Friday, January 23, 2015

2016 Acura NSX Revealed at NAIAS

Acura's next NSX is the halo car the division needs to put it back on the map as a technology driven luxury brand.  Will it deliver they way the original did some 20 years ago?  Likely as its got the goods and good looks to pull it off.

I saw it first at the 2012 NAIAS and was completely blown away.  3 years later its ready for production and the real deal stacks very favorably with the concept.

But don't take my word for it compare the original reveal video with the new car.

Some of the key features of the car are as follows:

  • Sport hybrid technology -Twin turbocharged 3.5L V6 coupled with hybrid electric motors producing 550+ horsepower
  • Twin electric motors in front provide instantaneous torque delivery and dynamic torque vectoring. These three-motors, one aft and two in front, comprise the Sport Hybrid system.
  • aluminum space frame, suspension and strategically placed high strength steel and carbon fiber
  • "human support cockpit" a first ever for super cars that are designed to fit the driver like a glove for ultimate driving performance
  • combination of its lightweight chassis and low-mounted Sport Hybrid power unit, give the NSX the lowest center of gravity in its class. They call it the  Advanced Sports Package designed to deliver ultimate handling
  • all-new 9-speed dual clutch transmission of our own design, housing an electric motor that helps directly drive the rear wheels
  • Acura's Integrated Dynamics System, supports performance at the will of the driver in every driving situation. Four modes, Quiet, Sport, Sport-Plus, and Track
Yes, there were subtle changes from the original concept.  Its still a low slung beauty but it picked up bulges here and there to accept the twin turbo V6, comply with EU pedestrian impact standards, our archaic lighting system requirements.  In the end its still a marvel of modern technology and one sexy beast.  Nicely played Acura, nicely played.

The car at NAIAS was locked so you couldn't get in to take pictures and I just don't have the juice to get them to open it up for me.  I'll have to take their word for it that the seats are the ultimate in comfort and ergonomics.  The two following pics of the interior and cockpit is courtesy Acura's press kit and used with their permission.

The opening video is courtesy my friend Tyson Hugie who was able to get the reveal captured as well as a glimpse of Jerry Seinfeld.  You can follow Tyson on his YouTube channel as well as his blog documenting his over 500,000 mile Acura Legend, Drive to Five.

I have additional photos of the NSX in higher resolution as well as a host of other cars at NAIAS in my flickr album.

Monday, January 19, 2015

2016 Lincoln MKX revealed at NAIAS

Lincoln Motor Company revealed its all new MKX to a gasp and wow response from the audience.  It makes significant changes in style and luxury from the outgoing 2015 Model.  Other than a floor pan and one engine nothing is shared with the Ford Edge. That's a big deal as many of the brands detractors denigrate the cars as "warmed over Fords".  Not the case here.

The new MKX is full of sensuous flowing curves.  There's a subtle rear wing built into the rear hatch.  Fender flares on the sides to accommodate the wheels.  LED driving lights and rear brake lights/turn signals that follow curves and creases in the body work.  Nice integration of the elements.  The split wing grill theme continues on the new MKX with horizontal bars versus the waterfall of old.

The interior is full of surprises as well.  Two open storage compartments are integrated into the front seat console for easy storage of bulkier items such as purses or clutches.

As if the standard interior isn't pretty enough Lincoln brings 2 different "Black Label" packages to the table for the new MKX. Lincoln Black Label will be available at launch with four designer themes – two of which are all-new. One is inspired by the fashion, lifestyle and art scene of 1920s Paris, while the excitement, passion and pageantry of high-stakes thoroughbred horse racing create the vision for the second new theme. Modern Heritage and Indulgence also will be available on the new Lincoln MKX.

For audiophiles this Lincoln is the first to be equipped with what will be a brand exclusive Revel sound system from Harmon. Uncompromising acoustics and award-winning home theater audio quality comes to the Lincoln MKX through the available Revel audio system. The Revel Ultima system is standard on Lincoln Black Label editions and available on Reserve models. It features 19 speakers with point source architecture, positioning the tweeter and midrange speakers close together for superior audio quality. Further performance and refinement is provided by QuantumLogic Surround Sound technology, which offers three listening modes – stereo, audience and on stage; patented Clari-Fi™ technology offering advanced, real-time music reconstruction for all compressed audio sources; and a 20-channel high-voltage hybrid amplifier for class-leading dynamics and optimized transparency. A 13-speaker Revel system designed for the ultimate audio quality experience is available on the all-new Lincoln MKX Select and Reserve.

