Going odd: Audi A7 renderings

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CG cars assault us from all angles, whether we know it or not. These days, much of what we see in car spots on television is created from bits of data, not bits of ore. No matter, the renderings are still labor-intensive to produce. For spots, the animators are often working with CAD files provided by the manufacturer's engineering department. The ability to create a CG car out of thin air is a boon to the concept-rendering community as well. An obvious example of CG's capability is the recent Superduty Superbowl ad. Less obvious use of CG can be found in Jeep's "Bigger, Deffer" spot, where the entire Wrangler is assembled out of 0's and 1's.

French digital a rtist extrodinaire Gabriel Rabhi has harnessed processor cycles to create an Audi A7 out of pure conjecture. Of course, there is no such thing as an A7 (yet), but rumors abound. Rabhi created the car as a skill-building exercise, to get a better handle on modelling techniques for complex objects. The multiple facets of an automobile's structure and skin are time consuming and often difficult to model. Cars are created almost entirely out of complex curves, and the only way to geometrically model such an organic form is by using NURBS curves. If it sounds complex, that's because it is.

Conclusion plus more photos after the jump

[Source: fourtitude]

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Chicago Auto Show: Live unveiling of the 2008 Saturn Astra

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Click above image to view a high-resolution gallery of the new Saturn Astra

Saturn just rolled out the new Astra to the crowd at the Chicago Auto Show, with the automaker claiming that the compact will help fulfill the brand's promise to bring "appropriate and affordable technology", "great design", and "quality without compromise" to customers.

The Astra survives its overseas excursion largely unchanged, with the most major differences being a set of cupholders and tires that allow it to meet GM's standards for foul weather performance (a result of Americans' lack of awareness or complete apathy when it comes to the use of proper snow tires). Yet another variation on the Ecotec architecture, displacing 1.8L and producing 140 hp, drives the fron t wheels. The sporty intentions of the three-door model are made evident by the quicker ratio rack in its electrohydraulic steering system, larger wheels with more aggressive performance rubber, and standard stability control.

The long wheelbase and wide stance lend a roomy feel to both the three- and five-door model, and rear storage appears to be rather generous. Need we say the rest of the interior is far better than the vehicle it replaces? We are getting a bit tired of silver paint and oversized trip computer displays, but otherwise, there is little to offend inside the Astra (and kudos to GM for installing a decent set of bolstered seats in the three-door).

We've included plenty of live shots and official press pics of the 2008 Saturn Astra here. You can find the complete press release from Saturn after the jump, and we've also produced a nice video of the introdu ction with live-action views of the new Astra.

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Molto Speciale: Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta factory prototype

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The Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta is one of the most sought-after collector's cars of all time. It was the first true Ferrari; only 25 of them were built and only a handful remain in existence - these cars were raced, and raced hard. It was an especially big deal to classic automobile aficionados and Ferrari historians when s/n 0052 M was found after nearly fifty years in obscurity, stored by a collector in Arizona.

As exciting as it was to find a 166, nobody had any idea just how unique this car was until Ferrari expert Marcel Massini got it back to his workshop. Massini brokered the purchase of the car from the late owner's estate after his passing, and was commissioned for a full mechanical rebuild. The exterior was to be left as-is in reverence to the car's extensive racing history, but when Massini started disassembling the engine he found the car was actually fitted with a two-liter Formula 2-spec competition engine, with a gear-driven camshaft instead of the conventional chain drive. When the numbers were found to match, it became apparent that this was a factory prototype, built that way from the start, and not retrofitted somewhere down the line.

166 MM Touring Barchetta Speciale s/n 0052 M has a deep racing history, having competed at Le Mans, the Targa Florio, Mille Miglia and took the chequered flag at the 12 Hours of Paris. The restored machine, which appeared on the September/October '06 cover of Cavallino Magazine, re-emerged to the public at the 2007 Cavalinno Classic, and the guys at Ultimatecarpage.com were there to snap some photos. Check it out.

