Friday, January 20, 2006

CX-7 NOT a platform mate with Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX

The Car Connection is reporting today something that we've been hearing rumored for a while.

The CX-7 is not built on the same platform as Ford's Edge and Lincoln's MKX.

According to Jay Amestoy - via thecarconnection.com - the CX-7 is on a 'platform unique to Mazda' with a front structure based on the Mazda6/Mazdaspeed6 but the main structure from there back is based on the Mazda5 micro-van, which is itself based on the structure of the Mazda3.

Kind of confusing, but logical given the sportier mission of the CX-7.

Daily Edition: Jan. 20, 2006 - The Car Connection

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Chevrolet SSR going away

After a fairly short run, and not really surprising since GM announced the closure of the Lansing plant in which it is built - the Chevrolet SSR pickup/roadster/hotrod will cease production on March 17th.

Read Autoblog's post about it here -> Chevrolet SSR gets (earlier) appointment with destiny - Autoblog

Monday, January 16, 2006

Autoshow Season - Lincoln MKX and MKS concept

Lincoln is a lost little brand. It seems for the past couple of years, with Cadillac refusing to play leapfrog anymore, that the Lincoln folks didn't know what to do.

Well, after a few years showing us re-hashes of 60's Continentals - Lincoln has decided that maybe Cadillac was onto something after all. However, without to corporate will to sink billions into this floundering luxury brand (I mean with all the money going to Jaguar, a second luxury div would be just too much), we'll see Lincoln doing the Cadillac thing - only on the cheap.

Exhibit A - Lincoln MKX

Yep, Lincoln's going alpha with their new products. Just like Cadillac. Only this time, it appears that they are going to try to stretch the old Mark moniker just past the breaking point by naming everything MK_. First we got the Mark LT (likely to be rebadged MKLT or MKT or some other nonsense soon). Now, the Aviator replacement (you remember the Aviator, right? The mini-me Navigator based on the Explorer?), a Crossover Utility Vehicle in Ford-speak, is badged the MKX (see, X for crossover, get it?). In previous photos, you could see the MKX even had Aviator badging - whether this was because they wanted to wait until NAIAS to debut the new naming system or they just hadn't decided on it until now is anyone's guess.

Now, as Cadillac competition goes, this would go up against the SRX. However, the MKX will very likely only get the 3.5l 250hp V-6 that Ford just announced. However, it will also likely be quite a bit cheaper than the SRX (you'd hope). Based on the Mazda6 platform, just like the Ford Edge CUV, Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln Zephyr (I'm sure the marketing folks are thrilled that all the work they've done to get the Zephyr name out there has been undone by a need to change it to the MKZ or MKLMNOP). It likely was much cheaper and faster to build the MKX on this front-drive shared platform - but it won't gain the traction with the import lux buyer like Cadillac's Sigma architecture.

Oddly, this vehicle has a grill design that Lincoln showed on concepts but never put on a production car. It has a cheese-grater look about it and should quickly be replaced by something similar to the next car on our list...I'd hope.

Exhibit B - MKS concept

Interestingly, Lincoln also showed the most attractive concept they've had in quite some time. The MKS...S for sedan?

Lincoln MKXThis car looks every bit like a beefed up Acura TL with just the right amount of Lincoln cues thrown in. This is a genuinely attractive car and would only be better if it didn't ride on the same front-drive platform that underpins the Ford Fivehundred (and Volvo S80). In this case, instead of bringing a real luxury rear-drive chassis to bear, Ford makes the same mistake they made with the Jaguar X-Type...they added standard all-wheel drive and hoped that no-one would notice.

Lincoln MKS conceptThis is rumored to hint at the next Lincoln flagship (of course, until they chicken out of killing the Towncar and keep it around for fleets). This may sell well to American luxury buyers who just can't accept the Cadillac edginess, but won't attract many BMW/Mercedes shoppers.

Exhibit C - Lincoln interiors

Lincoln MKX interiorOh my god! Will someone please get a memo to the stylists at Lincoln and tell them that the square gauges/neo-70's interior theme wasn't a good idea in the 70's and is the one aspect of retro-styling that just won't work? *shiver* Go with styling like the MKS with an nice modern interior theme (check out the aforementioned Acura TL for an example) and Lincoln would finally be about 80% there. Fork over the cash for a real-high-end rear-wheel/all-wheel drive chassis, kind of like the Lincoln LS had, and then we're talking 90-95%. Then it would just be a matter of marketing and dealer experience to make Lincoln a real player.

