Saab 9-3 goes Aero-X for 2008

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2008 Saab 9-3Our buddy Swade over at TrollhattanSaab has some pics scanned from a Swedish magazine of what will probably be the next generation of the Saab 9-3. Based on the images, it looks like they're grafting a new front clip based on the Aero-X concept onto the front of the existing car.

This may well just be be mule used to evaluate underhood airflow, and the rest of the car might change for production. Nonetheless, it probably won't be a radical departure, since it is, after all, a Saab. Click on the image or the read link to go see the rest of the car.

[Source: TrollhattanSaab.net]

 

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Spy Shots: BMW 1-Series Coupe

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Well, it's definitely a BMW. Check the dude on the bike in the background. His "was ist das?" expression is priceless. The proportions of the car are scaled quite well, and in the pics, you don't really get the sense that this is the "baby Bimmer."

There's a bit of camo at the rear - the C-pillar is covered up, but if you look closely, you'll see that it won't be going into production emulating an '80 Regal's roofline. It's harder to get a sense of what the taillights are going to do, but they look to be fairly simple affairs. Overall, the 1-series offers a dandy profile coupled to the familial face. It'll be a nasty little thing if the rumors of the 300hp twin-turbo six prove to be true. What we wouldn't give for a modern-day 1600 or 2002Tii.

[Source: Winding Road]

 

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Winner of Chevy Super Bowl college ad contest announced

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After wading through video entries submitted by 820 teams from 230 schools, Chevrolet selected five teams totaling only 11 students to come to Detroit in late October. The candidates would have the chance to sharpen their advertising skills and work with industry professionals before presenting their final commercial submissions for Chevy's Super Bowl ad contest. When all the votes were in, 19-year old Katie Crabb from North Prairie, Wisconsin was the winner. Katie was the youngest participant in the competition, as well as the only solo finalist

Crabb, who entered the contest as an assignment for her freshman journalism class at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, will see her commercial run during tonight's Super Bowl telecast. The cost to run the 30-second commercial is somewhere around $2.6 million dollars. This is a big deal for Katie, as her work is being debuted during an event that's often watched as much for the commercials as it is for the actual game.

As a part of her prize, Katie will intern at Chevrolet's ad agency, Campbell-Ewald, but she says she will also keep her job at Applebee's until she graduates. At that point, Campbell-Ewald gave her a standing offer to start full-time with the firm, but Crabb says she'll just have to see what happens.

See the entire video after the jump!

Thanks for the tip Nellie Lide

[Source: Palm Beach Post via AP]

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Chicago Preview: Dodge facelifts the Dakota for 2008

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The Dodge Dakota used to be a strong-seller in the mid-size pickup truck segment. It could even be argued that the first generation Dakota invented the mid-sized truck segment when it was introduced in the mid-'80s, being significantly larger than the Chevy S-10, Ford Ranger and other compact trucks of the time. But in recent years, particularly since the third generation version was introduced, the sales of the Dakota have slowed, dropping almost 27% in 2006.

The 2008 Dakota gets smoothed over while maintaining the dropped fender look characteristic of Dodge trucks since the 1993 Ram was introduced. In addition to the facelift, the 2008 Dakota gets a reworked version of the 4.7L V-8 cranking out 25% more power, now 290 hp/320lb-ft of torque, and it can run on E85. The base engine remains the 3.7L V-6, which is basi cally the 4.7 minus two cylinders. The interior has also been redesigned to make it more appealing. We'll have more details later this week when Chrysler shows the new truck at the Chicago Auto Show.

Check out Dodge's official press release for more details after the jump, and check out our high-resolution gallery here.

