In The Autoblog Garage: 2007 BMW X3 3.0si

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click on the pic above for a gallery of 40 shots

Pugs are a toy breed, and their wrinkled little countenance is vaguely reminiscent of a clenched fist, hence the name, a possible corruption of Pugnus, the Latin word for fist. The BMW X3 is likewise more an ornament for the driveways of the moneyed than it is transportation for the everyman. The main reason we draw a parallel between the compact pooch and equally tightly-packed Sports Activity Vehicle is the uncanny resemblance. The X3's headlamps don't mirror the Pug's froglike bulging eyes, but the rest of the front view carries the same jowl line, even the downturned corners of the mouth are there on the BMW.

Furthering the zoomorphism is the X3's disposition. Our week with the vehicle revealed a temperament that was at times playful, often stubborn, and very much like living with a little being possessed of a mind of its own. In general, the X3 wasn't the devil on our shoulder, though it'd play cut and thrust if you demanded.

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Trailer queens: Corvette and Mustang tow vehicles

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click above image for high-res gallery

Why settle for ordinary? That's the question American Custom Trailers is answering with its line of unique Corvette- and Mustang-bodied motorcycle trailers. For the sake of functionality, and perhaps to avoid a lawsuit, the Mustangs and Corvettes aren't exact replicas, but faithfully emulate the overall shapes of those American icons. Just like with their full-scale counterparts, be prepared to give up a little space inside if you opt for the Corvette. The Vette offers 19 cubic feet of cargo space, while Mustang buyers will get a nice round 20 cubic feet.

The trailers are fully DOT compliant and feature carpeted holds, working tail lights (including the cyclops), torsion suspensions, 12" wheels and tires, 1-7/8" swivel couplers, and 6 PIN electrical connection. Each starts at $3,495, and it looks like there are dealers throughout the Midwest and Northeast. Custom paint jobs and graphics packages are also available, but if the standard looks don't quite do it for you, fully custom trailers are also available starting at $9,995.

[Source: American Custom Trailers via CarScoop]

 

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VIDEO: Franchitti's harrowing airborne crash during Firestone 400

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Indianapolis 500 winner, current IndyCar points leader and husband of actress of Ashley Judd (rank those however you want) Dario Franchitti was involved in a spectacular airborne crash during this weekend's Firestone 400 at Michigan International Speedway, though fortunately he walked away with nary a scratch. Franchitti was doing his best to hold off Dan Wheldon, currently 4th in points, on Lap 144, when his rear end touched wheels with the front of Wheldon's car. Franchitti's car turned sideways in front of Wheldon, which instantly created a giant wing and a ramp from which his car was launched high into the air at over 200 mph. At one point the car was pointing straight down at the pavement. Franchitti eventually landed upside down on top of Scott Dixon's car, narrowly missing the head of the man who is currently chasing him in points. In addition to those three drivers and their cars, Sam Hornish Jr., Tomas Scheckter, Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV were also involved in this 7-car crash/aerial display. Though no one was seriously injured, A.J. Foyt IV was showing everyone his helmet, which reportedly featured tire marks from Franchitti's car. Wheldon was absolved of any responsibility for the crash by Franchitti, who said after the race, "It's not Dan's fault and I don't believe it's my fault. We're just out there trying to get an advantage."

It's thought Franchitti was on pace to win the race, having led the most laps despite not finishing with 56 left to go. Tony Kanaan took the checkered flag instead, though Franchitti remains the season's points leader.

Check out the crash from every possible camera angle after the jump.

[Source: IndyCar.com, ESPN]

Continue reading VIDEO: Franchitti's harrowing airborne crash during Firestone 400

 

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MINI & Onitsuka Tiger team up to welcome Clubman

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Click image to enlarge

MINI has teamed up with Japanese heritage sneaker brand Onitsuka Tiger (part of Asics) and will offer 3 pairs of trainers to coincide with the UK launch of the MINI Clubman this November. Aimed squarely at the style mavens MINI targets with its vehicles, the shoes will be offered in Chocolate/Cream (shown), Black/Silver and Cream/British Green. The shoes wear the MINI logo on the area just above the heel. Customers who want to get their hands on the fresh kicks will be able to do via MINI's online shop, Onitsuka Tiger stores, and UK MINI dealerships. The tie-in is one of doubtless many promotions MINI has in store to help the Clubman hit the ground...er...running. (Rimshot)

[Source: MINI]

 

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TRD goodies for the Toyota Blade Master

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No big surprise here, but the Toyota Blade Master hasn't even finished its first cup of coffee in Japan's Toyota showrooms and TRD is already standing by with accessories. In addition to the selection of appearance upgrades available since the Blade's launch, TRD has released the Ver.S performance muffler and a TRD Sportivo suspension kit consisting of shocks, springs and stabilizers for the V6-powered hatch.