The brand also brings to the table some interesting new lighting tricks to the table all in the name of ultimate luxury. When the driver with key fob is within approximately 9 feet, the lower LED daytime running lights gently brighten, while “welcome mat” is projected on the ground from the folded mirrors. Door handles are illuminated, too, tuned to the exterior color. Interior sequential lighting begins at the footwell, then illuminates the cupholders, pass-through, instrument panel, front door handles, front map pockets and rear doors. The lighting goes off in reverse order.

Key features and optional equipment for the new MKX:
  • 3.7l V6 with 300 hp/280 ft lbs torque.  Optional 2.7l V6 Ecoboost with 330hp/370 ft lb torque 
  • both engines mated to a 6 speed automatic with AWD optional
  • integral link rear suspension, upgrades to the body structure and chassis components, make the new model the best-handling, best-riding and quietest Lincoln MKX ever
  • Lincoln Drive Control, a suite of ride-enhancing technologies, optimizes performance and offers three distinct modes: Normal, Sport and Comfort 
  • of helpful driver aids and technologies are available, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping system, blind spot information system, cross-traffic alert and a height-adjustable hands-free power liftgate
  • an ultrasonic sensing system with 12 sensors enabling the full range of available parking-assist features: front rear side sensing, perpendicular and parallel parking assist and park out assist
  • available 22-way adjustable front seats with active motion help reduce muscle fatigue in the upper legs and lower back through six adjustable air bladders in the cushion and five adjustable air bladders in the lower seat back
  • built-in connectivity is provided through an available embedded modem. Via a smartphone app that communicates with the vehicle, the available MyLincoln Mobile™ app gives owners the ability to start, lock, unlock and locate their vehicle, as well as schedule a remote start.
The new MKX is a great indication of where the brand is going with its total luxury experience.  The features packed in or optionally available will certainly make it class competitive if not a leader in terms of driver satisfaction and support.  That the passengers are enveloped in total leather wrapped luxury is just the added bonus.  I really hope that this model takes off to encourage Lincoln to continue to produce driver focused luxury autos.

These pictures grabbed on the floor of the Lincoln exhibit really show off a lot of the key design and interior elements of the new MKX. I truly could see myself coddled in this in a cross country run or in the bump and grind traffic of Los Angeles.  It has all the right bits to make it a leader in the class.  I hope for Lincolns future the buyers out there really like it as well.

As a bit of a disclosure.  Ford Motor Company paid for my travel and accomodations to attend the NAIAS this last week in Detroit as one of their "digital influencers". (I need to add that to my CV somehow).  All opinions are my own, as if anyone can silence my not so humble opinions.

More pics in my flickr Album 2015 NAIAS

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Buick unveils the wowza Avenir and a dud at NAIAS

The big surprise from Buick was the Avenir (French for future) concept car which is a thinly veiled version of the next LaCrosse.  My suggestion, dump the LaCrosse name and use this one.  This car is so totally different that it deserves its own name in history.

This was an odd reveal, private party the night before the NAIAS Press days began, not the usual hoopla grand reveal during press days.  Interesting.  The flagship sedan offers seating for four, full LED exterior lighting, and 21-inch wheels in its premium sports options.

Like Buick's of yore this has some unique design elements that I really like.  The traditional waterfall grill is there, split in the upper third by a too huge Buick emblem and a tasteful chrome rib continuing the hoodline at the head lamps.

The rear view is really nice as well. with a subtle point drawn from the windshield reminiscent at least of the '71-73 Riviera's and their boat tails.

But don't let my blathering color your opinion.  Buick got 2 Eyes On Design Awards for this car.
General Motors Global Design Team for the Buick Avenir concept car won EyesOn Design's Best Concept Award Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. Director of GM Global Color and Trim Sharon Gauci , Design Manager Color and Trim, GM Australia, Jenny Morgan-Douralis, and GM Design Manager Buick Color and Trim Rebecca Waldmeir won EyesOn Design's Best Use of Color Award for the Buick Avenir.

Little was offered up in the way of power train and tranny options.  Best guess is it will be conservative with the 2.0L turbo four as standard and a V6 as an option.  Nothing stronger, as well, the true aggressive sport luxury brand for GM is Caddy, not Buick.  A shame as this car looks like it should have some real go power behind it.

