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2019 Infiniti QX50 Long-Term Update 1: Powertrain Pain

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 09:00

From the faux-suede interior accents to ProPilot Assist, the Infiniti QX50 has quite a few cool features, but its party piece is supposed to be its engine. Thanks to some trick engineering on Nissan’s part, the QX50’s engine can change its compression ratio on the fly. In theory, this allows it to maximize fuel economy without sacrificing performance. But after two months and 5,000 miles, how has our long-term QX50 done?

 

At the test track, it was a bit of a toss-up. The 268-hp crossover recorded a 0–60 mph time of 6.6 seconds and a 15.1-second quarter mile at 91.6 mph. That’s a good bit slower than the last 280-hp Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport we tested but slightly quicker than the 272-hp Acura RDX A-Spec.

In his notes, road test editor Chris Walton wrote said it felt “pretty lazy off the line” even though he “could not detect any variable-ness in the power delivery.” He also took issue with the CVT faking shifts in a way that slowed him down. “It should simply peg the redline for max acceleration,” he wrote.

And while the QX50 was never meant to be a drag racer, the powertrain also feels poorly suited to daily driving. Specifically, it never quite feels like the transmission and the engine are on the same page. Switching to sport mode helps, but acceleration is still far from linear.

Any time I need to get going quickly, I have to wait while the computers argue over how to respond to the depressed accelerator pedal. Part of the problem may be that sport mode is still too eco-focused, but it goes further than that. With a variable-compression engine paired to a continuously variable transmission, Infiniti may have developed a powertrain that’s just too variable.

If I was getting excellent gas mileage, there’s a chance the trade-off could be worth it. So far, though, that hasn’t been the case. Even though the EPA rated the QX50 at 24/30/26 mpg city/highway/combined, the fuel log shows I’ve averaged a disappointing 18.7 mpg. My final verdict is still another 10 months away, but at least for now, consider me a CVT skeptic.

Read more about our long-term 2019 Infiniti QX50:

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Categories: Property

Refreshing or Revolting: 2019 BMW X7 vs. Luxury Three-Row Competition

Sat, 10/20/2018 - 00:30

After a long tease, BMW revealed the X7 this week. Although it’s entering the full-size utility market a little late in the game, BMW will benefit from the prestige that comes with having a true flagship SUV. Of course, that prestige only applies if the model is well-executed. Did BMW nail the design of the X7, or does it fall flat? Before you decide, let’s examine the X7’s design in relation to some of its most significant competitors.

Asserting its dominance as the top-dog SUV in the lineup, the X7 features BMW’s largest kidney grille ever. The large grille contrasts with slim headlights. But if you think this grille is big, take a look at the Audi Q7. This model features an even bigger grille with a thick silver frame. Like the BMW, the Volvo XC90 features a blingy grille dominated by vertical lines, and it has arguably the nicest lights with Volvo’s signature “Thor’s hammer” LED accents. The Mercedes-Benz GLS is a much older vehicle, and it features the rounded styling of yesteryear. The headlights are chunky instead of long and narrow like on most competitors, though expect that look to change when the new model arrives as soon as next year.

From the side profile, the 2019 BMW X7 adopts an upright stance, particularly in the rear. It also features plenty of bright trim around the windows and on the lower portion of the doors. The Q7 looks a little plainer from this angle, although it has strong wheel arches. On the XC90, you’ll find simple lines, and bright trim at the bottom of the doors. The GLS adopts a boxy appearance, and it has a very straight roofline.

In the rear, the BMW features a bright chrome bar between the two taillights, a feature we’ve seen before on the 7 Series. The long and thin taillights make the rear look wide, while the rear’s upright stance makes it look tall as well. The rear of the Audi Q7 doesn’t look quite as upright, and two solid rectangular blocks make up the taillights. Of all the SUVs, the XC90’s taillights are the most memorable, simply for their unusual vertical orientation. On the GLS, you’ll find more rounded taillights on the boxy rear end, and plenty of shiny trim.

The differences between the four models get interesting inside the cabin where drivers and passengers spend most of their time. In the BMW, there is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and central display, as well as optional glass controls for the gear shift lever and infotainment controller. The BMW also has a main sunroof and smaller rear sunroof, allowing third-row passengers to enjoy some sun. The Audi Q7 beat the BMW to the digital gauge display punch by a number of years, first offering the Virtual Cockpit option for the 2016 model year. The Audi’s center touchscreen pops up from the dashboard, meaning it sits particularly high. In the XC90, the main feature that stands out is the iPad-like touchscreen, which eliminates the need for excess buttons inside the cabin. Meanwhile, you can start to see the GLS’ age when you hop inside. It has a small infotainment screen and tons of buttons below, including a number pad. Everything from the cabin materials to the instrument cluster and temperature dials appear dated for a flagship SUV.

Can the 2019 BMW X7 compete with its top rivals when it comes to styling? Which SUV would you crown the design king? Let us know on Facebook.

The post Refreshing or Revolting: 2019 BMW X7 vs. Luxury Three-Row Competition appeared first on Motor Trend.

Categories: Property

Lynk & Co 03 Race Car Will Spawn 500-HP Road-Going Version

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 23:30

Cyan Racing, formerly known as Polestar Racing, is furthering its ties to Geely-owned brands by partnering with Lynk & Co to take on the FIA WTCR series in 2019. The companies will race the Lynk & Co 03 TCR race car, which has spawned a concept road car.

Thed Björk, starting his seventh season with Cyan Racing, will drive one of the TCR cars for 2019. The driver, who piloted a Volvo S60 Polestar TC1 to a 2017 World Touring Car Championship win, was on hand to introduce the Lynk & Co TCR race car at an event at Fuji Raceway in Japan this week. He and his team will face off against seven automakers including Audi, Alfa Romeo, Honda, Hyundai, Peugeot, Seat, and Volkswagen. As a refresher, the FIA World Touring Car Championship adopted the TCR touring car specification and changed its name to WTCR in 2018.

We don’t know much about the concept, called the Lynk & Co 03 Cyan, other than the fact that it’s “closely connected” to the race car program and it will produce 500 hp. The production 03 debuted earlier this year in China promising a Volvo-developed turbocharged 1.5-liter I-4 and a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, but it’s unclear if the concept or race car will use either of those. “The concept car will be the first step towards an extended performance offer,” according to a press release from Cyan Racing and Lynk & Co.

If you’re not familiar with Lynk & Co, it’s a relatively new brand launched by Geely and Volvo in 2016. Its models are designed and engineered in Sweden, and they place an emphasis on fixed prices, online sales, and digital sharing. Eventually, Lynk & Co wants to make a play for the U.S. market with a new SUV.

Source: Cyan Racing, Lynk & Co

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Categories: Property

Upcoming Audi E-Tron GT Sedan to Focus on Power

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 22:30

Last month, Audi showed off the E-Tron Quattro, an electric crossover designed to take on the Tesla Model X. With a 95-kWh battery pack, the E-Tron Quattro makes about 400 hp and has slightly less than a 250-mile range. Soon, though, Audi plans to add a second E-Tron-badged EV to its lineup, a sedan currently known as the E-Tron GT. From the sound of it, that will be the one to buy if you care about performance.

