.

[Source: Automotive News (Subscription req'd)]

 

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Spy Shots: BMW 1-series coupe uncloaked

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BMW 135iAll off the running around chasing the upcoming BMW 1-Series has culminated in these shots of the car taken completely naked, apparently at a location where it was the subject of a photo shoot. A member of the enthusiast site 1accicts.com scored the one above, a similar rear view, and a phonecam shot of the car obviously inside the photo studio, sporting a clear-as-day "BMW 135i" identifier plate where the usual Euro license tag would go. Click the "Read" link or the photos you see here for larger versions of all three new photos over at 1addicts, and let us know what you think of the new 1 coupe. We're liking what we see, ourselves, and have to believe that when equipped with the 300-horsepower TT mill, it's going to surprise plenty of folks at stoplight grands prix.

Thanks to all who sent tips!

[Source: 1Addicts.com]

 

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Autoblog drives the Chrysler Nassau concept

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When the Chrysler Nassau concept was unveiled at the 2007 North American International Auto Show, more than a few pundits panned the premium hatch as less than desirable. For one, there aren't a lot of hatchbacks that sell for over $20,000 in the US market, and the Nassau doesn't look cheap. It's also tough for any vehicle to follow up on the success of something as popular as the current 300C, and the Nassau concept had been labeled as a possible next-generation iteration of the RWD mobster/hip-hop sedan.

While there is little doubt in our minds that the Nassau would be in a heap of trouble trying to replace the 300C, we wouldn't be surprised if such a vehicle could serve as a softer, gentler, complimentary vehicle in a future Chrysler lineup. Our opportunity to drive the Nassau was brief, but it gave us a chance to appreciate the concept from behind the wheel, and our overall opinion is fairly positive. Hit the jump to read our test drive of the Chrysler Nassau concept.

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2007 Goodwood Festival of Speed: Open-wheel racers

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Here's another big gallery of pics from Goodwood. This time we're posting images of the various open-wheel racers that haven't been seen elsewhere in our galleries. Think Indy, vintage sports car, A1GP, and the like. A lot of highlights in this group: The 1933 Napier-Railton that was driven by Rowan Atkinson on Sunday, the "Blitzen Benz" that sounded like a biplane, Arie Luyendyk driving Emerson Fittipaldi's 1990 Penske-Ilmor PC-19, Sir Jackie Stewart driving the 1966 Lola-Ford T90 he drove in the 1967 Indy 500, and Al Unser, Sr. right next to him in a similar car. The most bizarre car in the group had to be the 1960 Milliken MX1 Camber Car. Driven by its 90-something designer and namesake, William Milliken, it really wowed the crowd with its 45-degree splayed motorcycle wheels. We swore it had already been pranged in the paddock when we first saw it emerge onto the track.



All photos (C) 2007 Frank Filipponio / Weblogs, Inc.

 

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Enter the rumormill: Nissan 350Z retractable hardtop

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Autoblog reader Sei tipped us off to an article over at the GT Channel that purports to have the inside scoop on the development of a prototype retractable hardtop that can be fitted to the 350Z. Autech, an arm of Nissan whose focus is on specialty vehicle conversions, has developed a system that is likely to be equipped on the next Z car - if it's deemed cost effective and can fit within the Z's pricing structure.

If certain rumblings are to be believed, the next Z could debut as early as this year's Tokyo Motor Show in October, likely a refresh rather than an outright redesign. The coupe would be shown in concept form, with sales likely to begin in 2009, and that's when we'd expect this rumor to be confirmed.

[Source: GT Channel]

 

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2007 Goodwood Festival of Speed: Endurance racers

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Group C racers were one of the featured classes at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this week. To show they appreciated it, those legendary Le Mans prototype racers made a pretty good showing. Mazda's 787B was on display, but didn't run, sadly. Being the only non-piston and only Japanese vehicle to ever win Le Mans, the 4-rotor Mazda was one of the most significant vehicles on hand. But there were plenty of other cars that did run up the hill to the delight of the crowd. There was the Rothman's Porsche 956 and 962, and the Skoal Bandit 956B, the Aston Martin Nimrod and AMR1, the Silk Cut Jaguar XJR9 and XJR12, the Peugeot 905B, Allard J2XC (heard one chap call it a Caparo), Sauber-Mercedes C11, and the Nissan R90 to name several. But it wasn't just Group C that represented the endurance racers.

Goodwood fans got to see a 'Batmobile' BMW 3.0 CSL, the 'Baby' Porsche 935, and Lancia's Beta Montecarlo Group 5, LC1 and LC2. Can Am cars like Mark Donohue's Sunoco 917/30, a twin-turbo Toyota 7 (like the one in the central Toyota display by the house), and an ex-Andretti Ferrari 712 ran alongside a Chaparral 2J sucker car (when they turned on the snowmobile sucker motors, the rooster tail was about 100 feet long in the rain!), Howmet TX (very similar to the Chaparral 2F turbine car), Ferrari 330 P3, and Gulf Porsche 917K. One of our favorite categories at the FoS this year, we also got to see some fairly modern iron here like the Toyota GT-1, Radical SR9, Porsche RS Spyder and Le Mans-winning Audi R10. These and many others were also there to make it an over-the-top experience for us. There was even a bit of unintended excitement when veteran racer Derek Bell put a wheel off into the rain-soaked grass and snapped off part of the Gulf Mirage-Ford GR7. Whoops.



All photos (C) 2007 Frank Filipponio / Weblogs, Inc.

 

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