[Source: Ultimatecarpage.com]

 

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Chicago Auto Show: Mercury revives the Sable for 2008

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Click image for full high-res gallery of live and media pics

Shocking absolutely nobody, Ford's Cisco Codina revealed Mercury's newest model in Chicago today, the 2008 Sable, and we've got live shots and additional official images for you. We've already talked about what a great decision this was, and even given you the details about this "new" model, but we'll sum it up so you don't have to use our search feature, as nifty as the new se arch might be.

By resurrecting the Sable (and Taurus) nameplates, Ford will save millions of dollars trying to imprint the 500 and Montego brands on customers' minds. Sable alone has a 60% customer awareness level. Dealers in particular were cited as a strong voice in bringing back the name for Mercury. The car itself is pretty handsome wearing its new face. Strongly resembling the outgoing Montego with a Milan schnoz, the new Sable should offend nobody, and possibly boost dealer traffic. Perhaps in an attempt to explain why the Mercury division won't likely get a tall-wagon version like Ford's Taurus X, Codina pointed out that Mercury's Mariner cute ute is generating more conquest sales from other brands outside the Blue Oval than any other vehicle besides the Mustang.

You can check out the full press release again after the jump, or browse the gallery that includes never-before-seen shots from the manufacturer and images from the show floor.

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2007 Chicago Auto Show: BMW Alpina B7 - An M7 in all but name

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Click image for additional high-res live shots added to the original media pic gallery


They finally brought it out, so we covered it. Actually, we shouldn't sound so aloof. After announcing the BMW Alpina B7 way back in February of 2006, the Bavarians finally decided to show us the production version here in Chicago. And although it wasn't much of a revelation, it WAS a rather impressive vehicle in person. As we just told you last week, it's basically an M7 in all but name. The slightly streamlined 7-series adds the not-so-subtle Alpina classic rims (all 21 inches of them), a revised dash with a unique cluster, and the signature Alpina front and rear aero aids. Oh, and that supercharger underhood helps this particular V8 pump out 500 hp and 516 lb-ft of tor que. Channeled through an Alpine refined version of the 6-speed auto tranny, that's good enough for a 0-60 sprint of 4.8 seconds and a VMAX of 186 mph. All for a starting price of $115,695. That's a full 40 large over a standard run-of-the-mill short wheelbase 7-series, but with only 200 of the B7s coming to these shores, it's likely they won't have any problem moving them. Original press release can be found after the jump.

[Source: BMW]

Gallery: BMW Alpina B7

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BBS goes bust?

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Although our German is a bit sketchy, a quick decoding of an article in Auto Motor Und Sport reveals that the wheel manufacturer BBS is in some dire economic straits.

The maker of the iconic (and patented) 16-spoke rim has filed for bankruptcy after one of their suppliers bailed, while aluminum prices shot up over the past year. The company had lost 3.8 million Euro ($4.9M US) in the first half of 2006, then came up 10.2 million Euro ($13.2M US) short for the year.

Our knowledge of bankruptcy law abroad is about as good as our German, so we're unsure about how this may affect those of us with a wheel addiction here in the States.

Thanks for the tip, TGM3!

[Source: Auto Motor Un d Sport]

 

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Chicago Auto Show: The 2008 Saturn Vue Red Line shows its face

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click above image to view live shots of the 2008 Saturn Red Line

Admittedly, hot-rodded cute-utes mystify many of us, but the kids seem to love 'em, and the Red Line version of Saturn's 2008 Vue should satisfy those looking for a combination of practicality and power.

We're sure that some Saturn fans were not happy with the inclusion of Honda power in the previous Vue RL, and they can take comfort in the fact that the "foreign" drivetrain has been replaced with the General's own High Feature DOHC V6 and six-speed automatic. Front wheel drive is standard, while those looking to route those 250 ponies via additional paths can opt for AWD.

The front fascia receives special Red Line attention, and out back, two la rge rectangular exhaust tips remind followers that they're not behind a garden-variety Vue. Inside, the RL gets an exclusive Ebony color scheme, along with suede inserts on the seating surfaces to keep butts properly planted when exploring the limits of the lowered suspension and fat wheel/tire package.