When Audi initially announced the E-Tron GT, it really only provided the shadowy rendering shown above and some vague quotes about how sporty it will be. But speaking to Autocar recently, Siegfried Pint, Audi’s head of powertrains, let a few more details slip. According to Pint, the GT’s range will be about the same as the Quattro’s, but the sporty sedan will be “focused more towards power.”

2019 Audi E-Tron Quattro

Pint didn’t specify how much power the E-Tron GT will make, but Autocar reports that the goal is to beat the Tesla Model S P100D. Whether that means out-accelerating the P100D with or without Ludicrous Mode, however, isn’t clear. We clocked a Model S P100D with Ludicrous mode at 2.28 seconds to 60 mph, a feat that makes it the quickest production car we’ve tested.

Johannes Eckstein, the E-Tron GT’s product manager, also reportedly told Autocar that the electric sedan will be Audi’s first model capable of using 350-kW chargers. In theory, that means the E-Tron GT will be able to hit an 80-percent charge in about 12 minutes. We’ll believe it when we see it, but at least for now, it sounds seriously impressive.

Source: Autocar

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Categories: Property

New Bill Would Remove Sales Limits on EV Tax Credits

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 20:00

Earlier this year, Tesla sold its 200,000th car. It was a major milestone for the innovative electric vehicle manufacturer, but there was one downside to Tesla’s sales success. It’s officially sold too many cars for new customers to qualify for the full federal tax credit. A newly introduced bill, however, may change that.

Reuters reports that earlier this week, Nevada Senator Dean Heller introduced a bill that would remove the 200,000-unit limit, allowing buyers to claim the full $7,500 tax credit regardless of how many EVs a manufacturer has sold. It would then phase out the tax credit altogether in 2022. In addition to Tesla, this bill would be a big benefit for General Motors, which expects to cross the 200,000-mark by the end of the year.

When asked for a comment, GM would only tell Reuters that it’s important for the government “to provide a federal tax credit for consumers to help make electric vehicles more affordable for all customers.”

Heller isn’t the only lawmaker proposing legislation to change the way the EV tax credit works. In September, several senators introduced a bill that would remove the sales cap, extend the credit for another 10 years, and allow customers to use it as a rebate at the time they purchase their EV. And earlier this month, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso proposed ending the tax credit altogether and taxing EVs to fund road maintenance.

Source: Reuters

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Categories: Property

Could This be the Next-Gen Ford Mustang Hybrid?

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 19:00

Today, Ford released a new video ad. It’s more than a minute long, stars Bryan Cranston, and focuses on how Ford’s history of building cars sets it up well for the future. The ad itself is well done, but one part really sticks out. At the 36-second mark, a shadowy image of a car wearing a Mustang badge flashes up on the screen. It’s clearly not the current Mustang, so the question is, what the heck is it?

By playing with the screenshot (shown above) in Photoshop, we were able to bring out a few more details. But aside from the illuminated Mustang badge on the grille, there still aren’t any clues as to what we’re looking at. When we asked Ford, a spokesperson would only say, “It’s a glimpse of what’s to come and we are excited to show you more in the future.”

The statement itself may be vague, but at least it confirms we’re not looking at a rendering of some Future Mustang that only exists in the minds of the ad team. It’s a car that we can expect to at least see in concept form. But what kind of concept?

The grille strongly implies something electric, but the car looks too low to be the upcoming Mustang-inspired electric crossover that Ford’s been teasing. If it weren’t for the Mustang badge, we’d probably assume it was an electric sedan concept. Instead, our best guess is that it’s the Mustang Hybrid slated for 2020.

If so, that means it’s also potentially our first look at the next-gen Mustang. The front end is far too different from the current Mustang for this to be an electrified evolution of the S550. Based on how different the vehicle in this image looks, don’t be surprised if the next Mustang gets a radical redesign.

With the Los Angeles auto show later this year and the Detroit auto show kicking off in January, you’ll want to keep an eye out for future Mustang news. Ford still needs to officially reveal the GT500, but you never know when the next-gen Mustang concept will make its first appearance.

Source: Ford via YouTube

The post Could This be the Next-Gen Ford Mustang Hybrid? appeared first on Motor Trend.

Categories: Property

Tesla Rolls Out Cheaper Model 3

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 18:27

So far, Tesla has rolled out two versions of the Model 3: the long-range battery and the Performance version. Right now, these models begin around $55,000-$65,000, a far cry from the $35,000 starting price Tesla originally promised for its small sedan. Tesla still hasn’t introduced the base Model 3, but at least now it’s bringing out a mid-range battery model priced from $46,200.

This price excludes a $7,500 federal tax credit that will be available through December 31. If you believe Tesla’s calculations, the mid-range model’s cost works out to $34,400 once you factor in that full tax credit and gas savings over a six-year period.

The new variant offers an EPA-estimated 260 miles of range, 50 miles less than the other Model 3s currently available. Top speed is 125 mph, and Tesla says it can hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. It’s not quite as zippy as the Model 3 Performance we clocked at 2.3 seconds, but it’s reasonable for its price point.

Tesla has launched a configurator for the mid-range model, which comes in shades of black, silver, blue, white, and red. Standard features include LED fog lamps, four USB ports and docking for two smartphones, and heated 12-way power adjustable front seats. Enhanced Autopilot is available as a $5,000 option. It comes with rear-wheel drive, while the other models are now being offered exclusively in the dual-motor all-wheel-drive configuration.

So when will the $35,000 version finally show up? Expect the model with the standard battery to arrive in the next four to six months, Tesla says. It should offer around 220 miles of range.

Pictured is the Performance variant of the Tesla Model 3

Source: Tesla, Elon Musk via Twitter

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Categories: Property

Ford Unplugged: Leadership Opens up to Dealers

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 11:00

Ford is at its best when it can make a comeback,” said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president and president of Global Markets. “This week is a great first step.”

He was referring to a national dealer meeting in Las Vegas attended by the full top leadership ranks, including CEO Jim Hackett, at a time when everyone has more questions than answers about what the company has been doing, what is planned, and just how long will it take to bear fruit.

Don’t count Ford out, executives are telling dealers this week as they work to calm their fears and generate hype for new vehicles on the way and a new advertising campaign.

 

Products on tap

About 5,000 dealers got their first look at the next-generation Explorer and Escape SUVs coming in the second half of 2019. Since the debut of the Lincoln Aviator on a new rear-wheel-drive platform, it has been known that the 2020 Explorer would also take advantage of the performance and proportions the layout offers. A new Escape is needed to compete in the fiercely competitive compact crossover segment. Dealers also got to see the 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 as they await the Mustang-inspired pure electric crossover due in 2020.

But first up is the Ranger pickup that goes into production this month at the Michigan Assembly Plant for sale early next year. Dealers experienced the Ranger on a small off-road course to see its capability firsthand.

New Ford Bronco

The Ranger platform is also the foundation for the Ford Bronco SUV coming in 2020. This is part of a plan to replace 75 percent of Ford’s lineup by 2020, dropping the average age of the portfolio from 5.3 years now to 2.3 years by the new decade.

