Category: Tuners

By on December 27, 2010

While Brabus digs deep for ideas to keep its tuning business relevant in the EV era, Nissan has a less sophisticated approach to electric car tuning: the bodykit. According to Nissan, the Nissan Leaf Aero Style Concept includes new wheels, skirts, mirrors, front bumper and LED daytime driving lights. Because, in the words of the firm’s press release:

Equipped with an aero body kit that accentuates Nissan LEAF’s distinctive silhouette and character lines, this concept car expresses an image of futuristic sport EV driving.

Emphasis on “image.” The rest of the EV tuning equation is still largely a mystery.

By on December 18, 2010

This is the B55, a silly one-off project by workers at Mercedes’ Rastatt plant that involved shoving an old “55″ AMG engine into a new B-Class, running a driveshaft through the “sandwich floor” and hooking it up to an old E-Class wagon rear axle. The result: 383 HP, a 0-60 time in the 5 second range, and what Autocar terms “surprisingly mature dynamic properties.” Possibly even more surprisingly, the whole project was done without a lick of help from the nutters at AMG, and required no frame modifications. Best of all is how  comfortingly old-school the project is: the days of turning an FWD compact car into a V8 RWD beast are rapidly drawing to a close. Need proof? For the next-generation of A/B-Class, AMG is going in a very different direction, creating an “A25 AMG” which will use a two liter turbocharged four-banger, putting around 300 HP through a dual-clutch transmission and Haldex AWD. This “STI by AMG” will doubtless be infinitely more practical, efficient and useable than the B55′s old-school V8/RWD setup… but more than a few gearheads will be sad to see these kinds of unhinged anachronisms ride off into the sunset.

By on December 17, 2010

Where did GMC get the idea to take a short-bed pickup, widen the track, fit some Fox shocks and generally beef it up to create a factory off-road “halo” truck? Oh right, from Ford. If you’re not convinced that Detroit still has at least one foot firmly stuck in the past, this halo niche-chasing behemoth should help clear up some of that doubt.

By on December 7, 2010

With electric cars becoming the new big thing among car lovers with more money than sense, it’s clear that the world’s many tuning houses will try to get in on the action sooner or later… but how? Brabus has offered tuning packages for the Tesla Roadster since shortly after the EV sportscar launched, but the treatment has always been basically skin-deep: wheels, spoilers, lighting, and best of all,

several simulated engine sounds including that of a typical V8 combustion engine, a racecar engine and two futuristic soundscapes named ‘Beam’ and ‘Warp.’

Which is all well and good, but it highlights a real problem: tuners simply can’t improve the performance of EVs without replacing the batteries or reprograming the entire car. For a company like Brabus that’s used to turning crazy-fast Benzes into super-crazy-fast ‘bahn burners, this has to be a frustrating state of affairs. So what’s a tuner to do? Instead of dialing up the power, the future of EV tuning may just be in making these already-green cars even greener.

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By on December 6, 2010

Infiniti recently got into the in-house tuning game, by rolling out the Infiniti Performance Line as an answer to Lexus’s F line, Audi’s S line, BMW’s M line and Mercedes’ AMG-tuned hot rods. Nissan’s luxury brand may have been a bit late to the profit-puffing game of performance sub-branding, but better late than never, right? Maybe not. Now that Renault/Nissan and Daimler have hooked up to share engines and architectures, it seems that the alliance is considering making AMG power available to Nissan’s luxury brand. Citing “sources in Japan,” Autocar reports that

Infiniti’s hot models could carry ‘Powered by AMG’ badges as part of Nissan’s recent tie-up with the Daimler group…

One powerplant on the shortlist is Mercedes’ forthcoming turbocharged 3.5-litre V6. It would replace Nissan’s venerable 3.7-litre unit in Infiniti’s G range and could be tweaked to produce up to 400bhp.

Sources say the IPL version of the M, Infiniti’s 5-series rival, could end up using AMG’s 6.2-litre V8 — and be priced north of £60,000. That would allow the M IPL to undercut the E63 AMG but rival Jaguar’s XFR on price.

But will the exclusivity of Affalterbach-tuned Mercedes models be hurt by sharing engines with Infinitis? Would the damage be the same if Infinitis got the engines but not the badges? After all, the VQ V6 is hardly exclusive to the G Series, and a switch to a Mercedes engine could impact on everything from the Nissan Z to the Infiniti FX35… unless the Infiniti is willing to alter the IPL-spec G37 to be the only Mercedes-powered G. In short, the challenges of what Infinitis to offer with AMG engines are nearly as great as the challenges Mercedes will have to face by losing the exclusivity of its AMG engines. After all, it’s one thing to sell AMG engines to a supercar firm like Pagani, but an upstart Japanese luxury brand doesn’t offer the same brand-halo benefits. Should Daimler let this happen, or should the AMG badge and engines stay exclusive to tuned Mercedes models?

By on November 5, 2010

It is one thing to recognize the legendary status of Mr. Shelby and the original Cobras, including the 427 S/C, and quite another to assert that purchasers and potential
purchasers view Cobra continuations or replicas, sold primarily as kits, which employ the Cobra 427 S/C Design as coming from a single source.  The fact that Cobra replicas, sold primarily as kits, which employ the 427 S/C Design, have been sold by numerous third parties for more than three decades, including between 2002 and 2009, precludes us from drawing that conclusion.  Accordingly, we find applicant’s evidence based on media coverage of Mr. Shelby and all of the Cobras not probative of the issue of acquired distinctiveness.