[Source: Toyota via Carview]

 

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MIT researchers say HCCI cleaner, more efficient engine

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We're not gonna try to explain all the physics involved in this new engine design. That's for all you Autoblog readers with engineering degrees to do in the comments. But, from what we understand, MIT researchers have taken a long hard look at an engine design called homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) and say it could run cleaner and more efficiently than current popular engine designs.

Conventional gasoline engines work by pistons compressing a mixture of fuel and oxygen that is ignited by a spark. Diesel engines work by injecting fuel into hot, compressed air which then ignites. HCCI is a mixture of the two methods. Air and fuel are mixed, injected into cylinder, then ignited by pressure from the piston.

One MIT researcher says HCCI could get 25% better fuel economy over a gasoline engine, while running cleaner than most diesels.

The article from MIT's Technology Review says several automakers are currently researching HCCI engines. Volvo has been testing an engine that can switch between spark ignition and HCCI. AutoblogGreen just recently wrote that Mercedes is working on what they call DiesOtto, which is basically HCC, as welI.

[Source: MIT Technology Review]

 

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Lexus relentlessly pursues promotion with world's first all-car orchestra

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Some of the most interesting marketing campaigns of the last 100 years has come from automakers, and Lexus is doing its best to capture buyers' imaginations with the technical prowess of the new LS sedans. First came a multimedia blitz centered around the hands-free parallel parking capabilities of the Lexus flagship, and now the premium tunes of the LS 460's Mark Levinson audio system are on display in a unique way. The LS 460's impressive sound system (which is part of a nearly $8,000 option package here in the US) includes 450 total watts coming from 19 speakers per vehicle, but the folks from Aichi want to show UK buyers that the system is good enough for a full-blown orchestra.

The London Symphony Orchestra is teaming up with Lexus GB to perform a concert using the sound systems of 12 Lexus LS 460s. Each car will contain the music for one instrument section, and all music will be coordinated form a central digital sound desk. Concert-goers will be invited inside the LS 460 to hear the music up close and watch a video on how the performance was created It culminates in the full-blown concert-by-car-stereo. We know the LS 460 is a very nice luxury car with what is undoubtedly a killer sound system, but how tough is it to be entertained in the UK? Seriously, your average pub has a 5,000 watt sound system, and they play good music and serve food and drinks.

[Source: Lexus]

 

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Ford GT National Rally II stops at Cars & Coffee event

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Click above image for large high-res gallery from the National Rally II stop at C&C.

One year ago, in August 2006, there was a huge gathering of Ford GT owners in Michigan. The group descended on Dearborn from all over the world to tour the Wixom and Saleen Special Vehicle plants where the GTs were built. It was really a great event that covered four days and allowed the owners to bond and share in their mutual joy of ownership of this unique American supercar. Flash forward to 2007, and the group decided to try it again. Organized by Ford GT Forum admin, DBK, it was a super event. Rather than trekking back to Michigan, this time they decided to head west.

The rally (it's more of a reunion now) convened in Southern California, with stops at the Petersen Museum, the Saleen Store, the El Toro Marine base for a Saleen "School of Speed" autocross, and a visit to Ford's Premier Automotive Group facility in Irvine for their weekly Cars and Coffee show. This year's event, appropriately enough dubbed Ford GT National Rally II, included not only owners, but some key GT development people like Camilo Pardo, Jamal Hameedi, Tom Reichenbach, Rich Robeck, "The GT Guys" Rich Brooks and Dennis Breitenbach and many others. Altogether about 90 GTs showed for the meet, with another 20 or so GT40 recreations also on hand to add some heritage. Twenty-four states and one Canadian province were represented.

Check out the huge gallery.

[Source: Ford GT Forum]

Continue reading Ford GT National Rally II stops at Cars & Coffee event

 

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Saleen 550 offers GT owners a matching daily driver

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Click image above for high-res gallery of the new Saleen 550.

During this year's Ford GT National Rally II, specialty manufacturer Saleen showed off a new limited edition model. Called the Saleen 550, it is a tribute to Saleen's involvement with the development and production of the Ford GT. Based on their 550-horsepower S281 Extreme Mustang, this Saleen 550 is only available to Ford GT owners. Think of it as a daily driver that gives you the same horsepower as your GT, but with more manageable doors and ground clearance. Plus there's that back seat and trunk. The cars will be painted to match the buyers' GTs and will therefore be available in Mark IV red, Tungsten, Midnight Blue, Speed Yellow, Mark II black, Centennial White, Satin Silver, or the Gulf-inspired Heritage Blue/Epic Orange combo. This last combo was the one they had on hand and it looked pretty awesome in person. We'll get you more details as they become available, and hopefully some media pics too, but for now, check out some of the shots we got of the heritage car outside the Saleen Store.