Most of the portfolio will be electrified with plans to go from 30,000 electrified vehicle sales annually now to 600,000 in the next five years. In two years, it expects to overtake Toyota as the top seller of hybrids in the U.S. The day will come when Ford sells more hybrids than V-6s, said Farley, and all new vehicles have a hybrid or plug-in hybrid version, including F-150, Mustang, and Bronco. “It’s a big bet by the company.”

Sedan separation

It was welcome news for dealers, but there are lingering concerns about Ford’s decision to get out of sedans and many car segments.

Ford will continue to offer cars, just with a different silhouette than a sedan, said Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford North America. Sedans have gone from 57 percent of the market in 2010 to 23 percent in 2019. Even a good vehicle in a segment that’s dying is not a good investment, he says. Investing in SUVs, trucks, and commercial vehicles is more prudent and, in the end, the total number of nameplates will increase from 20 today to 23 by 2023.

Dealers are also concerned about losing entry-level cars at a price point for first-time buyers. Farley has assured them there will be vehicles below $25,500, such as EcoSport and Escape, but they don’t dip into Fiesta pricing territory.

Need to hear from the boss

As important as the product reassurance was hearing from Hackett and his team about the direction they are taking the company in a time of uncertainty and swirling questions.

Hackett is leading an effort to cut $25.5 billion in costs and spend $11 billion to transform the automaker, which will necessitate cutting salaried workers and retaining talent in the interim. Ford stock remains below $9 a share as Wall Street questions the soundness and speed of Ford’s restructuring.

This week we got a better understanding of how top managers have spent the last year. Galhotra has been shaking things up in North America by reorganizing product development around nameplates—looking at the business through the lens of product.

The 11th floor has been transformed into a series of franchise rooms: Ranger, Transit, etc. There are 13 product rooms and four process rooms for topics like consumer experience.

Inside each room, the walls are plastered with information from every discipline that touches that product. The visual onslaught means sales and marketing people now know engineering and manufacturing data, purchasing chiefs see intimate details from design, and engineers digest customer profile and competitive pricing. No one can plead ignorance on any subject.

The info swapping has raised the business literacy of all and led to surprising discoveries, like the fact that Super Duty pickups have a profit margin of $10,000 in some regions and $20,000 in others. This makes it easy to decide who gets trucks when inventories are low.

On Wednesdays Galhotra, the chief financial officer, and heads of sales, marketing, and product development form an entourage that travels from room to room to see how the vehicle is shaping up, answer questions, and make decisions on the spot. Example: stopping production of Expeditions with a four-inch infotainment screen because those models were sitting on lots while SUVs with eight-inch screens were snatched up.

The soul-searching has also led to a shakeup on the marketing side by reducing the role of long-time ad agency WPP and bringing in BBDO as well as Wieden + Kennedy for some projects. Some work is also being brought in-house, with 100 employees being added to develop Ford’s message and voice.

Breaking Bad

A new advertising campaign debuts this weekend around the tagline “Built Ford Proud.” It continues the “Built Ford Tough” message but introduces the message that Ford is a 115-year-old family-owned company and employees are damn proud of what they build.

Actor Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad is the face and voice of the new spots. He was chosen for being a “no-baloney” straight shooter when Ford needs to tell its message simply and plainly, says Farley. “We found a great voice for what we already knew was our voice. I don’t know why we weren’t talking like that before.”

It grew from an “aha” moment when the automaker realized it had let its leadership in retaining loyal customers slip. “When we saw our lead shrinking we knew we had to take action,” Farley said.

There are 13.5 million F-Series trucks on the road. Time to reward anyone who has owned a Ford nameplate rather than spending most of the budget on trying to entice buyers from other brands.

Loyalty program coming

Next year Ford will introduce FordPass Rewards, a customer loyalty program—think Delta frequent flyer—with an emphasis on offering a better customer experience. With the decision to put modems in all new Fords to make the vehicle an extension of your smartphone and its apps, the automaker has the tools to help make the lives of its customers easier, whether it is getting an oil change or applying for Ford Credit, Farley says.

The reaction of dealers to this onslaught of information was relief, optimism, and some rebuke for not sharing some of this months ago to ease their concerns.

They also like the promise that time from order to delivery of a new vehicle will be cut from 82 days to 38 days which will make it easier to have the right stock on the lot while freeing up working capital.

The post Ford Unplugged: Leadership Opens up to Dealers appeared first on Motor Trend.

Categories: Property

Celebrity Drive: Stanley Cup Winner Nick Leddy

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 09:00

Quick Stats: Nick Leddy, Stanley Cup champ/New York Islanders’ defenseman
Daily Driver: 2016 Ford F-250 (Nick’s rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: See below
Favorite road trip: New York to Minnesota
Car he learned to drive in: Early 2000s Ford Escape
First car bought: 2008 Escalade

Nick Leddy’s first ever splurge car is his 2015 Bentley Continental GT3-R, though when it came time to buy a dream car after his 2013 Stanley Cup win with the Chicago Blackhawks, he originally had his eye on a Ferrari.

“I’m a huge Ferrari fan—just the way they sound, the looks, everything about them, [but] I found they don’t really have Ferrari dealerships in Minnesota. [The Continental] was the first car at the dealership, and I just fell in love with it,” he says of his Bentley. “I love it.”

Although the Bentley is the car the New York Islanders’ defenseman would take a friend out to dinner in, it’s not his daily driver. That doesn’t mean it’s a garage queen, though. Leddy isn’t afraid to take it out; in fact, it’s seen some track time.

“I got to bring it to the track two summers ago up in Brainerd, Minnesota, which was a blast because obviously you can’t really go too fast on the highways,” Leddy tells Motor Trend. “So that was a place where I could see its limits and actually push it a little bit.”

He admits it was a little unusual to see a Bentley out on the track. “It’s a little heavy to be on the track, but when I bought it, they had clients who had bought many cars and they rented out the track for the day and invited me. My dad and I went up there and saw some amazing cars and got to drive a few of them around other than my Bentley, but driving my Bentley around the track was a blast,” Leddy says.

Leddy, who rates the Bentley a perfect 10, chose this car for its uniqueness. “It’s got the carbon fiber on the inside, and most Bentleys have the wood paneling,” he says. “And the rareness of it—there’s only 300 of them out there.”

He also really enjoys the car’s power. “I haven’t driven a ton of sports cars, but for me the power of it is amazing.”

2016 Ford F-250

Rating: 10

“I live in Minnesota, and you need a truck when you live on a lake and I have a boat, so it’s a little easier to bring things around,” Leddy says. “I like it a lot. It’s a very nice truck. It’s very comfortable for me until you hit a bump, and then it’s a little rough for a second.”

The F-250 is Leddy’s daily driver. “I have a boat and a jet ski, so it’s easier to tow those around with that,” he says. “It’s very sleek and very comfortable on the inside. I think the power is pretty amazing. I have a wakeboarding boat, and it feels like you’re towing a little trailer on the back.”

Although his boat and jet ski are on the dock at the lake he lives on, it’s handy to tow them back and forth if he needs to. “If I want to go to a different lake—Lake Minnetonka is another big lake here, that’s a huge lake—I could go there, and you can go to a restaurant right on the lake,” he says.

Images courtesy of Getty

The only drawback of the Ford is the gas mileage. “I don’t think you buy the truck if you’re too worried about that,” he says.