Its a very nice looking concept that appears more production ready rather than a study in what the future could be.  Build it, give it its place in Buick History.

Now for the dud.  The Cascada.  A convertible sedan that's nice enough in appearance.  Its rated as a 4 seater, but with 3" between the front seat back and the cushion end of the rear seat only amputees will be placed in those rear seats.

The car just seems to be missing the mark on so many points.  The front end is molten pointy, not the crisp style and angles of the Avenir, or even lesser current production Buick's like the Regal that is already on dealership lots.  Its a near miss, the premise good, front seats and ergonomics are nice, but you get to the back seat and it all falls apart.  Sad, I had hopes for this car, but its really a rehashed Opel with a Buick emblem glued to the grill that doesn't even fit the bill with current Buick design language.  Equally Sad, is this car is a step back for a brand that has been moving forward and doing such nice cars the last few years.  We need Buick to succeed.

All pics by me.  More in my flickr album from 2015 NAIAS

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ford Upstages itself and others at NAIAS

This last Monday was the most dynamic and surprising Press Conference Reveal at any Auto Show I've ever been at.  Ford owned the show, they dominated the conversation of all the media upstaging other manufactures. We knew going into the show that for sure the Mustang GT 350R was going to be shown, our hosts at Ford were tight lipped as to what else we'd see.  We were blown away along  with the rest of the global automotive press.

The reveal itself was nothing short of amazing.  With Ford its about Innovation and Performance at this years North American International Auto Show.

First Ford introduced the new Raptor piggy backing the announcement a bit earlier in the day that the F-150 won North American Truck of the Year.  This promises to be the ultimate off-roading performance truck.  Here are some of the key features added into this truck above what is available on the F-150

  • High Output 3.5L Ecoboost V6 producing more horsepower and torque than last years 6.2L V8
  • First application of Ford's new 10 Speed Automatic
  • Smart Terrain automatic four wheel drive
  • Larger standard Fox Racing shocks with more wheel travel
Raptor was upstaged with the new Mustang GT350R,

"R" for racing, a track ready Mustang ready to go toe-to-toe with the Camaro Z/28 at a lower price point.  It gets the same upgrades as the Mustang GT350 revealed before our own Los Angeles Auto Show a few weeks ago.  Not able is that anything that added weight that wasn't required or optional it was deleted in the effort to reduce weight, including unsprung weight all to better its performance on the track.  Thinks like automatic wipers, rear seats, air conditioning and aluminum wheels were deleted all in an effort to reduce weight and increase competency on the race track.  This is the most powerful, track ready Mustang in the models history.
A few key features of the Mustang GT350R:

  • Lighter than basic GT350 by 130 pounds
  • Active aerodynamics, including front splitter to increase cooling and down force
  • Aggressively tuned Magnaride suspension, first application in a Mustang, to excel on the track
  • First mass produced automobile with standard carbon fiber wheels reducing unsprung weight by 50 lb while being stronger than the outgoing aluminum
  • Michelin Sport Cup Tire specifically designed for the GT350R
  • 5.2l Flat Plane Crank engine that is Ford's most powerful naturally aspirated engine.  Ever
  • 6 Speed Tremec transmission with its own cooler

Upstaging the GT350R was a complete surprise.  The new Ford GT.

The Ford GT is about innovation and performance.  Its a hint at what is to come in production automobiles in the coming years.  It was about using innovation to create the Ultimate Expression of Ford Performance.  It completely upstage the Raptor, GT350R and every other car revealed at NAIAS this week.

The Ford GT also won the prestigious Eyes On Design Award. Eyes On Design, the official design awards for NAIAS, honors the best production and concept vehicles making global debuts in Detroit. Judges include current and former design leaders from global automakers and transportation departments at top art schools.

Some key features of the 2016 Ford GT...yes, they are building it...making it the Ultimate expression of Ford Performance:

  • All-new Ford GT supercar sets new standards for Ford innovation through performance with advances in light-weighting, aerodynamics 
  • Ultra-efficient EcoBoost engine Ford GT features the most powerful EcoBoost production engine ever – a new twin-turbocharged Ford EcoBoost V6 producing more than 600 horsepower 
  • Carbon Fiber passenger tub with lightweight Suspension and Engine cradles directly mounted to the tub
  • Sync 3 with Navigation
  • Track proven torsion bar suspension
  • Push rod suspension with fully active inboard dampers
  • Carbon ceramic brake discs with 20" wheels
And they still weren't done.  The Focus RS, the fastest, most powerful expression of the hot hatch in the EU is going global next year and yes, we in the States are going to finally get our hands on this car.  YES!