Lincoln MKS concept interiorOf course, Ford seems confused by having Lincoln, Jaguar, and Volvo. If Jaguar is stylish rear-wheel drive luxury and Volvo is front/all-wheel drive luxury. That doesn't leave too much room for Lincoln to inhabit. However, if Jaguar and Lincoln were managed correctly - Jag as a classically styled, elegant car and Lincoln as a progressive high-tech car - there's no reason they couldn't both sell well.

In the meantime, the MKX and MKS look like progress - just not as far as you might hope.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Autoshow Season - New Camry and Camry Hybrid

Toyota's at it again. Just when you thought everyone had gotten to the point of meeting or exceeding the Camry - they go and bring out a new one.

2007 Toyota Camry interiorAt least this time, they seem to have put some of that Lexus mojo into their interior design.

Also of note is the new hybrid version to compete against the Honda Accord Hybrid. However, it appears that Toyota is recognizing that, at least to Camry buyers, hybrid = high fuel economy (vs Honda that thinks that the Accord Hybrid is the hot-rod of the Accord line).

2007 Toyota CamryInterestingly is a modern take on the old 'economy' gauge that was so popular in the early 80's...in this case a gauge right next to the speedometer and about the size of a tachometer is a needle that gives you instant feedback to what your fuel economy number is (from 0 to 60 mpg). Maybe this little bit of feedback will result in owners getting closer to EPA estimates (no estimates are available right now for the Camry).

In addition to the hybrid, the Camry will be available with a 2.4l 158hp 4-cylinder and a 3.5l 268hp v-6.

Autoshow Season - Offical Pics of the Camaro concept

Previously, we've hinted at pictures available online and shown you the 'oops' pic that Road and Track accidentally posted early.

Now, we have the offical pics straigt from Chevrolet.

Enjoy.

Chevy Camaro concept
Chevy Camaro concept
Chevy Camaro concept
Chevy Camaro concept

Autoshow Season - New Jeeps

Jeep has decided to debut its least capable Jeep ever along with its most capable ever.

Jeep The Jeep Compass is Jeeps first version of the shared platform that underpins the new Dodge Caliber as well as next Mitsubishi Lancer and Outlander. It is a front-drive vehicle with an automatic all-wheel drive system with a 'lock' mode for force power to the rear wheels.

2007 Jeep CompassIt is intended for urban Jeep fans who love the Jeep mystique but don't need/want the rough-and-tumble ride and handling of a traditional Jeep (I wanted to say 'real Jeep' but thought I'd be nice).

2007 Jeep WranglerUnlike the expected Jeep Patriot, which is thought to be a more off-road capable Jeep, this is an interesting attempt to see how far the Jeep brand can be pushed without damaging the image that makes these potential buyers like Jeep in the first place...we'll see.

2007 Jeep WranglerIn order to keep the off-road capability average up for the press conference, Jeep also showed off the all-new 2007 Jeep Wrangler. Almost 6 inches wider, much roomier, with lots of safety technology (side airbags, ABS, stability control)...the Wrangler looks to be again an off-road marvel. Highlights include a new 205hp 3.8l V-6 in place of the previous (and long in the tooth) 4.0l inline 6. Also, Jeep finally has ready the modular roof panel system that they've been teasing us with for years. In this application, you can remove a small panel over either the driver or passenger as well as a large panel over the rear seats. With all in place, you have a nice hard-top. With all out, a reasonable impression of the convertible version (which will get a whiz-bang top with a 'sunroof' feature that allows owners to open a section above the front seats.

More pics below.

2007 Jeep Wrangler
2007 Jeep Wrangler
2007 Jeep Wrangler

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Autoshow Season - Lexus LS460L

Lexus LS460LLexus took the wraps off their new flagship LS460 today at the NAIAS. Packing a, as the model name suggests, 4.6l V-8 pumping out 380hp and 370lb*ft of torque and promises a 5.5 second 0-60 time due in no small part to...are you sitting down?...it's 8-speed automatic.