Car he learned to drive in

Leddy grew up in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where he learned to drive in a Ford Escape, which was a relatively new car when he was in high school in the early 2000s.

His mom gave him the Ford when she got a new car, so it was the one Leddy drove in high school and college. Both of his parents taught him how to drive, and learning was easy since his high school wasn’t far away.

“I just remember never wanting to take the highway because I was nervous,” Leddy says with a laugh. “It was more of a confidence thing at that point. I think my biggest fear was learning to judge your stop and learning to judge the distance between cars.”

He got over that fear quickly though with help from his parents. “My parents would force me onto the highway,” he says. “It’s like learning to swim, I guess—throw you in the water. The more I got used to it, obviously, the easier it gets.”

First car bought

When Leddy turned pro playing hockey for the Blackhawks, he bought a used Cadillac Escalade. “At the time it was a couple years old,” he says. “When you buy a new car, it depreciates so much right off the top. Where I was financially, it just made sense to do it that way. It was still a very nice car; it was fully loaded. So for me at the time, it was perfect.”

Since half of Leddy’s games were on the road, he mostly drove the Escalade to practices and home games and out to visit family in Geneva, Illinois.

“Sometimes my one teammate would give me a hard time for the car because it wasn’t exactly white—he called it a ‘pearl white,’ but I don’t think it was that,” he says. “It was just an off-white, so he would just make fun of me and say it’s not really a man’s color, just was giving me a hard time for it like that.”

Favorite road trip

Although Leddy used to drive back to Minnesota from Chicago, he’s driven from New York a couple of times now since he’s based in Long Island during the hockey season.

“My dad came out this year, and we drove home together. So that was interesting driving 18 hours,” he says. “I have two dogs, so we rented an Expedition and threw the crates in the back, and that was really the only car that could hold both crates.”

The drive back from New York is now Leddy’s favorite road trip. “We got to go through so many states,” he says. “The only states going to Chicago, you go through about four and a half hours through Wisconsin and then into Illinois, so it’s not really too crazy.”

The first time he did that drive from New York, Leddy visited his friends who were in college at Bowling Green, Penn State, and one buddy studying in Wisconsin. “I literally didn’t have to veer off track at all. They were all on the way home—it was the same way the whole time, which was fun,” he says.

On the road trip with his dad, the two had wanted to do the entire drive in one sitting. “We left a little later than we wanted, but if we’d left on time, we would have probably gone the entire way,” he says.

Leddy likes that long road trip because it’s a combination of nostalgia and seeing the change in scenery. “It’s cool to see different states. Pennsylvania was very pretty going through the hills and very woodsy there on the way home,” he says. “And then going through Chicago again is always cool. I played there for four years and won a Stanley Cup there. So driving there brought back some memories.”

The New York Islanders’ season opener was October 4 and their next game is on Saturday, October 20. For more information you can visit nhl.com/islanders.

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2019 Audi A8 L Review: High-Tech Luxury

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 09:00

Nobody needs a luxury flagship. Even if you ignore the fact that by definition, luxuries are things people don’t need, midsize luxury sedans have become so large, it’s hard to imagine anyone who drives themselves needing more space than an Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series provides. And for the same money, you typically have the choice between a midsizer that’s loaded to the gills and a base-model flagship.

Instead, you buy (or more likely lease) a car such as the A8 because you want it. It’s a status symbol. A sign that you’ve made it. So tossing logic and practicality out the window for a moment, is the 2019 Audi A8 a car that makes you want it? Does it stroke your ego and make you feel special the way a luxury flagship should?

Judging purely on exterior design, probably not. In spite of the light show it performs every time it’s unlocked, the A8 is understated, almost to the point of looking plain. A four-door Prologue concept, this is not. Then again, aside from the Jaguar XJ and perhaps the Maserati Quattroporte, cars in this segment aren’t usually known for their striking looks. They’re more about luxurious cabins, cutting-edge technology, and imposing length.

Even if the A8’s styling isn’t exciting enough for you, it only takes one glance to recognize it’s a large car. The U.S. only gets the longer A8 L, which has a 123.1-inch wheelbase and measures 208.7 inches overall. Compared to the A6, that’s an extra 8.0 inches of wheelbase and 14.3 inches of overall length.

Inside, however, it’s a different story. If you’ve seen the new A6, the layout will be familiar, but the clean, modern design still feels fresh. The wood trim on the dash that retracts to reveal hidden air vents is an especially nice touch. If you’re going to buy an A8, though, you better like piano-black plastic. It doesn’t show fingerprints as much as you’d expect, but it’s a major part of the design of the dash and center console.

With Audi’s Virtual Cockpit and two large touchscreens, the center console is largely devoid of knobs and buttons. Thankfully, Audi also took the time to develop a system that’s intuitive to use and responds quickly to inputs, so the lack of buttons shouldn’t be an issue. Even the remote for passengers lucky enough to ride in the back seat is easy to use. The fact that Audi’s high-resolution graphics look great is just a bonus.

Eventually, the U.S. will get an optional V-8, but for now, the A8’s only engine is a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 making 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Paired with an eight-speed transmission, standard all-wheel drive, and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, Audi estimates the A8 L will hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. That’s not especially quick, but it’s still far from slow. Besides, cars like the A8 are more about cruising in comfort than racing to the next traffic light.

Surprisingly, the A8 handles curves pretty well. It’s no R8, but in Dynamic mode, it’s more nimble than you’d expect a 17-foot, 4,700-pound luxury sedan to be. Does it understeer at the limit? Probably. But if you plan to take corners fast enough to find out, full-size luxury sedans probably aren’t for you.

On the highway, the A8 is impressively quiet, almost keeping road, wind, and tire noise out of the cabin entirely. Add in comfortable seats with an excellent massage function, a smooth ride, a high-quality Bang & Olufsen sound system, and a 21.7-gallon gas tank, and you have a recipe for a truly fantastic road trip car.

As for the A8’s much-anticipated Traffic Jam Pilot, a Level 3 system capable of handling most driving responsibilities on divided highways at speeds less than 37 mph, don’t expect it to be available in the U.S. anytime soon. From the sound of it, the complexity of federal and state regulations forced Audi to shelve Traffic Jam Pilot for the foreseeable future.

The good news is, many of the A8’s other desirable features are on their way. The U.S. has to wait until next year to get four-wheel steering and a predictive active suspension, but both systems will be worth the wait. With the rear wheels turning, Audi says the A8 actually has a smaller turning circle than the A4. The result is a car that’s noticeably more agile.

The active suspension, meanwhile, can raise and lower each wheel independently as it scans the road ahead. Not only can it skip over potholes, it also flattens out speed bumps as you drive over them. And if the system recognizes you’re about to be T-boned, it can tilt up that side of the car to reduce the risk of injury.

Considering how much the four-wheel steering system and active suspension improve the A8, you’ll want to make sure your A8 has both. Just be prepared to pay up. Although the 2019 A8 starts at $84,795, well-equipped versions easily sail past the $100,000 mark. With the V-8, the A8’s two most desirable features, and a few other options, a $150,000 price tag wouldn’t be surprising.