Mike from ABG made the comment that this is a bit like a poor man's BMW X3, and we'd have to agree with that statement.

Check out the gallery for additional shots of the Vue Red Line followed by the official press release after the jump.

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Chicago Auto Show: 2008 Ford Taurus X unveiled

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High-res gallery of live and press pics available by clicking above image

Today in Chicago, Ford Motor Company's Cisco Codina unveiled the new Freestyle Taurus X. As we told you in our preview post, the Taurus X loses the Freestyle name but gains the Edge's face. It's a simple act that helps build a familial look for Ford's crossovers. And just like the new Sable and Taurus, it will get the 260-horsepower V6 and additional content like the Microsoft co-developed Ford Sync. Unlike the Sable and Taurus, the X gets three row of seats, one-tou ch flip-and-fold second-row seating and an available power rear liftgate. All three vehicles will be in dealers by this summer.

At breakfast this morning, Mark Fields helped explain the switch back to the Taurus (and Sable) monikers. "Taurus has been an icon for Ford's family sedan for more than two decades, and it's time to return this powerful name to where it belongs. Consumer awareness of the Taurus name is double the Five Hundred that it's replacing, and awareness of Sable is triple that of Montego." Makes sense to us. The details may have changed, but this remains one handsome wagon/crossover. Sort of an SRX with a Blue Oval. Pretty sexy for this segment, and a good sharp alternative to the Edge's softer silhouette. Read more details about the "new" Taurus X in the full press release after the jump, and check out the gallery here, where you'll see a Taurus X that looks particularly good in all black.

[Source: Ford]

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Chicago Auto Show: Dodge Dakota get facelift, more ponies and flex-fuel capability

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Click above image for a high-res photo gallery of official shots

Even as the domestic midsize pickup segment continues to crumble, Dodge is giving the original mama bear a makeover and power boost for 2008. Unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show, the new Dakota sports crisper front-end styling and new 4.7-liter V8 option that will offer E85 capability.

Sales of midsize trucks from GM, Ford and Dodge have slumped dramatically in the past few years as their fullsize brothers received all the marketing attention and a host of incentives. Meanwhile, the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier continue to pick up market share by appealing to a younger buyer. That's the motivation behind the Dakota's facelift and power enhancements.

"The new 2008 Dodge Dakota was redesigned to broaden its appeal to youn ger customers with active lifestyles," says Dodge marketing official Tom Loveless.

The new front end has hints of the Dodge Nitro with sharper edges and rectangular headlamps. Dodge also spruced up the interior with a new instrument panel, additional storage options and available heated bench seat.

The new engine is rated at 290 horsepower with 320 lb-ft of peak torque. Just like the Hemi, this new cylinder head features two spark plugs per cylinder. The engine is capable of running E85 ethanol fuel. Standard engine for the Dakota is a 3.7-liter V6 rated at 210 horsepower. Maximum tow rating on the Dakota is 7,050 pounds.

The 2008 Dodge Dakota hits dealers in August. The full Dodge news release follows the jump.

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Chicago Auto Show: VW reveals 2nd generation R32 for U.S. market

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Click on the image for a high-res gallery of the new R32

Volkswagen announced the second generation of its performance flagship, the R32, based on the newest generation Rabbit platform. Like the original 2004 iteration, the new R32 is powered by 250-hp, 3.2L VR6 engine with 236 lb-ft of twisting force. The VR6 is mated up to a six speed DSG dual clutch gearbox that allows for lightning quick sequential shifting without having to work a clutch pedal. The gearbox transmits the motive force to all four wheels through a Haldex differential system with a rear torque bias for optimum handling.

Also like the 2004 model, on ly 5,000 examples will made available for sale in the US market, each one having a number plate on the lower spoke of the steering wheel indicating the serial number. The cars will be available starting in August and VW has set up a micro-site at VW.com where prospective buyers can sign up to get on the reservation list. The VW press release is after the jump, and VIDEO of the car's unveiling is below.

[Source: Volkswagen]

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