Yes, I said 8 speeds. Where will it all end?

Other highlights include a 19 speaker stereo with a built-in hard drive (capable of holding 4000 songs) as well as a version of Toyota's parallel parking assist feature where the car will almost park itself (controlling the steering for you).

The L version is a long-wheelbase variant (a short wheelbase LS is shown with the L in the picture above).

Also, there was an announcement that the hybrid LS will debut at the NY auto show in April.

Autoshow Season - Buick Enclave 'concept'

Buick EnclaveBuick chose today to debut a 'concept' crossover. However, it is fairly obvious that this is a mildly disguised version of the production Enclave that may make its debut early in 2007 as a 2008.

This is a nicely production-ized version of the previous Buick Centieme that they displayed not that long ago. Personally, I like this Enclave better. It has an elegant toughness about it.

Buick EnclaveAnother sign that this is very close to a production vehicle is the decidedly non-concept looking interior. Nicely styled and likely to go to production as-is.

If this is the new face of a revitalized Buick, then maybe calls for it to be killed as a brand were premature.

Autoshow Season - North American Car and Truck of the year announced

NACTOY awards are handed out every year at the opening of media days at the NAIAS. Cars are nominated and voted upon by members of the motoring press.

This year is the 13th annual award and the first time that both winners have been from the same brand.

The Car of the Year award goes to the new Honda Civic family of sedans and coupes. From what I've been hearing about these cars, this was a pretty easy bet.

Now as far as Truck of the Year, we have proof that automotive journalists have slightly different criteria for what makes a good truck. Essentially saying that the best truck is the one that appeals best to car buyers - they named the Honda Ridgeline.

Read more about it at the link below.

Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) 2006 - North American Car/Truck of the Year - MSN Autos

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Autoshow Season - Ford vehicles at NAIAS

Ford will be announcing at the NAIAS a series of production and concept vehicles that show a decent cross section of the Ford portfolio.

Interesting is how we are now beginning to see (with the exception of the Mustang, which has it's own, stand-alone look) the beginnings of a corporate face across both cars and trucks - if this group is any indication.

Ford Reflex conceptFirst off, is the Ford Reflex small car concept. This car combines the muscular shape of the Iosis concept Ford showed late last year as their new European look with the tri-bar grill treatment that we first saw on the Ford 427 concept and, in production form, on the Ford Fusion.

2007 Ford EdgeNext up is the production Ford Edge utility vehicle. Based on the same stretched Mazda6 chassis as the Fusion, the Edge is a cross-over with no false off-road intentions. It also caries the Fusion's tri-bar grill and sleek lines.

Ford F-250 SuperChief conceptFord also is taking the wraps off the F-250 Super Chief concept. They claim that it is inspired by classic American locomotives, specifically the...you guessed it...Super Chief. Most important, this appears to be a preview of how Ford will incorporate the tri-bar grill into the truck line. Look for something similar when the F-series is next freshened.

2007 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500Finally, Ford will be showing production versions of the Mustang GT500 coupe and convertible. No tri-bar grill here, but the Mustang is enough of a styling icon to stand alone without the corporate face.

Finally, Ford gets that a 'look' that ties all its vehicles together is a worthy goal. Now if someone could just get that memo to Chevrolet.

Autoshow Season - 2007 Jeep Wrangler

ACAtT scan of the 2007 Jeep Wrangler 2-doorWow, this All Cars, All the Time blog is an impressive place. In this case, it appears that he might just have more mag subscriptions than the Library of Congress.

Here are some scans from the latest Automobile and MPH magazines of the all-new Jeep Wrangler 2-door (4-door is on the way).

Nice update, Jeep.

All Cars, All the Time

Autoshow Season - Chrysler Aspen

What do you get when you cross the looks of the Chrysler Town and Country with a Dodge Durango...All Cars, All the Time knows - you have this pre-NAIAS shot of the upcoming Chrysler Aspen SUV.

I'm left somewhat underwhelmed.

All Cars, All the Time

Autoshow Season - Oops! Road and Track 'accidentally' unveil the new Camaro concept for GM

Chevy Camaro concept photo from R&T goofJust a few weeks ago, GM threatened legal action to get several photos of the upcoming Camaro concept taken off web sites.