Then again, if you’re looking for a car that celebrates your success, who cares about saving money?

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2019 Acura NSX First Drive: Complicated Emotions

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 05:01

As the chief engineer of the 2019 Acura NSX program, Satoshi Mizukami’s main goal of this year’s refresh is, as he puts it, “more emotional involvement.” Judging by my brief time with him, I’d say he’s living evidence of accomplishing this goal.

I’m riding shotgun with Mizukami as he pilots a 2019 Acura NSX around the Winding Road course at Honda’s Takasu Proving Ground in Hokkaido, Japan. Inspired by the mother of all test tracks—the Nurburgring—Winding Road is a deviously treacherous course. It features 17 corners (many of them blind) and 188 feet of total elevation change, with the majority of the circuit cloaked under a claustrophobic canopy of trees.

There’s also plenty of road imperfections, as I’m about to discover. We’re approaching a curve at a rapid clip. Mizukami stabs the brakes, saws the wheel left, then just as quickly tugs it hard to the right. The NSX straightens out just as we crest a hill and take flight.

“Jump!” he cries, as the NSX launches several feet before returning to the pavement. But the NSX, like Mizukami, is unflappable. The suspension absorbs the impact with little drama, and Mizukami rolls back on the throttle. That he’s enjoying this romp is obvious. What’s less obvious, he hopes, is the technology conspiring to make it possible.

Three years after its introduction, the NSX heads into 2019 with a raft of improvements across the board. Exterior changes are subtle: The lip of the beak above the grille is now body-colored instead of silver, while high-gloss trim replaces the previously matte finishes found throughout the body. Want even more glossy trim? Opt for one of the exterior carbon fiber packages for the ultimate in shiny, woven flair. If that’s not enough, a retina-searing Thermal Orange paint color is now available. Complete the look with orange calipers on available carbon-ceramic brakes—a $10,600 option. Gulp.

At least four-way power seats are now standard and can be outfitted in a swanky new Indigo Blue theme. Other previously optional equipment, including premium audio and satellite navigation, are also now standard, though frustratingly, there’s still no volume knob.

But, one might argue, why the need for a volume knob when there’s a 500-hp twin-turbo V-6 bellowing just inches from your head? This sensorial immediacy has always been the hallmark of a mid-engine sports car. As before, the V-6 is paired with a nine-speed dual-clutch automatic and electric motor, both driving the rear axle. Two smaller electric motors (known as TMU, or twin-motor unit) are housed in the front axle to offer additional thrust, giving the NSX a total power output of 573 hp. Operating independently, these motors can infinitely vary the torque to each front wheel in order to enhance turn-in precision around corners. This dual-axle power delivery gives the NSX through-the-road all-wheel drive.

Although power output remains the same as before, Acura made a number of handling tweaks. Stabilizer bars are larger at both ends, increasing front stiffness by 26 percent and the rear by 19 percent, augmented by rear toe link bushings that are 21 percent stiffer. New Continental SportContact 6 tires, developed exclusively for the NSX, take advantage of this stiffer setup. Acura claims that all of these improvements add up to net a lap time around the Suzuka Circuit that’s nearly 2 seconds faster than the 2017 model.

When Mizukami discusses the importance of driver involvement, it’s hard not to compare the current NSX to its groundbreaking predecessor (especially when Acura has a 2001 Type S on hand for me to sample). Although it might be most famous for being billed as the world’s first “everyday supercar,” the original NSX is also a brilliant communicator, featuring a taut chassis and a hungry-sounding, high-revving, naturally aspirated engine. Simplicity rules—there’s no barrier between the driver and the performance potential of this superb combination. But today, the rubric has changed. Demanding the simplicity of the original NSX in 2019 is like wanting a Shamrock Shake to taste the same as it did when you were 6 years old. It’s not going to happen.

Yet it evokes a sensation of raw tactility that Mizukami still wants to deliver within this high-tech package. Hybrids can be funny creatures: Those electric motors, so potent with torque, can also act as a filter to these feelings, especially when asked to play nicely with an internal combustion engine. Economy-minded cars dial in some elasticity between the two as a solution. But with the NSX, the opposite is required. Every input should feel direct, consistent, and predictable. Particularly on the track.

So in addition to the hardware, Mizukami and his team also dove into the software, fine-tuning the programming of the hybrid powertrain, magnetic-ride suspension, power steering, and stability control systems to improve, as Mizukami says, “the feel-good factor.”

As before, the NSX offers a big, fat knob in the console labeled “Dynamic Mode” with four settings: Quiet, Sport, Sport+, and Track. Track mode is the only choice here if I want to have any chance of keeping up with Mizukami as we play lead/follow around Winding Road—it quickens shifts by 40 milliseconds compared to Sport+ and administers a tranquilizer dart to the stability control intervention. Pressing the stability control button for 6 seconds would deliver a total knockout to the systems, but I’m merely feeling competitive, not suicidal. The safety net remains, albeit loosened.

Mizukami wastes no time, expecting that I’ll keep pace. I have a general rule in lead/follow situations: If the car ahead of me doesn’t brake, then I don’t, either. It’s easier said than done, especially since he knows every single one of these curves intimately, including that jump.

Oh, and about those road imperfections: They’re all done on purpose. Anyone who’s driven the Nurburgring knows that the quality of the road surface can quickly change between corners—sometimes even midcorner. It’s as much a challenge for the driver as it is for the car, and here on Winding Road, it’s designed to replicate a real-world track experience rather than the usual test-track utopia.

It’s also the perfect place to put the hybrid system to the test. A hard stab to the pedal in the first heavy braking zone is punctuated by the chop of rough asphalt. Still, the NSX tracks straight. Six-piston Brembos up front work in concert with the TMU to provide a combo of traditional and regenerative braking. Pedal feel and modulation is excellent, with no discernible transition between the two modes.

Back on the throttle to chase Mizukami on the next straight. The aural nature of the V-6 is enhanced in two ways: Mechanically, a tube connected directly to the intake manifold splits into two pipes as the sound is routed to behind the outboard of each seat. That’s augmented by active exhaust valves, transmitting full exhaust flow through all four pipes in Track mode. Feel-good factor, indeed. But the addition of electronic enhancement on top of these mechanical touches layers on a decidedly flatulent note inside the cabin at full throttle. It’s wholly unnecessary in a mid-engine car, especially when compared to the full-throated howl of an Audi R8 or the flat-plane-crank wail of a McLaren 570S. Inches from your head, remember? This added digital flourish is akin to a comedian explaining a joke.

The first seven gears of the transmission are closely spaced, cracking off shifts instantly at the 7,500-rpm redline—also the engine’s power peak. It’s nice that Acura took advantage of the spacing to keep the engine in the powerband instead of using the higher gears as impossibly tall fuel savers—I’m looking at you, Lexus LC 500. Top speed is achieved at the height of eighth gear, with ninth reserved for relaxed highway cruising.

Then—the jump. Knowing that I need to be pointed straight before I sail over the edge, I set myself up for the quick left–right combo to put me in line, where I discover that I’ve turned in too early. The active torque vectoring of the TMU sharpens my initial angle, so I pull back to correct my approach. The NSX prefers a later turn-in for a more precise attack. The effect is predictable, but it takes some getting used to. By the end of our laps, I’m charging through the corner with the same delighted fervency as Mizukami.