That’s right, the Shelby Cobra has been officially copied to death, according to a recent ruling by the US Patent Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board [in PDF here]. The board’s finding was complex, as proving “distinctiveness” takes a lot of doing, but the upshot is that so many Cobra replicas have been built, consumers don’t actually think of the original (Shelby-designed) Cobras when they see one. Had Shelby sued every single kit car maker since day one, he’d have the legal rights to his design, but in the years since 1968, the term “Cobra” has come to mean more than the specific Shelby Cobra 289 or Shelby Cobra 427 S/C. In fact, a survey used to try to prove the distinctiveness of the Shelby designs in the eyes of consumers may have even used a photo of a 289 to illustrate a 427 S/C… even the guy running the survey wasn’t sure. The moral of Caroll Shelby’s legal battle to own the rights to anything resembling an original Cobra: never stop suing the kit car makers. Or, just be happy with the millions of dollars and legend status you’ve already accumulated.

By on November 1, 2010

You’re driving down the road at a spirited tempo when you see a big, black, tuned Taurus. No biggie, right?
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By on October 30, 2010

I’m going drifting. I’m going drifting dressed in the finest English brown velour ever to roll out of Dagenham, England. I’m going drifting in what this week’s Curbside Classic should have been, a 1983 Ford Sierra. And with that, I rejoin TTAC after a long hiatus due to our wonderful country sending me to various deserts to hunt for Osama bin Laden.

I have survived, although my Hilux did not after one ill-placed Taliban rocket sent shrapnel through the radiator. I also relish returning to write for one of the finest audiences I know, the Best and Brightest.

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By on October 25, 2010

The 2011 Dodge Charger’s unofficial debut came in the form of a police cruiser which mixed things up at the Michigan State Police trials this year. And though they’ve showed off a few teasers of the new full-sized Dodge, the updated Charger’s official debut won’t come until the annual Las Vegas tuner-fest known as the SEMA show. Which begs the question: when will Dodge start marketing this car to consumers that are neither law enforcement officers nor criminals? We kid… sort of. Meanwhile, this rendering gives you some idea of what Dodge’s less-classy customers might do to their own 2011 Charger. Still interested?

By on October 25, 2010

It’s been some time since since we had a “Trade War Watch” on mounting trade tensions in the auto industry, and thank goodness for that. In this economic climate of cuts, currency swings and bankruptcies, what we need are things which will make the situation worse, right? In May I reported about how the EU put a 20.6 percent tariff on aluminium wheels from China. The EU did this in response to complaints from domestic manufacturers. Naturally, this left a sour taste in China’s mouth. Well, over 5 months later, you’d think that the EU would have calmed down and this nasty business would be swept under the carpet, right? Erm, not quite….

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By on October 4, 2010

About a year ago, a mutual friend introduced me to Uwe Gemballa. He looked a bit like a pimp from central casting: bleached blond hair, a flashy watch,  gold chain. He tuned Porsches. He wanted to import Gemballas to China, and could I help him? Like many China deals, that deal never got off the ground. And as I read the news today, I think to myself: I’m glad it fizzled. Dodged that bullet. Literally. Read More >

By on September 1, 2010

TTAC Commentator Rehposolihp writes:

I drive a MKV GTI and despite it being a car that always brings a smile to my face when its working…well, just having to make that last qualification doesn’t bode well for me.

Combine that with a warranty on the verge of expiration and I’m fairly sure I should run away now.

The only thing I’ve done to it is popped on a boost gauge, and purchased an ECU flash (which can be locked back into stock), because I wanted to be reminded that I drive a turbocharged car from time to time.  Before I start snapping photos and trying to sell should I replace it back to stock?  I may have possibly broken the poor original vent assembly into tiny little pieces in my clumsy attempt to remove it, but the surrounding bits still look good.  So – is the minor hassle of replacing it back to stock going to net me a profit, or am I over thinking a boost gauge?

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By on August 23, 2010

What is the fastest sedan under the sun? Up until a few days ago, it was a Mercedes E-Class, tuned by Brabus. That car can kiss the world record good-bye. Read More >

By on July 7, 2010

With commentary on today’s Acura TL review struggling to move past the sedan’s jarring styling, this seems like a good time to discuss alternatives to the TL… or, at least the alternatives to that jangly beak. Remember, even if you like your TL enough to get past the “distinctive” looks, the rest of us still have to look at it. Here, for your consideration, are a number of ways to improve the looks of the TL, starting with Acura’s official cure, the “Full Nose Mask.”
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By on July 2, 2010

Now that we can basically predict the styling of future Buicks by putting waterfall grilles on current Opels, and the brand’s biggest market is China, it’s safe to say that Buick is no longer a particularly American brand anymore. It should come as no real surprise then, that it took a German to build the Ultimate Buick. That “B” on the grille stands for Bitter, an old-school German tuning house that has  been to Opel what Alpina is to BMW. But because Erich Bitter has spent his life improving mass-market cars rather than Bavarian bahnsturmers, he brings a unique approach to the Opel Insignia, also known as the Buick Regal. In fact, you could almost call it more Buick than Buick.

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