Well, now, let's see if they go after Road and Track for accidentally pulling the trigger on their online coverage of the Camaro concept before GM got a chance to unveil the car officially next week at the NAIAS.

There is an accompanying video that mentions that the Camaro is on the upcoming Zeta chassis (like the next GTO) as well as that the engine would be the 6.0l 400hp V-8 (no real surprises there).

Looks sweet to me.

R&T : World Exclusive: Chevrolet Camaro Concept Video (1/2006)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Allpar.com spy photos of the next Chrysler minivan

Allpar.com has a spy photo, courteous of Brenda Priddy, of the next Dodge Caravan undergoing testing.

Expect, big-brother of Caliber styling with an attempt to get back on top of the minivan feature wars with available all-wheel drive, enhanced stow-and-go seating, a diaper changing table, rear windows that roll down as well as what are sure to be a few surprises.

Allpar.com conjectures that the delay getting the minivans to market has been to tone down the styling (perhaps the flop of the Nissan Quest might have had something to do with this). Unfortunately, it appears that DCX has decided that Mercedes is the high-style company and boxy and in-your-face is the look for the 'lesser' brands.

Oh how I miss the high-style days of the Dodge and Chrysler of the 90's.

2005 Chrysler minivan information

Autoshow Season - Lamborghini Miura

Autoblog.com is showing pictures of the Lamborghini Miura concept that will be shown at the NAIAS.

Expected to be an ultra-performance car in the same vein as the Ferrari Enzo and Porsche Carrera GT, however there is no expected on-sale date or available price or performance figures. Expect more details when the car debuts next week.

Lamborghini Miura in the flesh - Autoblog

Thursday, January 05, 2006

It's official, Chrysler to build minivans for VW

It had been rumored for a while now that VW and Chrysler group were in talks for VW to get a version of the Chrysler minivan for its own use.

As you may recall, VW has had a hit-or-miss history with small vans in the US market - starting with what could be argued was the real original mini-van, the VW bus/vanagon through lean times that saw Euro-style vans with less power and more cumbersome form factors trying to compete with the powerful and nimble offerings from the likes of Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda.

The last stab VW was set to take was a retro-styled van in the vein of the classic VW Vanagon. However, not too long ago, VW realized that a retro vehicle would not have made financial sense as it would have only played well in the US market.

So, without an alternative to bringing over the next Eurovan - which apparently did not look like a sure hit for the US market - and a new head in Wolfgang Bernhard who had all sorts of good vibes between himself and new DCX head Dieter Zetsche...the rest was likely just a matter of hammering out the details.

Now we know that, beginning in calendar year 2008, both VW and DCX will be bringing all new mini's to market based on the next DCX design.

It will be interesting to see what DCX gets as their part of the bargain. Obviously VW has lots of experience with AWD, platform sharing/flexible manufacturing that DCX might want to get some access to - but only time will tell.

Autoshow Season - 2007 Mazda CX-7

2007 Mazda CX-7Mazda has officially released photos and info on the CX-7 that premiered at the Los Angeles Auto Show yesterday.

New to us are pictures of a decidedly sporty, Mazda-like interior that crosses design elements from the Mazda3, MX-5, as well as a smidge of Mazda6 and Mazda5 thrown in for good measure.

2007 Mazda CX-7 InteriorThis vehicle may, though no one at Mazda or Ford are talking, share its platform with the upcoming Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX (previously Aviator). It also shares the all-wheel drive system and re-tuned version of the Mazdaspeed6. So, this would make the CX-7 the only version of this vehicle to have no available V-6, only a turbo 4.

Very zoom zoom for an SUV.

Autoshow Season - GM shows GMC Yukon XL and Chevrolet Suburban

2007 Chevrolet SuburbanIt should come as no surprise that the new Suburban and Yukon XL are essentially the same Yukon and Tahoe as shown late in 2005 only with a longer cargo area.

But, in the sake of completeness, here are some pictures.