It’s important to note that Takasu offers more than just a diabolical road course. Also nestled within the 2,000-acre campus are replicas of European and American roadways. Honda went so far as to import native soil, grasses, and foliage to accurately re-create environments that one might find in, say, Germany or California. The patchwork nature of the asphalt I discover in the “Carpool Lane” of the American circuit is insultingly accurate. It’s also here where I test Quiet mode, which enables the NSX to cruise up to 50 mph for brief periods of time. In practice, this electrical serenity is short-lived, far below the advertised speed threshold. The V-6 kicks in even at partial throttle, acting as nothing more than a really loud generator to keep the batteries charged.

Like the origins of the proving ground itself, the 2019 NSX is but a faithful reinterpretation of the real thing, a simulacrum of what our senses see, hear, and feel. With a base price of $159,300, it might not provide a totally raw, visceral experience, but then again, it’s not designed to—at least not in the traditional sense. If Mizukami’s joy on the track is any indication, technology and emotion can happily coexist, counterintuitive as that might seem.

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Leak! Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Rumored to Make Almost 800 HP

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 00:13

Aside from one teaser, Ford’s kept relatively quiet about the upcoming Mustang Shelby GT500 ever since its official announcement at the Detroit auto show. We knew it would have more than 700 hp, and that was about it. But leaks coming out of a dealer event this week may have given us a lot more information.

The first leak came from Instagram, where user sinister_lifestyle posted what appears to be a photo of the new GT500 on stage in front of a large Shelby Cobra graphic —and best of all, it’s completely uncovered. Ford previously released an overhead shot of the GT500, but this new image gives us a much better look at the top-spec Mustang. The blacked-out bumper gives the front end an almost GT-R-like look, with the larger intakes and massive wing helping differentiate the GT500 from the less-powerful GT350. Then there are the wheels, which look similar to the GT350R’s carbon-fiber units but are perhaps even larger. The GT350R’s standard carbon rollers measure 19 x 11 inches for the front and 19 x 11.5 in the rear.

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The New 2019/2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500! If you work at a Ford dealer and will sell me this car at MSRP please direct message me! I will leave a deposit today! ????????????????

A post shared by Kyle | 20Yrs Old | Detroit, MI (@sinister_lifestyle) on Oct 18, 2018 at 12:53pm PDT

Later, on the fan forum Mustang6G, user Tomster posted a few more details that they claimed to have gotten from a dealer who was at the event. Supposedly, dealers were told the GT500 will get a six-speed manual transmission or an optional 10-speed automatic, not the long-rumored dual-clutch. Oh, and the supercharged V-8 is also said to make between 780 and 790 hp. If true, that would make the GT500 almost as powerful as the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye.

At this point, it’s hard to tell how accurate these details are, especially since a previous alleged leak showed the GT500 making only 720 hp. We aren’t sure what to believe, but we won’t pretend the idea of a near-800-hp Mustang isn’t appealing. That actually sounds like a whole lot of fun.

Source: Instagram, Mustang6G

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Porsche Taycan Will Probably Cost Less Than $85,000

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 20:45

Porsche’s first fully electric vehicle, the Taycan, is set to go on sale sometime next year, and we already know most of the specs. It will be an all-wheel-drive sports sedan with more than 600 hp and a 0-60 time under 3.5 seconds. But while we knew it would more or less be aimed at the Tesla Model S, Porsche hasn’t said much about pricing until now.

Speaking to Automotive News, Robert Meier, product lead for the Taycan, said, “We’re expecting a price somewhere between a Cayenne and a Panamera.” In the U.S., the Cayenne starts at $66,750 including destination, while a base Panamera costs $86,050. For comparison, the Tesla Model S starts at $77,800 with destination, while the Jaguar I-Pace will run you a minimum of $70,495.

But because Tesla has already sold more than 200,000 electric cars, a Model S purchased in 2019 will no longer qualify for the full federal tax credit, and by 2020, it won’t qualify for the credit at all. On the other hand, the Taycan should qualify for both federal and state tax credits for the next several years.

Since it’s a Porsche, don’t expect the Taycan to only be offered with a single powertrain. According to Automotive News, Lutz Meschke, Porsche’s CFO, wants to offer other versions with even higher performance. If Meschke gets his way, we may see top-of-the-line Taycans selling for more than $200,000.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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Spied! Possible Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Prototype Caught in the Wild

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 19:30

At this year’s Geneva motor show, Porsche showed off a new twist on the electric Mission E concept we first saw back in 2015. Called the Mission E Cross Turismo, Porsche’s latest concept looked a lot like a lifted version of the Panamera Sport Turismo. At the time, Porsche admitted the Cross Turismo would go into production, but it wasn’t clear when that would happen. Based on these spy shots, though, the production version is nearly finished.

The prototype our photographer caught on camera doesn’t look quite as futuristic as the concept, but that’s to be expected. The production Cross Turismo was probably never going to get contrasting fender flares or blue wheels. Not that we’d complain if Porsche decided to offer any of its Taycan variants with optional blue wheels. That would actually be super cool.

It also looks like this prototype has a lower ride height than the concept did, which could signal Porsche’s plans to position the production Cross Turismo as a more conventional station wagon. But since the concept had an air suspension capable of raising and lowering the vehicle several inches, the prototype could also simply be operating at its on-road height.

Whether it’s sold as the Cross Turismo or the Sport Turismo, expect the long-roof Taycan to use the same electric powertrain as the sedan. That means two motors sending a combined total of more than 600 hp to all four wheels and the ability to hit 60 mph in less than 3.5 seconds. And while it’s expected to only have about a 300-mile range, the Taycan’s 800-volt charging system should allow it to add up to 250 miles of range in as little as 15 minutes.

Source: Porsche

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Ford GT Production Increasing Again

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 18:21

The good news: 350 more customers can buy a Ford GT supercar with the announcement today that production will be extended another two years to build 1,350 cars through 2022. The bad news: If you thought you had one of the sold-out total run of 1,000, your exclusivity factor took a small hit.

Order banks for the additional 350 units, to be built between 2020 and 2022, will open November 8 for the U.S. and select markets around the world. The order window will remain open for 30 days, said Hermann Salenbauch, Ford Performance director. New would-be owners can apply to FordGT.com, and those who applied before can re-submit. The successful applicants will hear back in the first quarter of 2019.

This summer Ford announced another GT Heritage Edition for the 2019 model year for those who want something more than the $500,000 base model. It wears Gulf Oil livery to pay homage to the GT40s that swept Le Mans from 1966 to 1969.

Ford has built 300 GTs to date, notable for its carbon fiber body and twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Production began in December 2016. Only 141 were built in the first year with some ramp-up and growing pains with Multimatic, the Canadian carbon fiber specialist that is making the vehicles. The bugs have been worked out, and the Markham, Ontario, plant is now making one a day or 250 a year, Salenbauch said. “We anticipated it would be faster but this year is very stable,” he said.

When the car was first unveiled, the plan was to make 250 a year for two years, but by August 2016 the automaker said it would extend production to four years and double the output to 1,000 vehicles. That now creeps up to 1,350—still far shy of the 6,500 who expressed initial interest in 2016. Salenbauch said the increases don’t hurt exclusivity, but at least one owner reacted to the news with dismay on Thursday.