[Source: Dodge]

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Superbowl Sunday Deviations: The Inside Story of the Lotus Elise

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For those of you that aren't particularly interested in the entertainment du jour, we'd suggest that you do two things:
  1. Find your favorite backroad and go for a drive. In all likelihood, there will be less traffic and fewer motorcyclists than your average Sunday.
  2. Watch the documentary on the Lotus Elise posted after the jump. It's a bit long (2 hrs., 20 min.) and a little kitschy, but it's probably more entertaining than reading a Wikipedia article.
Have fun and be safe.

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Super Bowl XXIV: Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo commercial by Ridley Scott

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We all know that watching the Super Bowl commercials can be more entertaining than the game sometimes. After the jump, you'll find the Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo TV spot directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator) that aired in 1990 during Super Bowl XXIV. The voiceover is of a man telling us about a dream he has where he's being chased by motorcycles, a racing car, and a plane, but nothing can catch him in the Z.

Pretty cool, and given that Super Bowl XXIV was a lopsided blowout (49ers 55, Broncos 10 -- Montana w/ 5 TDs), the commercial was probably more interesting than the action on the field (especially if it aired late). According to the person who uploaded the video to YouTube, Nissan pulled the spot after its airing just that one time. Apparently, the brass thought it encouraged street racing.

Because you know, without that commercial, no one would have ever thought to drive fast in the 300-horsepower sports coupe...

Watch it after the jump.

[Source: YouTube]

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Super Bowl XXXVIII - Ford GT "The One"

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Before Bold Moves, Ford did cool stuff like this. Opening with a sweet burnout and filled with a minute's worth of eye and ear candy, we followed this red Ford GT around the track with big grins on our faces (which we simultaneously stuffed with chips & salsa and whatever the hell else we had on hand). "The One," as it's called, aired during the Bowl XXXVIII pregame show, and it's as good now as it was then. Follow the jump to watch it.

[Source: YouTube]

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Super Bowl IV - 1970 Pontiac GTO "The Humbler"

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First off, my apologies to you all, because this is a repost. However, I couldn't put up car-related Super Bowl ads without including it. Besides, if you missed it the first time, you're in for a treat. Pontiac aired the spot that's pasted after the jump during Super Bowl IV (Chiefs 23, Vikings 7).

The car it was pushing was the '70 GTO "Humbler," which let its driver pull a dash-mounted lever to activate the car's Vacuum Operated Exhaust (VOE) option. Doing so relieved backpressure and gave the car added punch while bestowing a positively evil exhaust note upon it to boot. After the spot aired, GM brass went nuts, pulling the commercial and killing the Humbler option itself. The spot aired just that one time, but you can watch it as often as you like by simply following the jump.

[Source: YouTube]

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Super Bowl XXXVIII - Budweiser & Dale Jr. "Lipstick"

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The only Bud connection other than the closing logo shot in the commercial is that the beer is the primary sponsor of driver #8's Monte Carlo. No matter, we love this spot that sees Dale Jr. blast across the country in his vintage 'Vette to give his girlfriend back the lipstick she left in his ride. Thing's aren't as they seem, however, and things get awkward for Jr...

Watch and enjoy after the jump.

[Source: YouTube]

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Mazda Hakaze Concept preview

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Mazda just dropped all the information on its newest concept car, which shares inspiration from the Nagare, Ryuga and Kabura designs we've seen over the past year. It's name, Hakaze (Hah-kah-zay), finds its identity with a flying leaf, which is apropos, since Mazda is pushing the active lifestyle niche by making a strong connection to "kite-surfing."

The compact crossover concept has the same fluidity of its predecessors, along with all the typical show car trappings: no door handles, exterior cameras in place of the mirrors, crazy lighting effects, etc. Mazda contends tha t even though this C-segment vehicle is a CUV/SUV, it will have the dynamics of a roadster, with taut handling and a partially removable roof.

The surface is reminiscent of the aforementioned concepts, gaining inspiration from flowing sand dunes, which Mazda's design team is calling the "flop" technique of color manipulation.

