Saturday, December 31, 2011
Ever since the Prius unexpectedly became the Xerox of hybrids and a greenie icon, Toyota has been trying to figure out how to apply the technology to its other models. Its results have been decidedly mixed, nowhere more so than with its luxury lineup. But with the 2013 Lexus GS 450h, Toyota thinks it has finally figured out what a hybrid luxury car should be.
From a sales perspective, the first-generation GS 450h was a disappointment. While we liked it quite a bit when we test-drove it a couple years ago, Lexus just hasn't been able to move the metal. Introduced to much fanfare in 2006 as a 2007 model, the GS was Lexus' second hybrid and the first rear-wheel-drive hybrid on the market. Lexus touted it as a performance sedan, even as Toyota was heavily marketing its hybrids as fuel sippers. Whether consumers were confused or not, they never took to the hybrid GS. Sales peaked at just below 1,800 in that first year and have gone down in each successive year. In 2010, Lexus sold barely 300 GS hybrids, roughly four percent of total GS sales, which were about 7,000.
The cognitive dissonance presented by Lexus hybrids has been an issue since the brand launched its first, the 2006 RX 400h SUV. Only marginally more powerful than the standard RX, its improvement in fuel economy was similarly slight at launch. The LS 600hL - the brand's halo car before the LFA sports car came along - is a six-figure, 20-mile-per-gallon hybrid marketed as having V12 performance with V8 fuel economy, the rough equivalent of ordering a Diet Coke with your Super Size Big Mac Extra Value Meal. The "Lexus Prius" HS 250h, with neither particularly good fuel economy (35 mpg combined) nor any sporting aspirations, has been a critical and sales disaster and is rumored to be on the chopping block. While Toyota's simple, "better mileage" definition of its hybrids is clear, Lexus has combined green machine and muscle car in varying doses, such that you never quite know what you'll be getting with a gas-electric Lexus.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Just a few months before the car’s official debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show, BMW has decided it was time to reveal the official specs on the fifth generation M5 sports sedan. After seeing the first concept version at the 2011 Shanghai Motor Show, now we can see the M5 in all its glory. And we sure like what we are seeing.
The M5 name was used for the first time back in 1984, but since then, the car has evolved into an impressive sedan that combines track potential with the comprehensive practicality of a luxurious business sedan. The new generation brings a high-revving 4.4-liter V8 engine with an M TwinPower Turbo package that delivers an impressive 560 hp at 6,000 ? 7,000 rpm and a peak torque of 502 lb-ft from 1,500 rpm. The model will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and, when the speed limiter is removed, is capable of hitting an impressive top speed of 190 mph. Despite these impressive performance numbers, the car will deliver an estimated fuel economy of 28.5 mpg.
UPDATE 12/23/2011: BMW USA has unveiled a new video of their new M5 sports sedan. Called From 0 to 90 seconds, the video offers a new presentation of the sedan from its North American debut.
UPDATE 12/30/2011: A few days ago, BMW released a video showing the M5 in action at the Pendine Sands Beach in Whales. Today, they’re providing a play by play on how that video was created. Hit the jump to watch it.
More details about the BMW M5 after the jump.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Now it appears the winner is Russian tuning firm, TopCar.
Wait, you didn’t just read TopCar, did you? Those boys who are known for Porsche and BMW programs are actually making one for a Mercedes?
Well, it appears that way after they released a few renderings of what their program for the new 2012 ML63 AMG is going to look like. The program, as you can see from these images, shows an extensive aerodynamic wide-body kit that includes a restyled front bumper fascia with LEDs, flared out fenders, side skirts, door skin panels, flared quarter panel wheel arches, and a new rear bumper fascia. All the materials, according to TopCar, are made entirely out of Kevlar and carbon fiber using vacuum molding technology, which only goes to show you that with all the technological elements used on the program, it probably won’t come cheap.
Performance upgrades have not been announced yet, but knowing these guys and their history for some pretty off-the-wall projects, they won’t hesitate to put some extra beef under that hood. After all, the ML63 AMG’s 518-horsepower 5.5-liter V8 engine is certainly ripe for some bad ass modifications.
gallery: 2012 Mercedes ML63 AMG
Kyle Lowry didn't mind coming up just short of a triple-double in the Houston Rockets' home opener. With a challenging early season schedule, the Houston point guard is more interested in victories than statistics. Lowry had 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, Kevin Martin scored 25 points and the Rockets beat the San Antonio Spurs 105-85 on Thursday night.
