By on May 22, 2012

I should go on vacation more often. No, really. Last time I took some time off, I accidentally caught a parade of BMW prototypes descending the Sellajoch in Italy’s Dolomite Alps. Then, just weeks ago when I was in Los Angeles with Bertel, I was driving along towards Venice when I caught a glimpse of the tell-tale camouflage that makes every auto enthusiast’s heart skip a beat. And then I noticed that it had no tailpipe…

Of course, the vehicle I caught wasn’t anything earth-shattering, just a prototype of Toyota’s first-ever EV for the American market. And here in California, where electric RAV4s have been running around since 1997, this prototype didn’t exactly bring traffic to a halt. Still, it’s a reminder that even EV skeptics like Toyota are already dipping a toe in the battery-powered market… if only as a “compliance exercise.” Plus, it’s more evidence that my employers should give me more time to get away from the computer and drive around unfamiliar places. Obviously these prototypes want me to find them…

By on April 12, 2012

General Motors has often been the focus of criticism at Generation Why – despite what some of the B&B suggest, it’s merely a function of the fact that they put themselves out there the most when it comes to publicizing their youth marketing efforts. But it’s time to reward their efforts with some free, unsolicited advice from a know-it-all keyboard jockey.

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By on February 11, 2012

A few years ago I was let in on a secret: Toyota’s dreams of world domination hinged on capturing hip young buyers interested in green tech and high fuel economy. Of course, Toyota’s hybrid plans have been the worst kept secret since In-N-Out’s “secret menu” and as a result, the green Gen Y boys and girls I know in Berkeley have been excited for years about a “baby Prius”. Well kids, the blue spaceship landed in La Jolla and Toyota invited us down to take a drive. Does a hybrid Yaris with more MPGs than you can shake a stick at have what it takes help Prius become Toyota’s best-selling nameplate? Let’s find out.

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By on January 8, 2012

Maruti Suzuki’s big news at the Delhi Auto Show was the debut of its production compact MPV, the Ertiga. But it wasn’t all staid family-carriers at the Suzuki stand, as the Japanese-Indian automaker also debuted its XA Alpha concept, described in this dramatically-narrated (to put it mildly) video as “The Small God For The Big Future.” Remember the Suzuki Samurai (our global readers will certainly remember the Jimny)? It’s getting ready for its 21st Century makeover…
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By on January 8, 2012

Ever since the ill-fated Contour experiment, Ford has maintained a strict separation in its global midsized offerings: Fusion for the Americas and Mondeo for Europe (let’s ignore, for the moment, Australia’s Falcon as the doomed atavism it is). But under the global “One Ford” strategy, a fusion (ahem) of The Blue Oval’s midsized offerings was inevitable, and Ford has signaled for some time that the Fusion and Mondeo are on the verge of becoming one. And here, courtesy of the autoforum.cz, is the first leaked image of Ford’s unified, world-wide midsized contender: though the Fusion and Mondeo names will continue to be used in their respective markets, this car will carry both badges. But are we looking at a revolution in the oft-troubled “world car” game, or a repeat of the Contour’s compromises? Only time will tell…

By on December 22, 2011

Editor’s Note: The image above is from Autobild (and is posted elsewhere in the German media), and is not labeled as a rendering, a spy shot or an official image. An anonymous tipster who has seen the upcoming Buick “Encore” (which GM has shown to select fans and journos under embargo for years now) says the vehicle shown here is “basically the same design” as the Encore. 

At first glance, it’s fairly obvious that there’s something not quite right with this picture. Better than most photoshops or renderings, but not quite convincing as a real picture, this car seems trapped in the Uncanny Valley, as if it were photographed undergoing winter testing on the set of the film The Polar Express. In any case, this little Corsa-based CUV (allegedly to be named “Mokka”) will debut at the Geneva Auto Show, and will take on such B-segment crossovers as the Nissan Juke, Suzuki SX4 and Ford’s forthcoming new Ecosport.

