Toyota head says low-cost car needs work

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You can't have it all, and Toyota is learning this lesson first hand as it struggles to develop an inexpensive, safe and well built car to sell in markets like China, Russia and Brazil. Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe has already driven prototypes of the low-cost car, and told Automotive News Europe that he found the "level of the new car not bad." Toyota doesn't have a reputation for building cars that are "not bad", and Watanabe thinks there's a way to go in improving the car's quality. Unfortunately, that means the low cost car, the design of which may be based on the iQ Concept shown this past week in Frankfurt, will not be as inexpensive as first thought. While admitting his company could sell the car for less than €5,000, Watanabe doesn't think they'd be able to offer the safety and quality he says Toyota is known for at that price.

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

Gallery: Toyota iQ


[via] Autoblog

Tornado destroys Vegas

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No, not Las Vegas. Vegas, as in more than one Chevy Vega. Three, to be exact, when a tornado took out a Michigan barn, totally destroying three of the infamous hatchbacks.

Normally, this would be cause for not much more than a little giggle for the removal of three more examples of a Chevy nightmare. Except for the fact that two of them were painted black, with gold pinstriping, a paint scheme chosen by GM Vice President John DeLorean for the company's 1975 Cosworth Vegas to wear. The third car, also a Cosworth, was white, so probably a 1976 model and with only 18,000 miles on it. These were not merely pedestrian Vegas left in a barn to rust, but vey rare hatchbacks with Cosworth aluminum blocks under their hoods.

Despite having relatively poor performance, they cost $600 less than a Corvette in 1975 and 1976. The Cosworth Vegas' high price and fragile engines made for sales in the 3,500 range, which makes it one of the rarer nameplates in GM history.

So let's have a small moment of silence while you check out our gallery of pictures from the tragedy. Then, for a vastly larger (like 300 pictures!) gallery of the smashed Michigan Vegas, click here. For an interesting history of the Cosworth Vega (including how GM's alleged cheating on an EPA emissions test cost them dearly), read this.

[Source: via Hemmings]


[via] Autoblog

Chrysler Proving Ground high-speed oval re-opens after rebuild

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The Chrysler proving ground from space

After a six month rebuild program the high-speed oval track at Chrysler's Chelsea Michigan Proving Ground has re-opened. The first official test run on the new track was the 2007 Michigan State Police vehicle evaluation. The 4.71 mile oval was originally constructed in 1953 and had never been completely resurfaced until now. The increasingly bumpy surface has turns banked at an angle that allows for driving at 140 mph without steering input.

The old surface was made of concrete and repairs required significant amount of downtime for the track so that sections could be cut out, refilled and allowed to set. Rather than just resurface the facility, Chrysler completely ripped out all the concrete and rebuilt the base. The old concrete was ground up and used to build the base of the new track. Full drainage was provided around the underside of the entire surface of the track which allowed the ditches that used to line the inside of the road surface to be eliminated.

Continue reading about changes to the oval after the jump.

Continue reading Chrysler Proving Ground high-speed oval re-opens after rebuild


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Kiwi supercar coming in 2008

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The recently launched Caparo T1 may already have met its match, and it comes from an unlikely source. New Zealand based Hulme Supercars Ltd. is planning to build an extreme race-car-for-the-road called the Hulme. Powered by a 5.0L V8 engine sourced from BMW, the Hulme develops 550 HP, but weighs in around 1175 kg, which is quite a bit more than the Caparo. The company hopes to begin production next year and claims it can build 25 cars a year. List price is an eye-watering £310,000 (US$620K).

Hulme Supercars states that the idea behind this car is to make it as close to a Formula 1 experience as possible, so the car comes with a mid-mounted engine and full carbon fiber construction. The engine is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox and the car is RWD only with a LSD.

The company and car are named after Danny Hulme, who won the Can-Am championship almost 40 years ago. There are even plans to commemorate this with a Can-Am convertible version, as well as an engine designed more for American tastes. We're not sure what they're talking about, as big V8s from BMW are universally appealing.