 

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Alonso penalized for blocking teammate

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Current F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso has been stripped of his pole position at today's Hungarian Grand Prix after blatently holding up the FIA's favorite rookie, and reported second coming of Christ, Lewis Hamilton in the pits during qualifying yesterday, in a move reminiscent of Michael Schumacher's "on-street parking" at Monaco in 2005.

The tactic visibly incensed team boss Ron Dennis, who is clean to polish McLaren's tarnished image following Ferrari's allegations of cheating, but could be good news for engine supplier and sponsor Mercedes who has been making the most of Hamilton and Alonsos' intense rivalry.

[Source: Autosport]

 

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BRABUS turns 30: Sleeper to be unveiled in Frankfurt

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2007 marks the 30th year of operation for Mercedes-Benz ultra-tuner, Brabus. The company's vehicles are gleeful forays into the outer limits of street-legal power. Clearly, somewhere in Bottrop, lab-coated engineers are trying to find a way bend the space/time continuum via the use of tuned V8 and V12 combustion engines.

And we love them for it.

Now, the thing with BRABUS is that oftentimes, its creations have heavy visual modifications to go along with the monsters that live under their bonnets. So, in a move away from standard procedure, the company's newest creation will be more in the mold of a sleeper. Brabus says it will unveil a "wolf in sheep's clothing" at the upcoming IAA in Frankfurt. You might argue that AMG already does this in-house. Who cares. If BRABUS wants to show us how it does a sleeper, we're all eyes and ears. If the picture above is an actual hint, we think it's going to be a stockish-looking C-Class with utterly obscene power. More to come from Frankfurt, and we're looking forward to it.

PR after the jump

[Source: BRABUS]

Continue reading BRABUS turns 30: Sleeper to be unveiled in Frankfurt

 

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It's the "TRD-ist" ist around

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Click image for gallery

The oddly-named JDM Toyota ist was formally introduced this week, and as was the case with the Toyota Blade Master, another new arrival in Japan's Toyota stores, a range of TRD accessories was announced very shortly thereafter. They do the job of dressing up the rather bland ist, which is Japan's version of the USDM Scion xD.

Naturally, there's a replacement grille, body kit, and new wheels. The look can be further augmented with branded scuff plates, TRD Sportivo suspension parts, and a TRD muffler. Hell, TRD even offers a red engine start button. The US-market Scions have always been pushed as being very customization-friendly, and really, it's no different for the JDM cars. The available accessories do a nice job of dressing things up.

[Source: Toyota via Carview]

 

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Update on the Japanese automakers' operating system

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Today we take you all the way back to 2004 with an update on the Japan Automotive Software Platform and Architecture, or JASPAR for short. This is a consortium of Japanese automotive and technology companies, which is developing a new standard operating system for Japanese vehicles. A competing OS is being designed in Europe by BMW and Daimler, among others. Currently, Bosch owns about 70% of the current market share when it comes to automotive electronics with their OS, known as OSEK.

As you are most definitely aware if you have purchased a car in the last few years, our expectations are that our vehicles will come with more and more gadgets, and we also expect them to work right all the time. Nobody wants to reboot their cars in the morning when they are running late for work, right? Even worse would be the dreaded BSOD while driving 70 mph down the highway on your way home. So, let's just hope that the "development by committee" approach pays off and the end result is reliable.

[Source: The Raw Feed]

 

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New Chrysler, new logo: say hello (again) to the pentastar

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We knew Chrysler would be returning to its well known pentastar logo after the sale of itself from DaimlerChrysler to Cerberus Capital Management went through, and that day was last Friday. Soon after we got a tip from a reader pointing us to a new website promoting "The New Chrysler", as well as its new look pentastar logo.

Big things are happening at Chrysler, obviously, including the sale, name change to Chrysler LLC, and the announcement of the automaker's new, industry-leading lifetime powertrain warranty. The new website touts all these things and tells us to "Get Ready for the Next Hundred Years". If you're interested in a breakdown of Chrysler's relationship with Cerberus, it's got that too.

Thanks for the tip, Tool!

[Source: Chrysler]

 

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Kicherer brings Audi's R8 down a notch

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There are those who can never be satisfied with near perfection. Kicherer just couldn't leave well enough alone, and just had to go and improve Audi's new supercar, the R8.

The German tuner smartly left the mechanicals alone, and focused on altering the R8's aesthetics and handling. A new front spoiler reduces front lift, while a new rear spoiler adds downforce. Original 19" rims were replaced with larger but lighter 20s. But the most obvious, and perhaps most effective, change is the new set of springs that takes the car down 15mm in front and a whopping 30mm in front.

No word on how these changes affect the R8's already phenomenal handling, nor is there any word on how phenomenally these changes will affect your wallet. But we're pretty sure if you're seriously interested in buying one, you know who to call to find out.

For more photos, check out our gallery.

[Source: Motor Authority]

Gallery: Kicherer R8

 

[via] Autoblog