At the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, Ford officially put all other muscle cars - and even some supercars - on notice. The 2013 Shelby GT500 made its public debut, and while it doesn't look much different than the models that came before it, the huge change for 2013 lies under the hood: an all-new 5.8-liter supercharged V8 capable of sending 650 horsepower to the coupe's rear wheels.
Since the modern GT500's debut in 2007, Ford has always offered a convertible variant, and that isn't expected to change with this new 2013 model, especially since the rival Camaro ZL1 will be offered in both hardtop and droptop forms. According to TopSpeed.com, the GT500 Convertible will debut at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show in just a few weeks, packing the same 650-hp powertrain and - at least, we hope - some added chassis tweaks for structural rigidity. We can't even imagine trying to handle 650 supercharged horses through a willy-nilly rear end.
The only thing that isn't expected to carry over from the coupe is the GT500's 200-plus-mile-per-hour top speed. It may be possible to achieve this with the soft top in place, but we think the 200 Club will exclusively be reserved for the coupe and its sleeker shape.
Assuming the GT500 Convertible shows its face in Detroit, we'll have the full details in just two weeks.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Power. Speed. Handling. Dominance. Sometimes, bikes just come with all the elements that make for a perfect sports bike. In a nutshell, that’s what you get with the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R. It’s got the kind of potent strength that will satisfy even the most discriminating enthusiasts. For the 2012 model of the ZX-6R, you can expect the same tradition of middleweight performance that harkens back to the day of the ZX600-A1.
The ZX-6R is powered by Kawasaki’s famous 599cc 16-valve, DOHC inline-four engine that provides top-shelf middleweight power, a trademark value of the Japanese bike builder. Squeezing big power from small displacement has always been a hallmark for the manufacturer and that tradition continues with the Ninja ZX-6R. The midrange power the bike has provides arm-stretching drive out of corners with the sort of precise throttle control that allows riders to enjoy the full, breath-taking experience of the Ninja ZX-6R. The bike’s engine is likewise mated to a cassette-type transmission that greatly simplifies gearing changes at the track, reducing set-up time and allowing more time for riding.
In terms of handling, the Ninja ZX-6R comes with its class-exclusive Big Piston front fork, a fully adjustable shock, ideal engine placement, optimum frame rigidity, and the very latest in mass centralization. Looking at the svelte profile of the bike, it’s easy to point out that the ZX-6R was designed with superior handling in mind. The bike’s twin spar aluminum frame is both lightweight and rigid, and places the engine in the optimum position for superb handling and rider feedback. Meanwhile, the bike’s sub-frame constitutes a two-piece aluminum die-casting consisting of a front and rear section while the lightweight sub-frame is very narrow, providing a compact and slim rear end that completes the overwhelmingly positive characteristics of the ZX-6R.
Find out more about the Kawasaki ZX-6R after the jump.
Episode #262 of the Autoblog Podcast is here with Chris, Dan, and Zach this week. Topics include the first-ever AOL Autos Car and Truck of the Year, speculation about what the next generation of General Motors pickup trucks will have in store for us, and the end of the Dodge Caliber. Your questions and comments power the end of the 'cast, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. We've embedded our Q&A module after the jump for you to scroll through and follow along, too. Thanks for listening!
Autoblog Podcast #262:
- AOL Autos Car and Truck of the Year
- Rumormongering about the new GM pickups
- Dodge Caliber taken out back and shot
2011 Toyota 4Runner Trail
2012 Toyota Yaris
2012 Chrysler 200
2012 Infiniti QX56
2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco
Hosts: Dan Roth, Chris Shunk, Zach Bowman
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Email: Podcast at Autoblog dot com
Voicemail: 734-288-8POD (734-288-8763)
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2012 Acura TSX Improve Fuel Economy & Reduce Internal Operating Friction 3.5 L SOHC VTEC V6 Aluminum Engine 280 hp Torque 254 lb-ft
Jarrett Jack gave NBA fans in New Orleans their first real taste of life without Chris Paul. The standing ovation as the clock wound down indicated they liked what they saw. Jack had 21 points and nine assists in his season debut, and the Hornets dominated their home opener despite missing Eric Gordon, beating the winless Boston Celtics 97-78 on Wednesday night.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
When thinking about the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, one tends to picture an orange meteor barreling across the desert at absurd velocities, flying through the air, long-travel suspension dangling its dirty bits below. That's partially because desert storming and bombing down muddy, root-strewn fire roads was the Special Vehicle Team's design brief, and partially because those environs have dominated Ford's advertising efforts. Marketing shtick aside, there's little doubt that the Raptor has that Kool-Aid Man "Oooh, Yeah!" wall-crashing thing going on better than any other vehicle on sale today.