[Source: EVO]


[via] Autoblog

Spy Shots: Subaru Forester goes through growth spurt

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What you see here is not a Legacy Outback mule, but rather a heavily disguised Subaru Forester mule that reveals some interesting tidbits about the next generation of Subaru's boxy wagon. Brenda Priddy's super sleuthing spies have seen this development mule out and about for a while, but only recently realized that it was indeed the next gen Forester. The reason is that the car's dimensions aren't close to those of the current Forester. In fact, this car's 99.4-inch estimated wheelbase is within a half-inch of the much larger Tribeca's, and its 108.5-inch length is over three inches longer than the Legacy Outback. Priddy's inside contacts, however, confirm that despite the size discrepancy, this is indeed the next Forester. In addition to being longer, it's also estimated the next Forester will be two inches wider than the current Outback, which itself is already wider than the current Forester. What does this mean for the Forester? Without seeing the design, it's hard to speculate, but the growth in all areas of size implies that the Forester may be able to seat seven, becoming a somewhat larger CUV-type vehicle than the current model.

[Source: Winding Road]


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In the Autoblog Garage: 2007 Volkswagen EOS

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click above image to view gallery of 2007 Volkswagen EOS

Even though Volkswagen has one of the fullest lineups in its history of selling cars in the U.S., these aren't the best of times in North America for the German automaker. Since 2005, VW has lost somewhere around $2 billion in the U.S. and the company has decided to lay off 30% of its workforce by moving its U.S. headquarters from Detroit to Virginia. Horrendous Euro to Dollar exchange rates are certainly part of the problem, but VW is having much more trouble offering Americans vehicles that fit our tastes.

The Volkswagen EOS hit the scene with surprisingly little fanfare, even though it combines the sporty 2.0T engine and athletic driving dynamics of a Rabbit with a killer hard-top convertible. The EOS appears to have everything it takes to be a summer classic, a claim we put to the test by inviting the car into our Autoblog Garage for a week.

Continue reading In the Autoblog Garage: 2007 Volkswagen EOS


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Chinese carmaker dedicates its F50 to the ladies

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Chinese carmaker Shanghai Maple, isn't the first car company to try marketing directly to women, but it claims to be the first in China with its Maple F50.

From Maple's website, the F50 is "designed in a refining and humanization style," and "possesses the flamboyant and shining shape with soften cuneiform front." Sounds, uh, lovely. But then, the Autoblog team is all guys at the moment, so maybe a car that promises "a delicate life with high quality and happiness" wasn't meant to appeal to us.

Other than a "mellow great griller with the glittering and translucent headlamps," the female-specific options aren't too dissimilar from what most cars here in the States already have. There is a coin box, sun visor mirrors, and an optional built-in child seat. However, the Maple can be equipped with a shoebox, clothes rack and, and a tissue box in the glovebox, which we actually think is pretty cool. One F50 extra you won't find optional on a U.S. car is the driver's airbag.

Colors available are Tiramisu Yellow, Jade White, Liquid-gold Green, African-mum Yellow and Ice-mountain Blue.

And while there is no way this F50 could ever be confused with the one from Italy, just what is Shanghai Maple trying to imply with that Ferrari hat in the F50's trunk?

Enjoy a gallery of photos of the Shanghai Maple F50 here.

[Source: Shanghai Maple via China Car Time]

Continue reading Chinese carmaker dedicates its F50 to the ladies


[via] Autoblog

NASCAR Busch Series may switch to muscle cars

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Many lament the days when stock cars were actually based on production cars, rather than the new NASCAR Nextel Cup Car of Tomorrow vehicles that merely wear stickers bearing the headlights and grille of their production counterparts. While production-based stock cars will likely never happen again, word is that the NASCAR Busch Series will switch to cars based on the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger and yet-to-be-determined model from Toyota as soon as the 2009 season.