Occupants can enter the concept via one of its two, large, coupe-inspired doors and find four bucket seats mounted on the spine that runs through the center of the concept. The pilot is greeted with a wrap-around console, complete with futuristic sliding dials and doodads, that also includes a system that recognizes the driver via a Bluetooth card that, in turn, adjusts everything to the operator's specs.

Power is provided by a turbocharged 2.3-liter DISI inline-four or a diesel mill, mated to a six-speed sport transmission which then sends power to all four wheels. MacPherson struts are in the front, while a multi-link rear suspension lives up to Mazda's Zoom-Zoom credentials.

We're looking forward to seeing this in person, but in the meantime, feel free to gorge yourself on all the details by reading the press release after the jump. And be sure to check out the gallery, with plenty of CG images, live shots and "making of" pics.

[Source: Mazda]

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AutoblogGreen for 02.05.07

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What's the green car scene like Down Under? AutoblogGreen is on the case with coverage of the Brisbane Auto Show. But check it out soon because news from Chicago is sneaking out, and we'll be full of Windy City coverage all week (car coverage, that is. Thankfully we won't have to talk to anyone about sports while we're in town). Also, we steal an idea from Jeff Foxwrothy, because, well, we hadn't yet. And Autoblog readers will probably be interested in our interview with the guy who got his E85 Viper up to 1000 horsepower. Just guessing.

 

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NHTSA investigating Pontiac Grand Prix engine fires

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Drivers of 1999-2002 Pontiac Grand Prix GTPs might not want to park their GPs inside their garages after word that NHTSA is investigating those models for engine fires. Grand Prix GTPs are equipped with superchargers, which generate heat as well as HP. Could that be the main culprit? Perhaps, but there are plenty of other added components that differentiate the blown six from the normally aspirated one, too. We'll just have to see how the investigation pans out.

There have been 21 complaints and 16 engine fires since the models were introduced. The fires seem to start about 15 minutes after the car has been parked and turned off. Up to 72,000 vehicles could be affected. If your car becomes another statistic in this GTP flambé mystery, look on the bright side: you get to go car shopping really soon.

[Source: Detroit News]

 

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Geneva Preview: Honda's hybrid sports concept, FCX and diesel

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Honda released a brief press release, along with the above sketch, that outlined what we can expect to see from the Big H during next month's Geneva Motor Show.

The illustration is of Honda's Small Hybrid Sports Concept, which is in the same vein as Toyota's FT-HS concept that bowed in Detroit, but on more compact scale. No details were provided about what type of hybrid system would be employed, but something utilizing the Accord Hybrid's setup would certainly provide the prerequisite thrills if Honda is serious about merging fuel efficiency and high performance motoring.

Honda will also be displaying a fully functional FCX fuel-cell vehicle, along with a new clean diesel engine that meets the Tier II/Bin 5 requirements, as outlined by the EPA.

All these developments are signs of good things t o come, making us that much more eager to pack our bags, board a flight and get over to Switzerland ASAP.

The full press release is posted after the jump.

[Source: Honda]

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New BMW 7-series will come with 8-speed transmission

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When BMW released the redesigned 7-series back in 2001, they were the first to offer a six-speed automatic transmission. Two years later, Mercedes upped the ante by throwing an additional cog into the mix, equipping their new S-class with a seven-speed auto. Now that Lexus is offering an eight-speed slush box in their waftastic LS460, BMW has vowed not be left behind in the ratio wars and plans to bring an nine- eight-speed transmission to market by the end of the decade.

The next 7-series will be due for a substantial redesign by 2009 or 2010, so that's when industry analysts expect the eight-speed box to find its way into BMW's luxury sedan. The engineering haus, ZF Friedrichsafen, has been tapped to create the new automatic and has plenty of experience increasing fuel economy, while decreasing build costs , on the current model's six-speed automatic.