Meanwhile, GM’s American-market interpretation of a B-segment CUV is likely to be quite different from these little rough-and-ready softroaders [Ed: Or, not]. Buick is slow-strip-teasing its forthcoming Encore on Facebook, and it’s already looking like the Baby Enclave rumors were well-founded in terms of its exterior design. On the other hand, this isn’t a wildly detailed photo, so who knows? Either way, both the Mokka and the Encore are based on a jacked-up version of the Gamma II subcompact platform, and based on a video of what appears to be some relatively early chassis testing, the short-wheelbase and tall suspension took a little taming. Hit the jump to see for yourself…
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By on December 13, 2011

There I was, at the top of the Sella pass, enjoying a sandwich while taking in the breathtaking view of Italy’s Dolomite Alps. I was a week-and-a-half deep into a much-needed vacation from the rewarding but demanding challenges of running TTAC, and work was the last thing on my mind (besides gathering my thoughts on the vehicle I had just nursed up the snowy pass). Then, all of a sudden, I looked up from my ham-and-cheese and caught a glimpse of the notorious psychedelic swirls used by automakers to hide their forthcoming vehicles from, well, people like me.

In an instant, my sandwich went flying as I lunged for my DSLR and hopped out of the car. Being a writer, not a photographer, I fumbled with the lens cap, losing valuable seconds, and the element of surprise. The sharp-eyed test drivers saw my camera just as I started snapping, and like a flock of startled birds, the three cars sped off down the road. Not even knowing what I had just seen, I heard the blood roaring in my ears, as a great bucketload of adrenalin hit my system. I had just gone from lunching tourist to erlkönigjaeger in a matter of seconds. And like any hunter, I was flush with the thrill of the hunt.

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By on December 1, 2011

It’s been a few years since we last detected much of a pulse from Honda [Ed: in fact, Paul Niedermeyer declared Hyundai the “new Honda” in terms of engine technology leadership way back in 2009]. But just when we were wondering if all hope was lost, and that it might be time to pull the plug…signs of life. In Japan, for the Tokyo auto show, Honda has unveiled ambitious new powertrain plans [via Automotive News [sub]].

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By on November 30, 2011

If there’s a word to describe VW’s future plans in the US, it’s “big.” There is still no specific plan to bring subcompact Polos to the US, and likely only an EV version of the new Up! city car. Even Audi is shying away from bringing more small products to the US, nixing the A1 and only supporting exports of the A2 in EV form. And according to Automotive News [sub] the next big thing for VW’s US portfolio could be a midsized CUV, built at its new Chattanooga plant and slotting between the Tiguan and Touareg. But this concept is not that CUV. According to VW, this CrossCoupe Concept is an exploration of alternative bodystyles for the compact CUV platform, more akin to a Range Rover Evoque than a mass market model… think “Tiguan CC” and you’ll be getting the idea. So, will it be built? VW sources tell Automotive News [sub] that

We won’t rule out the possibility of adding a sportier SUV to the Volkswagen lineup at some time. But the main message with the Cross Coupe is its styling, which stands for the future of SUV design at Volkswagen

You can see the evolution of VW’s new three-slat grille, further integrating the new cue into the headlights for a more cohesive fascia design. But does it work? We’ll let you be the judge of that…

 

By on November 29, 2011

TTAC has long held that GM should have initially sold the Volt as a Cadillac, putting its newest, most high-tech drivetrain in a luxury car that could support its high list price. Of course the bailout made a CadiVolt a touch too elitist, which led to GM canceling production plans for its Converj Concept coupe. But with plans back on to sell a Converj-inspired ELR coupe, a new question arises: can Cadillac really charge significantly more than the Volt’s $40k-ish MSRP without doing more than simply rebodying the Volt in Cadillac’s Art & Science styling? Automotive News [sub]’s Rick Kranz reckons Cadillac could do more, and thinks that the ELR could end up with rear-wheel drive.

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