In fact, if you tend to picture the Raptor exclusively in terms of yumps and dry creekbeds, you're not alone. Ford and SVT kind of admit they did, too. But in building this street-legal trophy truck, they've come to realize that they unwittingly created a vehicle that's far more versatile than originally envisioned. Case in point: Back in 2009, a massive snowstorm crippled the ability of Ford staffers and media members trying to reach the Chicago Auto Show. In particular, Mark Fields and other key execs had to journey from Dearborn to the Windy City, and company pilots refused to take off in the horrible weather. Fields and some other executives settled on boarding the train, arriving haggard eight hours later and barely making their press conference. SVT boss Jamal Hameedi and his crew elected to travel by Raptor. Driving their trucks through inches of thick slush and ice in the fast lane at more-or-less normal highway speeds (while what little traffic was sharing the road crawled along with hazard lights aglow) was a revelation. Despite building the thing, Team SVT simply didn't expect something with wide, knobby tires and a higher center of gravity to cut through the frigid slurry like that.
It's exactly this sort of discovery process that led us to the foot of the smoothly picturesque red rocks seen here. We had arrived in a convoy of eight 2012 Raptors, having taken the easy hour's drive from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah to tackle Hell's Revenge, a well-known 4x4 trail over this otherworldly terrain that doesn't take kindly to larger vehicles like our full-size SuperCab pickups. Solid bets for tackling Hell's Revenge include Jeep CJs and Wranglers, Toyota FJ Cruiser 4x4s and so on - vehicles with exceptional approach, departure and breakover angles. Even with its raised suspension and ground clearance of 11.2 inches front and 12.1 rear, we couldn't help but feel a bit sheepish about the Raptor's chances.Permalink | Email this | Comments
The ’M’ in the Suzuki Boulvard M109R stands for ’muscle.’ That alone should be enough to tell you what this beastly machine is all about.
The bike’s unique body styling, coupled with its incredible performance, will most definitely make you feel like you’re riding a bike that’s meant to contort your face when you’re blasting off into the road. That’s what happens when you’re sitting on top of a 1783cc, 8-valve DOHC, 54-degree, liquid-cooled, fuel injected V-Twin engine that has been designed for strong throttle response and quick acceleration while also being tuned to produce massive torque all the way from idle to redline. This translates to an acceleration that you can’t possibly believe until you feel it yourself. The performance of M109R is no laughing matter, especially if you’re the type that likes your adrenaline to be jacked up to the moon. Certain elements about the bike’s powertrain set-up include a class-leading electronic fuel injection system that features the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve system (SDTV) with 56mm throttle bodies, maintaining optimum air velocity for smooth low to mid-range throttle response.
To go along with its unspeakable performance credentials, the Boulevard 109R needs to have the right handling characteristics for those awesome numbers. To that, Suzuki used a high-tensile double cradle steel frame that has been built to comfortably handle all the power and torque while delivering agile handling and a plush, smooth ride. Inverted front forks feature race-proven cartridge internals with 46mm stanchion tubes and provide 5.1" of wheel travel while a cast aluminum alloy swingarm works with a progressive shock linkage and a preload-adjustable single rear shock delivering 4.6" of wheel travel.
All boasting aside, the Suzuki Boulevard M109R is the kind of powerful cruiser riders dream about and other cruisers have nightmares about.
Find out more about the Suzuki Boulevard 109R after the jump.
2012 Dodge RAM 1500 6 New Colors, Electronic Range Select (ERS) & Shockingly Fast Performance 5.7 L HEMI V8 Engine 390 hp Torque 407 lb.-ft.