Ford Performance is in the midst of delivering on its promise of 12 new performance vehicles by 2020. In addition to GT, there is the GT350 and the pending GT500. There is the F-150 Raptor for North America and the Ranger Raptor for the rest of the world. There are still no plans to offer the Ranger Raptor in the U.S. where F-150 Raptors turn in 20 days or less, Salenbauch says.

Performance is good business for Ford, which had only a few offerings and 133,000 annual sales in 2013. It has increased that 70 percent to 205,000 annual sales today with a far more robust lineup that will continue to grow.

The Ford Edge ST is a new addition to the stable, and a Ford Explorer ST will follow next year.

All these vehicles create a halo for the brand, Salenbauch said.

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Ford Dresses Up its SUVs for SEMA

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 16:58

After revealing five Mustangs that will debut at the 2018 SEMA Show, Ford is now previewing its crossovers and SUVS that will appear at the event. Custom versions of the Edge ST, EcoSport, Explorer, and Expedition will be among the more than 50 vehicles Ford will display in Las Vegas later this month.

Blood Type Racing Edge ST

Of all its crossovers, the Edge ST is the most natural choice to receive performance upgrades. Ford keeps the Edge ST’s 2.7-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6, adding a BTR custom dual intake system, Mishimoto intercooler, and MRT exhaust to make an even more robust vehicle. An air suspension and special 22-inch wheels are also included.

To boost aerodynamics, Ford installed a custom splitter lip kit. It also gets special mud flaps, a blue body wrap, and a Ford Accessories rear bumper protector. Inside the cabin, look for a carbon fiber steering wheel, a Kicker Bullfrog portable audio system, cooler bag, tablet cradle, and other goodies.

 

Tucci Designs Big Adventures EcoSport

Ford’s smallest crossover just became a little more compelling with these upgrades. Along with custom 3D-printed fender flares, the model receives a custom rear diffuser and front and rear tubular bumpers from Tucci. The model adds to these upgrades with an improved suspension and beefy Maxxis Bravo AT tires. An integrated winch and a bike rack contribute to its adventurous vibe. There is also a special lighting kit with amber fog lights, white and amber rock lights, and a Chase brake light.

This model is based on the EcoSport SES trim with all-wheel drive. The 2.0-liter inline-four powertrain has been upgraded with a K&N air filter and a Borla custom Ford Performance exhaust.

 

MAD Industries Explorer

This Explorer’s glossy red and black paint job goes well with a number of performance upgrades. Based off the 2018 Explorer Sport with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, this vehicle receives a cat-back exhaust with quad tips, an Eibach Pro-Plus performance handling package, and a JMS Pedal MAX and BoostMAX plug and play performance solution. To improve braking, the model has high performance cross drilled and slotted rotors and beefier brake pads.

The MAD Industries Explorer sits on blacked-out 24-inch wheels. Hop inside the cabin and you’ll find black leather seats with red stitching, aluminum racing pedals, and a Rockford Fosgate audio system.

 

Hulst Customs’ 2018 Destination Expedition

This Expedition takes the Limited trim to the next level. Riding on 26-inch Lexani wheels, this long-wheelbase model also features a special grille insert with aluminum, and graphics across the lower portion of the doors. Other updates include a black greenhouse, aluminum exhaust tips, special lighting, and a snowboard carrier on the roof. Inside, there is special ambient lighting and a full-floor center console vehicle safe.

 

 

LGE*CTS Expedition Classic

This Expedition adopts a vintage look, inspiring its name “Expedition Classic.” It gets old-school 18-inch steel wheels, special front and rear bumpers, a Ford Licensed Accessories Napier tent, and a 20-inch light bar. Performance updates include a Borla cat-back exhaust, a self-leveling suspension, and front and rear sway bars. It’s ready at any time to pull vehicles to safety with a Ford Performance by WARN Industries Recovery Kit that includes a 22-foot blue recovery strap. Interior upgrades include custom leather seats, a portable audio system by Kicker, vehicle safe, and a first aid and roadside assistance kit. This model is based off the Expedition XLT trim with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6.

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2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan First Drive: A True Rolls or Brand Dilution?

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 09:00

Off-roading isn’t usually so quiet, yet as I traverse a rocky trail in Wyoming, the 2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan’s hushed cabin makes an impression. While the SUV gives me a massage, I sneak a peek out the windows to admire the Grand Tetons before regaining my focus, doing my part to maneuver an SUV half a foot longer than a standard Escalade off-road. Rolls-Royce’s first-ever all-wheel-drive vehicle is a 210.3-inch SUV that doesn’t make sense at first, but the more you drive it, the more it feels true to the brand.

An enormous 12-cylinder SUV with a $330,350 starting price (including destination and gas guzzler fees) is overkill for off-roading, but the Cullinan’s basic trail-ready credentials help justify its place in Rolls-Royce’s lineup. Most American buyers won’t take their super-luxury SUVs off-road, but should such a situation present itself, simply press an off-road button to optimize the Cullinan’s performance for the trail that leads to your luxurious hillside hideaway.

The Cullinan is a Rolls-Royce first and an SUV second, however, which means the new model’s styling, interior richness, and on-road behavior are arguably more important than its off-road abilities. First impressions are strong; the blocky, imposing presence of the Ghost and Phantom sedans extend naturally to an SUV body style. Cullinan drivers enjoy a commanding view of the road ahead, highlighted by the Spirit of Ecstasy at the edge of the hood. Rolls-Royce remains one of the very few luxury automakers that can pull off a hood ornament that will command respect and not ridicule.

The deal-maker/breaker of a design feature is the way the rear windshield meets the pushed-back liftgate lid, which is said to pay homage to early 20th century Rolls-Royces that still held luggage in an actual trunk behind the passenger compartment. From the side, Rolls-Royce’s distinctive front-mounted rear door handles catch your eye, as does the thick stainless steel trim that extends in one piece from the base of the D-pillar over the top of the doors to the A-pillar.

In the U.S., 22-inch wheels will be standard with 21s and winter tires offered, as well. Unless you need winter tires, stick with one of the 22-inch options to maximize curb appeal every time you approach the valet. Even with the larger wheels, the Cullinan retains the smooth ride you expect of a Rolls-Royce thanks in part to an updated self-leveling air suspension and special tires designed to keep road noise to a minimum. The SUV’s eight-speed automatic, 563-hp V-12 with 627 lb-ft of torque, and brakes are all tuned for smoothness; those 12 cylinders will move the three-ton Cullinan with authority at wide-open throttle, but the engine never yells.

Even with a four-wheel steering system, the Cullinan carries itself with a heaviness that communicates its preference for a more comfortable pace. Want a sporty six-figure super-luxury SUV? Get a Bentley Bentayga. But if your goal is total comfort in a spacious interior, the far more expensive Cullinan may be a better fit. Rolls-Royce expects most Cullinan owners to actually drive their own SUVs—something you wouldn’t find as much in the Phantom flagship sedan.