When will this cog-swapping numbers race end? We're not entirely sure, but as soon as manufacturers start cresting the double digits, we doubt anyone will even be paying attention.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]

 

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Out of whack: Domestic dealerships outnumber Asians by 5 to 1 margin

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The amount of automotive dealerships in the United states is staggering. Domestic dealerships alone number over 15,000 in the US. For perspective, there are less than 13,000 McDonald's restaurants in the US. At the current rate, the Detroit three's dealerships are shrinking at a three- to four-percent rate, much slower than share declines that are crippling the domestic automakers.


The sales number gaps between the domestics and Asians is equally astonishing. Your average Dodge dealer sells only 375 vehicles per month. In stark contrast, your average Toyota dealership hits nearly 1700 sales in the same time period. Steven Girsky, an industry analyst and former GM adviser, placed the desired amount of downsizing at two-thirds of the entire domestic dealer-body.

While most domestic auto dealers will tell you that there are too many dealerships out there, they are understandably inclined to think the other guy should shut down instead of them. Others are looking for corporate buyouts from the Big Three, but Ford, GM, and Chrysler just can't afford to foot the bill for a combined 10,000 closures, many of which would cost well over $1 Million dollars. Ford and Chrysler are actively trying to buy out dealers, but GM is saving its money for more new product. The targeted dealer buyouts from Ford and Chrysler will likely be far fewer than what is needed. Overall, this means little to you the customer. If you're in the mood for a new car and don't want to spend all day waiting to be assisted, it may be a good idea to hit your neighborhood Dodge dealer. You can walk in the door and have no trouble finding a salesman that's willing to deal to get a sale.

[Source: Detroit News]

 

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SmartUSA offering $99 reservations to gauge interest in the ForTwo

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Click on the image for a high-res gallery of Smart photos

If you've been hankering to get one of those cute little Smart cars, that you can almost park in your tool shed, now's your chance to get on the official waiting list. Smart USA will start selling the second generation ForTwo, about a year from now, but for $99 you can reserve one now. Dealers for the Smart haven't been named publicly, but Smart USA will passing along the reservation information, to dealers later this year, who will then contact the prospective customers and actually handle the sales. According to Smart USA senior VP Anthony Pordon, the reservations don't actually give you a place in line, because t he sequence depends on availability in your geographic location. The whole scheme is more of a way for Smart to gauge interest, assign dealers and allocate cars based on where serious buyers appear to be. So far there is no information on where to send your check but we'll keep you updated as soon as we know.

[Source: Automotive News - subscription required]

 

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Return of the RR of the Week: Poll Results

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Our 2007 kickoff week for the Reader Ride of the Day was one of the best in recent memory and we can't tell you how good it was to bring back our favorite daily feature.

Although there was a fair amount of four-wheeled pron to battle it out, in the end, Mike Hutch's 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R beat out the BMW M Coupe by scoring an additional 340 votes to win the week. Although it seems a fair amount of you were smitten by the BMW Bavaria's classic lines, it only managed to come in third, followe d by the SRT-4 and the '97 Legacy 2.5 GT.

We couldn't be happier with this past week's offerings, but we must move on and move on we shall. So let the beaters begin.



Submit your ride, whatever it is, by following the directions after the jump.

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Brisbane Motor Show: Aussie muscle

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Click on the image for a gallery of high-res images of Ford and GM Holden muscle cars.

At the Brisbane Motor Show, which started on Friday, Ford and GM Holden had plenty of muscle on display at their booths courtesy of their tuning groups, Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) and Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) respectively. Highlights included the HSV GTS, Clubsport R8, Senator Signature and Grange, while over at FPV, the Force 8, F6 Typhoon and others were proudly displayed.

Aggressive styling, fat alloys, huge red brake calipers, gills, rear wings, fog lamps, dramatic chrome badges, extra centre console-mounted dials and loud colours all seemed to be common elements across both ranges. Some of the highlights included the FPV Force 8 with its evil-looking black paint job, and the fully kitted out HSV Senator Signature with its circular, LED tail lights.