Thanks for the tip, John R.

[Source: SpeedTV]

Continue reading NASCAR Busch Series may switch to muscle cars


[via] Autoblog

2008 Ford Focus will start at $14,695

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click above image to view gallery of the 2008 Ford Focus

Styling aside, the 2008 Ford Focus is a better car than the one it replaces, and Ford announced today that its pricing will begin under $15,000. For 2008, the Focus S Coupe will start at $14,695 and the Focus S sedan at $14,995. Up-level models like the Focus SE coupe and sedan will add $1,000 to those base prices, while the top shelf SES models that come with Ford's new SYNC technology standard (normally a $395 option), start at $16,695 and $16,995 for the coupe and sedan, respectively. All of these prices include a $620 destination charge, mind you.

Comparing those prices to the 2007 Focus lineup is difficult, since the less expensive hatchback, which had a base MSRP of $13,715 in 2007 (not including destination), has been replaced by the new coupe body style. The sedan's base price, however, has increased from $14,040 in 2007, or $14,660 including destination charges.

As we said earlier, anyone considering the new Focus will likely need to put its styling aside and focus (ahem) on the car's new strong points. Chief among them is the availability of Ford's new mobile connectivity setup developed with Microsoft called SYNC. The new Focus is also 30 pounds lighter accord to Ford, is 10% quieter and produces 3% more horsepower from its 2.0L Duratec four-cylinder. The interior is also much improved, at least design-wise, over the old car, and now comes available with ambient lighting. Is it all enough to overcome the new car's oddball design, fake fender vents and all? We're waiting to get one in the Autoblog Garage to answer just that.

[Source: Ford]

Continue reading 2008 Ford Focus will start at $14,695


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Frankfurt 2007: Mazda RX-8 Special Edition

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Mazda is celebrating 40 years of putting engines inspired by pony kegs in their cars by rolling out a special version of the RX-8 2+2. Mazda's official hyperbole about the RX-8 brags that the car changed customer expectations of what an affordable sports car should be when they launched the four-place coupe in 2003. It sure did; we've now come to expect less than the stated power output from the Renesis Wankel, which also swills oil like a... well, like a Wankel. Now that we've ensured that every single Rotary fan on Autoblog will lambaste us, let's go on to say that we really do like them. Any engine you can mercilessly spin out to 10,000 RPM without aerating the block has significant entertainment value. The fact that there's about three major moving parts is cool, too.

The Special Edition RX-8 has two new colors for its sinewy sheetmetal, Metropolitan Grey and Crystal White Pearl. There's also new ten-spoke wheels, blue tinged foglamps, and the obligatory emblems to dress up the exterior. Open the clamshell doors and the Special Edition greets you with a specially outfitted interior, full of Alcantara, contrast stitching, leather, and silver bits. It's not all just prettying up, either. The suspension crossmembers get shot full of foam for quieter operation, and there are new springs that are held in check by Bilstein dampers. So, while there's been no massive power upgrade to the RX-8, the Special Edition is more than just a glamorization of an affordable, entertaining coupe.

Press release after the jump.

Continue reading Frankfurt 2007: Mazda RX-8 Special Edition


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Why lift a car when you can tilt it?

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I need this. My back isn't what it used to be, so when it's time to fiddle with the undercarriage, I start thinking wistfully about lifts or pits. It'd also make it easier to hang off the end of the breaker bar for those monster-torque suspension fasteners. Exhaust work? No more lying on your back, rust crispies falling into your mouth, embers from that bolt you're torching out ending up who knows where. Of course, it's always a plus to make sure there are no fluids in the car, or they'll remind you of their presence once you get the car on its side.

catalog is chock-full of tools that look awesome, and yet, I have no idea how to use them. Their Tilt-A-Car unit is pretty self-evident. It attaches with the lugs and one side has a radius. You pop your 3/8" driver drill on the lift screw, and it's bottoms up. This unit would have made repairing the rust-tastic rockers and rear quarters on my Volvo 245 a cinch. It's about half the price of a lift - not counting the installation cost, and it seems more useful on a fully assembled car than a rotisserie is.