The annual Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, AZ is less than a month away, and car aficionados from around the country are already gearing up for the six-day collector car sell-a-thon. One of the vehicles up for grabs will be this custom widebody Mustang that we first told you about in August. At the time, this ponycar was a mere rendering, but since then Galpin has completed the Mustang and readied it for the auction in January.
Like several of the cars that cross the block, the proceeds from the sale of the widebody Mustang will be donated to charity, specifically the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, thanks to the generosity of SPX, the company that financed the construction of the car. We're guessing there won't be any trouble finding eager bidders to donate their hard-earned cash, as this Mustang comes with a 700-horsepower supercharged 5.0-liter V8 between the front fenders, a red suede interior, custom PPG paint, a 1000-watt stereo and more.
You can read more about the Galpin widebody Mustang and the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in the press release after the jump, and be sure to look out for our live coverage of the Barrett-Jackson auction next month.Permalink | Email this | Comments
The Indiana Pacers learned plenty about what it takes to win close games during last season's playoff loss to Chicago. Now, with David West on their side, they've got another option for those late-game situations. Danny Granger scored nine of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and the Pacers held on to beat the Raptors 90-85 on Wednesday night, spoiling Toronto's home opener.
When you need a nimble and versatile bike that can also pose as an effective commuter, look no further than the Kawasaki KX 250S.
The bike is built to be a double-duty machine, capable of traveling on any surface with the kind of all-world versatility that Kawasaki bikes are known for. The KX 250S blends excellent craftsmanship with performance capabilities few other bikes in its class can match. As a bike that’s suited for the rigors of off-road riding, the KX 250S boasts of additional protection for the exposed underside of the machine in the form of an aluminum engine guard. Dual lightweight, high-capacity Denso radiators and an electric fan are also part of the set-up, providing ample cooling, especially when the bike is exposed to the radiant heat of the sun.
The KX 250S is powered by an efficient 249cc single-cylinder engine that’s best suited for maneuvering through urban traffic or exploring the trails. The engine is mounted in a light, high-tensile steel perimeter frame, providing a low center of gravity that then translates into superior maneuvering on tight trails. A highly refined six-speed transmission is then mated to the bike, boasting of the right gears that can take on any terrain it travels on, be it the dirty trail or paved open road. The engine set-up also boasts of a 34mm semi-flat slide Keihin CVK carburetor that gives great throttle response and broad, smooth power across a wide rpm range.
Some bikes are built for a single purpose while others are built to become everyday rides. The Kawasaki KX 250S is a card-carrying member of the latter group, and for all of its qualities, it’s definitely deserving of your attention.
Find out more about the Kawasaki KX 250S after the jump.
Even the best motocross riders in the world will tell you: if you ever want to become good at the sport, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up.
When talking about a bike that can give you that introductory feel, the Suzuki RM85 is a pretty good choice. Nothing about this bike screams power and all-world performance - and that’s a good thing. The appeal, as far as the RM85 is concerned, is manifested in its simple and reliable offering of high-quality design, optimum performance, and sturdy durability.
At the heart of the RM85 is a relatively light, albeit highly effective 84.7cc, 2-stroke, liquid-cooled, reed-valve engine that has a bore and stroke of 48.0mm x 46.8mm. The cylinder on the engine comes with the Suzuki Composite Electrochemical Material (SCEM), further enhancing its durability, weight reduction, and effective heat transfer for superior class performance. The engine set-up also comes with a Keihin PE28 carburetor that provides smooth throttle response, while a digital CDI map has been fitted to provide optimum engine performance at higher rpms.
Even novice bikes like the RM85 need to be equipped with superior handling characteristics to be considered an effective dirt bike. A tubular steel frame and thick wall aluminum swing arm comes with class-leading performance on the track, especially in the corners. In designing the frame, Suzuki wanted to build one that not only increased rigidity, but also increased its durability and straight-line performance. Showa 37mm inverted front and rear forks were also fitted in which come with a cartridge damping system with fully-adjustable rebound damping and 20-way adjustable compression damping.
With all these elements in tow, the Suzuki RM85 is an ideal start-up motocross bike to get all the young ones acclimated in the sport. Even the pros will tell you that if you want to learn the ropes, you have to start simple.
Find out more about the Suzuki RM85 after the jump.