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Beater of the Day: 1989 Buick Skyhawk

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What better way to start off this week's salute to beaters than to bring you a rusted and busted 1989 Buick Skyhawk?

With just a few ticks over 119k on the clock, Flickr member Circax inherited this particular J-body from his grandfather and although it looks worse for the wear, it still manages to provide him a means of navigating his daily slog. Equipped with a 2-liter four that in its heyday was producing around 100 HP, this old biddy still has some spunk, although its maladies are both obvious and numerous.

We took the liberty of posting Circax's own trials and tribulations after the jump, but a few highlights include his use of krazy glue to mend the wires for the cruise control and his application of thumbtacks to keep the roof's headliner in place.

We love it, so we posted a few more pics after the jump, along with directions on how to submit your own ride to our Flickr account. Bring the beaters people. We want more.

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Honda Crossroad, the "mystery JDM car," hits Japan 2/22

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The Honda Crossroad, the mystery JDM car whose reader-submitted spy photos generated a flood of comments, conjecture, and a fair number of arguments, will go on sale in Japan on February 22. The car's official website is up in teaser mode right now, but if you want to see what it looks like, you need only refer to our December 26 post that shows us the vehicle inside and out.

Honda's planned a bit of fanfare to coincide with the car's home-market launch, with a concert scheduled at a Tokyo hotel to kick things off for the new model. We'll bring you full details about the Cro ssroad upon the car's release later this month.

[Sources: Honda, Carview]

 

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Curses! Avanti's planned comeback may be foiled

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Avanti, the originators of the "continuation" model concept, are facing a potential setback in their planned re-emergence. There were plans in the works to unveil a car at the Chicago Auto Show, but that's been put on hold. It appears that Avanti CEO Michael Kelly has been charged with being a dastardly gentleman. At issue is Kelly's involvement in a real estate Ponzi scheme. The FBI paid Mr. Kelly a visit two days after Christmas and placed him in custody, where he awaits arraignment on mail fraud.

More after the jump.

[Source: Autoweek]

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Ford's Mulally to sell cars at US dealership

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Alan Mulally told Ford dealers at the annual NADA conference that he will spend a couple of days selling cars at a dealership sometime this year. According to the L.A. Times, the offer to do so was made behind closed doors at the Las Vegas conference, and Ford's people are already at work figuring out where and when the new CEO will play salesman.

When asked what he thought about the invitation, Mulally said, "It was cool."

Funny, that's how we feel about his doing this as well. We like Mulally's candor and his willingness to put himself in a situation like this dealership gig. Publicity stunt or not, it's something you wouldn't necessarily see other CEOs do, and Mulally will get to hear firsthand from shoppers exactly what they think about the products he's pitching. We sincerely hope that the PR folks don't overmanage this and turn it into a lame media-friendly event. This could be a good thing, so our fingers are crossed.

[Source: Bloomberg/LA Times]

 

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Chrysler considering diesel minivan for US market

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Click on the image for a gallery of high-res shots of the 2008 Chrysler minivans

Thanks to changes in Chrysler's manufacturing plans for European market minivans and the popularity of Jeep diesels, the US market may eventually get diesel minivans. For the past decade, the Euro market vans were assembled at a plant in Austria, but the new van production will be consolidated at Chrysler's St. Louis, MO assembly plant. That means that the VM Motori diesel engines that are offered in European vans will be shipped to the US for installation. The current diesel doesn't meet new emissions standards, but Mercedes is developing a new 2.2L two-stage turbo diesel for 2010. This engine should meet all the new emissions standards and since they will be comin g to the US anyway, it would make sense to sell some of them in the domestic market. Minivans aren't as mini as they were when the original Dodge Caravan appeared in 1984, and their mileage is less than stellar. A high torque, fuel efficient diesel paired up with a six speed automatic would likely be a very good match for the vans and should prove popular.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]

 

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