Thanks for the tip, Keith!

[Source: bbgadgets]


[via] Autoblog

Posh Russian community bans Russian made cars

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Russia sure has a knack for offering up the most offbeat automotive news. For even more proof of this, look no further than Zolotye Klyuchi 2 (Golden Keys) housing complex. This complex caters to the well-off in Moscow, and has banned Russian-made cars from its community. Management at the Golden Keys has issued the decree because Russian cars pose "a significant danger to the environment, creating high noise levels." Not only that, but because of their unreliability, they are also responsible for "traffic jams on the territory of the complex." What if your friend, who drives a Lada, wants to visit? Better rent a different car! The only Russian-made vehicles allowed are for deliveries or for emergency services. A casual nod is granted to residents who happen to own Russian cars, but they aren't allowed to be seen. "Don't park such vehicles in the street, put them in the underground parking."

What is the punishment for breaking the anti-Russian-car rule? Ridicule in the form of of a picture of your mistakenly parked car on their website, under the title "transgressors". As if having to drive a Lada weren't bad enough!

[Source: AFP via Yahoo]


[via] Autoblog

Spy Shots: Munich goes after another niche - BMW V5

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Hot on the heels of the BMW X6 introduction at the Frankfurt Motor Show last week comes word of a yet another variation from Munich. The V5 is not a new engine configuration, it's a new body style for BMW. Looking like a pretty standard five door hatchback, the rear roofline is higher than the more coupe-like X6, allowing for more headroom.

The V5 is thought to be built on the same platform as both the X5 and X6, which means that it will probably by built alongside the X models in South Carolina. CAR is reporting that the new machine is targeted at the US market, which would be an odd choice by BMW. Unlike Europe, Americans have never really taken to hatchback styles -- especially in premium segments.

[Source: CAR]


[via] Autoblog

High Aussie dollar threatens more Holden exports

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Before you start sweating, rest assured Holden's VE Commodore will be heading Stateside as the Pontiac G8, but as for other models such as the two-door Ute, things are looking in doubt. GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz is a key backer of bringing the Ute to the U.S. but revealed at this week's Frankfurt Auto Show that the export program could be in doubt because of the strong Australian dollar. Either the car-based pickup would be priced out of the market or GM would have to subsidize it, something that's not going to happen, Lutz informed.

Plans to import roughly 50,000 Pontiac G8s are unchanged but the margins made on the car will be very slim, meaning there's no room to add a variant priced below it. This will come as a major blow to Holden staffers. Almost half of its annual production of 147,000 cars is exported and gaining a foothold in the lucrative U.S. markets has been one of its key goals over the past decade.


Gallery: Holden VE Ute


[via] Autoblog

Today's time-waster: BMW puts you in control of the M3

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BMW is serious about its M3 coupe, so much so that the German automaker is willing to invest big bucks to show potential buyers just how great the M driving experience is. To give you control of the M3, BMW created a video game where you get to dance around the Nürburgring. The file is a mega-load at 345 MB, and BMW suggests having a steering controller for the PC to get the best possible experience. We didn't have the wheel, so we stuck with the keyboard controls. The interface seems like it was designed by the architects of iDrive, and trying to exit the game almost crashed our fortified quad-core gamer machine, but the graphics were pretty sweet. That said, if the M3 handles as poorly as it did for us in this video game, most of us would rather have a Crown Victoria rolling on DUBs (Readers, be advised: "Most of us" refers to Chris and the other voices in his head. Just a clarification. - Ed). It took us 20 minutes to get to the point where we could keep the virtual 414 HP on the track, and steering was too sensitive on pavement and flat-lined on anything else. Let us know how you do if you take the time to try it. Heck, it's a time waster, but it's free.

[Source: BMW]


[via] Autoblog