No details were given on the specifics on the Focus RS being released next year.  It will be the subject of its own reveal at a press conference at a later date.  We do know we can expect something along the order of 300+ horsepower in an all wheel drive platform.  From a Focus!

The opinions expressed in this post are my own.  I was a guest of Ford Motor Company as "Digital Influencer" and they did provide my transportation and accommodations.  But like Bart Simpson, I beat to my own drummer and these words are all mine.

More pics of the 2015 NAIAS can be found in my flickr album.  As always, all pics and video are done by me unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

North American Car of the Year and Truck of the Year announced

North American Auto Show kicks off its Press Days with this Award

Yes, its a big deal.  The Automotive Press as a group vote on the candidates and that is how this award is given  North American Car of the Year, North American Truck of the Year awards carry much more weight than those awards given by individual media outlets.  Its collaborative, it doesn't involve just one outlets views or voice.

Volkswagen's GTI was the Winner of the North American Car of the Year.  No surprise, contrary to the popular belief 'muricans don't like hatchbacks.  We do, especially hot hatches that act and perform as leaders of the pack on the freeway or carving up a canyon, not some slouch poor excuse of a station wagon.  GTI does that, and does it very well at a price we can afford.  Nice job VW.  More pics of the GTI at the end of the article.

Truck of the Year was no surprise to me.  I recently reviewed it and was amazed on its refinement, almost luxury car build and feel than a truck.  Yes, its the Ford F-150.  Congrats Ford, you earned this one.  Innovation that works always is a winner.

Special thanks to my friend and CEO of 8 Asians, Joz, who provided me with the video clip of the F-150 being named North American Truck of the Year.  She was able to attend that ceremony as I was occupied elsewhere with my hosts for the event.

More pics of the NAIAS can be found in my flickr album.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Rouge: Reinvented for the 2015 Ford F-150

A full post will follow. This is your teaser. A full post with pics on flickr and a video will follow when I return to Los Angeles. 
 Suffice it to say I was completely, utterly blown away by the tour. We got to see the assembly of the body, mating to the bed then on attaching to the chassis and final quality check where they start it up and drive it off to delivery staging area. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ford owns #naias with next gen GT

Packing the most powerful Ecoboost engine ever, the next generation Ford GT will be the most advanced vehicle showcasing future technology for the masses. 
A carbon fiber passenger cell is only the beginning. Aluminum subframes stronger and considerably ligher than their steel counterparts will be bolted to this tub for suspension and engine mounting. 
Highlighting this is a completely re-engineered Ecoboost 3.5l twin turbocharged V6 cranking out over 600 horsepower. 
Full report with video and pics will be uploaded when I return to Los Angeles. 

FYI...I'm here as a guest of Ford. they paid for my trip, but the opinions are all my own. 
Pecked out on my iPhone live from Detroit, please excuse any typos. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Guess where I'm going on the 11th?

Yup...better known as the Detroit Auto Show.  Yes, it will be colder than I'm used to...its 88 today in my corner of Los Angeles, but we all gotta make a sacrifice, right?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Best Fuel Cell Vehicle yet...from the VW/Audi Group

Recently I had the chance to drive to advanced fuel cell research cars.  Both had similar set ups based on each other. The two cars were the VW Passat HyMotion and the Audi A7 h-tron.  The difference came with the Audi famed quattro adapted to fuel cell use.  An electric motor at each end powering 4 wheels, but more on that in a bit.
The first of the dynamic duo that I drove was the VW Passat HyMotion.  Man, what a nice car that was.  The fuel cell system was the quietest one I had driven today.   Nary a compressor whine or grumble to be heard.  Just a soft whoosh when you really stepped on the accelerator.

VW's version of the fuel cell borrows heavily from their hybrid technologies and adds in a fuel cell to charge batteries or provide extra oomph when need to charge up an on ramp or keep up with fast moving traffic.   No hesitation, just go.  Feather foot and and you're keeping with traffic on battery power, need to quick step around a fruit cart on Pico (It really happened) and the car was actually nimble and responsive.

What struck me most about the VW Passat HyMotion was the build quality of the Passat in general, but specifically the choice of materials and the solidity of the body on the rough streets around DTLA.  With no engine noise to intrude there is little that the body and tires don't filter out for the occupants of the car.  I think I may need to look seriously at a regular Gasser Passat when my wife's Milan comes up for trade in the next year or so.

