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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By on November 27, 2011

Which European automaker is working on this compact, front-drive MPV? It might look like a VW or Opel, but in fact it’s coming from the Roundel itself. BMW will release this five-seat, start-stop-equipped van sometime in 2014, giving its Euro-market customers an alternative to Mercedes’s B-Class van. But because this is still a BMW, a two liter turbo engine option will be offered, giving this otherwise humble little MPV a 245 HP kick. Still, this will be the most prosaic offering from a firm built around rear drive and six-cylinder engines. And though Mercedes is bringing at least one front-drive model to the US market, expect BMW to maintain its premium positioning here by keeping this MPV in the European market, where such efficient vehicles are not seen as being incompatible with a luxury brand.

 

By on November 22, 2011

With engine management technologies creating ever-more refined, well-behaved engines, the snap-crackle-pop overrun at the beginning of this video is an increasingly rare throwback to the time when men were men and engines could blow up at any second. Sure, such playfulness will probably be managed out of existence by the time the F30 M3 hits dealerships, but it seems like a good omen for the M3′s return to six-cylinder power. In fact, it might even be possible that the backfire heard here has something to do with the electric turbocharger that’s rumored to give the new M3 lag-free turbo performance… but then you’d probably be a better judge of that than I.

By on November 18, 2011

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. 

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By on November 17, 2011

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.

By on November 15, 2011

 

The big news around here yesterday came from Bertel’s interview with Toyota’s Chief Engineer, in which it became clear that Toyota takes the developing world’s growing demand for oil very seriously. With global demand already outstripping supply, the giant automaker’s embrace of a petroleum-constrained business model seems to make it clear that gas prices will play a significant role in the future. But markets are, by their natures, both difficult to predict, and shaped by predictions. And Edmunds CEO Jeremy Anwyl reckons that, although gas prices are high and could well go up in the short term, fears of a runaway gap between supply and demand may not materialize over the longer term. He writes:

Here’s the twist: As I said, the consensus belief (or story) on future oil prices is that they will be higher. And short term, this may be the case if and/or when the global economy recovers and/or demand grows in emerging markets.

But there is a longer-term story as well. This story suggests that peak oil may be nigh and the future holds shortages and sharply higher prices. Buying into this story, companies, acting individually, will see profit in expanding exploration, developing sophisticated new extraction technologies, etc.

The aggregate result of all these individual activities is that the future supply of oil will improve and prices will actually drop.

In fact, we have seen this paradox play out before. Through the Seventies, we were first shocked by rapid price increases and then conditioned to believe they would continue. And, of course, oil prices collapsed in the Eighties.

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By on November 14, 2011

Do you badly want a new mid-engined Porsche? Is the Boxster/Cayman combo still a bit rich for your blood, given the weak economy? Chances are you have been waiting patiently for news about Porsche’s “Baby Boxster,” the long-discussed, entry-level, flat-four-powered version of Volkswagen’s Bluesport concept. The sad news: you may be waiting quite a bit longer. In an interview with the FT Deutschland, Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller says

There is no decision to develop this car into production. The decision is due soon, but they may well drag on into next year

Why? Well that’s easy: Porsche’s number one priority is to remain the world’s most profitable automaker, with “at least” a 15% operating margin and a 21% return on capital. And it can hit its 200k sales by 2018 goal without adding a sixth or seventh model… thanks to the fact that its fifth model is an entry-level SUV, called the Cajun.
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By on November 12, 2011

Mitsubishi didn’t exactly light the world on fire when it released its Global Small concept (left) at this year’s Geneva Auto Show… but now that concept has become reality (right), it’s even more clear that Mitsu’s mojo has been lost in the unglamorous world of basic transportation for emerging markets. It’s not clear if the Thai-built Colt/Mirage will make it to the brand’s US lineup, but if it does i certainly won’t help turn around Mitsubishi’s dowdy image here. The only way to make this car any more mundane  would be to debadge it completely. Slightly less prosaic but still quite underwhelming: the Grand Cherokee-meets-Range Rover Evoque update to the Outlander, shown in the plug-in hybrid concept PX-MIEV II. Though none of Mitsu’s new designs are actively offensive, their dullness speaks to some serious creative malaise… especially in contrast to the vibrantly creative Japanese designs that are headed to the Tokyo Auto Show. Perhaps we’ve solved the mystery of Mitsubishi’s disappearing US sales staff?

 

By on November 11, 2011

Have you heard? The New Look Of Lincoln is coming, and everyone’s talking… about how much Lincoln has to prove. And after seeing these teasers, the topic will likely remain how much Lincoln has to prove. We’d probably better bite our tongues until the LA Auto Show, when the 2013 MKS and MKT actually take the stage; “teaser” photos can only convey so much. But given the wider “Lincoln situation,” it’s hard to imagine either of these new cars being able to fundamentally change perceptions of the brand. The Look Of Lincoln needs a clean-sheet reboot that I’m just not seeing here…

By on November 10, 2011

This mule of Ford’s new global midsized car may be well-camouflaged, but it’s not hard to imagine something not unlike the new EVOS concept lurking underneath all that bulk. Think narrow, slit-like headights, a version of the Hyundai-esque hexagonal grille that we’ve seen on the updated Taurus SHO, a high beltline and a fastback-ish C-pillar, and you’re probably getting close. Which leaves the final mystery: what in the foxtrot will those alloys look like? Try not to lose too much sleep over that one…

By on November 10, 2011

With the Tokyo Auto Show nearly upon us, Honda has rolled out a few concept cars as well as the latest updates to its ASIMO robot. Honda’s newly-autonomous humanoid android can now tackle such tough tasks as kicking a ball, pouring a drink, speaking sign language and (toughest of all) listening to women. And in Honda’s version of the future, while ASIMO is manning the front lines of domestic sensitivity (or drudgery), you get to go out for a spin in a Boxster-fighting, plug-in hybrid sportscar. How much does that future not suck?

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