2007 GMC Yukon XLThe only question these bring to mind is why-oh-why does GM still insist on putting the XM/OnStar antenna in the most conspicuous location (right above the windshield) instead of back in front of the hatch where it would be less in-your-face? Oh, yeah, that's right - so they can save the 10 cents per vehicle that the extra wiring would cost to put it back there.

Note to GM - you will not win the battle to make the best vehicles on the road when you still don't have the will to make the best vs. cheapest choice.

Maybe next time.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Autoshow Season - Volvo C30 concept

Volvo C30 conceptVolvo is making one thing very clear...this is a production car that will go on sale worldwide starting at the end of 2006 - even to the point of pre-announcing that the production version will bow at the Paris autoshow in September 06.

Based on the same C1 chassis that underpins the S40 sedan, the C30 is 9 inches shorter, has a rear hatch vs. the more standard trunk on the S40 (resulting in a coupe/wagon hybrid look), and is aimed squarely at active lifestyle types that wouldn't be caught dead in a sedan.

Volvo C30 conceptThe concept, powered by a 260hp turbo inline 5-cylinder (significantly more powerful than the 218hp that this engine produces in the S40), packs seating for 4, a swoopy interior with the now Volvo-trademark thin, freestanding center console.

The lower number in the name does suggest that the C30 will be priced below the S40, so expect a turbo version similar to the S40 T5 to be priced somewhat lower. Volvo may make turbo power standard in order to prevent having to go into the low 20k pricerange for base C30's, but a fully optioned out model should top out significantly under 30k.

This should be a nice addition to the Volvo stable.

Autoshow Season: VW GX3 'Motorcycle' concept debuts

Volkswagen GX3 ConceptI have always been a big fan of odd sporting machines. When I was in high school, I bought plans for a build-it-at-home 3-wheeled motorcycle. It was from a now defunct company called Dolphin Vehicles and was called the Vortex. It was built using marine grade plywood and took an old Triumph Spitfire front suspension. The body was built up using foam covered in fiberglass mat.

I never go around to building it, but I spent many an hour figuring out exactly how I was going to go about it.

Now, VW has shown a concept that has shown how cool a similar car/trike/motorcycle can be when built to OEM specs.

With a 1.6l engine powering the rear wheel, seating for 2, 0-62mph in about 5 and a half seconds all with 46mpg and an estimated sale price of $17k...this would make a great fair-weather commuter car.

Too bad, they'll never build it.

Hmmm, where did I put those Vortex plans?...

The problem with Saab

Saab (from Wikipedia - SAAB (originally an acronym for "Svenska Aeroplan AB," where "AB" stands for "aktiebolaget" ("corporation")) AB was founded as a Swedish aircraft concern in 1937 in the city of Linköping, in Sweden...Saab produced its first automobile on June 10, 1947.) is a wholly owned division of General Motors.

They are, historically, considered a 'quirky' automobile company with a strong technology focus (they have a long history of pioneering safety, much like Volvo, as well as research into powertrains).

However, they have had a hard time reaching the sorts of sales numbers that GM has wanted for them. So, what exactly is wrong with Saab?

First, I think we should deal with what Saab is and isn't and how that relates to GM's goals for the brand.

Saab is, as I mentioned before a quirky brand. It's buyers like the way Saab does things (ignition between the front seats, aircraft inspired interior features like the night-panel that blacks out all but the essential readouts until a function needs your attention, engines that are as small as possible yet still plenty powerful - no matter what the luxury poseurs might _think_ they need (like a V-6 when a turbo 4 is both more flexible, more efficient, and just as reliable).

GM saw Saab as a way to easily enter the Euro-luxury fray when Cadillac was nothing but a Lincoln competitor. They saw the small form factor, technological image, etc. as a way to tap this buyer base that Cadillac didn't/couldn't/wouldn't address.

What they didn't realize is that the Saab-ness of the brand also kept it from being a high-volume brand like the BMW, Mercedes, and Audi's of the world. All the so-called 'problems' with Saab have stemmed from this single difference in understanding.

No amount of rebadging Opels and Chevrolets, turning the 9-3 from it hatchback roots into a sedan and wagon, and introducing SUV's (like the 9-7x shown here) is going to 'save' a company that really didn't need saving. It was doing just fine being Saab before. Now, we have a muddled brand image (oh, how GM) to go with marginally higher sales and talk of jettisoning the brand that has absorbed so much money.