Even that level of brand recognition can’t make up for the Cullinan’s lack of Apple CarPlay, a feature that—no matter your income tax bracket—facilitates audio, navigation, and text messaging functions. Rolls-Royce says it wants to introduce the feature only after Apple and the automaker can make it work from the rear-seat touchscreens in addition to from the front. Although future Cullinans could add that feature, current rear-seat passengers may be too impressed by the view from the large side windows and all the room to stretch out to notice.

Also impressive: The Cullinan makes the laborious task of closing doors a thing of the past. Once inside, front and rear passengers need only press and hold a switch and watch as the door pulls itself shut. Upon exiting the car, press a button on the door and the door shuts itself. Although having to hold the door-close button from inside isn’t as convenient as pressing a button once, this virtual chauffeur service is still cool. (Rolls-Royce says holding the button down is a safety feature that prevents the door from closing on you.) Other niggles: The lane departure system merely warns but doesn’t keep the SUV centered in its lane as on less expensive cars, and the metal trim on the doors and on the center console shines in your eyes in just the right light. Focus instead on the huge panels of wood trim and leather headliner around the edges of the panoramic roof. Or remind yourself why this SUV carries a six-figure price tag by running your fingers across almost every surface, including the especially solid-feeling stainless steel door handles or air vents.

Most U.S. buyers are expected to go for the Cullinan’s five-seat option—the three-across seating makes the Rolls-Royce a family-ready option for those who find Escalades and Range Rovers too common. A four-seat option with two reclining and massaging rear seats is also available. Whichever model you get, Rolls-Royce has largely delivered with the Cullinan. And once owners drive their SUVs beginning at the end of this year, they’ll find a Rolls-Royce that absolutely deserves its place in the garage next to the rest of the family fleet.

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2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic SE Long-Term Update 3

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 09:00

In the Arrival article for the Velar, I mentioned my thrill at experiencing this crossover’s 825-watt Meridian sound system. Now for some details as to how good this system actually is.

With a suitably hi-def audio file loaded up, you can hear the finger drags on the slinky opening bass line of Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing.” You can hear the distinction between the first and second violins in Mozart’s Divertimento in D major, K. 131. And you can actually hear the soul of Radiohead singer Thom Yorke crack just a little in the soaring bridge of “Fake Plastic Trees.”

Car stereos aren’t supposed to be this acoustically dynamic. A car’s interior contains too many oblique angles and soft surfaces for sound waves to bounce off and be absorbed by—creating aural chaos. I’m a serious audiophile, and the fidelity of the Velar’s Meridian system is one of the finest I’ve heard in more than 2,500 cars I’ve reviewed—in the same class with the fullness and range of the Bowers & Wilkins system in the new Volvo V90, and the clarity of the Nakamichi in the original Lexus SC 400 coupe.

A great stereo is key to a vehicle that is going to make lengthy road trips—in this latest case, that of senior copy editor Jesse Bishop, who squired his betrothed Teresa from L.A. to be married outside of Seattle. And back.

Other than a long-suffering right-rear tire that needed a quick replacement, the occasional proximity key nonfunction, and some infotainment system quibbles (which we’ll detail in the next Update), the Velar was a luxurious wedding coach for 3,000 miles over a week’s time.

“Overall, the Velar is outstanding,” Bishop noted. “Probably my favorite vehicle I’ve driven from the MT fleet.”

However, Jesse noticed that the power rear hatch doesn’t cotton to countermanded, “Whoops, I forgot that last little box,” orders when closing, preferring to force its way through physical declinations unless seriously resisted or keyfobbed.

Seeing this as a potential safety hazard for the fingers of Great Britain’s royal family, (to whom Jaguar Land Rover provides vehicles), I undertook some scientific investigation. Three rolled-up magazines? Smooshed, without the hatch retracting. An empty soda can? Crushed. Two cans? Again, crushed, with no retraction. One could only imagine the commotion on Fleet Street should the Duchess of Kensington or HRH Baby Arthur get a pinchy-owie. See to this promptly, Land Rover engineers.

Read more about our long-term Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic SE:

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Categories: Property

Volkswagen Previews Future Headlight, Taillight Tech

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 01:19

Audi has been working with laser lights for some time now, but this is just the tip of the iceberg for parent company Volkswagen Group. The automaker envisions a future where headlights and taillights provide more intelligent illumination and communicate with other cars on the road.

Volkswagen has opened an entire section at its Wolfsburg plant dedicated to lighting research and development. At the “center of lighting excellence,” as VW calls it, there is a 328-foot long tunnel where engineers can test out new lights. We don’t know exactly what they’re cooking up, but VW says it envisions micro-pixel headlights with up to 30,000 light points, which would be capable of projecting holograms onto the road and the surrounding space.

Future headlights would be able to project lines that correspond to a car’s width to give drivers a better idea of how their vehicle fits within the lane markings. This could be especially helpful when towing a trailer. The lighting system could also help guide drivers through treacherous mountain passes as the virtual lane markers bend to follow the curves in the road. In the rear of the vehicle, matrix taillights could display messages warning other drivers of road hazards. They could also show the vehicle’s charge level, or a personalized signature chosen by the driver via smartphone. While parking, vehicles would project their path onto the road, warning other drivers of the maneuver.

Volkswagen I.D. Vizzion concept demonstrating HD Matrix headlights

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard VW’s plans for future lighting. When debuting its I.D. concepts, the automaker envisioned lights that mimic the human eye. When parked, the vehicle displays only a thin LED strip to signal the “eyes” are shut. Once the driver is ready to get going, the eyes open, and they can even be programmed to “wink” at the driver. When turning left or right, the headlights look in the direction that the vehicle is going to turn. At crosswalks, the headlights will look in the direction of pedestrians and cyclists to let them know the car is aware of their presence. The I.D. Vizzion concept, with its HD Matrix lights, could even project the stripes of a crosswalk to signal that it’s safe to cross. This type of communication will be essential in the driverless car age, as there’s otherwise no way to know an autonomous car’s intentions.

Source: Volkswagen

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Categories: Property

Elon Musk to Resign as Tesla Chairman Now That Judge Has Approved SEC Settlement

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 23:40

Well, it’s official. Reuters reports that Judge Alison Nathan has approved the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s settlement with Tesla chairman and CEO Elon Musk.

Under the agreement, Musk will resign as chairman for at least three years and pay a $20 million fine. Tesla will need to replace Musk with an independent chairman, appoint two new independent directors, and create a committee to approve “any such written communications that contain, or reasonably could contain, information material” to the company or its shareholders. Even though Tesla hasn’t been charged with fraud, it will also be required to pay a separate $20 million fine. Musk will stay on as Tesla’s CEO.

Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2018

The SEC’s investigation began in early August after Musk tweeted that he had secured funding to take Tesla private at a price of $420 per share. He later explained in a company blog post that the tweet wasn’t a joke and that he was in negotiations with the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund. Ultimately, though, the deal fell through, and Musk was unable to take Tesla private.

The terms of the settlement give Tesla until November 13 to appoint a new chairman. At the moment, it’s not clear who will replace Musk. The Financial Times reported last week that James Murdoch, CEO of Twenty-First Century Fox, was being considered, but Tesla has yet to make an official announcement.

Source: Reuters, Financial Times (Subscription required)

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