Are you familiar with the Fridolin? If so, hit the jump. If not, here’s the brief version of its history. Unhappy with its adorable but inadequate, two-cylinder Goggomobil Transporters, the German Postal Service approached Volkswagen and Westfalia in the early 60s, looking for a new interpretation of what it was looking for, namely “arbeitspsychologisch optimaler Ausstattung zu einem günstigen Anschaffungspreis.” This is a tough phrase to translate, but essentially it means “equipment optimized for the workplace psychology, at an affordable price,” and in 1963 that’s what the VW-Westalia team delivered. A mixture of Type 1 (Beetle), Type 2 (Bus) and Type 3 (Fastback/Squareback), the Type 147 was first shown to the German Post in 1963, and was quickly nicknamed “Fridolin” (an uncommon German boy’s name) apparently because workers said “it looks like a Fridolin.” Only 6,126 were built between 1964 and 1973, and they continue to enjoy a strong collector’s cachet (primarily as slammed campers, apparently). And now, Volkswagen wants to re-create the classic… for the future.
The Mastretta MXT is not very well-known outside of Top Gear buffs who recall Jeremy Clarkson giving the MXT an incredibly hard time for its Mexican heritage. Of course we all know Jeremy is a shock jock more than a motor head these days, so his opinion aside the MXT slots in right behind the Doking as one the more interesting cars on display in Los Angeles. The MXT is the first sports car designed and built-in Mexico, but rather than trying to dethrone Corvette or Mustang, Mastretta is going for the niche market of small, light kit cars. Yes, kit cars. At least north of the border…
Volvo has been very quiet about new products since Ford sold the only Swedish car maker still afloat. With little fanfare Volvo has updated the S80 and XC70’s interior with a new dash and new infotainment system and this is the first time TTAC has seen them in person. The 7-inch color screen is the same as the system used in the new S60. Compared to iDrive and Audi’s MMI the system is just as slick-looking but the smallish screen size just lacks the wow factor the Germans get when passengers slip in the car. Along with the new screen Volvo has added pedestrian detection to the S80, XC70 and XC60 as well as a new adaptive cruise control system that will take your Volvo to a complete stop and hold you there until traffic resumes. Of course all this is secondary to the sexy new stitched pleather dash the S80 on the LA Auto Show floor was sporting. Sadly Volvo tells us they don’t anticipate putting these revised Volvos in the hands of the press for reviews, probably spending this precious cash to devise new and better nannies to save our bacon in the future.
When Infiniti said they were coming out with a new 7-passenger crossover, I, like the rest of the world, was expecting a stretched FX CUV with a V8 option, RWD and optional AWD. While the exterior was first shown off at Pebble Beach, the interior and drivetrain were merely well placed rumors. While Infiniti’s 3.5L V6 was the expected engine choice, the FWD (or optional AWD) CVT transmission was a curveball for sure. While I’ll try to hold my opinions until we can get some behind the wheel time, I am somewhat disapointed by the drivetrain choice. Inside, the JX is far from a disapointment continuing Infiniti’s recent trackrecord of world class cabins. While most of the shapes are familiar to Infiniti owners, many of the controls are new and only the steering wheel seems lifted directly off other Infiniti models. Like most vehicles in this segment, the third row of seats is best left to the small kids of that coworker you really hate.
If you’re ever in the mood to become disenchanted with some of the world’s most desireable automobiles, spend a little time in the Los Angeles area. In fact, Bentley’s Continental GT is a prime example of The City of Angels’ uncanny ability to make expensive, exclusive cars seem downright common. It’s not unlike seeing helmetless motorcyclists when visiting states like Colorado or New Hampshire: at first you’re a little shocked at the ubiquity, and then you quickly stop noticing. So when I first saw the newly-redesigned 2012 Conti GT, I thought “this looks so similar to the old one, it will never sell in LA, where the previous model is as ubiquitous as fake breasts.” But then I realized that ubiquity also breeds a fine appreciation for detail, and that if anyone would notice the difference between the old and new models, it would be the hyper-status-conscious Angeleans. And with US sales up 35% this year through August, the lads from Crewe (and/or Wolfsburg) are clearly doing something right. Besides, a brand-new Continental GTC convertible is always appreciated in Los Angeles…
Our LA Auto Show correspondents filed very little information on this bizarre little car, beyond noting that it is
Made in Croatia, no comment on plans to make available for sale in the US.
But a little research reveals that it is an EV prototype from the automotive branch of a Croatian unmanned vehicle manufacturing concern. Dok-ing usually builds robotized vehicles for mine-clearing, fire fighting, and mining, but apparently it’s branching out into electric cars as well. Fast little electric cars at that: a four-motor, AWD version of this XD will hit 100 km/h (60 MPH) in 4.2 seconds, according to the company website. For the record, that’s one second slower than the Mclaren F1, which seems to have inspired the XD’s three-seat layout. Unfortunately, by the time you hit 120 km, you’ll only have just over 100 km of range. But then, it’s all hypothetical anyway, as Doking’s only market right now is Croatia, where these exotic little EVs are selling (or, more likely, not) for six-figure pricetags. On the other hand,
a company rep tells FoxNews.com that it is looking for investors to help federalize the car and set up a manufacturing facility for it in the United States. If successful, it says that it could produce up to 30,000 cars at a price of around $40,000 each.