Range on this particular fuel cell driven at the speed limit is about 300 miles.  0-60 with all the amps pulled out that you can is about 8 seconds.  Refuel time...10-20 minutes depending on the set up of the fueling station.  That means this car is capable of a Vegas run on a single fill.  Take that Tesla.

And fueling stations, or lack thereof is what is going to keep the VW Passat HyMotion out of the production in the foreseeable future.  CA has aggressive plans to add hydrogen fueling stations, but even what we have planned doesn't meet the 200 that VW feels would be need to make a sustainable business model.  Sad, its really a great car and its water out the tail pipe as the only emission makes it one sorely needed here in the Los Angeles basin.

I inquired as to cost...which the rep was really sly.  This isn't even a pre-production model at this point, but VW is looking to price it competitive with its Toyota and Hyundai competition when it does come to market...about $80K in today's dollars
Now for the real star of the Fuel Cell Twins
The Audi A7 h-tron quattro absolutely blew me away.  Yes, you do give up a little autobahn prowess with a top speed of about 111mpg, but this is So Cal and even a Vegas run doesn't get going that fast so it will pace traffic and produce only water vapor in the process.

Based on a similar system to save costs as the VW Passat HyMotion, and using even some of the same technology the Audi A7 has a very unique set up. With 540 Nm (398.3 lb-ft) of propulsive power at its disposal the Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro, which tips the scales at only around 1,950 kilograms (4,299.0 lb), races from a standstill to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 7.9 seconds. Its top speed is 180 km/h (111.8 mph) – a top figure for its field of competitors. The e-quattro concept requires precise coordination of the electric motors – the technology demonstrator offers a sporty, stable and high-traction drive that is comparable to a production car with mechanical quattro drive.

What does all that mean?  In a real world cruise around DTLA this fuel cell gave up none, absolutely NONE of the luxury or perceptible performance to the standard Gasser.  What you did gain is the absolute silence of the fuel cell power train, which in my not so humble is the very best iteration of this technology I've ever driven.  That you can bank on.  Audi kept the character and spirit of the brand alive in the conversion to a green car.  Quite the accomplishment.

From their Press release:

  • Expertise in fuel cell technology – A7 Sportback h-tron quattro technology demonstrator ready for real-life traffic  
  • Long range – more than 500 kilometers (310.7 mi) 
  • Plug-in hybrid concept can and electric quattro

It covers over 500 kilometers (310.7 mi) on one tank of fuel – and its exhaust emits nothing more than a few drops of water: The A7 Sportback h tron quattro uses a powerful, sporty electric drive with a fuel cell as its energy source, in combination with a hybrid battery and an additional electric motor in the rear. Its drive configuration makes the emission-free Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro a quattro through and through, with 170 kilowatts of power at its disposal – a new departure in fuel cell cars. There is no mechanical connection between the front and rear axles. As an e quattro, the A7 Sportback h-tron quattro features fully electronic management of torque distribution.

The engineer I rode with felt it would be several years to a decade before an economically sustainable infrastructure is in place for them to consider a launch in the US let alone California.  Drat.  Germany is on track to have 2000 hydrogen fueling stations in place within the decade which at that time they get this marvelous machine.

Cost of the will carry a premium over the standard A7, but how much is any ones guess.  The basic 3L supercharged 2015 A7 starts at 65.9K, options up to over 80K without trying...  The rep I was with was very coy in avoiding the discussion or possible retail value.

This is the most painless green car I've ever been in. Applause to Audi.

Of course the one thing no one talks about much is the green house gasses associated with the production of the majority of the hydrogen in the market right now.  The most economical way to get hydrogen is to crack methane molecules leaving free hydrogen and Carbon Dioxide...CO2 that bugger of all green house gasses.  Its the elephant in the room no one is talking about.

Several years ago with the launch of Honda's F-Cell I talked with an engineer at length over this very issue.  He acknowledged its a problem for hydrogen in the near future.  The carbon footprint using methane as the source of hydrogen left their F-Cell CO2 footprint comparable to a compact car getting 25 MPG.

There is hope at least.  Audi sees it in wind powered electrolysis where water is broken into hydrogen and free oxygen.  There currently is a solar powered hydrogen station in Santa Monica that does this for a carbon footprint free source of hydrogen, that that's the rarity not the standard.  Yet.