Let's hope that whoever ultimately owns Saab doesn't buy into the hype that Saab is a broken brand. All they really need at this point is an owner that understands what Saab is and isn't and can refocus the product mix to re-appeal to the Saab core. If the products are true to this brand image and good, the Saab faithful will stay and the folks looking for something just a little different will buy as well. I'm not confident that GM is that company.

Chrysler Imperial Concept

Looking like a Chrysler 300C that has spent the last couple years training for the Mr. Universe competition - the Chrysler Imperial concept, to be shown at this year's NAIAS is an attempt to see what kind of headroom Chrysler might have in the marketplace.

Previous attempts to move Chrysler up-market have centered on halo sports cars like the Crossfire and the Firepower concept. This time, they try to leverage the goodwill surrounding the all-american look of the 300C.

Of course, since we are only a couple model-years from the next 300, this could also be a thinly veiled glimpse at the styling of the next version (the LY chassis).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

More GM Kappa News - SKY Pricing and a Solstice Wagon?

Today, Saturn announced pricing of the 2007 Saturn SKY roadster. With standard OnStar, ABS, Power Windows/Locks/Mirrors, Remote Keyless Entry as well as the air conditioning that Pontiac saw fit to make optional on the Solstice. MSRP for a 5-speed manual SKY will start at $23690 with the automatic equipped version (also a 5-speed) at $24540. Both prices include destination.

Before you start thinking that Saturn is crazy to ask over 3500 more for the SKY than the Solstice need to take a deep breath, head on over to the Pontiac web site, and price a Solstice with the same equipment. The SKY's premium is actually only about $370. More than made up for by the richer interior that the SKY gets vs. the basic interior of the Solstice.

EDAG Solstice WagonAlso in Kappa news - is this odd contraption that should show up in the next couple weeks at the NAIAS. EDAG, a German engineering firm, came up with this variation on the Solstice to both counter the 'not enough cargo space' crowd as well as to evoke, in their words the 'Pontiac Safari' wagons of the 1950's and 1960's. Read about it here.

Looks oddly cool to me.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Pontiac Solstice GXP details

2007 Solstice GXP2.0l Ecotec 4-cylinder w/ direct injection and 260hp and 260lb*ft of torque

There, fine, that's what everyone wanted to know anyway.

Now we can get into some more details.

Unique front and rear bumpers, dual exhaust, StabiliTrak standard, 3.73 axle ratio, unique GXP gauge cluster, and if the photos are any indication - yellow will be a new available color...but they'll likely call it something odd like all the other colors on the Solstice (for instance - Black = Mysterious, Aggressive = Red, and so on).

Apparently, the sport suspension on this model will be the same as the available sport suspension already available on the base Solstice.

ABS, limited slip diff, power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel w/ steering wheel mounted controls for the stereo and cruise control, driver info center, and 18-inch polished wheels are all standard on this model as well.

So, you can get basically the same equipment from this model on the standard Solstice, but the GXP brings the kick-butt 2.0l Ecotec. 130hp/liter. Torque is 260lb*ft from 2000 through 5300 rpm - yummy!

Pricing is not yet known - but figure it to be at least $3k more than the same Solstice with all the options listed. So, we'd be looking at something like $27000. Still a nice performance bargain if the 5.5 second 0-60 that GM is claiming is legit.

This should be the same as the Saturn SKY Redline - and still sitting at the top of my shopping list for my next car.

Lincoln to go Alpha for model names

According to this post at Autoblog.com - Lincoln will not be calling the new Lincoln Aviator the Lincoln Aviator. (?!)

It appears that Ford has decided that the real reason Cadillac is kicking Lincoln's butt right now is the abandonment of names for alpha strings (think how Catera became CTS, Seville became STS, etc.) I'm sure it had nothing to do with billions of investment, brand new chassis and powertrains, and really targeting the standard of BMW, Mercedes, and Audi with their cars rather than chasing Lincoln.

The Aviator will actually be badged the Lincoln MKX (hmm, looks quite a bit like Mark X, don't it?).

We'll see how this goes for them - but ultimately, I think great product is the only answer - not new names.