Way cuter than the Chevy Cruze, the new (for America) Spark might just prove that Chevy can do more than muscle cars and trucks. As confusing as the name seems to be for many, the Spark has nothing to do with the Volt, and at the moment it is not an electric car (there is however an all-electric Spark planned for 2013). The rest of the buyers will get the new 1.2L, 85HP, four cylinder engine. With a curb weight under 2300 lbs, the light weight Spark should get MPGs in the 30s in the city and in the 40s on the open road. Nobody would talk pricing with us, but we were told it should be under $15K to start which will include the 7-inch color LCD screen for the infotainment system. While it may sound like GM has found their small car mojo at long last, fear not the Spark is still cogs shy of the competition, with a 4-speed slush box or a 5 speed manual being the transmissions of choice in America. What kind of mileage would a 6 speed Spark yield? The world may never know.
The Camaro? Yeah, would have been much more exciting if there wasn’t a new 650HP Mustang.
Between the tsunamis, floods, and poorly-received Civic, Honda has had a rough 2011. But the brand is hoping to put all that behind it by emphasizing its environmentally-friendly product portfolio, announcing a Fit EV which will be made available in California, Oregon and six east coast markets next summer. Unlike Nissan, however, Honda isn’t actually selling the electric commuter cars, but is offering them at a $399/month lease rate. And no wonder: Honda only expects 1,000 of these Fit EVs to find homes over the next three years, probably due at least in part to its north-of-$36k price point. Which may be why the natural gas-powered Civic GX just won the Green Car Of The Year award for Honda. It may not be as radical or purely “green” as a pure EV, but it can sell in volume… in fact, Wards Auto [sub] just reported that Honda is bumping production of the CNG Civic in order to catch up with demand. At a time when Honda is desperate for some good news (and nobody is losing their mind over the new CR-V), a little publicity for one of Honda’s most unique and under-marketed vehicles probably feels like manna from heaven…
Jaguar-Land Rover’s only all-new debut at the LA show is the mad XKR-S Convertible, which it says will be its fastest, most rigid convertible ever. And with its five-liter supercharged V8 making 550 HP, that may be an understatement: the XKR-S may be one of the fastest convertibles ever… at least it would be if Chevy weren’t showing its Camaro ZL1 Convertible at the very same show. But for fans of the Indian-owned brand, the XKR-S is just a warm-up for Jag’s first new sportscar ages, as signaled by the CX-16 Concept that debuted at Frankfurt. It’s no F-Type, but the Maserati GT-meets-Nissan Z styling should definitely help give the brand a boost. Finally, JLR is offering another look at its possible future with its Land Rover Defender DC100 Concept, which hints at a new Defender that is apparently in development. And with Jaguar-Landie once again earning profits for its corporate overlord, the future looks promising for these two brands.
What can you even say about Lincoln at this point? The brand talks up its new design studio, and then releases a “spot the changes” facelift. Critics bash the brand’s waterfall grille as “cetacean,” so for the facelift Lincoln goes and makes it look even more like baleen. Lincolns have little identity beyond Fords loaded up with there-for-the-sake-of-it technology, so they give the MKS and MKT (Ecoboost only) “Continuously Controlled Damping”… to polish their carefully-honed performance image? Because consumers were clamoring for a Lincoln, but didn’t buy because “Sport Mode” wasn’t available on its giant crossover? I know these are only holdover models, and that Lincoln will eventually come out with something all-new. I know that picking on these sales weaklings is too easy. I know that there are probably even a few folks out there that find the MKS and MKT to be the subtle-but-cosseting waft-mobiles that they’ve been waiting for… but I just can’t help myself. Especially when Lincoln’s press release on the MKS proclaims that
Refinements Signal Direction for Brand Today, Tomorrow.
Note to Lincoln: the future is not in refinements. If this brand is going to survive, it needs a clean sheet of paper.
As a small, independent, enthusiast-oriented automaker, Mazda is constantly in a fight for its life, and with its profits eaten away by a rising yen, this is more true than ever. And though Mazdas tend to consistently receive critical praise for their handling characteristics, styling has long been something of a sticking point for the brand. Last year Mazda launched a new look, called KODO, which aimed to position the company as “the Japanese Alfa-Romeo.” And though the first KODO car ever shown was a rather stunning sedan (since nicknamed the “Mazda-rati”), its first production KODO design is a rather more prosaic compact crossover, the CX-5. Which, in a way is fitting: if Mazda wants to survive to build Miatas and Speed3s, it will need to sell a grip of compact platform-variants like this one. Not only does this CX-5 look like it should sell better than the aging Escape-rebadge Tribute it replaces, its fuel economy (ranging between 26-33 for FWD/MT and 25/30 with AWD/AT) is finally competitive too. Now, as long as it drives like a Mazda…
Hyundai has been doing a lot of things right lately, but one thing they can’t do is keep a secret. TTAC showed you this car, known as the Grandeur in Korea, a year ago, warning “Buick beware.” Now that it’s arrived stateside, the threat is real and Azera is no longer the red-headed stepchild of the Hyundai family. Hyundai says the new Azera’s design was pursued following the same “fluidic sculpture” theme as Elantra and Sonata, rather than aping the Genesis and Equus’s more formal design language… although to our eyes it almost splits the difference between the two looks. Meanwhile, its 3.3 liter, 293 HP V6 separates it from its V6-free Sonata cousin, while still providing what Hyundai claims is “class leading” efficiency.
Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik says they are transitioning Hyundai from a “Value brand” to a “Valuable brand” (yes, really), and this Azera is intended to help challenge cars like the Acura TL and Lexus ES as well as the Taurus and Avalon. And with no plans for new US production capacity, despite razor-thin inventories, moving the brand upmarket makes sense for Hyundai. And replacing the old dullard of an Azera was a crucial step in that direction.